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Letters from the week of December 14, 2000

Girl, Interrupted
Kid gloves: Tony Moton's "Girls in the 'Hood" (November 30) was a load of crap -- the worse piece of journalism I have ever read in 30 years!

What is the point of the story? Cherri West took drugs, lost her kid, still takes drugs. Do we care? Do we need to know this? If it were your kid, what would you do and how would you behave?

The part about the money is the family's PRIVATE BUSINESS. Why did the Pitch publish this? What was the point? And aren't there MANY, MANY other things to write about in this city?

Does this story make a difference? What is Moton trying to prove? The Pitch's method for story selection and the written piece was evil and rotten.
Anthony Young
Kansas City, Missouri

Suit of Armourdale: I'm a 45-year-old mother of four who lives in Armourdale.

When Pamela Butler was abducted and murdered, everyone I spoke with was devastated and fearful of the tragedy that occurred in our backyard. This profound tragedy left the Kansas City populace reaching out to comfort this family. Money came pouring in as proof of our compassionate and caring natures.

Within months, our compassion and caring started to have sinister overtures. Rumors that Cherri West was a drug addict, that she was spending the donations for drugs. Kansas City -- the Armourdale area specifically -- wasn't happy with Girl Dead/Man in Jail/ End of Story; they wanted more sensationalism.

The only time I've ever been embarrassed to be an Armourdale resident was upon reading "Girls in the 'Hood." Cherri West may have a colorful past, but dredging it up is tactless. From what I've read of Pamela Butler, she was an exceptional child. To me, that shows great parenting skills. It saddens me that a community I've lived in for over 30 years could vilify someone as brutally as this article has.

I never want to know the loss the Butlers and the Wests have suffered. We have shared their sorrow, and now they need the peace to heal. Girl dead, man in jail, end of story.
Violet Gurrola
Kansas City, Kansas

Touched by an angel: I was more than a little unnerved at a few paragraphs about Cherri West. In the article, Tony Martinez, Cherri's attorney, stated that "Wyandotte County is poor.... There is a different mentality in Wyandotte County because it's poor and a lot of people have a lot of time on their hands. I can tell you that a lot of these rumors come from people who are not working ... and they are dubious characters." Being a woman born and raised in Wyandotte County, I resent these comments.

I agree that rumor-starters are dubious. However, I do not agree that a lot of people in Wyandotte County have a lot of time on their hands. I work at John Fiske Elementary School, where Pamela Butler was a student. I know most of the families who have children in this school. The families here all work very hard for their children. They do not sit around complaining about what is going wrong. They get out and do something about it. I meet many different residents of Wyandotte County in my daily life, and I would say that there are many more good apples than bad apples.

People in other parts of Kansas City already have a bad enough opinion of Wyandotte County. Since the Pitch is distributed all around the city, these people will read these comments and feel justified in having a low opinion of the fine residents of this county.

We at John Fiske Elementary School miss Pamela deeply. She was, and will always be, an angel to us. Please, I urge all media and all citizens of our great city to not disrespect the memory of Pamela by disrespecting the area from which she came.
Brandi Napier
Kansas City, Kansas

Houses of the Unholy
Family values: Thank you so much for Deb Hipp's article about the International Churches of Christ ("The Church of the Poison Mind," November 23). My oldest son (of five children) was recruited nine years ago while in the military, and our lives have not been the same since. He lives across the country from us and rarely communicates in any way with us.

He doesn't acknowledge birthdays or holidays and is only interested in us if he has something to gain. On his four visits home during these nine years (all but one at our expense), he was continually called by cult members, as many as six or seven times daily. He's kept on a very short leash. After five years or so, we told him outright our concerns about the group, and he became hysterical, screaming and pacing around the room. He treated us like he was looking into the face of Satan, and he apparently went home to tell his cult brothers and sisters about his close call with Evil.

A few months later, he announced that he was getting married. His marriage was arranged through his discipler, with an older woman he admitted he didn't even like. But he was rebuked into liking her. We weren't even invited to the wedding, but we talked him into it and were treated so disrespectfully that it was hard to believe that we were surrounded by the only genuine Christians/disciples in the world! We were, along with the bride's immediate family and my son's boss, the only non-cult-members there. The other guests literally pointed, stage-whispered, and stared.

This cult has taken our son out of his loving, Christian family and built a wall around him with a sign on it that says "Access denied!"

As his mother, I can say that even though it breaks my heart on a daily basis, I will never give up on my son. Surely the conditional, performance-based love they show him can't compete with my unconditional love. God help all the parents out there who are in my situation.
Name and City Withheld Upon Request

We want you: "Church of the Poison Mind" was great. Nice work, Deb. This church seems to like recruiting young military members too. Some people I knew when I was stationed at Mirimar (San Diego) were "infected" by this "Church of the Third Reich," as some of us called it. It seems to be common for them to assert themselves into other people's lives. Pretty scary!

Great work. Keep it up!
Andy M. Stevens
Peculiar, Missouri

The Lone Stranger
Thanks, Clay: Just as hot-shot journalists have slow news days, steely-eyed readers like me occasionally have idle moments too and have some observations about the steady drumbeat of criticism that always seems to follow Clay Chastain around (Bruce Rodgers' "On a Rail," November 16).

In this busy, busy world of many tidal forces, why does Bruce Rodgers (or anyone else) care whether one lone-wolf activist chooses to spend all his free time passing petitions out in parking lots, running for city mayor, or leading a rescue mission on behalf of historical landmarks? Who cares if Chastain, like so many Americans, goes to court to tilt at windmills? It's his dime. And I note that no one accuses Chastain of being "capricious," just (sometimes) misguided.

Here's a hot flash: The man simply does not threaten my rice bowl. He doesn't threaten your rice bowl either. The only people who should care what Chastain says or does are people who happen to agree with him. All others -- and presumably, this is the "bright" control group -- can and should safely ignore the zany hijinks and shoot-from-the-hip campaign style cultivated by Clay Chastain. Sure, walk on the other side of the street if you see him coming, but don't get your pantyhose in a bunch.

Sadly, there may be only one real lesson to draw from Clay Chastain's running feud with so many disapproving Kansas City area residents, and it's that it is simply "unwise" around these here parts for a single individual with a strong activist impulse to stick his or her nappy little head up where it so predictably gets run over by a grain reaper!

A final observation is this: As repellant as the idea may seem to some, perhaps we ALL should thank Clay Chastain. Here is a man, at least, who does not speak in riddles. He is purposely not vague. He gives everyone the opportunity to understand exactly what he is saying. That's a compass bearing, folks. Chastain speaks, we listen, and then we get to exercise the right to expressly disagree with his fairly detailed ideas. Yep, Chastain passes the "sniff test" for clarity in public discourse that other local area politicians and power brokers characteristically fail.
Tom Abellera
Kansas City, Missouri

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