The Memory Lane I Didn’t Want to Remember 

While on this current trip I had planned to show my husband three towns in Kentucky that I remember living in as a kid. I have distinct vivid memories of quite a few “firsts” from these places and I wanted to share them with him. I wanted to show him the bridge and creek where I had my first kiss at age 13 and the school where I had my first taste of corporal punishment for fighting someone who smeared my Prater family name. I wanted to show him the house I lived in during my first tornado and the one I lived in when my brother and I built our first bike from scrap pieces. But unfortunately it didn’t happen.

I could feel the excitement build as I neared the exit to enter My Sterling. Almost as soon as I turned off the exit ramp my excitement began to change. Suddenly I was having flashes of other memories I had chosen to forget. I passed the shopping center where my mother was hired as a clown for a business grand opening. I rembered how I hated dressing as a clown because I felt embarrassed. A little further down I came to what used to be the middle school, now apartments. This was where I learned to sing ten little Indians in Spanish. But then suddenly I remembered how everyone used to make fun of me because of my clothes, my accent (I moved there from Detroit) and called me “Bradley smells badly”.

As I drove through town I passed a parking lot where I remembered my parents sitting outside a pawn shop discussing making a trip to Lexington to sell plasma to make some money. Then I traveled along the highway where I remembered walking with my dad collecting bottles, cans and black walnuts to sell.

Sadly I didn’t make it two miles outside of town before I turned the car around heading back to the interstate. 

I know that nearly everyone at some point in their lives has been the victim of bullying and the majority of the population grew up in poverty but it didn’t hit me until that trip down memory lane just how poor I really was as a kid.

With all of the struggles we went through, known or not, I have to say that I am glad that my parents stuck it out through the hard times and did the best the could for my brother and I. 


Losing Nunney Castle

Nunney Castle, located south of Bath in Nunney, Somerset, England, is a small French style castle surrounded by a deep moat that was built by John Delamare, a knight for King Edward of England in 1373. Nunney Castle is unique compared to other British castles with its strong French influence. The only other one like it can be found in Ireland.

Nunney Castle, Somerset (Department of the Environment official guidebook)

Nunney Castle consists of a rectangular Tower house with large drum towers at each corner built with beautiful ashlar masonry. Its cuspid tops and mullions finish off this early Perpendicular style. The building impressed the locals as nothing more than a fortified manor house because it lacked any battlements.

William John Prather, Esq. (1492-1547) and his son and heir, George Prather, Esq. (1510-1564) purchased Nunney Castle and the entire estate of John Delamare in a tax trade deal in about 1560 from their cousin, Sir William Paulett, Lord St John, who inherited it through marriage. After they purchased the vast estate consisting of 4,000 acres of meadowland, 300 acres of timber, 40 farms with dwellings and surfs, 30 farms with no dwellings, Mills, Dove Cotts, several wool washing and processing manors and a Tenament in Oxford, John’s younger son Richard Prater, Esq. (1540-1580) moved into Nunney Castle where he died in 1580.

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When Richard died he named his brother Anthony Prater, Gentleman, (1545-1593) as “Trustee” of the estate until Richards son and heir, George (1562-1621), was old enough to inherit the estate. Different Prater heirs lived in the castle until the English Civil War in 1645 when Col. Richard Prater (1590-1651) lost the castle in a battle that took place at Nunney. During the Civil War the castle was garrisoned for the King and had a large magazine of about 80 men to defend the castle. Fearing his castle would be destroyed, Col. Richard, a Royalist and an ordained Roman Catholic priest, surrendered and offered to switch sides. Fairfax, the commander of Cromwells forces, refused his offer and confiscated the castle and destroyed it, never to be lived in again. Richard and his family sought refuge in the All Saints’ Church in Nunney then eventually moved into the Court House next to the church where they remained until their deaths.

Prater Prather Prator Praytor in America 1620-1800: 1-5 generations

Richard died in 1651 and he lay next to his wife as Effigies in the All Saints’ Church in Nunney. The Praters who lived in and around Somerset and Wiltshire controlled the woolen industry by owning all of the major wool washing and processing centers and controlled major grazing for 1000’s of sheep. They were titled gentlemen, but not farmers.

Finally, it has been rumored that the soul of Col. Richard riding a big black stallion can be heard late into the evening trotting down the main street in Nunney. Louder and louder the horse gets closer with Col. Richard sitting upright and alert in full armor looking from side to side as if he is expecting someone or something to appear. It has been said that he always goes to the entrance of the castle but has never been seen coming out.

Murder, Mystery and Mayhem

The Meanest Son of a Bitch that Ever Lived!

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John Reece Prater (1889-1929) worked as a security guard for the railroad in Morgan
County, Kentucky. He was married to Edna Lee Bailey (1890-1964) and had seven children.

