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Published: Friday, 12/1/2006

Torture victim's legacy one of forgiveness

BY ROBIN ERB
BLADE STAFF WRITER

His was a simple farewell yesterday, much - his loved ones would say - like his life.

The Urbanski Funeral Home piped "Amazing Grace" through a stereo system, and a dinner-plate sized seal of the United States Marine Corps rested in the lid of the blue-gray coffin.

David Eberflus - the mentally disabled Vietnam veteran who was tied up and tortured in his North Toledo home a decade ago by a group of bored youths - died just short of 10 years from the day he forgave his torturers and asked an outraged community to do the same.

"There's no doubt in my mind he could have beat those kids, but he didn't," said Steve Lewandowski, a long-time friend and a former Lucas County Juvenile Court probation officer who knew well the ugliest details of the 1996 attack.

Mr. Lewandowski was one of the 16 people who gathered to pay their last respects. "Instead, he just let them do it," Mr. Lewandowski said. "He told me 'What was I going to do? They're kids.'•"

On Oct. 10, 1996, eight boys tore up a Utica Street home that belonged to a man they knew as "Crazy Dave."

The boys dragged Mr. Eberflus to his living room, bound his hands with electrical cord, and stretched out his arms. They beat him and threw chemicals in his eyes, dripped melting plastic on him, and burned his genitals with a cigarette lighter.

They urinated in his face and forced him to eat human waste from a spoon.

And perhaps most startling of all - even in an era in which headlines across the country decried the rise of "superpredator" youth - the Toledo boys later said they did it because they were bored.

"It was incredible and horrible," said Connie Eason, who works with the Toledo-Lucas County Victim Witness program, at yesterday's service.

Because Mr. Eberflus was the victim of a sex crime, Ms. Eason was among the few at the time who knew his identity.

The Blade and other media referred to him only as a mentally disabled Vietnam vet. It didn't matter.

Despite his anonymity, angry residents at the time clogged phone lines at the

Lucas County Juvenile Court demanding action. Veterans marched to show their support for him.

Three months later - after most of the boys had been sentenced for a half-dozen felonies, Mr. Eberflus spoke publicly for the first time. That's when, some argued yesterday, the most amazing part of the story developed: He forgave the boys.

"I just keep thinking: What if they were my children," he said. "I ... wouldn't want them to spend too much time in jail, you know?"

But what mourners spoke about yesterday during Mr. Eberflus' funeral services wasn't his ordeal or the dialogue it triggered about Toledo's most troubled youth. It was the rest of Mr. Eberflus' 56 years - his once-estranged family with whom he'd recently grown close, his service in Vietnam, and an otherwise quiet existence.

"We impact everyone's life," Deacon Michael Pence said, the portrait of a young, slender Mr. Eberflus behind him. "It may be only for a split second, but we have put an impact on their life in the way we look at them, the way we greet them The way we treat others. That is what God will judge us for."

Contact Robin Erb at:

robinerb@theblade.com

or 419-724-6133



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