Even a speck of common sense tells us that the shortest way to get from one point to another always takes the path of a straight line. Following a meandering road that zigs left and zags right is surely less efficient than taking a direct route. We hold these truths to be self-evident.
Often, upon tackling a story, I’ll familiarize myself with the geographical location of the crime scene and get a flavor of the demographics that comprise the area of interest. It generally serves no purpose other than pacifying certain curiosities within myself and if, for some reason they prove to be interesting enough, I’ll include a portion of my findings as a prelude to the tale.
I found nothing particularly noteworthy in Paris, Illinois; the demographics seemed to reflect a quintessential little town in the Midwest with a population a little over 8,500. That was before I stumbled upon the description of Vance Park, “a hushed quiet place that’s perfect for meditation”. Vance Park is a sunken garden that hosts a serpentine wall and at the far end of this little oasis, a lion’s head fountain. I have to wonder if this tiny community realizes the stark symbolism between Vance Park’s settings and the real life events that culminated in murder, the rigidly straight wall of justice made serpentine by the pre-existing factors that led a once quiet and reserved young man;s actions to emulate a lion’s roar.
Let’s meet the accused, 16-year-old Terry Payton. (more…)