By Linda Oatman High
Stop The Bullying
By Linda Oatman High
On December 20th, 1991, in bucolic Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Laurie Show was murdered. She was 16, less than one month short of turning 17. She was my Cousin Hazel’s daughter, her beloved only child.
Five days before Christmas, with wrapped gifts under the tree, Laurie Show lost her life. She lost it in her own bedroom, to three teens – local kids between the ages of 17 and 20 - who had bullied and stalked Laurie for months before the crime.
Hazel, divorced from Laurie’s father John Show, would answer the telephone and it was Michelle, always Michelle, 18 and pregnant to a boy Laurie had briefly dated . . . for about a week, when Lawrence and Michelle had broken up.
Michelle screamed obscenities, threatening Laurie. She stalked her, attacking and injuring Laurie in the parking lot of the mall where Laurie worked. My cousin and Laurie filed assault charges, and the outrage flared even worse. Michelle attempted to recruit friends to harass Laurie, to hurt her, to tie her up, to cut her hair, to kill her.
One of the friends recruited by Michelle was Tabby, a new girl in town. The other one was Lawrence, the boy with whom Michelle was having a baby, the boy that Laurie had dated for about a week, the boy that had date-raped Laurie.
Ultimately, in the early morning of December 20th, 1991, the stalking and bullying and harassment and threats became a terrible reality, with my cousin’s lovely daughter bleeding on her bedroom floor. Hazel hurried home from the fake guidance counselor appointment with which she’d been set up, and her daughter lay dying, her throat slashed from ear-to-ear, multiple stab wounds piercing her body. There was a rope around Laurie’s neck; Hazel frantically cut it and held her daughter for the last time. Laurie was still alive.
“Michelle did it,” Laurie whispered again and again as Hazel held her in her arms in that surreal space of a minute ticking past. “Michelle did it. Love you. Love you. Love you. Love you.” Laurie died cradled in Hazel’s arms, a smile of peace crossing her face as she passed.
Hazel knew exactly who Michelle was. She’d been dealing with Michelle’s phone calls, with her threats, with her harassment for months. East Lampeter police were called numerous times, but they could not take any action until Michelle actually hurt Laurie physically, in the mall parking lot. There was a warrant for Michelle’s arrest, but it was too late. She killed Laurie Show before the police could stop it. Before Hazel or John could stop it.
There was a long and dramatic and much-publicized trial, with twists and turns and allegations of police misconduct, mistakes, and errors. I won’t go into all the details; anybody can find them online by googling Laurie’s name.
It was a heart-wrenching, horrible time. I went to one of the trials in Lancaster, and I sat directly behind Michelle, who was oddly decked out in a glittery sequined white dress that could have been a wedding gown. I couldn’t stop looking at her hands, those small pale teenaged hands that had recently held that knife, stolen that life. Hands that had cut away the very heart of Hazel and John Show, of everyone who loved Laurie.
After the judge announced the guilty verdict, reporters and family raced to the pay phones outside the courtroom. I stood in line behind a weeping woman, a crumbling middle-aged stranger, falling apart inches in front of me.
We were all crying, those of us who were family and friends. I asked the stranger her name. “I’m Tabby’s mother,” she blurted, and she collapsed into my arms. I later saw my cousin Hazel embracing the woman. They were sharing their pain, each of them having lost a daughter in different ways. It was the same pain: the pain of a mother drowning in unbearable grief.
A bitter December rain fell on the day of Laurie’s funeral. It was Christmastime; the lines stretched far down the sidewalk outside the funeral home. A few teenagers fainted, some wailed, their screams echoing in the gray and crying sky. I can still feel the bone-chilling cold of that day, see the umbrellas, hear the wrenching sobs of teenagers facing something nobody of any age should have to face.
Some kids stood silent and nervous, holding the anguish inside. I didn’t know who was grieving for Laurie, who was grieving for Michelle, who was grieving for Tabby, who was grieving for Lawrence . . . but it didn’t matter. The intense sorrow hovered, palpable; hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of lives changed by the violence of that day.
The crime shook Lancaster County to its core; the shock waves reverberated. National news media picked up the story.
"I think it was the fact that they were all middle-class youths with no mental illnesses," said Jack A. Kenneff, the Lancaster County first assistant district attorney who prosecuted all three defendants. "People just couldn't accept that this kind of thing could happen to that kind of people."
