Archive for September, 2012

30
Sep
12

pazzo

I’m half-Italian, on my mother’s side. Grandma was from Bari. Grandpa was from Calabria, having left the town of Sersale for Brooklyn in 1906. In mia famiglia when you get really mad about something you erupt. You bellow curses (in Italian for better effect), you jump up and down, turn bright red, gesticulate wildly. If the cause of the rage is especially outrageous you throw things. The reason for this uninhibited display is not to harm anyone or to communicate a volatile stream of emotions to an audience. It’s to rid yourself of the corrosive mix of anger, sadness, frustration, disappointment, and betrayal that you feel when something has savaged your sense of what’s right and fair and just.

When someone in the family has gone off like a Roman candle you say that he or she is pazzo (“crazy”, pronounced “bots”). For the last two days I’ve been pazzo, but without the vivid exothermal display.

It just isn’t right, and I’m pissed!

They took James Prindle to prison on Wednesday. We have an appeal in, but the fact is James has begun to serve a 22-year term of hard time for a crime he did not commit—a crime he could not commit. The last time I spoke with him on the phone from the jail in Memphis he was upset. He had been talking with his father and his 15- and 13-year old half-brothers in Maine earlier that morning. “Their voices changed. My brothers’ voices changed. Last time I saw them they were squeaky. The next time I see them I’ll be 37.”

It was hard not to develop a lump in my throat.

It was a bit easier to get James into a more upbeat mood. We talked about hiking in the forests and mountains of western Washington. James said he would really enjoy doing that with us. I again told him I believed he would never see the inside of a prison. BAZINGA! So, yeah, now I’m pazzo.

I can’t get the image out of my head of James utterly alone in a locked prison cell far removed from any friendly soul. I’m hoping he doesn’t feel utterly abandoned as well. That’s not the case, of course—we’re all out here for him. Hope he can feel the vibes. I set up the phone account so he can call me from where he is now. I don’t know if or when they will let him call out. I do know that you do not need to be approved by the prison before writing to him.

Here is James’ address:

James Prindle (508396)
Northwest Correctional Complex
960 State Route 212
Tiptonville, TN  38079
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Please write to him. Encourage him. We’ve got to keep his hopes up.

~ Frank Manning

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(Note: Today is Frank Manning’s 63rd birthday. Happy Birthday, Frank!)

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Groove of the Day 

Listen to Jo Stafford and Gordon MacRae performing “Whispering Hope”

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(postscript)

Monday afternoon I got a phone call from Sam Prindle, James’s father. Sam thanked me for my advocacy of his son and for staying in phone contact with James. Sam and I talked for about 45 minutes. We got to learn a little about each other and each other’s family. And I guess we both got to find out just how passionately the other cares about the young man at the center of this intolerable injustice.

Sam also read me a letter James had written to him last Thursday, his first full day of incarceration. Remarkably, James is upbeat about his situation. He wrote that the prison is much nicer than the jail. His cell is bigger and cleaner, has more natural light, a real toilet and sink instead of the steel jail combo, and he was able to take all his books and other belongings from the jail with him. In the unit he’s in the inmates are allowed to wear their own clothes and shoes. They can even order name brand shoes from a prison catalog. Even more important, James will be able to continue his high school education at a full certified and accredited school. He should be able to earn a regular high school diploma.

We’ve also come to learn that James will be kept in that juvenile unit until at least his 18th birthday. If he stays out of trouble they will keep him in that unit even longer. That’s good news. Prison can be a living hell. For James it won’t be.

I’ve spoken so many times with James now. Given his circumstances, I am always amazed at his general good mood and disposition. I don’t know how he does it. So James explained it to me. “It’s my faith in the Lord that gives me the strength.”

~ Frank Manning

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29
Sep
12

be an angel

All this current talk in the United Nations about making “blasphemy” against someone else’s religion a crime under international law has gotten me to thinking.

Does this mean that I can devise some new doctrine, claim that it was bestowed upon me by a disembodied voice emanating from a burning bush, written with hieroglyphs on golden plates (which have since mysteriously disappeared), or told to me in a vision by mysterious beings of light, and then have someone jailed or drawn-and-quartered if they ridicule me or hurt my feelings?

