I still have vivid images of the last murder case I worked. The victim was only 2 years old. He'd been beaten to death. I remember his lifeless body on the stainless steel table at the medical examiner's office. The smells and sounds of the autopsy are also still stored away. It all comes back whenever I read about the murder of another child.
This murder never made headlines. It wasn't ever the lead story on a reality crime/freak TV show designed to addict watchers and make money for networks and entertainers posing as crime experts. My case was just another dead kid.
There are too many of those.
According to a Sept. 13, 2010 Scripps Howard News Service story ("Unsolved child murders are a daily incident"), police don't know who committed more than 10,700 murders of children committed in the U.S. from 1980 through 2008. A total of 51,753 child murders were reported during that time period.
According to FBI statistics during that same time frame, there were 1,005 reported child murders in Arizona.
From 1980 through 2008 there were 8,922 adult murders reported in Arizona.
Historically only about half of all murders committed in Arizona are ever solved.
I mention these facts because according to reports following the national hysteria involving the Florida murder case and not-guilty verdict of Casey Anthony in the death of her daughter Caylee, State Senator Linda Gray (R-Phoenix) will introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session to make it a crime not to report a child missing within 24 hours of their disappearance. Anthony didn't immediately report her daughter missing.
Gray told Tucson's KVOA she's received 900 emails wanting a "Caylee's Law" to punish parents if they don't report their kids missing and are later found dead. The report said Gray felt "disappointment, outrage, anger" after the not guilty verdict that cleared Anthony's mother.
Emotions have no place in successfully prosecuting murder cases.
I understand Gray's response to the emails and media frenzy. There's an election in 2012, but the time has come for Arizona's lawmakers to critically examine what can be done about the thousands of unsolved murders of children and adults in Arizona and not concern themselves with yet another new law on the books on the off chance the Anthony scenario might occur here.
No doubt the Legislature will jump on the Caylee's Law bandwagon and demand justice for anyone that would commit a similar type crime. But I have yet to hear the Legislature get in an uproar over reports the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, a recipient of millions of dollars in supplemental funding from the Legislature, over its failure to adequately investigate more than 400 sex-crime cases during a recent two-year period. Many of those crimes involved attacks on defenseless children like Caylee Anthony.
Nor do I see the Legislature overly concerned about the over 40,000 unserved felony arrest warrants in Arizona. Of those, 30,000 are estimated to be in Maricopa County.
And no one at the capitol seems all that concerned about the thousands of killers who have gotten away with murder in Arizona.
The Legislature always pleads poverty when it comes to funding change for Arizona's dangerous and failed law enforcement practices; and bringing about a comprehensive statewide effort to solve thousands of open murders cases, or to locate and arrest wanted felons who are well known to commit new crimes, including murder, while running from the law.
But they always find the cash to throw at a couple of county sheriffs to fund their pet projects and buy political support instead of ensuring funding and training for more and experienced manpower at the murder scenes, the sharing of information between homicide detectives and the intelligence and crime-analysis units and expanding the state crime lab to ensure greater forensic efforts when it comes to fingerprint, ballistics and DNA analysis.
It's too bad Caylee is dead, but so are kids in Arizona. I've seen them firsthand. Sen. Gray and the Legislature need to concern themselves with what's happened and continues to occur here and not what happened in Florida and might happen in Arizona.
• Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org