33 years past….Memories of murder and a classmate gone too soon.

24 Feb



Tonight, a buried memory from the collective youth of the Class of 1988,  Olathe South High School was broadcast to the entire Nation.  The Investigation Discovery Channel aired an episode of its show Ice Cold Killers in which it covered the 1983 Murders of Janelle Duffield and her older sister Kelly.

We were all in 7th Grade, at Indian Trail Junior High School that year.  As most 7th Grade years are, it was one most would like to forget.  And I’ll be honest, I largely have.  But I’ve lately been in contact with a Neighbor from those days, and have seen via the gift of Facebook a growing number of memories recounted.  This memory, while not very detailed, is certainly a bitter one that all in our class wish had been simply a bad dream.  Sadly, it was not, but rather a True-Life Nightmare that had been violently forced upon our community and one of our classmates.

If any of my classmates should read this and I write something inaccurate, please forgive me:  I did not know Janelle well, and my memories are not as involved as those who did.  But I do have memories of the morning we all found out.  I honestly don’t remember what day of the week it was, but I do remember that it was in my band class which was the first of the day.  I seem to remember things not getting started as quickly as normal that morning.  I also remember a couple girls crying.  The thing that seared it into my memory was that it wasn’t the type of emotion from being rejected by a boy, or something trivial, rather it was an agony to the core-type of sadness I saw.

I don’t remember if our Band Instructor Doug Cox announced the tragedy, or if it came in the form or an announcement over the PA from Principal Jim Smith.  But at that moment, the cause of the sadness I saw became clear.  And I don’t know about anyone else, but I remember a feeling of terror rising.  Here we were, 12 or 13 years old, and many of us had yet to experience the loss of a close family member.  Yet suddenly, a classmate of our same age had been ripped from us, never to be seen again!  And it seemed especially frightening, as at that age we all probably felt that the world was a safe place and that our homes and families would always be that way.

Maybe mine was a special kind of shelterdness, as my father was a Police Officer, so I probably had even less to fear with him and his duty weapon my ever-present shield.  But the City of Olathe had a professional police force as well, and yet something dark and twisted straight from the mind of Satan himself had occurred to someone we knew.  In a very real and lasting way, our collective lives were changed.  The temporary childhood veil of invulnerability and safety at home was at least somewhat removed.

Fortunately, the Individual who committed this unspeakable horror was tracked down, arrested and convicted.  At this moment, he’s been in Prison ever since on a Life Sentence.  However, the Law at the time only allowed a certain time to pass before a regular series of reviews for parole would commence….adding the most craven insult to the loss already experienced by the Duffield family and the community.  At this point, all parole hearings have ended in denial.  Hopefully, the evil soul will continue to be in the only place he belongs while still on this side of the grave.


Unlike many of my musings, I now am at a loss for words.  Time is to blame for much of it as memories continue to fade as the years go by.  I think my lack of closeness with Janelle also has something to do with it, however I do remember her to be a sweet girl.  So, out of respect to Janelle and those who knew her better, I’ll borrow the words of another:


“Who You’d Be Today” – Kenny Chesney

Sunny days seem to hurt the most.
I wear the pain like a heavy coat.
I feel you everywhere I go.
I see your smile, I see your face,
I hear you laughin’ in the rain.
I still can’t believe you’re gone.It ain’t fair: you died too young,
Like the story that had just begun,
But death tore the pages all away.
God knows how I miss you,
All the hell that I’ve been through,
Just knowin’ no-one could take your place.
An’ sometimes I wonder,
Who’d you be today?Would you see the world? Would you chase your dreams?
Settle down with a family,
I wonder what would you name your babies?
Some days the sky’s so blue,
I feel like I can talk to you,
An’ I know it might sound crazy.It ain’t fair: you died too young,
Like the story that had just begun,
But death tore the pages all away.
God knows how I miss you,
All the hell that I’ve been through,
Just knowin’ no-one could take your place.
An’ sometimes I wonder,
Who you’d be today?

Today, today, today.
Today, today, today.

[Instrumental Break]

Sunny days seem to hurt the most.
I wear the pain like a heavy coat.
The only thing that gives me hope,
Is I know I’ll see you again some day.

Some day, some day, some day.

I think this just might be what we’re all feeling tonight, as this memory has come screaming out of the ether of the past.  Memories are what they are, but people are NOT supposed to become only a memory, at least not before the prime of their lives has been realized and their purpose fulfilled.  I think we all had to somehow acknowledge that Evil is real as a result of that night in 1983, and that sometimes even though there is a God, Evil does take its toll.
Janelle, I have no doubt that God has had you and your family in his Loving embrace ever since that night.  I know this, because I believe that he loves us all, and that while other men’s selfish and sinful acts may be abhorent to his desires and purpose, God ALWAYS makes the worst things turn out great in the end.  We wish we could’ve seen you continue to grow into adulthood with us and discover the world.  But just because one evil man ended that part of your story, I think we all know it never truly ended.
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Posted by on February 24, 2016 in Life and Memory, Uncategorized


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