I See a Child's Blood (The Revelus Tragedy)
The blues has come knocking at my door, dour-eyed and dressed up in its finest death suit, drenched in children's blood. I speak of the Revelus family tragedy, horror in Milton, Mass., this past weekend. We step into April, the month of foolish jokes and poetry, just in time to see a 5-year-old's head, severed from her body, rolling through a living nightmare to the slashed body of her 17-year-old sister, a budding poet. These girls go into the grave next to the brother that murdered them.
The Boston Herald has published a poem by 17-year-old victim Samantha Revelus, "Acquaintance." She would have recited it at Milton High School's poetry jam this Thursday night had she lived and admonished her listeners to respect a woman of color, treat her like a goddess, a lesson her brother never grasped. According to another story on the site, Samantha had not only brains but also beauty. The Huffington Post links to a story about Samantha's youngest sister with the headline "Bianca Revelus, Birthday Girl, Decapitated by Her Brother in Gruesome Rampage." Per the AP, "Five-year-old Bianca was killed as a cake for her birthday, which investigators believe was Friday, sat on the kitchen table."
Could we have done anything to prevent this tragedy?"
This story of carnage, Saturday's fatal domestic violence in Massachusetts, has me crying and nearly vomiting and I'm not alone. Schools are calling in counselors to explain and comfort students. The police officers who witnessed the scene have been put on administrative leave and sent to therapy because, God!--who can function after seeing what they saw, not on TV but right in front of their faces?
According to the video at Boston.com (link), Kerby Revelus, 23, got into a fistfight with a neighbor the day before he murdered his sisters (link), but other than that information, we may never know what sent him into a stabbing frenzy the next day. It's reported that he and his sister Samantha argued frequently. But what does that mean?
As he acted on his insanity, down in the family's basement a woman, the grandmother, went about ordinary chores, doing laundry, oblivious to hell unleashed on the home's second floor, that Samantha had dialed 911, that she'd passed the phone to the third sister in the home that day, 9-year-old Sarafina, before passing out and bleeding to death. The police entered the home and the first officer on the scene saw Kerby Revelus take little Bianca hostage. Wielding a kitchen knife, he slit her throat with so much rage, he beheaded the child. And then he went after Sarafina, attacking her with the knife. The police officers shot and killed him.
Reports indicate the family moved to the U.S.A. from Haiti about five years ago. The parents were at work when their son killed their daughters. The mother, arriving on the scene and being told of the killings, collapsed in the street, screaming. News sources say the 9-year-old daughter survived the knife attack and has returned home.
It sounds as though this is another case of a family not believing that bouts of uncontrolled rage is a condition not cured with a little extra loving, that you can't protect a disturbed soul to psychological health or treat mental illness as "just a phase" one grows out of the way I know many families do. It's common for families to ignore violent outbursts and to make excuses--"Oh, Bobby's just high-strung" or "Sue's wound a little tight, gets out of hand sometimes, but that's just her way."
The Revelus family killer, Kerby, had been violent before also. Another sister, Jessica, who was not home during his final fit of violence, called the police in 2004 after he punched her in the face. Later she refused to cooperate with prosecutors and see the case through. I don't know for sure, but I suspect she felt family pressure to drop the charges. In recent news reports, she's quoted as saying she wasn't really afraid of her brother, that he was just trying to be "big and bad" and she called the policed to show him he wasn't. Yet he was big and bad. He exhibited behavior that should have signaled to this family he was a danger to himself and more so to others.
When are we going to learn to take people at their word and deed once they show us they mean us harm and can't control their anger? We love them, but that doesn't mean we should avoid intervention, even if that intervention means an out-of-control loved one will be arrested and prosecuted.
At some point we have to consider that the family members the violent one threatens deserve fearless love and protection also. They deserve to be saved from the one we hope we can save but who we may not be able to save without professional help.
If we don't try to get help for consistently angry and violent family members, thinking we can control them ourselves, then the day our worst nightmare comes to pass we can't claim to be shocked. Numb perhaps, but not shocked. And yet families excuse violent behavior, repeated verbal abuse, and habitual, angry outbursts daily.
I say this and to some it could sound like I'm blaming the family for not locking Kerby up or getting him to counseling. I'm not, however, because I don't know whether the family sought help or not after the punching incident in 2004. Nevertheless, knowing what I know of people and from the details I've read of the story, I'll guess that they didn't get Kerby the treatment he needed, that they probably "fussed at Kerby, lectured, and gave him "a good talking to" and then prayed he'd do better.
Yet, it's possible they sought help for him and found none. (Neighbors report Kerby walked the streets sometimes talking to himself.) Mental health care for low-income, working families in this country is nearly non-existent in some cities. Even middle-class families sometimes can't get the help they need for mentally ill family members when they need it. In Revelus' state of Massachusetts, it was only last year that legislators, after hearing testimony from a troubled teen, passed a bill to get more mental health care for children. At age 23, Kerby Revelus would not have qualified for help under that bill. However, he'd been acting out since his high school years and possibly before that, which leaves me with the question, "What if in 2004 when Jessica Revelus called the police to report her brother had punched her in the face she had known he would not have been thrown into prison but into a therapy program that kept him off the streets and away from his family to determine if he could be saved? Would she have cooperated with prosecutors if her cooperation meant her brother would get help and not just a jail cell?
I'm still struggling to process the Revelus tragedy in my heart and head, but I had to share it anyway because it is not only the story of a mentally disturbed man killing his sisters, but also a domestic violence story as is the Rihanna/Chris Brown story, as is the Jennifer Hudson tragedy, as is the Samson, Ala., massacre, which began with a young man killing his mother, as is the California Santa Claus murders, as is many a story swept under the rug by millions of families throughout America on any given day.
Photo from Yahoo News.