Reader: I read your column on convicted murderer Bobby Mistriel, released from prison last month after serving 38 years ("Powerful gay men. Vulnerable teenage boys. Murder. Justice. And now, for newly freed Bobby Mistriel, a measure of vindication," May 5). I thought your article was complete and covered the differences in cultural views from 40 years ago to today. Forty years makes a huge cultural difference in the viewpoint of victims and perpetrators.
I was, however, offended that you begin one paragraph by saying, “At some point in their relationship ... .”
An adult using a minor for their sexual gratification does not constitute a relationship. Even if it goes for years. It always remains perpetrator and victim. The minor doesn’t have a choice when they are a child, and in all the years I’ve worked with many male victims, they don’t see they have a choice as an adult. If you weren’t taught that you have a choice, you don’t know how to make one. It is never an excuse for murder, but many victims see no way out except violence. A tragedy for all.
— Joan Knowlden, licensed marriage and family therapist
Price: You're absolutely correct, Joan, that Robert Mistriel's story is that of victim and perpetrator. And I agree that, legally, morally and psychologically, it can never be anything but. However, the word "relationship" does not necessarily always have to mean "healthy, legal, consensual sexual relationship." It can also simply mean "ongoing interaction." Two people can have an "abusive relationship" or a "dysfunctional relationship" and we don't think twice about that terminology.
Nothing was natural or healthy about the relationship between Mistriel and the man he helped murder, Edwin Buck, and I didn't mean to suggest there was. But they had regular contact and a mutual understanding about the nature of that contact. That's a relationship, in the nonclinical sense — unlawful and damaging, but a relationship.
Reader: Thank you for doing an article updating the status on Bobby Mistriel. I remember reading about him in the early ’80s and then again in the excellent "Lords of Bakersfield" report published in The Californian in January 2003. Through the years as I would read about his case, I wondered why on earth no one addressed the issue of a child, a minor, being victimized by pedophiles. Mistriel should tell his story on a larger scale because unfortunately there are so many people who will be able to relate and understand, as they were childhood victims of sexual trauma. I am a therapist who specializes in those who endured childhood sexual trauma and are ready to heal haunting memories of trauma in adulthood.
Yes, Mistriel made many bad decisions in childhood. However, if you examine his traumatic psychosocial development stages — family of origin, parental addiction and abandonment, dysfunction and instability, obvious lack of parenting, exposure to extreme poverty, lack of resources to support a child in crisis who is vulnerable and preyed upon by egregiously unscrupulous men — what were the statistics he would ever succeed? Mistriel is a "Dr. Phil" show waiting to happen.
— Marian A. Willingham, licensed marriage and family therapist
Price: And he knows it. Why the state parole board didn't grasp it sooner is the question now. One of the many questions.
Here's another unresolved question: At almost the very same time these powerful, well-placed men were getting unsupervised access to minor boys through the San Felipe Boys Home, working-class families were being torn apart by molestation accusations that, in many cases, were unfounded. Makes you wonder if one was a cover for the other.
Reader: Regarding your May 8 column about the "name that new high school" contest, "Welcome to Vanilla HS, kids, home of the Fightin' Puddings": Not to fret, Robert. My wife and I submitted the name "Yokuts High," respecting the little known but instrumental Native Americans of this area. Oh, and the mascot would be "Hawks." Has a nice ring to it.
— Bibi Herrera and Jani Lowrey
Price: I like it! The Kern High School District needs to come up with a name for its 19th campus, which opens three years from now, and "Yokuts" fills the need for a school whose name starts with the letter "Y."
Reader: Of far greater interest to me than the school-naming contest was the decision by KHSD not to finally give Lamont its own high school. Lamont should form its own high school district and build its own high school in Lamont. The kids in Lamont would not have to be bused out of town and Lamont would have a point of civic pride.
— Fram Smith
Reader: Thank you for the thoughtful and thorough responses on the situation involving allegations of abuse against Monsignor Craig Harrison. Nobody will win with this unfortunate allegation, but the news has to be delivered, no matter how unsettling it may be. I appreciate your honesty and The Californian's effort to provide the facts. I've met Father Craig and think highly of him but I am also close to former victims of sexual abuse. The process needs to run its course.
— Joel Sanders
Reader: I still don't know how you do it every week with Sound Off, but the Father Craig thing is a big deal. You should have consulted with a former Catholic before you answered the guy who didn't like your reporter's reference to Father Craig's "retreat to the coast." The fact is that I, and many off my classmates in sixth through 11th years, went, in Catholic tradition, on "retreats" with the brothers. We were friends with them. The fathers, too. They were called retreats. Asking forgiveness for our sins. Contemplation. Reflections. It's a Catholic thing that the father's attorney, Kyle Humphrey, was referring to.
— John O'Connell
Price: I grew up a preacher's kid, and it's a Methodist thing, too.
Reader: In your May 9 paper, a Page 3 headline says "Two convicted in 2001 murder of Rosamond woman get life sentences." A clear statement which needs no explanation. No wiggle room there. Similarly, Stacey Shepard's article about the Father Craig situation says, "the victim told police he was alone with Harrison when it happened." No wiggle room there either.
Shepard's statement implying Monsignor Harrison's guilt is why I think Shepard and The Californian owe him an apology and I will continue to think so until he is proven guilty. If that happens, he should pay a price for the supposed incidents.
— Byron Ayme
Price: You're right about the missing word "alleged." As I've said before, we must use great caution not to "convict" anyone with our word choices.
Reader: Not one word about the BMX competition that was held in Bakersfield this past weekend. We have local riders traveling to Belgium this year to compete in world competition.
Price: We don't know about these events unless someone tells us. That doesn't necessarily mean we'll cover it, but we'll usually try, one way or another. If you're sponsoring an event, folks, send us an email abut it several days in advance.
Reader: On May 4 you reported: "The Kern County Sheriff's Office is investigating human remains found in Mojave on Thursday." Not "in Mojave." The 8500 block of Lone Butte Road, where the remains were found, is seven or eight miles south of Mojave.
On May 6 your reported: "At 6:44 a.m. on Saturday, Kern County Fire Department responded to the report of downed power lines near Kecks Road and Highway 46 in Lost Hills." No, the location was not "in Lost Hills." The intersection of Kecks Road and Highway 46 is about 22 miles from Lost Hills.
Dumb (and weird) reporting.
— John Sweetser
Price: Those location identifiers come straight from the public safety agencies that issue news releases about those incidents. Without knowing the precise location of relevant city boundaries, we're not in always in a position to be more specific. But those do seem especially egregious.
Reader: Bakersfield.com only allows the posting of comments by trolls from all over the country with axes to grind and no knowledge. I've tried several times to post comments supportive of Monsignor Craig, and my posts are dropped. Today, I can't even type a comment.
The print version has been very thorough and generally supportive. I don't know the connection with the weenies with the online edition. I guess I have been banned, though they never made it official.
— Jerry Todd
Price: You're not banned, Jerry. We have banned 59 users and you are not one of them. In most, if not all cases, the banned users are spammers urging readers to check out unrelated web addresses. I don't know why your comments aren't showing up, Jerry, but something is working well enough because I hear from you daily.