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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Tiffany Souers: Lessons Learned

By now, Jerry Buck Inman has had his first meal in the Pickens County Jail. He sits in a cell the size of a clothes closet. Magnetic strips on the outside of his jail cell door read "ESC" and "ASLT." Like anyone who knows anything about Inman, the folks in Pickens county know the short, skinny, bald, monster is an escape and assault risk.

The Chief Deputy of Jefferson County Tennessee has already been spreading the word that Inman confessed to not only Tiffany Souers murder, but also two sexual assaults in Alabama and Tennessee. The deputy reports Inman, when asked why he did it, said, "I'm an animal."

And that pretty much sums it up. Tiffany Souers' death is like a freak accident borne of humans developing too far into the wild. Sometimes, there isn't enough room for the animals, so they make their way into the city. This animal, Inman, had a wide stalking range. This time, we humans didn't build a condo in the middle of his forest. This time, he came down from the mountain. If only we'd been able to shoot him before he got hungry again, you know?

Society was smart to keep Inman in a cage for years following his first sex crimes. Once again, a parole board will be forced to ask itself whether it was right to let Inman out of jail a little early. And once again, the debate will be renewed about whether sex crimes should have longer sentences, mandatory minimums, etc. In the past, people have talked a lot and didn't act. I would like to think something would change this time, but I don't have a ton of faith.

We all should learn our lessons on this one, but we aren't the kind to learn quickly. Most of us, myself included, don't learn until it is too late. In the 36 hours since deputies arrested Jerry Buck Inman, I've did little more than work to catch up on a lot of my regular work. I now have more to do than time to do it. That means I need to stop coddling my crime reporter fantasies and get back to writing about gutshot straight draws and leather-assed poker players. There are animals in that world, too, but they'll only take your money.

Before I let it go, however, I'm going to list a few things I'd like to remember in the future (and, hopefully I can help others remember as well).

First, crime profiles can be not only unreliable, but also deceiving. I thought the cops were right to believe the were looking for a young, educated, middle-class, college student who had just committed his first murder. In the end, while we were all looking for a date rape gone wrong, Jerry Buck Inman was doing yard work in Tennessee and likely wondering which state he would visit next.

That brings me to DNA. I don't think everyone should have to give up their DNA for a database, but I think everyone who has been convicted of a violent and/or sexual crime should be subjected to DNA testing an database storage.

See, as I said before, had it not been for DNA in this case, we would never know Inman's name. We would've spent years harassing college students and shaking the bushes around Clemson. What's more, more women would've been killed. That is all a short way of saying, don't you think Inman was done. He wasn't.

As I spend a significant amount of time on the road, I'm now worried more about random crime and my family falling victim to it. I've never worried much about these things. In fact, I've ignored them to a fault. The other night, I was out and a guy game to my house at 9pm and, in essence, tried to get my wife to open the door for him. The cops picked the guy up later, but it was too late for me not to start the process of making sure my family is protected while I'm on the road. Note to potential attackers: First, the cops will know if you break in. A security system will take care of that. And frankly, you better hope the cops get here and arrest you before my wife knows you're in the house. Nuff said?

Finally, by way of explanation for the last few days of obsessive reporting, I can only say that I'm not fully sure what drove me to focus so much on the case. First, I have a history with cases like this and I'm still hurting for the families of victims in which the cases are unsolved. I didn't want this case to remain unsolved. And frankly, I think it was a coinflip. There was a damned good chance Inman could've walked on this one. I give a lot of credit to all of the Upstate and state cops who brought this case to an arrest.

Beyond that, though, I would be dishonest if I tried to say this case didn't make me want to be back on the street. In the final few days of the story, I honestly felt like I needed to be involved. I'd never claim to have been a big deal in TV, but if there was anything I did well, it was cover the huge, breaking stories. There was some good reporting and some bad reporting locally. I wanted to be in there, telling the stories, and asking the questions.

However, there is a reason I got out of the business in the first place, and a large part of my departure was a lack of dedication to good reporting of the news. And money, of course. Money is always an issue, yeah?

With that in mind, I'm going to leave this case in the hands of the reporting pros and I'm going to get back to making money. And hugging my family. And keeping the doors locked.

You know. Life.

Previous coverage

Tiffany Souers and College Murders
Tiffany Souers Suspect
Tiffany Souers: Suspect Still At Large
Manhunt for Jerry Buck Inman

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Uncle Ted said...

Sure are a lot of question marks in that entry...punctuationally speaking, of course... ;-)

Nice writing, though.

10:36 PM  
Blogger Zippy said...

I always figured you'd make a good PI, anyway.

8:51 AM  

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