This Times-Picayune article about what happened earlier this month to my friends Paul Gailiunas and Helen Hill had me absolutely foaming at the mouth with rage (I think it's going to be a long time before I can read a crime novel, by the way, without holding it to a very high standard in terms of its representation of the sheer awfulness for family members of dealing with police and journalists following a high-profile violent crime).
Today the paper printed a plea from Paul asking readers in New Orleans for two things:
First, please, if you have any knowledge of the person who killed my wife, please come forward and speak. Please be brave and tell the police or Crimestoppers what you know.
Help bring this villain to justice for filling my wife's final moments with terror and for taking her away from her baby and her family and friends.
He must not be allowed to hurt more people and destroy more lives. Please be brave and speak.
Second, please do everything you can to heal your desperately broken city.
Helen herself was an innocent victim. But her murder, like so many others, is a symptom of a sickness, a terrible sickness caused by grinding poverty, hopelessness, bad parenting, a lack of respect for human life, pre- and post-hurricane neglect and persistent racism against African-American people.
I am begging you to reach out to your neighbors, across the borders of race and class, and help them when they need you. Don't stand by while people hurt each other.
There has been an outcry against violence in New Orleans since Helen's death. Please do not stop until things improve. I am begging you to find a way to get people out of those hellish trailer parks, which are cauldrons for the kind of violence that destroyed our happiness. The people living there need decent, well-maintained, affordable housing and it needs to happen now.
No one is going to fix New Orleans for you. You need to do it yourselves. Please do these things now, for yourselves and for my poor, sweet wife. I know this is what she would want.