When a Boy is Tortured and Murdered in Front of His Parents

Comments 27
(Photo by Shahzeb Ihsan)
(Photo by Shahzeb Ihsan)

When I was little, I sometimes asked my parents what would happen if bad guys ever tried to hurt us. They always said we would defend ourselves and kill the bad guys, if needed.

“We would never let anything happen to you,” they promised.

I believed them because I was little. I’m sure they meant well.

I wonder if Philip Savopoulos’ parents promised him the same thing.

Savvas Savopoulos was a martial arts expert, which means the guy who would soon murder him and his family probably held a gun to his wife and son to get him to cooperate.

It must have been a good life before that day.

The Savopoulos family lived just a few doors down from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Washington D.C. Very rich.

The family was probably going to do something really fun this Memorial Day weekend.

I don’t know how good of a guy Savvas Savopoulos was. I don’t know anything about his wife, Amy. The housekeeper, Veralicia Figueroa, might not have been a great person. I can’t be sure.

They were reportedly generous and charitable people. I rarely assume the worst.

But I do know about Philip Savopoulos.

Because he was only 10. Probably in fifth grade. Maybe just starting to like a girl at school. He probably liked the Washington Redskins. And NBA star John Wall. And the Avengers.

He was probably looking forward to summer break when he’d go on an amazing vacation with his family and maybe attend some cool summer camps. Certainly, he’d be spending some days playing video games, talking about girls, or participating in outdoor fun with his buddies.

He must have felt safe every second of his life.

Until that day.

When a man forced his way into their home. Tied up his dad. Tied up his mom. Tied up the housekeeper. And then himself.

Young Philip was probably really scared.

But I bet he never imagined that less than a day later, he would be dead, his parents, dead, his housekeeper, dead, and his home set on fire.

Nothing REALLY bad ever happened to me growing up. My parents divorced when I was 4, and it was hard because my dad lived 500 miles away, but when you’re that age, it just feels normal because this is just the way it is.

So, when I got divorced at 34, I completely freaked out and broke on the inside. And I think it’s because divorce is always hard and a shock to the system for most of us, but also because my mind and body had never been through a trauma like that.

He was just 10.

He had probably never been through a trauma like that. It’s possible he had never even seen a home invasion in a movie or heard about one on the news.

But there he was, bound with duct tape. Maybe to a piece of furniture. Maybe to one of his parents.

Maybe he cried a lot. He was just 10.

Daron Wint is 34. About my age. He used to work for Savvas Savopoulos’ company.

Wint kept them tied up while he searched the house for money. He eventually made off with $40,000. Investigators don’t yet know whether money was the only motive.

“The victims suffered from blunt force trauma. Authorities believe the four were killed before the house was set ablaze, according to the source familiar with the investigation,” CNN reported. “The source said the victims were bounded with duct tape, and there were signs that Philip had been stabbed and tortured before he was set on fire.”

There are two teenage girls. High schoolers. They attend boarding school, so they weren’t home, otherwise they would have been murdered (or worse) too.

Today, those two, already dealing with the most-complicated and confusing part of their lives, just found out their parents and little brother are dead, and that their home was set on fire.

Their lives will, in many respects, be defined by some guy they never met.

I wonder whether Wint stabbed and tortured a 10-year-old child in front of his parents. Screaming: “Where’s the money, motherfucker!?” before hurting Philip again. A helpless mother and father’s soul being ripped out in the worst possible combination of rage and fear and hopelessness and helplessness imaginable.

I can’t even type it with dry eyes.

You know what I think about the most, though?

The Domino’s pizza delivery guy or girl.

While the family was held hostage, Wint ordered two pizzas. He left cash in an envelope instructing the driver to leave the pizzas by the door.

The driver must have thought that was strange, but since the money was there, what choice did he or she have? You take it and drive away, mission accomplished.

You tell your friends at work about the odd experience and move on with your life.

A few days later, the news breaks that DNA left on some pizza crust is how investigators identified the killer. There’s shock at first. Then reality sets in.

Oh my God. I could have been killed.

Oh my God. I wish I would have called the police! Those people! I didn’t know!

Oh my God. That family’s final meal was the pizza I delivered. That little boy.

I think about that person the most.

They’ll always carry that around with no place to deliver it.

What Are Humans All About?

Today’s writing prompt from WordPress on The Daily Post was: “The friendly, English-speaking extraterrestrial you run into outside your house is asking you to recommend the one book, movie, or song that explains what humans are all about. What do you pick?”

I couldn’t think of a book. Or a movie. Or a song.

But I like the question. What are humans all about?

And I thought about the grisly details of the Savopolous family’s brutal slaying.

