Stranger In the House

Life in Valley Glen has become extremely creepy. My ranch-style oasis in the middle of God’s country has turned into Twin Peaks. Only really, really real.

On a rainy Saturday a few weeks back, two trench-coated Agent Coopers knocked on our door. They were combing the neighborhood looking for any information that could help them with a civil case they were investigating: A man had been arrested for sex crimes involving a child. Crimes that allegedly took place in our house. In the room where my 22-month-old son Emmett sleeps.

The accused was David Schwartz, a name that was keenly familiar because I’d signed over several hundred thousand dollars to him less than a year ago. The guy who still comes around every day to visit our ailing next-door neighbor. The guy who nods and smiles at my wife.

I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach.

We invited the detectives in. They told us more as we allowed them to snoop around the house. There’d been a year-long investigation leading up to the arrest, spurred on by a man who’d come forward and claimed that Schwartz – his Little League coach -- had molested him repeatedly for three years in the early 1990s starting when he was 13. On January 14 he was charged with multiple counts of sex crimes involving a child. The detectives told us he may have molested other kids as well. He’s currently free on $400,000 bail.

I like to believe that I err on the side of compassion, and generally think the death penalty (and the whole MO of the prison system, for that matter) is barbaric. Logically, rationally, I understand that he is innocent until proven guilty, but…. I was overwhelmed, consumed by the rage of a parent. Something reprehensible may have happened in my son’s room. I found myself wanting to do anything to help put the bastard behind bars. I want to call him out and warn him – loudly -- not to step anywhere near my wife and child. It is the most despicable of crimes, and if he is guilty of this, I support the severest of penalties.

In an instant, everything about my surroundings changed. I started looking for my own clues. When my Buddhist mother-in-law blessed our house before we moved in last May, she found strong negative energy in Emmett’s room and had to apply extra-strength spiritual cleansing. Do we now know why? I am certainly not leaving anything to chance. Upon learning the bombshell from the detectives, our entire house was re-cleansed.

Most of the time I can block it out and be satisfied in knowing we’ve done everything possible spiritually and cosmetically to remove the energy of the former owner. And, thank god, I finally excised that tacky letter “S” that sat right in the middle of the wrought iron door out front.

This is our house now, I tell myself, in moments of clarity. Still, there are moments I wish we could head for the hills or blow the place up, start over, and get good blessings from as many positive-vibe-carrying spiritual folks as possible. But, really, what can I do, aside from keepin’ on keepin’ on? Obsession can be crippling. I know the Amityville Horror can’t happen in real life, and we’ve been here long enough that it does feel like home.

Still, all sorts of things cross my mind now… I wonder about the 40-plus years the Schwartzes lived here and the parents who entrusted their kids with their Little League coach… I unfairly connect dots after learning that he was also an adult volunteer for the Boy Scouts of America…. Do people drive past our house and whisper and point? Have the neighbors secretly known for years? Does this mess up our property value? Is this a good hook for Extreme Home Makeover? And compassionate though I may be, I never allow myself to wonder if David Schwartz is in fact innocent.

Perhaps it’s because he hovers, like a ghost. He is in close proximity damn near very single day. I don’t know him, but I’m guessing he’s a good friend to our neighbor, who has been battling illness. Yet, I’d be a liar -- knowing what I know – if I said his presence didn’t give me the creeps. My wife, who is often home during the day, often sees him. Until a few weeks ago, he was just a name on a real estate transaction. Now I think: did he do it?

Postscript: David Schwartz was convicted of having committed lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 years of age. He is now out of prison and is a registered sex offender.