SUNNYSIDE (6-10-98)---Individual criminal thugs--ages 10 to 17--are virtually anonymous today.
That's because well-meaning mainstream institutions keep them out of the public eye. We invite schools, newspapers, politicians, and Mr. and Mrs. DSHS to listen up.
Known gangsters are coddled by one or more institutions until age 18 or until they kill someone. Whichever comes first. Only after that can we let 'em have it. But by then it's often too late.
Witness the two 14-year old "youths"---Joel Lemos and Miguel Gaitan, both 14--- who used knives and baseball bats to wipe out the Skelton family in Granger in 1993. No one heard of these "youths" until the sonsabitches bashed in the head of wheelchair-bound Michael Skelton and his little wife, Lynn Skelton, in their trailer home.
YVN talked to the fire chief who arrived first on the scene. He said he found Lynn Skeleton's brains all over the shower curtain.
Then these "youth" stabbed the two terrified young Skeleton boys to death as they tried to hide. Not satisfied, they reportedly cut off the testicles of Jason Skelton, 12, and his little brother, Brian, 6.
It was a gangland initiation: "Hey, whack somebody and you're in, baby!"
A Granger school official who knew these Granger "youth" (how bureaucrats love that term) told us "their eyes are dead-looking, like a snake's. They don't care about anything. They don't listen to what you say. If they do look at you, it gives you a chill. They'd just as soon kill you as look at you."
Killers Lemos and Gaitan are locked up for life. Lemos got 82 years in the pen; the earliest he can get out for "good behavior" is 2061. Gaitan got four consecutive life-terms without possibility of parole. Today, the sonsabitches are both age 25, and believed to be rotting in Walla Walla State Prison. (Update 2014: Gaitan, 34, is at Stafford Creek Corrections Center, 191 Constantine Way, Aberdeen, WA, 98520, Phone (360) 537-1800. Lemos, 34, is not listed in any county, state, or federal lockup. Where is Lemos? Stay tuned. )
One Yakima Valley resident, a newspaper librarian, will never forget Gaitan: "As he was being sentenced, he turned around and grinned at the camera," she said of this goddamned snake.
Though the Skelton family killers are locked up, many more young gangsters remain at large in the Yakima Valley and harbor the same philosophy. We heard a young reporter (Craig Galbraith) on TV the other night interview a former gangland leader. This great "leader" said, "Gangs will always be with us. YOU can't do nothin' about it."
Maybe so, maybe not. In any case, a first step is not letting these poor, misunderstood, mostly Hispanic "youth" enjoy anonymity.
We don't say that naming violent juvenile offenders, publishing their mugs and addresses, and by extension their family affiliations, will stop gangland crime. All we can say is it will help the general public--who outnumber cops about 1,000 to 1--to see thugs coming.
We believe that, if we know WHO violent young thugs are and WHERE they stay, we can be on the alert to protect ourselves and our loved ones. All of us can isolate and ostracize the violent, and hold them up to the contempt they deserve.
Perhaps their families--who will also be in the public eye--will be motivated to turn these bad kids around (and maybe not). In any case, they'll be publicly involved.
"Gangs will always be with us," said the former head of the 200-member Yakima County rat pack we mentioned. "You can't do nothin' about it."
That's a challenge. We're going to start answering it by shining a light on who you are and where you are.
According to School Resource Officer Jim Rivard, some gangsters do infest Sunnyside Schools. School officials keep a lookout for backpacks, clothing and notebooks scrawled with graffiti. They look for items marked with eight balls, joy/grief masks, known gang brands, numbers 13, 14, and 21, and Roman numeral counterparts XIII , XIV and XXI. They also look for lettering LVL, BGL, and WSOS.