Unspeakable death of a community

October 08, 1997|By Mike Barnicle

BOSTON -- It is a story too terrible to tell, and it was taking place on a gray day along Cambridge streets where innocence and trust were stolen by two degenerate predators who allegedly kidnapped, killed, and sexually abused 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley.

With the boy's body still somewhere under the Piscataqua River between Maine and New Hampshire, his name lived in every conversation in all the homes along Bristol and Hampshire streets.

"The two of them planned this," a detective was saying. "This was no spur-of-the-moment thing. They targeted that boy. They picked him out, watched him, waited for the right moment and grabbed him for sex, and then killed him so he wouldn't be able to tell anybody.

"They have the same behavioral patterns and appetites as wild animals," he said. "With one big difference: Animals have more respect for life than these two."

By now, details of a hideous crime had passed by word of mouth among apartments where families felt reasonably safe just a few days ago.

Suddenly, everything changed; doors closed, a boy cried in his mother's arms as the two of them sat on a stoop, grim-faced men stood on porches, arms folded like sentries guarding against the indescribable.

Two are in custody for killing Jeffrey Curley: Sal Sicari, the little boy's neighbor, has been charged with murder and kidnapping while his alleged accomplice, Charles Jaynes, is, for the moment, being held on other warrants.

As outlined in court, this deed is so breathtakingly evil that it tests the patience of a process already creaking beneath the weight of our constant quest for evenhandedness.

The official indictment will contain one count of homicide, but the truth is this crime involves the death of a whole family and an entire city.

Thousands today sit in disbelief that people could so badly and premeditatedly victimize a child and then be accorded rights guaranteed by a civilized code of conduct designed to litigate human beings.

"Without the law, we'd have chaos," the detective added.

"But, my God, it's asking a lot not to just take these two out and shoot them down in the street. That poor, innocent boy."

'They have the same behavioral patterns and appetites as wild animals,' the detective said. 'With one big difference: Animals have more respect for life than these two.'

Jeffrey Curley is the child of the moment. His is the name now famous because of the manner in which he lost his life.

Yet, this country -- richest on earth -- contains too many children lost to too many cruel absurdities.

Sometimes, it seems we place a larger value on the pursuit of material items than on nurturing the souls of the young.

I recently visited St. Angela's Grammar School in Boston's Mattapan neighborhood, a building full of boys and girls who are embraced and educated each day by the Sisters of St. Joseph.

There, standing in her office wearing a smile capable of carrying light to the darkest of depressions, was the principal, Sister Gail Donahue, 40 years a nun, who remains untiring in the task of teaching children.

The school opened in 1935. The sisters' order is 125 years old this year. The student body is 60 percent Haitian, 20 percent from elsewhere in the Caribbean and the rest African-American.

Sitting quietly at a desk in Sister Jean Plausky's first-grade class, a little girl named Satta worked on a reading assignment.

One morning in August, the girl's mother came to St. Angela's to go to Mass. But because of a fire in the church, Masses were said in the school basement.

So, she took her family over to the school. They met the pastor, Father Bill Joy, who introduced them to the principal, Sister Gail. Satta, along with her mother, father, sister and brother, had just come to America from a refugee camp in Africa. All the family had was faith.

The Sisters of St. Joseph took them in; found housing, food and clothing for them. Enrolled the children in St. Angela's. Gave them hope. Brought them the happiness of a warm welcome and the promise of a terrific education. All things nuns do daily.

Now, there is no escaping the macabre horror surrounding the short life of Jeffrey Curley, ended by an obscenely violent act.

But, to struggle forward, we at least ought to remember that there are still places where children are safe and valued and one of them is inside an old school where a handful of nuns are unembarrassed about loving the children they teach and the hearts they touch.

Mike Barnicle is a columnist for the Boston Globe.

Pub Date: 10/08/97

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