Letters to the Editor

From the issue of October 26, 2000

 McIntire: What Was the Purpose?
If it was to inflict pain on widow and daughter, you succeeded: I am a retired college professor living in Colorado. I was a colleague of the widow of Alex McIntire, the subject of David Villano's article “Admired in Life, Reviled in Death” (October 19). I suspect that by now the editor of New Times has become immune to expressions of disappointment and outrage, so no doubt my communication will have no effect on any similar future behavior. Nevertheless I feel duty-bound to make the attempt.

Mr. Villano's story is built around two historical facts: Alex McIntire is dead (presumably by his own hand), and Lisa Hamilton claims that Alex sexually molested her. There is a good deal of circumstantial evidence to infer that Alex did commit suicide and that, indeed, he did sexually molest his stepdaughter. Although improbable, there are alternative explanations for Alex's death, and as the story makes clear, Ms. Hamilton's charges “remain unproven allegations.” And although the story suggests the two events are connected, that too is an inference, not a fact.

When I heard that New Times was pursuing this story, my first question was: Why? While Alex had been featured in an article in the Miami Herald's defunct Tropic magazine, he clearly was not a public official, nor was he in any position of public trust. Was it simply because he was well liked? Because he was very smart? Was the purpose of the article to show that well-liked people can have a dark, private side? Or that very smart people do terrible things? If the motive was either or both, then it seems to me the story certainly had no news value and little if no human-interest value. (The topic has been covered fairly well over the past 2500 years, beginning with Sophocles' Oedipus Rex.)

When I discussed this with Alex McIntire's widow, she told me that one of the New Times reporters said the purpose was to assist in the “healing” of Alex's stepdaughter. Such a sanctimonious excuse is beneath New Times; newspapers are not vehicles for promoting mental health. If Ms. Hamilton wants to be “healed” and get on with her life, there are a number of resources available to her. Judging from her statements in the story, however, she doesn't want to be “healed” just yet. She wants revenge. And New Times assisted her in getting revenge -- not on Alex but on the people who thought well of him, on his widow and particularly on their daughter. You certainly made it graphically clear that he was not the person they thought he was. Congratulations!

You should be particularly proud of how this article will affect his daughter. It was not enough to endure the trauma of her father's death. She needs to know the full details of how he killed himself. It is not enough to hear rumors that her father may have done some awful things years ago. She needs to know that he had oral sex with his stepdaughter. Good for you for getting those details in.

Three years ago my son was looking for a job in journalism. He had been writing a column for a newspaper in Miami Beach. He interviewed with some of the staff of Miami New Times. Later, before he heard from New Times and before he took another position, I asked him if he would like to work for New Times. His response was prophetic: “I need a job, but those people [at New Times] are sharks; they'll do anything to sell papers.” He is right. Moreover you haven't the honesty to be upfront about it. At least the National Enquirer and the Star make no bones about what they are.

Charles Elkins
Fort Collins, Colorado

McIntire: Courage in Pursuit of the Truth
My own life story retold: I ask that you do not publish or reveal my name to anyone, as I have lived in South Florida for a long time and would prefer to keep this information in the hands of only a few. You may contact me, however. I will gladly provide additional information or elaborate on my response, especially if it will help to counteract the responses of Alex McIntire's supporters. With that said let me begin.

I am astonished at the courage displayed by New Times writers, editors, and staff at the compiling and publishing of “Admired in Life, Reviled in Death.” Although reading the story provided the gruesome, revolting details of Lisa Hamilton's life, I could've easily guessed the article's content by the headline.

The story was a carbon copy of my life at the hands of my grandfather. He too was an outstanding citizen of intelligence and charm. As an active member of the Catholic church in our town, he modeled himself as a man of virtue and decency. And like Lisa, I blamed myself for his weakness, his perversion, his tyranny. Also I supported the façade he so meticulously created in the hopes of saving our family unity and my mother's relationship with her beloved parents.

I became an outlet for my grandfather's demonic obsessions at the age of seven, and like Lisa was not released from them until the age of fourteen. I too did not speak of my experience for many years and suffered silently until I was almost twenty, at which time I confided to my mother. Eventually she revealed the information to my father, who actually was a man of virtue and decency (and who, ironically, my grandfather did not approve of), and thus began the years of painful healing.

