The Boston Phoenix
September 24 - October 1, 1998

[Features]

Life after death

A year ago, 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley's brutal murder turned his father into a passionate and very public advocate for the death penalty. Now, the TV cameras are gone, and Bob Curley is left with unrelenting pain and this question: Was he used?

by Yvonne Abraham

"I still drive around the neighborhood, and I still find myself looking for him. I'll go by the school, or the pool, or the skating rink, or the football field, and I still find myself looking. Then it hits you."

Bob Curley is at the Inman Square fire station, where he works as a mechanic, on a drizzly September afternoon. Upstairs, bad late-afternoon television blares, and a half-dozen firemen are talking over the noise, laughing loudly, waiting for the next emergency or for their shifts to end. Down here, it is colder and darker, and Curley sits in his shop, head bowed, elbows on knees, hands clasped, talking quietly about his son.

Like every other 10-year-old, Jeffrey Curley wanted to be a fireman when he grew up, and he couldn't get enough of this place. He'd clamber over the fire trucks as his father worked on them. Or he'd sit at the dispatch desk, waiting for alarms and the clomp-clomp of firemen's boots down the wooden stairs. Sometimes, if the call wasn't too far away, he'd catch up with the trucks on his bike, and watch his dad work the pressure controls. He had a good life, Jeffrey Curley, hanging around at the station. Every kid's dream.

Next week marks the first anniversary of Jeffrey Curley's death. On October 1, 1997, the East Cambridge boy jumped into a car on the promise of a new bike and $50; instead, he was driven to Newton and suffocated with a gasoline-soaked rag. His attackers, it is alleged, then sexually abused his body, laid it in a concrete-filled plastic container, and dumped it in a Southern Maine river, where it lay for six days before divers found it. The two men accused of the crime pled not guilty, and their trial is scheduled to begin on October 20. (A hearing on September 29 will determine whether they will be tried separately or together.)

For a few weeks, everybody shared Bob Curley's pain. Day after day, Jeffrey smiled out from the pages of all the papers: the freckle-faced, baseball-capped 10-year-old, bat slung cornily over his right shoulder, looked as if he'd been plucked from a Norman Rockwell painting. His disappearance, then the revelation of his murder, topped nightly newscasts and terrified local parents. After the suspects were captured, angry crowds jeered the bulletproof vest-clad men as police paraded them to and from the courtroom. Each hearing yielded more sickening details, swelling the outrage. And all along, Bob and Barbara Curley appeared on television and spoke to every reporter who asked, clinging to each other, broken, pleading first for the return of their son, then for justice.

For Bob Curley, every day since Jeffrey was killed has been a battle to force down the rage that keeps bobbing up to the surface. He has been determined since the first day to find meaning in his son's death, despite the senselessness of his fate. That quest has led him into a public presence he says he never wanted, and has laid him open to sometimes withering criticism. But he says he's had no choice.

"I think of Jeff," he says. "And I think, if I go and don't do anything about what happened to him, his death will be in vain. If he had to die, it's gonna be for a reason."

At first, that reason was the reintroduction of capital punishment. Jeffrey's murder created such intense public revulsion that it sparked a new push for a return to executions in this state. The whole country watched as liberal Massachusetts threatened to fall into line with the likes of Texas and Arkansas. Bob stepped up as the death-penalty advocates' spiritual leader, his family's private hell merging with others' public crusade. There the Curleys were, in the public galleries of the State House, looking down on the legislators invoking their Jeffrey's name. Or there, on the steps in front of the gold dome, flanked by the grim-faced Paul Cellucci, pleading for support, urging anyone who would listen that the best way to make Jeffrey's heinous murder right was to ensure that future child-killers be put to death.

Eventually, though, the TV lights were turned off. The death penalty died. But while the public imagination moved on, the Curleys could not. Suddenly, Bob Curley and his family were alone with their grief, still defined wholly by what had happened to Jeffrey, but without the public, political drama to distract -- or direct -- them. A willing and passionate participant in the toxic death-penalty debate, Bob Curley emerged from it battered and unconsoled. And regretful.

"At the time, you're in a pretty vulnerable position," he says. "I probably would have been better off if I'd stayed out of that. I learned a lesson."

A 10-year-old's world

Sarchioni's Variety Store, a tiny red establishment carved out of the side of a rambling white wooden house, is the heart of what used to be Jeffrey Curley's universe. On Frisoli's Corner, near Kendall Square, it is halfway between the tidy olive-green townhouse where Jeffrey lived and the Charles G. Harrington school, where he was a fifth-grader. On a recent Friday afternoon, a kid, maybe eight or nine, drops his bike on the ground outside and comes into the dinky, too-crowded store for a soda, just as Jeffrey must have done a thousand times. In a corner, a short blond woman sits on a stool, bellowing into a pay phone.

"What did ya do? You've been drinking again, that's what." A pause. "Yeah? Well, I want my money! I want my fuckin' money!" Another five seconds. "I'll see you when you come home. Or aren't you coming home? I said, aren't you coming home?"

Nobody bats an eye. It isn't that kind of neighborhood. This part of East Cambridge is a tight but tough place, where parents work late at Bradlees and Home Depot, and a lot of kids look after themselves. Kids here are more likely to take up trades than college, and to settle their own scores. The Curley boys -- Jeffrey and his older brothers Shaun, 17, and Bobby, 20, both solid, strong-looking young men -- could always hold their own.

Jeffrey stopped in at Sarchioni's every day, sometimes on the way to school with his mother, sometimes on the way home by himself. Always for a small Italian sub, "no hots."

"Nice boy," says Sandra Sarchioni. "Not fresh. Real good kid." She says he was talkative and friendly, and happy to help out in the store for a free soda.

He was the kind of little kid who owned his neighborhood of wooden houses and narrow streets. The freckle-faced 10-year-old with the impish grin was a constant near his Hampshire Street home, zipping around on his bike, popping wheelies, getting into mild mischief. He played baseball, hockey, and basketball in the neighborhood, so he knew just about everybody. He'd hang out with other kids, and sometimes with his older brothers, at the Gore Street ice rink, or Donnelly Field, by the school, where he played baseball. Sometimes Jeffrey stayed out late, but nobody ever worried much.

The Sarchionis had seen Shaun and Bobby grow up, and they were also keeping an eye on Jeffrey. Everybody watches everybody here, they say -- the older kids make sure the younger ones are okay, too. Jeffrey had friends of all ages; he wasn't very discriminating. Sometimes he even hung out with Salvatore Sicari, a 21-year-old from around the corner whom nobody in the neighborhood liked much, and Sicari's friend Charles Jaynes, 22, from Brockton. The Sarchionis say they always thought Sicari and Jaynes were strange. "Peculiar," says Robert Sarchioni. "Not talkative enough. They came in all the time. Just for soda." They seemed okay to Jeffrey. A couple of times, they drove him around in Jaynes's old gray Cadillac, and they bought the 10-year-old food.

Jeffrey was a funny kid, says his father. He was constantly asking one of his brothers for 35 cents. Always exactly 35 cents, to buy nobody knows what. Often, when Bob went running along the Charles River Esplanade, Jeffrey would pedal his beloved bike ahead of him, turning little circles or riding no-hands. Bob Curley can still see his son looking back over his left shoulder, grinning and yelling, "Geez, Dad, not bad for an old guy!"

Bob and Barbara Curley had separated in 1996, but Bob lived near Barbara and the boys, and they remained close. Theirs was not the perfect family: the boys sometimes got into trouble, but Curley was no less proud of them for that. "This is East Cambridge here, you know," he says. "There are some very prominent families in this state whose children have their scrapes, too. We're just the average American family trying to pay the bills."

Bob Curley is an athletic 43-year-old, with a weather-beaten face, bright blue eyes, and sandy hair that sticks straight up in places because he rakes a hand through it whenever he's fumbling for words, which is often. He is grim-faced these days, his brow deeply furrowed, the outer corners of his eyes and lips downturned. He rarely smiles or looks you in the eye for long. He doesn't remember many of the worst details of last year, or won't speak of them out loud if he does. Ask him questions about his son's death and he will invariably push them away at first, preferring instead to talk about more public matters -- especially the blight of sexual predators and the state's sluggishness in stopping them. He dispenses details about Jeffrey's death sparingly, edging toward the murder in tiny increments, as if to avoid tumbling off some ledge.

