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First Person: Tragedy in Tilden Park

By Jill Posener
Friday June 22, 2007

If anything, the week got worse. On Tuesday, I wrote a blog about the internet abuse of children, our disassociation from what happens right in front of our faces. I didn't know when I wrote it that I had witnessed the scene of an unimaginable horror the evening before. 

On Monday evening, my friend Tory and I loaded my pack of dogs in my car and headed off to walk along a trail in Tilden Park. 

Tilden is one of a series of gorgeous open-space parks running the length of the East Bay. There are magnificent vistas, lakes, streams, forests, nature trails. It is one of my special places to be—alone or with friends and my dogs, my beloved, precious dogs. We headed to the eastern part of the hill, hoping to rise above the fog, sweeping in blankets across the bay and brushing past us in wisps, as we headed upwards, towards a place called Inspiration Point.  

I looked to the left towards one of the trailheads.  

A car sat, in the mists, lonely and seeming somehow out of place, in the small dirt parking lot by the beginning of the trail. On a clear day, this is a beautiful spot, and one which leads steeply and quickly down to Lake Anza, along a trail known as Mineral Springs. It was sometime before 7 p.m. There was a cool foggy breeze swirling and a lone police car sat nearby, lights blazing. The scene seemed wrong. But I didn't see anything. Tory and I decided to drive just a few feet further to Quarry Trail, and we could see patches of blue searching for a way to punch a hole in the fog. Our walk was beautiful. Tilden is a place of peace and wild beauty. 

On the walk I heard a commotion from a short distance—I now know this was the arrival of emergency vehicles. And I also know that Kevin Morrissey, aged 51, had just minutes before our arrival shot his two beautiful girls and his wife to death before killing himself. Many who knew the Berkeley family said the man was a loving devoted dad.  

I can only think of one thing. That he drove his family to a beautiful place on a cold evening, and pulled out a .357 magnum and shot one girl and then the other in front of their mother. Perhaps he had practised this action for weeks in his garage, or at the firing range, so that the kids’ suffering would be brief, so that the daughter shot after the other would barely know before the bullet entered her head. And their mom. How does anyone look in the eyes of those he loves, and destroy them? 

He wasn’t angry with them. He loved them. 

There is already an industry to examine and debate how a man like Morrissey reaches this point. Radio talk shows are inundated with armchair detectives and angry, outraged people who still cannot imagine a tragedy like this emerging from their root ball. The man himself left a note blaming financial woes. I don’t really care why. I care that a man could reach this point. I care that Kevin Morrissey was a man who legally owned a weapon, and that he kept it in his home in Berkeley. I care that he was a military veteran, and I do wonder whether the skill to murder in sanctioned killing zones can ever fully be unlearned. I care that he had reached the conclusion that his problems were so great that his family, not just he himself, but his sweet young kids also, could not survive them. I care that he felt, even in his undoubted distress, that as the head of this family he had the power and the right to snuff out laughter, tears and futures. I also care that the police car we saw contained an officer who was the first to see this slaughter. How does he cope with what he had to see? 

I will walk down the trail at Mineral Springs with Roxy, Frank, Roo, Calvin and Oscar, to the lake, so near to Inspiration Point, and remind myself that life is beautiful.