by Jen Lynds,
To me, closure is a word invented by the media, a myth conjured up for crime dramas where the murder, the investigation, the trial and sentencing all happen in an hour. Victims and families get “closure” when the attacker goes to prison and the parties shake hands on the courthouse steps and life returns to normal.
Unfortunately, It is all scripted. We cannot live scripted lives or edit out the bad parts, a reality that was especially heartbreaking during the sentencing of the man behind the Amity triple homicide.
Thayne Ormsby was sentenced today for murdering Jeff Ryan, 55, his 10-year-old son, Jesse and family friend Jason Dehahn, 30, in Amity in 2010. Even though he will spend the rest of his life in jail, I am not sure that the victims’ families have “closure.” Today was likely similar to every other in the nearly 500 days since the murders. They wake up and their loved ones are gone. There is one less plate on the kitchen table, one less birthday boy to congratulate. Today, they learned that a callow 22-year-old with an intermittent grip on reality and who branded their souls with such a searing, permanent tattoo will one day be carried out of prison in a coffin. I hope that balm does a little to soothe the ache.
I once thought that people always had a stated reason for murder, such as anger, jealousy, revenge, fear or mental illness. I was wrong. In this case, Ormsby told police that he decided that he wanted to be an “assassin,” and with no evidence to substantiate a suggestion that Jeff Ryan was a drug dealer, he went to the home of a man who had previously offered him refreshments and conversation and stabbed him. He then killed two strangers to eliminate witnesses.
I fully realized that anyone can come into your life and end it. No motive is needed. It is a painful reality.
Before his sentence was handed down, people who have waited two years to have their say finally spoke.
One cannot forget Jason’s beautiful 12-year-old daughter, Skylar, who told the judge of the agony she feels now that her father is gone.
And Marie Vincent, Jesse’s aunt, read an essay of the same type that we all wrote in elementary school, when a teacher told us to write 100 words and picked a topic. Jesse wrote about “my best friend” and chose his dad.
Justice E. Allen Hunter presided over both trials and one does not leave his courtroom without learning a lesson. Today, he wondered aloud if any lessons could be gleaned from Ormsby’s case.
Earlier in the hearing, a psychologist, Dr. John Lorenz, was called by Ormsby’s attorneys, James Dunleavy and Sarah LeClaire. He testified about the killer’s psychological and medical history. Ormsby did not have an easy childhood, as his father abandoned him and his mother, Maria, abused alcohol and drugs. At the trial, she testified about her actions during an incident in which her son was having an intense argument with her partner.
“I stayed out of it,” she said.
He was eventually taken from her by the Department of Human Services at age 12 and placed with his uncle, who worked hard to provide for him. The DHS financed counseling for Thayne Ormsby. Lorenz testified that even though Ormsby was “deeply depressed” as a child, had deeply rooted problems and was bullied at school, he attended very few counseling sessions. Lorenz felt more could have been done to follow up with Ormsby.
Before delivering his sentence, Hunter took the killer’s upbringing and mental health issues into consideration. Maybe the lesson, he said, was that all parents had to be loving and nurturing, or that DHS had to better scrutinize cases involving childhood counseling.
But in the end, he said, it didn’t mitigate the fact that Ormsby slaughtered three people.
Hunter added that he could think of no child in any culture that would not know that it was wrong to kill someone.
No amount of child trauma could excuse his actions.
Ormsby had the chance to address the courtroom, to say he was sorry. He said nothing.
When the families of the victims spoke, he raised his eyebrows and appeared taken aback, as if he could not understand the anguished words of the speakers or the emotions behind them. When Hunter told him that only one other convicted murder, Christian Nielsen, had killed more people in Maine, he raised his eyebrows once again.
He only cried very briefly when his relatives spoke about how nice he was as a child.
Ormsby will now share prison space with Robert Strout, the man who told him that Jeff Ryan was a drug dealer and helped him dispose of evidence before whisking him out of state. While Strout was out on bail for arson and hindering apprehension, he was arrested for doing some drug dealing of his own. He will spend four years incarcerated with Ormsby.
In court today, Robert Dehahn said that he believes that Ormsby will one day stand before a higher power. He spoke about Ormsby going from a life behind bars to another prison amidst flames.
While still not closure for the victims’ families, they would likely see it as the perfect ending.