The first apparition came in the form of a letter from Pelican Bay Prison, the notorious lockup on California’s north coast that houses the worst the state’s penal system has to offer.
What the envelope contained — a rambling, repetitive, three-page note in slanting all-caps claiming innocence in some long-ago crime that I could barely read and almost threw out — immediately caught the eye of our seasoned photographer. Specifically, it was the name that got his attention: Edward David Jones.
A quick flip through our archives told me all I needed to know about Jones.
Jones was arrested in December 1997 as a suspect in the murder of a local store clerk. The evidence against him is the stuff lead-pipe cinches are made of — a surveillance video showed Jones walk up to the counter, stick a gun in the clerk’s chest and pull the trigger.
He was summarily identified and later convicted.
That tale, as recorded in those old editions of the Tracy Press, is enough to close the book on Jones and his letter, which pleaded for someone to “consider the facts.”
Fact is, Jones — known on the streets then as “Crack Daddy Jones” — ended the life of 21-year-old Timothy Robert Mason. It was Tracy’s third homicide of 1997.
Mason’s face staring back from Page 1 of the Dec. 2, 1997, Tracy Press was the day’s second specter.
Longtime residents and law enforcement might remember the story of Mason’s murder, and the subsequent pain it brought to his family. But for many or most, it’s likely that the senseless shooting has faded into the mists of memory.
No doubt that’s where Jones belongs. But what of Mason, the young man whose life was taken? Surely he deserves a better fate.
It made me wonder what will be remembered of the crimes that rend our community’s fabric today.
Last year, five homicides shocked, outraged and tore Tracy. Brutal crimes all, they were — for better or worse — the defining stories for the city in 2009.
The five victims’ families surely won’t ever forget or let the memories of their loved ones fade. But will Tracy’s collective memory recall them years hence, or will they exist more as ghosts on a newspaper’s yellowing pages?
In a few short weeks, the family of 2009 murder victim Cynthia Ramos will have a candlelight vigil and pancake breakfast fundraiser for a charity born from the suffering of Ramos’ daughter, Christina Barnes, as well as the rest of Ramos’ family. It’s an effort to remember a woman who was taken from her family and community too soon.
It’s also a reminder that this person who lived, laughed and cried here is no longer with us. A reminder that her memory, and the memory of others like her, should be kept alive in our hearts and minds, not just in the local newspaper’s archives.
The Better Future Files, continued...
Give Every Child a Chance, a tutoring program chronicled in a column earlier this year, is still doing good things in Tracy. Recently, GECAC kicked off and concluded its first K9 Reading Corner, in which certified therapy dogs and their trainers partner with kids to improve their reading skills.
When GECAC director Amy Moore said she had a heartwarming example of the program’s efficacy, I told her I’d bite — unlike the dogs.
Moore shared: “(There was) a 10-year-old boy who was crying from the time his dad dropped him off. When Trey remained upset and hesitant to participate, Audra, our club leader, checked in with him, and he admitted he thought he was there because he was ‘in trouble.’ Audra explained he was there to learn and have fun and asked which dog he wanted to read to.
“As soon as the golden retriever Windsor was available, Trey slowly sat down next to him. Windsor immediately sensed that Trey had been upset and jumped up to lick him all over the face, something he only did with Trey.
“His anxiety quickly turned to laughter. He was finally at ease and able to read a full story to his new friend. Pretty cool!”
Pretty cool, indeed.
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