Good Lord. Running up to Mother’s Day, was the theme for the week in Columbia County “Moms Gone Wild”?
What a one-two punch. First a 27-year-old Augusta woman runs off the side of Ray Owens Road in Appling and crashes into a tree. At first we think her 2-year-old is killed in the crash, and the outrage is directed at the fact that the initial story includes the information that the toddler was in the front of the car, not belted in.
Everyone assumed the child was killed in the wreck, but then the cops started hinting that maybe the little girl was dead before the crash. Someone on social media pleads for everyone to quit judging the mom, because she was stabbed and bleeding and running from an attacker.
We had a whole weekend to fill the vacuum of information for wild speculation. Come Monday, finally, we got word that the mother has been let out of the hospital and booked into the Columbia County jail – charged with murder.
She had been stabbed, all right, the cops say – but she stabbed herself, around the same time they contend she stabbed her daughter in the throat and killed her.
Horrific barely even describes it. Why? Everyone asks. Psychological problems, the whispers say. Surely we’ll find out as this grinds through the courts.
The next day, the former treasurer of the Stratford Community Association in Evans turns herself in to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, where the well-known businesswoman, wife and mother is charged with stealing more than a quarter-million dollars from the community over a period of five years.
Television news people who have difficulty with basic script-writing skills often will refer to such a story and say, “there are more questions than answers.” Well, duh. There always will be more questions than answers about pretty much everything. But in this case, there are all kinds of questions, from all sorts of directions, with far too few answers.
The question I’ve found most intriguing is, “Why did she think she could get away with it?”
My guess? First it was a dollar, taken (relatively) innocently with all intentions of paying it back. Next week, maybe, or the next. Time slipped by, no one noticed. So it was another dollar, and then 10, then 100, then 1,000. Pretty soon, you’re talking real money: $267,623.08 of them, to be precise.
And, of course, that’s all raised another frequent question: How the heck did the rest of the homeowners association not notice that much money was missing?
My guess? Taken a little at a time, by someone the other board members (overly) trusted, there was no reason to be suspicious. But Ronald Reagan had it exactly right about trust in his slogan regarding our relationship with Russia: “Trust, but verify.” Outside audits would have verified everything. Instead? They trusted the treasurer to perform the “audits,” which is pretty much like handing the fox the keys to the henhouse.
Wild stuff, indeed, especially when you consider this was the second arrest in Columbia County in as many months of someone who is accused of stealing more than $200,000 in a white-collar scheme. Yet none of it frightened us nearly as much as the couple being beaten nearly to death on Riverwalk, or the virally videoed mob brawling on Broad Street with nary a cop in sight.
Maybe instead of “Moms Gone Wild,” our slogan should be: “Welcome to Columbia County. We’ll Steal You Blind, But At Least We Won’t Cave In Your Skull With a Steal Pipe.”
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-868-1222, ext. 106. Follow at www.twitter.com/barrypaschal.)