Oh boy! I’m a prophet!

Okay, listen up. I want to talk to you about angels. This came to me in a crazy dream I had last night—but I’m absolutely certain it’s true. You can believe me because I have it on the Highest Authority.

Did you know that more people believe in angels than believe in global warming? This isn’t tea-leaf stuff, it’s the gospel according to Gallup.

According to the Gallup Youth Survey, in a Teen Belief in the Supernatural poll in 1994, 76% of 508 teenagers (aged 13–17) believed in angels, up from 69% in 1984.

A 2007 Pew poll found that 68% of Americans believe that “angels and demons are active in the world”, and according to four different polls conducted in 2009, a greater percentage of Americans believe in angels (55%) than those who believe in global warming (36%).

A 2008 survey by Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion polled 1,700 respondents and found that 55% of Americans (including one in five of those who say they are not religious) believe that they have been protected by a guardian angel during their life.

A 2008 survey of over 1,000 Canadians found 67% believe in angels.

I’ve believed in angels all along, too—but this belief has resulted from the ways that “financial angels” have made fundraising efforts successful for a variety of causes in which I’ve been involved over the last thirty-seven years.

But last night’s dream didn’t have anything to do with fundraising. It was all about human beings actually transforming into angels—luminous beings who are a notch above human and a step below God. In my dream these “Human Angels” were comforting our kids including James, Blade, and Jordan, who were being tormented in their respective “Hells-on-Earth” because of demons like Jefferson Sanders and Bobby Carter, Jim Oliver, and Adam Harvey, John Bongivengo, and Dominick Motto. And, oh yes, Stephen Sydebotham.

I was so intrigued today by the image of a human transforming into an angelic being, I researched the concept and learned that some world religions actually believe and teach that such a thing is possible.

Some religions—the ones that currently seem so intent to bring the world to the brink of war—do not believe that humans can become angels (so I won’t say anything about them as I don’t need blood crazed fanatics disturbing the tranquility at Estrella Vista). But some religions—Hindu, Mormon, Bahá’í, Theosophists, etc.—do believe that humans can become divine. (Could this be why I’ve never heard of a religious war being waged by the Bahá’í?)

In his Book of Certitude, Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahá’í Faith, describes angels as people who “have consumed, with the fire of the love of God, all human traits and limitations,” and have “clothed themselves” with angelic attributes and become “endowed with the attributes of the spiritual.” Angels are “confirmations of God and His celestial powers.” They are “blessed beings who have severed all ties with this nether world” and “been released from the chains of self.” They are “revealers of God’s abounding grace.” The Bahá’í writings also refer to the “Concourse on High,” an angelic host of Bahá’u’lláh’s vision.

I have witnessed all this. Such beatific beings have been attracted to The Redemption Project. They have lifted me up in my darkest moments of doubt. They—that is, you—have helped me persevere.

A Human Angel is a person who makes a commitment to be placed by spirit at exactly the right juncture of time and space to make a positive contribution in the life of another human being. This is the very same impulse which motivates people to give money to our cause.

Will you please consider being an angel—a financial angel—and help us help our kids at this time? Will you please consider joining our Concourse, our angel band?

We have so much to do. We must absorb the pain and fear our kids are experiencing in prison and encourage them to be safe and soldier on bravely. We must raise money to hire expert witnesses for the appeals of Jordan Brown and James Prindle and the upcoming trial of Noah Crooks. We must fill the courtroom with supporters for Paul Henry Gingerich’s oral arguments hearing at the end of October. We must continue our behind-the-scenes efforts to find exonerating evidence to reverse the wrongful convictions of our kids who have never had a fair break in life. We must continue applying relentless pressure on Stephen Sydebotham to return the money he has stolen from Blade and James. We must continue building our organization’s capacity to meet the needs of new kids who desperately need a second chance and an opportunity to succeed. We must become a reliable, permanent anchor in our kids’ uncertain lives.

