Claudine Ryce

I depart from the usual focus of this blog to note the death of Claudine Ryce.  She wasn’t a politician, though tragedy thrust her into the role of lobbyist and policy advocate, briefly.

Claudine was the mother of Jimmy Ryce.  I met her shortly after Jimmy, age 9 at the time, disappeared. He’d gotten off his school bus one September afternoon in the 1995 in a rural neighborhood south of Miami, and was never seen alive again.

It turned out Jimmy had been abducted, molested, and killed by a handyman at a nearby ranch.  When that evil man went on trial in Orlando (trial moved, because most folks in south Florida wanted to string up the defendant on the spot), I got to know Claudine Ryce and her husband Don, a little better.

She died, says a family publicist, of a heart attack.  But her heart had been torn apart and hurting since her only son was snatched from her.

She and Don learned well how to deal with the media, as they pushed to get the Jimmy Ryce Act (which required sexual predators to get extra judicial review before being allowed to leave prison), and as they went through the torture of a murder trial.  They graciously accommodated reporters seeking interviews, and my heart always ached for them afterward.

During the trial in Orlando, the Ryces celebrated a wedding anniversary.  Knowing that their resources were strained by having to miss work and stay in a hotel while attending the trial, the media gaggle pooled resources, and bought them dinner at a nice restaurant near the courthouse.

Technically, that violated everyone’s journalistic integrity, I suppose, but it certainly seemed the right thing to do. We wanted to give this decent, ravaged couple a night out during which they might, even for a second, forget the heartache that haunted them.

We cover a lot of people touched by tragedy, and you can’t take every story to heart.  But the Ryces stay with me, always.  Maybe even more, since I had a child.

They are a scary reminder that awful things happen to good people.  They doted on their son, were mindful of his safety, and still– it wasn’t enough to keep Jimmy from the clutches of a ghoul of a human.

My heart goes out, once again, to Don.  Rest in Peace– finally– Claudine.

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2 Responses

  1. I was very sorry to hear of Mrs. Ryces passing .My sympathies go out to her family and friends. This story was very well done and I just wanted to say Thank you for writting this .Yes you are right she is finally at peace.

  2. This heart-felt story is what sets you so far above other journalists.

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