We live in a world where—for whatever reason, but possibly something as simple as $40,000—a man will beat, torture, and stab a 10-year-old boy in front of his screaming, sobbing parents.

We live in a world where things like that happen.

A family in Connecticut was killed the same way in 2008.

Not terribly far from there, a young man invaded a school one day in Newtown, Ct. and shot a bunch of kindergarteners and elementary school kids.

Some people will cut your head off with a knife on video because you disagree about religion.

Others will hijack airplanes and fly them into skyscrapers.

There are violent rapes. Child kidnappings and molestation and abuse. We see bullying. And theft. And infidelity. And fraud. And disease. And starvation.

These things are real and are happening every day.

What are humans all about?

In a world where all of those things happen, people keep trying. Those horrible things crawl into our insides and infect us with fear. Sometimes we think ONLY bad things happen because it seems like we only hear about bad things.

But Kim just donated a kidney to a stranger.

And young Malik just visited (and often does) old man Johnson who has been lonely ever since his wife died two years ago.

Lucas just defended Brennan on the playground when a bunch of kids were making fun of him, and Lucas is the most-popular kid in the class.

Wendy just forgave Michael.

An African village just got a new well, and now a bunch of kids have a chance, all because people with big hearts have made this their mission.

Alyssa rescued another dog.

A child was adopted.

A girlfriend got a proposal.

A friend got a hug.

A neglected person found love.

A lost person found meaning.

A plant sprouted, and dammit, it was a miracle.

Humans are a riddle. A maddening, never-quite-solvable puzzle. Capable of terrible things. Things worse than we can conjure up in our most-twisted thoughts.

And they are also the most generous, creative, loving, inspiring, IMPORTANT thing ever documented in the history of the universe.

You can look at the riots, and the train wreck, and the brutal murder. It’s hard not to.

But you can also look over there, too. That way. Over there where hope lives.

At that thing that’s good, and perfect, and beautiful. See it?

The most horrible things happen. And still, we hope. Still, we love.

What are humans all about?


27 thoughts on “When a Boy is Tortured and Murdered in Front of His Parents”

  1. i no longer watch the news. i am not on fb, either, and sometimes i feel like a little kid with my fingers in my ears, shouting “lalalala i can’t hear you!!” which doesn’t make the ugly facts of humanity go away. and maybe that level of avoidance is not healthy but my heart can’t take the brutality.

    but, like you wrote, there are beautiful humans all around me who show me undeserved mercy, who care for the weak, who love even when terribly wronged, and who produce works of art that challenge and inspire.

    reconciling the extremes is impossible, perhaps, but choosing to embrace the good and oppose the ugliness is within our reach. for those we influence, like our kids, this can alter their world view and bring an ounce of peace to the earth.

    1. I rarely do for exactly the reasons you mention. It simply makes me feel bad. And I don’t want to feel bad. My mom gets frustrated with me because she thinks I’ll be ignorant and uninformed. Maybe so. But less stressed. And happier. Good trade.

      I saw this story last night checking for weather news. Horrifying, obviously.

      And when I saw this writing prompt this morning, which I rarely participate in, all I could think about was real life. Not books or movies or songs.

      I could only think of this.

      And I think it’s irresponsible to not take note of all the beautiful things that take place amid all the chaos.

      Every good deed is worth doing. No matter how small.

      It’s the little details that stick.

      Like that Domino’s delivery guy.

      Like the random act of kindness.

  2. To be human is to be an endure-er. To look evil – the monstrous evils like you wrote about here, or every day evils like selfishness and apathy – full on in the face. To feel the crushing weight of it. And to still choose to stand; to endure and believe it has to be done because it just matters, dammit!

    Don’t ask me to explain how or why.

    It just does. *shrug*

    1. No explanation needed.

      Survive. Persevere. Endure.

      Leave things better than you found them. Always trying.

  3. I don’t usually read long posts…I read all of this one…I thought it was gonna be another, “OMG!!! the world’s coming to a end!!!” kinda posts…I think of all the civil wars and such, I just cry for the children…while the war pigs play the children die…then, out of the darkness and mayhem walks a child carrying a puppy…it’s like sunshine!!! with the ‘net being what it is today…for every second of darkness there’s 60 seconds of sunshine…I so glad you didn’t close on a negative note…there’s always gonna be mayhem but, for me at least, the laughter of a child will ring louder…

    1. I’m guilty of writing long. I know that most people won’t read something 1,500 words long. It’s like I can’t help myself.

      Thank you very much for getting to the end and for taking time to leave this note. Really appreciate it. Hope you have a great weekend.