Whether you give a dollar or five or five hundred or a thousand or more, I predict that you will experience a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that you are bringing “God’s abounding grace” into this often tragic and hellish world. Mitigating misery. Sowing hope. Spreading light.

It’s your choice and divine opportunity.

Please visit www.redemptionforkids.org and give.

Thank you, sincerely.

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Groove of the Day 

Listen to Craig Carter performing “No Angels in Hell”

28
Sep
12

dreams

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Groove of the Day 

Listen to Brandi Carlile performing “Dreams”

27
Sep
12

michael’s wake

My friend Michael held his “wake” in Wicheta this past weekend, a loving, touching, clinging affair. I wish I could have been there.

Yet these were his friends and kin of a lifetime. I would have known only him, his sister, and his partner Lynn. His old friends needed their time with him alone.

He says he will return here to die. My time will be the hard time: his passage into time.

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Groove of the Day 

Listen to Dusty Springfield performing “Goodbye”

26
Sep
12

cranky no more

I received a call late last night which lifted my spirits.

The caller said that “The Gimp” had paid a visit to Stephen Sydebotham.

Stephen is now experiencing a case of acute testicular discomfort.

A number of other people have made unsolicited offers to administer home-grown justice.

I have turned down all offers, but I had no such opportunity this time.

I was just given the news of The Gimp’s fait accompli.

Even without the law, there is justice in Wisconsin.

I’m cranky no more.

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Groove of the Day 

Listen to Chuck Berry performing “You Never Can Tell”

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(postscript)

I received a call a little while ago from a Homeland Security agent. He informed me that he, a Sauk County sheriff’s investigator,  and a computer expert paid a visit to Stephen earlier today.

They interviewed Stephen for a long time while the computer expert examined his computer for child pornography. They did not find any child porn on the computer, but Stephen did tell them he is going to pay back any money “for which I don’t have receipts.”

Stephen has made a lot of statements which have turned out not to be true–but maybe the arrival of all these visitors has convinced him he’d better follow through on this one.

“Incidentally,” I asked the agent, “have you seen today’s blog post?” He said he hadn’t. The last one he’d read was about the kids in Sheboygan.

“Did Stephen tell you he’d received another visitor last night?” I asked. No, he said, Stephen hadn’t mentioned anything at all about that (though a neighbor had reported a disturbance last night).

“Did Stephen seem like he was in any particular pain?” I asked. No more than you might expect from a heavy person with only one leg, he answered.

Naturally the agent asked me a few questions about the identity of the visitor, which I was unable to answer.

After all, “The Gimp” is not his real name. And I was not there.

25
Sep
12

whoops!

Factoid: DNA testing today eliminates 25% of suspects accused of rape through misidentification, false confessions, police misconduct, etc. This suggests that the conviction error rate for crimes where there is no DNA to test must be similarly high. So how many people in prison are actually innocent?

More than you’d like to believe!

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Groove of the Day 

Listen to Atlantic Starr performing “Secret Lovers”

24
Sep
12

kids!

Today several readers sent me links to a story about a terrible, senseless crime which took place in Sheboygan WI, where two 13-year-old boys are accused of using a hatchet and a hammer to murder the great-grandmother of one of the suspects. The prosecutor is saying the murder was premeditated and carried out so the boys could ransack the grandmother’s house in search of money and valuables. He has charged the boys as adults with first-degree intentional homicide and set their bond at $1 million each—thus proving that he is probably as brain dead as the two suspects.

“It made it onto German TV today,” Wolfgang wrote. “If true, it’s one of the worst cases I have heard of. We don’t have such cases here in Germany—and we’re not as religious as citizens in the US. I wonder why this is happening only in the US? What’s happening with that society? What’s happening to American kids?”

I’m going to address the questions Wolfgang is raising, but I’ve got to warn you I’m in a very cranky mood. I’m late in publishing this post because I crashed and burned in the early evening from too little sleep and too much nonsense in my day, and I’ve just awakened in the middle of the night from a five hour nap in no mood to suffer fools—and I sense there are a lot of them in Sheboygan.