I am now 36 and have a 4-year-old daughter who is the epitome of God-given beauty, intelligence, and strength. I am a somewhat quiet mother, choosing to raise her in peace and love. But I must fight not to become obsessive in my protection of her. She has no idea how I silently watch over her, and although I have provided a safe environment with an open forum for discussion, I still find it extremely difficult to release her into the hands of teachers and others who come into her life under normal circumstances.

My sole purpose for writing this letter is to thank you for the endless hours of research, dedication, and perseverance in reporting this story. I believe it was the truth, and the truth can be difficult to admit. Sometimes it can be even harder to discover -- that I know as well as Lisa Hamilton. Through this story all of us have discovered that even the most intelligent people in the world can be the greatest cowards.

My deepest gratitude to all of you.

Name Withheld by Request
via the Internet

McIntire: Mentally Ill but Not Necessarily Evil
The way he chose to die was revealing: Pedophilia is a compulsion that can be more difficult to control than smoking, obesity, anorexia, heroin addiction, or alcoholism. Try as they might, many people can't stop smoking, overeating, undereating, or abusing drugs even if their lives, or the lives of others, depended on it.

Each person has different strengths and weaknesses, varying degrees of self-control, and various desires of varying intensities. At some level of intensity, a desire becomes a compulsion, which is manageable to a different degree in each individual. While it is true that compulsive smoking, overeating, anorexia, and drug abuse do not cause the devastation that pedophilia causes, even if they were as destructive as pedophilia, most people with those compulsions would not commit suicide, nor would they be able to completely control their behavior without a great deal of help.

Hundreds of pedophiles have voluntarily chosen castration to help them control their sexual compulsion. European studies have repeatedly shown less than a five percent recidivism rate among such pedophiles -- proving that pedophiles are not immoral monsters whose goal in life is the destruction of innocent children but rather ordinary humans who have a damnable compulsion they did not select for themselves.

Most people who have compulsions experience denial to one degree or another. Even though anorexics look in a mirror and see they are underweight, most do not perceive themselves as being underweight. People with compulsions often have a distorted view of reality that is not consciously of their own making and often fail to see the negative effects of their conduct as others do. If anorexics cannot see they are underweight when looking at their skeleton in a mirror, it is conceivable that a pedophile might not fully understand how “pleasuring” a child actually hurts a child. Humans possess infinite capacity to deceive themselves.

No one can know the degree of anguish Alex McIntire inwardly suffered, but his final act speaks volumes. He was certainly smart enough to have chosen a painless way to die. Instead he chose a terrifying, horrific, hellish way to die, which demonstrates to me that he hated himself for his conduct. Moreover, there is great anguish when a person comes to realize that suicide is his best option. This is especially true for someone as gifted as Alex McIntire.

People asked, “How could someone as smart as Bill Clinton have been so stupid?” How can someone in line to be the next police chief of Miami have (allegedly) solicited a street prostitute? How could Paul Reubens (a.k.a. Pee-wee Herman) have been so foolish as to masturbate in a public theater? How could Jimmy Swaggart and company have acted so contrary to their faith? How could so many bright, talented people have knowingly exposed themselves to the AIDS virus and still do? The answer is that for many individuals sexual desire can be overwhelming at times. In some people the sex drive can be stronger than the will to live.

To Lisa Hamilton I would like to say this: You may never realize how much inward pain and anguish Alex McIntire felt for the suffering and emotional damage he caused you. You may think he never perceived the betrayal a child feels when someone she loves and trusts betrays her in the worst possible way. But it is quite possible that at some point he understood to a meaningful degree how much distress he caused you.

Pedophiles are sick. They need compassion as much as they need to be put away or castrated for the safety of our children. The best way to eliminate evil is to understand it. If our intent is to reduce the number of children sexually abused, we need to enlist the cooperation of pedophiles by appealing to their conscience and persuading them to get help before they hurt others.

I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting lighter prison sentences for convicted pedophiles, only understanding and compassion for individuals plagued with an awful mental illness. I suspect a good number of the people reading this will deliberately choose to ignore that previous sentence.

Name Withheld by Request
Miami

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