Common sense is not so common. ~Voltaire

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Once upon a time

There was a young child who was murdered by its mother. It is a sad story, made sadder still by the facts of the case. The mother told a multitude of lies concerning the child's whereabouts, the grandparents were mad with worry, the mother's brother was used as a distraction, and there was blood, tape, plastic, a shovel, and a late-night trip to a deserted and lonely place. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? It should because many of the details of this case mirror the circumstances surrounding the death of Caylee Anthony in Florida, but this is the story of Logan Tucker, and a jury who got it right.

Logan lived his brief life of six years in northwestern Oklahoma with his mother, Katherine Rutan, her roommate, and Logan's younger brother. By all accounts, Rutan was an uncaring mother; in fact, the roommate said, "He was a pain in her side. It made her mad because having a child didn’t let her do the things she wanted to do, so she got rid of the problem.” Rutan had tried at least twice to give both of her children to the DHS, the last time three days before Logan disappeared.  

On that day, and every day after, his mother told so many lies, it's difficult to keep them all straight.

  • To the roommate: He was in the back room, he was in the basement, and he was sick.
  • To the roommate's daughter: DHS had taken him.
  • To various others that day: DHS had taken him, he was with his father, and he was in a mental hospital.
  • To a nurse at a counseling facility: Logan had been placed "elsewhere."
  • To his grandparents: DHS took him, and later, he was in a treatment facility.
  • To the DHS: Logan was camping with her brother in Vermont or Pennsylvania.

More than two weeks after he was last seen alive, his grandparents contacted the police for a welfare check. During a number of searches, police found masking tape with hair stuck to it, bloodstains, cotton rope, plastic sheeting, and drain cleaner; a cadaver dog "hit" on the passenger seat of Rutan's car. Searches for Logan's body have been conducted through the years, but he has never been found. 

Four years after his disappearance, his mother was charged with first-degree murder. The prosecutors alleged Rutan used "unreasonable force," which resulted in "mortal wounds" to Logan. A jury deliberated for two hours and returned a guilty verdict with a recommendation of life without the possibility of parole. 

The case against Rutan was entirely circumstantial, much like that against Casey Anthony, yet the juries' interpretations were day and night in comparison. How did this happen? While no single aspect can be highlighted as THE reason, there are a few key differences between the cases. For example, the jurors in Logan Tucker's case had something that was lacking for Casey's jury--an eyewitness. Logan's younger brother told a horrific story of riding with his mother and Logan to go dig wildflowers; Logan, he recounted, was sitting up in the back, neither crying nor talking, and his mother carried him into the woods and returned alone. It was simply too much for the jury to ignore.

Regardless of the differences, however, so many questions remain as to why Caylee will not receive her justice, as Logan finally did. Forget about the smell in the car, the duct tape, the shovel, and that she was last seen in her mother's care. The fact remains that she never reported her child missing until she was forced to by her own mother. For 31 days, she carried on as if "having a child didn’t let her do the things she wanted to do, so she got rid of the problem.” This fact alone is indefensible--not by the defense's argument of sexual abuse, not by the grief expert's ridiculous definition of normal grief, and certainly not by the jurors' confounding of confusion for reasonable doubt. 

Thus, we are left with some hard truths. No one will ever pay for Caylee's murder. Our system doesn't always work. People get away with murder every single day. 

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