The Mystery Stones of Pt. Defiance Park

Last weekend my girlfriend and I decided to go to Pt. Defiance Park and walk some of the trails. It’d been months since I took the time to do so. As we walked through the forest, I noticed a rock sitting on a log. It was obvious that it had not arrived at that spot naturally. Looking at the rock I noticed it had a little design on it. I thought that it was cool so I picked it up and put it in my pocket.

Then about fifty yards further down the trail I noticed another rock in a strange place with a different symbol on it. Once I figured out that it wasn’t just a one-off but some sort of mysterious public art project, I found another spot for the rock in my pocket and took a photo of each of them. As the walk continued we kept our eyes out for more rocks and found about eight of them, each with different symbols in what appears to be white ink stamp. Each time I took a (blurry) photo with my cell phone.

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Once I got home, I started looking online to see if I could find any information about these rocks, but a quick search didn’t find anything. I posted some photos of the rocks online on the TacomaStories Twitter and Facebook page. And then I decided to go back again the next day.

The following day I found additional rocks on the same trail. I also found that some rocks from the day before were gone. Others had been moved. I took photos of every rock I found and decided to come back yet again.

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Today I went on the same trails as before but also some new ones. Some trails I found no rocks at all. Others I found quite a few. It would appear that they are not each unique designs. I found some identical designs on different rocks.

Who is putting these rocks out there? Is there a meaning behind them or is it just art? Just how widespread are these stones? These are all questions to which I’d love to find answers. Unfortunately it’s almost impossible to determine whether or not the person or people who placed the stones are the same ones moving or removing the stones. The first stone I found was moved by me. Others likely disappear when people find them and pocket them. Are the new ones I find on the same trail new or just stones that were moved or I hadn’t noticed the day before?

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Someone or a group of someones has made exploring Pt. Defiance Park even more fun and I’d like to thank them for it.  For more photos of the Pt. Defiance mystery stones, check out the Tacoma Stories Facebook Page. If you know anything about these stones, contact me at jackcameronis@gmail.com. I’d love to talk with you and perhaps do a 5 Question Friday.

Enjoy the photos and if you’re in town, take the time to find some on your own. I highly advise that if you start hunting for these stones you employ the old adage, “Take only photos, leave only footprints.”  In other words please leave the Pt. Defiance Mystery Stones alone for others to discover.

– Jack Cameron

Sixth Tacoma Homicide of 2015: Sayvon Jordan Jr.

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Early Saturday morning 15-month-old Sayvon Jordan Jr. was brought into Tacoma General Hospital by a his mother and a man. The man told hospital staff that the Sayvon had choked on a rock and he’d given the toddler the Heimlich maneuver. He claimed he’d possibly done it ‘too hard’. Unfortunately Sayvon was already dead when the toddler arrived. Hospital staff soon found evidence of long-term abuse and nothing that substantiated the man’s story. The following day the Medical Examiner ruled that his death was a homicide, the result of blunt force trauma to the abdomen.

This is the sixth Tacoma homicide this year and the seventh Tacoma homicide since 2011 involving a child under three years of age. Typically when I write about homicides I try to do as much research as I can on who the person was in life. When it comes to deaths like these, the person didn’t even get to find out who they were and Tacoma is less than it could be because of the loss.

As is so often true with these situations, I simply don’t have a lot to write because the victim didn’t get to live long enough for there to be much to write about.

Sayvon’s mother is currently pregnant. The unborn child’s father is the man now being charged with the murder of Sayvon Jordan Jr. Sayvon’s own father is currently in prison.

– Jack Cameron

Izabel Laxamana: A Community Left Grieving. Where Do We Go From Here?

The Memorial At Izabel's Middle School

The Memorial At Izabel’s Middle School

It isn’t usual for Tacoma Stories to do more than one article about the same topic. It’s also not usual for someone other than me to write an article for Tacoma Stories. But the last few weeks have been unusual. There has been much talk and controversy about the suicide of Izabel Laxamana. Up until now, I’ve refrained from using the 13-year-old girl’s name. However, since it’s been used everywhere from the Washington Post to Seventeen Magazine, I think my refrain is fairly useless at this point.

I received the following article earlier today from a local psychotherapist. Her name is Cheryl L. Fracasso, Ph. D. She’s not just writing about Izabel. She’s writing about all of our children.

Before we get to the article, I just want to say if you or anyone you know is feeling suicidal, you can call the National Suicide hotline any time day or night for free and anonymously at 1-800-273-8255.

