They have confirmed Danielle van Dam's death.
From here the case will go to prosecution, while the family and those who tried to help grieve. Ironically, the only reason the story became 'newsworthy' enough to make the national news, was due to certain sensational rumours about the parents' lifestyle.
What matters is that their daughter is dead. Nothing can change that now.
I think people lost sight of that. I don't know which is worse--that a missing child is not newsworthy in and of itself, or that scandal is the way to get a story heard. It's true, of course, that anytime a child disappears, you have to look within the family. Unlike the standard "don't talk to strangers" line that we feed our children, they are in much more danger from those they know than from strangers--often within their own home. Sometimes it's the monsters in our own homes we should fear the most. I once got into trouble for pointing that on a bulletin board; it was thought to be too potentially upsetting. That upset me at the time; I had emotional reasons for using that tact, based on my own experiences as a child. Once I was able to distance my emotions from it, I produced a professional yet non-immflamatory piece of education.
But children are in danger from others as well, even from within the perceived safety of their own homes. The cases of Polly Klaas and Danielle van Dam seem to prove that. While rare, it makes it harder for us to reassure children that they're safe--and hard for us to believe it, too. Even though I don't have children, I recognise how hard it must be. I think about a coworker who just gave birth to a son, and I think of her trying to explain something like that, or worse, deal with something like that. It's just mind-boggling.
Where I work we have a special disaster code in case of a missing child. During drills, we all come out of our offices, man the hallways, and stay alert for suspicious activity, a large bag a baby could be carried in, or a child matching that description. The idea is to cover as much territory as possible, and shut down the building to anyone who tries to leave. We are nervously efficient, hoping that it won't ever happen for real. I think some people are reluctant to confront a person who may, after all, be entirely legitimate. But a moment's embarrassment is worth the chance to prevent a tragedy. I think most of the parents would be grateful, once they realised what was going on. I can remember eating at a restaurant once and someone walked over to some children who were playing on something where they could have been hurt and guided them away. The mother came over, angry that some stranger had 'dared' to touch her child, dragging the kids back to the table. She loudly complained, no doubt embarrassing the Good Samaritan. The manager came over and explained what had happened; he had seen everything, and had been on his way over, too. The woman then went over to the person, apologised, and thanked her for interceding.
Maybe the world would be a little better if each of us overcame our fears to do what is right. I had a discussion with a Jewish friend the other day about Daniel Pearl's murder. I know that such evil acts are done every day, but the sheer brutality and senselessness of the murder made me sad and angry. Although my friend is generally very rational, he described the murderers as part of a culture of barbarians who had once been civilised but who let their civilisation disintegrate. I don't agree. I can't make such generalisations. I think there are evil acts, evil ideals, and even evil people, but no one side is wholly good or bad. I despise the murder of Palestinians as much as I despise the murder of Jews. Complex issues can never be solved by simple murders. Might does not make right. My friend said that part of the problem is that peace takes real work, and that people don't always want to work for it. It takes real courage, too. It's a shame that people are thought to be macho for pulling a trigger. That part's easy. It's a lot harder to live with the death of a loved one (as Pearl's widow and unborn child will), and harder still to work to prevent more. I could at least understand killing someone who killed someone you loved. I can't understand killing someone because they represent something hated--because of their nationality, or religion, or simply because you can kill. In the end, it only shows that the murderer, not the victim, is less of a person.
Well, I guess that's enough depressing liberal "why can't we all get along in happiness" musings for one night, don't you think?