“The Jonses” – An Essay

Very early May 2, 1995 before school, Anzel Jones, a seventeen year old African American boy slipped quietly from his bedroom and out of his house. There was a time, before Anzel was born that blacks were not allowed to live in this part of town. He had no feelings about that now. He had only one thing on his mind that morning. He had to kill somebody and it had to be today. It was a small town and almost everybody knew everybody else, but the white people didn’t know the blacks very well and the blacks didn’t know the whites even though they lived in the same neighborhoods.

He didn’t want to venture far from home because he needed to get back before his mom or sister came in to wake him for school. He knew who lived in the house across the street, two women, one old, the other middle aged. It would be a piece of cake. Quietly he eased open the gate by the side of their house, but not with out setting off the dogs in the neighbor’s yard. He froze by the back door hoping they would forget he was there. He didn’t wait long, because to his surprise the back door suddenly opened when Sherry Kay went out to see why the dogs were making such a ruckus. This is just too easy, he thought as he grabbed her arm pushing her back into the house before she could let out a scream. In the kitchen he held a butcher knife to her throat as she begged for her life.

This is where the gruesome details faded from the pages of the newspaper article sent by my mom. I held the unfolded pages I’d pulled from a dainty stationery envelope displaying her perfect cursive. I had anticipated the usual family news and an announcement of someone’s wedding or graduation party. But this letter and this news article was dark. The note attached to the article simply said “Sherry Kay Jones is dead.”

From both articles I pieced together the puzzle. Anzel Jones, no relationship to his victims, made it to school on time. He was in the shower when his sister and mom rose to make breakfast. He put on clean clothes and a different pair of Nikes leaving the bloody ones near the hamper where he had mindlessly dropped the soiled clothes. He took a different route to school through the backyard, ignoring the sirens and firetrucks at the house across the street. He didn’t even worry whether or not both of his victims were dead or if the house had burned enough to cover all evidence. It was just another school day, where he would pick up his life again as an average student and star athlete.

Meanwhile, Edith Jones, Sherry Kay’s 76 year old mom was in the emergency room, raped and badly cut, but very much alive.

Holding these news articles, I sat for a while and stared into space feeling my heart race in my chest, then got up and checked all the doors in my house to make sure they were locked. Sherry Kay had not been my best friend in high school, in fact I really didn’t like her very much, but as a teenager I didn’t know anything about over-achievers with abusive, controlling parents like Sherry Kay’s. They would have severely punished her for failing to make straight A’s in all her subjects, or not be elected homecoming queen, drum majorette, and tennis star. She was only allowed to date one nerdy boy who came from one of the best families in town. She had to have been a total mess inside. Looking back it was easy to see that behind her pretty face and plastered on smile was a really stressed out individual.

I didn’t know her after college. She moved to New Orleans to work in a bank and I moved to New Mexico to become an artist. I only heard about her from a mutual friend I still saw occasionally She said Sherry Kay had turned out to be a really nice person, who never married like the rest of us. When her mom needed care, Sherry quit her job and moved back to Paris. People liked her. I don’t know if she a racist or not. We all were racists when we were young. It’s how we were raised and nobody we knew thought any differently. We just didn’t think to question it at the time.

I don’t know exactly when things changed in Paris. Like I said, when I lived there, the blacks (and we didn’t call them that back then) lived in one little part of town and we occupied the rest. I know some of them came over to work on our side of town because my rich aunt had maids. I’m sure some of my friends did too, but somehow I just didn’t see them. I heard stories though. I heard stories because the nerdy guy that Sherry Kay dated was the son of the man who owned the mortuary and my girlfriends and I would hang out with guys who worked there. They told lots of stories about driving ambulances and being at some really gruesome scenes. Some of the stories were about what happened when a black man got drug behind a pick-up truck or tied up and beaten. I must have just shut out all feelings about that because those stories were just too hard accept. I didn’t think about it much back then, but I did become very morose.

After college I moved from Paris and lived in different parts of the county where racism seemed like something from the past. I raised my own children in a world where their friends came in many colors, sizes and shapes. They never thought to judge someone for being different from them. We thought we lived on Sesame Street.

In the 1980’s when I went back to visit Paris Texas I learned my old high school had been torn down. A new and integrated school had been built and now African American people lived white neighborhoods. When I drove by my aunts old house I saw a black woman brandishing a big butcher knife chasing a black man down the street. I had never seen anything like that before.

Even then I could not have expected fifteen years later I’d be holding these news articles in my hand and feeling frightened in my own house lightyears away from where the crime happened. I began to become obsessed with locking my doors. My husband traveled a lot and my then teenaged son was busy in his own world of friends. I wouldn’t sleep with open windows, I bought pepper spray, I thought of a gun, but I had kids in my house and I wasn’t sure it would be of any help anyway. I longed for a German Shepard, but really favored chihuahuas. It was a fear I had never before experienced.

One day, I took those newspaper articles to a local want-a-be Shaman who did a magic ritual and had me drop them in a fire. I had hoped to have some great relief and never think about this again, but now in 2012 I find myself looking on Murderpedia, for information about Anzel Jones, Anzel Keon Jones #999193 DOB 02/04/78, now 34 years old, the same age as my son. His execution had been stayed when Justice Scalia passed a law that it was illegal to execute someone who had committed a crime before the age of eighteen. I read that Anzel was now being referred to as a psychopath. Wow, isn’t that some kind of a mental illness?

I’m sad that Sherry Kay died such a violent death and that her poor mom, no matter what kind of parent she was, had to live through something so terrible, but I also feel grief for Anzel, his mom, sister and any other friends and relatives close to him. I feel sad for the whole town of Paris and all other small isolated towns where racism has driven men, women and children insane. Somehow to me it just seemed like a big gray cloud of hatred that hovered over that place swooped down like a phantom tornado into that young man’s head and drove him to do the unspeakable.

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