MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK
It has been almost fourteen years since Kristen McNeil’s body was discovered.
Her mother had called the police to say that Kristen had not come home one night, an uncharacteristic action for the eighteen-year-old. But not until thirty-six hours after that was Kristen found near Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, New Jersey.
Hinchliffe Stadium was a decayed relic of a time gone by in Paterson. In its day it was the scene of minor league baseball games, high school football, auto racing, and some important boxing matches. But it had fallen into terrible disrepair and wasn’t designated as a historical landmark until eight years after Kristen had breathed her last.
So it wasn’t exactly a high-traffic area back then, and had some kids not been playing there, it might have been much longer before her whereabouts became known.
The police immediately considered it an attempted sexual assault leading to the murder, since the victim’s clothes were partially torn. The obvious theory was that she had fought hard to protect herself and scratched her killer, since traces of skin were under her fingernails.
The cause of death was strangulation, and in addition to the killer’s leaving behind his DNA in the skin under Kristen’s nails, the same DNA was found on a piece of discarded gum and a half-consumed beer can near the body. In the intervening years no match had ever been made. The partial fingerprint on the beer can was not enough to yield a match.
Apparently the killer had had no other run-ins with the law, before or since, because his DNA was not in any database. Every few years the Paterson Police ran it through the system, hoping for a match, but they were always disappointed.
The case was famous in Paterson, and occasionally the media would write stories revisiting it. It frustrated everyone that even though absolutely incontrovertible evidence existed to tie the killer to the crime, he was still out there, free.
Also, he might be dead, since it seemed unlikely that someone capable of such a cold-blooded murder would have kept his nose clean for the past fourteen years.
So all the authorities could do was wait for a break that seemed increasingly likely never to come.
Laurie Collins is great on the “giveth” … not so much on the “taketh away.”
Every marriage should have a balance; I think I read that somewhere once. It works that way with me and Laurie Collins, as she represents the human-decency side of our marriage. It’s not that I have inhuman decency, or human indecency; it’s just that I am comparatively agnostic on the subject. Fortunately, Laurie has me covered.
Laurie’s decency and spirit of giving last year-round, but especially come out during Christmastime. Of course, that would depend on whether your definition of Christmastime coincides with hers. I doubt that it does. I’d be willing to bet that it doesn’t.
For years she had viewed Christmas as starting with the conclusion of the Thanksgiving meal. It was a bit early, but on some level it seemed to make sense. Out with the old holiday, in with the new. And here in the Northeast, which is where our home in Paterson, New Jersey, is, the climate has a Christmassy chill in the air by then. For the past two years we’ve even had white Thanksgivings.
In her eyes, the end of Christmas has always been February 1, though she has never adequately explained the reason for that monthlong extension. I think it is just that she likes Christmas, so why not continue it? It wasn’t like anyone was going to stop her; I have long ago ceded control over the family calendar.
Last February, when she retired her Christmas albums for the year and I could finally stop listening to “Jingle Bells,” I made the mistake of mentioning that I was pleased that baseball season was about to get going, that “pitchers and catchers” had already reported for spring training. It got her to thinking that if baseball season could last seven months, it wasn’t fair that Christmas season lasted less than half as long.
“It’s only supposed to last three weeks,” I made the mistake of pointing out, and in retaliation she decreed that this year Christmas in our house was going to be even longer. She didn’t invite dissent on the matter.
So our son, Ricky, no sooner took off his Halloween costume last week … he went dressed as an aging Eli Manning … than Laurie announced the start of Christmas. Which means the start of giving.
Laurie has never come across a charity she doesn’t like. That’s fine with me because we are quite wealthy as a result of my inheritance and some lucrative cases I have handled as a criminal defense attorney. She keeps searching for new ways to share our good fortune, and she keeps finding them.
Last year she added a couple of excellent wrinkles to her charitable repertoire. She goes into the local department store in downtown Paterson and writes them a check that they are to apply to layaway items being purchased by their customers.
Her view is that if people are buying gifts on layaway, they must be on the borderline of being able to afford them. So this way when they come in to make their last payments, the cashier tells them that the gifts have already been paid for and hands them their items. It’s like a Christmas present for those struggling to buy Christmas presents.
Copyright © 2019 by Tara Productions, Inc