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February 6, 2007
Media Gone Wild

A Minnesota family has reeled from the impact of a double homicide in Waseca this weekend in which a father and son lost their lives and the mother has barely managed to survive. Hilary Kruger managed to give a description of the murderer to police, who arrested farmworker Mike Zebawa, who claimed that he accidentally shot three people with a shotgun, using multiple shells:

When the first officer arrived in response to Alec's 911 call about 3:20 a.m. Saturday, a shotgun was leaning against a bedroom door, shells littered the upstairs hallway and the odor of gunpowder permeated the air.

The officer heard Hilary's faint voice and found her on a bed, next to Alec. Her husband, Tracy, was nearby, dead on the floor. ...

After her husband was shot, Kruger told her son Alec, 13, to call 911, the charges said. The intruder went downstairs, came back upstairs and shot mother and son, she told the officer.

The 41-year-old Kruger was in critical but stable condition Monday at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale.

According to the charges, farmworker Michael S. Zabawa said he accidentally shot the three family members in their home.

The first question that springs to mind -- how the hell could a shotgun go off accidentally multiple times? -- brought a grim chuckle from the county sheriff investigating the shooting. Zebawa has a track record of public drunkenness and theft, and when they arrested him for the murder, a stolen truck belonging to a neighbor of the Kruger family was found nearby. Investigators believe he stole the Krugers' SUV in an attempt to pull his own vehicle out of a ditch but ended up getting the SUV stuck as well.

Understandably, the family has been in shock since this grisly murder, and their primary concern is the health of Hilary Kruger. They have congregated at the hospital in Waseca in order to comfort each other, mourn the loss of their family members, and pray for Hilary's recovery. She remains in critical condition, but has stabilized.

However, according to one family member, the local media has done all it can to intrude on the grief of the victims. Jerad Hoff, the husband of Hilary's cousin, sent me this e-mail last night to describe the ghoulishness of local reporters in search of comment from the immediate family:

Tracy Kruger was my wife's cousin. She is, like the rest of her family, in complete shock over the brutal murder of Tracy, Alec, and the attempted murder of Hilary. It's a difficult situation that nobody could be prepared for. Unfortunately the media is actively adding to the misery and suffering of a family that's trying to come to grips with this tragedy.

Members of the esteemed fourth estate have been tailing family members, calling into the waiting room at the hospital, and the latest atrocity is the money that's being offered for a picture of the grieving family together.

I know it won't help, but I'd like to issue a challenge to every TV anchor and newspaper editor: Tonight on on your newscast and tomorrow in a editorial, emphatically state how your news organization would never allow employees or freelance reporters to gather news using these tactics. Hopefully the public would choose who to get their news from based on who remains silent and who agrees to be a civilized member of society.

This is an important story that needs to be told. All the media needs to do is allow the family time to heal and reach a place in their grieving process where they can describe what an enormous loss the world suffered on that Saturday morning.

The word vultures comes to mind here, as well as worse epithets. This isn't some Hollywood celebrity family, although that wouldn't excuse the ghastly behavior described in this e-mail. This is a family which has seen two of its members brutally murdered and a third attempting to survive the unprovoked attack, and yet the reporters Jerad describes have no compunction about exploiting them in order to sell a few more newspapers and/or to get a scoop for the 10 o'clock news.

Shameful doesn't begin to describe it.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 6, 2007 5:04 AM

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