The murder of two little girls in Sioux City, Iowa, committeed five days ago, has already been solved.
By the media.
When police responded to the report of a fire at 1420 Nebraska Street on Sunday, January 4, they discovered the bodies of Kendra Suing, 10, and Alysha Suing, 8. Both girls had been murdered. The only other person at the premises was their stepfather, Lawrence Harris Sr., who reportedly told the authorities that the deaths had occurred in the course of some kind of ritual; Harris mentioned something about a dangerous "spell gone bad". He has been charged with killing his stepdaughters.
The Sioux City press doesn't have much more information than this. The autopsy results have not been released; a requested psychiatric evaluation of Harris has not yet been conducted; family members questioned about Harris say they don't know him very well; Harris's religious affiliation, if any, is not known. So the media has turned to a reliable stand-in for hard news: Fanning the flames of anti-occult hysteria.
Yesterday, the Sioux City Journal printed a story by reporters Dolly Butz and Travis Coleman titled "Girls had many questions about witchcraft, pastor says." Pastor Cary Gordon of the Cornerstone World Outreach church, where the Suing sisters attended a youth club for "at-risk" kids, is quoted as saying that a church bus driver fielded lots of questions about witchcraft from the girls.
Why were the girls asking such questions? According to Gordon, "Our bus captain got the creepy feeling that they obviously had a lot of weird stuff going on in their house." However, the article also states that the questions came after a "summer lesson about the sinfulness of practicing witchcraft."
Let's get this straight. We don't know if the Suing girls learned anything about witchcraft at home. We do know that, for some reason, they were being educated about witchcraft at church. (This does not strike me as an age-appropriate topic, but that's another post.) Therefore, it's not at all reasonable to assume the girls' questions were prompted by anything that was going on at home. And it's not at all reasonable for the newspaper to report such speculation. In fact, it's pseudojournalistic, sensationalistic, and irresponsible.
Furthermore, the deaths of these two girls is a reprehensible act, no matter who committed it or why. It doesn't make much difference if the perp was a Christian, a Jew, an agnostic, or anything else. Harris must be prosecuted for his alleged crimes, not for any alleged religious affiliations or beliefs. It disturbs me that prosecutors have already declared that Harris was "practicing Satanism and that the killings were part of a ritual from a satanic bible".
The first Journal article linking the murders to witchcraft was printed on Monday, the day after the murders.