Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


Jordan Brown: Lost boy, lost family

posted by Rod Dreher

A reader writes:

Have you heard about the 11 year-old Western Pennsylvania boy, Jordan Brown, who killed his father’s live-in fiancée, who was pregnant with their child, with a shotgun? He is now, at 12 years old, to be tried as an adult.
jordan brown.jpg
A horrific crime. And one should be glad that the death of the unborn child is part of the charges. However, this case raises questions for me. One of these is, where was this child’s mother? I have tried to find this out, and couldn’t. Second, one of the motives given for this crime is that the child was afraid of losing his father’s attention. So, even as I find this crime hideous and revolting, I am unable to keep from thinking the following thoughts:
1. The child has no mother.
2. The father moved this woman, with her two children “from a previous relationship”, into their home.
3. At no time, has it ever been suggested, as far as I have read, that the adults in this situation acted inappropriately. But perhaps if this had happened 60 years ago, the adults’ behavior would have been considered scandalous, and would have formed part of the defense arguments. Is there any chance of that happening today? I do not know.
4. Children in our society, on the one hand, are inculturated into believing that every waking moment of their lives is to be entertaining. Advertising and media shove all sorts of sex and violence at them.
5. Nevertheless, they are expected, at the age of 11, after they have been put in what might have been a highly traumatic situation, to exercise adult sense and judgment. And if they fail to do so, they can be executed or sent to prison for the rest of their lives.
I have a 12 year-old son. I know he is prone to fantasy and does not always have the best judgment. But his own personal problems have not been aggravated by the loss/absence of his mother, nor of his father moving the “fiancée” into the bedroom. I put the word “fiancée” in quotes because the way it is used today does not mean that the date of the wedding is set, nor that the commitment is especially firm.
Nowhere have I seen suggested that the child might have been truly traumatized by the situation. Because these situations are so common now, we just expect children to adjust.
Having had one (and now possibly two according to an expert friend) boys who are on the highly functional end of the autistic spectrum with sensory issues, I am constantly amazed at the emotional fragility of boys. Girls can be too (like that poor Irish child), but there are these emotional chasms on a boy’s pathway of life that we ignore or deny at our peril.
Writing or talking about this is probably a lose-lose situation. The right wing will think you’re soft on crime and the death of the unborn (which I’m definitely not); the left wing will excoriate you for bringing up the father’s arrangements with the fiancée.
But in the end, that whole family is lost.



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Pat

posted March 30, 2010 at 11:07 pm


I find this post truly odd. What on earth makes you think that moving a new woman in with her children is a recent phenomenon? Cinderella, anybody? Back in the olden days, with higher maternal mortality, this sort of thing has to have happened at least as often, if not much more often, than it does nowadays. And when priests were few and far between, marriage would wait until it could be celebrated — having a woman in the house to care for the orphaned children wouldn’t.
As for asking an 11 year old to act with enough maturity not to murder someone … I don’t think that’s asking a lot.
The really shocking part of this story is that the kid is being tried as an adult. Though I suppose one could argue that a person old enough to have his family buy him a firearm is old enough to be tried as an adult.



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Franklin Jennings

posted March 30, 2010 at 11:38 pm


Cinderella and maternal mortality only matter if the boy’s mother is deceased.
Or if you wish to suggest ‘abandoned, orphaned, who’s to judge?’
As the survivor of abandonment by my mother at 4 years of age…
Nah, its Holy Week.



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Peter

posted March 31, 2010 at 12:00 am


A quick Google search produces this story, which answers a lot of your questions.
http://www.thepittsburghchannel.com/news/18794185/detail.html



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Pat

posted March 31, 2010 at 12:00 am


Rod said he couldn’t find out about the child’s mother. What makes you think she’s abandoned him, let alone abandoned him recently enough that he can remember her? Am I missing something in the article?



