Reporter and Pulitzer Prize nominee Brian MacQuarrie has fashioned a tale out of real-life events that is hard to read but important to remember. It’s the story of a child’s pain, a father’s grief, and society’s responsibilities, played out in the courts and in the conscience of one gutsy man.
Jeffrey Curley, a ten-year-old with everything to live for and lots of plans for the future, was brutally murdered one school day by a pair of perverts who sexually abused his corpse before smearing it with lime, shoving it into a cement-filled plastic carton, and dropping it in a faraway river. Certainly one of the most heinous single crimes of the 20th
century, the trial of the perpetrators garnered well-deserved headlines and threw Bob Curley, Jeffrey’s devastated father, into a maelstrom of publicity.
When Sid Sicari and Charles Jaynes, lovers both familiar with the literature and philosophy of NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association), began to stalk Jeffrey, it was the descent into the pit. They wooed him with the promise of a bicycle, then revealed that the “price” would be sexual favors, which he adamantly refused to pay. Jaynes smothered the boy in the back seat of his car using a gasoline-soaked rag. There were enough witnesses to the odd occurrences of that fateful day and to the men’s suspicious relationship with the boy to give police the edge on tracking down Sicari and then Jaynes. Both were given life sentences for kidnapping and murder.
But to Curley and the rest of his family, that seemed far from sufficient. Bob wanted Sicari and Jaynes to suffer as his son had suffered. He wanted justice, a life for a life. The pitiful sight of his son’s mutilated body in its little casket was more than he could stand. He shouted out for the blood of Sicari and Jaynes and had many allies in the ultimately losing battle to reinstate the death penalty and see Jeffrey’s killers die at the hands of the state.
But as time passed, Bob’s feelings changed. As he said, “They don’t give you a handbook on how to grieve the loss of a loved one.” From rabidly trying to guarantee that Sicari and Jaynes would die in front of witnesses including himself, Bob became an opponent of the death penalty, realizing that enforcing it made those on the side of good look the same as those on the side of evil.
The death penalty, he acknowledged, had often been used against the poor, people like himself who couldn’t raise a defense for lack of money and credibility.
From someone who once cursed noted death penalty opponent Helen Prejean on sight, Bob became a man who thinks of his son every day and wants his killers to think of Jeffrey every day, too – to remember what a promising kid he was, and what they destroyed.
Bob Curley is a man who has his own private dragons to slay, one who wasn’t afraid to change his mind and state his piece. A fireman and a father, he is a person we can identify with and respect.