Neal And Jesse Eldridge Essay Research Paper

Neal And Jesse Eldridge Essay, Research Paper

Neal and Jesse Eldridge are two young men on trial. For over ten years,

they suffered severe physical, emotional, and psychological abuse at the hands

of their father. It ended the day they shot and killed him. Now Neal and Jesse

are charged, as adults, with first degree murder; they face the possibility of life

in prison. All this because Arkansas Department of Health Services, DHS, did

nothing to step in and save these young lives.

On January 24th, 1998, Rick Eldridge was supposed to take his sons, Neal

and Jesse, to ?Buckarama?, a deer hunting show at the Little Rock Expo Center.

Before they left that morning, Rick caught the two teens smoking cigarettes. He

told them they could not go to ?Buckarama?(?Neal & Jesse Eldridge: Child

Abuse Tragedy? 1), then tried to suffocate them. ?Neal said his father picked

him up and threw him headfirst into a wall? (Haddigan 1). As he left, Rick told

Neal and Jesse that when he returned ?he would beat them to death.? He also

gave them an ?impossible list of household chores? to do before he returned,

and said that he would kill them if they didn?t.

Fearing for their lives, the boys, ages 14 and 15 at the time, decided they

had to protect their mother and sisters, as well as themselves, from the monster

they called Dad. So the brothers loaded their .22-caliber, semi-automatic,

Marlin rifles. Jesse stood behind the corner of the family?s house, and Neal

stood atop a ?shed next to the house.? When Rick got out of his truck, the boys

began to fire. Jesse shot once, but he lost his nerve and lowered his aim to his

father?s legs(?Neal & Jesse Eldridge: Child Abuse Tragedy? 1). Neal shot four

more times aiming for Rick?s head and neck. They then retreated into the

?wooded area near the house and unloaded their rifles?(Shull 1).

Neal and Jesse?s mother, who worked nights at Wal-mart and slept

during the day, woke upon hearing the gunfire. She came to the porch, and saw

Rick lying there. Rachel, the boys? sister, ran to Larry Plummer, a neighbor, for

help. Both Mrs. Eldridge and Rachel assumed that Rick had a seizure, and hit

his head on the porch.

When the police arrived, Neal and Jesse stepped out of the woods. ?Jesse

told State Police Cpl. Jerry Roberts that they had killed their father because of

child abuse?(Haddigan 1). Roberts stated that both Neal and Jesse ?were calm,

collected, very precise, and respectful to the officer?. Sgt. Aaron Duvall is the

?Pope County Sheriff?s Department criminal investigator in charge of the case.?

He said that Neal asked ?if his father was dead?, and then began to cry when he

was told yes(Shull 1).

Neal and Jesse are now charged as adults with first degree murder. The

Arkansas state prosecutor said, ?This was an ambush–definitely first degree

murder.? This means that ?they could spend the rest of their lives in

prison?(?Neal & Jesse Eldridge: Child Abuse Tragedy? 1).

An expert on family violence at the University of Pennsylvania, Richard

Gelles, talked about this case during a ?20/20? interview. He said ?he was

convinced the boys ?had a credible fear of their lives,?? and feels that the DHS

failed these boys(?Neal & Jesse Eldridge: Child Abuse Tragedy? 1). Many

psychologists agree that exposure to physical abuse causes children, especially

boys, to become aggressive and violent. It has also been proven that ?26 percent

of incarcerated delinquents who had committed murder had experienced

physical abuse; they were also more likely than those who had not suffered

abuse to have directed their violence toward members of their immediate

family.? Abused children often choose one of two options. They either fight or

flee. ?They become involved in crime, especially violent crime. Almost half of

violent teenage crimes occur in homes during family arguments?(Fagan 1).

Neal and Jesse?s history has been filled with traumatic abuse. They stated

that Rick ?was an explosive, domineering abuser who savagely beat them, their

sisters, and their mother for years?(Haddigan 1). Mrs. Eldridge described her

husband ?as a gun toting, pot-smoking 6?4? brute who punished his four

children — including his young daughters — in bizarre ways.? The first incident

Jesse remembers, took place at the age of five. He said, ? I was holding my

spoon wrong when I was eating my jelly. And he slammed me down on the

floor and stuck the handle of the spoon on my ear and it started ringing and

bleeding.? Rick Eldridge ?wrapped soiled underwear around their heads, and

took photos to humiliate them?(?Neal & Jesse Eldridge: Child Abuse Tragedy?