(So if you’re in no mood for attitude, just skip this post and come back tomorrow.)

Before any opinion, though, let’s first look at the basic facts.

The murder happened a week ago today, on Monday 17 September. The victim was 78-year-old Barbara Olsen. The suspects are Mrs. Olsen’s great-grandson Antonio Barbeau and his friend Nathan Paape, both age 13. Mrs. Olsen’s body was not discovered until Wednesday 19 September, when it was found by a relative in a pool of blood in the garage.

According to the criminal complaint, Paape told police that on Monday, Barbeau told him that they were going to his great-grandmother’s home to kill her and get some money. Paape armed himself with a hammer, while Barbeau had a hatchet, which they hid in their clothing. Paape’s mother gave the boys a ride to Olsen’s home.

Upon arrival, the teens entered the house through an unlocked door to the attached garage. What happened next is unclear, but when Olsen warned Barbeau that she was going to call his mother, Barbeau struck his great-grandmother in the head with the blunt end of the hatchet and knocked her to the floor. Barbeau then delivered several more blows as Olsen tried to cover her head, groaning and pleading for him to stop.

Paape then hit Olsen twice with the hammer, and Barbeau used the sharp end of his weapon to strike Olsen in the head, driving the blade into her skull with such force that it took both boys to pull it out

Once the teens realized Olsen was dead, they dragged her body to the car, leaving a trail of blood through the house. They tried to load Olsen into the trunk of the vehicle but failed, so they left her body in the garage. According to Paape, he and Barbeau then re-entered the house and stole several items, including a purse, loose change, and jewelry. Then they got into Olsen’s car and sped off. They eventually parked the vehicle in the parking lot of a local bowling alley and walked to a nearby eatery, where they shared a pizza and discussed what to do next.

The teens returned to the car and tried to wipe off their fingerprints. They left some of the stolen loot in plain sight, along with the car keys, hoping that someone would steal the vehicle and get blamed for Olsen’s murder. The murder weapons were locked in the trunk of the car, along with a bloody piece of cloth.

Olsen’s body was discovered in the garage of her home at around 1pm Wednesday 19 September.

Police executed search warrants and discovered blood-splattered clothes and shoes inside Barbeau’s locker at the juvenile detention center (where he had been placed on Tuesday on an unrelated matter). They also found quarters and a gold watch, along with clothing covered in gore, in Paape’s house. The police arrested Barbeau and Paape on Thursday morning, almost 12 hours after discovery of Olsen’s body.

Paape was apparently the first to spill the beans while under interrogation. Barbeau initially denied knowing anything about Olsen’s death, but eventually admitted to taking part in it. There have been no reports about whether the kids’ parents or attorneys were present. District Attorney Joe DeCecco said that neither boy showed any signs of remorse.

Obviously there is much more to the story than these bare-bones facts. There’s probably a fat one-legged man over there right now prowling in search of background (and more cash-gifting prospects). Sheboygan is only 147 miles from his home.

Wolfi, you asked what is going on with American kids these days, and I offer this explanation only partially tongue-in-cheek: it’s the stupid wigger hats and everything that goes along with them.

On June 1 a writer named Michael (no last name) published an important story on a website at http://endoftheamericandream.com. The piece was titled “These Two Traps Are Absolutely Destroying The Next Generation Of Young Men In America,” and it describes two of the top five factors that are contributing to outrageous youth crimes in America.

“Have you ever noticed that our young girls seem to be far ahead of our young boys and that our young women seem to be much more ‘together’ than our young men are?” Michael asks. “Have you ever noticed how many young American men almost seem like zombies and find even the most basic human interactions extremely awkward?”  Well, this didn’t happen by accident.  “Researchers are finding that there are two traps in particular that are absolutely destroying the next generation of young men in America.  One is video game addiction and the other is pornography.”

The other key factors? Bad schooling, bad food and drugs, and bad parenting.

