Lately, the local news has been filled with horror stories – a child beaten to death by her parents, a boyfriend shot dead by his girlfriend’s brother, a random murder by a young man gone berserk, a young woman disappearing without a trace.

None of these tragedies are things I would have been apt to write about in my 40-year journalism career. Mostly I have written about the cultural life of Maine, but when the subject did involve crime or violence it was usually news you could use, tragedies that raised public policy questions.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

In the case of Marissa Kennedy, the 10-year-old beaten to death by her parents, I suppose there are public policy questions to be addressed. The Department of Health and Human Services apparently knew the little girl was being abused and failed to protect her. Marissa should have been taken away from her parents, but then DHHS looks like a villain both when it takes children into protective custody and when it fails to do so.

In the case of Mark Cardilli Jr., the young man who shot his sister’s boyfriend to death, the tragedy is that Cardilli introduced a gun into what should have just been a fistfight. Cardilli was apparently trying to force his sister’s boyfriend to leave and claimed he shot in self-defense. But, as the assistant attorney general argued, “Shooting an unarmed guest in the back because he has overstayed his welcome is murder.” Cardilli was convicted of manslaughter.

My first reaction when news of the shooting broke was that the gun was the problem, but, upon reflection, it was the unnecessary and unwise use of a gun that took a human life and destroyed a family. Whatever happened to calling the police?

Not sure what communities can do when a young man like Quinton Hanna allegedly goes on a rampage, stabbing two people, one fatally, sexually assaulting a woman and running over her with a car. But it seems as though someone should have foreseen the potential for violence and warned authorities about it.

Hanna was apprehended on the Brunswick Mall, just a few blocks from my home. I wish I didn’t have to worry about family members walking the streets, but apparently I do. The Hanna incident also increased my ambivalence about gun ownership. On the one hand, the Cardilli killing underscores the fact that people who live in homes where guns are present are more likely to be involved in gun violence. On the other, a man in Bath was able to chase Quinton Hanna away with a loaded pistol.

Then there is the sad case of Anneliese Heinig, the 37-year-old Richmond woman who disappeared on Interstate 295. As the father of adult daughters, I first imagined the horror of a young woman being abducted when her car broke down on the highway. But a few days later it was reported that the young woman had mental health problems and may have committed suicide. I saw the search planes and police boats circling the mouth of the Presumpscot River looking for her body. She has not been found, so every time I cross the river on I-295 I find myself scanning the shoreline.

When horrible things occur, we have a tendency to either want to distance ourselves from them or to do something about them. In these cases, I find it hard to do either. People move to Maine to escape things like this. But there is no escape.

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