Harford killing: Why no intervention until too late?

January 12, 2012

As I see it, the real tragedy in the death of 58-year-old Robert C. Richardson Jr. isn't only that a young boy killed his father ("16-year-old killed father, police say," Jan. 11). It's that an entire community — neighbors, law enforcers, school teachers and administrators — witnessed or saw evidence of the dysfunction, isolation, and neglect that this boy suffered for years and yet it continued, unabated, probably until the boy could no longer bear it alone.

Other than calling the police on occasion, there appeared to be no intervention on behalf of the boy. One neighbor was quoted as having observed the family for 13 years. The father "was always yelling and shouting at the boy," she said. The same woman also said she sometimes saw the teen wearing tattered clothes.

What does it say about our society when community members acutely observe signs of potential neglect and abuse of a child from a distance but choose not to intervene, or don't know how?

Elizabeth Heubeck, Towson

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