Edmund Rowe (1966-2008): My Final Word

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This will be my final word on the life and death of Edmund Rowe, a friend of mine from my days at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the son of legendary North Korean defector No Kum-Sok (Kenneth Rowe), who flew a MiG-15 into South Korea on September 21, 1953.

For the record, here are my bona fides:

(1) I knew Edmund for 20 years. As a fellow engineering student, we took several classes together and we were part of a small group of fellow Christians who did homework together and attended the same church.

(2) His father was a professor at Embry-Riddle at the time. I took his father for an elective class—ET401: Mechanical Design—in the Fall of 1989. In fact, I still have the textbook, which his father gave me.

(3) After graduation, I kept in touch with Edmund over the years. He graduated a year ahead of me and managed to get a job as an aeronautical engineer at Robins AFB.

(4) Over the years, I had many discussions with Edmund regarding a variety of issues, from politics to firearms (technical and tactical issues) to theology and even perspectives on the opposite sex.

(5) Like myself, Edmund married later in life. I was at his wedding on May 3, 2008. He was 42, the same age at which I would marry the following year.

Some may wonder why I’m bothering to write a post about someone who has been dead for more than four years, and who died in a less-than-honorable way: on September 21, 2008—not even five months into his marriage—he shot his wife to death, and then shot himself. This apparent murder-suicide was a dramatic, shocking end to two lives in a fashion that no one saw coming.

For my part, I must admit that, when I first learned the news, I believed the report: that Edmund had murdered his wife—Allison White Rowe—and then killed himself. Why did I believe it? Because—as a Christian with a dark view of human nature—I believe that no heinous act, given stimulus, opportunity, and inclination of the heart, is past anyone.

But here’s the problem: in the case of Edmund, the murder-suicide angle wasn’t adding up. Why? Because, usually, when someone commits that, there are one or more indicators involved: financial catastrophe, marital strife, mental illness, drug and/or alcohol issues, domestic violence issues.

None of those things were in play here. Edmund had absolutely no violence issues, domestic or otherwise. He had no anger management issues. His managed his finances well. He was not reclusive or withdrawn. He had a very stable job at Robins AFB, as did his wife. He did not drink—not even an occasional beer, wine, or mixed drink. He never used drugs; he even frowned on prescription drugs. He had no history of mental illness. There was no known marital strife. (And this is huge: if there had been, someone would have known, as his wife’s family was well-established in the Warner-Robins area. In Baptist circles, if there are marital problems, the wife will tell someone, and—before long—the matter becomes common knowledge. That was not the case here.)

His pastor indicated the possibility that Edmund may have accidentally shot his wife and then—being distraught—shot himself. When he first said that, I thought it would have been unlikely, though, as Edmund was a very experienced firearm instructor who was meticulous about safety.

Another possibility—which Edmund himself had been wary of over the years—was a third-party hit job. Why was Edmund concerned about that possibility? His father’s defection from North Korea was a very huge slap in the face to the Communist government. Edmund had indicated over the years that the NK government had a bounty on their heads. For this reason, Edmund lived a relatively private life.

After looking at the known facts—and from what I knew of Edmund over the years—I am 99.99% certain of what happened.

First, let’s look at the possibilities, and I will rate them.

Scenario 1: Edmund murders—intentionally kills—his wife, and then kills himself.

All reasonable discussion of this matter must begin with a concession that this worst-case scenario was possible. As I said, everyone—and I do mean everyone—has the capacity to commit the most hideous of evil acts.

I’ve seen enough prominent ministers go down in flames in sex scandals; I’ve seen seemingly faithful church workers get busted for child molestation. A few years ago, someone at my church was under investigation for lewd acts with children. When a friend of his protested to me of that person’s innocence, I warned him, “Have you considered the possibility that RW is guilty of those things?” (RW is now doing 20 years for child rape.)

In Edmund’s case, I would believe this scenario, except that I see no indicators—from what was known—as to what would have motivated him to do this. As I said, there were no telltale signs, not even in hindsight.

I would give this scenario a 1% possibility for that reason.

