Frances Edstrom

Series highlights need for changes in our laws


(12/31/2003)

by Frances Edstrom

Today concludes the Winona Post series, written by Cynthya Porter, about the history of convicted sex offender Randy Wait in Winona.

The Winona Post is proud of Porter's careful and thorough investigation of this matter.

As so often is the case in our courts of law, much of the story is lost in legal wrangling and deal-making enabled by weaknesses or loopholes in the law. What emerges in the courtroom and the consequent media reports is the end of the story, not the whole story.

What Porter discovered in her investigation was the human element of this story or, as we like to call it in time of war, the collateral damage.

The story of little girls in Winona and their relationships with Randy Wait stretches back nearly twenty years.

Elements of it are familiar in our times. It is a story of, perhaps, misplaced trust, naivet and hope on the part of parents and school authorities. It is a story of adults who would never in a million years put their children knowingly in jeopardy being tricked into doing just that. It is a history of the ongoing effects of betrayal and predation on these children. Perhaps the most difficult element to grasp is the way in which we continue to believe that people doing what we consider good work always have good intentions, the way we adults turn a blind eye to small, suspicious problems if we are getting the results we want.

It is to the credit of several parents and a local church that the story was able to be told at all. It was their willingness to go to the police with their suspicions that brought Wait to court.

The police cannot be faulted in their pursuit of the truth in this case. They were dogged in following up on the evidence they gathered. But they were stymied, they say, by gaps in the law.

We hope it was due to these failings in the law that County Attorney Chuck McLean was unwilling to talk to the Post about his prosecution of Wait, or to give us access to public information, even after being contacted by our attorney.

It is my wish, after reading Porter's story, that Sen. Bob Kierlin and Rep. Gene Pelowski would become involved. Here are two men whose work reflects an interest in the education and futures of our children.

Certainly they could work in the legislature to make the law such that those who prey on children would be more easily brought to justice. The fact that the statute of limitations had expired on invasion of privacy charges should absolutely be examined carefully.

Evil can never be eradicated by law, but it can be hobbled more effectively.

 

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