Thursday, January 19th, 2017

It was a simpler time

The internet was silly talk for futurists, computers in every home, yeah, right. Video games were abundant, but kids still had time for normal outdoor activities. Horrific crimes were not commonplace and the Times as we now know it today could never have been imagined.

We were just getting into journalism in Wayne County. The small community newspaper was finding its legs. That very hot August morning in 1990 was the week we had decided to expand coverage from Walworth and Macedon into Palmyra.

Then, the big news broke. Two children were missing in the Village of Palmyra and search parties were deployed. I was a bit fearful walking into the Palmyra Police office. Patrol and unmarked police vehicles peppered the parking lot. People scrambling in and out of the small police station added to my apprehension.

As I walked up the stairs, Palmyra Police Chief Dave Dalton walked up to me and offered a hand shake. I explained to him who I was and how we (the Times) were beginning to cover Palmyra as our next step in growth. Throughout the mayhem of the day, Dave Dalton was the friendly, cooperative face that I was shocked and pleased to encounter. We have been fast friends ever since, but that is a story for another day.

I jumped into the story of the two missing children and followed it closely. I was the first reporter on the scene of the grisly find of two bodies, even before more police and technicians began flooding in. Palmyra Police Officer Dave Freeland stood guard at the scene, keeping the area off-limits to anyone.

In the days that followed, I stuck to the story 24/7. Rick Healy, soon-to-be elected County District Attorney, was already a friend. I met and became longtime friends with many investigators and officers as the story unfolded. I was already a close friend to Elaine Hartnagel, the grandmother of the slain baby,  who was, at the time, a writer for the Times.

I was allowed unbelievable access to the comings and goings of the situation and soon became the envy of other media. I followed the story through the missing person report, right through to the trial and conviction. I also fought the very stupid people and “satanic experts” , trying to debunk any and all voodoo hysteria.

That was 24 years ago this August. Much has changed. Chad Campbell has moved from one state facility to another. He has tried, in vain, to convince state officials he has found the path to redemption.

Many readers were too young to remember, others were not even born yet. There are a few who still think there was more to the story than a crazed, sick individual with a knife.

In the years following his incarceration, more stories about Chad Campbell’s pre-murder, weird conduct have surfaced. I was privy to much of the evidence and knew this guy was sick and would never be cured of whatever ailed him.

As for Chad Campbell ever seeing the outside of a prison, I, and many others, will fight to keep him safely stored away, not ever having the opportunity to breathe free.