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We all failed Miss Beulah

Fittingly, she was buried amid weeds, wildflowers and kinfolk in the ramshackle graveyard at Beulah Baptist Church in Pike County. They lowered her simple casket into the ground next to that of her husband, Ed, who grieved himself to death some years back. They say he howled like a wounded animal when told about Donna. The preacher said Miss Beulah had a strong Christian faith. Lord knows, she needed it. Her funeral procession passed within a few hundred yards of her longtime home on Piedmont Road. Three or four miles further down is the logging road where her daughter was hogtied and brutalized beyond human comprehension. Donna’s murder was horrific but the worse crime is Miss Beulah lived nearly 26 years without seeing the person or persons who killed her child brought to justice. She bore that crushing weight stoically. She worked in the church nursery, nurturing the children of others as she had her own. She was a substitute Sunday school teacher, dispensing the gospel she leaned on so heavily to ward off epic sorrow. She lived with the knowledge that her daughter had been taken from her needlessly, that there was nothing she could do about it and that so many failed her. Law enforcement failed Miss Beulah. Sure it rained hard the day of the murder and evidence washed away down the logging road where the body was found. Still, there were things to go on – leads to be followed – but none panned out. Were those leads dead ends or were they just not worked hard enough? I bet Miss Beulah silently mouthed that question a million times. The judicial system failed Miss Beulah. A killer so mean had to have shown his or her dark side previously, yet was free to savage an innocent woman who drove with her dogs to a dumpster to discard the household trash. And, when a suspect was identified by experts brought in from afar, there was no prosecution – just a screeching halt; another dead end. Maybe I’m wrong but I think a not guilty verdict would have brought Miss Beulah more solace than just doing nothing. In the end, we all failed her. She wasn’t the sort to march into offices, bang her fists on desks and demand justice – demand vengeance. She had faith in the system. She had faith we would demand justice for her – that we would force the question. Yet, we didn’t. We turned a deaf ear. We turned our backs on Miss Beulah. She spent Mothers Day with Donna in a much better place. She knows what happened now. She knows who the killer is, who should have caught the monster and why it didn’t happen – why we didn’t make it happen. The sins of Donna’s killer are unforgivable, even for a kind, patient Christian woman like Miss Beulah. Perhaps she will see fit to forgive the rest of us for failing her so miserably.

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