1). Rick many times carried a pistol around his waist. He beat the boys with his

fists, as well as an ammunition belt, or a stick(Haddigan 1). Many times he

threatened to ?pull a Ronald Gene Simmons. Simmons was convicted and

executed for the December 1987 murders of 12 members of his family and two

other people.? Rick had a book written about the case. Both Neal and Jesse

were aware of what a ?Ronald Gene Simmons? would be(Shull 1). Not only did

he torture the family through the physical abuse, he also put them through

emotional and psychological pain. Mrs. Eldridge said ?Rick Eldridge also killed

family pets in the children?s presence while the children screamed in

horror?(Haddigan 1).

Although the DHS did not feel anything was wrong in the Eldridge

house, many teachers at Hector Elementary School realized that there was

something amiss in the home. Mrs. Honey Bewley is the clerk for the school?s

migrant education program. She saw signs of physical abuse on Jesse. She also

saw that Neal had a strong fear of his father.

A fifth grade teacher, Pam Killings, said ?the brothers were good boys?

and ?she had no discipline problems with either? one. Pam also said Jesse ?was

very quiet and withdrawn a large part of the time.?

Judy Aday, a first grade teacher, had a face-to-face confrontation with

Rick Eldridge in the hallway outside her classroom. She said he ?was a large

intimidating man and that she was afraid of him and afraid for her students.?

After Rick left, Aday went into her classroom and locked the door; she told

another first grade teacher to do the same. If Rick returned she planned to get

the children out through the window.

The Hector School nurse, Sharon Bartlett, said she found extensive bruises

on one of Jesse?s legs. ?Jesse told her his father would kill him if he told about

how he got the bruises?(Shull 1). The bruises were reported to the state

DHS(Haddigan 1). Neal had cut his head at school one day. Rick ?cursed at

yelled at his son when he arrived at the school to get Neal.? Bartlett was

frightened and intimidated by him.

Annette Henderson is the Hector Elementary principal. She corroborated

Bartlett?s story and added that Rick ?was loud, abrasive, and profane towards

Neal after the playground accident.? Henderson was also there during Aday?s

incident with Rick. She said he was ?very condescending? and had a reputation

of being physically abusive(Shull 1).

Muriel Dean Blaylock is the retired school counselor. Neal and Jesse had

both been referred to her because of the suspected abuse(Shull 1). Jesse ?told her

he was afraid to go home.? The state DHS was called one of many

times(Haddigan 1). There was also a report that Rachel had been abused. Mrs.

Blaylock spoke with her, and Rachel said, ?I take Agatha and hide her.? Agatha

is the youngest Eldridge(Shull 1). Rachel said her father beat her brothers

sometimes. Blaylock reported this incident to the DHS as well. A few days after

Muriel Blaylock had reported these last few incidents, Rick Eldridge removed

the boys from school. He said ?he wanted to school them at home?(Haddigan


So what do the DHS officials say about how they handled the case?

During one interview they said ?there was never enough evidence to remove the

children. We have concluded that we did not drop the ball as far as case work is

concerned?(?Neal & Jesse Eldridge: Child Abuse Tragedy? 1). Joe Quinn, the

DHS spokesman, would not detail the DHS actions. He said ?the agency

investigated abuse complaints, and a social worker visited the Eldridge home

before the killing.? He continues to insist ?DHS handled the case properly.?

Should Mrs. Eldridge have left? She tried several times. According to

Jesse, each time they left, Rick ?ended up finding us and telling us he was going

to hunt us down and kill us, and kill my mom?s mom?(Haddigan 1). Mrs.

Eldridge told one reporter, ?He said we belonged to him and nobody would

take us?(Shull 1).

These boys had no other option. If they had not killed their father, he

would have killed them. It was said best by Neal and Jesse?s attorney, Tom

Furth. ?These boys basically lost their childhood. They?re not murderers.

There?s such a thing as justifiable homicide?(Haddigan 1). If ?justifiable

homicide? does in fact exist in this country, this is the perfect example of it. In

cases of women killing their abuser, some were acquitted only because they

were abused. But adult women can just pick up and go to a shelter or a

relative?s house. In the small backwoods town were Neal and Jesse lived, where

were they to go? They were fourteen and fifteen. They could not just pack up

their belongings and leave. If these women can be found not guilty, then it

should be impossible to convict these two boys of first degree murder.

Fagan, Patrick F. ?The Child Abuse Crisis: The Disintegration of Marriage,

Family, and the American Community.? 1999. Apr. 12, 2000.


Haddigan, Michael. ?Justifiable Homicide.? Nov. 26, 1999. Apr. 12, 2000.


?Neal & Jesse Eldridge: Child Abuse Tragedy.? Feb. 17, 1999. Apr. 12, 1999.


Shull, Laura L. The Courier. June 23, 1998. Apr. 10, 2000.


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