Thursday, January 03, 2013

The kind-hearted, helpful rapist

There was a nice obituary today for 63-year-old Stephen VanDam. There were nothing but positives and pleasant things said about the deceased. Among others, he was “kind-hearted and helped many people. . .he will be missed by all who knew him and loved him and there were many!”

That was on page B7. But on page B2 a story by Salt Lake Tribune reporter Brooke Adams is headlined, “Rapist, 63, serving life term in Utah prison dies.” It told the story of the same person, Stephen Van Dam (spelled differently in the news story than the obituary, but it's the same man), who had died after a long illness. When VanDam was 33, and “already had a criminal history,” according to the story, he “was convicted of multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault and confessed to at least 17 other attacks.” (On a story claims he confessed to 27 rapes. Perhaps a typo?) VanDam was sentenced to prison, but at some point he escaped. He was returned in 1985, had a parole hearing in 1993 “where he was erroneously given a parole date of January 1996.” But that parole date was revoked and he was given a sentence of natural life, which, according to his obituary, ended on January 1, 2013.

In the obituary it is claimed, “He is at long last free!”

I think to the person or persons who composed his obituary the old dictum is true: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. It is kind of hard to say something nice about a man who has confessed to 17 rapes, though, isn’t it?

Maybe at some point Vandam (another spelling I’ve found of his name), who had some intelligence (he had earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration), felt bad about his crimes. Maybe he expressed regrets to his family or friends. I don’t know. He was convicted of first degree felony rape as far back as 1970. I believe to rape, to violate another human being in that way takes a special type of sociopath, and by his crimes he fit that definition.

In a 2010 story on the convicted rapist claimed to the Parole Board that he was a “changed man who wants to rejoin his church and return to Salt Lake City in peace.” Two of his victims from 1983 wanted him kept in prison. To them he was “a disturbed sexual predator beyond rehabilitation.” And so his pleas to the Parole Board fell on deaf ears. They accepted the wishes of those victims, and he spent the rest of his natural life in prison. I’ll bet none of his victims are shedding tears over his death.

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