A decade and more ago, there was a cute little boy in our neighborhood who spent many an afternoon at our house with Alpha — jumping on the trampoline, tossing a football in the front yard, even having a pie-eating contest once in the front yard. Those were the salad days of childhood, when happiness was a batch of warm cookies and a cold glass of milk.
One afternoon when Hubby was splitting firewood in the yard, this boy and one other watched, fascinated, convinced that they, too, could split a section of Oak with a single crack. Hubby couldn’t resist letting them try… but needless to say, they were unprepared for the weight of the axe or the stubbornness of wood. Nary a dent was made. The two watched in awe as Hubby continued making big logs into small ones, then took up catching fireflies instead.
Those were the salad days… the innocence of childhood.
As a young teen though, the boy moved out of his aunt and uncle’s house on our street, presumably back with his mother in some other part of town. Through middle school, he and Alpha grew apart — about the usual age when kids begin to define their friendships based upon mutual interests rather than geography. As high school approached, I began to hear murmurings that he was getting into trouble.
By the time he was 18, it wasn’t murmurings anymore — it was his name listed in the paper under police reports.
Today, at 20, he’s front-page news: accused of attempted murder. What went so wrong in the space of 10 years? What on earth could cause the young man — who, as a youngster was kind and polite — to steal without remorse, then later, to brutally, horribly, stab and bludgeon a former classmate, leaving him for dead in an alley?
By all accounts, Jon Grider is a nice young man. He did not deserve the fate bestowed upon him early Tuesday morning. My heart aches for him, and for his family, that he had to endure such a horrific night.
One lies in the hospital, fighting for his life. The other, while healthy, is looking at a life that is functionally over — a future of hard prison time, and little else. In Nashville this year, fully 20% of the murders were committed by children 17 and under (all but one of those were shootings). There’s no argument for leniency on my part, but yes, I do admit to sadness that it happened at all.
What is it that turns an adorable child into a cold-blooded killer, within just a few short years?