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Peter

posted March 31, 2010 at 12:03 am

rawlins Gilliland

posted March 31, 2010 at 12:25 am


The good news is, that the days of dismissing girls’ hopes & dreams is a thing of the past in our society. Whereas girls grew up with few options if any & as adults were put on ‘tranquilizers’ if they became agitated by their life’s boundaries. The emphasis them switched slowly but surely from our paying little attention to girls’ intellectual needs to paying no attention to boys at all. Add to that the history of men being raised to have no sense of emotional depth of expression or willingness to acknowledge their feelings.
Nor fast forward. I spent, as you know Rod, about half my 20s hitchhiking across this globe. And here is what I learned, having been in and out of cars with countless male strangers who had zero idea who I was or where I lived & knew they would never see n\me again not I them. And the things they said and did…shared… told me more about men than being one ever could. Men are actually very loving creatures. But their role…handed to them no less than was half a century the lot of women and men…. Is to withdraw and act like nothing moves them one way or another. But I know a lot about men and was never the typical boy. I was like an undercover agent who was actually 38 years old when I was a kid. And I taught myself to be fearless even when I was terrified. But most men are terrified even when they appear fearless.



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Cilantro Joe

posted March 31, 2010 at 12:51 am


The boy seems to me to be, sadly, a textbook psychopath, for whose behavior there can be found very little pscyho-causal explanation. I suggest reading the works of guys like Robert Hare for more insight into psychopaths, whose upbringing and environment very often seem to have little to do with their inexplicable behavior.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 31, 2010 at 2:42 am


Rod,
Conservative as I am, I cannot see the merit in trying this boy as an adult. The deadening of conscience required to commit murder at age 12 bespeaks a lifetime of neglect. I doubt that his parents were reading Aesop’s fables to him at night.
Having dealt with horridly abused children for so long, I can honestly say that I never met any with the demonstrated capacity for anything close to what this child has done. Though he has clearly attained the ‘age of reason’, I sincerely doubt that he has attained even a rudimentary mastery of reason for a pre-pubescent boy.
Seriously, most twelve year-olds have no concept of life’s intrinsic value, or even of death’s genuine irrevocability. The state acts n pure fantasy when it holds a twelve year-old child to the same standard of cognitive development as an eighteen year old.
Trying this child as an adult is no remedy for the existential horror wrought by his crime. It’s merely sticking our heads in the sand.
In trying him as an adult, many will feel good for the duration of the trial, yet scarce-remember his name in two years’ time. It’s easier to try this child as an adult than to treat him as a severely traumatized and pathologic child who could be rehabilitated and brought to healing and wholeness in time.



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public_defender

posted March 31, 2010 at 5:20 am


It’s a sad fact that we public defenders rarely see clients from stable, two-parent houses. Family stability is a HUGE factor in the success of a child, as well as in keeping the kid out of serious trouble.
That aside, trying an a kid as an adult for something you think he did when he was 11 (that’s ELEVEN!) is asinine. That’s why we don’t give them all of the rights and responsibilities of adulthood. That’s also why we have all sorts of laws protecting them.
Of course, some of the stupid things kids do hurt other people. For those kids, we have a juvenile delinquency system, which can take charge of kids until they are 21. If your juvenile delinquency can’t handle kids who do bad things when they are 11 years old, shame on your system.
I also question the integrity and judgment of Lawrence County District Attorney John Bongivengo. Do you really need to prove your manhood by crushing this 12-year-old? Mr. Bongivengo, you need to grow up.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted March 31, 2010 at 7:57 am


I also question the integrity and judgment of Lawrence County District Attorney John Bongivengo.
No kidding, where does he think he is – Texas?



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tscott

posted March 31, 2010 at 9:12 am


This midwestern region of Pennsylvania needs help? There are too many adults involved or not involved in this situation after the fact for this response. Standing behind the DA or police and saying you will get back at this kid- that’s your response?
You need an outside researcher(perhaps a university) to ask some tough questions about schools, social, enforcement, and justice agencies. I doubt an internal investigation will effect any change.
Sure this is a sign of problems beyond this region. Yes they are societal. But if you live in this county or region- go to your paper or TV or and cry for some outside help. If they won’t listen, at least you know your response was more appropriate than what has been shown so far.



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Andrea

posted March 31, 2010 at 9:13 am


I find it barbaric that we charge an 11-year-old child as an adult. It’s the sort of thing that makes me ashamed of this country’s laws. It’s a horrible crime but the way they prosecute the offender is unjust. The kid should be charged in juvenile court and sent to a treatment facility.



