On Nov. 6, 2003, a man named Charles Philyaw was killed in a hit and run collision at the intersection of Railroad and Central in Ceres. I have written about this sad incident on two previous occasions, and this time again because an unsolved crime like this requires occasional public attention, and it also speaks to the indifference shown by society when someone of no notoriety loses their life. In reminding the public about this senseless killing, I am hopeful that either the person responsible has, with the passage of all these years, finally developed a conscious and decides to come forward and admit to the terrible mistake that was made.
Also, possibly anyone who might have witnessed this event and who has been reluctant to speak about the case would have a change of heart and help the police solve the crime and thus eliminate this tragic event from this community's conscious.
Charles, a black man riding his bicycle through the neighborhood, was struck with such force that the impact flung the victim's body over the car's hood; he then bounced off the windshield and landed on the roadway surface, completely unconscious and barely clinging to life. Nothing the doctors could do would save this man's life. It is hard to imagine that there were no witnesses and that the person responsible has never spoken a word to anyone about what he or she did.
Charles was 46 years old. He was an ordinary person, just like the vast majority of the population. He was poor, and living day-to-day on a meager income. He had served eleven years in the military, and was the father of two children. At the time of his death, he had two surviving parents, and his sister, Geneva, had died three months earlier from cancer. Prior to joining the military, Charles worked long hours on the 35-acre family farm. His parents told me that he loved the work of a farmer, laboring from dusk until dawn, milking cows, moving hay bales, driving the tractor and doing all the normal tasks of a raising livestock. He worked such long hours that his father had to coax him back into the house to end the day. He was known for being easy to get along with, being kind hearted and for doing good deeds. In so many ways, he was exceptional, yet, he was just an ordinary person.
Like the rest of us ordinary people, the 99.9 percent of us, he had his weaknesses and frailties. But he deserved more than ending up as an unsolved homicide case; one that received just a moment's notice by the media after he was killed. I guess he was just too ordinary for any significant public concern, but I can assure readers that the police did all that was possible to find the person responsible. And be assured that we and his family have not forgotten him, nor have we forgotten the indifference that was shown by the media when we sought to encourage witnesses to come forward.
I do not know if the police will be able to solve this crime with the information and evidence we currently have, but I am confident that someone "out there" knows what happened and who did it, and that they have this knowledge on their conscious like a bad dream that keeps coming back. I have to assume that, at some level, they are themselves dying to come forward to get this uncomfortable knowledge off their chests. It must be a big burden to carry around for all these years!
Regardless of anyone's station in life, they are not just "ordinary" whose life has no significance to the community or the individuals in it. I ask that the name of Charles Philyaw and the senseless taking of his life is never lost from the community conscious. This crime needs to be cleared up and it will take the responsible person to come forward and any witnesses to help bring this tragedy to conclusion. If and when justice is achieved in this case, it will likely be the result of public involvement and its sincere compassion for all victims, even the "ordinary" ones like Charles Philyaw.