Another mysterious, mystifying (but not random) murder

Reader David P. sent me a story from the Washington Post (copied in next entry) about a young black man savagely murdering his 92 year old neighbor with whom he had been friends and who had trusted him. In my below e-mail reply to the reader, which I’ve slightly edited and expanded, I think my way step by step through the racial aspect of the story.

LA to David P:

The article begins:

Thelma Steele, a 92-year-old neighborhood matriarch, and William Fitts, a teenager who lived across the street, were like grandmother and grandson, family members said. She would buy him toys and gadgets for Christmas and his birthday; he would often stop by her house with fruit baskets, cookies and tea.

That’s what makes the case so mystifying.

One day late last week—after Steele welcomed Fitts into her Forestville home—the 15-year-old boy bludgeoned her with her walking cane and stabbed her with a knife, law enforcement sources said.

Of course the story says nothing about the race of the victim and the killer. But it has a photo of William Fitts:


As for the Fittses, we’re told that they adopted William in Brazil when he was three weeks old. So the Fittses aren’t necessarily black. We’re told that William’s adoptive brother, Warren, is 42 years old—27 years older than William. So the Fittses adopted William when they already had fully grown children. Further, William went to a Seventh Day Adventist school. All these things make it fairly likely to my mind that the Fitts family is white.

As for Thelma Steele, the profile of the elderly widow living alone in the house for decades, only friendly with the neighborhood boy, it sounds to me like a white woman, but we don’t know.

Now, Forestville is an unincorporated area in Prince George’s County, Maryland. In 2000 it had a population of 12,700, with 10.54 percent white and 85.78 percent black. This makes it much more likely that both families are black.

However, here is a reason for believing that both families are white. The Washington Post is very into blacks, likes to tell about black achievements, black neighborhoods, and so on. If the Post had written at such length about a black family which had adopted a boy from Brazil, who then developed this sweet friendship with an elderly neighborhood woman, I think it would have said that the family was black. The fact that it does not say anything about their race is a strong indication to me that they are white.

But that runs up against the fact that only 10 percent of the population of Forestville is white.

Here’s a TV news report from WJLA. As we can see in the video, Warren Fitts, who insists that his brother William must be innocent, is white. A granddaughter of the victim has Negro features but seems to be of mixed race. There’s so much race mixture in that part of the country that anybody could be anything.

So, we know this much so far. A white family with grown children adopted an infant black boy in Brazil, maybe out of some charitable or religious motive, raised him in the U.S., and at age 15 he suddenly murdered an elderly neighborhood woman with whom he was friends.

But here’s another TV news report, from WUSA9, that has more of Warren Steele saying it’s impossible that his 15 year old brother would have killed the “beloved” elderly woman with whom he was chums. The same report also shows a photograph of Thelma Steele. She is white.


So—a white family adopts a black boy in Brazil, brings him to the U.S., where he murders a white woman he was good friends with.

It’s a variation on a very old theme. A nonwhite comes to America, in many cases seems “normal,” but then suddenly turns murderously on his white friends, employers, benefactors. One of the oldest such racial murders concerns a man from Barbados named Julian Carlton who was hired as a domestic servant by Frank Lloyd Wright at his home Taliesin in 1914, and after he had worked there for a few months set fire to the house and murdered seven people with an axe as they tried to escape, including Wright’s mistress and her two children. Wright was away at the time.

When I write about these subjects, am I trying to create fear of all black and other nonwhite people? No. I am pointing out certain facts. Blacks and nonwhite Hispanics brought into a white society and finding themselves suddenly surrounded by whites who have so much more than they do but are also the “Other,” often have resentments and other passions building up in them of which the whites in their bland benevolence or indifference have no notion. Instead of imagining that everyone is the same, whites need to be aware of these dangerous racial dynamics. They need to develop a more realistic view of race differences and race relations, and then begin to act—and revise their racial policies—accordingly.

- end of initial entry -

Robert B. writes:

My daughter, home from Bryn Mawr, refers to the sudden unexplained murder of the white woman by the black teenager as ” S3” (S cubed—I cannot make the cubed symbol in email). “S cubed” stands for “Sudden Savage Syndrome,” which she and her friends in college got from your site.

LA replies:

This, this, and this are previous entries where I used the expression Sudden Savage Syndrome, which is a variation on the better known expression Sudden Jihad Syndrome. I thank your daughter and you for the reminder, and she is certainly correct. Sudden Savage Syndrome clearly describes the behavior of the murderer in this case—quiet, “nice,” had only gotten in a little trouble previously, then suddenly “something” takes him over and he brutally murders the elderly lady who had been his friend.

Alan Roebuck writes:

Regarding the latest discussion of “Sudden Savage Syndrome” and Robert B’s desire to make the “cubed” symbol: when a mathematical word processor is not available, S cubed is officially written S^3.

August 25

Beth M. writes (August 20):

The Washington Post article on the murder says:

Warren Fitts said that his brother had gone to Martin Barr Seventh-day Adventist School in Gambrills but that in the winter he began attending Miracle Meadows School in West Virginia, which bills itself as a school for at-risk children. Warren Fitts said the move was precautionary: His brother took money from his parents and occasionally lied, but he had never been in any serious trouble.

I don’t think this is “Sudden Savage Syndrome.” I think there was a serious problem here all along. The family is apparently living in a modest home in a predominantly black neighborhood, and sending William to Miracle Meadows would have cost them $30,000 per year. This would be an unbelievable financial burden for any middle-class family. The family says that the boy was sent to Miracle Meadows because he had stolen money from his parents and told lies. But if that description summed up the boy’s issues, he could have gone to one of the eight or nine “regular” boarding schools in the Adventist system, or the parents could have sent him to a military boarding academy in the Washington area (although the strictures of the Adventist faith may make it difficult for an Adventist child to attend any boarding program not run by the Adventists).

Miracle Meadows bills itself as being the only school in the Adventist system that takes “aggressive” youth, and takes children who have been expelled from other schools. My guess is that when young William has been confronted with his misbehavior or has not gotten his way in the past, he has become very aggressive indeed.

The reason William’s parents sent him to Miracle Meadows was that they were scared of him, and that no other Adventist school would take him. To get into a regular Adventist school, William would have needed character recommendations from teachers at his previous school, and I’ll bet that his teachers were scared of him, too.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 19, 2011 06:23 PM | Send

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