Editorial: Don’t take a Chance
Chance Mark Jones finally got justice last week.
The little blond-haired boy was just four years old when his father, Robert Babcock, brutally beat him from head to foot over an 11-day horror that is too terrible to think about.
And yet we must think about it. We are compelled to consider it, to learn from it, and make sure it never happens again.
This paper has devoted much space and time over the last year to keep this young boy’s memory alive, and we made the editorial decision to report it in a way far more graphic that we ever have. Why? Because everyone needs to know what happened to him. His suffering is more than some soundbite on the evening news or a few sensational inches in a daily newspaper. He was a boy just like all the kids in our community who deserved a chance to grow up, to have that first date, to hit that homerun, or to catch that big fish. In the words of Texas Ranger Jamie Downs, “His biggest worry should have been chocolate or vanilla.”
But a child killer took that choice and all other choices away from Chance and denied everyone the opportunity to see what he would become as he grew up. Instead, Robert Babcock thrust himself into all our lives, and changed us all forever – some more than others. Everyone from the investigators, to the prosecutors, to the jailers, to the EMTs, to the doctors, and even the jurors themselves have all been deeply impacted by this case. While most citizens are able to set it aside at the end of the day, folded up in a newspaper, other people have had to live and breathe this case on an almost daily basis. And the more you’re around this case, the more it eats on you.
Clarendon is a small, rural community with much of the idealism of small town America, but we lost our innocence when Chance Mark Jones lost his life. Certainly child abuse happened in Donley County before Robert Babcock ever laid a hand on his son or lifted him by the jaw and threw him on the counter. But except for law enforcement, most of us didn’t pay much attention to it before… or maybe we just didn’t want to pay attention to it.
But now we’ve seen it in all its ugly truth from a person we thought we knew. And to make matters worse another person knew what was going on, but didn’t stop it. Now she faces criminal charges as well and rightly so.
It would be easy to think this was an isolated case. It would be nice if we could just forget about this boy’s death and go on about our business, because, hey, what are the odds of it happening again?
But then last month a man lured three small girls into a van with candy at a Tee ball game right here in our town with scores of people all around, and we know – with every sickened fiber of our beings we know – our kids are not safe. We are not immune to the threat of predators and abusers. It shocks us, it scares us, and it should.
If we are to take anything away from this case, it must be that we have to look out for each other and that more importantly we have to be willing to take a stand when a child is in danger. We are living in a messed up world where some parents just don’t care about their kids, they don’t make sure they eat well or at all, they don’t teach them right from wrong, and, in the worst cases, they are physically abusive to them. It is a problem that has no easy solution. A religious marker at the courthouse won’t fix it and neither will PVC crosses and “the end is near” signs on the highway.
But there are people trying to make a difference in the lives of kids who are endangered. The Christ’s Kids ministry is taking an active role in trying to be a positive influence in kids’ lives and making sure that no child goes hungry in Clarendon. The Donley County Child Welfare Board, CASA volunteers, and foster parents are also on the frontlines of making sure kids who have been subjected to abuse or neglect have what they need to survive and thrive. And our law enforcement agencies and district attorney’s office also stand ready to step in when their services are needed. These people deserve our thanks and our support in all they do.
Of course, nothing we do can bring Chance back. But we can make sure that he did not die in vain. His death, hopefully, can educate people about child abuse and save someone’s life. In the meantime, we’re left with the memory of a sweet little boy who was taken from us way to soon. May he rest in peace.
DON’T TAKE A CHANCE ON CHILD ABUSE!
By Roger Estlack, Clarendon Enterprise © 2012