After the crime, what next?

True Tales From Everyday Living

Real Life

October 08, 2006|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,Sun Reporter

I became a Baltimore crime victim in June. That's when I met Ray, a fellow Hampden resident who came up to me in the Rotunda shopping center parking lot, flashed a handgun and took my purse, cell phone, credit cards and cash.

Sure, I was frightened. Ray was armed, after all, but he also called me "Hon," which struck me as peculiar. More than scared, I was intrigued.

As I spoke with detectives in the days after the robbery, I picked up details about Ray's criminal past - mostly minor stuff - and learned that he was a fairly well-known neighborhood drug addict. Detectives also told me he'd held up another woman in Charles Village two days after he'd robbed me.

When Ray was arrested, I wondered where he was at the time and what he was doing. Was he sad? Did he regret his actions, miss his freedom?

I kept up with Ray while he was in jail through the state's online case-tracking system. There, I learned that he'd been charged with robbery, theft, assault and handgun violations in connection with the robberies and that his arraignment in Circuit Court had been set.

As the date approached, I wondered if I should go. I didn't want to shout at Ray or demand a harsh prison sentence. But I was curious.

I made up my mind to attend the hearing when I learned from the court's victim-notification program that if Ray pleaded guilty he would be sentenced immediately, and it might be the last time he showed his face in public for a long time.

When I arrived at the courthouse that morning I found the assistant state's attorney who was handling the case and introduced myself. She told me she wanted Ray to serve five years in prison.

What about drug treatment, I asked. Can he get some?

The prosecutor wasn't sure but told me Ray's attorney also wanted him to get drug treatment as part of his sentence. We decided that at 26, Ray was still young and might yet get his life together.

During this conversation, I noticed that three people sitting on a nearby bench were watching and listening to me. They were, I discovered later, Ray's mother and father and a family friend. Ray's mom was crying and his dad looked like he was sick to his stomach.

I had not anticipated this meeting. It was an awkward situation. I introduced myself as "one of the people your son robbed," and as soon as I said it I regretted it. Ray's mom, Kim, started to sob and his dad, David, looked away.

But Kim said she wanted to talk and so I sat down with her.

She told me that her son was not a violent person but that his addiction made him do terrible things, including taking money from his own family and robbing strangers in parking lots.

Kim said she blamed herself for her son's misdeeds, that she'd been so overwhelmed as a young mother that she'd ignored Ray's behavioral problems. She said that more recently she'd banished her son from her home because she was tired of arguing with him.

It was heartbreaking to listen to Kim because she was so clearly tormented by her son's actions. Kim said she'd hoped that tough love would force Ray to change his ways but instead he retreated even deeper into Hampden's drug culture.

Kim stopped talking only when her son showed up in handcuffs and shackles.

I sat near Kim in the courtroom and watched her as Ray pleaded guilty to two counts of robbery. He was sentenced to three years in prison but could be released as soon as December if his family can come up with money to enroll him in a year-long, in-patient drug treatment program.

Before he left the courtroom, Ray turned to me and said he was sorry.

When I telephoned Kim a few days later, she was still emotional and apologetic. Although she and David were already planning to sell their Hampden home, it is even more critical now. Kim said they will need the money to cover Ray's legal bills and get him into treatment.

"I'm so sorry, really I am," she said.

Apologies are fine, but what's helped me most has been Kim's willingness to talk about her son. Learning about Ray's troubled youth and battle with addiction has helped me put the robbery in context and allowed me to feel less like a victim.

I'm glad I was curious.

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