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Outback Observations

A Glimpse Into the Other Side of Humanity— Ryan Bonham

Violent crimes are mighty rare in Lake County, but, when they do occur, they truly rock the proverbial foundation to its core.

Judge Lane Simpson sentenced Martin Carl Brown on Friday, March 15, in the murder of his wife, Valerie Watts, whose body was found northwest of Lakeview last summer after she was reported missing for an extended period of time.

Brown, 56, received a life sentence in prison and will not be eligible to petition for parole for 25 years, minimum.

I sat in the second row of the gallery when the judge handed down Brown’s sentence.

Now closing in on almost eight years of working for the Examiner, I can recall only two other incidents of this kind of gravity.

One incident involved middle school-age children and a poisoning attempt that thankfully was not successful, and the other a murder that occurred in a local motel.

While I did write stories on the investigation that occurred in the latter case, my co-worker at the time covered the juvenile-based incident.

The motel murder’s trial, likewise, was covered by a co-worker.

This marked the first time I sat in on a sentencing for such a heinous incident in which the life of an innocent was so tragically and maliciously cut short.

It was truly an education, for me, and a glimpse into the other side of humanity, the polar opposite end of the spectrum that I’m accustomed to witnessing on a weekly basis.

As indicated in Klamath Falls journalist Lyle Ahrens’ news report that followed, Brown showed no remorse for his actions.

His mannerisms in the courtroom as family members or friends of the family read statements in lieu of those who could be present for the sentencing ranged from nervous fidgeting to no response; at least from my vantage point, as I was seated in the second row of the gallery and could not see his face.

I could not see Brown’s face, but I could hear plainly the trauma suffered by the family members and family friends seated in the gallery’s first row.

Nothing tells the human side of violent crime like the sorrow of those left behind in its wake, left to carry on with only memories with which to cling.

A cursory search on the internet on any given day will reveal similar horrific instances that occur with alarmingly clocklike regularity.

One may read any large metropolitan daily newspaper or its web site, or television broadcast news program on any given night, where such horrific acts occur on a regular basis.

Though my working capacity as a news reporter brought me there for the clinical purpose of reporting the events and decisions of the day, I admittedly found it impossible to not be impacted on an emotional level, especially after hearing the loved ones pouring out their hearts to the individual that so irrevocably impacted their collective lives.

Brown’s sentencing followed a change, at his agreement, to a ‘guilty’ plea.

By doing so, he wrote off any hopes for a trial or appeal, and now his sentencing is simply etched into the permanent record of Lake County history.

In reflection, I can’t adequately express the sympathy and empathy I feel for those, near and far, who will continue to think of, pray for and remember Valerie Watts, but hopefully the spirit of the message will speak for itself.

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