I remember getting the call from The Coach out of the blue early in the morning of March 1st, 2004. He was frantic and panicked. He told me that The Kid had murdered his mother the previous evening and was currently on the run.
I had met The Kid in 2002 when I was helping The Coach with a football camp at his new school. He was a quiet kid and the most athletic player on the team. I knew The Coach had high hopes for his football career, but I wasn’t at a point where I saw the true connection between myself and The Kid. The Coach had already picked his next victim. The Kid and I just didn’t know it yet.
Once I got The Coach calmed down, he explained in more detail what had happened. He told he about The Kid’s abusive and alcoholic mother. He said The Kid just snapped and attacked his mother with a knife and then fled. He also explained how The Kid and him had been out on a drive earlier that spring. The Coach told The Kid about the “relationship” we had. He told him how special it had been for us. The Kid, who had a girlfriend, told him that he thought he might be bisexual. I didn’t need to hear any more to know where things lead after that conversation. I had been in that same truck on that same drive.
I heard from The Coach later that day. The Kid had been found hanging in his uncle’s house one town over. He had committed suicide. He was 17.
The Kid has been someone I could never put out of my mind. He is a guilt I carry with me on my healing journey. If I had reported him in high school, The Kid wouldn’t have ever been on that drive with him. Once he was fired in Artesia, I could have told my story to make sure he could never work again, but I wasn’t strong enough. The Coach’s years of emotional manipulation lead me to look out for him and not me. I never said anything. I fled to college. The Coach fled to the Indian Reservation and right into this kid’s life. When I wish I had the strength to disclose sooner, it is The Kid’s face I see. He was only 17. He still had so much life ahead of him.
I went deep into Google to find this kid’s full name. I only had his first name which made finding him difficult. I searched the archives of the small town newspapers in the area of the reservation. I couldn’t find anything and the small town newspapers didn’t have archives that went back that far. I got luck thought. I found a newspaper archive website that claimed to have the archives of all the New Mexico newspapers, but of course it required a subscription. I saw that I could join for a 72 hour free trial. I joined and knew I had a short period of time to get the information I needed and then cancel my account before they charged me the $100 membership fee.
It didn’t take long. Once I entered the kids first name with the key words “murder” and “suicide”, I found him and the many stories about his tragic end.
The stories of his death were so sad, but it was the other articles I found that broke my heart. The article documenting his sports career. He turned out to be the quarterback of The Coach’s team. I read about his heroics in the teams only win of their first season. I read about this quest to qualify for the State track meet in 2003. He worked hard and qualified, but didn’t place at State. He was quoted as saying he would come back strong the next year. There wasn’t an article about him that didn’t also include a quote from The Coach. The quotes talked of his potential, his work ethic, and how he was such a great kid.
I found an article of him from his church’s newsletter. He spent the summer of 2003 helping to restore an old catholic mission on the reservation. There was a picture of him with a big smile and they refurbished the adobe walls.
I do not put The Kid’s tragic fate solely on The Coach’s shoulders. The Kid had a whole deck stacked against him. His life most certainly would have been an uphill battle and that is what disgusts me. It disgusts me that The Coach used this kid’s vulnerability to build a relationship with him. He used that relationship to sexually abuse him. The kid already had a life filled with turmoil. He needed someone to help him. He needed someone to love him. He didn’t need someone to abuse him. He didn’t need someone to add even more confusion into his already turbulent life. It is this story, even above mine, that disgusts and enrages me. This story shows the magnitude of The Coach’s disgusting behavior.
I still see The Kid’s face and imagine the pain he must have been feeling as he put that noose around his neck. I couldn’t show up for him then, but I can show up for him now. I want to make sure The Coach won’t take advantage of kids anymore. I won’t allow him to prey on the vulnerability of children. His time is up.
I organized all the newspaper articles I complied into a folder on my desktop. The next day I called Jeremy, the investigator, to let him know that I found The Kid’s first and last name. He let me know that this was great news and asked if I could send him the files once we hung up. He also said this would be a good addition to the report he had already filed with the department’s prosecutor. I paused. He continued to tell me that he felt the three statements he received plus the prior action on his license was enough to take action on his license. The information on The Kid would only make the case against The Coach stronger.
I was happy to hear my efforts would help the case, but my heart still ached for The Kid. His story wasn’t even necessary to bring justice to The Coach. If I had done none of my research, my case would have been strong enough to send up the ladder, and that was devastating.
This is why I have to continue the story and the fight. The Kid is the reason why. I cannot let the 4 newspaper articles of his tragic end by the closing of his story. There is no way to know if The Coach sexually abused The Kid. That chapter was closed with a casket being lowered into the ground. But, I know. I know he was also a victim of this man, and I am connected to him much like I am to the man from my hometown. We share a bond formed in the depths of uncertainty and pain The Coach caused in each of us.
I will never forget The Kid. I will keep those stories on my desktop so I don’t forget who this journey is for. It is for me and every kid who has lived through abuse. It is for The Kid. I will take him with me on this journey and hope that somewhere in the universe he will be given a small sense of peace.
Jeremy let me know one more thing before we hung up the phone. He let me know that The Coach has been put on administrative leave until the end of the investigation. I hope he feels the walls closing in around him.