Here’s Dr. Fracasso:

Not even three weeks after her death, one thing that is clear is that there is a whole community spanning globally now left grieving the tragic loss of Izabel Laxamana. The public response of support and compassion has been tremendous, evoking many strong and mixed emotions. As a psychologist, I, like many others, sat dumbfounded and deeply saddened as this case unfolded, hoping that the investigation would reveal some answers into the “how” and “why” behind this. In the end, the police investigation that closed last week that revealed no wrongdoing by the father and left more questions than answers. So where do we go from here?

While no legal action may be taken for the real Izabel, one thing that lives on is the iconic Izabel created by the facebook page, “Justice for Izabel.” Whether her suicide was due to abuse or not may never be answered since Izabel can no longer speak for herself. I only hope that those who may have further information about this case will gain the courage to speak up if there are facts that need to be investigated further. However, we must move on as a community and society and focus our efforts on preventing future tragedies like this from occurring. I for one am not interested in reading about media defending their positions and pointing fingers at one another due to the reporting of this case, nor am I interested in reading about what “could have” or “should have” been done. What I am interested in seeing is abuse awareness and prevention efforts launched in the local and global community so that not one more child is lost in this manner. We need to give our children a voice. We need to take them seriously when they come home and try to tell us things that are happening to their friends that do not seem right. Education about what abuse is and how it operates needs to be put forth in our schools, which encourages friends or family members to speak up. Abuse can only exist if those suffering from it and those who witness it are scared silent, and this needs to end. We need to stop this hideous cycle of abuse, bullying, and public shaming. Each of us on an individual level can start by speaking up when we observe anything out of the ordinary with a child.

If you or your children observe something going on that is not right, report it. Also, we need to take a look at our current Child Protective Service (CPS) measures and find more effective ways to protect our children when a report is pending. As legislation is right now, children are generally left in the home when a report is pending investigation and some investigations take months to resolve.

From a psychological perspective, it is my hopes that practitioners band together to launch efforts to educate our youth and society about classic signs of abuse and to end this silence and fear about speaking up. In this sense, we can get “Justice for Izabel” by insuring that we make changes in our current systems to minimize the chances of something like this happening again.

Blaming and pointing fingers at each other and individual agencies is not an effective use of energy. Rather, we need to band together with police departments, school districts, legislation, and media who have the power to make change, and say “Enough! We are not losing one more child!” Let’s end the silence!

My deepest condolences to all who have been touched by this case…especially friends, family, and others who knew her.

If you would like to open up further dialogue about this, I can be contacted at doctorfracasso@hotmail.com. Please note, I am not interested in rehashing the details of this case. If you have further information, report it to the proper authorities. However, I do welcome suggestions on how social change efforts can be put in place to prevent future tragedies like this from occurring.

My sincerest regards,

– Cheryl L. Fracasso, Ph.D.

Dr. Fracasso is a psychotherapist based in Kent, Washington. She has served as a Psychologist with the State of Washington, Department of Social and Health Services, Developmental Disabilities Administration at Rainier School. She’s also worked as Case Manager with the City of Seattle, Office of Aging and Disability Services.

I’d like to thank Dr. Fracasso for sharing her thoughts with us. It’s important to talk and we’re interested in your comments. I’ll be approving any comments that aren’t insulting or accusatory.

– Jack Cameron

Special Comment: Regarding My Recent Coverage of a Local Girl’s Suicide

I’ve been writing some version of Tacoma Stories since 2006. In those years, I’ve learned quite a bit and come up with a style that works for the site. I report the facts.  Then I report what I think of those facts. My article about the young girl who jumped off the South 48th Street overpass has been viewed almost 300,000 times by people in over 130 countries. It has resulted in dozens if not hundreds of other articles including one in the Washington Post. Yesterday a radio station from San Diego called me to talk about it.

Our local media however has been fairly quiet. During the weekend after I wrote the article I was contacted by three TV reporters and a newspaper reporter from The News Tribune. I talked to the News Tribune reporter on the phone. She wanted to know what I knew, wanted a link to the shaming video, and for me to pass along her contact information to my sources.

Yesterday, nine days after the incident, The News Tribune came out with its firstsubstantial piece on the young girl’s death. It included new information such as the fact that the girl left behind suicide notes. But it said she wrote them on an iPod which made no sense because iPods are for listening to music. It said that the trouble started on May 3rd when the girl sent a photo of herself to a boy which resulted in her father cutting her hair as a punishment two days before she jumped, but doesn’t explain the three weeks between those two incidents. So I thought better of adding another update to the original article because their information didn’t make a lot of sense.

