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Published: Saturday, 6/23/2007

Don't Hug the Sources

Can we talk?

I just filed my Sunday story about the apparent discovery of Jessie Davis' body, and right now, my fondest wish is to go out for a beer. But I'm thinking what I should do is call the office and ask if they want me to visit the Akron church Ms. Davis attended on Sunday, or if they want me to stay Monday to see what else I can do. But I'm probably going to do neither of those very good and responsible things.

I don't think I will, anyway.

So let me tell you about today. It was pretty strange. I am always in a state of panic in these pack reporting circumstances, worrying about what I'm missing. So I get up early, read every story I can find and keep an eye on TV, and...uh-oh, on TV, I see they're interviewing Jessie's dad. I freak.

I'm late. I should be at the fire station already. How will I ever find Ned Davis once I get there? Will I remember what he looks like?

But I do find him. And I find a cousin of Jessie's. And I find lots of other nice people. And you know, this is a relief. Here I am, covering this horrible tragedy, and it's all about me and my story. I'd apologize for that, but it kind of goes with the job.

It's not that this stuff doesn't touch me. It does. I'm sort of a crybaby, and I tear up when I interview people. I can't help it. I don't mean to do it, and a lot of times, if the person I'm talking to is trying not to cry, they start getting a little misty, and then they're brushing tears back. It's like yawning.

I also drove back to Jessie's house. I see a green plastic toy jeep on the back patio, which I found more affecting than all the flowers and cards on the front stoop. Then I drove out to her boyfriend's house for the first time. There were "no trespassing" signs in the front yard and six cars in the driveway, and a bunch of people came out and hugged Bobby Cutts as they left the house. And here I am without a photographer.

On my second visit to the fire station, I got a chance to talk to Tim Miller again. This is the guy who runs EquuSearch, which organized all the volunteer activity. And this guy got to me. He totally got to me.

As I've covered this story, I've noticed how many people speak in prepared statements. Not that most of them have anything written out, they just sound like they're issuing prepared statements. My theory is it's because we all watch too much TV, and we think this is how we should talk. But this guy, Miller I have to tell you, I don't think I've met a more disarmingly direct person in my whole life. It's a clich to say someone speaks from the heart, but I have to say it here.

You've probably read it in the paper, but I'll recap: He founded EquuSearch after his 16-year-old daughter, Laura, was abducted and murdered in 1984. Since then he's organized 700 searches. He's given his life to helping other families find their kids, putting himself in financial straits to do it, and if there's the littlest bit of ego or the slightest self-regard in this, i sure couldn't see it.

That this driven guy would stop and answer questions without acting like he had more important things to do -- which he probably did -- surprised me. In fact, I think he along with the 4,000 volunteers he drew to help were the best publicity this case had going.

And, in a total breach of journalist ethics, without thinking for a second about what I was doing, I finished the interview, and I hugged him.

I have never done that before. Ever. It was not premeditated, and it surprised me completely. He acted like people hug him all the time. And I think they do.

OK. So. Any minute now, I'm going out to find that beer. I really hope this story is over for me. I'd like to go home, see my husband, see my puppy.

Sad thing is, it's not over for the Davises. I'll collect overtime for the extra work. These people here will never be the same. Not ever.(I;m quoting Tim Miller here.)

I can't begin to imagine what that means. I really can't.



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