Anne E. Garofalo

Twenty minutes ago I ran face first into the shower door of my hotel bathroom. I’ll blame exhaustion. But now I’m wondering whether I should drink my Diet Coke or use it as a cold compress on my swollen nose. This is the question that is plaguing me on this rainy night in Dayton, Ohio. Quench my thirst or quench my nose. Pathetic, no? Perhaps we should move on …

You’ll have to excuse my silliness tonight. It’s been a long day of interviews and follow-up on the child-abuse story that I told you about yesterday, and I have yet to pack my bags for tomorrow’s journey back to D.C. I woke up at 6 a.m., and the first thing I heard on the radio was the news about the capture. I opened the local newspaper and it was on the front page. Hoping to go three for three, I turned on the TV, and sure enough: “Two fugitives captured as a direct result of America’s Most Wanted … story coming up!” Followed by: “But first … a father and son are dead after a drive-by shooting.” My scrambled eggs went sour in my mouth. I turned everything off and just kind of sat there quietly at the end of the bed. Ever heard the saying “One step forward, two steps back”? Sometimes life feels that way, doesn’t it?

My camera crew picked me up at 8:30, and after loading up on coffee, we headed downtown to the Dayton Police Department. I’ve got to admit, I always feel really … well, just … really cool when I walk into a police department. Except when I’m there to pay a ticket. Then I feel like a total ass. But when I’m on the job, there’s something about seeing a bunch of detectives hanging around the coffee station talking about last night’s triple homicide that just makes me feel so … NYPD Blue. There. I’m a dork. OK? But then I remind myself that this is all real. Then I don’t feel so NYPD Blue anymore.

Detective Wolford showed me around the office and introduced me to his co-workers. Everyone except the homicide squad. (Remember the drive-by shooting I told you about?) The sex-crimes unit, however, was there in full force. A child-pornography case broke over the weekend, and the cops had confiscated the suspect’s personal computer. When I was introduced to the sergeant, he had a stack of extremely graphic photographs sitting on his desk. It made our handshake a little awkward, but he did his best to cover it up and I did my best to pretend it wasn’t there. Still, it’s like trying not to notice an elephant sitting next to you on the subway. Some things are hard to ignore.

Detective Wolford and I skipped out of “sex crimes” and headed back to his office for the interview. While my camera crew set up, I sifted through some of the crime-scene photographs from my child-abuse story. I had read the reports, but I hadn’t seen the photos. I’m not quite sure why, but I was solid as a rock when I saw them. Didn’t shed a tear. Didn’t blink an eye. I knew intellectually that these were horrible images but I didn’t want to seem weak. I shuffled through them and shoved them aside. All I could do was wonder how he had survived. Why he had survived. I asked Detective Wolford. He asked me, “Do you believe in God?” I guess so. I mean, I believe in something. But why would God take care of one child and let so many others …

I’m changing the subject. Let’s get back to good news, and there is good news. The 10-year-old is in good condition. He has been placed in a foster home, which prevented me from meeting him, but that’s understandable. I think any child would want to move on with his life with as few interruptions as possible. Fine by me. I passed my hug on through Detective Wolford. He assured me that the little boy would get it. His 8-year-old sister and 6-month-old brother are in protective custody down in Memphis. They are returning to Dayton tomorrow, and Child Services will do everything in their power to place the siblings together.

Mom and Dad? They’re still sitting in jail in Memphis, awaiting extradition back to Ohio. The last time I spoke to Detective Wolford, he and his partner were in the car, on the way down to Tennessee to interview the couple.

Me? I decided to use my Diet Coke as an ice pack instead of a beverage. I also decided that I am going to bed. I will pack in the morning. I just need one good night of sleep before I head back to the office tomorrow.

Until then,