Monsters among us
BY JULIE DELCOUR Associate Editor
Sunday, June 24, 2012
6/24/12 at 2:41 AM
Two weeks ago, on the outskirts of Shiner, "The Cleanest Little City in Texas," a young father killed a ranch hand moments after he found Jesus Mora Flores raping his 5-year-old daughter behind a barn.
Authorities withheld identities of the father and child for privacy reasons. If the public did know that father's name, most law-abiding Americans probably would line up to shake his hand - the same hand(s) used to beat Flores to death.
The story began June 9 at a family barbecue when the little girl went off to feed the chickens. A witness saw Flores, 47, dragging the girl into a secluded area, and alerted the father who ran toward the sound of the child's screams. Yanking Flores, who had his pants down around his ankles, off the girl, the father "inflicted several blows to the man's head and neck," court documents said. After knocking Flores unconscious, the father called 911, begging for authorities and an ambulance to hurry to the scene.
Last week, a Lavaca County, Texas, grand jury decided that the 23-year-old father won't be charged. Jurors reached the same conclusion as sheriff's investigators - under Texas law, the father was justified in using deadly force to protect his child from a sexual assault, which forensic evidence had confirmed.
That grand jury's decision came on the same day that a set of trial jurors in Pennsylvania listened to prosecution evidence against Jerry Sandusky, 68, the former Penn State University football defensive coordinator, charged with 48 counts of abusing 10 boys over 15 years.
And, the ruling in Texas occurred in the same week in which a Tulsa couple were arrested in a case involving a girl who was only 6 when alleged sexual abuse began six years ago. James Leonard Woodcock, 44, faces five counts of child sexual abuse. His wife, Jennifer Louise Woodcock, 54, is charged with permitting child sexual abuse and failure to report child sexual abuse.
And the list goes on. Jason Henry Brock, 39, was booked into the Tulsa Jail on a complaint of raping a minor by instrumentation after his arrest Tuesday on claims that he molested his daughter's 10-year-old friend during a sleep-over at his house.
Not a week goes by without multiple reports of sexual abuse against children. And those are the cases that we know about. How many more children are out there whose screams aren't heard by an attentive parent such as the father in Texas? How many more fall into the same category as many of Sandusky's alleged victims - kids from a troubled home who failed to speak up because they thought no one would believe them or because they were scared?
How about the children assaulted by a family member or friend, or mom's boyfriend? It's hard enough for adult rape victims to come forward, much less 6-year-old children. Where do they turn?
For the majority of us whose encounters with police don't involve much more than a speeding ticket, understanding criminal behavior - especially by child molesters - is baffling.
We can grasp to some degree the criminal motivation behind even the most violent of crimes. We don't accept it but we have some level of understanding of how heat-of-passion killings occur. When we read about a pharmacy robbery or a bank heist we know the motivation - drugs and money. We recognize - not condone - drug dealers' greed, drunk drivers' stupidity and the reckless disregard for life that defines gang violence. We get it why people write bad checks, or embezzle from employers.
But most of us will never understand Jesus Mora Flores or Jerry Sandusky.
Monsters among us
Two years ago, after the sentencing here of Brandon Wayne Brixey, who raped an 8-year-old in 2008, I asked rhetorically (in this same space) what do we do with the monsters among us? Because these crimes against children are so incomprehensible, so too is an appropriate punishment.
Not much has changed in the intervening two years. In fact, there seem to be even more cases. Or, does the media report these cases more diligently than in years past?
Experts still offer little insight into crimes of a sexual nature against children. I say "of a sexual nature" because even the basic motivation of molesters is unclear. In trying to explain the perversion, the experts discuss offenders' "lack of impulse control," their histories of drug/alcohol abuse, family violence or abuse as a child, "situational stress, " low IQ, high IQ, sociopathic tendencies. None of it really explains the behavior. The crimes are inconceivable and as a result the matrix of human punishment schemes is as well. What is the rational methodology for dealing with the irrational?
In a 5-4 decision in 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court took the death penalty off the table for sex offenders. So, we know what we cannot do. Remaining options, including life sentences, don't seem adequate, however, to express society's outrage for such crimes. What about the majority of offenders, who serve their time and return to the community? How likely is it that they'll stop preying on kids?
The response in Oklahoma to sexual abuse of children is often a prison term for offenders, sometimes some therapy aimed at rehabilitation and tough sexual offender registration laws. We've limited where sexual offenders can live. That has resulted in "sex offender camps," isolated residential clusters of people we cannot lock up for good and who we don't want living among us because we don't trust that any meaningful rehabilitation occurred behind bars.
None of those measures can guarantee that another child won't be victimized. Some of these offenders, apparently like Brixey in Tulsa (or Flores, in Texas) cannot stop themselves - driven by compulsions they cannot control and science apparently cannot cure.
So how do we punish the incomprehensible? That father in Shiner, Texas, exercised one solution but not even he, I'm sure, would recommend that most citizens take the law into their own hands.
How do we protect children from the child rapists, the child predators?
Short of locking offenders up and "throwing away the key," I'm afraid that little else provides much comfort.
Julie DelCour, 918-581-8379
Near this building a few miles from Shiner, Texas, a Texas father on June 9 beat to death with his fists a man molesting his 5-year-old daughter. Last week, a Lavaca County grand jury declined to indict the father in the death of 47-year-old Jesus Mora Flores. CAROLINA ASTRAIN/ Victoria Advocate/AP