Scenario 2: Edmund and his wife were the victims of a third-party hit that was made to look like a murder-suicide.

I actually had a couple of very astute observers suggest that possibility. Both suggested that it could have been a government hit.

I rule that angle out for one reason: Edmund was not involved in the type of work that would expose him to that shady side of government. He was a corrosion control engineer who worked on keeping our aircraft airworthy. His political affiliations—which were mainstream conservative—-were no different than that of most of the community at Robins AFB. He would not have been a target for our government.

But could he have been a target of the North Koreans, given that the deaths occurred on the 55th anniversary of his father’s defection from North Korea?

At face value, while I am not into conspiracies, I would concede that there is a prima facie case here. After all, NK would have had a motive for delivering such a “Happy Defection Anniversary” present to his aging father. It is also true that NK is notorious for holding grudges for a very long time, even to the point of going after the family of someone who disgraces them. While NK normally targets defectors in South Korea, Lt. No—in his defection—was probably the biggest embarrassment to NK.

Still, I rule that out, due to one known detail: before the killings, Edmund and his wife had been secluded in their home for a couple days. (This would have been normal, as—on the days around September 21, the defection—Edmund was known to keep a low profile because of a potential NK hit.)

Had the NKs attacked Edmund in his home, Edmund would have eaten their lunch, and it would not have been a fair fight. He was an excellent marksman who had won many tactical matches. His shooting buddies included many retired Rangers and SF Operators.

For that reason, I give this scenario about 1%.

At the same time, based on what I knew of Edmund over the years, the date of the killings provides a very significant clue as to what happened, as the date is—in my estimation—not coincidental to the killings.

With that, we get Scenario #3: Edmund accidentally shoots his wife, then—in grief-fueled horror—kills himself.

Originally, I didn’t buy this scenario for the following reasons:

(1) Edmund was an outstanding firearms instructor who preached the rules of gun safety.
(2) I could not think of a way that he could have accidentally shot his wife.

On further review, however, it makes sense:

(1) The shooting happened at night.
(2) While Edmund was an excellent shooter, he did not have very good eyesight. During the day, this would not have been a big deal, but at night he would have been at a slight disadvantage.
(3) He was not a fan of using flashlights mounted to firearms, as—in his own words–”it gives the bad guys a target.”
(4) He had always been concerned about an attack from NK, or some third party contracted by them.
(5) On that night—the 55th anniversary of his father’s defection—he would have been more on edge than usual, as he now had a wife to protect in addition to himself.

He almost certainly heard some noises at night. He would have been ready, with his Glock Model 21 chambered. If he was edgy at the prospects of a hit from NK, that is one instance in which adrenaline could have overridden his otherwise good sense with firearms. If he felt he was being actively targeted by a skilled team, he would have been more concerned than usual about making sure he got a shot off before they could shoot him or his wife.

Without a flashlight, he would not have easily seen that this was his wife, not an intruder.

With his shoddy eyesight, target identification would have been more difficult than in broad daylight.

If he called out for his wife, and she didn’t answer right away, he may have given himself the “weapons free” command and pulled the trigger, a tenth of a second too soon.

Sadly, about a tenth of a second later, he realized that he landed a heart shot on the very person he wanted to protect, the beloved wife he spent 42 years trying to find. From there, he lost it…

I give that scenario about 98% plausibility.

I am quite certain that this was a friendly-fire accident that Edmund compounded with a suicide due to any number of reasons (despair, guilt, temporarily losing it, etc.).

So why am I writing this?

From a Christian standpoint, I tend to be a stickler for getting the record straight. God is a God of justice, who eventually will clear all records and assign all faults as appropriate. I believe in vindicating where vindication is due, and calling evil for what it is, no matter who commits it. That goes for me. That goes for you. That goes for Edmund.

From a Christian perspective, Edmund’s death was especially tragic. For the Christian, we hope that the way we die does justice to the work of Christ in our lives. When we are remembered on this side of eternity, we hope to be remembered for the balance of our lives, and how it counted for the Kingdom.