Hazel turned mourning into action, working with a purpose for an anti-stalking law, petitioning legislators for nearly a year. The law was finally passed in the state of Pennsylvania in June of 1993. We’d had no stalking laws on the books up until that point, and Laurie could not be helped until she was physically hurt. Even then, the law could not act quickly enough. East Lampeter detectives started working on the case against Michelle four days before she killed Laurie.
“Laurie was my life,” Hazel said. “I had to do something.”
My cousin wanted to save someone else, to use her fierce grief to ensure that her baby’s fate was nobody else’s.
Back then, we called it “stalking.” Now the term is “bullying.” Whatever you call it, the results are the same: pain. Deep, agonizing pain. When you stalk, when you bully, you cause pain. Pain to the victim, pain to the family, and eventually sometimes pain to yourself and your family and friends as well.
When Laurie died, my children were young: ages 1 to 8. Now they’re grown, and, like all families, we’ve experienced some tough times. Heartaches and heartbreaks, and we’re now going through one with my youngest son. When I spoke to Hazel last night, to tell her about my book DECEMBER and how it’s highly fictionalized but based upon Laurie and the crime that’s never left my heart and my memories, she thanked me for letting her know. And then she was worried about me, about us, about our family and the difficult struggle we’re having with my youngest son’s recently-manifested battle with mental illness.
“You’re one of the strongest people I know,” I said to Hazel. “I think about you all the time, and wonder how you went through what you did.”
“I have no answers,” Hazel said.
And there are no answers. All that’s left is the question of who Laurie Show would be today. She would have turned 40 in January. Maybe she’d have children; Hazel and John would be grandparents. Laurie would be at the Haas family reunions, and December 20th, 1991 would be just another ordinary day.
But instead, Laurie is forever 16 on the verge of 17 in our minds. Blonde-haired and brown-eyed, tall and willowy and smiling. She’s buried in a nearby cemetery, with her grandparents.
I visited Laurie’s grave when I started to write the book, and I talked to her. I told her that I was writing a cautionary tale in the first-person voice of a lonely new girl in town who gets drawn into a crime, in hopes of preventing this tragedy for some other kid. I told Laurie that it felt like a lesson in forgiveness for me, writing in this girl’s voice, and that it was fiction but based very much upon what happened to her.
I like to think that Laurie answered, and I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that she’s in a better place. A place with no more pain: a place of beautiful peace, a happy place of family and faith and love and joy. A place where nobody ever hurts anybody else, where bullies do not exist. And I like to believe that she forgives.
One of Laurie’s old teddy bears sits on a small chair by the fireplace in my dad’s house. When I look at it, I think of Laurie: little Laurie, teenage Laurie. And I think of Hazel and John, and the heavy ache they will carry every day for the rest of their lives: the enormous emptiness of forever missing that bubbly little girl, that gorgeous teenager, the woman she would be today.
Tabby and Michelle are now in their 40s; so is Lawrence. The women are in prison for life. Lawrence was released on a plea bargain in 2003, in exchange for information about that day, about December 20th, 1991. The teens all pointed fingers at each other, wanting to push the main burden of the crime onto someone other than themselves.
Nobody on this earth except those three know the whole truth of exactly what happened that day, but one thing we know for sure: all three teenagers were part of it. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. They all participated in the stalking, in the bullying, in the violent vortex of events that led to Laurie Show’s death. It was a trio of evil actions and really bad decisions, a catastrophic culmination of months of hatred based on mundane teenage jealousy.
If those three could go back in time, I’m sure they would. If each one of them could change their behavior on that day, or on any of the days that led up to That Day, I’m willing to bet that they’d take that chance. We wish Laurie could have another chance, to be somewhere else on the morning of December 20th, 1991.
If you’re a kid in school and you see someone being bullied, take a deep breath and step in. Speak up. Be brave. Try to change it, to stop it. Don’t join it. Your life could be forever changed.
If you’re the victim of a bully, say something. Reach out for help. It’s there, if you ask for it, and sometimes things really can get better. Do your best not to give in to the darkness of despair.
And if you’re a bully, or part of a plot to bully, stop it, dammit. Stop it now.
And do it in honor of Laurie.
