Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Wichita Horror

Meaning and Tributes



The crimes of the Wichita Horror demonstrate the cruel depths to which human beings can sink. But something good can be seen in the survival of H.G. which underlines the awesome power of the will to live. As she told the court, "I had no choice in what Reginald and Jonathan Carr did that night, and I wasn't given the choice to save Brad, or Aaron or Heather or Jason. I had a choice to lie there and die or to get up and live. I chose to live. And I will still choose to live." In the midst of so much ugliness, her example offers hope.

Public reaction to the Wichita Horror illustrates the painful truth that so much in America is still seen through the distorting prism of race. Whether or not race played a role in the offenses may never be known with certainty but the suspicion that these were bias crimes is sure to linger. It is also possible, as the prosecutor believed, that the Carr brothers were after people who had money and the affluent are still more likely in 21st Century America to be whites than blacks

Those who suspect that the case would have gotten more publicity if the races had been reversed may have a point. It is also likely that it would have garnered more media attention if all the players had been white since this is an extraordinarily sensational story featuring a survivor whose tenacity and courage are inspiring.

However, it is not probable that it would have been better known had all the players in the tragedy been black. Both victims and suspects were black in the Wichita quadruple homicide committed Dec. 7, 2000. Like the Wichita Horror, that case is little known outside of Kansas. The public has gotten far too used to black-on-black crimes.

That white racists have used the Wichita Horror to stir racism is ironic since one of the victims, Ann Walenta, had worked for the Northeast Area Strings Academy of Wichita (NASAW), that describes itself as "a summer classical music school dedicated to the preparation and education of the African American string player."

The group has a tribute to her on their website that says "we miss her and think of her often." She was also honored by a NASAW student, Titus James, Jr., who dedicated his cello performance at a scholarship competition to her.

Others have sought in different ways to honor the victims. A memorial golf tournament was held for Brad Heyka. His father, Larry Heyka, said, "I think we had people from twenty states."

The victims' families joined with the Wichita Community Foundation to found the Forget Me Not Memorial Scholarships. A fundraising race it held September 2001 for drew more than 2,000 participants. In June 2003, the first awards were granted to Mercedes Crawford, a graduate of Augusta High School where Befort taught, and Jennifer Nguyen, a graduate of Kapaun Mount Carmel High. Crawford knew Befort and applied for the scholarship because she wanted to honor him. Nguyen identified with the victims when she read descriptions of their lives on the application. "I try my best in everything I do," she elaborated. "And from everything I read about these four people, they were the same way. It feels good that something positive is coming out of what happened."

Victims, J. Befort, H. Muller, A. Sander, B. Heyka, clockwise
Victims, J. Befort, H. Muller, A. Sander, B. Heyka, clockwise

 

 

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