For Edmund, that may never be the case. Not due to his wife’s death—in all honesty her family and his larger community would have believed the accident scenario had he hung on—but due to his own suicide.

And no, I do not say this to pile onto Edmund. After all, if I had killed my wife in such an accident, it would be all I could do to hang on for dear life. If I were in his shoes, it would be easy to see how one can think that all is lost. In his scenario, he had a couple seconds to gain his bearings, and it is not hard to see how easy it would have been for him to fail. I lack no empathy here.

At the same time, his suicide—while quite understandable—was especially damaging: it left a trail of questions that will never be answered on this side of eternity. He left a large number of friends—and family (including his wife’s family)–holding the bag.

The way he ended matters did no justice to his own life, his family’s lives, or the cause of the Gospel.

The Scriptures do not speak well of suicide, and—while I do not believe that it is the unpardonable sin—it is certainly not the way a Christian ought to wish to face the King of Kings.

Still, I can say with utmost confidence to his father–Kenneth Rowe–, and his sister Bonnie, and to the family of his wife: your son, your brother, your son-in-law was not a murderer. He made a very tragic mistake, and then compounded it with a worse mistake committed without his full faculties at work.

Allison White Rowe died not from a malevolent act, but from a very tragic accident at the hands of an otherwise loving husband who was acting in good faith against a threat that he thought he was up against. I say this while conceding that none of what I am saying will bring her back.

There are many lessons to be learned here, from tactical matters to Christian living. I will not list all of those here, as that is not my desire.

My conclusion is one of qualified vindication–a very tragic accidental shooting–compounded by suicide.

From the perspective of this side of eternity: the way Edmund Rowe died is out of step with the balance of his life. While I will not excuse his suicide, I definitely understand it: he made a tragic mistake–resulting in an accidental shooting–that he decided he could not live with.

I wish for Edmund the same mercy from God that I would want for myself if the roles were reversed.

That is my final word on this matter.

Money; It’s All About God, Really

Money is as controversial a topic as just about anything else out there. There are tons of money-management courses to choose from, and tons of opinions on how one should/must manage their money and how one should/must spend or not spend their money.

I used to be very self-conscious about having enough, and very self-dependent. Then, many different things over time, and I was in a place where all I had was gone, and I had nothing. All the parts of the Bible where God tells us to depend upon Him took on new meaning.

It is not wrong to have enough, to have more than we need, or even to have excess. But it is also not wrong to have nothing and to be wholly dependent upon God. God gives to whom He gives. Period. And we are to be content with that.

The reality is … it is God, alone, who is our Provider. And since God is our Provider, God gets to choose how and when He provides for us. Humility is required for this way of life. We cannot point to ourselves and take credit; we must give it to God.

When I begin to worry, I am reminded of Matthew 6 where God tells us not to worry … to look at the little birds, to look at the wildflowers, and to know, God loves me just as much and will take care of me, too. When I think I should save and have more and be more prepared, God reminds me of Exodus 16 and that He provides for my daily needs … sweet, honey wafer manna, and meat … and just enough for today.

All through the Bible God proves His Provision to His people. They doubt, whine, but God still provides. God has miraculously provided for us in so many ways, and His ways are always so incredibly creative and imaginative. Money, food, a new-to-us-laptop, new-to-us-furniture, clothes, help, and the list goes on. Might God give us more money someday, so we can save and prepare on our own? Perhaps … in the meantime, we know, my girls know … it is God, alone, who is our Provider.

Death Dates and Broken Cycles

Browsing around … enjoying the quiet of the middle of the night when everyone is asleep (a favorite time for me) … and came across this post by Neanderpundit.

Death is one of those things that befuddles the best of minds and hearts. I’m always amazed at how little it takes for one’s life to be taken from this earth (like the teenage girl who was sitting on the back of a pickup with friends when the driver barely edged it forward, she fell, hit her head wrong, and was gone) … and also at how much a human can endure and still live (like Corrie Ten Boom who survived the concentration camps of WWII).

