I spoke with my mother by phone this morning, as I always do, and she was shaken over the latest news: the murder of an eight-year-old boy, allegedly by a 16-year-old boy, just up the road from where they live. Here’s how the Baton Rouge newspaper reports it this morning:

ST. FRANCISVILLE — West Feliciana Parish Sheriff J. Austin Daniel said investigators do not know a motive for a Thursday afternoon attack which left an 8-year-old boy dead, allegedly at the hands of a 16-year-old boy, on a wooded trail in The Bluffs on Thompson Creek.
The younger boy was stabbed repeatedly in the front and back of his body and had his throat cut, according to the sheriff.


Daniel said deputies received a 911 call about 1 p.m. from a carpenter working in the development who said a boy covered in blood came out of the woods and told the workers to call 911 and “that he had killed another boy.”
“The construction guys more or less held the 16-year-old until we got there,” Daniel said.
Deputies recovered the knife believed to have been used in the attack.
Daniel said the victim, his mother and his brother were riding bicycles on the paved trail, but the victim fell behind on the route.
“They did not witness the attack,” Daniel said of the mother and her other son.

The little boy’s mother tried to save her son with CPR, but it was too late.
The mind reels. This is a story that is almost mythic in its details: small child falls behind his family on a bike trail, monster emerges from the woods and kills him. I should emphasize that the place where this happened is a well-off golfing and recreation development, not some sort of “Deliverance” bog. The identity of the accused murderer has not been released, and I didn’t recognize the name when my mother gave it to me. She did say that the teenager’s family used to go to my family’s church, and that the alleged killer is well-known locally. No idea as to the motive yet.

This story chills me to the bone, not only because of the horrifying details, but because it happened in a place known well to me. This is the kind of place people go to escape the violence of the city. And look what happened. I literally cannot imagine what the family of the murdered child is going through.
This is the sort of thing that makes one reflect on how fragile everything is, and how we simply never know what lies around the corner, in the thicket, waiting for its chance. I’ve written before about how the serial killer Derrick Todd Lee was a classmate of my sister’s, and how he had a record as a peeping tom. In the early 1990s, when my sister and her husband had just married, her husband worked shift work at a paper mill, leaving her alone at night often. She had a peeping tom problem, and the cops couldn’t catch the guy. One night, very late, he knocked on her door. She had a gun, and knew how to use it. She called out to the man on the other side, telling him that if he came through the door, she would kill him. He left. They never did catch the peeping tom — but when Lee was arrested a decade or so later, and sent to death row for killing multiple women, my family were convinced he was the peeping tom. He had this in his background, and he lived near where my sister and her husband did. It is terrifying to think what kind of fate for my sister stood on the other side of her thin door, knocking near midnight. Of course, I’ll never know how many times, walking through the woods as a child, my ankle passed near the nose of a rattlesnake, who chose not to strike.
UPDATE: The alleged killer will be tried as an adult.
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