Friday, November 20, 2009

Dancing with the Scars

Recently I began reading Kane and Wilders "The Little Black Book of Violence". It is a very interesting treatise on the topic. It does as well as any book can to remove any romantic notions from violence and fighting. It reminds us that the ramifications of violence and trauma can be profound and long lasting. The message was not lost on me. I still experience the repercussions of violence that was both actual and vicarious.

The following is from the Quad City Times.

The murder of Jeff Ramsey was never solved. The kidnapper of Heather Bailey was caught, convicted and is still serving time for another crime. The details:
Heather Bailey was 7 years old in 1975 when she was kidnapped by a man named Ralph LaVerne Doughty in Rock Island.

The girl and some friends were lured out of their neighborhood by Doughty on June 8. He told them he needed their help searching for his daughter in a wooded area near Hauberg Civic Center. Doughty and the girl subsequently disappeared and the other children sounded the alarm. Heather was found, unharmed, about five hours later at the man's apartment.

Doughty was sentenced to 8-20 years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated kidnapping. At the time, prosecutors said records showed Doughty also had been convicted on at least two `morals' charges in Iowa. He served about four years.

In August 1983, Doughty was sentenced to life in prison for the first-degree kidnapping of a 5-year-old boy in Davenport who was on his way to school. The boy, who was sexually assaulted, told police he was lured away from school by a man claiming to be looking for a lost dog.

However, in December 1984, the Iowa Supreme Court overturned the conviction because of the way the jury instructions were given.

A second trial, and second conviction ensued. In February 1997, Doughty, then 41, again was sentenced to life without parole. He is incarcerated at Anamosa State Penitentiary.

The nude body of 12-year-old Jeff Ramsey was found under a pile of debris on the south side of Arsenal Island on June 15, 1972, about 25 feet from the edge of Sylvan Slough.

The Rock Island boy had been reported missing a week earlier. He had been on his way to the river to watch the fishermen.

A nylon cord was wrapped around his neck, and the autopsy showed he died from strangulation. He also had been beaten. Officials believed he had been sexually abused, but his body was too badly decomposed for tests to show that.

Although rewards were offered, no informants ever came forward. The boy's parents did receive three or four anonymous letters in the following days from someone claiming to be the killer.

One letter said: `I did it, my God I did it, I killed him.'' The writer said he needed help, and the family responded with an open letter in the newspapers to the writer, asking him to call police.

Some time later the writer sent his last message, saying that he'd already gotten help, but ``If I ever have the urge again, I'll kill myself before I do this again.''

Speculation ran high for a time that Jeff's death was connected with a carnival that had been playing on the Davenport levee at the time. Other young boys in Illinois, Iowa and Indiana also had disappeared about the same time carnivals were in their towns. FBI agents spent a year tracing carnival workers, without finding a lead.

In the spring of 1976, the FBI closed the case. The only suspect in the case, who was a Quad-Cities resident but never identified, had killed himself.

Senior FBI agent Charles Smith said in an interview in 1978 that agents interviewed the prime suspect twice, but didn't have enough evidence to make an arrest. ``This was probably the most frustrating case I've ever worked on,'' he said.

These events were very upsetting for many people, me included. In my case it was even more so. I was in the woods the day she was kidnapped. I remember racing through the treest and brush looking for her. I remember the impact that event had on Heather's family. Jeff Ramsey was a neighbor who hung out in he same woods and parks I frequented. I didn't realise the impact on me until my mid thirties and had two daughter of my own. It was also then I began to understand the impact of a man attempting to abduct me by dragging me into his car. It happened one night as I walked home from a friends house. Each of these events happened within a few years and a few hundred yards of each other.

As a student, practicing martial arts has helped me understand and process those past events. As a teacher it reminds me that many students bring similar past experiences with them when they begin training. The training they receive can be a benefit to them or it can compound the issues of violence and finding effective ways of dealing with present and past manifestations of it.

Has a brush with violence lead you to practice martial arts? For you instuctors, has an encounter with violence impacted your life and how you teach? I would be interested in hearing your story.

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