A silver cross and chain dangled from dark clinched fingers protruding from a pile of rubble near a new condominium construction site. The morning sun reflected off the metallic pendant as it swayed with the salty breeze coming in off the gulf. A retired Minnesota accountant was walking the beaches with his metal detector. He had already pocketed some coins and an earring. A silvery glint caught his eye just off the beach. When he reached the mound of unusable two-by-fours, shredded plywood and roofing materials, he looked for the source of the glimmer that grabbed his attention.
My God, it’s a body!
The tourist kneeled down. The hand felt cold to him and he couldn’t detect a pulse. He dialed 911 from his cell phone. Within twenty-minutes a half-dozen patrol cars arrived and the make-shift grave was cordoned off with yellow police tape.
The victim’s body was identified as a young illegal immigrant construction worker. His wife told investigators her husband had gone back to the work site to find his cross. She said, “He never prayed without it“.
The month-long investigation revealed the young Mexican had interrupted thieves steeling from the construction area and was beat to death with two-by-fours. The case finally broke when one of the suspects came forward and confessed. He also named the friend who was with him.
It had been less than twenty-four hours since the two young adults who were charged with the beating death of Jesus Hernandez Gomez and put in jail. Sitting in his office, drinking some morning coffee, Sheriff Andrew Edwards was hoping the arrests would ease the tension the killing had created in the Hispanic community in his county.
“Sheriff Edwards, outside, quick!”
Captain Sam Black was usually calm and collected. The Sheriff followed him out the front door of their administration building next to the court house. At seven o’clock, the parking lot and surrounding streets should have been fairly empty. But, all makes of cars and trucks over-flowing with passengers began to fill up all the vacant spots. Sheriff Edwards’ radio alerted.
“One-twenty-seven, to number One.”
“Go ahead, One-twenty-seven.”
“Sir, I’m downtown and the streets are filled with Mexicans. They’re all walking towards the courthouse.”
“Ten-four, stand by one.”
Sheriff Edwards reached for Capt. Black’s shoulder.
“Sam, you better get some units up here in case this gets ugly.”
Within fifteen minutes the acres that the courthouse, Sheriff’s Office and jail sat on were completely surrounded by Hispanics of all ages. One-by-one they began to grab the person’s hand next to them and bow their heads.
“What’s going on Boss?”
“Don’t know yet, Sam. It looks like they’re praying. Tell the officers to stand down, but stay alert.”
After about five minutes, two doors opened from a rusted old pick-up truck in front of the administration building.
“Sheriff, its Gomez’s wife and baby. Who’s the man with her?”
“He’s the pastor of one of the south-county churches, Vasquez or something.”
The mother was twenty years old, the baby less than a year. Pastor Francisco Vasquez escorted them to where Sheriff Edwards was standing.
“Sheriff, I hope our little prayer meeting hasn’t disturbed you too much. We wanted to be here and leave before everyone came to work.”
“A little notice would have been nice.”
“Yes, sir, then the news media would have been here. We understand the inmates here are allowed to wear religious medallions and chains. Is that correct?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
The pastor nodded at Jesus’ widow. The young woman took a silver chain and cross off her neck and handed it to the sheriff.
“What’s this for?”
The woman’s eyes swelled with tears. Her voice was soft.
“Es poder de Dios.”
The sheriff looked confused.
“She said it is the power of God.” The pastor put his arm around her.
“Sheriff, scripture says, ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.’ She would like to give that to the young man who first confessed. This cross represented hope for Jesus and his family, then healing for Maria here, and now she wants it to be used for the salvation of the men who killed her husband. Will you make sure he gets it?”
“Yes, I will.”
The Sheriff smiled kindly at the widow and clenched the chain, as the cross dangled, spun, and glimmered in the morning light.
Note: Scripture reference is from 1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV)
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