Impact, page 2
Tears were streaming down my mother’s face, but I couldn’t tell if she was crying because she was glad that, finally, the police had arrested someone or because what my father had just told her was making her remember all over again what had happened to Mark. She pressed up against my father, and he wrapped his arms around her.
I thought about what my father had just said. “Tony Lofredo and two of his friends?” I said. “But you said the police arrested four people. Tony and his two friends—that only makes three.”
My father turned to look at me. “The fourth boy,” he said in a quiet voice. “It’s Kyle Mercer.”
I felt sicker inside than I had ever felt.
“When we heard that the police had arrested the people who killed our son, we thought it would ease our pain. But it didn’t,” my father says, reading. He looks up for the first time. He looks at my mother. I glance at her too. Her eyes are filled with tears, but she holds her head high.
It was crazy at our house for the first day or two after the police arrested Tony Lofredo, his two friends—whose names were Joey Karagiannis and Robert Teale—and Kyle Mercer. The media phoned—newspaper, radio, tv—and showed up at our door. They wanted to know what my parents thought about the arrests. They even asked me what I thought. After the first two days, my father unplugged the phone. He said anyone who needed to get in touch with him could call him on his cell phone. My father only gives out his cell phone number to close friends and to relatives.
Kyle Mercer went to the same school as me, so I couldn’t get away from it there. Everyone was talking about what had happened. But it died down again fast, because after Kyle was arrested, they kept him locked up until the trial. They kept all four of them locked up.
Shannon disappeared from school. Someone said that her parents had decided to send her to a private school so she could get away from all the bad memories. At first that didn’t make sense to me. She hadn’t known Mark all that long. Then someone else told me that she had transferred because she felt guilty. She thought that if she had never gone out with Mark, he would still be alive. Maybe that was true.
After a week had passed, all the excitement died down. I thought the trial would happen a couple of weeks or maybe a couple of months later. Was I ever wrong!
A date was set for a preliminary inquiry. It got pushed back and pushed back. In the meantime, we were supposed to get on with our lives.
The worst Christmas of my life came and went. My father didn’t go out and buy a Christmas tree the way he usually did. My mother didn’t make batches and batches of Christmas cookies the way she usually did. Neither of them did any Christmas shopping. They gave me money and told me I should treat myself to whatever I wanted, but I couldn’t think of anything.
The new year came, and still nothing happened. I had trouble concentrating on my schoolwork. Basically, I just didn’t care. I failed every subject but math, and I got a D in that.
My mother, who had a part-time job at a store, spent more and more of her time in bed. After a while, she stopped going to work. They fired her. One of my aunts finally took her to the doctor. She was diagnosed with depression, and the doctor put her on medication. As far as I could see, it didn’t do much good. The same aunt, who was single and a registered nurse, moved in with us to look after my mother.
My father went to work every day—at least, I think he did. But he didn’t come home every night. A few times when he didn’t show up, my aunt called the police. The first time she called them, my aunt and I were up all night, worried about what had happened to him. The police brought him home first thing the next morning, right after they found him. He had passed out at Mark’s grave, an empty bottle of scotch beside him. The next couple of times he didn’t come home, she called the police again. But every time they found him in the same place. So after a while, she stopped calling them. Instead she would wake me up, if I were asleep, which mostly, at night, I wasn’t, and we would drive out to the cemetery together, load my father into the back of the car and bring him home. My aunt said it was a miracle that he managed to hang on to his job.
The street I live on is small—just two blocks long—and out of the way. It’s a dead-end street where everyone knows everyone else because most people have lived there for a while and most people’s kids play with most other people’s kids and go to the same schools. It’s the kind of street where, in summertime, everyone is out on their front porches or fooling around in their gardens or messing around with their tiny front lawns. People call across the street to each other. They wander up and down the street to gossip and exchange news. There’s an annual beginning-of-summer street party. There’s also an annual yard sale that everyone on the street participates in. “Everyone” includes my parents and Kyle Mercer’s parents. Kyle’s parents used to come over sometimes for beers and a barbecue—my father loved to invite the neighbors over, and everybody would sit out back and talk and listen to music and dance on a long, hot summer night. Mark and I were never super-close to Kyle, but he used to hang out with us when we were young. All the kids on the street hung out together. When Kyle started to spend time with guys who were bad news, my mother listened to his mother complain about it. She told Kyle’s mother it was probably just a phase. She said good parents raise good boys, and she was sure Kyle was going to be just fine.
At first people on the street said they didn’t blame Kyle’s parents for what had happened. But when it was finally time for the first beginning-of-summer street party since Mark had died, it looked like things had changed. Both my parents went to the party, although neither of them wanted to. My father had started going to aa meetings by then, mostly because my aunt was dragging him to them, and he didn’t want to go to a party where everyone would be drinking. My mother wanted to stay in bed. But my aunt made her get up and get dressed and even put a little makeup on. She made me go too.
