The Day the Laughter Died

Polly and her sister Annie Nichol

Polly and her sister Annie Nichol

It’s a common refrain for people in my situation. Your child is kidnapped. Time passes and answers are not forthcoming. You sink into despair as you contemplate why God has forsaken your family, yourself, and most importantly your child. What are you to do if you are thrashing about in total darkness without a flashlight to guide you to the path of hope?

 

Robin Williams was not a friend of mine. However, we lived in the same general community in Northern California. He was known to pop up unexpectedly and without an entourage at local comedy clubs, restaurants, county fairs, and other places that normal people would frequent. At any rate our paths had never crossed until the dark days after Polly’s abduction on October 1, 1993.

 

mrs-doubtfireMr. Williams was but one of many who assisted with the Polly search. I learned that he had reached out to Polly’s half-sister Annie (not my daughter) and the girls who were with Polly on the night that she was kidnapped. He spent time with them. He gave them autographed copies of the Mrs. Doubtfire script, and ultimately reintroduced laughter into the broken hearts of suffering children.

 

When he showed up during a fundraising event in Santa Rosa he brought light into the darkness. When he took over auctioneer duties the trickle of support became a river of sustenance. An autographed Willie Mays baseball bat which had been languishing at around $100 quickly sold for more than $2,000 and the man who purchased it couldn’t have been happier. And so it went throughout the evening as the manic styling of the comic with the sad eyes stole hearts and induced much needed laughter.

 

The last time I saw him was at Piatti Restaurant in Mill Valley. He was seated alone at a table for four, facing away from the panoramic view of Mt. Tamalpais and the Marin Headlands. When Violet and I were seated I nodded to him. He smiled in response. Violet encouraged me to approach Mr. Williams to thank him for the unsolicited $10,000 donation that he had made some years later and his overall kindness, but I declined. I wish I could take that moment back, because I don’t think I ever formally thanked him for his benevolence and caring. Now it is too late, because although my season in Hell is long past, his did not end until last Monday: the day the laughter died.

Who Killed Jenise Wright?

402764def040dcb6ca08b8f7b02580edSix-year-old Jenise Wright, whose remains were found in the woods near the trailer park where she lived with her parents and two siblings in Bremerton, WA, was one of those children who never had a chance. She was a trusting, loving little girl who never met a stranger and she was apparently given free rein to run wild and unsupervised from the time she was only three-years-old. As a result she will never celebrate her seventh birthday.

Jenise Wright's Parents

Jenise Wright’s Parents

As difficult as it is to look past her father’s criminal history, it is his comments since Jenise disappeared that are particularly troubling. I want to be clear that the foundation for my concerns is based on my own reaction and state of mind when Polly disappeared more than 20-years ago. One of the many life changing experiences that are still seared into my brain was the immediate, laser focus I was able to achieve upon learning that Polly had been kidnapped. There was no ambiguity about my purpose, or question as to my intent. My job, for better or worse, was to find Polly.

 

However, the day after Jenise was reported missing her father told a local reporter that, “my mind is still spinning”. I can understand psychological or spiritual turmoil because I too grappled with both of those emotions, but intellectually I was in blinders with one goal in mind. To complicate matters even more so, James Wright called his missing daughter “a spoiled little brat” and “the princess of the household” who “always gets her way most of the time.”  I am at a total loss as to why, given the gravity of the situation, the father of a missing child would characterize her in such unflattering terms. He should be investing people in the search for Jenise, not whining about her perceived shortcoming.

 

Hillary Clinton popularized the term it takes a village to raise a child, but she did not mean that as an excuse to defer parental responsibility and allow friends, neighbors, and strangers to assist in that role. Combined with Mr. Wright’s criminal history and his odd behavior and statements since the search started and a very troubling possibility rears its ugly head.

 

Finally, the omission of any statement from the authorities warning the community that a cold blooded killer is on the loose speaks volumes.