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Let’s briefly review these Top Five things which are destroying our kids:

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#1 Addiction to Video Games  Says Michael:In the old days, the parks and ball fields of America would be flooded with young boys after school was done for the day, but now our parks and our ball fields are very quiet.  So where did all the boys go?  Well, they are all sitting at home staring into computer screens.”

One study discovered that 88% of all Americans between the ages of 8 and 18 play video games, and that approximately four times as many boys are addicted to video games as girls are. The average American child spends 44 hours a week with television and other electronic media, which some child psychologists including John Rosemond say interferes with the proper development of neural connections and causes physical brain damage. The average boy today spends 13 hours every single week playing video games. The average girl spends 5. The average young American will spend 10,000 hours playing video games by age 21. That’s twice the time it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree.

I would put it another way: children are becoming alienated from the natural world and its healthful effects. Parents are keeping children indoors in order to keep them safe from danger, but they are “protecting” children to such an extent that it disrupts a child’s ability to connect to nature and is actually harming kids.

In his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv states that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors, which results in a wide range of behavioral and physical problems including ADHD, lower grades in school, and childhood obesity and diabetes. Louv proposes that “Nature Deficit Disorder” should be a recognized malady and addressed in our parenting, education, and health care practices.

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#2 Addiction to Pornography  “The Internet has improved our lives in a lot of ways,” Michael says, “but one of the very negative things that it has done is that it has unleashed a giant flood of filth into our homes. Our boys have more access to sexual content than ever before, and this is having some horrific consequences.”

Sadly, the United States is the pornography capital of the world.  An astounding 30% of all Internet traffic now goes to pornography websites, and the US produces more pornography than any other nation has in the history of the world. Many American men are so addicted to it that they cannot wait to get home to look at it.  One survey discovered that 25% of all employees that have Internet access in America visit sex websites while they are at work.

The average high school boy spends two hours every week watching porn. American men can’t escape porn: 13,500 full-length commercial porn films were released in 2011, compared with 600 Hollywood films. Researchers claim that Internet pornography is hurting young boys’ ability to form meaningful romantic relationships because they objectify their partner.

With the proliferation of camera phones, the potential danger of amateur pornography to teenagers and children has recently become apparent. Unaware of the consequences, a growing number of young people are using their phones to make “sexting” videos and images which are then shared with their friends. Images initially meant to be shared between couples can now be spread around the world. The result is now a growing amount of online amateur porn depicting underage models, created by the young people themselves. Websites featuring free user-uploaded amateur pornography have become the most visited pornography websites on the Internet.

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#3 Bad Schooling  I could write a whole book on this subject (which, in fact, is something I’m helping someone to do), but for our present purposes I’ll keep this super-short.

Since the inception of the public schools in the late 1840s, the purpose of the schools has not been education but social control. From the beginning they were based on the Prussian model, which was designed to turn out obedient workers, soldiers, and bureaucrats. With each successive wave of immigrants to the US, the public schools became more repressive as the Protestant power elite sought to suppress dangerous new ideas and shape the teeming masses into a cheap and compliant workforce—and later, into a “consumer” market that buys whatever it’s told.

Today the schools are governed by “zero-tolerance” policies and patrolled by police armed with pepper spray and Tasers. Nonconformists and other troublemakers discover that the schools are big intake drains in a school-to-prison pipeline that is creating a gigantic population of prison slave laborers who create a wide array of products for American corporations more cheaply than Chinese and Indonesian workers.

The schools are so bad that on virtually every international assessment of academic proficiency, American secondary school students’ performance varies from mediocre to poor. American students are dropping out of school in numbers so great that no one really knows the dimensions of the dropout epidemic (though it’s at least 1.3 million students a year).

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#4 Bad Food and Drugs  A growing body of evidence indicates that there’s a reason it’s so hard for so many kids to stop eating junk food—it’s just as addictive as street drugs. Researchers have studied the effects of highly processed, mostly artificial foods on the brains of humans and animals and have found that consuming high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), monosodium glutamate (MSG), hydrogenated oils, refined salt, and various other chemical preservatives found in processed junk food does the same thing to a person’s brain as cocaine does.

