I heard a baby scream in pain, and wheeled about hard and fast. Adrenalin pumping, muscles at full anaerobic flush, I was full ready to shatter the jaws of pit bulls or smash some jackass of a parent senseless with my bare hands.
I was relieved to realize this was just a false alarm. A pair of seagulls soared overhead, one stole some prized morsel of garbage from the other. The cold air and flat bricks outside the library distorted the outraged cry of the victim. Seagulls and eagles are mere rats with wings. These lazy scavengers of the sky will happily eat rotted carrion and orts, or steal a hardworking predator’s prize.
I was relieved, this time.
Man accused of burning tot to death is hurt in jailhouse blaze."Let me out, Daddy, let me out!". Neighbors reported hearing religious music blaring from the apartment and Angela banging and screaming "Let me out, Daddy, let me out".
10 July 1985, page nine (9).
Auburn, Maine: The cellmates of a man accused of shoving a four-years old girl into an oven and burning her to death are suspected of trying to set him on fire in the county jail.
Jailers noticed smoke wafting from the maximum-security cell and found John Lane’s bed in flames, Androscoggin County Sheriff Ron Gagnon said.
The fire was quickly extinguished and aside from singed trousers and a charred bed sheet, there was little damage. Lane was not seriously injured.
"We don’t know why it was done", Gagnon said. "Nobody seems to want to talk about it now – nobody’s owning up to what happened."
Lane, 36, and his girlfriend, Cynthia Palmer, 29, are awaiting trial for the killing of Palmer’s daughter, Angela.
Police say Lane and Palmer stuffed Angela into an electric oven in their Auburn apartment, jammed the door shut with a chair, and burned the child to death.
In response to a flurry of death threats, security at the jail has been tight since the couple’s arrest 27 October 1984. Both are held without bail.
Gagnon would not speculate on whether the 0300 fire was retribution for the girl’s death.
Lane’s unidentified cellmates were moved to other cells, and Gagnon said charges of attempted murder or aggravated assault may be filed against them.
Lane’s attorney, James Burke, said his client described the blaze as "a serious fire".
"He woke up when he felt his feet were really hot. He said ‘God, they burned my feet’", Burke said. Burke said Lane has filed a formal complaint with the Sheriff’s Department and would pursue charges against the inmate responsible for setting the fire. A state police investigator said it would take about two weeks to file a full report on the incident.
Lane and Palmer have pleaded innocent by reason of insanity, and separate non-jury trials are expected to begin in Penobscot County Superior Court.
According to court documents, Lane told a state police detective he believed that the little girl was the devil, that "Lucifer got loose" and that the creature was "green and ugly" and trying to kill him.
Neighbors reported hearing religious music blaring from the apartment and Angela banging and screaming "Let me out, Daddy, let me out!"
We’ll get back to that.
I don’t recall John Lane too clearly, as he was a generation older than me. Most of the Lane’s I knew were drug-abusing redneck swamp Yankees of the Bible-thumping sort.
I recall that both John Lane and Cynthia Palmer were charged with Angela’s murder, and are (or were) serving time. I don’t recall the specifics, or if John Lane was eventually killed in prison. I heard he was sentenced to life without parole. I do not know what happened to Angela’s sister, Sarah, who was five years old when she witnessed her little sister Angela’s horrific death in the family oven.
I don’t know what happened to the two cellmates who were accused of setting fire to John Lane’s bed. Rumor has it that they were never charged, and both were greeted as heroes upon their immediate transfer to Thomaston State Penitentiary. There was some wild speculation of collusion between these inmates and certain members of the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department. I have my doubts, naturally.
The young police officer who removed Angela’s burned remains from the oven quit the force less than a month later, according to a mutual friend. Two years later (1986), the former officer was still suffering traumatic nightmares. I'm told he never worked in Law Enforcement again.
Auburn’s United Church of Christ (UCC) church, attended by both Lane and Palmer, was burned down under mysterious circumstances a short while later. Even twenty years ago Auburn was a depressed, working class, New England mill town long past its prime. Like many traditional UCC churches, Auburn’s stood upon a prominent hill, overlooking the town from a position of high dominance.
The shabby tenement house where Angela horrifically died was originally built in the late nineteenth century to house mill workers and their families. Locals still refer to the dwelling as "that house."
I can tell you that as a young man "Dead Baby Jokes" were popular, but not here, not after this. No one who recalls the tragic "oven case" enjoys the morbid, sophomoric humor of Dead Baby jokes anymore. It’s just too raw.
Angela Palmer died because the man she called "Daddy" stuffed her in an oven and burned her to death. Her building neighbors ignored her agonizing screams, secure in the irrational trust that John Lane and Cynthia Palmer were "good Christians."
The police were eventually called when John Lane refused to turn down the religious music blaring from his apartment all day and into the early evening. That’s when the young police officer responding to a mundane noise complaint noticed a chair propped against the family’s oven. That’s the day the dead baby jokes stopped being funny.
Angela Palmer's story has parallels to mine. My parents too were wildly abusive, fundamentalist fruitcakes basking in the full support of our church. Following my insurrection, Mother was committed to Pineland, Maine’s Mental Care Facility, and diagnosed as schizophrenic. Perhaps I was not demon possessed after all. My family relationships remain...difficult.
John Lane and Cynthia Palmer were irrational and delusional. Angela Palmer’s neighbors reported hearing the dying girl’s horrific screams, her desperate banging, and her shouting "Let me out, Daddy, let me out!" They were irrational too. These neighbors failed to recognize the Lane’s and Palmer’s religious beliefs as irrational, note that irrational people commit irrational actions, and dismissed too easily the little girl’s plight sans proof of her safety. I’m sure many of faithful theists loath the word irrational as much as I loath Angela Palmer’s needless death.
Irrational, adjective: 1. not rational. a. not endowed with reason. b. lacking powers of reasoning or understanding. 2. lacking usual or normal mental clarity or coherence. 3. not governed by reason.It is the word I mean to use.
According to the Time’s Literary Supplement, "irrational" is a neutral term meaning either what is outside of the scope of reason or what has not yet been tested by reason.
I know well how an irrational person responds to the challenge that they are irrational. Have you ever wondered what a rational response might be?
If one believes in that which is unproved, then one is irrational. Also, if one believes in that which is supernatural, then one is also irrational. The theist’s god is a supernatural being.
I do not seek supernatural explanations. I do not need an invisible friend.
Through the long dark millenniums of theism, irrational, delusional people have time and again hurt themselves and their fellows, while the majority of the irrational cheerleaders and supernatural apologists use the same thin fallacies and tired, thread-bare excuses. Today, in the news, and around the corner, irrational superstitions are causing unmitigated harm, and this will not likely cease.
I do not seek the responsibility of changing any theist, however irrational. I retain the expectation that irrational people will continue to perform irrational actions. I resist. I am vigilant. I am watching. I remain.
It is most unrealistic for theists to expect me to wittingly change. You might think it your sacred calling to protect your holy god from me while providing passionate financial aegis to the terrorists and pedophiles lurking in the kingdom of faith. Yet no matter how "nice" one pretends to be I'll identify an irrational person as one capable of irrational acts. I will not let others cloud reality from me.
"Terrorism: The calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious, or ideological in nature through intimidation, coercion, or instilling fear."Fight the real enemy.
~ US Army Operational Concept For Terrorism Counteraction, TRADOC Pamphlet No. 525-73, 1984