Letters for 01-19-2017

Unlikely incident was catalyst for change
and I took the offer in November. Just over
a year later, the publisher at the newspaper
called. The young woman’s trial had been
moved to Bossier Parish, and he asked if I
would consider covering it. The guy I was
working for very graciously allowed me to.
For 12 days, I’m living in a hotel, writing
a story every night and sending it to
Sweetie. She is still, hands down, the BEST
proofreader ever. She would call back with
needed corrections before it was sent on to
the newspaper. Each night, she asked the
same question: Was there anyone there
for her?
“Her” was the young lady on trial. Tanya
Smith’s life was truly tragic. My close
friendship with Jerry Jones, who prosecuted
the case personally, had provided
an opportunity to learn about her past. She
was raised by parents who practiced a pagan
religion. She was sexually assaulted by
her father for years. She finally ran away
to live with her grandmother and started
the series of poor choices that ultimately
Last week, I mentioned something that
happened during my time as editor of the
Bastrop Daily Enterprise that completely
changed the way Sweetie and I see things.
I’m not optimistic, but I’m hoping I can
condense it down to fit in this space.
I was playing golf on the morning of
August 10, 2007. It was a Friday, and I was
headed to the office after we completed
our round. The office called and said there
were major computer problems. The “other
duties as required” part of my job description
made me the computer guy, so I cut the
round short and headed to work.
Around 1:30 p.m. – about 50 feet from
where I was sitting at the time – two Bastrop
Police Department detectives were
killed in the line of duty. John Smith and
Chuck Wilson had gone to a low-budget
motel across the street from the Morehouse
Parish Courthouse looking for a local
ne’er do well and found someone straight
from the pits of hell. He shot and killed
them both, then committed suicide-by-cop
when he came back out of the room a few
minutes later.
A young lady who was with the shooter
was captured and returned to Bastrop to
stand trial for murder. Over the next several
months, I covered countless hearings
in her case.
I had been at BDE for four years, working
80-hour weeks, month after month,
year after year. A guy in Bastrop offered
me much better money for far less work,
brought her to Bastrop.
Each day during the trial, I sat on the
front row between Leslie and Aimee, the
widows of John and Chuck, respectively.
That morning the verdict was returned,
Chuck’s parents, Charlie and Lynn Wilson,
sat behind us. The jury found Tanya guilty
on all counts – two counts of second-degree
murder and assorted weapons and drug
I came home Friday evening. That Sunday
night, our pastor was talking about
God’s love for all of humanity. That still,
small voice that I’d become more aware of
prompted me to lean towards Sweetie and
say, “I’ve got to write her a letter.” Without
asking, she knew I was talking about Tanya.
For the next 10 days, I applied what I now
call my tragically flawed logic as to why
I couldn’t and shouldn’t write that letter.
Mr. Still, Small Voice reminded me again,
and I started writing. I introduced myself
to her. I talked about bad choices I made in
my life and having to live every day with
the consequences. I told her that through
it all, God still loved me. And that he loved
her, too. Then I put it in the mail.
Go back to near the beginning. That
desire to condense it into this space? Failed
miserably. More next week.
Mark Rainwater may be reached at the
offices of The Gazette, 104 N. Washington
in Farmerville, by calling 318.368.9732 or
by emailing mark@fgazette.com.