One study found that lab rats high on frosting were more likely to choose sugar than cocaine, if given the option. Another study conducted by researchers at both the University of Texas in Austin and the Oregon Research Institute found that prolonged consumption of junk foods results in reduced activity in the striatum, a section of the forebrain that registers reward. In other words, just like with illicit drugs, those addicted to junk food require ever-increasing amounts of it to get the same “high.”

Since processed foods are loaded with synthetic chemical additives, they are technically drugs themselves—and as we know from the study of drugs that come in pill form, all drugs have side effects.

Researchers in Holland have discovered that restricting the diets of children diagnosed with ADHD can reduce symptoms such as “oppositional defiant disorder” in as many as two-thirds of the cases. In a study of 100 kids aged 4 to 8 years, researchers at Radboud University restricted the children’s diet to rice, water, white meat such as turkey, and some fruits and vegetables that are generally considered as unlikely to cause allergies. (Foods such as wheat, tomatoes, oranges, eggs and dairy products were kept out of the diet as they are often linked with allergies or food intolerances.) After five weeks, children who reacted well to the restricted diet went into a second phase in which different groups of foods were gradually added to their diet and their symptoms monitored to see if they worsened. The foods were different for each child, based on blood results.

Many pediatricians and child psychologists who are in the thrall of Big Pharma have resisted these findings, believing that it is too much effort to get at the cause of ADHD. They prefer instead to expose children to the often disastrous side-effects of psychotropic medications, which include violence.

(Shooter Eric Harris was taking the antidepressant Luvox at the time he and Dylan Klebold opened fire at Columbine High School, killing 12 students and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves. At least one public report exists of a friend of Klebold who witnessed Klebold taking the antidepressants Paxil and Zoloft. Officially, Klebold’s medical records remain sealed.)

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#5 Bad Parenting  God knows, bad parents come in every stripe.

Overly protective parents can create as much harm as neglectful parents. Parents who physically, sexually, or emotionally abuse kids can create as much harm as parents who spoil and coddle their kids. On one hand we see that 1.3 million kids run away from home every year, and on the other hand we see that we are raising a generation of young people who do not have the capability of handling adult responsibilities and still live with their parents. Among males aged 25 to 34, 19% live with their parents today, a 5 percentage point increase from 2005. Meanwhile, 10% of women in that age group live at home, up from 8% in 2005.

Finding the “sweet spot” of parental responsibility takes a level of attention, wisdom, and self-responsibility which too few parents exercise or exhibit.

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Folks, we need to be doing a lot better by our kids in so many respects. But if we can do something about these five factors, everything else will fall into place. Let’s face it, parents. There’s an even chance your kids are smarter than you are. It will take a little more effort to keep up with them and provide what they need to turn out straight.

I’ll bet Mrs. Paape is feeling a little slow on the uptake about now for chauffeuring the boys to the crime scene. I would have acted sooner, cut off the Mountain Dew, and knocked that stupid gang-banger hat off my son’s head.

Wiggers in Sheboygan. How ridiculous. It makes me cranky as hell.

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Groove of the Day 

Listen to Paul Lynde, Marijane Maricle in Bye Bye Birdie performing “Kids!”

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(postscript)

Please be sure to read Frank Manning’s insightful comment to this post.

(post-postscript)

On August 12, 2013, 14-year-old Antonio Barbeau was sentenced to life in prison for killing his great-grandmother 78-year-old Barbara Olsen. Barbeau will be eligible for parole in 36 years when he’ll be 50 years old.

Barbeau’s friend Nathan Paape was convicted of murder on June 20 for helping in this attack. He was sentenced on August 13, a day after Barbeau. Like Barbeau, 14-year-old Nathan Paape was sentenced to life in prison; however his eligibility for parole is five years earlier than Barbeau, on December 2, 2043, his 45th birthday.

“Mr. Paape is the follower in this case,” Judge Timothy van Akkeren said. “I do find there is less culpability.”

Paape and Barbeau were  convicted of first-degree intentional homicide, but they can’t be sentenced to life in prison without parole because of their ages.