I choose my friends carefully. Or, at least, I thought I did.

 

I’m friends with everybody. I’m even friends with people that I don’t like all that much, if that makes any sense. I like people, in general.  Or at least, I accept them as they are.  And as you might imagine, a person as flawed as I am tends to be very tolerant of the flaws of others. However, despite having lots of friends, I have very few close friends. The type of people that I could call at any time of the day or night, and say, “I have a problem,” and that person would put down the phone and come to my house immediately.  Friends like that are rare.  For me, at least.

“Tom” is one of my closest friends.  We’ve known each other for over 20 years.  We’ve built barns and decks together.  We’ve done electrical work and plumbing together.  We’ve run duct work, worked on cars, welded trailers together, and done I don’t even know what else together.  We’ve also sat around a lot of campfires and drank a lot of beer together.  And bourbon.  And moonshine (that Tom made himself – great stuff).  Tom is a hard-working man of faith and integrity, and I trust him implicitly.  He was always great with my kids, and was a true asset to our little community in the mountains of East Tennessee.  Anyone that had a problem could just call Tom.  He could fix anything, and was happy to help anyone.  And he could always call me to come help fix whatever it was.  We understand each other.

A friend called me one day and told me that Tom’s house had been raided by the police.  They took his computer etc, saying that he had been downloading child pornography.  They told him that they would analyze his files, and would be back to arrest him in a few months.  I told my friend that the police were out of their freaking minds.  My friend said no, he had inside information, and it was true.  I hung up on him.  Bull crap.  Obviously.  Sheesh.  That was a few months ago, and I haven’t spoken to my friend since then.

At least, not until this morning, when my friend called and told me that Tom had killed himself an hour ago.

I know you two were pretty tight, so I didn’t want you to find out in the papers.”

Me:  “Yeah.  Ok.  Thanks.”

And I hung up on him again.  I’ll call and apologize later.  I guess.

So maybe my friend was right about the child pornography stuff.  Maybe.

Although I still don’t know, obviously.  If asked to testify in court, I would still say that Tom was one of my closest friends, and that there is just no way that he would download child pornography.  Ridiculous.  That just cannot be true.  This just can’t be right.

Perhaps I would be wrong.  I guess.

I can’t wrap my head around this.  If my friend had said, “Tom grew wings and flew to New Zealand,” that would have made more sense.

I’m not even sure how I feel right now.  I feel sad that I’ll never see my friend again.  Friends such as Tom are rare (very rare, in my case), and there’s a huge hole in my life now.

I also feel angry.  And confused.  And betrayed.  And, um, almost dizzy.

We all have demons that haunt us.  Most of us resist them as best we can.  I don’t judge how other people deal with their demons, because I struggle with my own.  I’ve gotten myself in plenty of trouble in the past over my desires, and I like women.  Whenever I’ve done something truly stupid in my life, it was generally because of a beautiful woman.  It wasn’t really my fault.  Honestly.

But my goodness.  Regardless of whose fault it is, there are certain things that one simply does not do.  Regardless of what one feels.  Some things are beyond the pale.  Child pornography?  It doesn’t matter how strongly one is drawn to that.  Some things are beyond the pale.  I mean, honestly…

I am very selective about my closest friends.  Or, at least, I thought I was.  I am, right?

I feel horrible.  In many different ways.

I grew up in the second poorest county in Ohio.  Lots of social problems.  I have friends in low places.  Convicted murderers, drug dealers, thieves, and so on.  They’re my friends, and I don’t endorse some of the decisions they make, but they are still my friends.

But this one has me disoriented.  This is different.  Child pornography?  I mean, honestly…

This seems different than my other friends, who have struggled with other demons.  Partially because this was one of my 2-3 closest friends I have on this planet.  And partially because I just can’t forgive what he did.  Or what he apparently did.  I guess.  Surely not.  But maybe.  I guess.


I pray that Tom finds peace.  I pray that God’s will be done.  I pray that those two prayers are congruent.

I believe I’ll have just one more drink.  Maybe four.

Tom is my friend.  I love him.  I’ll call his wife and ask how I can help.  He would do the same for me.  Because Tom is my friend.

But my goodness.  What on earth?

This hurts.

Sometimes the worst possible answer is that there is no answer.

Regardless, this hurts.

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  1. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    Tough one Doc.  Part of my long streak of good luck is that I have never had a tragedy take a close friend. Hang in there. You sure have plenty of pals on this site. 

    • #1
  2. Richard Easton Coolidge
    Richard Easton
    @RichardEaston

    That’s rough. The authorities have been known to plant child porn on a person’s PC. Sharyl Attkisson heard that the Feds considered doing that to her. Your friend may not have been prominent enough to make it worth their while, but it’s a possibility.

    • #2
  3. Retail Lawyer Member
    Retail Lawyer
    @RetailLawyer

    You were his friend, but you don’t know why he killed himself, or even if he had the porn.  There must be some doubt.  People do strange things, suicide only takes a few minutes of despair.  Give him the benefit of doubt.

    And I am very sorry for your loss.

    • #3
  4. kedavis Inactive
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Is it possible that he killed himself because of false allegations, etc?  That could happen too.

    • #4
  5. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    I’m sorry for you, for your friend with his demons, and for all those who have been harmed by his actions. I pray God’s peace for you and His justice and mercy for your friend. Also, I’m reminded of the subtitle of the old radio mystery, The Shadow, whose subtitle was, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men — The Shadow knows.”

    Actually, only the Lord knows.

    • #5
  6. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    Don’t shoot the messenger. Thank him. You were going to learn of it somehow. He anticipated your hurt and only thought of you.

    Accept that your friend had demons, the kind of demons he couldn’t go to you for help. In the end, he couldn’t live with his demons and the disappointment and hurt that would befall his family and friends. Porn is a sickness. Sexual assault and rape are violent crimes that physically harm and scar others. At least your friend didn’t go there.

    • #6
  7. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Red Herring (View Comment):
    Accept that your friend had demons, the kind of demons he couldn’t go to you for help. In the end, he couldn’t live with his demons and the disappointment and hurt that would befall his family and friends.

    I really think that’s why he decided to check out.  I’ve called him a few times over the past few months, and he never answered.  Not like him.  Probably for the same reason.  He didn’t want to lie to me.

    Also, the ‘child porn’ types often have a rough time in prison.  Why stick around for that?

    Red Herring (View Comment):
    Porn is a sickness. Sexual assault and rape are violent crimes that physically harm and scar others. At least your friend didn’t go there.

    Amen to that.

    I know that Tom had a rough childhood.  His Dad was an abusive drunk.  

    Maybe his childhood was worse than I thought…

    • #7
  8. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    When you feel up to it, calling his wife would be the greatest thing you could possibly do.

    I’m so sorry.

    If, and that’s a big IF, it turns out there’s some truth to what your mutual friend said, it is very possible that something was wrong in your friend’s brain. Our understanding of impulses is very shallow. Just like the autonomic nervous system, the brain too has a life of its own.

    You should look into it. You might find some answers.

    • #8
  9. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    My heart breaks for you and your friend.

    • #9
  10. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    When a person’s behaviors are uncharacteristic for him or her, a good psychiatrist will always start looking for brain injuries of some sort–very possibly something the patient is unaware of or that happened a long time ago. 

     

    • #10
  11. Internet's Hank Contributor
    Internet's Hank
    @HankRhody

    I’m with Kedavis on this one. Suicide isn’t an admission of guilt. Perhaps he knew that this would be months and years of fighting the courts for exoneration while catching sidelong glances from every friend, acquaintance, and grocery store clerk. Perhaps he knew that any exoneration he got wouldn’t be enough, that some people would assume he got off on a technicality, and every mother of his acquaintance would keep her children close ‘just in case.’ 

    I’m not saying he’s innocent either, but I refuse to condemn the man on the evidence available.

    • #11
  12. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    I had two close friends in my fraternity. They had known each other since childhood. We had similar tastes in a lot of things – movies, music, comedians. We stayed in touch when we graduated. Then one Thanksgiving, I heard from P. that L. had killed himself. After school, he had headed off for California, and while out there had pretty much wrecked himself with cocaine. He’d lost his fiancée, his job, and as far as he had been concerned, his whole life. Either of us would have dropped everything to get out there to do whatever we could to help. He thought he could handle it himself, and then he thought that nobody could. He left a hole in the lives of his family and friends, and forty years on, I still miss him.

    • #12
  13. JennaStocker Member
    JennaStocker
    @JennaStocker

    I’m sorry for all of your losses – for your friend, for trust in people, your judgement, maybe a bit of faith. I don’t have any friends but if I did, this might give me pause. Don’t be like me. I will say a prayer for you and your friend, and that grace and forgiveness finds us all.

