His birthday arrived and once more I went to his Facebook page to both wish him a happy birthday and hope that there would be some sign he was alive and ok. It had been almost 4 years since he went missing. The last sign of anything we knew of was a post from his roommate stating he never returned from a trip to Atlanta. Each one of us had done our own searches for our friend with our limited information and came up empty.
I met Craig at my first LARP in 2002 and we’ve been friends ever since. Over the years we hung out at other LARP or tabletop games and ran into each other at group gatherings, but mainly we stayed connected on MySpace then later on Facebook.
This year our wish finally came true, but not in the way any of us had hoped. We received news he was alive and reasonably well, we assumed, but the news had caused each of us to process a form of grief none of us were entirely expecting.
A woman I don’t know posted a comment on everyone’s birthday wishes that contained a link to an FBI press release from last month. Our friend had been in police custody since he landed in Atlanta in 2015.
According to the press release he was convicted on one count of traveling from another state to engage in sexual activity with a child under the age of 12 years, and one count of enticing a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity.
We were shocked. This is not the person I thought I knew. Some of us argued there had to be a mistake. There were no photos for us to confirm this was our friend but after further investigation too many of the details added up. Once the group of us were convinced the story was true folks began to disconnect from our friend’s page.
I admit I took a bit to disconnect. I was processing in a way I was not expecting, The news cast a pall over my mood that week.
One of the details that had come up was from trusted friends who let us know that before Craig moved to his own place that his father was under investigation for allegedly running a child porn ring. Upon learning that I suddenly remembered the one time I went to visit him when he lived with his dad. We were just hanging out in his room, but I remember his dad came home and it seemed like there was an issue with my being there. At the time I assumed it was because I was unknown to him and maybe Craig wasn’t supposed to have any girls in his room, but I didn’t think my presence was inappropriate given that Craig was already 23. I also remember that as I was leaving Craig didn’t want me to go and tried to get me to stay longer, but I distinctly felt his dad didn’t want me there so I left.
Because of his father’s situation, I started to wonder how Craig grew up and began to feel sorry for him. There’s a fair chance Craig was also a victim as a child. I’m a survivor of child sexual abuse so I could empathize with him and I started wondering where our compassion for him was as friends started walking away. But why wasn’t I angry with him? Why wasn’t I equally quick to disconnect like the others? Since when did I ever have sympathy for a child predator? And that’s when I realized I was still looking at him like he was a victim and not the predator he’d become. It’s like that moment when the vampire or zombie loses the last shred of their humanity and they start eating their human friend. He’s a predator now and simply not the person I thought he was.