One by one, people went up to my parents. It was as if my parents had just come back from a long trip, which, in a way, they had. They hadn’t had much to do with the neighbors in months and months. People came and talked to them and hugged my mother. Then someone looked up the street at the Mercers’ house. Soon everyone stopped talking and looked at the house too. Everyone seemed tense.
Mr. and Mrs. Mercer had just come out onto their porch. They looked over at the party. Mr. Mercer had a case of beer in his hands. Mrs. Mercer was carrying a big tray covered with plastic wrap—food for the party.
They looked down where everyone was gathered around my parents. Mrs. Mercer looked at Mr. Mercer. She shook her head. He said something to her, but she shook her head again and went back into the house. After a few minutes, he followed her inside. Everybody seemed to relax again.
A month later, a For Sale sign went up on the Mercers’ front lawn. By the end of the summer, they were gone.
“It has been so hard,” my father says. He finishes the page he has been reading and shuffles it to the bottom of the small pile of sheets he is holding. I can’t believe he has written so much. My father works on an assembly line. He reads the newspaper, mainly the sports page, but I have never seen him read a book. I have never seen him write anything but a check. “We have been here for every single day of this trial. We have heard everything that was said.”
The trial started in January, nearly fifteen months after Mark was killed. In that time, my father stopped drinking, started again and then stopped again. By the first day of the trial, he had been sober for four straight months.
My mother stayed on antidepressants, but she didn’t stay in bed. She got up and found another job at another store, a 24-hour grocery store this time. My aunt moved back to her own place.
All my friends graduated the spring before the trial started. I got a part-time job that fall and started taking classes at night to get my high school diploma. The plan was that I should be able to graduate by the Christmas after the trial.
My father arranged to work per
I tried to get my boss to scale my time back to Friday nights and Saturdays, but he said he needed me to work during the week. So I quit and got another job delivering pizza at night instead. We were all tired, but we all showed up every single day.
A real trial isn’t like a trial on tv or in the movies. When you see a trial on tv, it seems like people are up there testifying for five or ten minutes at the most. It also seems like the lawyers and the prosecutors are really smooth.
But in real life, it’s not like that. In real life, people can be up there testifying for an hour or two hours or even longer. Some of the lawyers stumble and fumble and say um and er. And there are plenty of times when they’re arguing over whether they can even show a certain piece of evidence or ask certain questions, so sometimes court gets adjourned early, and sometimes it takes a day or two for the judge to decide about whatever the lawyers are arguing about. So sometimes it’s boring or frustrating or just seems like a big waste of time.
They had a pathologist up there who talked about how Mark died. He’d been kicked and beaten with fists and with a piece of pipe. There were bruises and cuts all over his body, plus some broken ribs. She said what killed him, though, was having his head kicked in with some steel-toed boots. My mother cried quietly when she heard that. My father just stared straight ahead.
They had the pizza guy up. The prosecutor took him through everything he had seen and done, and asked him about what Mark had said, which was just the one word, the name Tony.
Then the defense lawyers got into it. There were four of them, one for each defendant. They grilled the pizza guy like you wouldn’t believe. First they wanted to know what the pizza guy had seen. He described again hearing a sound and calling out to see if everything was okay, and then going into the parking lot and seeing Mark lying there and three or four guys running away.
The lawyers wanted to know if the pizza guy had seen the three or four guys doing anything except running away. The pizza guy said he hadn’t.
The lawyers said, “You say you saw three or four guys. Which was it, three or four?” The pizza guy said he only got a good look at three guys, but that he was sure he saw a fourth person out of the corner of his eye.
Each lawyer wanted to know if the pizza guy had seen his client. The pizza guy said he was positive he had seen Tony and Joey and Robert. He said he hadn’t seen Kyle. The lawyers went on and on, asking him how he could be so sure what he saw when he didn’t know any of the defendants and when it was the middle of the night. The pizza guy said they ran right under a streetlight.
Tony’s lawyer wanted to know what Mark had said about Tony. When the pizza guy said that all Mark said was Tony’s name, Tony’s lawyer said that for all the pizza guy knew, Mark could have been trying to say that Tony had tried to help him. He said that for all the pizza guy knew, the guys he saw fleeing the parking lot could have been running away because they were afraid they would be accused of something. Tony’s lawyer kept on and on, trying to make the jury think that the pizza guy hadn’t seen anything that would prove that Tony even touched Mark.
I glanced at my father. He was staring straight ahead, but I could tell he was angry.
Kyle’s lawyer was asking over and over again, “So you didn’t actually see my client? So you have no way of knowing whether my client was even there?” I felt my father tense up beside me.
They had a bunch of experts. The first was a cop who found fingerprints on a piece of pipe that had been found in a garbage can in an alley a few blocks from the parking lot where Mark died. He said one of the fingerprints belonged to Tony. Tony’s lawyer asked him if there were any other fingerprints on the piece of pipe. It turned out there were—lots of them. The lawyer asked if the cop knew whose prints they were. The cop didn’t. The lawyer asked if there was any way to tell whether someone else, someone whose prints the cop hadn’t identified, had handled the pipe after Tony. The cop said there wasn’t. Tony’s lawyer asked if there was any way to tell if someone had picked up the pipe after Tony had put it down and had used it to beat Mark. The cop said there wasn’t.
