A Public Prayer for Jim L. Reed, Victim

By E.J. Montini
The Arizona Republic [Phoenix AZ]
June 17, 2003

I was stunned by the news, like you. Stunned by the image of police tape surrounding the house of Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien. Stunned by the sight of the bishop being loaded into a police car. Stunned by the possibility that a grown man, and not just any man, a priest, and not just any priest, a bishop, might have struck a man with his car and left him on the side of the road. And so, just before I began typing this sentence, I had to check the name of the victim. Again.

I'd heard the name all day Monday on the news and still I had forgotten it. It is Jim L. Reed. He was 43. This morning when you're talking with your friends about reports of Bishop O'Brien possibly being involved in a hit-and-run accident, the name you'll forget is Jim L. Reed, the victim. If you don't forget him today, you'll forget him tomorrow. This is what happens with stories like this. We forget the important stuff.

The important stuff is the victim, Jim L. Reed, who was a father and a brother. His sister choked back tears as she told a TV station how saddened her family was over the loss. Reed was struck by a car Saturday night while walking across Glendale Avenue near 19th Avenue. Because he was not in a crosswalk, the driver who struck Reed, as well as the driver who struck him after the first driver, wouldn't have gotten into trouble if they had only remained at the scene. But they didn't.

This is another thing we forget. The important stuff isn't only the hitting. It is running. Striking someone with your car can be a result of bad luck or carelessness or even negligence. But it is not as bad as running away. Running is cowardly. Running is evil.

Panic causes some of us to run, as does self-preservation. A driver who accidentally strikes a pedestrian but stops won't get into trouble unless he's drunk or was driving at a wildly excessive speed.

Prosecutors believe the young lawyer Mark Torre had been drinking too much just before he ran over and killed 19-year-old Jessica Woodin in Tempe a few years back. Woodin wasn't in a crosswalk, either. Torre didn't turn himself in until it was too late to test his blood alcohol level. At his trial, prosecutors used circumstantial evidence to make their case.

Prosecutors believe that former disc jockey Carla Foxx had been drinking before she ran over and killed 78-year-old Kansas City lawyer Edward Smith in Phoenix in 1995. Smith wasn't in a crosswalk, but Foxx also left the scene.

Likewise, prosecutors believe that millionaire businessman Edward Palenkas had been drinking before he ran over and killed 11-year-old Kipp Turner back in 1994. Turner and his dad were walking near a road construction area. "Kipp's Law" was passed about a year later, increasing penalties for those who leave the scene of a serious accident.

If what the police suspect is true, then Saturday's accident was only the latest scene that Bishop O'Brien has run from. For a year, now, Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley's office has investigated how the bishop shuffled priests who were suspected of sexually abusing children from parish to parish. For years, the families of alleged victims said that they were met with suspicion or indifference. They were, in effect, left on the side of the road. Like Jim L. Reed. Remember him? I actually had to go back to the first paragraph and check his name. He was a big guy with a big heart, I'm told. He deserved better. He deserves to be remembered.

Years ago I spoke to the father of Mark Miller, a 12-year-old run down on his way to school by driver who wasn't caught.

"How can you not stop?" Paul Miller asked.

I told the dead boy's father that such a question was best answered by someone other than a newspaper writer. Like a priest.

Reach Montini at or (602) 444-8978.


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