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A killer walks among us

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Somebody woke up on Christmas morning knowing he was the one who strangled young Garrett Phillips to death in Potsdam two months earlier.

Maybe he watched his own children wake up early and run to open their presents on Christmas morning. Maybe he hugged them gently as they waved the new Wii controller they just pulled from the box under the tree while shouting excitedly: “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh ... we love you daddy, we love you daddy.”

Maybe he helped them get ready to go to church to celebrate the birth of Christ. Maybe he smiled broadly at how cute his children looked in their new Christmas sweater or dress.

Somebody woke up Christmas morning and celebrated life while knowing his hands had forever robbed a young boy's family of that same joyous opportunity.

Just another holiday in the life of a sociopath.

Police have been virtually silent throughout the investigation to find this killer. If they know who this sociopath is, they are not telling.

Their silence leads to speculation. Some people think it means the police and prosecutor don't have enough evidence to charge someone. Some think it means the police screwed up and the killer will never be caught.

About the only thing police have said publicly about this investigation is they are collecting evidence. Reasonable people I know say it is taking too long for them to name a suspect, to charge a child killer. In lieu of no information, each passing day brings speculation that something in the investigation has gone horribly wrong.

That is not something I want to believe. In lieu of no information, I would rather speculate that the police are moving slowly and methodically to carefully build a case that increases the chances of conviction once they haul the killer into court. How long it takes to arrest somebody is not nearly as important as making sure they have the evidence that will lead to conviction.

I have covered two deaths in my newspaper career where people were shot by an unknown killer. Both of those stories had two things in common: The families of the victim screamed for justice. The public screamed that it wanted protection from a killer on the loose.

In Potsdam we have silence. That says that the people who should be afraid – parents of young children, for example – are not afraid. It says the family of Garrett Phillips is satisfied with the work police are doing to catch the killer. It says the police know this was not a random murder and, if not publicly, have privately conveyed this message to people who most need to know.

The lack of uproar about this murder – the silence of the families and others – speaks volumes.

The police are not looking for a killer. They know who did this horrible crime. Now it is a matter of taking as much time as needed to put together the evidence to get a conviction.

The killer knows this. The killer also knows that years ago there was a lot of evidence showing that O.J. Simpson slashed his wife's throat. He knows O.J. walked away from trial a free man. The killer knows that in the summer Casey Anthony was acquitted of killing her young child and dumping her in a Florida marsh despite evidence that most everyone in America except 12 jurors thought was enough to lock her up for life.

The killer of Garrett Phillips knows that justice in America is an imperfect science.

So he quietly lives his life – his lie – fooling friends, co-workers, family with his facade of innocence. Waiting. Waiting for it all to blow up. Waiting for the day he gets to play his act of innocence out in front of a jury. Waiting to see if they buy what he knows isn't true.

Just another day in the life of a sociopath.

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