PAIN in a Picture

What would pain look like if you could paint or draw a picture…

My twin brother, Colin, was 11 years old when he put PAIN on paper for me.  I can look at this picture for hours. While I am not my brother, my perspective comes from being the  same fragile age, with eyes that were witness to life in our home.

   By Colin Andrew Hilsmann (1982)       11 years old – 1st Place.                 Washington Square Mall, Portland, OR

TRIGGER WARNING – Please take care of your mental health and be aware that this post contains true stories of Child Abuse and violence against children resulting in death. If this is a topic that is may be too close to home or is simply just not within your comfort level, please SKIP this post. Your OWN PERSONAL mental health is truly more important than my post.

At 11, you are FRAGILE.  You are going from elementary to middle school, a transition from being the oldest to the youngest of classmates.  That transition from 6th to 7th, is an extremely vulnerable time for kids. 12 year olds do not have the maturity of upper classmates that are 14 to 15. Their hormones are not at the same level, their motivations are not the same and hopefully their life experiences are not the equal because they have been sheltered from “real life”      

God, I wish we had been sheltered, protected, and allowed to remain innocent just a little longer.  

At the age of 10, we were rocked when our classmate, co-ed soccer teammate, playmate and good friend from 1st grade on, Joseph “Joey” Kuehl died in the night from a brain aneurysm. We saw the ambulance outside his home while we road our bikes past his house on the way to school. Nothing could have protected us from reality that death could reach out and snatch us from the world at any moment.

In 4th grade, I was 9, my friend Johnny was here one day and gone the next. We never spoke about it but I knew that he was being abused by his father. We played together every day he was allowed. For an entire month or more, he was made to completely ignore my presence, his little sister was able to tell me briefly that he couldn’t risk going against his dad. His mom, sister and he fled their home in the night while their dad was at work. I went up to his house and knocked on the door, his dad answered and I asked for Johnny, his dad said he was gone, “they are all gone”.  The following day, I was pulled out of class and told to go to the principal’s office. An Oregon State Trooper was waiting to question me. You are Johnny’s best friend, What did I know, what had Johnny said about leaving, did he say goodbye, where did he tell me they were going, You do know its wrong to lie to the Police… I have no idea what ever happened to Johnny, but I do know that they got away.

Then came Sunday, May 3, 1982. My friend, Wendy Ann Harris, left her home, walked around the corner and Vanished   

Wendy Ann Harris, age 11

It was approximately 6:00 pm on a quiet Sunday Evening. Wendy’s destination was 6, SIX houses away. Most of the “corners” were just curves in the road. No one saw a thing, you know how the story goes, things like that don’t happen here, until they do. Wendy wanted to drop off a picture at a friend’s home. Her friend wasn’t home but the friend’s 15 year old stepbrother was, and when questioned, told police that Wendy had never arrived.

Cedar Mills From Above

The following day, when we arrived at school, we got the news. At 6 pm on a Sunday night, kids were inside having dinner, and baths to get ready for the next week. It was still light outside, this time of year, it was not usually dark before 8-8:30 p.m.  It was an innocent thing to do and she should have been completely safe.

We went to bed totally oblivious to what was happening just a few miles away, but it would be the last night of sound sleep we would have for quite some time. Sadly kids going missing in the late ’70s and early ’80s wasn’t really considered “NEWS” worth reporting on TV.

Wendy’s Class Picture

Wendy was a very bright and friendly kid. She was fun and we laughed a lot. I never saw her be negative or mean to anyone ever. She was kind, loving and a friend.

The Bluffs, were the homes on the hill above ours, and we were separated by a huge farm that was on a busy road. The kids from that neighborhood were far enough from the school that they had to ride the bus to school. The Bluffs were a new subdivision that was developing over the previous couple of years. New homes meant more families, as well as, more kids. Because of increased class sizes, at the end of 5th the district was rezoned. Beginning 6th grade, all of our friends in the Bluffs went to a different school. Although we didn’t see each other daily, Wendy was still my friend. Besides, we all knew that we would all be reunited in 7th grade at the Jr. High School. If Only… the world wasn’t so cold, so cruel, and so random.

