A picture is emerging of the South Carolina man accused of killing his girlfriend, her parents, and two of her nephews before shooting himself this week. The details of the mass murder-suicide that claimed six lives are horrendous. But it appears Bryan Sweatt was not completely a monster. The scene cops found at the home of girlfriend Chandra Fields' parents could have been worse.
There were four other kids in the house. Four kids who walked free. Four kids who are alive.
According to police, they received two 911 calls on the day of the shooting. One came from the 27-year-old Sweatt, a dad locked in a custody battle and facing up to 25 years on a burglary charge. The other came from a neighbor who said he had four kids at the house, and they'd come from the house where shots were fired.
Four kids survived.
That's a good thing, right?
But what makes this case confusing -- and tragic -- is that while those four kids were apparently allowed to live, including Sweatt's 7-month-old daughter -- six people still died here, INCLUDING two children. Police believe Sweatt shot Fields, who was 26, as well as her parents Ronald Fields, 51, and Melissa Fields, 49, and her sister's sons. The nephews were just 11 and 9.
Sweatt is now dead as well -- he shot himself -- so he isn't around to tell us why some children are dead and some alive.
We're left to look at the pieces of the puzzle and as we put them together ask ourselves: could this have been a moment of clarity in a clouded mind? Did he realize he was doing something wrong and try to make up for it? Was he not the monster that six bodies -- including two children -- would indicate?
Perhaps I watch too much of that show Criminal Minds, but what I will say about the CBS drama is that it offers a more complex view of the criminal than many police procedurals. The criminals are not celebrated, surely, but they are given some back story that portrays their humanity. Some are mentally deranged, others set off by specific circumstances.
Their crimes aren't excused, but their humanity does remind us that nothing in life is black and white. There are always shades of gray.
And in this horrific case, there is most definitely some gray. Six people are dead. But four more lived.
What do you think happened in that house?
Image via police