Earlier this month, a killing was reported by the Pittsburgh news media that was so grisly, so dastardly, that the venerable Dr. Cyril Wecht said it was an act of "barbarism." Police in Greensburg had found the remains of Jennifer Daugherty, a 30-year-old woman with intellectual disabilities, stuffed in a trash container. Jennifer thought the suspects in this case were her friends ("6 Charged in Woman's Brutal Killing," Feb. 13).
This incident, however, brings up another issue, perhaps even more profound. How can we stop people from doing such a dastardly thing? How can we assure that people like Jennifer are safe?
The answer to this question is not easy, but there are clearly things we know about society and relationships that might offer some direction. The most prominent way people keep safe in our society is through their real relationships -- friends and family -- who watch out for their basic safety and security. Which brings me to the second key element in this situation -- the limited friendship of many people who have disabilities. As a professional in the disability system for the past 40 years, the one clear thing I have come to see over and over again is that people with disabilities similar to Jennifer's have fewer friendships than most people typically have in our society.
So, along with our protests and outrage of the tragic story of Jennifer Daugherty, let's do something more -- something with more profound impact on our society. Let's reach out and find that which makes us similar to vulnerable people and create true friendships. Your step in creating a friendship might be the deciding factor in someone's real safety. When this happens, maybe we will not see a story again that is postscripted with "and she thought they were her friends."
Chief Executive Officer
United Cerebal Palsy