Lake Millay has goals, hopes, and dreams...until she moves to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and becomes ensnared in a vortex of violence.
Bullying and stalking become Lake’s life, and ultimately the destroyer of her dreams.
A cautionary tale based on the true story of Laurie Show, murdered by three teens in 1991.
Contemporary YA Romance/Bullying, 54k
Evernight Teen Amazon ARe
“This gazing globe’s really old, like from the 1800s. People believed that a witch couldn’t sneak up on you when you were looking into the dome.” The voice comes from nowhere and from everywhere, and an electric bolt of fear buzzes through my body. My heart thunders, filling my chest and ears. I’m dizzy, numb with shock, not able to move.
Then a face appears––a face––blurring and blending into my own in the rounded silver of the globe. I scream, filling my body and my heart and my ears, and I leap and fall backwards, banging hard into flesh and bone: a person.
I scream again and fall on my knees in the mud.
“Man. You’re jumpy. Sorry if I scared you.”
It’s a girl, just a scrawny anorexic-looking girl, about my age, fair-haired and pale, with fake-looking cobalt-colored eyes. She’s one of those girls with an upturned little nose and perfect teeth. Flawless complexion. Makeup. Teeny-weeny, clean white shorts. Tanned cheerleaderish legs.
I gasp, trying to catch my breath.
“You scared the crap out of me.”
“Man, you scare easy.” Knuckles on hips, she cocks her head to the side, pale hair falling over those bright blue eyes.
I press my hand to my heart. Puke climbs up my throat, and then slides back down again.
“What are you so jumpy about? There’s nothing to be scared of around here. Not like it’s an epicenter for crime.”
There are definitely shades of cheerleader in this girl, yet none of that high-pitched perkiness. Clouds of sadness seem to be leaking from her eyes and her smile and her voice, despite the faultless exterior. A tiny diamond-like chip glints on her nose.
“We don’t even lock our doors around here,” she says.
I heave myself to a standing position. My heart’s still racing in a marathon of terror.
“What did you think I was?” the girl asks and I shrug.
“A wacko. Weirdo. Murderer. You never know.”
She barks out a laugh.
“All of the above,” she says. “You better run.”
I try to smile.
“Here,” she says, reaching down to pluck a flower. “Peace offering.” She holds a red-nailed hand toward me––her thumb and finger, daintily holding the stem of the red flower.
I take it. Our fingers graze.
“Servants also used these gazing globes to be sneaky and watch their bosses,” the girl says. “Pretty far-out, huh?”
I’m still shaking, but I nod.
“Cool shirt. I can tell that you’re not from around here.”
I look down, suddenly super-aware I’m about fifty pounds bigger than this chick. This makes me irritable, and I shove the red flower into the pocket of my shorts.
“What are you doing here, anyway?” I ask. “Don’t they have laws about trespassing around here?”
“Just checking out the new neighbors,” she says with a shrug of bony shoulders. Her voice is like cornhusk: raspy and rough.
“Where’d you come from?”
“Over there.” She points with her sharp little chin. “Through the field and to the left. When the corn’s down in the winter, you can actually see our place.”
“I’m Brit Dannon,” she says. “Brit with one T, not two. You’re the new preacher’s kid, I presume? Got any pot?”
“What?” I almost laugh.
“Got any weed?”
“No, I . . . don’t smoke.”
“Man. You really aren’t from around here. What’s your name, anyway?”
“Lake Millay.” There’s a final feeble clank of thunder, like beaters in an empty metal bowl, and then the sun comes out, shining. Brit Dannon seems to shimmer: shiny hair and makeup and nails and that perfect-girl sparkly shirt, with sequins spelling out the word Princess.
“Welcome to Badger Gap, Lake Millay,” she says. “The Center of the Universe! The most happenin’ location on the planet! The place that’s going to freaking change your life!”
About the Author:
Linda Oatman High is an author/journalist/playwright who lives in Lancaster County, PA. She’s published more than 20 books for children and teens, and her books have won many awards and honors, including VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) “Perfect Ten” awards. Linda also writes for adults, and her short story NICKEL MINES HARDWARE, based upon the Amish school shootings of 2006, was honored in England in 2012 with the Sunday Times EFG Short Story award shortlist. Linda holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and she presents at schools from K-college both nationally and internationally.