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Thursday, May 20, 2004 05:53 pm

letters 5-20-04

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Send letters to: Letters, Illinois Times. P.O. Box 5256. Springfield, Illinois 62705. Fax: (217) 753-3958. E-mail:


I am writing about the situation at Oak Ridge Cemetery [Todd Spivak, "Rest in pieces," May 6]. I am a genealogist and I never take anyone with me -- because you can't baby-sit and do genealogy. Desecration of tombstones is inexcusable and inappropriate! Genealogy's stress is excruciating and genealogists should know that when you start to undertake a project, don't take anybody with you unless it's someone who can be of help. If children cannot respect the deceased, they should stay home. I agree with [WMAY host] Mike Wilson totally!

William Kelty


After reading the commentary on the Julie Rea-Harper case, I hope that the citizens of Springfield take a stand for the release of this innocent woman. Evidence clearly shows her innocence. I am glad to see the Illinois Times helping people like Julie Rea-Harper and Renatta Frazier by telling their stories. Let the truth be heard!

Cynthia K. Cubbage


This letter is in response to a commentary by David Brothers ["Answers needed in the Julie Rea-Harper case," May 13]. Actually the article should have been titled "The Joel Kirkpatrick murder case," but somewhere along the line, people have forgotten who the real victim is.

Brothers also seems to have forgotten that our criminal justice system has already been successful in this matter. Rea-Harper was found guilty by a jury of her peers, not a jury comprised of Len Kirkpatrick's handpicked friends. Brothers seems to want to rehash all of the testimony and question all of the evidence. Mr. Brothers, that was done at the trial. I attended the trial. Did you?

Brothers seems to insinuate that if it were not for Kirkpatrick's job as a deputy sheriff and his [current] wife's job as a circuit clerk in a county many miles away, Rea-Harper would never have been prosecuted for this heinous crime. I am sure that the Kirkpatricks wish they had that kind of political clout, but they do not.

In response to Mr. Brother's statement that "Kirkpatrick rained a daily shower of tears in the courtroom." First of all, why wouldn't he? Joel was his only son and meant everything to him. But in reality, Kirkpatrick usually appeared sad and mournful, but held himself in check.

However, Julie Rea-Harper, the child's mother, barely shed a tear during the whole two-week trial. In fact, most of the time her face was like a stone wall. Unusual behavior for a mother who has been accused of murdering her son? Not if she is guilty. Also, Kirkpatrick did not need witnesses to testify to his character like you suggested. He was not on trial.

Brothers asked in his article why haven't Gov. Rod Blagojevich or Attorney General Lisa Madigan ordered an investigation into poor Julie Rae-Harper's prosecution and conviction. I can tell you why, Mr. Brothers. It is because she murdered her 10-year-old son in cold blood, and has no remorse. She is where she needs to be.

Yes, I knew Joel. He was a smart, kind and gentle soul, and his mother murdered him. Why? Only Julie Rea-Harper can tell you. Friends of Joel can only speculate the reasons but we will never understand why. Everyone must remember that Joel was the victim in this crime, not Julie Rea-Harper.

Becky Sanders


I just listened to the Renatta Frazier story on Tavis Smiley's NPR show. I also read some of Dusty Rhodes' articles. This is very good journalism on a powerful human interest story. I don't know any of the parties and I no longer live in Illinois, but I was totally caught up in the story. Great job!

Anthony Parkman
San Antonio, Texas


I have always appreciated the work of New England artist Andrew Wyeth. His subject matter expressed something I could relate to in reminding me of scenes and people along the Sangamon Valley where I lived much of my life.

I had a son growing up a generation later in a similar rural environment. He played in the creek, the woods, and traveled the dusty rural roads as I had done years before.

In that early time of his life when he struggled to fit into a body that was changing by the week, trying to match emotional development with physical growth, he expended a lot of energy tinkering and hammering and fixing an old bicycle to suit his transportation needs.

It worked. He wired on a discarded auto antenna, tied some streamers to it, added mud flaps to the rattling fenders and other accessories a 13-year-old kid with a little imagination and a slim allowance would do. I admired his ambition. He was proud of the result.

About the same time I discovered an Andrew Wyeth print of a boy on a bicycle. I believe the title was "Young America." The image was so accurate of a boy riding a red bicycle wearing work shoes a little too big, a short jacket, and a hand-me-down hat with youthful decorations.

The composition was so correct in capturing the awkward age my son was going through. I bought the print, pleased with myself for discovering a piece of art that would show approval and connect my son and me.

I framed it, waited for the right time to go into his room, prop it up on the dresser, and wait for him to discover it. Later in the day, he did come in and walked down the hall to his room. In a minute or two, he returned to the kitchen where the rest of us were. He was distraught. His face was flush. Tears made lines down his cheeks.

Despair swept through me. I was deeply sorry. What I thought was right and good was absolutely wrong and very humiliating for him. The picture and my efforts did not connect us but widened the gap between us.

It was clear that nothing I could say would ever change the way he felt. When something is done so unfitting to someone as they perceive it, all the talking in the world isn't going to make it right. It's best to make your apologies, be humble and hope with time and a little understanding forgiveness with take place.

That is the same way I feel about the University of Illinois Indian mascot. He is not an Indian. He is not a chief. If an Indian council is sincere in saying they are uncomfortable in the way they are being portrayed, that the university is not honoring them but embarrassing them, it's time to listen.

All the heavy-handed posturing, alumni chattering and academic explanations will not change their minds or make it right. When compromise is not possible, leadership must step in. It is way past time for the University of Illinois to display understanding and statesmanship, be humble, make amends, and bid farewell to the chief.

There is so much more to the University of Illinois than a mascot no longer appropriate for our time.

Roy L. French
Virginia, Ill.


Robert Brooks is the director of housing of S.A.R.A. Center. His title was incorrect in a story last week about homeless service providers ["Limited safety net," May 13].

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