The last time Bob Curley saw his son Jeffrey was on September 30, 1997. Curley was in the driveway by the house on Hampshire Street, helping Shaun fix an old blue Ford he'd just bought. Jeffrey, who loved anything mechanical, was hanging around as usual. Bob sent Jeffrey into the house for a cup so that he could pour gasoline into the carburetor to get the car going. Jeffrey did as his father asked, the car started, and Bob went back to the fire station.

The next afternoon, Shaun was going out with his friends to get a part for the new car, and Jeffrey asked if he could tag along. Shaun said no. Bobby Curley then sent his little brother to his grandmother's house, nearby, to wash the family's rottweiler. She was the last person to see him before he disappeared. He came into her house sometime between 3 and 3:30 p.m. and said, "Nana, I have to go do something. I'll be back in 10 minutes."

'Monstrous'

Bob Curley doesn't remember exactly when he got word that his youngest son hadn't come home on October 1. The police were notified sometime before midnight. Curley had gone over to Hampshire Street, had called all the hospitals and Jeffrey's friends. Prayed he'd overlooked some possibility.

"You're just hoping that he stayed over someone's house," Curley says. "And the next morning he's gonna come home. But six o'clock, seven o'clock, nine o'clock the next morning -- it's not good."

The news crews arrived. Life ended. Jeffrey's Little League portrait appeared all over the city. Bob and Barbara Curley appealed to television audiences -- heads bowed -- for their son's safe return.

On the third day, police arrived, with a priest. They had a confession. Jeffrey had been murdered. There were two people in custody -- Salvatore Sicari and Charles Jaynes. Police had some idea where the body had been dumped, but they were still trying to find it. Not till the next morning did the family discover that police believed the killers had molested Jeffrey's body.

"It was devastating," Curley says. "And then to find out what happened [after they killed him]. I cried. I prayed to God: 'Give me strength, help me get through this.' You just can't comprehend. I mean, what kind of people are out there? Where do they come from?"

Those first few days are a blur for Curley. He doesn't remember eating, or sleeping for more than an hour at a time. He received visitors and talked to the press. A shrine took shape outside the Hampshire Street house, where strangers laid flowers and baseballs and stuffed toys in memory of Jeffrey. A local woman started a petition to reinstate the death penalty. Curley waited, watching his new hell unfold on television.

MONSTROUS, blared the Herald. Newspapers as far away as Buffalo, Toronto, and Sacramento followed the story. The shrine grew as hundreds came to show their sympathy. As people gathered outside the Curley home, dread gathered within it. Another day passed, then another, and still Jeffrey's body hadn't been found. Cameras followed the search crews up the New Hampshire coast, to fast-moving rivers and treacherous inlets. Bob Curley followed them all on television, seeing his son's happy face flash up on the screen, his body seemingly farther and farther away.

"I thought they'd have no problem finding him," he says. "But when I saw on the TV where they were looking for him, I thought, oh, my God -- there's so many rivers up there, and the currents, with the tides and everything. That was the lowest point, when I didn't think they were going to find him. I just broke down."

Through the fog of those first days, Curley had already resolved to do something to make sure other families didn't have to go through what he was enduring. He repeated that wish over and over, to his family and to the television reporters. But first, he wanted his son home.

On October 7, divers found a 50-gallon Rubbermaid plastic container in the Great Works River in South Berwick, Maine. Inside it, surrounded by concrete, was Jeffrey Curley's body.

'Lock me up'

The day after Jeffrey Curley was murdered, Salvatore "Salvi" Sicari just couldn't stay away from Hampshire Street. The slight, 21-year-old unemployed painter with the curly dark hair lived near the Curleys with his mother, two sisters, and brother, and had often played football and street hockey with neighborhood kids. But Bob Curley says he never liked him. Nor, by many accounts, did Bobby or Shaun. After the crime, Sicari's neighbors were eager to tell reporters that he'd never been any good, that he was the kind of kid who brings down the whole neighborhood. He'd reportedly been convicted of selling cocaine in a school zone the year before and had a slew of other offenses to his name, for assault and battery mostly, including beating up on the mother of his then-one-year-old daughter.

