When the media flashed his name, it brought back memories. I tried to recollect his childhood. Did he ever torture an animal, perhaps set a cat on fire? As an adult he stood accused of committing a double murder, and the rape of two teenage girls. Nothing about his past made him a candidate to be a killer.
The Herb Cottington I knew from school, hung with nerds, kept a sheepish grin, and had sharp blue eyes with sandy brown hair, which often obstructed his view when walking. He came from an upscale suburban neighborhood, with a "Leave It To Beaver" family. In fact, thru his years of high school, he was at the top of his class. The newspaper reported that he was considered a math genius, which explains why I read about his exploits counting cards in Las Vegas at the black jack tables.
I'm not sure any psychologist would have seen the warning signs. The only thing I could seize from my memory was how he had a warped sense of humor, and how he bragged that his girlfriend wanted to go to bed with him all the time. His insecurities were evident.
When I read the newspaper clippings my eyes grew wide. He'd been living near the California border in western Nevada, in a trailer park. At the time he was thirty-three years old. He created a ruse, where he set himself up as a photographer for young models until he had finally lured two young girls, and their chaperones to his trailer. The women were a bit nervous of his odd behavior. He sweated profusely and talked in circles. As they stepped inside his trailer to inspect his studio, they felt after such a long journey it was it least worth a look.
From the moment they walked into his lair and he closed the door, their fate was sealed. A room in his trailer was made sound proof with insulation material he had purchased. He locked the door behind them and immediately began pummeling and choking the two women. The two girls looked on in horror and shock, while the older women fought for their lives. It's amazing how much damage one man can do when he holds the element of surprise.
He tied the two girls to his bed. There cries for mercy meant nothing to him. He wrapped the dead women with garbage liners and stuffed them in a closet.
Anxious loved ones hadn't any news from them, and soon phone calls were made to the police. A break in the case came over night when someone recalled a special plate on Herb's car from a nearby dealership.
The next morning, the police, including detectives had the place surrounded. When they knocked down his door, he stumbled backward with his trademark grin. "I didn't want to kill the women, but they gave me a hard time. I wrapped them up in trash bags so they wouldn't make a mess."
I put this story behind me, until some years later when I received an unexpected call.
The man on the other end said he represented Herb Cottington's appeal on death row. My name was on his list of friends. I'm pretty sure it had to be near the bottom. The truth was, as I told the councilor, "I hardly knew him."
He said, "We have to do all we can to keep him off death row."
I told him, we both went down very different roads. I told him I was a born again Christian. As convincingly as I could, I argued, "Whatever a man sows, he should reap."
He said, "I don't think he knows the full depravity of what he's done."
For my turn, I said, "In your world there is no responsibility for what they do. Sorry. It's just not the world I live in."
The media's job: tell both sides of a story. There's the pain and anguish of the victimized families, calling him crazed, selfish, evil, having killed and raped without remorse. Others, talk about how he should've gotten help for his personality disorder. He blamed his parents, and society, as if he wrote the quote, "Why didn't someone stop me?"
George Jones, the old country star once wrote, "I've had choices since the day I was born. I've had chances, to choose between right and wrong."
Beware. Evil wears a thin but effective disguise.
True Story. For more information, search the web under his name.
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