A story has been unspooling in Fort Wayne since Friday, and anyone who knows anything about such things suspected it was going to have a tragic ending. Late last night, it arrived — Aliahna Lemmon, 9, missing since Friday morning, was found dead, and the man she’d been left with, Michael Plumadore, was arrested. As frequently happens in these cases, everyone involved was poor, and every reported fact raised more questions than it answered.
The trailer park where everybody involved lived was said to be home to 15 registered sex offenders, which until recently included the missing girl’s grandfather, who died earlier this month. Plumadore had been the grandfather’s caretaker, and was staying in his mobile home. Plumadore had priors — I’d imagine a clean record in a place like this is as unlikely as finding an adult resident without a tattoo — but none of them were for violent felonies, so no worries, eh? The dead girl was said to have emotional problems, PTSD in some accounts, with no explanation of how a 9-year-old might come to develop a post-traumatic stress disorder. Until she was found, the girl’s grandmother had given numerous interviews saying she trusted Plumadore implicitly, although she admitted it was probably not a good idea for him to have left Aliahna and her sisters alone for half an hour Friday morning, when she likely disappeared, while he went to a nearby convenience store in search of a cigar.
Yes, that was his account of his whereabouts: Woke up, couldn’t get back to sleep, went out for a cigar, came home, smoked it and fell back to sleep for a few hours, and woke up to find the girl gone. He assumed her mother had taken her, although the sisters were still there. It was hours before anyone finally realized the girl was gone. And why was she staying with him? Because her mother had the flu, and her stepfather needed to sleep during the day, and who the hell knows? It was one of those stories you put down and ask yourself that if Jesus loves the little children, all the little children of the world, red and yellow black and white they are precious in his sight, why he lets so many of them arrive in a world where they are, objectively, fucked for life.
I’ve known a few people who grew up in conditions like this — rural and/or urban squalor, for lack of a better word, in houses where nobody cleaned or cooked or considered it odd that mom or dad or both were drunk all the time. Houses where grandpa is a sex offender, where mom is crazy, where you and your brother had to split a single pork chop but the dogs were all well-fed, because they were mama’s babies. Houses where your uncle or your dad’s army buddy tried to catch you alone in a room so he could push you up against a wall and ask if there was fur on that monkey yet. Houses where the TV was never turned off, ever, and you never saw a dentist and grandma smoked right next to her oxygen tank. And you know what? These people are heroes in the truest sense of the word. They battled great odds and emerged with a prize beyond rubies — a safe, sane, balanced middle-class life that they could bring their own children into and keep them from harm. Why aren’t we studying them in the world’s great universities? Why do we spend so much time lionizing frauds and con men and politicians and actors and other assholes, and not the few Aliahnas left behind who will survive their ghastly upbringings and prosper? Why aren’t we carrying them through the streets, or at least debriefing them to discover how, exactly, they slipped the noose of ignorance and poverty?
I’m going to stop reading about this kid for a while. Not good for me.
UPDATE: Too late! She was clubbed to death with a brick, then dismembered.
And I’m sorry to bum you out, but these cases take it out of me.
And now here we are in the last days of the year. I’m counting down to my final day on the old job and first ones on the new, so of course I’m reaching for the most calming activity I know in times of stress — cleaning bathrooms. If I really hit a lick, I could get the whole house clean, but for now, I’ll settle for a couple toilets.
Fascinating holiday-weekend reader from the NYT: The Empire State Building — and other tall skyscrapers around the country — find astonishing profits in their upper-level observation decks. Sixty million in profits in one year? Yikes. (As one who bought that ticket, a few years back? Not worth it. The wait was endless and the view? Eh. The Chicago skyscrapers are far better, and I concur with those who told me that the best bargain is the cocktail lounge a few levels down from the top, where you get the same view, free of charge, and with drinks.
And as it’s late, that’s about all I have. Hope the news at your end was better.