An apology to Penny's relatives, friends

Friday, December 2, 2011

The murder and subsequent investigation into Penny Blackwell Coyle's death, now 11 days ago, brought to mind another case in a nearby county, but more on that after something addressed to her friends and family.

I regret including a few paragraphs about her nominal court record at the end of her murder story. She is the victim and the information could have been reported later, so this is to say that like all of us, I made a mistake and I hope the Blackwell family takes some comfort in such an admission of my imperfection.

There have been other times that I've pointed out that there's only one publication that we're aware of that's seen as infallible and the interpretation of that infallibility has been the subject of great debate, given the great number of other beliefs around the world.

Meanwhile, there's been a great deal of chatter about Penny's death. Topics like murder are a fascination for many people. The CSI series of cop shows is so popular there are several variations on the old Quincy show about a medical examiner. It's even gotten to the point where prosecuting attorneys tell jurors that it would be nice to be able to get forensic information back from a crime lab as fast as it seems on TV. That's not the real world. The real world is as cold as a freight train rumbling through the Bible Belt.

Across a Marshall County line there was a quadruple homicide that afflicted the community for many years - probably still does because murder charges against four other people could not be made to stick. It's widely known there that the culprits - those four who were charged with murder but not finally prosecuted - are in a federal penitentiary. But they're convicted of drug charges.

That's cold comfort for the relatives of the dead. They said punishment on drug charges is insufficient. The case was so controversial that it affected local politics in more than just the sheriff's race.

Today, as this is written, a sheriff's detective here says that as far as he knows, Penny Coyle's murder is not connected to another major crime. And yet, it's widely believed there are only six degrees of separation between most of us in this country. You know somebody in another state and they know somebody else and four connections later, there's a connection to your next-door neighbor.

It's like how people help each other everywhere. For example, during a city board meeting last month at a department's conference room, people talked about how to cut transportation costs by using natural gas instead of gasoline for cars and trucks.

Now, the sheriff has donated - with county commissioners' approval - one of his old police cruisers, a Ford Crown Victoria, to the Spot Lowe Vocational Center where students will take it apart and reassemble it.

The Center's director mentioned the need and someone "took the bull by the horns and got the ball rolling," and now students will be working on a Ford instead of GM cars.

Speaking of GM, Sen. Lamar Alexander was asked at the GM plant last month about natural gas for cars. He replied it's more likely for trucks. He sees electricity as the power for cars in the future.

Meanwhile, I wonder if the senator and I are kin. Mom had an uncle Hugh Alexander who played chess. Probably no relation. We might all ask about our relationship to or six degrees of connection to Penny Coyle, or for that matter Rodney King.

Why can't we all just get along?

May our days be brighter and, speaking topically, call 359-4867 and tell CrimeStoppers if you know something that might help solve Penny's murder.

These views are the author's and not necessarily reflective of the Tribune's views.