Reality Intrudes, Astonishes Locals
(Mar. 27, Iowa City, IA) Lives and deaths become reduced to events for those not directly affected; only members of the family of the deceased feel the loss acutely and experience it chronically. This is especially true of unnatural death, murder in particular. When the event is composed of the elements that are contained within this particular one: scandal, multiple murder, husband killing wife, father killing four children then this deranged man committing suicide on the Interstate, it is becomes an event of even greater weight and scope.
When Steve Sueppel, the former Vice President and Controller for the Hills Bank, murdered his wife and four children last Monday, then killed himself in a fiery crash on Interstate 80 just miles from the scene of his crime, this was an event, locally, of substantial proportions. True, such a sad, gruesome tragedy involving innocent children, would be an event anywhere across the land, it was of particular shock value in this Midwestern city that likes to think they live above the fray, that such horror only transpires in the dark alleys and squalid apartments of the “inner city”.
Sueppel was facing numerous counts in federal court related to the embezzlement of over $500,000 from the Hills Bank as well as money laundering charges. Apparently the public disgrace and humiliation for this son of a prominent Iowa City attorney was the catalystic impetus that pushed him over the edge into homicidal psychosis. Perhaps, over time, as law enforcement authorities release more details of his suicide note and several phone messages left to other family members and friends, a clearer picture will emerge of this man’s last hours on earth: hours, no doubt, where he was drowning in some acute psychopathology. But, who really cares? His shame and cowardice manifest as he beat his wife and children to death with a baseball bat.
Days after madness incarnate brought incomprehensible death to this affluent development on the eastern edge of Iowa City, the sun shines, the sky is blue and lawns are showing the first hints that Spring is not far away. Yellow crime scene tape swaying in the breeze around 629 Barrington Road stands out like a steaming heap of manure on a wedding cake. The neighbors already seem somewhat weary from the attention and activity that has interrupted their lives since Monday. Despite this, none are reluctant to speak; actually, they come across as somewhat eager to give their impressions and opinions about the Sueppel’s, both their lives and deaths.
These are pleasant people, people who, to all outward appearances, are accustomed to living comfortably. Many are professionals, some associated with either the University of Iowa or the U of I Hospitals and Clinics. They drive nice vehicles with a decided preference for over-sized SUV’s that are “off-road” capable but will never be “off-road”.
Until they learned the secret life of the banker turned thief and embezzler next door, the Sueppel’s were them. Now, they look back in vain attempts to interpret a conversation or interaction as a “sign” of some sort as if, via memory they will ascertain a profound truth they missed. This is human nature yet it plays out in an odd, seemingly painful way on the faces of these Iowans who really exude an aura of Midwestern superiority.
“This sort of thing shouldn’t happen here”, says a neighborhood resident. This sentiment is heard repeatedly and each time it sounds as ignorant as the last. It begs the question, the question none here can answer, “Well, where is it supposed to happen?” As if there are specific locations around the country where murder most wicked and foul are destined to occur. They cut the conversation short after fumbling for an answer to that question. There own thoughts expressed by their words sound self-incriminating. It is as though they have revealed an embarrassing truth, a secret, but a truth nonetheless. A private truth they would not want known to others.
The lawns will grow greener and the makeshift memorial of stuffed animals, flowers and notes will either be disassembled at some appropriate time or it will be washed and blown away with the April showers soon to come. The yellow strips of crime scene tape will not survive the rains and powerful winds that are common across the Plains. What will remain within the homes and residents of this community are questions. Some will find themselves daydreaming, staring out the kitchen window as they idly wash dishes wondering, “What secrets lurk in my home, in my family?” They will question who they know and what they really know about them as they will about themselves.
Copyright © The Brooding Cynyx 2008
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