Some people in the newsroom were surprised when a jury in Carrollton delivered a "not guilty" verdict May 22 to Kenneth Blanchard, a Minerva man who shot and killed his daughter's boyfriend last year.
They probably shouldn't have been.
I'm guessing that a lot of those jurors saw themselves and their own families in Blanchard, a 69-year-old father who found himself on trial for murder for fatally shooting Michael Fairchild, who dated his daughter, Kenzi, who struggled with heroin addiction.
According to reports, Blanchard encountered Fairchild inside of a trailer that he and his wife had provided for their daughter. After the shooting, Blanchard told police that Fairchild, who wasn't supposed to be there, lunged at him. In that instant, the lives a lot of people irreparably changed.
All parents hope their children will lead lives of purpose and achievement, not one in which they fall into the abyss of drug addiction. No doubt Michael Fairchild's family hoped he'd make better choices in life, too.
Last September, Minerva Police Chief Chris Miller told The Canton Repository his department had numerous dealings with Fairchild and Kenzi Blanchard involving domestic violence and heroin abuse.
This particular verdict might be a sign that, frankly, some people's patience is wearing thin. When addicts are found passed out behind the wheel of rolling vehicles, when foster care systems are at near-collapse, when some people are abusing opiates because it has become "the thing to do," it tests the public's capacity for empathy.
Carroll County is the thumb-tip of Appalachia, a region where roots run deep, where people have survived for 300 years. They're watching as their small-town America of God, family and the flag is being decimated by the two headed-beast of heroin and methamphetamine addiction.
These days, rural police and fire departments can barely keep on the lights, let alone conduct drug investigations and stock enough Narcan to bring people back from the dead.
Not yet done
Shortly before the shooting, Kenzi Blanchard was arrested for violating her probation for a previous drug charge. The Blanchards, who already had custody of their grandchild, likely were hanging by a thread that finally broke.
The people connected to this case will suffer and struggle and by haunted by what happened for as long as they live. To compound matters, Kenzi Blanchard died earlier this year.
Someday, someone will have to explain to the couple's young child why her parents are dead, which means the grief and heartache are not done.
In all likelihood, Kenneth Blanchard is grateful to be a free man. But a life so shattered, disrupted and bludgeoned by such loss can never return to what it was.
In the end, Kenneth Blanchard was judged by a jury of his peers as a man who had a right to protect himself and his property.
But let's not confuse it as a "win" for one family, or a "loss" for another.
It's a tragedy.