The relatively clueless among us who still need convincing evil thrives on this troubled planet need look no further than the horrendous story of a deceased boy named Blu and his tortured sister, Taylor, each 6, as described in a Dec. 17 Arkansas State Police investigator's affidavit.
The news story last week by our Grant Lancaster related the story of their ordeal in ways no one should ever suffer, much less children. State police have arrested Nathan Bridges, 33, and the children's mother, Ashley Roland, 28, on charges of capital murder, abuse of a corpse, tampering with physical evidence and endangering the welfare of a minor.
The investigator said that on Sept. 9, Ashley Roland told police that Bridges, her boyfriend, stuck his finger in Blu's mouth and the boy bit down on it. That, allegedly, was sufficient cause for Bridges to take the boy into the bathroom at the Moro home, where he continued to push his head into the toilet until Blu drowned. He left the boy's body there.
Roland claimed she had been in the living room and found her son limp and unable to breathe in the bathroom after Bridges left the room. Bridges cut a hole in the hallway's wooden floor, wrapped Blu's body in plastic and a blanket and buried him there, Roland told police.
Lee County deputies went to the house on Dec. 16, after the children's grandmother had asked to see Blu and Taylor. Roland told her Blu wasn't at home, but brought out Taylor, her head full of scabs. Taylor was later taken to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in nearby Memphis and treated for burn injuries.
Roland told police Bridges had forced her daughter's head and upper body into a bathtub filled with scalding water as punishment for behavioral issues.
Those of us who have ever endured serious burns know all too well the pain that brings. I can only imagine what that little girl endured.
Roland's father told deputies his daughter told him that Blu supposedly had collapsed outside their bathroom and was dead, still inside the house. The sheriff's office sought assistance from the state police after the smell of decay made it clear the boy's decomposing body was beneath the floor.
Rebecca Fiting, Bridges' ex-wife, told police she talked to Roland after hearing something was wrong at their house. She said Roland told her Blu had left the bathroom with a swollen face and was foaming at the mouth before collapsing and dying.
Roland had not known what to do, Fiting told police, and said she was the one who buried Blu.
I feel certain the apparent contradictions surrounding Blu's death, how he was buried and other inaccuracies and facts in this terrible scenario will be sorted out at trial, if not before.
What seems to be known at this point is evil had its way inside this Lee County home, leaving two innocent 6-year-olds either dead or badly burned.
Meanwhile, Bridges declined to speak with police and was being held in the Lee County jail.
Lancaster's story reported that online court documents show he was charged with misdemeanor counts of third-degree battery, criminal mischief and trespassing in October 2018. The case was dropped.
A valued message
I receive many letters from valued readers, including the positive with the critical. It just goes with the territory for any opinion writer.
One message arrived last week that made me smile by reminding me that, while I'm not always right, neither am I always mistaken in pursuing what strikes me as the right thing on its face.
Greg Van Horn sent this: "I read about your upcoming surgery and I hope it goes well. Mike, you were the first journalist to write about the battle to remove the Lake Bella Vista dam and restore Little Sugar Creek to a free-flowing stream [in 2015]."
"I reached out to plenty of journalists, but you were the one who got it, understood it and then articulated it. I can't thank you enough for doing that. Your words helped stop a planned, funded, city-supported dam across our community creek, and it made a huge difference in a battle where we were the underdog of underdogs.
"It's hard to stop a bureaucracy in motion like we did. The city leaders and the state and federal guys would get together and have lunches and were nostalgic about how they're going to build a lake and how awesome they are for doing it.
"Were you like others, you would've gone along for that ride, but something inside made you different ... smarter ... stronger ... like your [late] uncle John Paul Hammerschmidt when he opposed damming the Buffalo River! Peace be with you, Mike!
Aw shucks, Greg, I was only doing what I believed in doing, nothing special. But thanks for your kind words.
Godspeed and peace for you, as well, Uncle John Paul.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected].