The murder of Maratta Walker, a resident of Somerset, is brought up repeatedly as evidence of how troubled Somerset is and the dangers to which it exposes the community. In their report “Slaying of nursing-home resident in nearby hotel shows how violence can spill into neighborhoods”, Marx and Jackson, Tribune reporters, characteristically fail to provide insight and identify the real problem. Most fundamentally, their very title is misleading. Violence did not “spill into” the neighborhood. She did not leave the facility and seek someone to murder her. By leaving the facility, Maratta encountered her murderer in the community. The violence was there, waiting for her. It could have happened to anyone else who might be inclined to party with this man in a motel room. It could have happened to Maratta regardless of whether she lived at Somerset or not. Remarkably, in their three page article, which goes into great length about how terribly the mentally ill affect the neighborhood, there is only one paragraph about the murderer himself:
“On the night of May 8, Walker signed out at the facility’s front desk and hooked up with Edward Gibson, a violent and mentally unstable vagrant who was on probation after a federal prison stint for a series of Chicago bank robberies, police and court records show.”
Really? Should not the question be how Edward Gibson, a violent and mentally unstable vagrant on probation from federal prison—and the one who perpetrated murder—was free to roam the streets of uptown until he killed someone? What sort of assessment was he given before his release? If he was mentally unstable, why was he not in a state psychiatric facility? No, these fairly reasonable questions are ignored. Instead, Marx and Jackson blame the victim. Well, her caretakers.
I attempt to do here what Marx and Jackson fail to do: identify the root of the problem that set the stage for Maratta’s death. And my analysis brings me back to what I believe is now the critical question: what is the state going to do with each and every resident in Somerset Place?