The man just didn't fit: in an institution for the mentally retarded, in a program for alco holics, in prison or on the streets. Now Fred Stacy is dead at 34.
Nearly three years ago, the alcoholic, men tally retarded man had several drinks, got into a borrowed car and went on an errand. Down the road, the car hopped a curb and killed two 11-year-old City of Tonawanda boys. Stacy later pleaded guilty to vehicular man slaughter in the deaths of Robert O'Brien and Anton Harnish, and he was serving a prison term of 2 1/3 to 7 years when he died Friday. Stacy's death was from natural causes. An autopsy determined that Stacy died from mul tiple pulmonary blockages due to an enlarged heart, authorities said Tuesday. He died in the Erie County Medical Center, the same hospital where Robert O'Brien died eight days after the crash Dec. 10, 1985. Fred Stacy's death has left his victims' mothers with a range of conflicting emotions: anger, sadness, sorrow and pity. "When I heard it, frankly, I was angry," said Jane O'Brien, Robby's mother. "I was angry that he got off without having to face what he had done for the rest of his life. "He was all of a sudden just dismissed from the whole thing. I guess imprisonment or reha bilitation was the only way I would get some satisfaction." Those feelings mellowed somewhat in the last two days, as Mrs. O'Brien's anger was joined by relief and even a little sorrow. No longer does she have to worry how society would deal with Stacy after his jail release. No longer does she have to worry how she would react to seeing him on the street. And no longer does she have to worry that he might get drunk again, borrow another car and kill or injure someone else. d 2 Boys Dies a Prisoner Both families, the real victims in this case, have read a lot about Fred Stacy portrayed as a victim. Exposed to his parents' drinking as a child, he started roaming the streets and drinking at age 8. Then, he bounced around, from his teen years in the West Seneca State School to a supervised community residence to life on the streets, as a City of Tonawanda "gopher" who occasionally slept in taverns or parked cars. Was he a victim? "I feel sorry for his upbringing," Mrs. O'Bri en said. "I do feel sorry that he didn't have a happy childhood. But I do feel he was respon sible for getting in that car and hitting my son and Tony." Donna Harnish sounded a little less angry than Mrs. O'Brien. Stacy's death saddened her. "I didn't think he deserved it," she said. "I See Stacy: Page A-13, Column 1 Stacy Continued from Page 1 never thought he was totally guilty. He's like a child. You can't blame a child for an adult action." Mrs. Harnish said she never harbored any animosity toward Stacy, even though he killed the two boys. She and Mrs. O'Brien blame those who provided Stacy drinks and loaned him vehicles more than they blame him. Both women wanted Stacy off the streets, but in a place where he could be helped. Last summer, they tried to find a rehabilitation facility that would treat some of Stacy's problems. When she sentenced him to prison in March 1987, Erie Coun ty Judge Rose D. LaMendola cited the same frustrations, lamenting the lack of an appropriate treat ment facility for him. "He was a victim himself," the judge said Tuesday. "I'm sorry that there was no facility, no orga nization or no place that could be of more assistance to him." Except for pending civil suits and the lingering pain for the vic tims' families, the Fred Stacy case has ended, with a third death. "Maybe God did a favor for him," Mrs. Harnish said. "Now he won't be persecuted anymore." Her words brought back memo ries of Stacy's own comments, in a jailhouse interview in March 1987. "I felt that I did wrong, and I'm really sorry this ever happened," he said in a visitors' room at the Erie County Holding Center. "If there was anything I could do to bring those kids back, I would do it, even if I had to lose my own life."