Today The News Tribune came out with an unsigned editorial attacking the online coverage of this girl’s death and defending their near silence. It accuses us of spreading rumors as facts and attempting to publicly shame the victim’s family. I cannot speak for other websites or their coverage but given the sheer volume of traffic and the number of sites linking to mine about this, I feel these untrue accusations demand a response.

One of the primary purposes of Tacoma Stories is to put the victim and the victim’s family first because traditional media tends to lead with the killers rather than giving a thought to the victim or the victim’s family. This is why in the case of the young girl who jumped off the bridge I felt it was appropriate to not mention her or her family’s names. This is where the accusation that we’re publicly shaming the father falls flat. You can’t publicly shame someone you refuse to name.

As for the accusation that I’m spreading rumors as fact. This is also absolutely untrue. I said that a public shaming of the victim made by the victim’s father was released online, that days later she jumped from her grandparents’ car, and jumped off the S. 48th Street overpass. Not one of those facts are in dispute. After that I start talking about public shaming and its consequences and I point out this tragedy as an example.

The News Tribune has gone out of its way to say that the video had nothing whatsoever to do with the girl choosing to jump off the overpass. This is as much speculation as saying that the video was the sole reason for her choosing to jump. Tacoma Stories makes neither assertion. I believe that the video was a contributing factor and I’ve said so. I don’t believe that the father or the family wanted the victim harmed in any way. These are my opinions on the matter.

I also believe that the family of the victim is going through something unimaginable and deserve privacy during a time I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Of course they shouldn’t be publicly shamed. This is why I never named them. It’s also why I took down offending comments and closed the comments section of the original post when the family asked me to do so.

To be clear, I do agree with the News Tribune that some coverage of this story has been reprehensible and deserving of criticism. Though I would argue that lack of coverage is worth criticizing as well.

Traditional media has spent years trying to understand the online world and how to monetize it. They scoff at bloggers and other ‘citizen journalists’ who write because we have an interest and a passion in something. And yet we’re among the first people they contact when they’re looking for a source.

– Jack Cameron

Update 06/14/15: The News Tribune has posted yet another editorial about this. I’ve decided that it’s inappropriate to continue to respond to the local paper’s accusations on this page. For my response, go to the TacomaStories Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/tacomastoriesofficial

The Last Tacoma Homicide of 2014 Joshua Sullivan Jr.

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I do my best to write about every homicide that happens in the city of Tacoma. Mostly I rely on media reports and a few other sources to confirm events or information. Occasionally there will be a homicide and almost no media coverage whatsoever. That was the case in the short life of Joshua Sullivan Jr.

Joshua Sullivan Jr. was born on May 16, 2013. Seven days later he was brought into Tacoma’s Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. His injuries, mostly around his head concerned the staff there. They contacted the Tacoma Police Department.

After initially denying that they knew anything about their son’s injuries, Joshua’s father admitted to being ‘frustrated’ with the baby.

Sixteen months later, in September 2014 Joshua Sullivan Jr. died from his injuries. Since then the two other children in the home have been placed in foster care and the father has been put in prison. Today Pierce County prosecutors have charged his father with the homicide.

These are my least favorite homicides to write about. Newborns can be very difficult for some people to deal with. Washington State has a Safe Haven law. Anyone can drop off their newborn at a Hospital or a Fire Station safely and anonymously no questions asked and no judgments given. If you need help with a baby, please call the National Safe Haven Alliance at 1-866-510-BABY (1-866-510-2229).

My thoughts go out to the family of Joshua Sullivan, Jr.

– Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Alex Ziegler From Northwest Float Center

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One of my favorite things about 5 Question Friday is that I occasionally get to interview people who talk about things I know nothing about. Alex from the Northwest Float Center is one such individual. He contacted me a while back and asked if he could be a part of 5 Question Friday. Having no knowledge or experience with float tanks, I was eager to learn. Alex even offered me a free float. (I’ll be talking about that particular experience on an upcoming podcast.)Here’s Alex:

1. What is the North West Float Center?

Northwest Float Center is a 4 tank float center that offers a clean & comfortable environment for each of our floaters to help them achieve complete mental and physical relaxation.  Each tank is filled with 10 inches of water and 1000 pounds of Epsom salt. In that environment your body is completely weightless; you are gravity free. Inside the tank it is dark & quiet, allowing your body and mind to completely unwind without any distractions. We think of the float tank as the only place you have your brain & your body to yourself at the same time, and being in that environment, without your brain having to process any sensory information & without there being any pain in your body, great things happen.

