Thursday, September 08, 2022

Kernels of Truth

I’ve always believed the best stories begin with a kernel of truth. They stem, in some way, from real life. This week, I'm going to share a story I've used in writing classes for inspiration often. I hope it gets your creative juices flowing. 


"Prosecutors consider fate of 8-year-old"

Published: Sunday, February 06, 2000, Lubbock Avalanche Journal

COKER CREEK, Tenn. {AP} Neighbors said that for months the ramshackle mobile home littered with piles of trash and beer cans had been the site of loud parties and drunken fights, most in front of two young boys who lived there with their mother and her boyfriend.

When it was quiet, they said, the children often were left alone with no food, running water or electricity.

Then, last week, the mother's boyfriend was stabbed to death, and the 8-year-old boy confessed to killing him, the Monroe County Sheriff's Department said. According to police reports, the boy said Keith Podzebka, 41, had been hitting his mother.

District Attorney General Jerry Estes said authorities are reviewing the case to decide if the boy will be tried as a juvenile or an adult.

"These issues are rare. I don't recall having an 8-year-old involved in a murder," Estes said Saturday. "This is a first for us."

Where the child is prosecuted depends on the motive and whether he has committed other violent acts, Estes said.

The second-grader described by neighbors as a sweet, intelligent child is accused of stabbing Podzebka in the chest Jan. 30 in this isolated rural community, tucked away in the Cherokee National Forest near the North Carolina border.

According to police reports, the boys' mother said another man stabbed Podzebka, but then her 8-year-old son confessed.

"He was smart with a lot of potential despite what was going on in that home," said Ann Irons, the parent of child who attends the same school as the boy. "He was attention-seeking but not violent. He was a good boy. If he did it, he was pushed."

The boy's mother was charged with child neglect and pleaded guilty Tuesday in Monroe County Sessions Court. She was given a suspended six-month sentence.


The story offers so many rich questions –– legal and ethical. If you think about it for a while, something will emerge that you can write about. It's all about the kernels of truth. 

1 comment:

Anna said...

Rich questions indeed. I'd explore a story from the mother's POV. Better yet, if CPS takes charge of the boy, from the POV of a foster parent who starts out being very suspicious and fearful for his/her safety, then becomes more mellow -- or not.... Yes, rich questions. A narrative from the boy's POV might be like Patricia Highsmith's haunting story about a terrapin (I believe that's its title).