Monday, October 26, 2009

Death at Jellybean Junction

At 9:15 this morning, two bodies were found in an SUV parked outside the Jellybean Junction daycare in Fairfield, OH.  They have been identified as Evelyn and Francisco Restituyo, who were either divorced or separated from one another.  They both had gunshot wounds.  They had no connection to the daycare center at all, and it's not clear why their bodies were there.

There's a lot of speculation that this was a murder-suicide, and that does seem pretty likely to my untrained eye.  Who knows where they were going or which one of them may have been alive when they pulled into that parking lot, or why that lot was chosen instead of another.  We may never know.  This is a tragedy that happens all too often, and that I've had way too many opportunities to blog about.

This situation is just a little different, though, because of where it happened.  Imagine you are the director of a daycare, and one of the guys who works on your lawn comes in and says to call 911, there are dead bodies in the parking lot.  Imagine you are a parent, and you get a call from your child's daycare saying that everything is fine, really, but the center is on lockdown for the morning because the police are trying to figure out why there are apparent homicide victims in the parking lot, so you can come get your child if you like.  I'd have to imagine in both instances it would seem awfully surreal.

Whatever danger there ever was to the kids at Jellybean Junction was long over when the bodies were found.  There was no shooter skulking around in the parking lot, and that was pretty obvious early on.  And yet, the center locked down.  Why?

As a school administrator, I have two answers to this question.  The first is that "lockdown" means you are controlling who goes in and out, and it is the quickest and easiest way to keep the kids inside and everyone else -- the press, gawkers, etc. -- outside.  You clearly don't want the children playing on the playground as the bodies are being removed by the medical examiner.  They don't need that exposure, and neither do you.  So you lock down to make sure that no one unwittingly takes children into view of what is happening outside, and to make sure no silly reporter comes in and tries to interview a 4 year old about their reactions.

The second reason, honestly, is that locking down makes it look like you're doing something.  While children were not in danger, there is something viscerally upsetting about dead bodies being found outside your child's daycare.  The world seems a little out of control.  You want to know that someone is Doing Something.  And there is some reassurance, as irrational as it may be, in knowing that the center is on lockdown.  They are taking extra good care of your kid in an unsettling situation.  That has to be good.

It says something about the times we live in that a place called Jellybean Junction has a lockdown procedure.  It says something even more that they had to use it.  I hope this is the only time, and I certainly hope they never have to use it for any reason more serious than keeping the kids from seeing something icky and reassuring the parents that yes, their kids are fine.


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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
is a clinical social worker, former school Principal and a Crisis Consultant for schools and community organizations. You can learn more about her at
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