This afternoon, under rainy skies, America memorialized another child who will never grow up. Vallejo, California said good-bye to Xiana Fairchild, the beautiful little girl with the long dark hair and the radiant smile. Xiana Fairchild will always be 7 years old and those that loved her will only be left with her picture to hold. In the richest nation on earth one more child is left unprotected at a bus stop and while she waits to go to school, she disappears. Another police department is notified that a little girl has "gone missing". Within hours the all-too-familiar flyers appear magically in every nook and cranny of a tiny town. Loving relatives have their lives torn upside down and volunteers donate many hours to search for a child that has suddenly become a part of their family. Then, as suddenly as it began, it ends. Another American child is murdered and thrown away - disposable children in a nation infamous for its disposable society.
America has created a whole new vocabulary spun around its missing and murdered children. The buzz words created and repeated by the media run through our heads and sadly, they have become very familiar to all of us. Thirty years ago it was rare for a child to disappear in the United States. Now little victims are abducted so often that the brutality inflicted upon these small bodies has become a cottage industry worthy of this capitalist nation.
Bold newspaper headlines scream the age, the name, and the description of each missing child. The disappearance of one youngster often triggers the disappearance of another, and another - small residents from the same town now gone. Even when the cases closely resemble each other, law enforcement reports there are "no obvious suspects" and they "do not think the cases are related". Those left behind, the parents or the guardians of the children are often reported to be "under a cloud of suspicion" or " under an umbrella of suspicion". Citing "changing stories" the police imply "guilt" or the "knowledge of guilt" while, at the same time, refusing to share with the public any additional information because of an "ongoing investigation". So while those loved ones left behind struggle with the anguish of the abduction and the search for their missing loved one, they must simultaneously defend themselves from the police, the curious, and the media.
Pleas are made for volunteers, searches are organized, space is donated for phone banks, fundraisers are held, and countless interviews are conducted and broadcast and printed.
So-called "children's advocates" like Marc Klaas, the father of Polly Klaas, and Kim Swartz, the mother of missing Amber Swartz , quickly arrive on the scene and garner publicity. Concerned citizens are urged to donate their money and time to help search for the latest innocent victim; money and time is always forthcoming from a sympathetic public. Sometimes the money ends up in the wrong coffers as it did in the case of the disputed $34,000 donated by people to fund the search for Xiana Fairchild. Even on the day of Xiana's memorial in Vallejo, the money donated to her remains in the Amber Swartz Foundation controlled by Kim Swartz. This type of commingling of funds in the name of missing children must rub salt in the raw wounds left on Marc Klaas after the murder of his daughter, Polly. When Marc Klaas felt that the law enforcement officers investigating his daughter's disappearance had put the case on the back burner, he sought to spend some of over $300,000 donated in her name to hire a famous private investigator to push the search forward. The response by the board members of the Polly Klaas Foundation was to push Marc Klaas off of the board. The "small sacrifices" have been turned into money making machines and their names are used on foundations that even their loved ones can no longer control. The Foundations' money making machines take on a life of their own and, if Polly Klaas were alive today to call the foundation that bears her name, she would find her phone call answered by an answering machine.
America's Department of Justice has funded two projects devoted to the search for missing children. The programs are under the control of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in cooperation with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Project ALERT is comprised of America's Law Enforcement Retiree Team who supply their expertise and time free of charge to requesting law-enforcement agencies in cases of missing, abducted, and sexually exploited children. Project H.O.P.E. [Help Offering Parents Empowerment] offers the support and resources of trained parent volunteers who have had or still have a missing child.
The mental health industry soon comes to the forefront with talking heads appearing on television talking about "keeping your child safe" and talking to your children "about strangers". "Psychologists and counselors" are sent to the school the missing girl or boy attended within hours to "counsel" the student body. If the youngster is later found dead these mental health professionals will once again be called upon to interact with the students and faculty who "want to talk about it".
Public relations officers for various police departments speak about "registered sex offenders", "internet pornographers" or "suspicious strangers". As months pass with no results, law enforcement becomes "tight-lipped" and it is often suggested that the "children fell through the cracks" of those charged with protecting them. It is implied that Children Protective Services did not do their job. CPS responds by citing "confidentiality laws" that insulates the agency from being held accountable to anyone about the children "gone missing". The fight to bring the children home fades from the press and those charged with the investigations say they "are scaling back their efforts". Failing investigations produce talk of impaneling a "grand jury" with greater powers. The process provides for shifting the blame from one public entity to another when the heat becomes too hot to handle. The media simply reports the shift and no one seems outraged by the "shell game".
Then a skull is found in the mountains above Los Gates and two families hold their breath. A little boy is missing in New Mexico and there is Xiana Fairchild missing from Vallejo, California. The skull is identified as Xiana's.
Again the buzz words fill the press as the tragedy is reported. Kim Swartz, still holding onto to $34,000 donated in Xiana's name, presumes to assume that finding out what happened to Xiana can bring the family "some closure". Marc Klaas says that the family "can begin to heal" now that they know she is gone. Mike Williams, father of murdered 13-year-old Christina Williams, suggests that Xiana's family "turn for healing to the Christian faith they both share".
If, by the grace of some accident, law enforcement is forced to admit they have a suspect, that individual is soon well protected by excuses given by the media and information leaked by officials to explain away the perpetrator's behavior. Media hungry, Curtis Dean Anderson, who is a suspect in the kidnapping and molestation of a little heroine who greatly resembles Xiana Fairchild, is also considered by many to be the most likely suspect in the abduction of Xiana. Law enforcement, the court system, mental health experts and the media have once again formed an alliance to "protect the perpetrator". Recent press reports state that "alcohol plagued Anderson and his family" and "Anderson's mother or father abused the perpetrator". It is apparent that Anderson expects the system to protect him because since his latest arrest it has. Anderson was witnessed running after the little victim who bravely escaped with her life. However, since the date of his arrest, he has not been seen out of the wheelchair provided for him by the system, pretending that he can no longer walk, much less run. He is now announcing that while he rests in prison, he expects to get free dental work and surgery to correct a back injury that was the result of a motorcycle accident. The judge hearing his case has issued a "gag order" to protect Anderson's "rights to a fair trial" The media is beating a path to his door and reporting back to law enforcement about his alleged involvement in the abduction of Xiana Fairchild. While this disgraceful circus is being played out, Anderson is blackmailing Xiana's aunt, Stephanie Kahalekulu, for money to talk some more about Xiana.
Anderson's own brother said of Curtis Dean Anderson that "if he was one of my children he would already be dead." Marc Klaas is quoted as saying, "I think they should take a baseball bat to that son of a b---- and beat the truth out of him."
The one word that is an integral part of Xiana's kidnapping and murder is not new and is not born of the Missing and Murdered Children Vocabulary. The word is DRUGS! Xiana's mother, Antoinette Robinson and her boyfriend, Bobby Turnbough, have both admitted to taking drugs. Curtis Dean Anderson had a history of drug abuse according to his brother. The sale and distribution of drugs were also involved in the mysterious kidnapping of Polly Klaas. How many children are a commodity for drug purchases or drug debts? The general public will never know because law enforcement at all levels protects their confidential informants on large drug deals. The same agencies responsible for finding our missing children are often arranging huge drug sting operations that result in massive asset forfeitures that fund law enforcement. The conflicts of interest stink and the public should demand that the air be cleared. If we do not, then we will continue to allow "Small Sacrifices" that swell the pockets of our law enforcement agencies.
America can only create a fitting memorial to Xiana Fairchild and all other innocents when we, as a nation, demand that our nation protect our children.
Virginia McCullough © 2001