A Son Learns To Live Without The Mother He Just Rediscovered

Casey Parks (thanks, Emily): MYRTLE CREEK — Walter Dickens weaved through his mother’s boxes to answer a knock at the door.

It was the fourth one that Sunday afternoon, two days since he’d met the president and 10 since he lost his mother, Sarena Moore, in the shootings at Umpqua Community College. Like all the rest, this latest visitor brought something other than answers.

“More dog food,” Dickens said, peeking through the blanket that served as blinds. “And trash bags.”

Bullet, his mother’s service dog, had been in the classroom when a gunman killed Moore and eight others. After the killings, people wanted to help, so Dickens told them to bring Purina. Now the Husky trailed Dickens through the apartment, back to the dark bedroom where Moore used to sleep. Dickens tossed the trash bags and the dog food onto his mother’s bed. He already had plenty of both.

The Sad Life Of The Brisket Bandit

Michael Brick: AUSTIN – The man behind the glass partition was famous. His photograph appeared on statewide news sites and national food blogs, wanted as the architect of a brazen scheme.

When officials requested public assistance in his capture last year, they accused him of stealing thousands of dollars worth of meat from at least 19 grocery stores. He most likely devised an ad-hoc black market, police said, among the legitimate middlemen who connect ranchers to trendy steakhouses and barbecue pits.

His name is James Cordell Avery. Headline writers called him the Brisket Bandit.

In an interview at the Travis County Correctional Complex, Avery slurred through the telephone. He looked disheveled and sounded confused. He wore a hard glare, a thick beard and a striped jumpsuit.

“I didn’t kill nobody, man,” he said.

That may be true. Homicide is not among the many crimes ascribed to his name. At a time of high beef prices and boundless culinary obsession, though, his case actually drew far more attention than most murders.

When You Share Your Life

Jessica Contrera (thanks, Michael): When 13-year-old Caleb LeBlanc’s death made the news this week, millions of people already knew him. He wasn’t a pop star, an up-and-coming actor or a child prodigy. He was a boy who liked to wear his hair floppy, play baseball, and belt out nonsensical songs about being a baked potato — all for an audience usually bigger than the population of his home state.

Caleb, whose parents said he died of an “undetected medical condition,” was the oldest son of the “Bratayley” clan, the YouTube-famous Arnold, Md., family. Their lives and their income revolved around creating 10- to 20-minute clips of their unremarkable moments: bouncing on a backyard trampoline (15 million views), walking the Ocean City boardwalk (10 million) or roaming the aisles of Walmart (22 million). Compare it to the Nielsen estimates for the record-breaking season finale of “Game of Thrones”: only 8.11 million viewers.

With cameras seemingly always rolling, family vloggers such as the Bratayleys let viewers come along for errands, birthday parties and doctor appointments. They let them comment on the soothing of crying children, the hunt for a new house or the selection of a baby’s name. With each video, the line between YouTube and reality blurs; strangers watching from afar start to feel like part of the family.

But inevitably in any normal, happy life comes some kind of bad news: The sickness of a cat. A miscarriage. Or, tragically, an unexpected death.

This week, the Bratayleys are faced with a question the new world of family vloggers will all somehow confront: If you live in front of the cameras, how do you know when to turn them off?

I Know We’re Done For

Patrick Rapa:

… About 24 hours before you read this, City Paper will cease operations. Like a lobster, we were purchased to be killed and consumed. For the purposes of this metaphor, my co-workers and I are the empty red parts.

The archives will go wherever they go. The people will scatter.

Listen: We knew what we were getting into, sort of. As much as we may romanticize the newspaper business, nobody mistakes it for a stable or lucrative career choice. Alt-weekly employees especially recognize the distinct un-marketability of their chosen model. We did unpopular things. We wrote about unknowns we thought should be better known. This is not a recipe for clicks.

We wanted clicks, of course. Clicks are nice. Clicks equal readers.

But we wanted them on our terms.

Looking For Answers

Justin George: As massive protest marches continued across Baltimore, the pressure was building inside police headquarters, and Commissioner Anthony W. Batts wanted answers — fast. Near midnight on a cool April night, he pressed six top commanders sitting at a conference table for details about Freddie Gray’s death.

A 30-person task force was interviewing witnesses, reviewing video and searching records in the days after Gray died, but crucial questions remained. Did Gray suffer an injury before his spine was damaged in police custody? Was he hurt while being dragged to a police van or was he malingering? Did police beat him?

Batts asked his commanders if they were aware of the growing tension downtown, where swarms of protesters had halted rush hour traffic that day. Demonstrators yelled and swore at police officers, chanting “No justice, no peace!” To handle the crisis, the Police Department had canceled vacations and ordered all officers into duty; the Maryland State Police also was called in to help.

“Are you guys paying attention out here?” Batts said. “And it’s going to get worse if we don’t give them some answers to something.”

Batts’ words on Thursday, April 23, added to the pressure that commanders and task force members felt as they hustled to answer a question: How did Gray die?

Now, that question will be central to the trials of six police officers charged in the 25-year-old’s arrest and death. Prosecutors allege that officers did not put Gray in a seat belt after his arrest and failed to provide medical care that he requested — violations of department policy. The six officers, who are suspended, maintain their innocence.

