Have you ever heard the old saying, "If you see something, say something." In a nutshell, it means when you see or hear something that is just plain wrong, it’s your responsibility to do something about it.
So what happens when you hear something like a murder confession? Do you speak up or keep the info to yourself? What if that confession is from Pedro Hernandez, a man who claims to have kidnapped and killed a little boy named Etan Patz. Ethan Patz, if you are not familiar, is famous as the first “boy on the milk carton”. The search for him became one of the largest, longest-lasting hunts for a missing child in America's recent history.
Ideally, any good citizen who heard a murder confession wouldn’t hesitate to notify law enforcement -- because it’s the right thing to do, because it may solve an unsolved disappearance and because it could keep a potential murderer from harming anyone else.
Common sense, right?
Apparently good citizenship and common sense did not apply to the members of a prayer group at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in Camden, NJ in the early 1980s.
Recently, members of the group told The New York Times that they didn't believe it was "their place" to inform law enforcement of a confession they allegedly heard from Hernandez during a group meeting several decades ago.
Just so you know, I am not picking on a religious group (Religious groups/churches seem to get touchy when you disagree with their beliefs. Check out the scathing comment at the end of this blog: Baseball Team Refuses to Play a Girl: Have They Disrespected All Girls?)
What I am doing is pointing out that these people let a man who may have been a deranged killer confess and then walk right out the door. Honestly, I don’t care if they were a prayer group, a Girl Scout troop or members of the Grand Poobahs. Turning a deaf ear when someone confesses to a murder (A murder!) is THE definition of wrong.
Every member of the prayer group who heard Hernandez’ confession should be ashamed of themselves. And then ashamed some more. Not speaking up wasn’t just wrong, it was selfish, inconsiderate and dangerous.
If those folks had discussed what they had heard with law enforcement and IF Hernandez had committed the crime (at this writing, he has confessed but has not yet been convicted) they may have taken a murderer off the streets and protected the hundreds of children he encountered over the years. You know, like their own grandchildren, nieces, nephews and neighbors. Oh, and they would have given Etan Patz’ parents some type closure, instead of forcing them to spend decades wondering what happened to their little boy. Can you even imagine that agony?
Had they reported his confession to the police, what is the worst that could have happened? Hernandez would have been forced to talk to police about it. If he hadn’t committed the crime, an investigation may have cleared him. But what if he really did do it...
Would you be unwilling to turn him in just because you wanted to stay in “your place?” I can say without hesitation that I would have immediately called the police. I may be shy, quiet and introverted but I’m not afraid to speak up when something seems very wrong.