A guilty conscience can be a heavy burden. It is a psychological weight that bears down on every aspect of daily life. It is always there, sometimes subdued, perhaps, but always threatening to overpower a bearer with any remaining shred of decency.
So it was in Johnson City, Tenn., this month. Indeed, the Johnson City Press’ story on the resolution of a difficult homicide case began by observing: “Sometimes it takes a guilty conscience to solve a murder.”
There, police had investigated a double murder for six months with no luck. Joyce Brock, 61, and Glenn Shell, 54, had been shot and the garage in which they were temporarily living was set ablaze.
As Christmas arrives, and the notions of conscience, good will and redemption impinge upon baser impulses, others may also find their burden of guilt becoming heavier. Among them, one hopes, is the driver who struck and killed Barry T. Moss a year ago as he walked or biked along Route 5 in the Town of Evans.
It happened in the early hours of Dec. 22. Moss, 52, was heading home after a night of drinking with friends. A vehicle struck him only a few hundred yards from the rooming house where he lived. Its driver fled, choosing to leave the injured father and grandfather to die in the snow.
What kind of person wouldn’t feel guilty about that?
Police thought they knew who did it. Gabriele “Gabe” Ballowe reportedly had been drinking, herself, before the accident – too much to drive safely, according to a witness who offered her a ride. She refused.
Ballowe has refused to answer police questions and, while a grand jury voted in May to indict her for driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an injury accident, a prosecutor with the Erie County District Attorney’s Office asked jurors to rescind the vote, believing the evidence was insufficient. The grand jury voted a second time, and declined to indict. Police disagreed, but that’s where the case stands today, a year after Barry Moss died.
If that driver’s conscience is easy, there may be no hope for him or her. If not, there is only one good way to clear it. Jonathan Shell finally understood that. Maybe this person will, too.