Tuesday, June 04, 2013
The plain white business envelope with no return address arrived at my Scranton home on the Saturday before the Tuesday May 21 primary election.
Inside I found a folded 10-page court document from 1984.
Until then I had never seen the name of the dead man referred to in the official record. Almost 30 years after his death, most of us have never heard his name. Although his name is familiar to some important people, it is doubtful that they want to speak publicly about him.
I left three telephone messages for one man who should clearly remember the dead man and his family but he has not returned my calls.
Sources say that the dead man’s widow and three children are living in Scranton.
One source says he spoke with the widow recently and she was willing to speak about the April 11, 1984 death of her 27-year-old husband a few days after a vehicle struck him on Cedar Avenue in the South Side section of Scranton.
Then she suddenly backed out.
One of the dead man’s children later told the source that people were trying to use his mother to hurt “somebody.” The source said he told the man - who was a child when his father was killed - that he only wanted the truth.
But the man refused to cooperate.
The widow spoke to a lawyer who advised her and her family not to speak about the accident, the source said, and she does not want to revisit the terrible time she endured in the aftermath of her husband’s death.
But as bad as life turned for the woman and her three minor children, the court document shows that she was well compensated for her loss.
Just four months after her husband died, a court settlement filed in Lackawanna County court decreed that she receive an immediate cash payment of $90,000 and “beginning January 1, 1987, a monthly payment of $1168.42 for a period of time of sixty (60) years, making a total payment to the surviving wife of $841,298.40.”
“A total payment of $90,000 to the three minor children of the decedent,” is “payable as follows: $30,000 to (child number one) on attaining the age of 18 years on March 9, 1993; $30,000 to (child number two) on attaining the age of 18 years on May 16, 1994; and $30,000 to (child number three) on attaining the age of 18 on November 4, 1997.”
The court document confirms that the total paid to the “surviving wife” and children comes to a “total value of $1,021,298.40.”
Some people wanted this story to be told before the election. But I didn’t have enough time to uncover the facts and figures I needed to be fair and to offer the people involved an opportunity to tell their stories.
After all these years, the man's death remains a contemporary tale.
Another source said he was told by a Scranton city police officer that no police report exists to document the terrible event that night on Cedar Avenue. A law enforcement source told me that he would not be surprised if no investigative report exists because in those days bad things could and did happen at the Scranton Department.
When I checked the county records, a clerk told me that the settlement document I possess is the only record available about the settlement.
Then a source told me last week that the record is missing.
I’ll check to see if that is true.
I’ll also check to see if the police report is missing as well.
The settlement occurred on behalf of a young defendant who had a bright future even if the court settlement alleges that the “petitioner’s claim is the alleged negligence of the defendant in the operation of his motor vehicle, thereby striking and fatally injuring the decedent.”
Was that alleged negligence thoroughly investigated by Scranton police? What were the circumstances of the incident? Where had the driver been before crashing into the man? With whom? Where and when did he stop his vehicle after striking the man? Did he make a statement to police? Who was his lawyer? Was the accident his fault? What did he do for a living? Did her come from a good family?
And, of course, where is that man today? How has his life progressed? Did he find the bright future that those who knew him then swore awaited him?
These are all relevant questions that have recently arisen in my mind with the arrival of a plain white, business envelope with no return address that showed up in the mailbox at my house on the Saturday before the Tuesday primary election.