At the end of the Barry Loukaitis trial, a touching moment of compassion unfolded. As his mother cried and his father and grandfather stood awkwardly by the courtroom door, several people comforted them.
Among them were Alice and Phillip Fritz. Loukaitis killed their only son, Arnold. The grandparents of Natalie Hintz also approached the Loukaitis family with hugs of sympathy. Hintz, 13 at the time of the shooting, was seriously wounded but survived.
For a few moments, they were all adults united in their grief, united in the horror of a tragedy that changed forever the lives and the histories of several families.
Loukaitis, who shot three people to death in his Moses Lake junior high school in 1996, will be sentenced next week. He could receive life in prison without possibility of parole.
Compassion is one lesson that came out of the Loukaitis case. There are other lessons to be learned, especially about families and the damage troubled adults can do to their children.
During the trial it was revealed that Loukaitis’ mother confided her problems to her son from the time he was quite small. She admitted she sometimes kept him home from kindergarten for his companionship. She did not shield him from her dark moods and he would often find her in bed, deep in depression.
“He was my best friend,” she told the court.
Troubled parents sometimes vent their woes to their children, especially children who seem mature for their years. But serious adult problems are almost always too much for a young soul to manage.
Loukaitis was upset about the pending divorce of his parents. Loukaitis’ father admitted that he didn’t talk to his son enough about the emotional fallout from the news. The father was busy with a new business and probably hoped, as all adults do, that his son would be OK with the upheaval.
Children in transition due to death, divorce or illness always need to be talked with and listened to. They often blame themselves for family crises and they need special attention.
The Loukaitis family also has a history of manic depression. Some emotional illnesses run through families and can be dealt with through therapy and drugs. If cancer haunted a family, family members would be quick to look for prevention and cures. Mental illnesses, left unchecked through the generations, can kill, too.
“There’s no happy ending here,” Alice Fritz said after the verdict. She is right, and sadly so.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rebecca Nappi For the editorial board