When I was 21 and married 8 months, a friend’s wife had an asthma attack, she took her medicine, they hopped in the car to the hospital, but she went into cardiac arrest on the way and didn’t make it, despite the CPR her husband pulled over and administered. I developed a horrible fear after that of death … until I heard a woman speak on the topic some 13 years later.

She was the mom of a police officer and would worry herself sick over him … till God showed her something from Psalm 139:16 “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”

She said that we celebrate our birth days every year … but God already knows the number of days we will live on this earth, and He is counting down to our death date. We do not need to be concerned, because our days were already numbered before we took our first breath.

I will never forget sitting there, hearing her speak these words. I have shared them with others over time who have experienced the same anxiety … especially mothers (we worry so!). It’s not an excuse to live frivolously, but rather, a peace. For all we can do to protect and care for our children and ourselves, there is still a date out there we cannot control. It will come – either that or the resurrection.

Somewhere over the years I have decided that I do not want to reach my 80th birthday on this earth. Life after 80 does not appeal to me at all. I’m 48, so I’ve still got 32 years till I have to face that … and 32 years of life to live … if I’m granted that much. Deep down, though, I simply want to live as long as my girls need me … so I can pour as much of myself as possible into them through as many phases of their lives as possible, so that when I do pass from this life to the next, they will have all of me they need to hold onto. (I’m assuming I will out-live my girls, and I hope I do.)

I know … some people have bigger and broader dreams to touch the world. Those are good. But my mother has repeatedly abandoned me, kept her distance, and blown me off, since I was born. My heart has ached for her more and more the older I’ve become, painfully ached for her. If I can do one thing in this life, it is to give my girls as much of their momma as possible so they never know what it feels like to have a living momma who would rather focus herself somewhere else. My girls know I’m here for them, I love them, I’ve got their back, and I will never leave/abandon them. They know someday God will take me, but while I’m alive, I’m here for them. Always. The cycle is broken.

Though death will come, the cycle is broken.

On Gun Control

Larry Correia has a great piece, weighing in intelligently on the new-again-hot-topic of gun control. A few of the quotes I especially liked:

Gun Free Zones are hunting preserves for innocent people. Period.

Think about it. You are a violent, homicidal madman, looking to make a statement and hoping to go from disaffected loser to most famous person in the world. The best way to accomplish your goals is to kill a whole bunch of people. So where’s the best place to go shoot all these people? Obviously, it is someplace where nobody can shoot back.

In all honesty I have no respect for anybody who believes Gun Free Zones actually work. You are going to commit several hundred felonies, up to and including mass murder, and you are going to refrain because there is a sign? That No Guns Allowed sign is not a cross that wards off vampires. It is wishful thinking, and really pathetic wishful thinking at that.

The only people who obey No Guns signs are people who obey the law. People who obey the law aren’t going on rampages.

The man that attacked the midnight showing of Batman didn’t attack just any theater. There were like ten to choose from. He didn’t attack the closest. It wasn’t about biggest or smallest. He attacked the one that was posted NO GUNS ALLOWED.

There were four mass killing attempts this week. Only one made the news because it helped the agreed upon media narrative.

  1. Oregon. NOT a gun free zone. Shooter confronted by permit holder. Shooter commits suicide. Only a few casualties.
  2. Texas. NOT a gun free zone. Shooter killed immediately by off duty cop. Only a few casualties.
  3. Connecticut. GUN FREE ZONE. Shooters kills until the police arrive. Suicide. 26 dead.
  4. China. GUN FREE COUNTRY. A guy with a KNIFE stabs 22 children.

And here is the nail in the coffin for Gun Free Zones. Over the last fifty years, with only one single exception (Gabby Giffords), every single mass shooting event with more than four casualties has taken place in a place where guns were supposedly not allowed.

 

 

Vox Day Leaving WND

Sorry to see that. He is the only regular columnist over there–besides Pat Buchanan–that was any good.

As much as I enjoyed Ann Coulter, she just hasn’t been the same since she stopped being the standard-bearer for conservatism and took on the role of the Top Shill for the GOP Party Line.

My recommendation to WND: Go after Mike S. Adams.