As the first trial nears, authorities have not disclosed key evidence. But an exclusive look inside the police investigation — granted to The Baltimore Sun over the last nine days of April — reveals new details about the case.

Tragedy on deadline

AARON YOST and TROY BRYNELSON in the Roseburg, Ore. News-Review:

Hannah Miles sat on a plastic chair inside cavernous Douglas Hall, wrapped in a white Red Cross blanket, shaking.

A grief counselor spoke with her. Another approached with a cell phone and made a call for her. Ten minutes later, Miles was no longer alone.

Her sister Hailey wrapped her in a close hug. Her father, Gary Miles, a pastor at Christian Life Center in Roseburg, consoled her.

Hannah continued to cry, the shock from the shooting at Umpqua Community College still exerting a tight grip upon her.

She wasn’t alone among the displaced students, staff and children who were transported to the Douglas County Fairgrounds. Reunions — tearful, blessed, happy — were the general order of the day.



My Kidnappers

Bradford Pearson: Hello, my name is Brad Pearson. In March 2006, you were one of three people who kidnapped me in West Philadelphia.

I’m writing this letter not because I’m angry at you, or upset, or hurt. The opposite, actually. While the kidnapping and investigation were difficult for me, in the end they made me a stronger man.

I’m a magazine writer now, and I’ve always hoped to talk to you and Jerry and Mordi about that night, and what your lives have been like since. I’d either like to do that by letter or in person. I can travel to Pennsylvania to speak with you, if you’d allow me to. I also included my email address, if that’s easier for you.

Again, I’m not angry, and I’d really just like to talk.

Brad Pearson

Jerry’s response came first, less than a month later. Two pages, handwritten, single-spaced. All-caps block letters, except for the words “Sincerely, Jerry Price,” in cursive:

In your letter, you said ‘I don’t know if you remember.’ The truth is that I don’t think that I will ever be able to forget you. That day — your face plays over and over in my head constantly reminding me of the hurt, anger, sorrow and other feelings that I have caused you as well as the others.

Tyree soon sent a letter, too: “Being a dad in jail is really sad.”

I started looking at flights.

The End Of War

Mark Warren (thanks, Tim): The forces of Libyan president Muammar Qaddafi had been firing high-explosive ordnance into the city of Misurata for weeks—they’d been shooting tank rounds and they’d been firing rockets. Barrage after barrage. And lots of mortars. And among the 120mm mortars they had been firing were Spanish-made rounds that were a clustering munition that had never been seen in combat before. This was a serious problem, because we now know that the Spaniards had sold the mortars to the Qaddafi government just as Spain was preparing to join the international convention that banned them.

We know this because of the work of C. J. Chivers of The New York Times, also a frequent contributor to Esquire, whose expertise in ballistics and battlefield tactics—and nearly unprecedented experience reporting from war zones—has made him the most important war correspondent of his time. Chivers suspected that Qaddafi was using the Spanish mortars, and it was when he went to prove it that a NATO jet on a bombing run tried to kill him.

Searching For A New Life, Loss Along The Way

Robert Samuels: BUDAPEST — The train ticket would take Josef Majade to a place where he would be safe, but he no longer sought that refuge.

Instead, he lay his balding head against a heating vent at the Keleti train station and tugged a small scarf around his beard, gone gray. A bag of three yellow apples sat next to him, but he could not bear to eat. He had left Syria with a family of five, and now three of them were missing.

The trains to Austria or Germany kept coming. But each time, Majade opted not to go, longing for the family members whose passports were still inside his fanny pack.

“Some days I just get cold, and I wonder if they are cold, and then I burn on the inside,” Majade said. He couldn’t find his wife, his only daughter, 13, and his youngest son, 5.

“How could I start a new life without them? I feel so much shame.”

Murder On The Appalachian Trail

Earl Swift: It is a quiet, restorative place, this clearing high on a Pennsylvania ridge. Ferns and wildflowers carpet its floor. Sassafras and tulip trees, tall oak and hickory stand tight at its sides, their leaves hissing in breezes that sweep from the valley below. Cloistered from civilization by a steep 900-foot climb over loose and jutting rock, the glade goes unseen by most everyone but a straggle of hikers on the Appalachian Trail, the 2,180-mile footpath carved into the roofs of 14 eastern states.

Those travelers have rested here for more than half a century. At the clearing’s edge stands an open-faced shelter of heavy timber, one of 260 huts built roughly a day’s walk apart on the AT’s wriggling, roller-coaster course from Maine to Georgia. It’s tall and airy and skylit, with a deep porch, two tiers of wooden bunks, and a picnic table.

A few feet away stood the ancient log lean-to it replaced. When I visited this past spring, saplings and tangled brier so colonized the old shelter’s footprint that I might have missed it, had I not slept there myself. Twenty-five summers ago, I pulled into what was called the Thelma Marks shelter, near the halfway point of a southbound through-hike. I met a stranger in the old lean-to, talked with him under its low roof as we fired up our stoves and cooked dinner.

Eight nights later, a southbound couple I’d befriended early in my hike followed me into Thelma Marks. They met a stranger there, too.