We often refer to children as our most precious commodity. But, in the spring and early summer of 2012, tragedies involving children made us sadly reflect on the inherit vulnerability of youth when they become victims of accident, neglect or murderous rage.
2012 REWIND: Memphis hits of 2012, January-March
Search for Caleb Linn
As the waters rushed along the south fork of the Spring River in Northern Arkansas in late March, a weary set of mourners gathered in prayer. After hundreds of people frantically searched for days, the hopes of finding missing 4-year-old Caleb Linn were dashed when his lifeless body was found floating in just two feet of water where he was believed to have fallen in after wandering away from his aunt.
The future of children in Memphis and Shelby County Schools found itself back on the "front burner" in Nashville. But, after being drawn back into the war over the merger of school systems, some members of the Tennessee House Education Committee appeared to have reached their saturation point of being asked to clean up someone else's "dirty laundry."
A municipal district referendum bill would eventually pass, but not without trepidations about its constitutionality.
Duo now gigging in the sky
In 2012 two of rock n' roll's greatest sidemen checked in to take their places in that great all-star jam band in the sky. Only illness and finally death managed to pry apart the legendary award-winning meld of "Memphis Horns" saxophonist Andrew Love his long time partner and friend trumpeter Wayne Jackson.
Love's personal partner in life, Willie, his wife of 43 years, had a ringside seat to watch how some of music's most magical moments were created in the studio.
"And they did most of their music without the artist in the studio because they said they worked better without the artist being there," widow Willie Love said. "A lot of times they didn't even know the artist. They didn't know the name. They didn't even have the song title. But, they knew when they made a hit."
In his storied career lauded bass player of the for Stax supergroup Booker T & the MG's, Donald "Duck" Dunn, knew a hit when he heard it too. Because that's all he ever seemed to be a apart of making. After his sudden death in May, while on tour in Japan, fans remembered just like the unique black and white relationship Love and Jackson shared, Dunn and his bandmates always chose character over color while making music.
"They were always like a family," recalled Tim Sampson, Stax Museum spokesman. "Two black guys and two white guys that didn't happen much back then. They just didn't see color. They made some of the best music in the world. The best house band in history."
100 Years of U of M
In celebrating its 100th year as an educational institution, the University of Memphis reveled in some "strike up the band" moments in 2012. Not the least of which was the unveiling of a perfect-to-scale brass statue of the beloved Bengal Tiger mascot Tom 3. Noted sculptor David Alan Clark hoped the 800-pound artwork will stand the test of time.
It wasn't affection, but curiosity that spurred Midtown homeowner Jason Blackburn to start his own backyard excavation in May. Blackburn unearthed six tombstones, with plot numbers and dates pointing to them being wayward markers coming from the Memphis National Cemetery.
Once informed of Blackburn's discovery a team from the cemetery helped dig up the remaining seven.
Trapped in Japan
However, what would happen to Memphis musician Richard Hines was murderously uncommon. The 19-year-old graduate of Central High School grabbed international headlines as the prime suspect in the murder of an Irish exchange student while both were on separate trips to Japan in June.
Hinds was starting a dream gig on tour with his brother as sidemen for Japanese pop singer A.I. Hours after the show, Nicola Furlong was found dead in Hinds' hotel room. Japanese authorities have no other suspects and no trial date has been set.
Spellbinding, shocking and torturous account
It was hoped that it would be on a witness stand that 21-year old convicted murderer Shakara Dickens would free herself of her own demons by testifying to the ugly truth surrounding the death of her 9-month-old daughter by her own hands.
As the lone witness in her sentencing hearing, Dickens delivered a spellbinding, shocking and torturous account of strangling her daughter Lauren two years earlier and dumping her body in a trash bin outside their apartment.
"As I was holding her, I put my hand over her mouth and her nose and she passed out," Dickens testified. "I realized what I was doing and I stopped. So, when I stopped she started back crying and I did it again and her body just went numb. I got a towel and I wrapped her up and I put her in a bag and I put her in the garbage.
It was just built-up stress or depression. I don't know what I was thinking. I don't know what went wrong with me."
Diabolical plot of Adam Christopher Mayes
But no words could begin to explain the diabolical plot hatched and executed by multiple murderer, kidnapper and desperate fugitive Adam Christopher Mayes. The gripping crime story of a man who didn't just want to befriend a family, he wanted to possess it.
The strange saga began with the disappearance of Joann Bain and her three daughters, Adrienne, Alexandria and Kyliah. In the company of Mayes they left their Hardeman County, Tenn., home on April 27. Three days later the family's SUV was found abandon and Mayes officially became a "person of interest" in their disappearance.
But as hours turned into frantic days of searching, what would turn into a nationally exposed tale of Southern Gothic proportions, escalated to pure terror. In early May, the bodies of Bain and her 14-year-old daughter Adrienne were found buried in a shallow grave behind the home Mayes shared with his mother in Mississippi.
What would quickly follow were the arrests of Mayes' 65-year-old mother Mary and his wife Teresa. Teresa Mayes allegedly told police she was present when Adam Mayes killed the mother and daughter in the garage of their home in Whiteville. The manhunt for Mayes and the kidnapped 8- and 12-year-old Bain sisters drew the full attention of the FBI who placed Mayes on their Top 10 Most Wanted list.
The case that appeared to meander at the start suddenly sky-rocketed with a sense of urgency.
Then on May 10, with 17 law enforcement agencies from two states combing deep forests, potholes and trails, a patrol group searching near a church parking lot in Alpine, Miss., spotted the tops of what appeared to be two small heads just above some weeds. Within an instant Adam Christopher Mayes made the selfish decision to permanently check out of his own delusional world.
Mayes would take his secrets to the grave. The legal consequences of his actions will squarely fall on the shoulders of his mother and his wife as witting accomplices in a deviant's twisted plan.
Through their incredible tale of survival in 2012, Alexandria and Kyliyah Bains dramatically reminded us of the resiliency of children even in the face of terrifying adversity and it made us grateful to those in law enforcement who recognize nothing is more sacred than protecting the lives of our most "precious commodities."