Thursday, October 13, 2011
Steven Pfiel (A Musing on What Generates the Traffic to the Case Study)
As such, it is a little disheartening that there has been so little feedback about the case study. Sure, it is likely much longer than anything one would want to read from a computer screen. It also does not have the crime scene photos for which many are searching. I want to make a point on that subject. I do not have photos of either the Hillary Norkog or Roger Pfiel, Jr. murder. If I had access to such images, I would not make them available to the general public nor post them on a blog. It isn't that I do not believe that such images don't better inform the actions and underlying mindset of Pfiel and his actions. Rather, it is my belief that the value of what can be gained from an examination of them is limited – and would truly apply to a small group of professional (of which I would not be included) – and does not exceed the disrespect it would show for the victims.
Back to the subject of feedback. It strikes me that there should be several hundred people who count themselves as former classmates of Steven Pfiel, and no fewer who would have similar ties to Hillary Norskog or Roger Pfiel, Jr. (indeed, I was a classmate of Roger's). While I am aware that the case study does not do much of a service of illustrating the victims – and there is really no place in a case study to do as much – I do think that there is a place for some commentary on those who were murdered by Pfiel. Leaving the victims as little more than names with ties to the killer does not allow for the best understanding of the tragedy of the murders.
Likewise, I am well aware that there were people who counted themselves as friends and supporters of Pfiel. Yet there has been no mention of the how the paper misrepresented Pfiel's behavior or actions. Nor has there been any feedback of how easy it was to miss the signals of how damaged Pfiel was – at least not on the blog. There was an off-hand comment while I was constructing the paper about how 'nobody could see it coming', but such a sentiment only reflects the general lack of awareness to the Macdonald Triad (which suggests that animal cruelty, fire-setting, and persistent bed wetting after five years old are strong indicators of later homicidal behavior) and how Pfiel may have scored on such a measure.
Clearly, there were those who had more than a general sense of discomfort when dealing with a young Steven Pfiel (I count myself in this camp). To be perfectly fair, I assume that there were probably an equal number of people who had similar sentiments about an adolescent me. I think that whatever superficial relationship Roger and I may have had would have been informed by his noting similarities between his brother and me. It may explain why Roger was always friendly towards me, even though we weren't really friends. Of course, it is probably just as likely that Roger was of better character than I was willing to acknowledge at the time; he may have been cool to everybody who didn't go out of their way to piss him off. The last time I saw Roger was the Thursday before high school graduation when he and I were part of a group of students called in to serve any and all detentions still due; I got out of this rather deftly, as I had been in possession of my disciplinary card for months at that time and had the only record of what I was due to serve (for the record, it was two regular detentions and thirteen Saturday detentions). He and I nodded to one another and as far as I know, he spent the rest of that day in the school doing nothing, a perfect example of how punishment often overrides the need to do better by the student.
I do not know if I would have given Roger much thought after that had his brother not murdered Hillary Norskog. I do know that there are people much better suited to speak to the character of Roger and his relationship with Steven than my personal experience would allow me to do; I don't know if I had more than three interactions with the younger Pfiel. The case study was undertaken in an attempt to better understand just what may have been going on, what motivated a teenager with no lack of opportunity or means to commit violent crimes against people he knew intimately. I cannot state without equivocation that my conclusions are correct. People who knew Hillary, Roger, and/or Steven may come away from reading the case study thinking that is completely ignores the people involved in the events, that it gave them no better insight into the mind of the killer.
More recently, the murders of John and Maria Granat by their son, John Jr., in Palos Park has brought new attention to the Pfiel case. Palos is still a small village, though nowhere near as intimate or isolated as when I was growing up there. There are undoubtedly many crimes going on in the quietude of wooded suburbia, but murder is a decidedly rare one. What ties the Granat case to Pfiel's is Stagg High School and the relatively young ages of the people involved. However, the Granat case seems to be so mundane – adolescent rage against parental authority and ignorant greed. It does not, to me, evoke the same sense of wonder or curiosity that the Pfiel case does.
What I am asking here, and I am not expecting much of a response, is for some feedback about the Pfiel pieces. What is the cause for the interest in him and his crimes to be so enduring? Is it just the personal attachments we may have had with him or his victims? Is it just location, that those who are from Palos are interested in this small piece of history? Is it just a curiosity about the crimes? If you, the reader, have any information that you would like to share, I encourage you to do so (either here at the blog or at firstname.lastname@example.org). There is much left to be said about the murders and the man behind them.
I have met the threshold I set in order to start looking into what it would take to arrange an interview with prisoner Pfiel. At the same time, I very much hope that he would have no interest in assenting to such a request; I am not eager to sit before a murderer and ask him what he was feeling when he killed a fifteen year old girl. Still, I think that there is more left to the tale than what little I have contributed. And I am hoping that the people who knew Hillary, Roger, and Steven would be willing to come forward with some of their remembrances.
Otherwise, I will just assume that it is curiosity that drives the traffic. A sense of uncertainty as to what may have led a supposedly normal boy to kill those he had close relationships. I don't have the real answers for that.