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Teresa Lewis, executed by State of Virginia, Sept 23, 2010

Ms. Lewis’s guilt is not at issue. By her own admission, she plotted with the men to shoot her husband, Julian C. Lewis Jr., 51, and his son, Charles J. Lewis, 25, a reservist about to be deployed abroad.

Ms. Lewis, then 33, met her co-defendants, Matthew J. Shallenberger, who was 21, and his trailer-mate, Rodney L. Fuller, 20, in a line at Wal-Mart and, according to court records, they quickly started meeting and hatching murder plans. She became particularly attached to Mr. Shallenberger, showering him with gifts, but she had sex with both men and also encouraged her 16-year-old daughter to have sex with Mr. Fuller, the records say.

Ms. Lewis withdrew $1,200 and gave it to the two men to buy two shotguns and another weapon. The night of the murders, she admitted, she left a trailer door unlocked. Later, she stood by as the intruders blasted the victims with repeated shotgun blasts. As her husband lay dying, court records say, she took out his wallet and split the $300 she found with Mr. Shallenberger. She waited at least 45 minutes to call 911.

Her husband was moaning “baby, baby, baby” when a sheriff’s deputy arrived and he said, “My wife knows who done this to me,” before he died, the records indicate.

“She said she is leaving it in the hands of Jesus,” her lead defense lawyer, James E. Rocap III, of Steptoe & Johnson in Washington, said on Tuesday, before she heard of the 7-to-2 decision by the Supreme Court not to consider her case.

NY Times, Sept 22, 2010

Lethal injection room, Louisiana

From response section of the New York Times, from an opinion page sequence on the American economy, came this exchange:


Putnam County, NY
September 21st, 2010 9:21 pm
Reading that the economy is headed in the right direction, I am screaming in despair for I am one of the many uncounted long term unemployed. Fifteen years ago, I moved from NYC to an upper middle class neighborhood, which I bought into when housing was affordable. Almost three years ago, I lost my six-figure Wall Street technology job when my hedge fund employer crashed and burned. Over fifty, mother of two teenagers, I have tried everything to find employment including starting my own IT consulting business, but it’s been difficult to maintain the standard of living required to keep my house. Have liquidated all of my assets to meet the mortgage payments to maintain my high credit score so that IF I find a job it, bad credit will not be held against me but it appears that my age is the mitigating factor. Have tried for a year to modify my mortgage through Obama’s HAMP program but my bank, a major TARP recipient has been unresponsive because I haven’t missed a payment and still have ‘equity’; equity in which I’ve been living on (can’t even sell my house right now in this market). And the problem is nobody cares. NOBODY. I have written to the President, contacted my congressman many times and traveled to his DC office only to be met with indifference. Just recently I took in a tenant, another middle age single mother who lost her home and just lost her job yesterday. In exactly nine days, I will miss my first mortgage payment in 15 years and will be heading into the foreclosure abyss. My freshman college daughter cried this weekend when I had to break the news. She just cannot understand it all. It is affecting my high school son as well. The hardest part is that I’ve let my family down. I am a fighter and have survived much in my life (including 9/11) but nothing has prepared me for this downward spiral into poverty. Nowhere to go.

The little lacunae in this story suggest the once Wall Street employee taking down “6 figures” (now is that 100,000 or 999,999?) is divorced or widowed (my bet on the first) and lives in a mental world in which writing the President seems a reasonable course.   While there may be some self-serving delusions in her story, she is surely joined in that by some hundreds of thousands in finding the rug of the American dream yanked out from under her and finding there’s no life-preserver handy.   She likely didn’t realize there’s many millions who never dreamed of a 6 figure income, and have had, from the get go, a lot harder time than she.  Her posting begot these responses:

Kim W.
Brooklyn, NY
September 22nd, 2010 1:30 am
To Elizabeth:

You clearly care so much about your plight that you’ve posted it twice now. But forgive me if I have a hard time mustering the sympathy, because:

I’m one of the longER term unemployed. I have been struggling with debt for the past TEN years — debt brought on by the LAST recession, one which no one seems to recall. But trust me, it was there — a recession spurred by the dot-com bubble bursting in the late 1990’s, and then compounded by 9/11 closing down many of the business where I worked as a clerical consultant. Back then, I lived by taking credit card cash advances to pay my rent, and I have been trying to pay down that balance for the past TEN years — despite being paid a pittance in my two careers.

You say that this is the very first mortgage payment you’ll be missing in 15 years. I DREAM of the day when I have enough money to even dream of making a mortgage payment of any kind — but until I have enough saved to put a down payment on a home, I will never be able to even entertain this idea.

You say that you lost your six-figure Wall Street job. I lost out on a five-figure salary I needed far more as one of your colleagues’ assistants.

You say you have contacted Congress, et. al. for assistance. Yet for the past ten years, I was discouraged from doing the same (granted, at the time I felt that Congress was wasting money on an unpopular war which it could have been spending to stimulate real economic growth at home, but that’s a different matter). So instead I just cut my budget where I could and made do. Fortunately I have no kids in college, but unfortunately, I also have not taken a vacation in nearly ten years. No money (and, no paid vacation time anyway, either).

So forgive me, but if this is only the FIRST mortgage payment you’ve missed in all this time, you are NOT quite as far into poverty as you think you are. I appreciate your frustration, but consider that some of us have been here far, far longer, and suffered scorn for our lot back then. So…some of us may not be quite that sympathetic.

Los Angeles
September 22nd, 2010 5:21 am
Elizabeth #5; Kim W. #11
Stop it, Kim. This is a sad example of how Americans are divided and conquered these days, while the Rethugs and the rich laugh all the way to the bank.
I have no idea in the world how to make it all better, but the unemployed sniping at the unemployed definitely will not improve things. Kim, you’re only feeding the beast.
September 22nd, 2010 5:25 am
Elizabeth and Kim: I feel for both of you. There are too many stories like yours in America today. Not enough is being done to help people who want to help themselves and who are/have “played by the rules.” The only people who merit help in this ongoing nightmare are apparently large companies (e.g., GM, AIG etc.) who are “too big to fail.” What about all of the people who make this country what it is by doing their jobs, raising their children, buying and maintaining their homes? The failure to address their needs and interests is why the Democrats are likely to lose power in November. I don’t relish the prospect of this, but I sure have to say they missed the boat.

September 22nd, 2010 5:25 am
To #11 —

I deeply sympathize with you. You’ve been suffering a long, long time. Your suffering is real.

I also sympathize with Elizabeth. She is suffering too.

It is the genius of the Republican leadership that they successfully pit sufferers against one another. As long as we’re at each other’s throats, we won’t go after THEM.

Naturally this kind of divisiveness is manna from heaven for some, be they politicians looking to harness these negative waves for a ride to somewhere, or ministers out to make a buck soothing the fears of the folks, or corporations looking to lower their pay-rolls.  There’s money in that desperation, just ask the payday lenders.

And then, from deep in the heart of SoCal, comes this story from Bell, a little working class town near LA, primarily latino, poor, and I guess, vulnerable.

City Council, Bell CA.

Top row, from left: Councilman Luis Artiga, former Councilmen Victor Bello and George Cole and Mayor Oscar Hernandez. Bottom row, from left: Vice Mayor Teresa Jacobo, Councilman George Mirabal, former City Manager Robert Rizzo and former Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia.

For the story, see this.

Of course the same things went on in another American town, New York, down on Wall Street.  But at very different numbers.

[For the follow up on Teresa Lewis’ death, see this.]

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