5 in Family Shot to Death Before Suspect Goes Out of His Way to Save 6-Year-Old's Life

Rick Odell SmithThere's a sad story out of Manchester, Illinois today. Five people were shot and killed, including two little boys and a pregnant woman. But in an odd -- albeit fortunate -- twist, Rick Odell Smith, the man police say committed the murders, is also being credited with saving the life of a 6-year-old girl.

How does one make sense of two such disparate versions of this man? On the one hand, cops say Smith, who died in a police shootout, gunned down an entire family. On the other, he ran a little girl who'd been shot out to a neighbor to make sure she got medical care.


The girl, who was not related to Smith or to the five folks found dead in the Manchester apartment complex, suffered gunshot wounds in a shooting that claimed the lives of Brittney Luark, 23, and James Ralston, 29, and their two children, Nolan Ralston, 5, and Brantley Ralston, 1. Also killed was Brittney's grandmother, Jo Ann Sinclair, 67.

It would be easy to label their killer as a monster. He killed kids, people, KIDS!

I know the death of little Martin Richard in the Boston bombing was the hardest thing for me to take. Images of the bombing suspect dropping one of the backpacks with clear visibility of children haunted me for days. He had to know what he was doing to those babies. He had to know they couldn't be held responsible for anything, really. Kids are innocent creatures; they haven't been on this earth long enough to do anything wrong.

And the people who kill kids are pond scum.


And yet ...

I'm wondering. Could the deaths of those kids have been accidental? Was there some good to be found in this guy? Was he more than your garden variety kid-killing pond scum?

Is he a prime example of the layers that exist in human nature? The good mixed in with the bad? We talk about psychopaths in America, about people who are just pure evil. But maybe there is no such thing. Maybe there's something redeemable even in the worst of humanity.

Perhaps I'm putting too much emphasis on his rescue of this little girl. After all, she wouldn't have needed rescuing if she hadn't been shot.

But it's been a rough month, America. We've had the very fabric of our nation torn apart. We've had horrific tragedies in Boston. In Waco. In Manchester, Illinois.

We need some light in the dark.

Do you find yourself looking for the good in people even when it's hard to find?


Image via Illinois State Police

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