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GrantL

posted March 31, 2010 at 10:20 am


Rod, I really think you are asking the wrong questions here.
First, the boy has a mother, he just doesn’t live with her. The article you link to does not suggest what his relationship with his mother is like. Maybe it’s a perfectly healthy or perhaps utterly dysfunctional. Nor do you know what the boy’s relationship is with the woman who would have been his step mother. Maybe she was a good mother to the boy. You don’t know.
You’re also making some poor assumptions about the relationship between the murder victim and the boy’s father, suggesting that is not really a tight relationship because of your assessment of modern culture. One can just as easily, as with the same about of evidence (none) say because the two families were joined and moved into together that their relationship was very serious and healthy. Casting dispersions upon their relationship because it is perhaps one you would not (maybe? I dunno) approve of is unwarranted.
The news article you link you to frustrating because is contains so little information about the boy’s circumstances. But making the kind of assumptions you have here is not particular helpful. As Sherlock Holmes says “data, data,data! I cannot make bricks without clay!”
This is a horrible situation. Something came unglued, obviously, for this boy. Was it just changes to his family life? Does the boy have an underlying mental health issue? (most kids handle these kind of changes without killing anyone) Was he being bullied at school? Was there some other aggravating factor in his life that would allow a change in his home life to push him over the edge? How the hell did an 11 year old get his mitts on a shotgun? Was it his fathers? Was it properly stored and locked?
Look, you make a great point when you say that we, as society, are asking too much of our kids, asking them to adapt and grow up too fast. But at the same time, I think you have made some assumptions about the life of this boy and the life of his family that you really cannot back up.
[Note from Rod: Grant, please note that this entire entry is a letter from a reader; the thoughts aren't mine. -- RD]



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groan

posted March 31, 2010 at 10:42 am


Should be a capital case. Public execution of this little monster



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NK

posted March 31, 2010 at 11:11 am


“groan”: Time for some self reflection. Please ask yourself, “What on earth is wrong with me that I would be satisfied to see an 11 year old child killed, regardless of the crime?” Because seriosuly, what is wrong with you?
As for this post itself, we do not know anything about how this boy was treated by his parents and his soon-to-be stepmom! I agree that having your parents together is the best for kids, but how can you blame murder on a home situation that was less than ideal? Are we to tell divorced parents and single moms and dads out there trying to do their best that they have turned their children in to ticking time bombs? Where would we be placing blame if this child came from a “picture perfect” home? Sometimes it’s just inexplicable.



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Angie

posted March 31, 2010 at 11:25 am


Regardless of whether or not the boy should be tried as an adult, he has demonstrated himself to be a danger to others. For the safety of those around him, he needs to be removed from society and placed in some sort of containment, be it prison, juvenile detention, or a high-security psychiatric ward.
Is the boy a sociopath? I don’t have enough information to say, but the fact that he murdered a woman is chilling. If he is capable of rehabilitation, by all means rehabilitate him. If not, I worry about what this boy will be capable of as an adult.



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GrantL

posted March 31, 2010 at 11:58 am


Rod: yah that first line “a reader writes:” should have been my first clue huh? lol. Egg on face. My apologies. :-)



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hlvanburen

posted March 31, 2010 at 12:08 pm


“Jonathan Krause told WTAE Channel 4′s Janelle Hall that the child lived with his mother until the age of 5, until Mildred Krause got sick and thought that Brown would have a better life with his father, Chris Brown, who still shares custody with her.”
Gee…a mother becomes ill and gives up physical custody to the father who, in her opinion, could provide a better life for the boy.
Yep, sounds like abandonment to me. Crucify her!!!



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BobSF

posted March 31, 2010 at 4:33 pm


The boy was 11 years old.
Do we really need to know anything more than that to decide how to prosecute him?



