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Small Town Saturday Night
Nov 16, 2015
Small town Saturday night? Is that how the song goes? A little league football game, the first freeze of fall, news of a fresh Kentucky governor, yet another televised presidential debate and the most brutal murder in Allen County’s two hundred year existence, at least on scale.
This terror came to Scottsville on the day after the Paris terrorist attacks. Allen Countians on social media had already expressed their condolences and encouragement to a city where likely some local DNA hails from farther up the line. No one in Scottsville has to fear Al Queda, Osama or ISIS upon discovery – this weekend – that harbored in our midst is a monster next door so much terrifying that this town will be a different place from now on.
Although barely healed from the 2012 murder of local sweetheart and soon to be mom, Chelsey Mahaney, and just beginning to outlive its outrageous connections to the death of WKU student Katie Autry in 2003, Scottsville and Allen County’s experience with this type of evil is limited. Headlines in recent memory include secretaries and pastors that rob from their church treasuries, an ill fated wet dry petition, and celebratory news from their year long bicentennial events. The Citizen-Times, the village’s newspaper for more than a century heralds chilli suppers, local sports, news from politicians, the Rotary Club and the latest fee hike from the City Council. It’s a quiet place of interconnected families, friends adopted as family and in general NEIGHBOR hoods reminiscent of earlier times. A local historian is famous for saying, “Nothing in Scottsville has changed since 1975.” Whether that is a fact to celebrate or scorn is up to the reader but it is approximate truth either way.
The truth of that description comes alive in events such as these when on Saturday cell phones and social media, perhaps even a few old-fashioned telephone calls, brought the news that one of our babies had gone missing. It was nothing new that Scottsville took a deep breath, whispered a prayer or went to help look for 7 year old Gabriella Doolin, whose disappearance brought a pall over the Little League tournament where her older brother played and where she regularly spent nights under the lights cheering him on as his biggest fan. In these days of ‘war on terror’ Scottsville has had little. Schools practice lock down drills. Teachers watch the headlines and see their colleagues elsewhere face hails of bullets but in Scottsville even recent discussions of metal detectors have ended without action.
Spunk describes Gabbi to the people that knew her best. She wore a smile like no other kid, enjoyed her friendships perhaps more than a lot of 7 year olds and her family formed the center of her world. An older brother and a younger one guided, cherished and taught by parents, Brian and Amy, that made their three the universe for them. She cheered. She played. Gabbi gave all appearances of being a happy little gal and not only gave a short lifetime of smiles but brought them to others along the way.
With the little league crowd on lock down for the search and those present asked to refrain from using their cell phones, too quickly, however, those messages about a lost girl changed.
Gabbi had been found but the sigh of relief only lasted a nano second as the cries of those that found her reached the ears of the town that Gabbi called home. Televisions were turned off, the debate and Saturday Night Life forgotten. Instead of remote controls and cell phones, parents reached for their children and pulled them close. Text messages buzzed with the heaviness that only this type of news can give. Yes, Gabbi had been found but she was NOT okay.
The church robbing secretary dropped quickly from the top most favored topic of gossip. Governor-elect Bevin’s cabinet choices and promises to destroy health care and revamp county clerk business went largely silent to be picked apart another day.
The hearts of the town went to Gabbi and her family. Each time a mother in Scottsville looks at her little girl, or girls or any of her kids or, actually, any one’s kids, she sees a little blonde headed Gabbi with a big toothy smile. She knows that Amy Doolin has lost that presence in her life and she pulls her kids close. On Saturday night in Scottsville, a great many kids went to sleep in their parents’ bed with their mothers under the close watch of a loving father and his friends, Mr. Remington and Mr. Glock nearby. Those taking out pets for middle night breaks or garbage to the curb hurried with the hairs standing up on their necks and their ears training for any sound of unwelcome arrivals.
Just like that Scottsville wasn’t Scottsville anymore.
