How many times have you warned your kids about stranger danger? The words are practically made to say together. And yet, with the murder of Reann Murphy, a 9-year-old girl in Ohio over the weekend, and the almost immediate arrest of neighbor Jerrod Metsker, puts our constant harping on the danger of the unknown to the test.
Jerrod Metsker wasn't a stranger to Reann Murphy. In fact, before the little girl went missing, only to be found in a trash bin near her family's home at a mobile park in Smithville, Ohio (a suburb of Akron), he was considered a family friend.
Police say Reann was last seen playing outside the family's trailer on Saturday night. When her family reported her missing, a search of the area ensued, and tragically Reann's body was found in a trash bin on Sunday. Metsker was arrested the same day.
I think it's safe to say that the friendship between Metsker and the Murphy family is over.
But the fact that it was there to begin with is the trouble. If this man really killed this little girl -- he's been charged with murder, but as yet there's no motive or means being reported -- he is not someone anyone would want as a friend.
Unfortunately, there may have been no way to know that before this happened. You see it nearly every day on the news. There's a crime in a quiet neighborhood. The TV news crews crowd in. The neighbors come out en masse to grab their 15 seconds on TV, and they repeat what every shocked neighor has said since the beginning of time: "We never saw it coming. He was such a nice guy." And yadda, yadda, yadda.
We spend all this time fearing unknown pedophiles and random kidnappers, but the sad truth is that the overwhelming number of crimes against kids are perpetrated by people they KNOW.
Indeed, 60 percent of children are sexually abused by someone in their social circle, and every year more than 200,000 children are abducted by family members and another 58,000 are taken by non-relatives (compared to just about 115 abductions by true strangers). According to the Department of Justice, most homicides of young children are committed by family members through beatings or suffocation.
The strangers aren't the problem.
It's the people we know, the people we care about, the people we trust. And so it is that our kids turn to these people, love these people, trust these people.
But truthfully, what choice do we have? Should Reann Murphy's parents have locked her away and told her never to trust anyone, not even a family friend and neighbor? Should we all lock our doors and come out only for necessities?
Reann Murphy's parents are probably kicking themselves right now for trusting a man who it seems was a monster, but they shouldn't. They were trying their best, and that's all any of us can do.
We just have to keep on moving and hoping that the people we trust are the right ones.
But Reann's death is certainly a reminder to re-examine just who it is we say is "safe" and who we consider the "danger."
Think about it ...
Have you ever been betrayed by someone you knew and thought you could trust? What happened?
Image via Wayne County Sherriff's Office