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Father Kills Kids in Ringwood, NJ

I feel like I’ve been walking around in a daze since my friend, A, called to tell me a father from her daughter, L’s, daycare picked up his kids, then brought them to his mother’s abandoned home and shot them both in the head, before shooting himself. This is just too close to home. Literally.

JD’s preschool is in walking distance from the townhouse where Kurtis Birth lived with his wife, Zoey and children, Jada, 5 and Jordan, 3. Three. JD is 3. These children attended the Donna Reid Child Development Center in Wayne. Wayne. I grew up in Wayne. And as I mentioned, A’s (one of my closet mom friends) daughter goes to school there. I couldn’t really stay on the phone with A and hear more about his horrific story, because I was “working from home” and, uh, at the park with JD, who was running to the little brown building, saying, “I gotta go potty right now!”

As JD and I walked back to the jungle gym, I felt my sneakers sink into the cushy blanket of woodchips. My son, climbed a red and blue apparatus, then pushed two Matchbox cars down the slide before flying down after them, saying “Coo-wool!”. I scanned the area and other children were playing and laughing, but it was quiet in my head. Jada and Jordan will never play on the swings again. Or go Trick-or-Treating. Their teachers will clean out their cubbies, but art with their names on it will probably hang on the wall until someone notices, then cries. Another day will pass and another…

There was apparently no motive, but when I dropped JD at preschool (he doesn’t go to the same school as Jada and Jordan, to be clear) this morning, I started talking with his teachers about the incident. “Revenge,” said one of his teachers. I thought this all along, frankly. Maybe there was infidelity going on—the couple was reported to be in the middle of separating, but were still living together and shared custody sans any formal court order. No motive will justify the murders of Jada and Jordan, but I just want to know more. I want to know what made Kurtis, who was seen over the weekend playing ball with his daughter in the driveway, SNAP. What on Earth made him pick up his children from daycare, drive them directly to a nearby town where his mom’s abandoned home was and shoot them in the head with a rifle? What? Why? Why? Why? I want to know. I want to know this guy caught his wife with another man or was schizophrenic. I want something, because it all doesn’t add up.

When Zoey discovered Kurtis picked up the kids from daycare she called his cell and he didn’t answer. Now, in a normal situation, a mom wouldn’t immediately call the police and take out a missing-persons report, but according to Northjersey.com, Zoey did. She gave descriptions of the children: One was wearing a Spider-Man shirt, the other a shirt with a dinosaur image. Zoey also told the police her husband had a key to his childhood home, a house on Skyview Road in Ringwood’s Stonetown section that had fallen into disrepair after his father died several years ago and his mother moved to the Bronx. Pompton Lakes police asked police in New York City to check the Bronx address, and Ringwood police to check the vacant house. If there wasn’t some unspoken drama going on, then why did she call the police?

Look, I’m not married and JD's dad is a stranger to him (and me, kinda). I’m the only person authorized to pick JD up from school, unless I submit a signed letter stating someone else is coming. That person then has to provide a photo ID and tell whoever is at the desk the top-secret password. Then, the person picking up JD is buzzed through the main LOCKED door. Now, obviously no one at the Donna Reid school thought twice about releasing Jada and Jordan to their dad because he was likely authorized to retrieve his kids from school—he was their father, reportedly a very good one. So, I’m not blaming anyone, but if Zoey’s initial reaction was to call the police, then maybe she should have alerted her kids’ school that dad wasn’t allowed to get the kids or to call her before letting them leave with him. Again, I want answers. I’m inquistive by nature and I’m easily affected by stories like this. My mind doesn’t stop churning. If Kurtis was capable of killing his kids in an abandoned home, then he was capable, in the mind, of going on a shooting spree in that school, where my son’s friends learn and play. It’s just devastating. I have not stopped thinking about Zoey, who had a breakdown and was rushed to the hospital after she arrived at the bloody scene. How does a mother come back from that? I asked my OB-GYN yesterday at my yearly appointment. See, I can’t stop thinking about this! Her response: “You don’t come back, Chrissy.” Chills up my spine… "You die inside, or you become an advocate, set up a chairty, but you don't come back, not 100 percent."

I hugged JD a little tighter before I left him at school and I lingered in the hallway, watching him through the glass window as he played on the floor with three other little boys. I gave him an extra Oreo in his lunch bag. On my way to work I thought about his absent father. Then I thought about Kurtis. This is a guy who loved  and was present with his kids… Proud to be a single mom today, really proud.

Have you heard about this story? Has something like this happened in your neck of the woods?

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