Case Closed, But Sadness Lingers

I never met the young Brookville woman whose homicide case came to a close last week with the sentencing of a man charged with helping to cause her death.

But I came to know much about her, and feel the tensions as her life touched us in communities throughout the area, first with worry, then by sadness at the waste.

“She didn’t do anything wrong,” I was told via phone calls and messages from those who ran with Devin Knapp. “Your newspaper shouldn’t have printed those bad things about her” while she was still listed as a missing person.

The “bad things” came to light in the days after her family reported her missing on Jan. 13. Initial Internet postings and posters placed throughout the community had described someone who had gone out to show off a new car and never returned.

Routine background reporting revealed a mixed bag: A personable, bubbly young woman who brightened lives around her, worked to restore people to health – who had also spent more than a month in jail because she and some guys broke the bones of another man who reportedly owed her $100 in drug-buying money. On the day of her disappearance, she had been scheduled to go dry out in rehab. Was she missing, or on a last fling?

When a community is asked to be on the lookout, it helps to know where one might look. A truck driver might be found at truck stops; a physical fitness junkie might be found at gyms; etc.

Those initial missing person reports raised fears: kidnapping, stranger rape, captivity.

Yes, a drug-related person with an assault record could be kidnapped, raped, held captive; but the person could also waft away on drug-induced trips.

That’s about what happened. Her body was found in her car in a remote wooded area, drugs in her lap, a needle in her arm.

All staged, we found out later. Police work and testimony disclosed that she had been partying and doing drugs when she overdosed. To avoid arrest on pending warrants, the man who injected the fatal dose planted her body in a remote area.

A touching memorial service for who she was later held in downtown Brookville. The court system adjudicated those involved.

All of us were left with the sadness, the memories of who she had been, the thoughts of who she might have become, the waste of it all.

When a person does death-defying things but then dies, who is responsible? Others had collateral responsibility. But each of us is also individually responsible for our own actions. And we pay, sometimes with our lives.

We graybeards know that.

But every year gives us a new crop of young people who haven’t learned that.

Some of them think that newspapers should not print bad things about drug-using dealers who beat up other people, because … well, because those people are our friends, and they’re fun to be with, and we like them, and we all hang together … right?

No.

From time immemorial, young people bumping up against rules made by older adults have felt those rules are intended to take away fun, to punish, to push us against our will into little boxes of boring, mindless conformity.

We older adults try to explain: Defying those rules can kill you, put you in a wheelchair, or in a prison cell. What happens to the fun then?

We can’t turn our lives around when we are dead. We can’t start over when we haul the baggage of prison records, or the physical after-effects of drug/booze abuse.

Getting drunk, getting drugged … our bodies are damaged. We can’t be,what we could have been, because we have damaged our innards. Maybe it’s lungs, coated by smoke; brains, slowed by stunted nerves; reflexes gone awry; fatigue that won’t go away; obesity aggravated by burned-out ambitions.

Shawn Ryan Carr, who injected the fatal drugs into Knapp, with her consent according to trial testimony, is imprisoned for 8-16 years. The sentencing judge would have been harsher except that Knapp’s family wanted “to be done with this,” according to news reports.

Who is the victim?

That’s not all that clear. Victims don’t look forward to being injected.

But who are the losers? An enjoyable, caring and competent woman won’t brighten our lives. She had been in the health care field. Now, someone in need of health care has one less caregiver. Her family grieves. Her friends saw nothing wrong with the previous drugs or the jail sentence. Now, they see … what?

Perhaps some of us learn from this, and life gets better.

But new young adults continue bumping up against “stupid” rules and “unfair” laws that take away fun, the rush of getting high, the thrill of being independent. Some bump up instead against the finality of death.

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Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. Email: denny2319@windstream.net.