The Murder of Howard Appledorf
Shane Kennedy ran away from his suburban Woodbury, Conn., home when he was in the ninth grade. According to Rein, schoolmates remembered the boy, who wore braces on his teeth, as a shy and soft-spoken loner.
Rein's notes state that Kennedy's father worked at "various forms of manual labor, including moving furniture." Kennedy's parents divorced when he was 12, and acquaintances recalled the boy being "devastated" by the break-up. Equally devastated was Kennedy's mother, who allowed her ex-husband to have custody of the children because she felt ill equipped to care for them in her emotionally crushed state.
Kennedy's father remarried and, together with his new wife, ran a strict household. A Rein informant told him that if Kennedy missed a school bus or came home after the appointed hour, his father disciplined him with fists. Fights were frequent and bitter.
McCall reported that Kennedy earned money by cutting and stacking wood. Kennedy was withdrawn with most people but he opened up to an older man for whom he performed these chores. "I'd give him fatherly talks and tell him to bear with it until he was old enough," the man recalled. He met Kennedy's father and was unfavorably impressed. "The father worked with us one weekend," he said, "and I did not like his attitude toward anybody."
This man had a special reason to be grateful to the younger Kennedy because the boy's courage and swift action may have saved the man's life. The older man had lit a cigarette, and his jacket burst into flames, probably because it was streaked with gasoline from his truck. Kennedy instantly pulled the man to the ground where the teenager put out the fire with his own body.
However, Kennedy's fellow students did not think of him as brave. They ridiculed him as effeminate. Rein's notes describe a cruel prank played on him: "Several girls sneaked up behind him while he was sitting on the steps outside the school cafeteria. They grabbed him, tied his shoe laces together, held his arms behind his back, and then put his hair into curlers and coated his fingernails with polish." According to students who witnessed the incident, Kennedy took this abuse passively.
But he ran away from home a few days later.