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Sharla Burkey

posted March 31, 2010 at 5:46 pm


It was my understanding that Jordan was the apple of his father’s eye..And Daddy does have a right to go on with his life…He was not a dead beat father…His mother gave up her rights, partly because she herself has a terminal illness and thought it best to be with his dad…
Bad Judgement…I think not…He was cold hearted, malicious, definitely not an innocent child, that never blinked an eye…
I only feel for his father, and the motherless girls…



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Travis Mason-Bushman

posted March 31, 2010 at 6:01 pm


Sharla, you’re capable of judging this boy as “cold hearted, malicious, definitely not an innocent child” based on a single news article?
We’re not talking about a psychopathic serial killer. We’re not talking about a recidivist sexual predator. We’re talking about an 11-year-old boy (in elementary school, for God’s sake!) whose mind snapped.
Confinement, treatment, punishment, absolutely… but to take a prepubescent boy and put him in prison for the rest of his life is an unthinkable, unspeakably heartless act.



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mm

posted March 31, 2010 at 6:55 pm


This story reminds me of Kip Kinkel, the Oregon boy who killed his parents and then went on a shooting spree at his school.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kip_Kinkel
He’s serving 111 years without parole.
PBS’ Frontline did a superb documentary about him, the one standout fact, as I recall, was his liberal-thinking parents’ ironic appeasment of Kinkle’s gun fascination – wrongly thinking that by providing him with guns he would correct his (anti-social) behavior problems.
I wonder if we’ll see anything similar in Jordan?



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Your Name

posted March 31, 2010 at 11:26 pm


FYI, folks, 11 is not to young to be a psychopath – just look at the back story of many serial killers. They are emotionally gone at a shockingly early age (possibly because they are born with an inability to empathise).
Sadly, sometimes a bad kid is a bad kid, regardless of circumstances.



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Your Name

posted April 1, 2010 at 11:07 am


Simple…
Do the crime, pay the time… regardless of age. Jordan is a cold-hearted killer and doesn’t deserve to walk the streets again. My heart goes out to Kenzie and her unborn child. They didn’t have a choice in ths matter, Jordan did. Case closed.



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Sandy

posted April 1, 2010 at 1:23 pm


I hope he gets put behind bars for the rest of his life!!
The fact that he shot her (muffling it with a pillow so no one would hear), then proceeded to hide his gun, throw the spent shell out on the way to the bus, and the going to school like nothing ever happened!!!! That says to me that this “kid” didn’t even think twice about what he did. And has no remorse about. So what, he was 11 at the time. He knew exactly what he was doing wen he did this. Doesn’t help the fact that he had threatened her before. I hope the find him guilty and he spend the rest of his miserable life in jail!



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Beth

posted April 1, 2010 at 3:01 pm


Please see the Judges PDF ruleing on this case at the above URL. it goes into great depth on the entire case to date. Many of your questions can be answered in this.



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Beth

posted April 1, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Franklin Evans

posted April 1, 2010 at 3:04 pm


It never ceases to both amaze and sicken me how little many of my fellow citizens understand about the criminal justice system.
I also usually find it to be a huge waste of time trying to educate them. All I can do is hope they never have to go to trial, for themselves or a loved one. They’ll discover how much it sucks to be on the receiving end of lynch-mob “justice” and the leap to conclusion of guilt, the assumptions about motivations, and the utter ignorance of why we have embedded in our laws “age of consent”.



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Franklin Evans

posted April 1, 2010 at 3:11 pm


Thank you, Beth. Let us hope people will both read and comprehend the judge’s ruling.



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Rod Dreher

posted April 1, 2010 at 3:43 pm


Yes, reading the judge’s ruling makes his conclusion sound more reasonable. Still, what a loss for everyone. Sad, sad.



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Beth

posted April 2, 2010 at 1:35 pm


I agree this subject is a no win situation for any invloved



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Sandy

posted April 5, 2010 at 9:36 am


Read it, and I still think he gets all that he deserves!!!



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Bobbie

posted April 6, 2010 at 7:13 pm


For those of you who thinks this child deserves anything before a trial has even been concluded (Shame on YOU!). You have no more facts on the case the boat load of bull blasted in the media. May you never have to face a time in your life when your own childs life hangs in the balance. Consider the following, if Jordan had done this then why is there no mention of blood spatterings on his person or clothing. Yet the prosecution would have you believe that gun powder residue is evidence enough. Beyond a reasonable doubt. Here the doubt lies in the fact that Jordan had been out shooting with Dad on many ocassions which could very well account for the powder residue. I have had the opportunity to read the Judge’s and I use the term lightly ruling. It is biased and threatening in nature and should be thrown out as it essentially violates every right Jordan has under the law. What are we saying about those in higher power if we allow them to force confessions out of those who proclaim innocence through means of threats. Threats that say admit you did something you didn’t do and we treat you as a child, fail to do so and you will suffer the worst we can hand down. It makes me sick to think that one man has the power to come to that kind of ruling and that any person would stand in agreement of such. I for one am on the side of the ring supporting Jordan as no matter the outcome he is in fact only a child.



