One time on this blog, I wrote a post called "txt msg hell" in which I talked about how I hate text message spelling and lingo. While I still don't subscribe to all that jazz, I think now that the title of that was a little off base, because text messaging, which really has become the stupidest thing around, has casued a very real and very different hell for some Florida families.
Now normally in this situation I would sort of Quentin Tarantino this and talk about what happened and they lay out all the stuff that led up to it and whatnot. But not today. Today I am going to lay it out as best as I can right from the beginning.
Wayne Treacy, a 15-year-old freshman at Deerfield Beach High School in Florida, found his 28-year-old brother hanging from a tree in front of an area church in October, dead by his own hand. That's is pretty traumatic I would think. Since then, he has begun to date a 13-year old Deerfield Beach Middle School student. Treacy has never had any disciplinary problems in his school career. But that all changed on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Treacy's girlfriend, who doesn't have a cell phone, asked another 13-year-old - Josie Lou Ratley - to borrow her cell phone to send Treacy a message. After that, Ratley began to text Treacy herself, expressing her disapproval of his relationship with her friend. Ratley, apparently, had issues with the two-year age difference, which, in her defence, is much greater at 13 than it is at 30. Ratley, also, had no disciplinary problems in her school career. That is still true.
Anyway, the two continued to debate the subject via text message - sorry, txt msg - getting more and more heated with each push of the "send" button. This is stupid, because if you want to argue at least have the dececy to place a phone call. It would have saved a lot of typing and probably would have stopped this incident, because you can't hide behind a phone call as easily as you can hide behind a text message. But the argument escalated higher and higher until Ratley made a comment about Treacy's recently deceased brother. Treacy apparently responded with "I'm going to snap your neck."
At that point, Wayne Treacy made a fateful decision. He put on his steel toed boots, rode his bike over to the middle school, found his girlfriend who pointed Ratley out of the crown, and he proceeded to almost beat the life out of her. He threw her to the ground and smashed her head against the concrete. He then began to punch her in the neck and kick her with his steel toed boots, soccer style according to a student who was interviewed by friendly local station WPLG. Other students spoke of the puddle of blood that pooled around the girl's head.
Eventually a teacher pulled Treacy off the girl and the fallout began. Ratley is in the hospital, in a medically induced coma with a portion of her skull removed so that the swelling in her brain can go down, and she is black and blue from head to toe. Treacy is sitting in juvenile detention in Fort Lauderdale as courts decide if he will be tried as an adult. Prosecuters are watching Ratley's progression in the hospital, waiting to know if the word "attempted" belongs between "premeditated" and "murder" when it comes time to charge Treacy. His girlfriend is sitting in juvi as well, for being an accessory to premeditated attempted murder.
This is a sad case all around. Sad for all three childred involved, sad for all three families involved, sad for the community, which saw a young man from Treacy's high school burned over 80% of his body last November after a dispute regarding a video game.
It is easy to look at this unfortunate incident and place the blame squarely on the shoulders of Wayne Treacy. But I don't think that is right. I think it goes deeper than that. I am not saying that he wasn't at fault, and I am definitely not condoning his actions. He could have, numerous times, checked himself and prevented this. He could have dealt with his anger in many, many other ways. I believe that he was wrong and he knew it, since he has admitted what he did and appears ready to accept the consequences, and as such he should be tried as an adult. He made an adult decision when he decided to physically harm a 13-year old girl. But there is a lot of gray area here.
I am not saying this girl had coming to her what she received, but she has to share in some of this blame too. She didn't deserve to be beat within an inch of her life, but you don't make a comment about someone's brother who committed suicide especially when he is the one that found the body. That is in poor taste, and your disapproval of a relationship because of age is not something important enough or strong enough that it should invoke that sort of comment. Now, I am ready and willing to give her a little more leeway when it comes to this, because she was only 13 and he was 15. At that age, years of life are like dog years - they count for so much more than one year because you grow and learn so much in that time. I sort of half expect a 13-year old to be immature enough to make a crack like that (even though it should never be done regardless) but I expect a 15-year-old to be mature enough not to respond like that. She should, however young and however much the victim, share in some of the blame for this incident.
One of the reasons I think this goes deeper, is because obviously Treacy had some issues. And I, for one, can't blame him. He seemed to be a relatively normal kid as kids go, but at 15 you can't find your brother dead and not suffer some sort of damage somewhere inside. I think it's a credit to him that he was able to continue on somewhat normally. I am abohorred at how suddenly and violently things changes though.
The main reason I think things went deeper than a simple text message is because of what happened this morning. I made the decision to turn on my television, which I almost never do in the morning because I usually don't have the time, and I happend to be tuned to ABC, which was showing Good Monring America. Fine. I found out about this story because they were interviewing Treacy's family. This is what caused me to raise my eyebrow in a questioning way and which makes me angrier the more I think about it. One of the undescernable GMA hosts (seriously, they are all pretty much the same, just try to tell them apart in a dark alley) was interviewing Treacy's family. I didn't catch how they were all realted, but I know that one was the boy's grandmother, who was also his guardian. While this isn't an uncommon situation in America these days, it automatically points to some sort of problems at home. There had to be a problem somewhere along the way because teenage children don't end up with their grandparents as legal guardian just because. So that's not good at all. As for the other two people, I can't say for certain who they were, I didn't catch their names or their relationship. But they were family members in some way.
Judging the book by the cover, I wasn't surprised to see them there. The family members were saying all the right things: they were praying for Ratley, they hoped beyond hope she would be okay, they disapproved, etc. But they weren't trying to deflect blame, and they weren't selling the boy out. That is fine. That is what the family should do. The thing that doesn't sit right with me is that they were sitting on GMA yakking as the fate of their child was being decided in a courtroom somewhere.
Now I understand that I am just myself, and that there are a lot of people out there who are not like me and who don't think like I do, but I just don't understand this. I can comprehend wanting to speak out and wanting to clear your relative's name, but not like this, and certainly not now. If I were in their shoes, I would be at home making no comment. It seems to me that the day after something like this goes down, you have more immediate concerns about the welfare and future of your child. You can run damage control later. Even then, the world wouldn't get anything more than a prepared statement from me that was released through my lawyer. I sure as hell wouldn't be up on Good Morning America while my kid was in shackles.
I wouldn't be looking at this as a way to get my mug on television, to get my name in the papers, or to get my fifteen minutes of fame. No way. That's just wrong. If I were using something like this that a young relative of mine did to boost myself, I don't know that I could look myself in the mirror. I am not saying that is what they are doing - they might have only the best of intentions - but it certainly seems that way to the untrained eye. You aren't up there to clear the boy's name. He has already confessed and everyone saw him do it. You don't need to go on national teleivion to express remorse and best wishes to the family of the victim, or to grieve with them, it would be more appropriate and classy to do that in private. But then again what do I know. Maybe you don't get a chunk of change from ABC for doing it in private.
These are my opinions, that is to be sure, and I can't verify anything. I wasn't there, I am not in the families, and I have never gone through this. All I can really do is make educated guesses, form opinions from intuition, and maybe lob an arrow or two across someone's bow. And that's that. I could be wrong about everything you've just read, and I hope that I am. But I would wager that I'm not.
Regardless of all that, this whole episode is tragic, for everyone involved. I sincerely hope that Josie Ratley pulls through her ordeal and goes on to live a healty, productive life. I also hope that the Florida justice system treats Wayne Treacy and his little girlfriend fairly but still meets out an appropriate punishment. And I also hope that I never, ever have to opine about something like this again.