Crime Reporting 101: Into sad tale of murder, blood and drugs, enter God and forgiveness

"Mother forgives son held in slaying," said the headline on a Metro cover story in The Dallas Morning News on Monday.

That title certainly raised my GetReligion antenna.

However, I was skeptical I'd find deep religion content in this police beat report, which appears online on the newspaper's Crime Blog:

Joyce Richardson turned the key and opened the door of Apartment 1705, as she did every day.
This time, though, her son and stepdaughter weren’t there. The night before, violence erupted. Now, one sat in jail; the other lay dead in the morgue.
Inside, Richardson closed the door. She noticed the silence. And the blood. Blood on the walls. Blood on the old brown couch and TV.
Bottles of alcohol. The bags of groceries she had brought a day earlier, still on the kitchen counter.

No religion there. But I kept reading. The very next paragraph:

She sat, prayed and cried.

Alas, this is the point in a typical cops beat report where the newspaper would take an abrupt detour and totally sidestep the faith question. We at GetReligion would be pointing — once again – to holy ghosts haunting the story. 

But not this time.

Instead, this writer — veteran public safety reporter Naomi Martin — connects the dots in a remarkable way.

The reporter reports that the victim and the suspect had promised to go to church with the mother Wednesday night to hear her choir sing. And the journalist notices the "baby angel figurines and Christian-themed paintings" in the mother's living room.

Later, Martin even takes readers inside Martin's church:

As deadly violence unfolded at Anthony and Lashunda’s apartment that night, Joyce Richardson was a few miles away — but in another world — at Triumph Missionary Baptist Church. She left her cellphone in her car. She remembers being overcome by a spiritual high as she sang:
I got a race to run
And I’m running by faith
At the finishing line
I’ll see God’s face
“Sister Richardson, it just looked like you had a halo of happiness,” a friend later told her.
She felt it. She now believes God was strengthening her for what was to come.
After the church service, Richardson got into her car and turned on her iPhone. The screen filled with missed calls and text messages. Her vision seemed to narrow as she scrolled, her eyes catching certain words: “Anthony. Body. Found. Trashcan. Lashunda.”

This story is no exercise in Crime Reporting 101. Rather, it's a graduate-level testimony to the power of a talented journalist to dig below the surface and uncover compelling details that provide important insight. 

It's a crime story, yes —  and definitely a sad and depressing one.

But the religion content opens the door to a fuller, more revealing portrait. Kudos to Martin and the Morning News for their adept handling of the subject matter.

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