My father tensed up beside me again.
Then a forensic scientist went up and testified that Mark’s blood had been found on the pipe along with a couple of Mark’s hairs. She also testified that blood had been found on one of Tony’s boots and that it was Mark’s blood. Blood had also been found on the soles of Joey’s boots, and on the toe of one of Robert’s Doc Martens. They hadn’t found any blood on anything that belonged to Kyle.
The lawyers all asked pretty much the same thing: Was there blood on the ground where Mark was found? The forensic scientist said that there was. Was it possible that Tony and Joey and Robert could have got the blood on their shoes or boots when they went to help Mark? The forensic scientist said that it was possible. Was there blood on any clothing belonging to the defendants? No, there wasn’t. Kyle’s lawyer asked again if there was any blood on anything belonging to Kyle. The forensic scientist said no, there wasn’t.
Another police officer testified, a homicide cop. He explained how the name Tony had led him to Shannon, and that had led him to Tony’s school, where he got a photograph of Tony and found out who Tony’s friends were. He then presented the pizza guy and the taxi driver with a photo array—a set of pictures that included Tony and a bunch of other guys who looked similar to him. He did the same thing with Joey and Robert and Kyle. The taxi guy couldn’t recognize anyone, but the pizza guy picked out Tony and Joey and Robert right away.
The detective said that he spoke to each of the three and they all said the same thing— they were just hanging out that night and they didn’t know Mark. The homicide detective said they were vague on where they were hanging out and they couldn’t tell him a single place they had been where someone might have seen them and might remember them.
He got a search warrant and their houses were searched. That’s how he got the shoes and boots. He said that if he had to guess, the defendants had gotten rid of their clothes but had just washed their boots and shoes. All of the lawyers objected to that, and the judge cautioned both the homicide cop and the prosecutor.
I started to worry. It all came down to the pizza guy. He had seen Tony and Joey and Robert. But he hadn’t actually seen them do anything. What if they got off?
“We have looked at the four young men who are accused of killing our son,” my father reads. “We have looked at them and I can tell you, in all honesty, that there were times when I couldn’t see any difference between them and our Mark. They look like ordinary boys.”
Shannon was called to testify. She was pale and kept biting her lower lip, which is how I knew she was nervous. She looked at the prosecutor the whole time. He asked her about her relationship with Tony.
“He used to be my boyfriend,” she said.
“For how long?”
“For two years,” she said.
“And then what happened?”
“We broke up.”
“Why did you break up?”
“Because if another guy even looked at me or spoke to me, even if he was just asking me what time it was, Tony would freak out. One time I was working on a school project with a guy who was assigned to work with me. We didn’t have any choice, the teacher made the assignments. We were in the library together, just the two of us. Someone told Tony that we were there, and Tony came and beat the guy up.”
Tony’s lawyer objected.
“He did,” Shannon said. “If you don’t believe me, you can ask Michael Riordan. He was in the hospital for a week. He almost lost an eye.”
The whole time she was saying that, Tony’s lawyer was objecting.
The prosecutor asked Shannon if Tony had ever hurt her.
“Can you tell the court why he did that?” the prosecutor said.
Tony’s lawyer objected again. He said that Shannon couldn’t read Tony’s mind and couldn’t testify as to what he was thinking.
The prosecutor said, “Shannon, can you tell the court what happened when Tony slapped you around?”
“It happened twice,” Shannon said. “The first time, Tony wanted me to go out with him on Saturday night. We always spent Saturday night together. But I said I couldn’t because I had to go to my grandparents’ anniversary party. He wanted to go with me, but I said he couldn’t. My parents didn’t like Tony. They didn’t want him at the party. But I didn’t tell Tony that because I knew it would make him mad. I just told him that it was a family-only party, so he couldn’t come. Then he told me
I shouldn’t go either. When I said I had to, he hit me.”
“How did he hit you?”
“He slapped me across the face. Twice. Hard.”
“What about the second time?”
“The second time, I told him I was too tired to go out with him. By then I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see him anymore. This was after he beat up Michael Riordan.”
Tony’s lawyer objected again.
“Tony argued with me. He said he really wanted to see me. He said he’d had a tough week and he wanted to have some fun. When I told him again I was too tired, he punched me in the face. I ended up with a black eye. My parents wanted me to report him to the police, but I was afraid to. So instead they made me transfer to another school.”
“How did Tony react to that?”
“He didn’t like it,” Shannon said. “He called me all the time. He left messages. He showed up at my new school. He’d be waiting for me at the end of the day. He said he wanted me back, and he’d get mad at me when I told him it was over.”
by James Dekker have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes