Monday, September 11, 2006

Burning Down The House

Moreno Valley, CA

Kayla Lorrain Wood, 16, was found dead in a burned, abandoned house at 4939 Cactus Avenue in Moreno Valley Saturday morning by firefighters. The Riverside coroner's office has deemed her death a homicide (story is about 10 down).

More so than with adults, I find myself wondering what sorts of psychodramas play out when adolescents are murdered. Gang killings are one thing, they're more often impersonal battles for territory and a twisted sense of honor. As someone I met who had served in Vietnam once told me, "They're not shooting at you, they're shooting at the uniform."

But what drives a person to murder a 16-year-old girl then set fire to a house to dispose of the body? Drugs? Sex? Boyfriend? Girlfriend? Family pastor? Something darker and more twisted than even I can come up with?

The sad truth of these things is that it's probably something so insipid and banal that it won't even be reported in the local news. A high school rivalry over a boy. Being dissed at a party. Getting high and falling out of a moving car, the driver freaking out. Whatever it is, it's a tragedy that will likely be recorded as a statistic long before it's mourned.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the stabbing death of Walter Rivas, an 18-year-old man from Palmdale who was stabbed to death in a Huntington Beach hotel. Very little detail, very sketchy information. It generated the most heated comments that I've seen here. Anonymous comment arguing with anonymous comment. Some angry with my post, some angry with each other's comments and opinions.

One thing was abundantly clear, Walter Rivas was loved.

From the text of some of them I would say I had a few teenagers poking around. A quick Google search reveals a couple of sites memorializing him. At least one on MySpace.

What got me thinking was the fact that I have mentioned other teenagers murdered, jailed or in the process of being convicted, and none of them generated the kind of traffic that my post on Walter Rivas did. Why him and not the others? Sure, people cared about him, and from the comments I've seen about him, rightly so.

But what specifically is it about this that drew people to be so vocal? Is it because there wasn't much mentioned of him online? Was it because his seemingly wide circle of friends is so wired that blogs and online communication are second nature to them? Is this the MySpace generation and the way it rallies against an unkind fate? Is their barbaric yawp a string of floating bits?

I have no expectation that I will ever know. Part of me hopes that I get as many comments about Kayla Wood, angry or otherwise. At least it would show that someone cares enough to be shattered by another person's death.

If anyone has any information on Ms Woods' whereabouts, or who she was with, the Moreno Valley Police Department would like to speak with you at 951-486-6700 or 951-955-2777


Anonymous said...

This one was loved above all. Not by the number of people who loved her but by the depth of that love for her. This death is a real tragedy, sadder than you will ever know. This my friend is what happens when the state of california is put in charge of protecting a helpless, defenseless, innocent child. She was a foster child in a local group home. Obviously not watched over or protected. Those who loved her, lived in another state,and were prevented from caring for her, cause of course the state could do a better job. She has a family, 3 siblings, grandparents, a father, and friends who love her even in death. She will never be forgotten! Her life will mean something be sure of that!!

Anonymous said...

The reason people got so mad at your post about Walter Rivas was because you got the story totally wrong. None of what you said was true, which made Wally's friends and myself even more mad. The way he died was horrible and nobody deserves that.
What happened to him was very personal, and he lived in a town where everyone knows each other, which would be Palmdale, CA.
It's not that people cared about him MORE. Its just that it makes you mad seeing false information and cant do anything about it.

Anonymous said...

well.. im glad you came to recognition that walleys death was very hurtful to many many people.
its not that he was better than others that die.. or that he had more friends than maybe the other victims you write about..

here in palmdale.. there isnt much for us teens to do.. we have bands that play shows, party here or there, our internet (myspace), and our friends.. which mean more to us than any of the above.

i came across your site.. in a simple google search of walley's name. and i left 2 comments previously on your post. but you are right.. we 'anonymous' commenters were arguing among eachother.. and its annoying because maybe 2 people actually knew how he spelt his name.. or what he really was like. you can check out his life changes on his website.. and just notice how his appearance changed in about 2 years.. thats when all his friends came around. its irritating that people are so defensive over him.. and take back 3 years before he died.. he had a small group of friends.. shy as hell. he lost weight, joined a band.. then everyone was his 'best friend'.

im sorry but they dont know how he was before his confidence was boosted by appearance changes..

well. im ranting anyway. i guess this site has helped a bit of us people express feelings.

and the main reason are finding your site.. theres nothing else to do in this town.. but sit on your computer.. and hope you find something interesting.

and everything i said was true.. from the start. you dont have to believe it.. but i know it.. and walley does too.


adolfo said...

McCain, who is often cited for his impulsive temperament, seems to be releasing his inner peevishness in the closing days of the presidential race. Everything Obama or Biden says of late appears to get his goat.
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Tristen Maher said...

I was Kayla's roommate for almost a year she was the sweetest girl in my group home. I love her deeply. When I heard what happened I literally could not breath I didn't want to believe it @ first but when it sunk in it was if a train hit me. What was even worse was that my forensic science teacher made a remark about how he did her autopsy. Not knowing that anyone, knew her or the story. Kayla was a beautiful girl full of life loved to laugh but was so scared of never being loved. I told her I loved her as often as I could!!! I stayed up @ night with her and let her sleep with me after her night terrors thanks to her bio family!!!

We always tried to warn her of the evil people. She would follow almost anyone if they told her they loved her. All she wanted in life was to be loved and to be a model. I promised her one day that her dream would come true if she worked hard. But those 3 bastards had to change everything. I was 3 streets away as she was murdered I had no clue she was even in the same city as me. As I walked home I saw the smoke from the fire. And had no freakin clue what was going on!!! I wish I could have changed the decisions I made when I lived with her maybe if I didn't move she wouldn't have moved either and she would still be alive!!!

Kayla was like my little sister she told me she always wanted to be like me I would giggle and tell her no sweetie you want to be better than me!! Now she will never be able to shine threw. She will never be able to fulfill her dreams.

I can't imagine what was going threw her head while she was hiding in the closet after he slit her throat when ever she was scared she would curl up in a ball and hide in closets, under tables or under her blankets. So when I read the testimony about her hiding in the closet I knew my sweet angel was only trying to hide from them as they tortured her. I hope to god they do not get the death penalty and I hope they rot in prison and they get theirs.

For her Bio Family I pray for you. Kayla love you guys deeply even threw all the pain and shame you guy put upon her. She forgave you guys and loved you guys. But knew she was better off with out a few of you!!!!

If you have any questions or would just like to reach me. You may email me @ or or on face book Tristen Maher

I also have a poem about Kayla meant for her Bio family as well on my myspace blog.