Still, Sicari said he wanted to help, and he spent the morning of October 2 handing out fliers. All day Sicari eagerly dropped bizarre and vital facts around himself like flares.

According to court documents, he told anybody who would listen that he'd seen Jeffrey about the time he disappeared. The 10-year-old had threatened to sic the rottweiler on him, he said, and he'd told the boy to call off the dog or he would kill it. Later, he told police he'd seen Jeffrey in Charles Jaynes's 1985 gray Cadillac Fleetwood recently and that Jaynes had offered Jeffrey a new bike. Sicari also told police that he'd urged Jeffrey not to hang out with older guys and that he'd warned Jaynes he shouldn't be with younger boys. It didn't look good, he says he told his friend.

Charles Jaynes, 22, comes from a relatively affluent Brockton family. His father owned an auto-reconditioning business, where Jaynes worked. He also worked part-time as a detailer at a Honda dealership overlooking the Mass Pike, in Newton. His employer there said the heavyset Jaynes had always been affable and polite. But one of his former schoolteachers told a television reporter he had frightened her even when he was a sixth grader. Jaynes, too, had collected some arrests, even more than Sicari -- for assault and battery, passing bad checks, and stealing baseball cards from a child, to name a few.

Sicari and Jaynes met through a mutual friend, two years before Jeffrey's murder. Though both of them had girlfriends, they also were reportedly lovers. Both men had worked for Jaynes's father's business for a time, but Sicari was fired for incompetence. He and Jaynes, though, continued to spend time together. And now Sicari was dropping bald hints that Jaynes had something to do with Jeffrey's disappearance.

At about 5 p.m. on October 2, Jeffrey's brother Bobby and some friends of the Curleys had Sicari take them to the Honda dealership, where Jaynes was working at the time. If they had vigilantism on their minds, they were thwarted when Jaynes's boss, sensing trouble, called Newton police. Jaynes, wanted on dozens of outstanding warrants, was taken into custody. By now Cambridge police, who suspected Jaynes's involvement in Jeffrey's disappearance, had also arrived at the dealership.

Sicari, still apparently eager to help even after his friend had been collared, accompanied police officers back to Cambridge. Under questioning, he volunteered that Jaynes had rented an apartment in New Hampshire under an assumed name (he'd used the name and Social Security number of Anthony Scaccia, a 13-year-old who'd been killed in a very high-profile drunk-driving accident on October 3, 1987), and that it was decorated with kids' posters, from The Lion King and such. Then, according to court documents, Sicari began melting down: crying uncontrollably, gasping for air, jumping around, and saying he thought something awful had happened to Jeffrey in Newton.

Police then presented Sicari with a store receipt they'd found on Jaynes: it listed concrete, lime, and a Rubbermaid plastic container. "Fuck it. Fuck it. Lock me up," Sicari said. He wouldn't say much else at first. He slumped in his chair in the interrogation room, pulled his sweatshirt up over his nose and chin, and waited 45 minutes. Then this: "I'm guilty, but I didn't kill Jeffrey Curley."

According to Sicari's confession, he and Jaynes picked Jeffrey up on Hampshire Street between 3 and 3:30 on October 1, promising to buy him a new bike in Newton. They stopped to buy some gas, and Sicari says Jaynes soaked a rag with it and demanded sex from Jeffrey in the back of the car. The child refused. Jaynes placed the rag over Jeffrey's mouth and the boy struggled, furiously. Sicari says the 85-pound 10-year-old fought the 250-pound Jaynes for a long time before he died. Then Sicari says Jaynes put Jeffrey in the trunk and drove to the Honda dealership in Newton. There, they worked on a car for a few hours, while Jeffrey lay dead in the Cadillac. The two then stopped for the cement, the plastic container, and some alcohol and drove to Jaynes's apartment in Manchester.

Jaynes, according to Sicari's confession, wrapped Jeffrey's body in a blue tarp and took it into the apartment, then undressed it. He cut a button and a label from the child's trousers to keep as souvenirs. He laid Jeffrey's body on a plastic bag on the kitchen floor and sodomized him. Sicari claims Jaynes told him to molest the body too, but that he refused.

At 2:30 a.m., Sicari said, they mixed the concrete in the Rubbermaid container and placed Jeffrey's body in it on its side. They put lime on his eyes and mouth to speed decomposition, then drove to South Berwick and flung the container off a bridge into the Great Works River.

The public will

Within a month of his death, Jeffrey Curley had become more than a testament to a sick world. He was now the focal point for -- and the most powerful weapon in -- a bitter, protracted debate over the reintroduction of the death penalty in Massachusetts.

His murder was the most shocking in a string of particularly horrific recent killings. Elaine Donahue, a Reading nurse, had been bludgeoned to death by her husband in late September. Around the same time, in Lowell, Catherine Rice and her two sons, aged two and four, were murdered by her boyfriend. And Annie Glenn, also from Lowell, was shot to death in front of her three children by her estranged boyfriend on October 21.

Though all these crimes were appalling, Jeffrey Curley's murder stood alone. Talk-show hosts whipped their listeners into a frenzy over the case, urging them to call their legislators and demand the reinstatement of the death penalty. State House phone lines were overloaded for days. Letters flooded newspapers demanding that future Sicaris and Jayneses be put to death.

The death penalty had passed the Massachusetts Senate many times in the past, but the House was intransigent: capital punishment is, after all, a matter of conscience, hardly susceptible to the influence of lobbyists. Jeffrey's murder, however, was a crime so heinous that it seemed it might actually change minds. "I always thought it was applied unfairly, and it wasn't a deterrent, but I don't think you can get any worse than this," Cambridge rep Timothy Toomey, who knew the Curleys, told the Herald.

The death penalty finally had a chance, and advocates decided it was now or never. It was a remarkable time, and one that captured the whole country's attention: the most liberal state in the union was teetering on the brink of reintroducing capital punishment. At the time, Bob Curley felt it was his duty to Jeffrey's memory to get involved.

On October 21, 1997, the Senate debated the bill for a marathon six hours, while the Curleys watched from the gallery. The debate was passionate, if familiar. Opponents voiced grave concerns: that the penalty was too expensive, that it was not a deterrent, that it was applied unevenly. The other side argued for the rightness of vengeance and the value of the victim's life over that of the murderer. The legislation passed by a vote of 22 to 14.

But the real battle would be to convert the House. On October 22, at a rally in front of the State House, the Curleys presented Acting Governor Cellucci with the petition begun at Jeffrey's shrine: 8600 signatures in support of capital punishment.

The family -- Bob, Barbara, Shaun, Bobby, and uncle James -- lobbied House members for the death penalty, invoking Jeffrey constantly. Guided partly by Cellucci and assisted by senator and former state policeman James Jajuga (D-Methuen), their efforts sometimes got as aggressive, and as personal, as the debate had become. At one point, according to the Herald, James held a picture of Jeffrey in freshman representative Gene O'Flaherty's face and said, "I'm begging you to please do the right thing. Jeff was taken from my family. Stand up to them."

As the House took up the death penalty on October 28, the Curley family again watched from the gallery.

"Jeffrey Curley will never see another sunset," Representative Francis Marini (R-Hanson) said. "He won't get to watch a movie or his favorite television show. He won't get to go to college on the taxpayer from in prison. His killers will. Is that justice?"

"What do we do when a mistake is made and the [state] crushes the life of an innocent person?" House Speaker Thomas Finneran (D-Mattapan) was reported as saying in response. "That person's innocence is as clear as Jeffrey Curley's."

It was less than civil. "The legislature was trying to deal with the most emotional and divisive issue discussed under the golden dome," recalls Representative Jim Marzilli (D-Arlington). "And instead of discussing whether we should have the death penalty, we had truly vitriolic attacks on people who genuinely [opposed it]. I don't think anyone should be surprised or upset when the victim of a horrible crime reacts with outrage. But we in the legislature are supposed to do something that's a little bit better than responding to gut-level instinct. But lots of politicians played to that demand for vengeance."

