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Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.

— Winston Churchill

Do We Ignore our Neighbors Too Much

It was only a few days ago that I was reading an updated story on The Girl in the Window … the almost 7-year-old feral child found in July 2005 lying in her roach infested room, naked excpet for an overflowing diaper.

While I was reading the updates, I was once again asking myself how does this happen? How can something this horrific happen next door?

Then today I read the followng AP report and wondered once again why as a society are we paying so little attention? How can these things happen right under our noses. Is it because we’re so busy? Is it a lack of empathy? Is it because transient societies don’t develop communities where we’d notice children living in filth and mothers who are held captive? Are we afraid to confront it even if we do notice something askew?

Associated Press
Published on: 08/13/08 Lavonia —- A northeast Georgia man was charged Tuesday with holding his wife and four children captive in squalor for three years inside their mobile home.

Raymond Daniel Thurmond, 36, was arrested when he showed up for work at a poultry processing plant in Stephens County, said Bruce Carlisle, chief of police in Lavonia, near the South Carolina line.

Thurmond was charged with rape, child abuse and false imprisonment, Carlisle said.

He said investigators found no food in the home, and the children were undernourished and underweight.

Carlisle said the woman and children had been allowed to leave just once since moving to the mobile home park in 2005. A 14-year-old once attended first grade but the other children —- 13, 12 and 9 —- had never been to school, he said.

Neighbors were unaware that anyone occupied the single-wide trailer where they lived.

“They had been there since 2005 and no one knew it,” Carlisle told the Anderson Independent newspaper in South Carolina.

Thurmond is being held without bond until a bond hearing. He has asked for an attorney, but has not yet been assigned one.

Carlisle said Thurmond would not allow his wife or children outside except for a trip to North Carolina for Easter. “They were only allowed to stay for two hours and had to return home,” the chief said.

Photos taken by investigators showed thousands of roaches crawling in and out of drawers, cupboards and furniture, the newspaper reported.

Carlisle said the family was discovered after the woman was able to leave the house and call for help.

They were placed in protective custody at an undisclosed location.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC), Thurmond’s neighbor, Sonya Savage, who lives in the trailer next door said he guarded his privacy and that she only saw her neighbor occasionally — and then, they didn’t talk.“Just think: that went on right there,” she said, pointing at the tan trailer where Thurmond lived for nearly three years. “And I lived next to it.” And you saw or heard NOTHING????

When he rented the house in late August 2005, Thurmond listed his wife and four children on the lease.  Alma Medina, who manages the trailer park told the AJC “I once asked him, ‘Where is your wife? How is she?’,” said Medina. “I never saw her.”

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19 comments to Do We Ignore our Neighbors Too Much

  • Amy

    It is sad that our society has become so ‘independent’ that things like this happen. I wonder what happened to the once predominate sense of community … where people looked after, help and just cared for each other. This type of community was needed for survival. I personally would love to live and raise my children in this society!

    Amys last blog post..Check This Out …

  • Jen

    So, so sad. It’s honestly beyond my comprehension.

    Jens last blog post..This is nuts!

  • Tricia

    Jen, it’s so sad that it’s hard to think about. I can’t imagine what kind of emotional control this husband must have had.

    Amy we really do lack a sense of community, especially in large urban areas. Perhaps one price of progress is too much anonymity, and I’m very guilty of not reaching out to my neighbors enough. I really do wonder if this could happen right under my nose and I’d never even suspect?

  • We’re all screwed up. As a society, we are getting more nosy with things that don’t matter (celebrity gossip) and detaching ourselves from family and community. We are ultra sensitive about boundaries and minding our business when it comes to our friends, family and neighbors. I hope it is mostly about not paying attention. Part of me worries there may be a sense something isn’t quite right and a hesitation to find out enough where one would feel obligated to act.

    Lisa Ps last blog post..Olympic Rings

  • How sad!!!SAD SAD SAD SAD!!!!!!! I am stomping my feet, just reading this!!! arghs!

    Brandygirls last blog post..Here’s my Gospel, according to Puke.

  • I am not too surprised. Strange things happen in the country. My wife and I had lived in a pretty and woodsy spot in rural New Hampshire, but the last 3 years were hell due to the drug dealers moving in up the street….very hard to get the police to do anything about it. STRANGE things happen in the country.

    garys last blog post..black pots! well, chocolatey

  • Shiela

    The story of the Feral girl made me sick to my stomach. Her mother is obviously disturbed and needs help. I don’t know if she is getting any help. I believe the story said she was out on parole or house arrest, but did not say if she was getting counseling.

    However, the girl is being loved, nurtured and helped with her new foster family. She is doing much better than ever expected – I hope her upward trajectory continues. Such a dear soul, she deserved so much better than the start in life she has had.