A Bit of A Rant

I am a bit irritated. Okay … more than a bit. I am friends with another mom on facebook through a mutual friend. I like her. We’ve been through some similar things. She has an elementary-age child who is so distraught and terrified for their own safety over the Connecticut shootings it is causing continuous crying, inability to eat, and clinging to furniture, forcing momma to have to pry little fingers off to go to school.

Things like this make me wanna scream! Yes, both my girls know what happened. They knew before I picked them up from school – one in Middle School and one in High School, news travels fast. No, we did not watch any news coverage. None. I read a few pieces and have read a bit on fb, but that’s all. I briefly discussed it with my girls, and we moved on to our weekend. They do not need to know all the details. I do not need to know all the details. My girls don’t need their momma crying for days over something she cannot control.

Are my girls safe in school? As safe as they’re gonna be anywhere. Our generation and society and culture do not have the upper hand on evil. We didn’t create it, and we haven’t expanded it to its full extent (not that I want us to, we’re doing enough damage as it is).

Are there some things our kids need to know? Sure. But be discerning in how and what you share with children. Be discerning in how much you let other people’s worlds come into your world. We still need to live. There will always be evil and tragedy in this world. And because God is, there will also always be good. We do not need to, nor should we, drown ourselves in others’ pain. We can be caring, kind, helpful, and giving without immersing ourselves in their tragedy. It’s not ours. It doesn’t belong to our kids. Don’t force it upon them.

Hard Stuff

The Connecticut shooting is beyond tragic … so debase, so vile, so … so many things that I cannot even begin to articulate. Here’s a piece by Lee Strobel … a message he gave just after the Aurora shootings that I think is honest and well done.

But I want to take a moment to share something, well, different. At the same time hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf, my marriage ended. The church and communities mobilized in massive waves to help aid these people. Being in Texas, we had many, many relocate to our areas who immediately had absolutely nothing and needed everything. People would provide housing with furniture and clothes and stocked kitchens. It was awesome. At the same time, the hurricane of life and a tragically dissolved marriage and a special needs kid who had just begun the trial-and-error balance of necessary meds and a neurotypical kid who was becoming suicidal at such a tender age had me buried. The church I was attending, who knew my situation, dropped me. I was drowning in my own pain and circumstances.

So my plea to you is this: Do not compare your life to others’ more tragic situations and circumstances and minimize your own pain. Is perspective a good thing? Absolutely. But often we minimize something that we need to deal with because we think our stuff isn’t nearly as bad as someone else’s.

This is not an excuse to wallow in self-pity. It is permission to let your own stuff be what it is … and a plea to continue (start) to reach out to those around you who are hurting. You don’t have to do anything big, it’s the little things that often count the most. As someone once said, when you see a need and can meet that need, simply do so. If the need is yours, and you have opportunity to do something about it, do so.

 

Right Sentiment, Bad Ruling

While the NRA is lauding today’s ruling by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals–which strikes down the Illinois ban on concealed weapons and orders the legislature to pass a law allowing for it within 180 days–the ruling is terrible.

(1) Like the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision in 2004 regarding gay “marriage”, it is yet another case of the Judicial branch of government usurping the power of the Legislative branch. This is not a check-and-balance; it is a power grab.

(2) The Court has made a ruling that makes the exercise of Constitutional rights contingent on an act of the Legislative branch.

What the Court SHOULD have done:

(1) Strike down the Illinois ban as Unconstitutional;

(2) Affirm that (a) the 2nd Amendment allows for BOTH open AND concealed carry, (b) the rights are not dependent on an act of the Legislature, and (c) in accordance with the 14th Amendment, they can only be revoked through DUE PROCESS OF THE LAW.

The NFL, Jovan Belcher, and Domestic Violence

Let’s be honest here about the NFL: even in its glory years, it was never a monastery. We can point to fine players who were good citizens of high moral character, just as we can point to some unsavory folks. That same Dallas Cowboys team that gave us Tom Landry and Roger Staubach, also gave us Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson and Larry Bethea. Who can forget that 1972 Miami Dolphins team, which included Mercury Morris, who would do some time for drug trafficking? And don’t forget O.J. Oh…wait…he was acquitted…

At the same time, violent criminality in the NFL seems to be a greater problem today than in other eras. Henderson, and Morris were problematic, but they weren’t violent criminals. Morris and Henderson cleaned up their lives whereas Bethea, sadly, committed suicide after being implicated in two armed robberies.