On November 6, the death penalty was defeated by the narrowest of margins, after Representative John Slattery of Peabody had a change of heart -- and, some suggested, after some fancy footwork by Finneran. Then the rhetoric really got ugly. Cellucci lashed out at both Slattery and Finneran. Columnist Howie Carr called Slattery a "yellow hack." The representative got death threats and obscene notes.

"After it failed," says Jajuga, the Curleys were "extremely upset. They were furious. They felt they had been betrayed." Slattery said that he had changed his mind purely because his conscience had told him to, but his foes, including the Curleys, weren't satisfied with that explanation.

"It's up to the people out there to make a stand," Bob Curley told the Herald at the time. "Get after these politicians. They can't have their way and do whatever they want." So in the Democratic primary to succeed retiring state senator Paul White, of Dorchester, Bob threw himself behind district city councilor Maura Hennigan, the only death-penalty advocate in the race. He helped distribute Hennigan fliers, which bore a picture of Jeffrey, and urged a vote for her in his memory.

Even jaded political junkies were horrified at the flier, at Hennigan for using the tragedy for political gain, and at Curley for allowing his son's memory to be used to sway voters. Some people thought he had crossed the line from understandable rage to grandstanding.

Now Curley received hate mail, including a letter from someone who claimed to be a priest in Brockton: if Curley continued with his death-penalty advocacy, the letter said, he would never see Jeffrey again, because when he died, Bob would surely go straight to hell. Bob says he also was the subject of a tirade by Marjorie Clapprood on her morning talk show. "She was kind of vicious," says Curley. "She said I should be in my house, crying, and fade off into the sunset. It didn't feel good."

Bob Curley had talked to reporters from the start, desperate to have something in the world change as a result of Jeffrey's death. Now he was criticized for being too public about his feelings and wishes. He'd crossed a line he'd had no idea existed, discovering that some people did not consider him the final arbiter of how best to honor his own son's memory.

"I don't know how you're supposed to grieve," Curley says. "I look at other kids and see what's out there and I can't just do nothing. Jeff Curley isn't going to go down for nothing. I have to make it mean something. If that means standing out there and talking to a reporter, if I have to use this to get attention, then so be it. If people want to criticize me for that, then so be it."

But far worse, Bob Curley found that even the supportive public rhetoric had done little to quell his sense of the futility of it all. Although he admits he was a willing participant, he now regrets his involvement in the death-penalty debate. He still believes executions would deter crimes like the one that took his son away from him, but he no longer judges politicians on the issue, and he certainly doesn't want to be a voice on it now. Indeed, he avoids most questions about that time.

Does he feel he was used?

"Maybe," he says reluctantly, with a sigh. "Maybe I left myself open. Maybe people thought they were doing the right thing. Maybe people were trying to help me. I don't know."

Private battles

This is what Bob Curley knows now: the world is uglier than most people could ever imagine. This he also knows: very bad things happen -- not to other people, but to you.

He is standing beside a huge fire truck at the Inman Square station. He lays a hand on the thick hoses coiled tightly on the truck, smoothing the heavy canvas, slowly tracing the path where the water would flow. It is his job to make sure these trucks are working properly, to get water to fire.

But Bob Curley feels cursed now. Now, even the most fundamental certainties elude him; he constantly second-guesses himself, convinced not just that awful things will happen to him, but that he will make awful things happen to others, too.

"If I was doing work on a pump," he says, "and two of my friends go to tap the water and the water doesn't come out because of something I did, well, what if my friends get killed at a fire? Or what if I worked on a ladder truck and they go to a fire, and the things don't go up, and these people get killed? Or what if there's someone around the corner having a heart attack, and something I did causes our guys not to be able to get out the door to help him?"

Since the death-penalty debates, Bob Curley and his family have continued to struggle with Jeffrey's death, but in less public ways. Bob says Barbara cannot bear to talk about her son any more. "Every time she sees the news, it triggers something with her," he says. He says she can no longer go into Jeffrey's room, stacked full of the tributes people brought for him in the days after his disappearance. And Bob says Jeffrey's grandmother, the final person to see him before he was killed, cannot go back to the house where Jeffrey spoke to her for the last time.

