I love my sons.
I have been blessed with two beautiful sons, both of whom I love very much. As with any caring parent, there are times I worry about them. Whether they are off with relatives, on a camping trip with the Boy Scouts, or just over a friend’s house, in the back of my mind I can’t help but sometimes worry. Statistically, crime committed against children is no worse today than when I was growing up. In fact, according to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, homicide against juveniles is at a lower rate today than at any point since 1976. Yet, as safe as I knew they are, I can’t help but worry.
Today I came across a story that got me thinking about what I would do if someone harmed one of my boys. It made me stop and think about my initial reaction and what the responsible reaction might be.
In 1975, five year-old Jason Foreman was having fun up the street from his home in Peace Dale Village located in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. It was a beautiful spring day as young Jason played in a wooded area with his older brother and three other boys. A disagreement over a fort led the to the boys throwing rocks at each other prompting Jason to declare, “Im going home.”
On his way home he encountered 16-year old Michael Woodmansee who was sitting on the front steps of his father’s home just up the street from the Foreman’s house. Woodmansee was a chunky loner who was a junior at South Kingstown High School. As he watched Jason approach, Woodmansee called out to the boy to help with something inside the house. Once in the house, he stabbed Jason once in the chest.
“I kept checking to see if he was really dead,” Woodmansee would later tell police.
Once he was sure Jason was dead, Woodmansee intended to bury the body under the foundation, but upon seeing the concrete floor, he wrapped Jason’s body in a rug and stuffed it into a trunk.
Later that day, search parties spread throughout the community looking for the little boy. Each house on the street was searched from cellar to attic, except the Woodmansee home. Michael Woodmansee’s father was a police reservist in town and was told to search his own home, which he never did. Days turned into weeks turned into years without the boy ever being found. Jason’s mother, Joice, never lost hope. She would tell people that she believed that Jason had been kidnapped, and until proof of his death was found, she also believed he was still alive.
Then, in 1982, came a break in the case. A local paperboy escaped the strangle hold of a would be killer and ran home to tell his father what had happened. The boy reported that a man, Michael Woodmansee, had lured the boy into his home, gave him alcohol until he passed out, then tried to strangle him. The boy woke up to Woodmansee holding a red bandana around the boy’s neck. The boy’s father found Woodmansee and punched him in the face. Woodmansee’s father then went to the police to file a complaint against the man who had punched Michael. The officer asked Mr. Woodmansee to come to the station with his son.
There, police questioned Michael about the attack on the paperboy. Soon after, the police began to suspect he may have had something to do with the death of Jason Foreman as well. On the second day, Michael Woodmansee confessed to the murder of young Jason.
Years later Woodmansee would tell a psychiatrist and police that he just wanted to see what it would be like to kill somebody. “I just saw him at the wrong time,” Woodmansee would explain.
When the police searched the Woodmansee home, they found shellacked bones that were Jason’s. Also found was a journal detailing the murder, including how Michael ate the flesh of the little boy. Michael would later claim that the journal was pure fiction.
Michael was found competent to stand trial. In order to avoid having the Foreman’s reliving the tragic events of that May afternoon back in 1975, all parties agreed to a plea deal that saw 23 year-old Michael sentenced to 40 years in prison for the murder of Jason Foreman. He also received a sentence for the assault of the paperboy that was to run concurrent with the longer sentence.
Because of Rhode Island law, Michael Woodmansee is set to be released this August after serving just 28 years, his sentence reduced by 12 years for good behavior.
Now the part of the story that has me thinking.
On Monday, March 7, John Foreman, Jason’s father, vowed to kill Michael Woodmansee if he is released this August.
“I do intend, if this man is released anywhere in my vicinity, or if I can find him after the fact, I do intend to kill this man,” stated Mr. Foreman on a local Providence radio show.
My first reaction, which has been echoed by nearly everyone I have heard comment on this case, was, “Man, I’ll pay for the gun! Kill the S.O.B. That poor father, I can’t imagine his pain!”
The problem is, my first reaction was wrong for a couple of reasons.
First, John Foreman is a father. He has another son, John Foreman V. Yes, the surviving son is an adult now, but as I have learned in my adulthood, your father is always your father. Think about it. Young John has already had to deal with the brutal murder of his younger brother. He has lived his life knowing that other than the monster who killed his brother, he is the last person to have seen Jason alive. My brother died 31 years ago in a car accident and I still get choked up thinking about him. I can’t imagine what it must be like for John. Add to that the fact that young John’s mother died at a relatively young age, just 50 years-old. Now this man may have to live with the fact that his father killed another human being. Even if his father doesn’t go to jail, which he should, it is still a traumatic experience which will open old wounds. Older John should do right by his son and stay with him rather than risk spending the rest of his life in prison.
Second, if John Foreman follows through on his threat he should go to jail. I know, most people believe he shouldn’t and that a jury would never convict this guy, but they are wrong. We live in a nation of laws, we are expected to follow those laws and not just at certain times. Once you get into allowing “justified” premeditated murders, where does it stop. This would be a revenge killing. Does that mean a relative of Michael Woodmansee would then have the right to kill John Foreman? I know this man is dealing with unfathomable pain, but killing his son’s killer would not be justified.
The plea bargain agreed to so many years ago, in part to keep the Foreman’s from having to relive the details of their son’s death, is the sentence which Woodmansee has served. Is it enough? In my opinion, not even close. No one expects Jason’s father to forgive Michael Woodmansee but he needs to do the right thing and stay away from his son’s convicted killer.
If I were in John Foreman’s shoes, I do not know what I would do. Being removed from this case allows me to think rationally, but if I were suddenly thrust into his position, I don’t know, because…
I love my sons.