Gene's Blog: Tragedy in the neighborhood

Gene Mueller's Blog

"It can't be happening here. This is such a quiet neighborhood."

If we all had a nickel for every time we heard someone say that on the local news about something awful that happened just down the street.

Murder is way to common in too many parts of our area. It's virtually unheard of where I live. At least it was until last month when two homeless men allegedly suffocated an elderly man who was dying of cancer, all for the princely sum of $160. When done with the sordid deed, video catches them high-fiving on an MCTS bus as the leave the crime scene, with one of them saying, "We did good, bro!" while mockingly complaining about how he'd hurt his hand, apparently from punching the victim.

"We did good, bro!"

Kenneth Latus was 76 and had lost his wife of 55 years in June. A Marine vet, he lived a few blocks from me, in a quiet apartment complex near the Root River Parkway on the Greendale side of the line that separates the village from neighboring Hales Corners. There hadn't been a murder in Greendale in about a decade. Hales Corners logged one in early 2016 but usually the roughest thing that happens in this neck of the woods is a traffic stop, a car wreck or some petty crime.

Not on October 21st, when a man who'd already suffered enough of late was subjected to what an author I like referred to as the supreme cruelty that's reserved for the defenseless, in this case an elderly veteran with a terminal illness who only wanted to live out his remaining life in peace.

Authorities say it all began when Kenneth got a UPS package addressed not to him but to a woman his daughter knew but who he'd never met. A day before the murder, the woman reportedly came to the victim's apartment to pick it up. A man came with her, a guy police say would be back on Latus' doorstep the next day.

That man would reportedly ask another younger guy who he knew from the homeless camp they shared if he wanted to make some money. Police say there's surveillance video showing them as they returned to the Latus apartment the next day, the older suspect asking the victim if he could use the bathroom. When Kenneth said no, he reportedly was shoved back into his home, punched several times, suffocated and bound up hand and foot as the two helped themselves to his wallet where they collected the $160. Police would find Kenneth's phones in the nearby Root River where it crosses Grange Avenue, tossed there by the suspects before they boarded the bus where another camera would catch them celebrating what they'd done.

"We did good, bro!"

Greendale police may not deal with many homicides but they put the pieces of this heinous act together quickly, taking the two into custody not long afterward. At a court appearance, the older suspect got bounced by the judge because he wasn't responding or paying attention. They're both due back for preliminary hearings next week.

I didn't know Kenneth Latus, but I'm sure I've been past his place a bunch of times during my occasional walks through the nearby parkway or biked past it over the summer when the weather allowed me to do my local circuit. I drive within earshot of it to and from work each weekday. Such a quiet neighborhood. Such a gutless, vile act.

"We did good, bro!"

And so, senselessness pays a visit to another quiet part of town. This time, it's folks just down the street saying all those oh-so-familiar-phrases about how "things like that don't ever happen around here." When it occurs just blocks from where you live, the TV news cliche takes on new life and urgent feeling. It sinks the heart. It violates the senses. It rattles your sense of security.

And, it makes you very, very angry.

Our faith tells us we should forgive. Mine's going to have to talk a little bit louder before that happens.

You're sub-human, bro.

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