    • #13
  14. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Take people for how you experience them.  The rest it hearsay.  Everybody has kinks and flaws.  Most hide them well.  Take your friend for how you know him.  The rest in unknown and the pressures that law enforcement can put on a person can destroy them, especially a decent person.  

    • #14
  15. Keith Lowery Coolidge
    Keith Lowery
    @keithlowery

    Home network security is laughably lapse in most cases.  It is a trivial thing for a home network to be compromised and used by creepers for, say, downloading child porn. I run a multi-layered network in my own home with really long administrative passwords at every layer. Still, I don’t trust the equipment vendors to provide really hardened capabilities, so I feel vulnerable all of the time. I’m somewhat knowledgeable about network security, having run a network security ops center for a while. To give just one example, someone seemingly from a hospital in Iowa was trying to penetrate our network. But, of course, it wasn’t really anyone with the hospital.  One of their machines had been compromised by someone hundreds of miles away, and was being used as a launching point for attempting other security breaches. My point here is just to say that being raided by the police about a computer on your network tells people nothing about who was doing anything. Even if a machine in his home was actually downloading porn, it doesn’t really tell you anything about any person who might be involved.

    None of that is to say that your friend didn’t lead a double life or even that he isn’t/wasn’t guilty of what he was accused of. Unfortunately, no one may ever actually know for sure. His suicide could be interpreted as an implicit admission of guilt, but it could also be an act of despair by an innocent man who felt that everything he valued about his life was going to be taken away. His wife is probably the best – maybe the only – possible source of insight into these questions. Alas, though, even she may not know for sure.

    I’m really sorry this happened.

    • #15
  16. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    MarciN (View Comment):
    If, and that’s a big IF, it turns out there’s some truth to what your mutual friend said, it is very possible that something was wrong in your friend’s brain. Our understanding of impulses is very shallow. Just like the autonomic nervous system, the brain too has a life of its own.

    Personally, I would like to know if the government is being very efficacious about the research into solving this problem. The Internet compounded the situation a ton and they should have gotten on it. 

    • #16
  17. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Wow man, just wow…..   I don’t think you are looking for advice and I wouldn’t know what to say or do if I were in your shoes anyway.   However, you idea to reach out to his wife because he was your friend and would do the same if the roles were reversed seems spot on.  Whatever confusion, sadness, and loss you are experiencing have to be much much greater for her.  Just a tragic story all around.  I’m sorry for the loss of your friend. 

    • #17
  18. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    When judging your friend also keep in mind that the category “child porn” is broad, and includes material that some people consider morally light gray rather than black. “Child porn” is not all sex with pre-pubescent children. It also covers material showing teenagers a month or two shy of their 18th birthdays. Still not good, but to many people not as easily condemnable, and sometimes easy to slip into accidentally.

    Some people also draw significant distinctions between those who “just” download material that was already created versus those who create the material.  

    That the police said they’d need months to analyze the evidence causes me to wonder if the evidence was really all that clear. Is someone in law enforcement was trying to stitch together something to use against Tom? 

    • #18
  19. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Wow! You can mourn your friend for being your friend and then try to let it go. Call your friends back that knew him and told you what happened. They are sad too, and just get it out.  The sin will get the best of us if we don’t face those demons. I remember years ago where we used to live up in the FL Panhandle How shocked I was to hear about two men who were also arrested on child porn.  One was running for office and a somewhat well known and prominent member of the community.  We found out on TV!

    The second person was known to my husband.  He had a very sick wife who was immobile and she eventually died. At the same time, we was arrested for child porn that was found on his work computer! He had kept that hidden for 4 years! His children are now left without parents.  We can only pray for peace in these situations.

    • #19
  20. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Retail Lawyer (View Comment):

    You were his friend, but you don’t know why he killed himself, or even if he had the porn. There must be some doubt. People do strange things, suicide only takes a few minutes of despair. Give him the benefit of doubt.

    And I am very sorry for your loss.

    Even if he was innocent, just the accusation alone can drive a man to end it all, thinking of the burden of a trial and the impact on his family.

    Sorry for your loss . . .

    • #20
  21. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    When judging your friend also keep in mind that the category “child porn” is broad, and includes material that some people consider morally light gray rather than black. “Child porn” is not all sex with pre-pubescent children. It also covers material showing teenagers a month or two shy of their 18th birthdays. Still not good, but to many people not as easily condemnable, and sometimes easy to slip into accidentally.

     

    This.  As someone who in the mid 1980s worked in a video store that had an “adult” section, I defy anyone to watch a Traci Lords video and call it “child” pornography. 

    • #21
  22. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    Some people also draw significant distinctions between those who “just” download material that was already created versus those who create the material.  

    I don’t have an opinion either way about this, but that was the distinction that created the controversy with the new supreme court judge. 

     

    • #22
  23. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    Happened last month to a prominent man in my little town, whose wife is a good friend of ours. When we learned that he had been arrested we immediately got in touch with his wife, so that she knows we’re here for her and their son, who started college last year. He was a star pupil with a bright future in several interests. This is a crushing blow. 

    I have had training through several entities, most recently our church’s Safe Sanctuary program, to detect and deal with abuse. I would never have suspected this fellow. 

    • #23
  24. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    As others have noted, I also don’t necessarily see a suicide as an admission of guilt. It could be from despair at the thought of spending years and tens of thousands of dollars and still not really be able to exonerate himself.

    Thirty years ago I narrowly avoided being accused of abusing children because a passerby misinterpreted what they saw as I was helping the toddlers in my Sunday School class use the toilet (girls start going to the bathroom in groups at a very early age! :) ). That experience is why I will not work with children. Anyway, I had decided that if the accusation went forward, I would leave the community rather than watch everyone have to process my guilt or innocence while still dealing with me in the community. Were that to happen today, at my current age and responsibilities, I could see my suicide as causing less pain to my family and friends than them having to continue to deal with me while processing my guilt or innocence. 

     

    • #24
  25. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    As others have noted, I also don’t necessarily see a suicide as an admission of guilt. It could be from despair at the thought of spending years and tens of thousands of dollars and still not really be able to exonerate himself.

    Thirty years ago I narrowly avoided being accused of abusing children because a passerby misinterpreted what they saw as I was helping the toddlers in my Sunday School class use the toilet (girls start going to the bathroom in groups at a very early age! :) ). That experience is why I will not work with children. Anyway, I had decided that if the accusation went forward, I would leave the community rather than watch everyone have to process my guilt or innocence while still dealing with me in the community. Were that to happen today, at my current age and responsibilities, I could see my suicide as causing less pain to my family and friends than them having to continue to deal with me while processing my guilt or innocence.

     

    I used to earn money babysitting young girls – a neighbor’s daughter and a friend’s little sister.  Damn sure wouldn’t do it now . . .

    • #25
  26. Chowderhead Coolidge
    Chowderhead
    @Podunk

    You lost your friend in more ways than one. I’m truly sorry for that. More than likely it’s true. He surely had one whopper of a demon. I hope he finds peace. As I was reading I was thinking of one of my most important personal rules. Allow friends and family a free pass once a year to do something stupid and out of character with some exceptions. Well, this would be one of those exceptions. This is just sad for him, you, his family, and his victims. 

    • #26
  27. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

     A sad story indeed. I grieve for your loss and the pain endured. However, I wouldn’t necessarily  conclude that the suicide means that he was guilty. The hopelessness and loneliness could have been prompted by the raid and investigation and a feeling that he would be found guilty, whether he was or wasn’t.

    • #27
  28. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    If I’ve learned one thing about people in my longish life, it’s that we’re all flawed and prone to error. Shoot, it probably even says something like that in the Bible.

    • #28
  29. The Great Adventure Coolidge
    The Great Adventure
    @TGA

    I agree with pretty much all of the sentiments expressed, both in the OP and  in the comments.

    And yet.  I’m always cognizant of the fact that our Lord sees  sin as sin.  Sin separates us from Him.  IF your friend had been downloading child porn, is that really a worse sin than downloading regular porn?  In our human way of thinking, a father who rapes his own child is worse than just looking at the pictures, but is it really?

    I have my sins.  I thank His grace that none of them pertain to abuse of children, but they’re ugly nonetheless.  I have only one friend on this planet that I would consider in the same category as what Tom was to you, Doc.  And he lives  600 miles away, we only see each other once every 5 or 6 years.  I would honestly be crushed if I heard that he had done something considered heinous, but he’s still my friend and I like to think (fool myself?) that I would stick with him in spite of it.

    • #29
  30. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    The Great Adventure (View Comment):
    IF your friend had been downloading child porn, is that really a worse sin than downloading regular porn?  In our human way of thinking, a father who rapes his own child is worse than just looking at the pictures, but is it really?

    Yes, and yes.

     

    • #30
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