When sirens blare and blue lights flash hitherto, Allen Countians notice and are quick to hope that no one is in trouble and they quickly go back to their living. On Saturday, every home honed in to listen for news of an arrest, or even a suspect. These law enforcement officers are their neighbors. They attend church together. Their kids are friends. In Scottsville, recently, “IN GOD WE TRUST” arrived on the back of the Sheriff’s department vehicles but not far below that the people trusted in their Sheriff, Police Captain, and all their officers and deputies. Local law enforcement is known to be human, and not perfect, but more likely than most to have the protection of their people and the enforcement of the law in sight.
The sirens went out around 1 AM. Most townspeople paying attention noted that the convoy of vehicles that left town headed out the Holland Road somewhere, later announced to arrive in the Mt. Carmel road area. For what purpose and by what lead? Bowling Green news reported that interviews at the football game has prompted it and that evidence had been uncovered in that Mt. Carmel residence, whose owners are yet to be identified in official KSP reports but known, naturally, in the community by name, year they graduated AC-SHS, their kids and their names, ages, temperaments, habits, and where and if they attend church.
The many layers of this event might get snowed under in a bigger locale but in Scottsville every single citizen paying attention —and every citizen IS paying attention—handles them on their own.
The legal hunt to find this person or persons and bring them to justice is answered quietly with nods, pointed fingers, and hopes that Brian Doolin might get a few minutes with the baby killer while the rest look the other way. That’s the small town in Scottsville. Justice comes in degrees here. Nobody thinks about rights and fair trials. Not this weekend. Cooler heads will prevail but with the blood of Gabbi Doolin so fresh, those cooler heads will have to wait. Justice for Gabbi cries forth and Scottsville will see that she gets it.
There’s the faith layer. People in Scottsville live life with their hearts turned toward faith in something bigger than themselves. Many are poor. Many struggle to make it paycheck to paycheck. The industry that built the town is gone as well as the civic devotion that kept them here. Depending on a higher power is vital to life in this environment. No one can survive here without help from somewhere. God or Uncle Sam writes checks to Allen County addresses every single month.
Sure, nobody is perfect and there is that ongoing ugliness of ‘out-godding’ one another at times, appearing to compete for the title of the better “Christian” but again, not this weekend. Food is prepared. Money is collected. Most of all prayers are prayed. They aren’t the usual prayers, not on this weekend. The heavens collect requests for justice, for understanding, for protection, for this family, for restored hope, for ALL the children that will have to live knowing that evil has taken one of them from their midst, and perhaps not often enough, for our school teachers.
Even in Scottsville it is taken for granted the challenges schoolteachers face to raise up each generation of readers, writers, and cipherers. They have to also deal with things a lot more weighty than what comes in a book. This week they will talk to their students about the death of a classmate. Seven-year-olds will look over in P. E. where Gabbi might have been their dance partner and she’s not there. The lunch table of giggling girls—far away from the cootied boys—will have an empty seat. How do you explain that? More often than usual this week our teachers will go home drained of their own hopeful energies but they, too, will rejoice to see their own offspring off at the end of the day.
And then not common to just Scottsville, there is this guessing game in progress. In the absence of official reports from law enforcement, those released through appropriate channels, Allen Countians will invent, mix and approximate, arm chair general, and, when all else fails, assume the narrative they like to share with others. Every leak by law enforcement, their wives, and confidantes will trickle out to the masses, be chewed until the flavor is gone and added somewhere into a narrative that may or may not resemble anything the KSP is looking at. There’s both a danger and a comfort in that process.
This event is unique for Scottsville. Nothing this terrifyingly horrendous has ever happened here. Gabbi will always be seven years old, always smiling from the sidelines where she cheered, also always a fan of her brothers and also always an angel to her parents. In time, there’s hope that the people that loved her can think about her life and how she lived it and not dwell on the violent brutality of her death.
That will be a long time coming.