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A Day of Joy, A Day of Pain

Updated on May 12, 2014

"Guess what?!?!" our eldest daughter asked with barely constrained excitement a few short weeks ago. She is a senior at the local university, and an exceptional student. Thinking she was going to say something about her latest A+ paper, we dutifully asked,


"I've been nominated for Homecoming Queen!!!!!"

"WHAT???" my mind exclaimed.

Could this have been my daughter? Could she have had this once in a lifetime opprtunity?
Could this have been my daughter? Could she have had this once in a lifetime opprtunity? | Source

Thus did our foray into the world of College level homecoming festivities begin. Now, she was only nominated; lots of students are nominated. But for her, this was most definitely outside her norm. As I stated, she is an exceptional student and has been for as long as I can remember. Nothing but A's for years and years. She graduated high school with a 4.15 GPA due to her taking College Prep and weighted classes in high school. Ranked 15th in her class of close to 500, I believe, she graduated Summa Cum Laude. In college, she has consistently ranked at the top or very near it in her chosen area of Creative Writing with an eye towards teaching at a university level. Her papers are used as examples of how to do it right, and she even teaches a class at the university. To say she is well thought of by her professors and classmates would be an understatement.

Now, I will say here that this never entered her mind, nor ours. She has a plan, this daughter of mine. Her primary focus is and has always been the books. She desires nothing less than a wonderful job that she will enjoy for as long as she desires to work. First comes school, then work, then a family. As I said, she has her priorities in place. And now, in her senior year, her fellow classmates have decided to honor her with this nomination. We have always thought she was beautiful, she just never bothered with the "fluff" stuff in school; never enough time to do her best on her schoolwork and hold down a job working with young students in various schools around the city while assisting the professors at school and teaching a class.

Once nominated, she was duty bound to run a campaign. She and her fellow classmate represented their group, which is the Sigma Tau Delta, or International Honor Society group. Only five men and five women would be chosen for the Homecoming Court out of some twenty plus participants, so a win was by no means assured.

Some time spent coming up with a suitable campaign slogan, pictures and such found its way to she and I going to my work for a few finishing touches, then to the printer's for some bookmarks and flyer's. A get together at school to get to know her voters and a facebook request led to this past Friday.

She won a place in the final five!!

Now, on to the next level!

A parade was to take place on Saturday, November 2. She was to ride on a convertible in this parade. I did not think it wise to put her on my trailer in a recliner and pull her along behind my Jeep, so a few emails later landed us a suitable car. A late '90;s White Mazda Miata.

We picked it up Friday the 1st and took it home in order to dress it up the next morning.

But there was to be no tomorrow on this night.

At 6:30 AM Saturday morning, we awoke to a horrible story. A man had been murdered at the local movie theater late Friday night. Homecoming canceled; game postponed.

Huh? Why should that effect Homecoming? Was it because the theater is across the creek from the university? Was the shooter on the loose and dangerous?

A frantic search of the Internet gave few details. Later that morning the man's name who did the shooting was released. Still no word about who was shot or why.

The next day, it was revealed that a football coach was the victim. Why? we asked one another. What happened? Was it a mistake? A drug deal? What could have caused a cold blooded murder in Joplin?

The accused murderer, Jeffery L. Bruner
The accused murderer, Jeffery L. Bruner | Source

Finally, a name. Derek Moore, 37 was the victim. He was a new coach at the University, overseeing the Offensive Linemen. The shooter was Jeffery L. Bruner, 39 of Joplin. It appears as though the former wife of the shooter was on a date with the football coach. They were separated, estranged as they call it. Bruner must have taken exception to her dating this man and ambushed them outside the movie theater. Words were exchanged and a shot rang out across the parking lot. Moore collapsed to the ground and lay still. Bruner is reported to have then fired several more times into the still body lying there. He then calmly walked to his vehicle, placed the gun on the dash and closed his car door.

But he did not leave. Witnesses then surrounded the car and "held" him there until authorities arrived on the scene. The time line reads as follows:

9:50 PM Shots fired.

9:51 PM Duquesne police arrive on the scene.

9:52 PM Suspect in custody.

In that short time, lives were changed forever.

Moore left behind a 7 year old son. Bruner left mayhem across that darkened parking lot and throughout Joplin. And while I would normally feel anger and pain at this circumstance, it has made me feel something somewhat different, and I am at a loss to explain it properly.

This man took Homecoming festivities from my daughter.

I know in the great scheme of things, such as a man's life this should not come into play. But I am feeling it intensely. My daughter, who has never had such an opportunity before and was excited for it will never have the opportunity again. And she will always remember that on her one and only chance, a man died. Senselessly, and in cold blood. I will never have the chance to drive her in the parade, have our picture taken by her mother and treasured for always. I will never get to walk her onto that field as a Candidate, she in a gorgeous gown and me in my Sunday best. Her mother will not be able to look back years from now and smile and possibly shed a tear as she remembers that day that should have been.

Yes, I understand that I should be more concerned about the loss of a life, of a child now fatherless. For a woman who stood beside a man and watched her former husband shoot him in cold blood and then coldly fire again and again and again as she screamed helplessly. I know that.

But I also know that only five other fathers and mothers will feel what was stolen from us. We are the silent victims of this murder, the ones who will not be interviewed, who will not show up on the news, whose children's day was destroyed that evening. Our pain, and that of our children should not be relegated to the back pages and left to be ignored, yet it will be. Who can say how this will affect these young people in the coming years? Will they be terrified at the thought of being acknowledged for something, remembering each time what happened this time? Who can say?

I can also say that to some, this will seem petty; that I am being selfish for my daughter. And to those people: I know I am. However I do not see it as being petty, I see it as what should have been, yet now will never be. But still I ask Why? Why did this man pick this time, this location, this opportunity to destroy not only his perceived rival, but a school, a game, a festivity? Did it ever even enter his mind? And in his choice lies our reaction. Our loss. All because he could not see past his jealousy. Small wonder his wife left him. Cold? Yes, I know I am being cold here. But we had a right to enjoy our time! My daughter had her right to stand before her peers, chosen by them to represent her school! My wife and I had a right to see her that day, to see her in pictures forever!

What I can say is that I am angry at this man, this idiot who lost his wife and then took his anger out on this community. I am glad he did not shoot into the crowd, thereby causing a panic and possibly more deaths, but I still wonder: Why would you take this time to do what you did? Why did you feel the need to kill another man?

I will also say this: I am a proponent of the Death Penalty. Have been for years. In circumstances where there are multiple witnesses; where it can be determined beyond a reasonable doubt. I think this qualifies.

But I also know there will be a trial that drags on interminably. Millions of taxpayers dollars spent as the prosecution prosecutes and the defense defends. I can count on hearing the Insanity plea, or the Spurned Lover defense. The "Heat of the Moment" will come up as well. But it all comes down to this:

1) Did he knowingly and intentionally bring a loaded handgun to this location? Answer: Yes

2) Did he knowingly and intentionally fire this weapon at the man? Answer: Yes

3) Did he knowingly and intentionally continue to fire into the body as it lay on the ground? Answer: Yes

And 4) Did he then walk to his car and sit inside it to wait for the authorities? Answer: Yes.

Verdict: Guilty of First Degree Murder. Eliminate him immediately. I do not even know why there should be a trial beyond the fact that it will satisfy someone, somewhere who still takes our rights as Americans seriously enough to cast a shadow of doubt into this case. But I also know that no one in their right mind should be able to cast a shadow of doubt in this case. It is as clean, and as cut and dried a case of First Degree Murder as I believe there has ever been.


I have learned more of the happenings from last Friday night's murder. Someone I work with's family was at the theater when the shots rang out. They were inside watching a movie and no one came to advise them of anything. They didn't even know what had happened until they walked out of the movie theater after their movie, straight into a scene from CSI. No theater official notified anyone inside that there was a shooting, that someone was dead. They evidently took no steps to verify if there was another shooter, perhaps inside the theater.

I have also learned that the "suspect", who was taken into custody within two minutes of the shooting, has plead Not Guilty thereby assuring a long and expensive trial. Unbelievable.

Witnesses have been heard to say that the shooter walked quietly away from the scene to his vehicle; tossed the gun into the bed of the truck and sat down on the curb. Two people approached him, asked if he had another gun, and sat down beside him to speak with him as police arrived. Slightly different than what the first reports indicated, but along the same lines. A most telling statement was heard by these people as he sat there: "I just pretty much ruined my life, didn't I?" Ruined his life? How about the life of the man he killed; the son; his ex-wife; those who witnessed his brutality and senseless act? HIS life?!?!

Finally, (and this infuriates me to no end) people standing in line less than fifty feet away from where Moore was brutally gunned down REMAINED STANDING IN LINE AND BUYING THEIR TICKETS! This man was shot literally feet from where they were standing, and they continued their evening, buying tickets and entering the movie theater. If this is in fact true, then what kind of a society are we? I cannot use the word Civilization anymore, as no Civilization could stand by as another man is murdered than calmly go about their business as if it were nothing more than a show, game, or movie.

Are we the next Rome, fulfilling our need for blood through movies, then games, and now spectators to a murder, watching while eating our popcorn then moving inside to the next "thrill"? What have we as humans become?


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    • Mr Archer profile image

      Mr Archer 4 years ago from Missouri

      Tillsontitan, Bill, Poolman and Cheyenne: thank you all for the comments. We appreciate your taking the time to read and let us know how you feel about this tragedy. I do believe my daughter will go on to do great things, I am just saddened by her loss of this day. Many and varied blessings to you all, and thank you once again.


    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

      Mike, this just proves how far reaching our actions are. This man obviously was tunnel visioned and didn't give a damn about the domino effect resulting from his jealousy.

      I just wonder how long this man has been sitting on a live wire? Were there any signs? Has he done this before? No one has the right to take a life, especially over someone making a choice to not spend their lives with another human being. There are reasons for it. Learn what they are and do your damnedest to fix your character flaws.

      Just another example of playing the blame game. That coach was not to blame for his failed marriage, yet he's the one who paid. Not to mention the rest of the town and all who read this article.

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 4 years ago

      I agree with you when a murderer is caught red handed, why waste millions on a long drawn out trial. In these cases we should just declare Saturday night as the official hanging night and get it over with.

      I'm sorry your daughter lost her chance at being the Queen because of this idiot. Life if just full of disappointments and she sounds like the kind of girl that will be offered many more opportunities.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh I don't know, Mike. I don't think you are being petty; you are saying what any parent would say in that situation.....pretty normal reaction if you ask me.

      As for the murder....I'll never understand senseless violence and perhaps it's just as well that I don't.

      blessings to you and yours, Mike


    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      As a mother I certainly understand your feelings. Depriving our children of a once in a lifetime event is certainly something that scars us and our children. What a horrible thing to have happen, ever. You are right, there is so much pain left behind for so many people, by the actions of one horrible man.

      I know, as you said, people disagree with the death penalty but when there is so much evidence and so many eye witnesses it is hard to understand why it is not the ultimate punishment.

      While your daughter may never be homecoming queen, she will always be a queen in your heart and evidently the hearts of others.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.