    As for this guy in N. Ga. – it is mind boggling – but I think it happens much more than we hear about/think. People turn a blind eye to things all the time. They may see something but not “see it”. Like that girl who was imprisoned in Austria bu her father. I have a very difficult time understanding how her mother did not hear anything going on in the bottom of the house for 20 years. And that girl had 7 children without meds in that dungeon. Hard to believe. I just hope that these people, and any and all who have this happen to them are rescued and get help and learn that not all people are like this.

  • I am officially a nosey neighbor. There is an elderly gentleman who lives next door to me in my apartment complex and I hadn’t seen or heard from him in about a week. This is not completely unusual but his new papers were piling up outside his door. If it is just 2 or 3 days, I don’t pay too much attention but it was 6 papers and I was getting worried. I called the apartment office to have them check on him. They told me that they got his answering machine but his car wasn’t in the lot so, it probably was okay. He is back now, I think he went to visit his brother but it still had me worried for a few days.

    I know that we are raised and socialized to think that someone else’s business is thier own but I think common sense should play a role. No one is every truly blind-sided by a neighbor being up to no good. We feel it in our guts and we know something is wrong. Most of the time, we just ignore it. Its time to start paying attention and start caring about our neighbor’s again. I don’t really care if the guy next door thinks I am nosey. He could have fallen and been hurt and no one would know or care enough to make the call. So, I called, I haven’t seen him yet so I don’t know if he is angry with me, but even if he is, it won’t stop me from calling next time.

    WickedStepMoms last blog post..“Again, Again!”

  • It’s amazing what people “don’t see or hear”. I think it’s crap. Maybe it’s not…maybe people are that unobservant. I don’t know, but I can’t imagine not being the least bit curious. I think for 3 years I might question a situation like that.

    Mrs. Schmittys last blog post..Proof That I Am A Reincarnated Adolescent Boy

  • You’ve got to look at the other side too though, people who are a little too valiant. A friend of mine was surprised one day to find the police at her door, her neighbor had called them because she’d heard my friend’s son screaming bloody murder and was certain he was being beat within an inch of his life. In fact he was simply throwing a fit because he was being denied dessert.

    There was also a case a couple years ago of a couple (in FL I thnk?)that was accused by a WalMart photo developer of taking pornographic pictures of their kids. They were pictures of the couple’s sons being silly in the bathtub after playing in the mud. The kids were taken away immediately, and even though the pictures were found to be innocent, the family was not reunited for nearly a year.

  • I keep reading more stories like this and it makes me sick. People should be required to take a class before having children or caring for them. And a background check and psychological evalutation

    stepping over the junks last blog post..Dear People

  • Tricia

    Marie: I could have easily been that parent who finds the police at her door. Aaron can scream louder than an opera singer. I can not imagine losing my children for a year over innocent photos. That’s outrageous! It still leaves me perplexed to hear stories like this where someone jumps the gun and obviously makes a very bad judgment call, but yet in the case of the feral child, there were three different calls to child services and investigators did nothing. How can there be such disparity in which actions are taken?

    I wonder if what stepping over the junk suggests would ever fly. I’ve said similar things myself. There are phenomenal hoops to jump through to adopt a child, even to adopt a pet, but could there ever really be restrictions or tests to decide who can bear children? I can see a million reasons why it’s not a good idea, but when we read about things like this where people so tragically abuse children, it makes me wonder.

  • Amy

    Oh my do not go there … believe me I have been known to say things like “you at least need references to adopt a puppy but ANYONE can have a child”. But the obvious is that then someone would have to come up with guidelines and protocol and who is going to over see that … I surely would not want someone judging whether I was fit to be a parent or not! That would be even more tragic!

  • Tricia

    Amy, it’s true. I can’t imagine what the guidelines and protocol would end up being and can you imagine something like that in the hands of government…scary. “They” would have some sort of test to see how quickly you can align all the snaps on the legs of a new infant outfit, and I’d be done…a goner for sure.

  • anonymous

    Listen people I knew this guy very well and I knew he didn’t control his wife and children for 3 years I know his family is devistated and they know how this happened the wife took the children out of school daniel is just a man that loved her and she never did anything he wanted but anyway she took the one kid out and then sat at home with the children while daniel went on LONGHALLS that was his job HE DOES LONGHALLS how could he keep them locked up and you know how media exagerates I knew the kids which weren’t completely underfed because he wasn’t the richest man but he left this woman for another so she got really mad (wouldn’t you) and lost all control and told the police these lies and soon they will figure this whole thing out just wait…

  • Yeah I read that too (I think Dooce also sent loads of people to that article). It IS SO SAD that ‘community’ is no longer what it once was.

    MamaGeeks last blog post..Summer? Bummer.

  • It’s unfortunate but neighbors are hostile about their privacy, and parents are hostile about their children, which makes it more difficult to help a neighbor in time of need, and it’s unheard of for a village to raise a child.

    Margarets last blog post..How To Mercilessly Taunt Those Who Raise The Dead

  • Thanks, that must have taken a loads of work to put that together. This is a great summary.

  • I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

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