(warning: serious subject matter)
For our family, it was a perfect time.
We had just moved into our first home that summer. We had two beautiful young daughters ages four and two. My wife, Cheri, was twenty six, I was almost twenty eight. Our home was a very simple but clean southern California track home, with 950 square feet of living space. It had no garage. It was located in the beach city of Torrance, California, one block off of Pacific Coast Highway at 2645 Dalemead Street.
We were a one car family. Cheri would take the two girls and walk across the highway to shop for groceries. She and the girls were a beautiful sight to behold. The three looked like the pure images some have of southern Californians: blond, trim, healthy, and so cute I could hardly contain myself watching them.
For me, I was driving up and down the Harbor Freeway working on my doctorate at USC, and performing my duties as a full time college teacher with the Mormon church’s education system adjacent to Los Angeles Harbor College.
We had our lives in front of us. As I said, it was a perfect time.
Then, Thanksgiving night November 1972, we had just returned home from spending the day with our family at Cheri’s parents’ home when a voice over a police car loudspeaker slowly drove by asking, “Has anyone seen or heard from Terri Hollis?”
Terri was an eleven year old girl, who lived a few doors down from us. We knew her. She greeted us the first day we moved into our home. She stood out on the sidewalk and asked how old our girls were. She too was blond, very open and curious, and genuinely nice. She was an innocent little girl. She was everything you could hope for in a daughter. She was lovely. On occasion my wife and I would see her her riding her bike. She never hesitated to say hello.
I was holding my oldest daughter who had fallen asleep on the way home. Our two year had also fallen asleep and was held by my wife.
I immediately knew that Terri was in terrible trouble. I held my daughter more firmly in my arms.
The next morning my worst fears were realized. Terri had been kidnapped off our street, raped, murdered, and left half naked on a cliff next to the beach some thirty miles up the coast from where we lived.
The “age of innocence” ended at that moment for me, and probably for dozens of others who knew Terri. I felt a sickening anxiety come over me. Did she know the kidnapper? Could it possibly be a neighbor? Did the kidnapper ever see my wife and two daughters cross PCH on their way to shop? Should we move?
All my thoughts about it being a perfect time were swept away, gone forever. I’ve now correctly concluded there is no permanent perfect time.
Over the years I have tried to put my feelings into words. We first feel, and then we think.
What happened that Thanksgiving Day was an act of evil. Not the evil you hear preached from the pulpits every Sunday. That’s the evil where everything but the congregation’s religion is evil. That’s not evil.
It’s much more than secular philosophy’s reluctance to admit that absolute evil actually exists.
Let me tell you, what happened to that young, innocent girl was an act of absolute evil. Absolute evil takes place when you torture, rape, murder an eleven year old child on Thanksgiving Day 1972. Until you hear that loud speaker coming from the police car you have no idea what your body and mind tell you what evil is.
I can remember Terri’s father roaming our street every day for the next few years as a self appointed watchman trying with every bit of energy his body and mind could muster to protect all of our children in the neighborhood. This poor, pain ridden man chained to a living hell for the rest of his life. No human deserves that kind of torture. Only an act of unmitigated evil could cause that nightmare to be lived night and day, awake as well as asleep.
Someone has to give meaning to Terri’s life, so that evil can be given a grave and everlasting judgment.
For me on that Thanksgiving Day the young child was forever seared from living the only life she will ever have. There should never be any attempt to explain it away. Dying young from sickness is tragic, being premeditatively murdered is evil.
Why do I write about such a serious subject when these articles are dedicated to living a rich, healthy and happy life? I needed to set the record straight.