Monday, May 4th, the 3 TV stations were reporting news of a missing girl from Cedar Mills. We were just children. We certainly could not be affected by something so terrifying as a child, whom we knew and played with, our age, could just vanish. It would be generous to say this was within a 4 mile Radius. We were required to go to school and behave like everything was fine, but it wasn’t. In addition, no teacher or school district psychologist, ever sat down with us to talk about how we felt. No one ever attempted to prepare us for the possibilities. We were left to use our own resources. Reading the newspaper and listen to the news reports, as well as our classmates chatter and the unfiltered mumblings of the adults around us of the rumors.

Late on Tuesday night, the 5th, or in the early morning hours of Wednesday, the 6th, the police received a call regarding Wendy’s disappearance. A female had called in and stated that she believed that her boyfriend might be involved.

The female said that she had broken up with her boyfriend on Saturday, and Sunday night he called and said “look at what you made me do, you made me so angry that I had to hurt something, and she was right in front of me. Now she is DEAD, because of you.”

The female was Keri K. and her boyfriend was Eric Merrill, the 1st person police spoke to, once Wendy was reported missing on Sunday. He was the 15 year old who answered the door at Wendy’s friend’s house, 6 doors away from the safety of her own home.

The Murderer invited her, and by telling her that her friend was indeed home, successfully tricking her. Once Wendy stepped inside, he blitz attacked her, knocking her unconscious. He then dragged her limp body down into the basement to his bedroom. He grabbed his hockey stick and beat her to death with it. Then stuffed her into a garbage bag and under the cover of darkness, carried Wendy’s body into the nearby woods where we played as kids. She remained there for the next 3 days, while he went to school like nothing ever happened.  Taking the 3 broken pieces of hockey stick, still cover in blood, brain matter and Wendy’s hair, to school and put them inside his assigned school locker.

Keri K. was the 14 year old girlfriend, who reported the murderer’s confession to the police, told them where they could find the murder weapon. They found it in his locker and arrested him. He told police where they could find her body, and the search for Wendy Ann was over on Wednesday May 6, 1982.

Never Again, have I been the same person that I was on the afternoon of Sunday May 3, 1982.  To consider the fact that someone who was just a few years older than us, as well as, the same age as some of our own siblings, was capable of doing something so abhorrent. I don’t think anyone of us who knew Wendy, could ever look at this world the same way.

How could we ever be the same???

The murderer pleaded not guilty in the Juvenile Justice System for the State of Oregon. When he was 16, he was declared guilty. But because he was 3 months shy of his 16th birthday, he could not be sentenced as an adult. Instead he was sent to an Oregon State reform school.

His sentence was to be held there until his 21st Birthday. He was let out just in time to celebrate his 21st birthday at the bar with his family and friends.

Juvenile Court does not have a supervised parole for crimes including Murder, when the perpetrator is under 16 at the time of the crime. They just open up the door and let them walk away.

They have no criminal record from the Juvenile System — P E R I O D – – – NONE.  Regardless to whether or not they are “reformed”. They are 100% free, and there is no warning signs attached that point out to society that they are any different than you or I.

How About That for getting away with the ABSOLUTELY Viscous Murder of an 11 year old child

Wendy Ann Harris 1970   FOREVER 11

6 thoughts on “      PAIN in a Picture

  1. When I was 8, I was going door to door selling girl scout cookies, and was almost home. I made it to across the street and up 1 house and knocked on the door. The 14 yr old son, asked me to step inside because of his dogs.
    The second I did, he locked a latch at the top of door… out of my reach.
    He was not alone, he had 3 friends. I asked if one of the dogs was a girl or a boy and one of the friends picked up the dog and shoved it up to me and rubbed it’s penis on my face.
    Shocked and horrified I grabbed the door and began pulling on it.
    The boy that lived there mocked me, pointing at the latch, and laughing at me and telling me that I was never going home.
    It is really unfathomable to envision, anyone doing that. My psychologist, reminds me when we talk about it, that I could have easily ended up like Wendy. 😞
    I am going to post a poem “Eight” later today or tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ashley. I am used to posting my poetry, but not usually long post about myself or my story.
      How did I do? Was it easy to read? Structure not Content…
      Did it flow ok? It took me several days to write it out and post.
      Your writing is so easy to read so I thought I would ask for your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

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