A Saturday in the life of a reporter

A late Friday night is usually a good indication that it was a good Friday night, and that was the case this past weekend. Early that following morning, I awoke to the sound of my phone and my friend Jill’s voice.

“Hey, I just heard there was a shooting in Sherburne and someone was murdered.” 

I couldn’t believe it at first and thought maybe that there might be some other way to explain the incident.

“I know some members of the family and they called me this morning and told me.”

In my last year and a half at The Evening Sun, I’ve covered three homicides, one shooting death, two attempted murders and two appealed murder cases, not counting this one. My predecessors Jude Seymour and Jeff Morse covered the same beat for about four years without a single murder.

I got myself ready in about 20 minutes. I left for Sherburne knowing only that there was a homicide. I’d figure out everything else on the fly. I stopped at the office and made several calls and spoke with a few answering machines. I eventually got hold of someone who told me the scene was along Classic Street in Sherburne. It had been about 40 minutes since I awoke.

I arrived in Sherburne without an exact address, but if you’ve ever been to a serious crime scene you know that they tend to stick out. Police cars lined the Sherburne Meadow Apartments and yellow tape wrapped around the entire complex. In the driveway stood Sherburne Police Chief James Fox and a few other officers. I parked and headed up the driveway and was scared half to death by Lt. James E. Lloyd, who shouted out to me from a parked vehicle. I walked right past him without noticing he was there. I was the only reporter on the scene, but had passed the Channel 10 news van on the way up.

Lloyd spoke briefly of what was happening and allowed me to photograph the scene. He also informed my of a press conference taking place later in the day and that a suspect was in custody and he was going to be arraigned in about an hour. Jill had told me the name of the victim, but police had not released it yet. 

I drove down to the village court and after a quick swing by Gilligan’s for some lunch, I decided to sit in my car and wait. I knew come Monday a picture of the accused would be worth a thousand words. Time passed and no one showed. The crime was less then 10 hours old and I began wondering how fluid a schedule might be for the ongoing investigation. A patrol car pulled up across the street and I decided to run over to ask the officer if he knew anything. He told me the arraignment was in an hour. I started thinking of Jill, who was attempting to contact the family for comment and information. I thought she’d like to be a part of the arraignment and the press conference and since she was the one who called me, I owed her that much.

I drove home and called Jill. She had little success with the victim’s family. They were very upset and suspicious of the media. They feared their son would be painted in a poor light because of his past encounters with the law. As this story has played out in the media in the last few days, it appears that their fears are becoming realized.

Jill and I traveled together up the Sherburne court again and after briefly meeting with the judge and waiting for another half an hour, people began arriving. Eventually the accused was brought in and our pictures were snapped.

Court was swift and formal, but it was long enough to get a name, picture and that there was a possible confession. The most remarkable thing about the court appearance was that we were the only ones present besides the officers and counsel, no other media outlet was there.

Before the press conference at the Sheriff’s Office, we drove back to the office and wrote a quick story to be placed on our website. Jeff, our editor, had also come into work that afternoon. Our efforts allowed us to break news of the victim’s and defendant’s identities before they were ‘officially’ released. We also had far more details on the incident than any other outlet ... too bad they wouldn’t get printed until Monday, but website traffic on evesun.com was the highest it had ever been over the weekend.

At the press conference almost all of the information we had been gathering since earlier that morning was handed over to the half-dozen press outlets along with photos. Still we had a good lead on a number of things. The following day, several of the media outlets where publishing information regarding a fight over a card game and two gunshots, both of which are false. The family did eventually share some confidence with Jill and she was also able to get a better picture of the victim.

At the end of our Saturday, about 5 or 6 p.m. we all went back to our boss’s house to update our stories over the Internet and I promptly made us all some drinks.

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