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knight

posted April 6, 2010 at 10:42 pm


“the degree of criminal sophistication exhibited by the child.”????
The above has NOT been proven….all the papers read, readers “believe” what they read…case has not even gone to court yet, but this child has already been convicted and sentenced!! by society and the media..Every child is worth saving, given a “chance”, destroying “his” life, is NOT justice. Victims are NOT ever forgotten in this tragic case, but Jordan is a “victim” and his family as well, of the “system”. Vengeance, accusations, assumptions, guessing is not “evidence”. Justice must be tempered with compassion and mercy. Jordan is a “child”, a young child, the case belongs in juvenile court for the “child he is.”



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Sam

posted April 12, 2010 at 5:16 pm


The kid is only 12, put the case in juvenile court: they wouldn’t have invented juvenile court if kids were to be tried as adults. And the trial hasn’t finished yet, so stop assuming everything, “innocent until proven guilty”. This kid may have been a thrill killer, with not really a motive…. I heard two English boys killed a toddler for pretty much no reason a few years ago, why would this be different? HowEVER, if this kid won’t come clean about the crime until the last minute, he’ll most likely get a worse sentencing. In court, he’ll be under oath, and if he STILL refuses murdering his stepmom…………… he’s screwed. Also, if the kid wants his dad’s attention, he shouldn’t KILL his stepmom. It is hard for a kid to deal with something like that, I understand, but that still gives him no right to kill her. Although, he probably has his dad’s attention now….. Anyways, it would have worked just fine if he said to his dad, “I’m afraid with the baby coming you won’t give me as much attention,” or something. And I don’t understand why anybody would give their son a GUN, even if it’s only for hunting. I’ve heard that Marvin Gaye died by a bullet from a gun he himself gave to his father. So, for me, things even out, the kid isn’t the only one at fault. But, it could’ve been resolved by talking it out, it didn’t have t come to this. But no matter if Jordan is innocent or guilty, the outcome will still be horrible.



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Realistik

posted June 6, 2010 at 8:11 pm


I really dont care about this fat lil boy he looks evil and mean i hope he pays for what he has done ashame on people who defends him this womans life was taking while she was sleeping OMG very very sad I HOPE HE ROTTS IN HELL for being so damn jealous and greedy over his dad wow what a shame he wannet all the attention for himself Helloo look at yourself lil boy your fat dont you think you got all the attention you deserve….and then your family and friends have the nerves to make a savejordanbrown web page again shame on yah he needs to pay for what he did!!!! Young or Old his a COLD BLOOD MURDERER!!! May you R.I.P Kenzie & Baby Christopher Justice will be made!! And may the lord give her family strength to go on with life.



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Gerardo

posted June 11, 2010 at 3:57 pm


What is the criteria for determining whether a child should be tried as an adult or not?
Is it that certain children are really adults in juvenile bodies?
Is it that certain children have accelerated mental development that places their understanding of the world at the adult level in spite of their physical age?
How exactly do they determine to treat a child as an adult – It seems like nonsense. It seems more that the gravity of the crime, politics, media coverage, and public opinion have everything to do with the outcome of this kind of determination.
I have a lot of questions, and as a person with children in my life, I simply cannot understand how true adults can come to the conclusion that children can possess adult comprehension of the world they live in. It isn’t possible, I know some adults that are not even there yet themselves.
Before we say “hang him”, “burn him at the stake” or “fry him on the chair”, why don’t we learn a little more about what exactly went on in that household? Are children born with immediate responsibility for themselves these days? Where were the parents? Have the parents accepted any responsibility as well, or are they in the sidelines waiting to hear “Poor Jordan The Murderer’s” fate as well?
Let’s see what develops, and I hope this kind of child upbringing does not represent the future of the American Family.