While domestic violence is nothing new in the NFL, there is an undercurrent of murder that is happening in greater frequency. Before the Jovan Belcher disaster, we had Anthony Wayne Smith (charged in three murders), Glenn Sharpe, Rae Carruth, Hubert D. Thompson, Tommy Kane, Eric Naposki, and–from the old school–teammates Jim Dunaway and O.J. Simpson.

(I leave out Marvin Harrison, because he has not been indicted. But, depending on witness accounts and weapon identification, that could easily change.)

Even then, while it is not uncommon to read about NFL players getting into barfights and even domestic disputes, we don’t expect to pull up the news and read about an NFL player killing his girlfriend and then committing suicide. The last murder-suicide in the NFL involved former QB Steve McNair in 2009, and he was on the receiving end of the murder. The last NFL player to commit murder-suicide was a former NFL player: James Tyrer, who shot his wife before killing himself in 1980.

While we cannot minimize the severity of physical assault, one must flip the mother of all switches to pull a firearm, point it at a human being who is not an imminent threat, and pull the trigger. Jovan Belcher shot Kasandra Perkins 9 times before shooting himself in the head in front of his coach and General Manager as police moved in.

So yes, I’ll grant that Bill Briggs–contributing to NBC Sports–is correct in stating that the new NFL initiative to curb domestic violence among their ranks failed in the case of Kansas City linebacker Jovan Belcher. I would also submit that the problem here is not the quality of an NFL program, but rather fundamental character issues. The NFL tends to recruit thugs, and they are reaping what they are sowing.

If there is a miracle, it is that this happens as infrequently as it does among NFLers.

While every NFL owner would love it if his players were all good citizens who supported the United Way and visited orphans and hospitals regularly, NFL teams don’t draft players primarily on the basis of character. Tim Tebow is a model citizen, but he’s riding the bench right now. Most coaches would love to get the next Roger Staubach (who was squeaky clean), but they’ll settle for a Ben Roethlisberger (who came within an inch of a sexual assault charge).

Either one will get you two Super Bowl rings. And that’s all that matters if you’re an NFL coach, GM, or owner.

Until the NFL starts drafting people on account of their character–and that is not always easy to discern–I see none of that changing.

As for the latest crisis, people must be held to account for their own behavior. Murder is a character issue. As is domestic violence in general.

Can the NFL help their cause? Perhaps. Seriously, though, I doubt that anything they could have done would have headed off the Jovan Belcher disaster.

A man who is intent on committing murder will find a way to do it. Take away the firearm, he’ll use a knife. Take away the knife, he’ll use any number of household implements. This is about personal character.

And as Tolstoy illustrated so well in Anna Karenina, personal character is not so easy to ascertain.

“Death Pathway”

There are so many reasons why euthanasia is wrong. The natural consequences of ending life early for the elderly expands and reaches down to infants and all ages in-between. This piece is heart breaking, heart wrenching.

Medical critics of the LCP insist it is impossible to say when a patient will die and as a result the LCP death becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. They say it is a form of euthanasia, used to clear hospital beds and save the NHS money.

The LCP was devised by the Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute in Liverpool for care of dying adult patients more than a decade ago. It has since been developed, with paediatric staff at Alder Hey Hospital, to cover children. Parents have to agree to their child going on the death pathway, often being told by doctors it is in the child’s ‘best interests’ because their survival is ‘futile’.
‘I witnessed a 14 year-old boy with cancer die with his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth when doctors refused to give him liquids by tube. His death was agonising for him, and for us nurses to watch. This is euthanasia by the backdoor.’
I know, as they cannot, the unique horror of witnessing a child become smaller and shrunken, as the only route out of a life that has become excruciating to the patient or to the parents who love their baby.