In last week's column, I simply didn't have space enough to complete the article of the mysterious disappearance of Lettie Lane in Lumberton, N.C., in 1996
To summarize: Lettie Lane was a lively, outgoing 85-year-old who mostly followed the same routine every week. She played bridge on Tuesday afternoons, went to Wednesday night prayer meeting and worship on Sunday and visited her husband in the nursing home every day when she wasn't ill. One night when lights didn't go on in Lettie's home and she didn't answer her telephone, the police sent out an all-points bulletin. Days later in northern Virginia, an alert gas station attendant spotted Lettie's car when a young couple stopped for a gas fill-up.
The Virginia Highway Patrol picked the couple up within the hour. In the trunk, they found Lettie's groceries but no Lettie. Although the couple at first denied any knowledge of her whereabouts, they later confessed that her decomposing body, which had been beaten to death with a large tree limb, could be found on a deserted farm in southern Virginia.
When I spoke in Lumberton the weekend in 1996, the New York couple was awaiting trial, and the entire community seemed in shock. The fact such a tragic event could happen in a small Eastern Carolina town indicated how widespread violence is in our nation.
What can we do to prevent or lessen such violence? First, we can make strengthening families a top priority. Families are still the basic unit of society. Both of the murderers, age 18 and 22, were products of badly dysfunctional families, and both were on cocaine.
Secondly, we need to be communities that look out for each other. It was the concern of neighbors that started the process for a speedy arrest and the recovery of Lettie's body.
Finally, faith needs to become the glue that holds communities together. Jesus taught that diversity and faith can polarize us unless we love God with all our hearts and love our neighbors as ourselves.
Contact Nell Mohney at firstname.lastname@example.org.