^ some call it homicide : Joshua Messier, a schizophrenic, dies at Bridgewater

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We like to think of our state as a beacon of progressivism. Don Berwick, a candidate for governor, calls us that. Our history justifies the call. Unhappily, we do not always live up to our reputation. What has happened these past years at Bridgewater State Hospital shames it.

The death of Joshua Messier, a young schizophrenic, at Bridgewater, is known to all of us thanks to much recent media attention. Some have called his death at the hands of Bridgewater employees a homicide. Even if not that, the death should never have happened. Frankly, Messier should not have been placed in the Bridgewater we now learn about, a horror in which residents are abused — tortured, as an editorial in today’s Boston Globe makes clear.

It is time to close Bridgewater entirely and to establish residential options for all the people now forcibly kept there.

The injustice reeks all the more because as long ago as the 1960s we thought we had ended the horrible career of Bridgewater. I remember the “Titicut Follies” movie, directed by Frederick Wiseman, that — to quote Wikipedia — “graphically depicted the existence of occupants of Bridgewater, some of them catatonic, holed up in unit cells, and only periodically washed….inmates/patients required to strip naked publicly, force feeding, and indifference and bullying on the part of many of the institution’s staff.”

The movie exploded into public discussion, sensationally; but from it came what we thought was major reform. Cerrtainly the systematic torture of Bridgewater patients was curbed, the worst abuses put an end to.

We were wrong..

As the op-ed by Roderick MacLeish and Stephen Delinsky describes, mentally ill people at Bridgewater are isolated, tied down, denied any diversion at all, restrained perhaps for two days, forced to defecate into a bed pan.

The frustration and anger go deeper still. MacLeish and Delinsky tell us that in 1988 (!) they “negotiated a settlement agreement involving Bridgewater that created a secure, therapeutic hospital setting where men with serious mental illness and no criminal history could be treated in a human way…(but)… in 2003, the hospital was defunded.”

Mitt Romney was our governor when that was done.

Yet Governor Patrick cannot put the blame for recent Bridgewater on Romney. Patrick has been governor since 2006 and has made no move that I am aware of to do anything about Bridgewater abuses. (Indeed, Patrick has continued the defunding of state social services, cutting the budget for Massachusetts DCF by over 100 million since 2009. we live with the tragic consequences of that de-funding even as I write.)


^ much to answer for : Governor Deval Patrick

As I stated at the beginning of this editorial, candidate Don Berwick has much to say about Massachusetts being progressive. He proposes many initiatives that seem quite extreme — some of them unwise. Even if one thinks them worthy, one hears not a word from Berwick, who is a pediatrician and touts his proficiency in health issues, about Bridgewater or the state’s abuses there.

If a man like Berwick does not speak up, who in power will ? Charlie Baker ? Maybe. We shall see.

It is time for Massachusetts to close Bridgewater entirely and thus extinguish forever the culture of abuse that dominates it. House the criminally insane in a new institution established with rigid guidelines for treatment first, custody second. Offer comfortable residential options to mentally ill men with no criminal history, staffed by health care professionals, not prison guards. Appoint an ombudsman to monitor the enterprise. And pay substantial financial compensation to those who have suffered at Bridgewater, in some cases for many years, along with a full, public apology to them and their loved ones.

In Massachusetts, we do usually get it right. But only through constant vigilance do we keep the vehicle of progress moving up the road. It’s time for some serious keeping. Let’s do it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ surveillance photo at Upham’s Corner, Dorchester, showing Amy Lord, in gym clothes, getting out of passenger side of her Jeep to withdraw money at ATM per her kidnapper’s orders.

Just when we in Boston have had about all that we can stand of murder most foul, of murder trials, of murder testimony and murder graphics, our city has awoken to the happening of yet another murder — one more than foul; a murder beyond explication. Amy E. Lord, a 24-year old gal living in South Boston — reputedly one of our safest neighborhoods — was, it appears, kidnapped by two men (the police think it was two — but see update at the end of this report), forced to withdraw her money at ATM’s, then stabbed to death and her corpse dumped in scruffy woods several miles away, in Boston’s Hyde Park section.

Lord grew up in Wilbraham, a flat-land suburb bordering Springfield, a once-booming, former mill city 100 miles west. She had moved to the “big city” — for Boston is that, to kids living in our state’s back areas — to make her way in the world; and was, it seems, doing so, as a web designer; not spectacularly but in an ordinary, tech-savvy, 21st century way. “If you had a daughter, you would want her to be like Amy,” her grandfather Donald Lord is quoted as saying. A great many daughters are, indeed, like Amy must have been. That is what most unsettles us. Murder beyond foul is not supposed to happen to daughters like Amy Lord.

Her killer or killers did not stand outside a seedy dive in Boston’s Theater district looking for streetwalkers to hijack — some killers do do that. The killer(s) did not break into a millionairess’s loft in the tony Back Bay, looking for jewels and riches — some killers do that, too. Nor were they, it seems, sexual predators on a rape spree — that, too, more than once happens, depressingly. These killers weren’t terrorists, or athletes night-shifting as gang-bangers, or big name mobsters — all of which are on trial, or soon to be on trial, right now in our city, living through our time as America’s Grand Central station of high-profile murder. Amy Lord was none of this. Nor were her killers. They, appear to have been as ordinary as she. This is what unsettles us most.

They (or he) wanted money, ordinary money; probably for drugs — an ordinary craving. They found an ordinary girl, forgetting, or not giving a damn, that ordinary people, too, have families and friends who care about them. People in crisis, like streetwalkers, have advocates. Millionairesses have big money lawyers and influential relatives. Attack a streetwalker or a millionairess, and you will face heavy, institutional retribution. This is known. But attack an ordinary person ? Who is there to defend her but her ordinary family ?

So might think the killing mind, if it thinks at all when kidnapping, robbery and murder pushes it to act.

They kidnapped her at an ordinary time — 56AM — when many tech-ies are already awake and up, getting ready for work, which in many tech companies begins at 7 AM. They robbed her by ATM machines — as routine as money gets.

The robbing of ATM kiosks was over at 6,47, the BPMDtells us. 47 minutes. Not much longer than savoring a latte at Starbucks.

Everything about the murder of Amy Lord ws ordinary, as ordinary as life is good, which it ordinarily is, for most of us, even though it has its stressful stretches — and these stressful times are ordinary too. But that murder should be an ordinary part of an ordinary life, that is the shocking thing, the inexplicable, the frightful. It is not merely hyperbole to say that Amy Lord is us. She WAS us. Her murder murders a part of us too.

Let us grieve….

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE at 12.45 PM : Police have now concluded that it was only ONE man who kidnapped, robbed, and killed Amy Lord, and that he beat her seriously inside her apartment building before ordering her into her Jeep — which he hijacked — to withdraw money.


UPDATE # 2 :  Boston Police still are not ready to make an arrest, even though they have a suspect in custody in another South Boston mugging that occurred the same morning. It is thought that said suspect is involved in the Amy Lord murder.  This morning the suspect, one Edwin Alemany, age 28, was found mentally incapable of attending an arraignment. He is now at Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, undergoing the standard 21-day psychiatric evaluation.   (This update at 8.40 P,M. 07/25/13)