  4. You have a gorgeous mind and an amazing way of not only viewing the world, but expressing it. Enlightening and lyrical, thank you so much for sharing.

  5. I live the life of a Pollyanna because my own mind seems to create false beliefs about myself. To change the way I think, I am always on the lookout for the positive/beautiful happenings in our world and wish that one day, we will be free from evil. Thanks for ending your post with the beautiful part of being human.

    1. I try to focus on the good while not burying my head in the sand.

      Some people might say I’m too much of an optimist or idealist. Hard to argue when I feel let down or disappointed.

      But I sit and think about my other choice: To be negative. To assume the worst.

      If I could think of even ONE thing to be gained by being so, I’d probably give it a shot.

      But I can’t. So I’ll just keep doing things this way. Thanks for saying hi, April.

  6. For whatever reason, I clicked on the Daily Post and one of the stories that jumped out to b read was yours.
    It took my breath away…..literally.

    The way you externalized your thoughts about the Savopolous boy and other horrific, unthinkable tragedies brought home the very worst of humanity. In their wake is utter despair. But you are spot on about the caring side of human nature too. Small random acts of kindness bring unseen big returns. Perhaps paying it forward a little at a time can somehow return this world to a better place.

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you so much for reading.

      I’m always moved by what I perceive to be the most “human” part of any story. This one is chock full of them.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I hope you have a great weekend.

  7. Excellent post — have you read ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote — it offers some insight into exactly that type of crime — I’m sure you would find it interesting.

    1. Thank you!

      I haven’t read that book, but I do love reading, so thank you for the suggestion. I’m quite sure you’re correct.

  8. This was an intense read. I try not to think of things like what a 10yr old is thinking right before he’s murdered.

    Some people think there’s only two things: l

  9. (Sorry on my wonky phone)

    Love and fear. Maybe that’s what humans are all about. Love, or fear.

    I write long posts, too.

    1. I try not to think about anything bad, ever, but fail constantly.

      The fundamental difference between your long posts and my long posts, is that no one would ever dream of not finishing yours!

  10. There is always beauty Matt. There is always beauty.
    Sometimes we need to wipe away the grime in order to find it but I refuse to believe that the world is all ugly.
    My daughter baked white chocolate raspberry muffins today! Like I said, there is always beauty.
    There is always hope when there are people such as yourself who look for that beauty and then share it through your words. Bless you.

    1. This was really nice. Thank you. I feel very blessed to be naturally predisposed to think of things through that prism.

      Sure, some of it’s a choice. But I think I also just lucked out with some genetic combo, as well.

      It helps you bounced back. It helps you find your smile.

      Good things.

  11. Yes Matt, that. Sometimes for those of us who have been on the end of violence, we figure it out the how to wake up in the morning and put a game face on until we can wake up and feel victorious, until we can see the miracle. For some of us, we reach across the asile and pull someone else up and point to the miracle, ask them to see it too.

    What are humans about? Compassion, empathy, love, passion. Sometimes it gets tangled, lost in stupid stuff. Sometimes it gets found, joy sprints to the finish line.

    1. I like very much that you ask people to see it, too.

      (I’m going to reach out soon to talk about editing stuff!)

  12. This whole story broke my heart. Working in the nursing field for years I have seen what people can do their wives, husbands, children and parents. And each time it broke my heart a little more. I guess that is why I moved off the floor and and into the business end. Even though my “kids” are adults now it still causes panic if I can not get a hold of them for a few hours or days. They know they are ok but I don’t so now if they can’t talk or don’t have time they just text me a short message.

    As a parent you never stop worrying and I can’t for the life of me imagine what these parents went through. Not many people would have thought of what the pizza driver went through, I didn’t until you mentioned it. He will forever live with the fact that in his mind he could have stopped it or the fact that he could have been killed.

    Never will I stop being amazed at a humans ability to destroy another….or a humans ability to save another. If only there was more saving or kindness than killing and pain.

    Your take on this was amazing. I hope you don’t mind I added you to my blog role but I think just by reading all your posts you are someone who no matter what gets up and tries each day

    1. Thank you for this nice note, Judy.

      It’s unbelievable what people are capable of.

      I mean that in both a good way and a bad way.

      The thing I take away from really awful situations like this, is all of the good things that tend to happen afterward.

      A reason to hope is never hard to find.

  13. You are clearly a very well educated an accomplished journalist. Kudos to your writing. I wish you the absolute best, just as everyone you are referencing had. Life is precious and sacred. It takes a special kind person to have the kind of wherewithal you have on the subject. Thumbs up to you ass hole.
    Savaas Savopoulos’ NIECE

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Matt Fray

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