2. How did you get started in the Float Tank industry?

We heard about floating through Kriss’ brother who floated for his first time at a float center in Arizona. He suggested flotation therapy to Kriss as he had injured his back while working. We both took a float during the Float Conference in Portland in 2012 & immediately knew this was a form of therapy we needed in our lives, and in our area where there was nothing like it being offered. We pooled all of our resources and hit the ground running so to speak, and couldn’t be happier to be where we are today; growing as a business while serving our community.

3. What’s the most misunderstood thing about using float tanks?

Very commonly our clients are concerned with feeling claustrophobic or being faced with claustrophobia issues during their float. In over a year of business, not one client has gotten out of the tank because they were feeling too “claustrophobic”. When you check in to the shop, you will be escorted to your private room where you have your float tank & private shower. So, during the float you can leave the door open if you would like. Most commonly, people start floating with the door open & soon realize that they don’t need it open at all. There is air that comes through vents in the tank, and while floating you are in such a state of openness & calm that it’s almost impossible to feel “closed in”.  It is also worth mentioning that you can exit the float tank at any time during your float. You are in complete control of your entire experience.

4. What advice would you give someone thinking about their first float?

If you’re thinking about floating we advise you to try it!! Come in anytime to take a tour of our center. This helps to get you more comfortable with the experience.  Choose a time to float that you don’t have to rush off to the next task on your list, so that you can truly connect with how floating has benefited you.

5. What makes your float center different than others?

Being Tacoma’s first float center, we have had some time to work out the kinks of a new business. We recognize that floating itself is a new concept to many people, and we feel confident that not only our facility is first class, but our owners & staff are all avid floaters who are here to ensure that your float is nothing but perfect. We love the float community that has been created and we guarantee you won’t find a group of people more relaxed and unique than you will at our float center.

I’d like to thank Alex and everyone over at the Northwest Float Center for being completely awesome. The Northwest Float Center is located at 3907 6th Ave., Tacoma, WA 98406. Their phone number is 253-212-0360.  You can also find them online at http://northwestfloatcenter.com/

If you or someone you know would like to participate in 5 Question Friday, email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com

– Jack Cameron

Talking About Suicide

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An entire community is hurting because a little girl jumped off a freeway overpass on South 48th Street. Most media outlets have been silent about this. When it comes to suicide, they are very cautious. Talking about suicides it’s said can inspire others to also commit suicide. The same is true of other violence. Copycat criminals are a real thing. But that doesn’t stop the media from reporting that. Every day we hear about gun violence on the news but two out of three gun deaths are the result of suicide and still more often than not, when it comes to suicide we are silent.

I can’t think of a problem that has gotten better by not talking about it. And so I choose to talk about suicide. I’m not going to pretend that a girl didn’t jump off the South 48th Street overpass. I am going to say that regardless of what was going on in her life I think she made the wrong choice. I think if she were still here and could see the community’s reaction to her death, she’d agree.

My previous post pointed out that public shaming was one of the likely causes of her decision to end her life. I’d like to also point out that it couldn’t possibly have been her sole reason. People who choose to kill themselves rarely do it because of one event. Much has been said about what else happened to her. Much has been said about the signs and how the school or her parents should have done something to stop it.

When I worked for the police department in police records, I transcribed a lot of suicide reports. The first one was a 13-year-old boy who shot himself. His note was full of thoughts I think everyone who has ever been thirteen has had. Over the next two years, I’d write up dozens more. Friends of mine have killed themselves. I’ve been suicidal at times myself. In every single case, there’s a part of me that wishes for one more conversation. I’m not a trained counselor or therapist, but I know that conversations change and sometimes save lives.

I’ve received numerous emails telling me that I shouldn’t be talking about suicide and pointing out the guidelines for talking about suicides. Some of those guidelines I agree with. Others I don’t. What I hope you get out of this article more than anything else is that if you’re feeling depressed or thinking of suicide, talk to someone. And keep talking.

If you have no one to talk to, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Personally, I’ve always felt that suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems. Things pass. There was a time when Robert Downey Jr. was a drug addicted prison inmate. Now he’s the highest paid actor in the world. That’s not likely to happen to most of us, but our lives can turn around in major ways when we least expect it. 2012 was probably the worst year of my life, but 2013 was arguably the best.

I started Tacoma Stories because I value everyone who lives in Tacoma and I wanted to talk about those that leave us. Every death impacts our city. If you’re from Tacoma or ever lived in Tacoma, then you’re a part of our city and we need you. We can only imagine what the young girl who jumped off the overpass last week might have brought to our city had she lived. It’s my hope that her reactions inspire people to live rather than die. And for public shaming to be viewed in the same way we view all other child abuse.

– Jack Cameron