The cul-du-sac, where young Carter Gallo lived was always active with neighborhood children. By summer of 1991 he was 9 years old and had made many friends on his block and those adjacent to the one he live. In fact, groups of elementary and secondary school children would regularly gather – often unfettered from the watchful eyes of parents – in the neighborhood to play games, skip rope, wrestle, ride bikes, build forts, and explore nearby wooded areas.
There were his closest friends at the time, the Barnyard brothers, who lived around the corner on the next block. Jared Barnyard was 10 and his older brother Raymond was 11. Jared and Raymond were the youngest of a large extended family that lived in the neighborhood. Their father, a gruff steelworker, and mother, a mousy stay-at-homer, practiced the “free-range” method of child-rearing with the boys before it was considered an actual thing. Jared and Raymond were sent out of the house each summer day to play in the neighborhood with the only instructions to return for supper and to reenter through the garage if they returned dirty.
His regular baby sitter and friend Karen , who lived two doors down at the bottom of the cul-du-sac, was 11. Karen, the youngest of three siblings, had a fixation on being accepted as an adult. She, mostly through self-appointment, acted as a supervisor of the neighborhood children during outside play. She had already exchanged her barbies for make-up kits and developed an interests in boys with the intent that she would enter 6th grade as a mature adult – unlike me – as she regularly pointed out.
Carter followed these children up and down the block, interacting with a host of 20-30 other neighborhood children. Often, Carter would follow Karen to the other end of the block to play.
At the other end of the block, approximately 15 houses away from Carter’s, lived two sisters – Jennifer and Suzie Rushing. Jenny was 11 and, just as rambuctous as the other young children who lived on the block. Suzie, was 16, and had a slight learning disability in which she was tracked into special education and separated her from adolescents her age. Unlike Jenny, Suzie was a blond, somewhat chubby, and clumsy. The other children in the neighborhood included her in games and play, but often she was sidelined from being central to the activity. She liked to take walks around the neighborhood by herself, stopping to chat with neighbors, children and adults alike, and visiting neighborhood pets before moving onto the next block. Although this activity is indicative of her gregariousness she would later be described as a “loner” because her learning disability acted as a wall between her and the people she would engage. She was a loner, not by choice, but through the sigma of being a special needs child.
Many times throughout his childhood, Carter would watch Suzie ride her bike down his block stopping to try to play with the other children for a while, eventually being turned away.
The day before Christmas Eve that year, Suzie went missing after she left for a walk in the winter rain. The paper the next day read:
Sixteen-year-old Suzanne “Su-zie” Rushing left home in the rain two days before Christmas without her Walkman, her wallet or her purse things her parents say she Wouldn’t leave without. ” She went for a walk and hasn’t been seen since. Her Christmas presents remain wrapped and stashed in a closet at her mother’s home.. Lt. Paul “Butch” Davie said police are concerned that Suzie might be a victim of foul play. Police have interviewed family, neighbors and friends, but don’t have much to go on, he said. A regional police alert has turned up no leads. “I really don’t like it. . . . To be gone this long, and over the holidays, it has me kind of panicky,” Davie said of the 10th-grade student. Although her parents recently divorced, she seemed to accept it but preferred to keep quiet and to herself, said her mother, Tammy Rushing. She was to take her driver’s exam yesterday and planned to start a job after the holidays, said her father, Teddy Rushing. “She had all the plans in the world,” he said. “I’m worried. Nothing adds up.” Records show no money has been withdrawn from her bank accounts, he said. Davie said anyone with information should call police.
19 days later her body was found by hunters seven miles away at the bottom of a ravine adjacent to a popular community park. It was likely she had been raped and murdered. The paper the next day read:
The body of a girl who had been missing for 19 days was found yesterday by hunters in a heavily wooded section of a park. The body of Suzie Rushing, 16, was found at about 11 a.m. about 300 feet from a pavilion in a secluded area Police Chief Tom Sully said. : The park is about seven miles from her home, where she was last seen alive Dec. 23 when she left to take a walk. The disappearance of the 10th-grader, who had a learning disability and who left without telling her mother she was going and without taking cherished possessions, drew extensive publicity and prompted a series of searches in the Lower Burrell area. County Chief Detective Mick Brady said investigators believed that her death was “suspicious” but would not comment further pending an autopsy to determine how she died. The autopsy was to be performed last night at Central Medical Center and Hospital, Downtown. “All we can be sure of is that her body was found in the woods,” said First Assistant District Attorney Allen Rell, who joined the investigation at the scene. – Detectives would not comment on why they believed that her death was suspicious but said her body was fully clothed. Suzanne, described as “a loner”, was a sophomore enrolled in special-education classes . She was last known to be alive at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 23, when neighbors told police that they saw her walking from her home . Several searches were organized for her because her family believed that she would not have left home for long without her dog, purse and other possessions.