The distress of Jeffrey's brothers Bobby and Shaun, racked by guilt over their actions on the day of his death, has been more destructive, and more visible. On December 17, Bobby Curley, the brother who had confronted Jaynes at the Honda dealership in Newton, disrupted the suspects' arraignment. "He winked at me like he liked me!" Bobby exploded, believing Sicari had provoked him. Shaun wiped tears away with his jacket sleeve, momentarily lost in his own agony. Barbara held Bobby's right arm, trying to calm him. His aunt put a hand gently to his mouth, to no avail. Bobby moved toward Sicari, swearing, until court officers removed him.

This past May, the brothers were picked up for allegedly threatening Salvi Sicari's sister with a baseball bat and swinging a hammer at her. Bob Curley won't comment on the incident, except to say that Bobby wasn't even there at the time. And he pleads for understanding for his sons.

"They're young guys who are feeling a tremendous amount of grief and anger," he says. "Try to imagine somebody doing to the family pet [what they did to Jeff]. You can't imagine how we feel. You just can't imagine."

The Curley boys are having trouble mustering the dignity and control that is apparently expected from families of murder victims. It's not the way they do things where Jeffrey Curley was going to grow up. The shrine is gone. Strangers don't come by any more to lay baseball bats and teddy bears. All they have left to distract them now is the trial.

Bob Curley, like most parents of murder victims, is determined to be in court for every minute of Sicari's and Jaynes's trial, despite the fact that such proceedings rarely bring the closure and satisfaction families hope for. "I just want to see justice be served," he says. "If I didn't go, it's a sign of weakness on my part. I don't want the people sitting on the jury, the judge, or anybody else to forget what happened."

While the rest of his family struggles in private, Bob Curley has a new crusade, and is venturing gingerly back into public life. In the weeks after Jeffrey's death, after the cameras went away, he read everything he could about child abuse, exposing a world whose existence he'd only vaguely known about before. He learned a lot about the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), the organization whose literature police found in Jaynes's apartment.

"These are organized groups of child molesters," says Curley. "They have their publications and their meetings, and they teach their members different tactics on how to lure children, and the whole bit. The more you learn about this, the scarier it gets."

Curley still gets calls from pro-death penalty politicians wanting his public imprimatur, but he's declined them all. Crusading against child pornography is a far safer battle, he says, a less combative way to find a point to his son's death.

He has spoken out in favor of the state's sex-offender registry and of a program that institutionalizes sex offenders who show no signs of rehabilitation after prison time. And several local politicians are helping him introduce what he hopes will be an annual run in Jeffrey's memory, to raise money for the Child Abuse Prevention Program in schools. The five-mile race will be run on October 4. He's thrown himself into promoting the CAP program, using it to propel himself further away from the horror of a year ago.

Yet for all his talk of the future and getting beyond and finding meaning, there is always enormous pain and anger just below the surface. Like his older sons, he still struggles with immense guilt.

"Sometimes I'd think, 'Why couldn't I see it? Was there anything I could have done differently?' " Curley says. But he checks himself, with the same argument he's drilled into Bobby and Shaun every day since the murder. "Jaynes was gonna get Jeffrey and molest him, one way or the other," he says. "It really didn't matter. You can't imagine somebody being that bad. I mean, sexual abuse? I didn't know anything about it."

Once, in four hours of interviews, he admits that sometimes he still feels the kind of murderous anger for what happened to Jeffrey that seemed to drive him during the death-penalty debate. "I feel such rage," he says. "I ask God to forgive me that I feel such rage." But Curley quickly pushes it back down again, ashamed of his admission. "If you give in to the rage," he says, "You'll go to jail, and you won't accomplish anything."

For Bob, there are small mercies: the Roxbury baseball league that named a division for his son; the firefighters who've stuck with him even when it was clear he wasn't getting over it.

And this: his son died, fighting, before he was raped.

"He didn't give in to them. The way we raised him. Everything else doesn't really mean shit to me. I think about that -- Jeff and the courage he showed. He didn't give in to those guys. Anybody who knew him knew he wasn't going to back down."

On such frail consolations does Bob Curley's life now turn.

Yvonne Abraham can be reached at yabraham@phx.com.

| home page | what's new | search | about the phoenix | feedback |
Copyright © 1998 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group. All rights reserved.