Jerry Davich: Family of convicted man hurting, too
Jerry Davich email@example.com June 7, 2012 5:26PM
Jerry Davich. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 9, 2012 6:18AM
Terry Connell was still angry at me, and rightfully so, when I returned his phone call Wednesday afternoon.
A day earlier, he buried his 33-year-old son, Michael Connell, who died unexpectedly last Friday. Considering that fact alone, I’m appreciative that Terry didn’t track me down personally to tell me off.
In my Wednesday column, I noted Michael’s death only because he was involved in my Mother’s Day column. On Nov. 17, 2010, in a traffic crash, he struck and killed a 66-year-old Gary woman whose family I profiled that day. She died at the scene.
The impact of that crash took a lingering and, ultimately fatal, toll on Michael, too, who had been consumed with remorse since it happened, his father told me.
Also, contrary to police reports at the time, Michael was not high on drugs when he struck Dawson, his father told me.
Michael did, however, have a high amount of Xanax in his system, his father said. Xanax, in a class of medications called benzodiazepines, is commonly used to treat anxiety disorders and panic disorder.
Terry said his son also did not die of an “alleged drug overdose,” as I was told by Dawson’s family, and according to the prosecutor’s office.
“Michael’s death certificate says his cause of death was pneumonia,” Terry said, noting that his son also suffered from seizures recently.
Terry acknowledged, though, that his son had a history of drug use, and its accumulative affect on his body may have been a contributing factor in his death. I agreed, noting my own personal experiences with this issue.
“He had his demons, but he was getting his life back on track,” Terry said after his anger subsided.
Michael Connelly faced a maximum eight-year prison sentence with a sentencing hearing set for Aug. 23. As I previously noted, it’s a moot point now.
Terry said his family tried reaching out to Dawson’s family after her death, to no avail. Terry also said his family received threats from Dawson’s family, and a lawsuit is pending. That, too, is probably a moot point now.
During our conversation, I told Terry I would write a clarification, correction, and apology for my lack of tact, poor timing, and misinformation about his son’s death.
“I know how those work,” he replied softly. “The Mother’s Day column gets front page, but corrections run on page two in a tiny box.”
That’s correct, I told him, which is why a “tiny box” correction didn’t run in Thursday’s newspaper. Instead, I waited until today, my usual Friday column, to address this issue at length.
Not only was my timing to note his son’s death a poor decision, but so was the misinformation in my column. I apologize to the Connell family for that, just as I did to Terry Connell over the phone that day.
Still, bad blood between the Dawson and Connell families still exists even though the dynamic of this case has changed profoundly, and more sadly.
Dawson is dead. Connell is dead, too. Both families are grieving, angry, and hurt.
“We want closure,” Dawson’s son, Cedric Kuykendall, told me last month.
“We want closure, too,” Terry Connell told me Wednesday.
Maybe that closure will come in time. Maybe it won’t ever manifest itself. Regardless, both families will be forever bound to each other in some painful, fateful way.
Or maybe the families should finally meet, to share their grief, their pain, and their feelings. Maybe this will help bring that closure they seek in some way.
Earlier this week, I attended a “graduation” ceremony for eighth-grade students at a local school, and the girls’ eye-catching attire took center stage with many guests in attendance.
The girls, ages 13 or 14, were dressed for a dance afterward, but some of their outfits looked like they belonged to their mothers. Or at least their much older sisters. Low-cut dresses, miniskirts, high-heeled shoes, and some extremely tight clothes, regardless of their weight.
At other similar school events in the region, I’ve noticed mid-teen males resembling young boys in the ‘hood, sporting gangsta attire, wannabe scowls, and low-hanging pants, proudly showing their underwear. (Do they know this inner-city fashion trend is based off prisoners who are not allowed to use belts? I doubt it.)
As anyone who regularly reads my column surely knows, I don’t consider myself a prude or puritanical when it comes to fashion, lifestyle choices or, heck, even mating habits. But, I’m asking parents of those teens, is this commonly accepted and approved attire?
As I sat in the bleachers, I tried to imagine the argument earlier that day between a parent and their 14-year-old daughter who’s wearing six-inch heels, a tight miniskirt, and low-cut top. Or maybe there was no debate at all.
My social media sites were blitzed with blistering comments about this hot-button issue, mostly by angry or distraught mothers. (Visit my Facebook page for a sampling.)
“One of the problems is clothes shopping,” said Wendy M. “It is really challenging to find girls’ clothes that don’t look like what you have described.”
“My daughter is nearly 11. Try to find a modest and ‘cool’ bathing suit,” added Robyn W.
“On Freedom Fridays, the girls wear skirts and shorts they’re constantly yanking down and heels they can’t even walk in,” said Michelle H. “On Career Day, it seems many career paths are leading to the strip club. It’s sad how girls dress.”
I will tackle this issue head on during today’s Casual Fridays radio show on WLPR, 89.1-FM, streaming online at www.thelakeshorefm.com, between noon and 1 p.m. (re-aired at 6 p.m.). Call in with your opinion at 769-9577.