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Wednesday, Sep. 17, 2014

The Aron Levis of the World

Posted Sunday, July 17, 2011, at 3:51 PM

Some have called the murder of eight year-old Leiby Kletzky senseless. But it wasn't that. It came at the hand of out-and-out negligence.

Allegedly, thirty-four year old Aron Levi, the accused murderer, had had scrapes before. After he admitted to the crime, a neighbor reported that he also tried kidnapping her son a few years before, but that she screamed and scared him away. Someone else came forward with a similar complaint. Things might have played out differently had they also gone to the police.

A while back, I befriended a woman who many found tightly wound and quirky. Her friends and acquaintances thought that the backpack loaded with papers she carried around peculiar and her insistence of whispering in certain rooms because someone might be eavesdropping, odd.

One day, she asked me to meet her for lunch. As we sat at a table with that loaded backpack next to her, she told me that the police were after her and that they'd burned her bandaged arms with lasers.

"What did you do?" I asked.

"They said I stole books when I was in college."

I knew she hadn't been a student in years and told her that she sounded crazy, but she persisted. I thought she might need a rest and invited her to stay at my home, which is airy and quiet.

When we drove to her house to get her things, it looked like something from a "Beautiful Mind." Closet doors were wired shut, light bulbs were missing from fixtures, and boxes and barricades were in front of windows and doors.

Having ample clues, I realized that she was schizophrenic when she thought that spies were crawling through my ceiling and sending poisonous gas through the vents. When she pulled out a gas mask, I invited her out for coffee to get her out of the enclosed space of my home.

After she became agitated and began yelling at me in my car, I became sacred to be alone with her. I also thought that she could be a danger to herself and others, so I drove back to my building under the guise of taking her to a burn center to have her arms checked, but she only went after I told her that she could never come over again unless she agreed.

The fifteen-minute ride was the longest one of my life because she thought we were being recorded and wouldn't let me talk.

After she checked in, I went into the hallway, and she watched me pace back and forth through the glass partition while I called every buff male I knew asking him to meet me at my house in case they sent her back with me.

Fortunately, they didn't.

When the male nurse asked what was wrong, she said she only wanted to talk to a doctor. He jotted this down and said she had to talk to him first. She then mentioned the burns on her arms.

"Remember you thought that men were hiding in my ceiling and that we were being gassed?" I said fearing that he might miss the real reason for our visit.

She told me to shut up and lunged at me, but he stepped forward. I called him aside and begged him not to send her home with me.

"Don't worry," he said summoning a doctor, "I already know she's crazy."

After the doctor was done talking to her, I followed him into the hallway just to be sure. I stayed by her side as the nurse shot her with a sedative, which she first refused because it was unfamiliar. He seemed happy to give it to her.

The nurse asked if she had any relatives I could call. I knew she had a sister in Vegas, so she gave me her cell phone and her sister's number. Once I got a hold her, she said that she too thought her a little eccentric, but she never thought she'd be hospitalized over it.

She drove in from Vegas and stayed in the house during her week of her hospitalization. A few days in, she said she was feeling better and enjoying drawing pictures and talking to those people everyday, even though she still thought that they were trying to gas her.

She called me a week later when she was released to let me know that she wasn't mad at me. But I understood and fortunately never heard from her again after that.

If someone had paid more attention to the Aron Levis, the Charles Mansons and the Casey Anthonys of the world, then maybe eight year-old Leiby Kletzky would be running and skipping and jumping like any other eight year-old kid, and his parents would still be tucking him in at night.


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And that hindsight is 20-20. Thanks for your thoughtful comments!

-- Posted by Gail-TzipporahSaunders on Mon, Jul 18, 2011, at 3:18 PM

When something horrific like this happens, we cry "monster" and want to hang the perpetrator from the nearest tree. But I ask myself, does God create monsters? I hope not. Does God create very ill, disturbed individual? It would appear so. When someone commits a heinous act like this, I always ask, "Where was the help when he needed it?"

By all accounts, Levi has showed signs of instability for years. Everything about him cried out for help. Where was his community then? Why didn't anyone do anything before he committed such an unspeakable act?

This country has a deplorable lack of mental health programs. The reason you don't see as much of this type of crime in Europe is that have a mental health structure that intervenes when someone first shows signs of instability.

In America, just the act of seeking out a mental health professional carries the stigma of shame and disgrace. Careers are ruined. What would the neighbors say? We are told "snap out of it, pull yourself together, get over it." Or worse, "Pray and God will provide."

Only when we can moved past the stigma of mental illness--and find a way to pay for it--will be able to let our kids walk home unafraid.

-- Posted by anonymouse on Mon, Jul 18, 2011, at 2:33 PM


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Behold, I, like many others before me, come forth with a new blog. Mine, however, starts off with posts about the joys and wonders of pepper spray then branches out to other maladies as well.
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