On Saturday, January 26, 2008 the Madera Tribune felt the need to take it upon themselves to publish a revealing, detailed, overly graphic and very unnecessary article surrounding the details of Krista Pike’s death. When I finally picked up the front page the first thing I focused on was the beautiful picture of the 18-year-old victim; perfectly-styled hair, a bright smile on her face. The next thing I noticed, was the large print placed beside it, detailing how she was raped and beaten before finally dying.
The record in my mind ripped and I did about four double-takes. What was wrong with this picture?
As a 14-year-old aspiring forensic investigator, I was shocked at the details of the evidence gathered from the scene and at the disclosure of statements by witnesses and law enforcement. These things are not supposed or allowed to be leaked into the media. But then, I read something else– “The following, based on public documents, details their investigation.” But that just wasn’t right; if these police officers’ notes, the county coroner and investigators’ findings were released as public records by the court, surely a newspaper would not go so far as to publish a blow-by-blow of what happened. Surely they would not be so insensitive to the brutal slaying of a girl barely an adult. Surely they would respect the family and friends of the parties involved.
Sadly, this was not the case.
I read on, becoming more outraged by each sentence I came across which explained in graphic detail images that I’d rather not be made aware of. I stopped reading halfway through the article, feeling disgusted, outraged, and nauseous.
While Mr. John Rieping, may expect a “Job well done!”, a pat on the back and nothing but pure commendation for this “Look Ma– I made the front page!” article, I, as well as many other readers of the Tribune think otherwise. The details surrounding Krista Pike’s death, no matter how much speculation is made by the public, no matter how many murmurs at the water cooler there are about it, is strictly to remain between law enforcement officials and the parties involved in this matter. It’s not only cause for a change of venue, it’s also very unprofessional on Mr. Rieping and the editors’ part.
In most places, if a law enforcement officer opens their mouths and leaks information about a crime scene, motive, suspect, cause of death or anything about a crime before there is a conviction and the case has been tried, this person will lose their job. But these were public records released by the court with their notes and findings which the Tribune felt the need to plaster all over the front page. I think the Tribune’s staff and editors should know something very important: Just because it is public record doesn’t mean it needs to be released to the public.
With an article this detailed about the crime, this leaves room for benefit of the doubt, which could lead to the perpetrators going free. An article this detailed also leaves room to spawn a possible serial killer. Sixty percent of serial killers spawn from previous crimes their family members and/or friends committed initially. Statistics or not, we do not need another grisly murder like this. No one should have to be submitted to the horrible fate Krista Pike was, and no newspaper should ever post something this detailed.
So regardless of how proud the editors and Mr. Rieping may have felt about this article and their detailed coverage of just what exactly happened on January 14, 2008, this article was unnecessary, insensitive and very unprofessional on the part of the newspaper itself. It’s funny– I thought there was some sort of code of ethics journalists were supposed to follow to show sensitivity to these sorts of crimes. I also thought journalists and especially editors should know what they can and should not write about a pending investigation and trial.
Ann Marie Padilla,