surely it’s not OUR house

By: ewhite422

Jul 15 2010

Category: Uncategorized

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It was in April of 1997 in Dripping Springs, Texas.  My teenage daughter called me from a gas station after school.  “Mom, Josh and I can’t get to our house!  The sheriff’s department has the whole subdivision blocked off!  They say that one of the houses has been shot up!  Do you think it’s OUR house?” she cried.

Trying to calm her, I said, “No, Sweetheart, there are hundreds of homes in that area.  It’s not likely to be our house.  Why don’t you and Josh meet your dad and me for dinner, and maybe by the time we finish, they’ll have everything straightened out.”

We had a nice dinner at the Oasis on Lake Travis and then headed back to Dripping Springs.  We were renting the home there while we made plans to build our dream home in Wimberley.  I called the landlord to joke with him a little.  I left a message on his voicemail, “Hi Jerry, you know how my husband accidentally burned the carpet in front of the fireplace at your house at Christmas?”  (He was forever cramming too much wood into the fireplace)  “Well, now we have gunshots!  Can you believe it?”

I hung up laughing and then my phone rang immediately.

“Elaine, it’s not a joke!  It IS at your house!”  the landlord yelled.  “I’m there now, and the sheriff’s deputy wants to talk to you!”

My heart stood still.

“Ma’am, there has been a shooting at your home.  Do you have all your family with you?” asked the deputy.

“Yes!  We’re all here!  What’s happened!”  I cried.

“Just get here as fast as you can and we’ll fill you in,” he instructed.

“Oh my God!”  I turned to my family, “It IS at our house!  Thank God you kids were not there when it happened!”

We sat dumbfounded as we drove the 15 miles to Dripping Springs, a small community south of Austin that was supposed to be peaceful, a kind of Mayberry RFD place.  As we turned the corner to our block, we spotted yellow crime tape everywhere.  A deputy stopped us, saying we could not pass, and then he learned that we were the residents, so he let us through.

We got out and, accompanied by the sheriff, we walked through the house with eyes wide.  All the mirrors had been shot.  Apparently, the shooter wanted to blast his image in every relfection.  The computers monitors were blown apart, the televisions, and microwave, too.  Even my baby grand piano had holes in the side.

Glass and debris were everywhere, especially in the living room where he had shot his way into the house through the back window.

“Who would do this?” I asked.

“Well, ma’am, we received a call from your home phone in the afternoon.  It sounded like a girl’s voice yelling, ‘Help, they’re coming to get me!’  And then they hung up.  The 911 dispatcher notified us, and we sent an officer to investigate.  When he approached he could hear gunshots in the house, so he called for back up.  By the time the other officers arrived, no one was inside.  We called in the helicopters from Travis County and they scoured the area while we shut off all traffic into the subdivision.  We finally called in the dogs.  And we believe we have found our suspect,”  he said proudly.

“Who?” we all begged in unison.

“The dogs tracked the scent to the home of your 13 year old neighbor around the corner.  Our investigators are questioning him now.  He admits to doing it.  Said he was bored.”

We all looked at each other.  “I thought Billy was a friend!  Not a very good friend, but I didn’t think he would do something like this!” I said.  I turned to my son, “Josh, were you and he fighting?”

“NO! MOM!” he returned angrily.  I then realized that that was a terribly insensitive question.

“I’m sorry,” I offered.  “I just don’t know what to say or think.”

The neighbors were on the scene by that time, and we sent the children to spend the night with friends.  Before they left, we all huddled and agreed that things can be replaced, but that lives are irreplaceble.  I assured them we would get everything fixed.

Weeks later we learned that Billy, our neighbors’ foster child, had been on ritalin, and the doctor had just changed his medication a couple of weeks before the incident.  We did not pursue any legal recourse.  The foster parents’ insurance covered the replacement of everything damaged, so we just could not bear to put the parents through more pain in dealing with their troubled son.

It was a horrifying event.  But one that could have been much worse.

Sometimes bad things do happen, and it can happen at anyone’s house.


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