It’s too easy to become numb to all the violence that is visited upon Robeson County by no-good Neanderthals, but the details of a murder last week caused us to look again.
The victim, a Maxton man, was shot multiple times after answering a knock on the door, being asked for help, and then trying to provide it. A second man was critically injured.
The accused, a 20-year-old from Lumberton, is no stranger to lawmen. We looked at his criminal history and found that it was four pages long — and there were charges pending for armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, assault and battery, shooting into an occupied dwelling and assault inflicting serious injury. But he was free on bail — even though murder seemed to be the diploma he was chasing.
We don’t know if the accused is guilty of murder; for now, we are pleased that the man is in jail, without bond. Eventually — and it will probably be years — Shilec Rothwell will face a judge and jury, so we can hope for justice.
There are many more with Rothwell’s resume walking among us. As a matter of routine, this newspaper does criminal background checks on accused murders, and we almost always find that the accused has a record of increasing violence and has been in and out of an impotent criminal system.
Our local law enforcement agencies, the first line of defense, are understaffed, outgunned — and forever distracted with this nation’s unwinnable and resource-depleting War on Drugs.
There isn’t enough room at the inn, so bonds that are too low are the norm, and thugs who trend toward violence are turned back onto the streets while they await trial. Yet news arrives last week that a prison in Lumberton will be closing because of a declining population of inmates in North Carolina.
Our District Attorney’s Office is handed five new murder cases for every one that can be disposed of, forcing plea arrangements that are utterly unsatisfying but absolutely necessary. Our estimate is that there are about 70 people accused of murder awaiting trial in Robeson County — and not all of them are sitting in a jail cell.
Our laws are misdirected and punishments for violent crimes inadequate. Why are our prisons filled with people guilty of drug crimes and non-violent acts, yet violent criminals are being turned out to terrorize again?
Ultimately, however, we must look inward — and at the breakdown of the nuclear family in this country and our county. We aren’t naive — “Leave it to Beaver” was fiction — but we all benefit when babies are born into two-parent homes and then provided for, loved, disciplined and given direction.
In Robeson County that is becoming the exception, not the rule — and all of us are paying for it.