BY DENISE CLAY/ Christina Regusters, 19, was arrested and charges with 14 different criminal counts (11 of them felonies) in connection with the kidnapping of a 5-year-old girl.
The little girl was taken from her West Philadelphia elementary school by a woman dressed in Muslim garb who police now believe is Regusters, a worker at the day care center where the little girl went for an after school program.
When the girl was first found and returned to her parents, the full scope of what she had been through was unknown. But later, when a group of community leaders began raising money for a reward designed to entice folks to come forward with information, a much more-harrowing picture emerged.
This child was abused. Really abused. Some of the harm that was done to her is practically irreparable.
And as the kids in my Third Period Media Arts class recounted that harm to me, I wanted to run to the bathroom because the toasted corn muffin and coffee I had for breakfast started to boil in my stomach.
To get the kids I teach to actually want to talk about news coverage usually requires that it hit them where live.
In this case, it did.
You see, I teach teen parents.
I teach kids who are helping their parents or grandparents raise kids that their parents, for whatever reason, can’t.
I teach kids who believe little kids are off limits and that if you hurt them, you deserve to die.
So when they asked me if I was covering Regusters’s arraignment, I knew the reason they were asking me was because they wanted to know where she was being taken.
Child molesters are considered the lowest form of life in prison … and my kids have family in prison.
So they wanted to send her a special welcome.
Which is why Ms. Clay told them nothing and advised them to let the criminal-justice system take its course.
But one of my kids asked me how I’d handle covering this case….
And you know, I had to think about it.
Because before I became Denise Clay: Reporter, I was (and still am) Denise Clay: Aunt.
While I’m a proponent of better gun-control laws, I’ll put a bullet in the middle of your forehead over my nieces and nephews and not lose 10 seconds of sleep over it.
Those young men and women are as close as I’m gonna get to my own kids and I’ve even gone toe-to-toe with their parents over them.
So could I sit in a courtroom where someone was accused of being the ringleader of a group of people who did some really vile things to a kid my great-niece Niajah’s age and not react?
I guess I could. I’m a professional and that’s the job.
But it might not be the easiest thing I’ve ever had to do.