Once upon a time, when I was a teenager, a husband-and-wife serial killer team tore my hometown apart.
Everybody who lives (or lived) in my city, St.Catharines, Ontario, has those two or three years permanently carved into the psychic structural landscape of their brain, and all those wounds will soon be reopened with an American film that dramatizes the case called Deadly (www.deadlythemovie.com).
The basics: A Ken-and-Barbie couple, Paul and Karla, who lived in St.Catharines, kidnapped at least two teenage girls, raped them, killed them. They also killed Karla's sister, when their plan to knock her unconscious, videotape and rape her went horribly wrong and she 'accidently' died. (Paul was also later found to be the 'Scarborough rapist' who terrorized Toronto for a good many years.)
One of the girls who they killed was a St.Catharines girl, Kristen French, who lived about five minutes, by car, from my house. When I was in Grade 8 at Dalewood Junior High, she was in Grade 7; we were in the choir together, though I never knew her then, and only figured this out later. (Oh, those small and slim connections we all found to somehow link us to the deceased.)
I can't write about this too much because it's, well, too much -- my idyllic (t0 me) hometown was ripped to shreds when this happened; a part of it died, and a part of all of us who lived there died too, I think.
That may be putting it harshly. I was in early-to-mid high school when all this went down; I went to school, ran track, watched movies, read books. I wasn't obsessed with this case, no, but it was always there for a good two years or so, blatantly exposed each and every day on the front page of The St.Catharines Standard, hiding more delicately on the faces of friends, teachers, family.
How could this happen? A perfect couple, kidnapping teenage girls in broad daylight, raping them, murdering them? This was the stuff that happened in movies and in Stephen King books; this was the stuff that had no business being in my hometown.
I was naive.
And now it's twelve years on, and the wife, Karla, is getting out of prison this summer, while the husband, Paul, will sit in solitary for life, and a movie will make its way to some theatres across America and Canada.
I won't watch it.
I have no problems with them making it; I think freedom of speech is freedom of speech, and it would be very hypocritical of me, who has enjoyed countless true-crime stories, to cry out against the airing of this one, be it in cinemas or on TV.
But you see, when I was sixteen, my family went on vacation to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and I can remembering watching the Van Halen video Right Now on MTV, and this particular video featured all these cool catchphrases splashed across the screen, and one of them read 'Right now a killer is walking the streets of your hometown', and I thought no, no, not in St.Catharines, sorry, and one of the girls who was on vacation with us at that time was best friends with Kristen French, the girl who would be murdered in a few months, and so, you see, eloquence fails me at a moment like this. I had planned to write more, to delve deeper, to chart how my childhood somehow ended during this time, and how that little inconsequential personal fact pales in comparison to what the victims' families went through, and what they'll go through again with the release of this film, and how it's all bubbling back to the surface again, but I hope you'll forgive me for exiting early from this topic.
Sometimes reality itself is too much.