Biographical Non-Fiction posted December 5, 2018

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The loss of one child can change everyone's lives forever.

The Loss of Freedom

by susand3022

The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.

When I was a kid, we played and got hurt. We skinned our knees, proudly sometimes I might add because our playground surfaces were asphalt. We did a ton of things that we probably shouldn't have and a bunch of things that today's parents would say, "Absolutely not!" to, like cutting ourselves with whatever we found handy to become "blood brothers." Something like that could end up getting a parent charged with Child Endangerment these days. When I was a child we had freedom. Today, a parent lets their kid walk a couple of blocks home from school alone and all their kids are at DCYF and the parents are in court.

What's happened to us? How and when did we come to this?

I was born in the mid-'60s and as a child growing up in a neighborhood full of kids, the one thing we had was freedom. We always went everywhere without mothers when we were little so we learned our way around the center of town where we lived. Our mothers made sure we knew how to cross the streets safely, especially in summer when beach traffic came before they let us loose.

Our mothers always just said, "Go out and play. Make sure you're home for dinner," which we generally were unless we lost track of time which we generally did. Then my mom would whistle for us. She had a special one you could hear for blocks and we'd all come home like a bunch of puppies...until we couldn't anymore. Until everything suddenly changed. Do any of you remember when everything changed for you?

For me, it was something that happened in the next town, probably about three miles away. The event was so big though that it affected the whole state but especially the neighboring towns as they are so small, especially in that area.

It was Mother's Day, 1975 and I was eleven. At eleven my sisters and I were all getting better in the kitchen so my mom most likely had breakfast in bed, fit for about four people, probably with a neighbor's flower in a glass, and later at dinner, she would get presents.

At dinner that night the news was on, as it always was when a story came on about a missing boy in the next town just a few miles away. He was just a little thing. Only five. Blonde hair and cute as a button. Jason Forman had gone out to play with his cousins in the woods at the end of the street. Nothing new, they did it all the time. We all played in whatever local woodland offered itself. He tired of them and wanted to go back so they saw him to the street and he was on his way back to the house. The kids went back to play. Jason never made it home.

That was the day. That was the day everything changed forever.

The next morning I can remember my mother looking worried for the first time and telling us to come straight home after school. This was something she never did and we weren't in the habit of doing. That night at dinner, our father presented us with wrist watches so we couldn't be late getting home from playing with friends. This had never been an issue. Mom whistled, her special whistle, and we came home like dogs. We could no longer just, "go out and play." Now we had to say where we were going and who we were going with.

They looked for Jason for a long time, house to house within a certain radius even, and I do mean IN each house. Everyone knew that family. If Sears wasn't repairing your appliances, they were. They fixed everything from small to large and everyone knew them and would have done anything for them. And everyone tried. Opening our homes to look for their child was nothing to us.

Then in the spring of 1982, a paperboy was delivering the paper when he was lured into a house by a neighborhood guy. He offered booze to a fourteen-year-old. It was a good bet he'd take it up, and he did. Once inside, the paperboy was attacked but escaped. He went home and told his father, who had happened to be one of the first on the scene when Jason went missing.

It wasn't long before police were at the door of now twenty-three-year-old Michael Woodmansee. They searched his house and in his basement, they found a box containing bones and some diaries detailing what he'd done to Jason all those years ago. The police told the press they'd found Jason's remains, that they'd found his killer. I don't remember being able to read much about it back then but boy, were the rumors flying! I do know that his father wanted to read those diaries but his friends on the police department thought it was better than he didn't and instead just gave him a general synopsis which was terrible. Believe me. I won't say more than to say that in the end, Jason was consumed. To the best of my knowledge, very few people have read those diaries and those who had to wish they never did.

Because he was only sixteen when he did this Michael Woodmansee was allowed to plead guilty to Second Degree Murder. He got forty years with ten years parole. He also got ten years for assaulting the paperboy, which he may as well not have gotten as the sentences were served concurrently.

It was March of 2011 when the news hit. In August he was being let out. The entire state was up in arms after people did some fast math. It's only been 28 years. What's going on? Well, it turns out that there's this thing in the prison system they call "good time." If you don't ruffle any feathers, you don't cause any ruckus, do as you're told and stay out of trouble, they will knock time off your sentence. It seems that it doesn't matter if you're a demented, twisted, psycho, cannibal. They're going to let you out into society twelve years early instead of keeping you there for life like you should have been sentenced to in the first place.

The entire state was outraged! There were demonstrations on street corners, interviews on the radio and television, demonstrations at the prison, everyone was talking. Then there was The Bill. The family was pushing for what they were calling, "Jason's Law" which would end good time for all violent offenders. I know that "Jason's Law" is now a trucker's law but I also know that lesser versions of Bills that end good time for violent offenders have been passed in some states. These days trends seem to be headed in the opposite direction I'm sorry to say.

As August drew closer anonymous threats poured in from all around that said he'd better NOT show his face outside those walls...or else!!! The monster was smart enough to have himself committed instead of released and everyone heaved a sigh of relief.

When I look back I can see that day, Mother's Day, 1975, as my last day of real freedom until Woodmansee was caught in 1982. The problem with that is that by 1982 we were already trained and the whole country with us. That pre-1970's freedom was long past and we were well on our way here. By the new millennium, we had truly arrived at a place where our children are practically glued to our sides, our world full of monsters. I'm not sure how it got this far, but maybe someday our children can get their freedom back.

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I do want to say that the reason I know some of the details that I know in this case is that I dated one of the cousins of the boy that was lost on that day. He was one of the kids that saw Jason out of the woods to the street. He's never forgiven himself for not walking him all the way back, or at least watching him walk to the house as they only lived a few houses apart on opposite sides of the street, nor have others. It's a heavy burden that they bear though it's not anything they could have foreseen. They were only children themselves.

DCYF is the Department of Children, Youth, and Families. They are the people who take your children when you are bad parents and you have to go to court to get them back. (No, I'm not speaking from personal experience)
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Artwork by VMarguarite at

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