The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

December 30, 2012

Local news, recent and past, conveys somber message

The Herald

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Does a Leopard really change his spots? We ask this in connection with a front page story in Friday’s Herald concerning the release of a convicted murderer from prison.

Shawn Jarrett, 49, was released from prison after 30 years behind bars for strangling his neighbor. Jarrett admitted he did not know why he killed 64-year-old Mary Sposito in her Farrell home.

But in announcing Jarrett’s release, Mercer County District Attorney Robert Kochems took the opportunity to remind all of us that “extremely dangerous people” walk the streets.

Actually, we are reminded of that all too often. The slaying of 20 children and 6 adults at a Connecticut elementary school drove that home pretty well.

Yes, dangerous people walk the streets locally as well. And part of the problem is the justice system which allows it.

Jarrett was only a teenager when he committed the senseless murder. But is there any indication that he really has been rehabilitated and no longer a threat to society?

Kochems seems not to think so. But when criminals serve out their sentences, they are freed. And there are a lot of others who have been released from prison who will someday be headed back to jail. It’s the nature of the beast, so to speak.

The record of rehabilitating criminals is not a good one. Just as the record of rehabilitating drug addicts is a huge failure. Still, as a society we must try.

Violence has become more prevalent in Mercer County in recent years. Just this past week we saw a headline story on the killing of a French Creek Township man, David Dignall, who was shot and his body burned. What precipitated that still remains a mystery.

Family and friends are still saddened by the senseless shooting death of well-liked Farrell businessman Bill Basilone, who was assassinated in a brutal manner outside his popular restaurant last year. The suspects in that case are still awaiting trial, but how long will they get in prison if they are convicted? And what happens if they ever return to the streets?

One of the major concerns involves the drug trade that has moved into the Shenango Valley, especially the Detroit connection. Far too many people are carrying guns and at times have they shown their willingness to use them.  Especially on each other. But of course, even when large crowds witness violence, nobody saw what happened. Until that culture changes, things won’t improve.

In informing the public to be aware of dangerous people, Kochems made the following recommendations:

ä Lock doors and windows.

ä Don’t admit strangers to your home or give rides to strangers.

ä Report any suspicious activity to police.

We echo the sentiments expressed by the district attorney. And we express hope that everyone has a happy, healthy and most of all — safe — New Year in 2013.