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joella

posted June 13, 2010 at 11:38 pm


i am very close to the situation, i know both families. His mother DID abandon him and not because she got sick. she had one surgery and was only in recovery for one day, she also has another child which amazingly enough she never had to give up or abandon. The media also doesn’t tell you that there was no blood redidue on his clothing whatsoever and that the original statements from the other children was exactly the same as Jordan’s. Janessa stated to the police that her mother was rushing them out the door because the bus was there. Apperently, she had to have been fine when they left for school. The media also doesn’t state the fact that when the officers first arrived the 5 year old daughter stated to the police that her “dadady” made her mommy bleed. jordan is not her daddy and at 5 she knows who he is. Kenzie had a PFA against the father of the girls and he threatened to kill her at a local club the night before she was murdered. I do feel terrible about what happened but I don’t think there was enough investigation about what happened, very sadly the justice system in this area doesn’t give a rip about anything but putting someone behind bars, even if its not the right someone. There was also a confession by someone else, that they stated to the police that they committed the crime but then withdrew their statement. There is nothing whatsoever linking this poor 12 yearold to the murder except the fact that he had a gun. Our local police decided Jordan was guilty as soon as they found the gun and did no more investigation, they just twisted what they told the media to fit their description. As far as I am concerned Jon Bongevengo should be doing time as well for taking away any hope of a normal life for this poor child without even making sure that he is actually guilty. In this country one of our rights is that we are innocent until proven guilty but in Jordan’s case that was stripped from him. The media and the police have made him guilty without even trying to find out if he is innocent. This is situation that needs alot of prayer. No matter what the outcome Jordan has been punished immensely, he will never be able to walk down the street and not have someone judge him, or go to school or anywhere again. Please look at his past, he has never done anything whatsoever to indicate that he is a social path, and for all of you that have it in your heads that he is nothing but one, then shame on you. There is a website, http://www.savejordan.com that has more facts.



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compassionate

posted June 14, 2010 at 10:28 pm


Let me start by saying Realistek how DARE you even speak baby Christophers name you insensitive POS. And to sit there and talk about Jordan that way you should be ashamed, he is a child, a 12 year old child accused of a horrific crime that he did not commit. Look at the evidence…look to the obvious suspect not the easy one. Go after her insnae ex-boyfriend, the one that all of the actual evidence points to. The one with a past that points to violence. The one that left all of the threatening messsages on her mothers phone. My heart goes out to Kenzies family what they suffered is unimaginable, and tragic to say the least. And her little girls have suffered a devastating loss, but so has Jordans father. He lost his fiance that he adored, his baby boy, his 2 “daughters, and essentialy is son Jordan, not to mentionthe relationship with Kenzies family. He did nothing….nothing at all but love his family and yet he is being made out to be a villain in this whole situation and Jordan is being tried in the court of public opinion by people who dont know anything about him or his family or the truth. Jordan is a little boy….please dont forget that…give him the same rights as every other american. Innocent until proven otherwise.



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VanessaRN

posted July 13, 2010 at 1:37 pm


While I can sympathize with your very legitimate concerns, your disparaging “quotes” around the status that this murdered woman believed herself to hold is very cruel.
I also find in your writing the subtlest hint of a suggestion that the victim deserved to be killed — I know you don’t believe this, but nowhere in your essay do you do investigation to back up your assumption that this boy is guilty, nor do you appear to make any attempt to learn whether your accusation that this boy was not treated lovingly enough to accept his new family situation. To have not done a more thorough examination of this particular family’s dynamics, is unfair, not only to the murdered woman, but to this boy, who may or may not be guilty, and who may or may not be a very sick individual who in need of diagnosis.
Again, I very much share your concern that, if true, this boy may have been given too much to handle. On the other hand, life is often challenging and difficult and if it is true that this boy murdered his future stepmother, assuming that he is not a person with a deeper psychological issue (yes, sociopaths are sometimes children) pointing toward a challenging family environment due to a divorce and pending remarriage is not helpful at all, and does seem somewhat to exploit a tragedy in order to grandstand about and potentially slander a suffering family.



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