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
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
"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
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."
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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."
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,
"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
"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
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
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
On such frail consolations does Bob Curley's life now turn.
Yvonne Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.