John Reece and Edna Lee
John Reece, Edna Lee in back. Osa, Nola and Delmer in front. Cir 1917

Tragically his only daughter died of whooping cough at just under two years of age in 1917. He was known to be a hardworking man who took care of his family. On the afternoon of January 27, 1929 a gunshot echoed through a railroad tunnel and on
down the line. Minutes later two other railroad workers arrived at a well-established camp site to find John Reese laying in the dirt near the fire pit heavily bleeding from a gaping wound on the side of his head. Lying on the ground next to him was his own revolver. The two railroad workers picked John Reese up and carried him up the tracks to his father’s house so the doctor could be summoned to help.

Praters in America 1620-1800

John Reese was placed on the kitchen table of his parents’ house and the doctor arrived
quickly with his bag of medical tools hoping to work a miracle. By this time word had spread all through the community and a crowd was beginning to form wanting to know what was going on, and how John Reese was doing. The doctor worked tirelessly -trying to remove the bullet that was lodged deep in John Reese’s brain. With no hope of saving him, the doctor gave up his efforts.

Almost immediately worry and concern changed to anger and the gathering mob wanted to know who did this and where to find him, or her. One of the neighbors offered to get his blood hounds and track the killers scent. John Reese’s father, James, agreed and immediately began assembling a search party to find out who killed his beloved son. James ran back into his house with two of his other sons, Stanley and Arby, to grab their shotguns.

Once the search party was assembled they headed straight to the campsite that John Reese used every time he worked the line guarding the tunnel from train robbers. There were no signs of a struggle and nothing was disturbed. His campfire was still burning with a coffee pot sitting on a rock next to the coals. Almost immediately the blood hounds picked up a scent and shot off through the woods. The search party followed as quickly and close as possible. After a few zigs and zags through the woods the dogs turned heading up into a hollar. Immediately James ordered the dogs to be called off. Not understanding why James wanted them to stop the neighbor began to protest that the dogs were heading straight to the killer to let them go. James ordered him once again to call off the dogs, or he was going to shoot them dead.

The neighbor complied and restrained his dogs but was still dumbfounded as to why James wanted to stop the search. James explained to him that where the dogs were heading was to a woman and her children and he did not need to see anything more and turned around and walked back down to the tracks then home to prepare for the funeral. Where the dogs were heading was to John Reese’s own house where his wife Edna and their six sons, ages 19, 17, 9, 8, 5 and newborn lived.

Prater Coat of Arms Mouse Pad

By the time of the funeral two days later, rumors had spread all across the county about who killed John Reese. There were many theories; train robbers, another employee, his wife or one of his own sons. It really could have been anyone. In fact, just days before his death a sign was placed in his yard warning him to treat his family better or he was going to be killed.

Turns out that John Reese was a very abusive man to his children, and his wife. On one
occasion John Reese had his oldest son tied to a tree in his yard and was using a bull whip to give him a set number of lashes as punishment. Edna begged and begged John Reese to stop before he killed her son. John Reese told her that the only way he was going to stop was if she took the rest of his lashes, to which she agreed. John Reese cut his son down then tied his wife to the tree and finished the punishment across her back.

On the day of the funeral Edna gathered her sons and headed to her in-laws’ house. Upon
arrival, she was immediately shunned and denied entry into the funeral. Instead she returned home, packed some of her belongings and went home to her parents in Greenup. Edna and the children stayed gone for a few years. There were several theories about who killed him and quit a few clues that made them very convincing.

Theory #1
Whomever placed the sign in the yard warning John Reese to start treating his family
better killed him. But, John Reese was shot point blank with his own weapon. Not many
strangers could get close enough to him to take his own gun and shoot him.

Theory #2
One of Edna’s brothers could have shot him in retaliation for the years of abuse she and
her children suffered. But once again, it was unlikely that any of them could get close enough to get his gun without a struggle.

Theory #3
One of John Reese’s two oldest sons shot him. They suffered just as much as their mother
did at his hands and they would have been able to get close enough to get his own gun away from him and shoot him in the head.

Theory #4
Edna shot John Reese. She definitely could have gotten close enough to him to take his
revolver from the holster and shoot him in the head as payback for all the years of abuse she and her children suffered at his hands. However, Edna had given birth to her youngest son just 13 days before John Reese was killed. It would have been unlikely that she could shoot him then take off running through the woods up into the hollar and make it home, change clothes and not have some kind of major abdominal pain or bleeding herself.

Although there were several plausible theories John Reese’s death was never officially
solved. But retribution was made. By 1935, Edna and her children had moved back to Morgan County. On July 4, 1935 John Reese’s brothers Stanley and Arby were celebrating the holiday with John Reese’s second oldest son, Delmer (1912-1935). Early the next morning someone passing by a pond noticed a body floating near the shore line and pulled it out. It was Delmer. When asked if either Stanley or Arby had anything to do with Delmer drowning Arby walked away never to say another word about it. Stanley answered, “I can’t say I did, and I can’t say I didn’t”.

His death is officially listed as an accidental drowning but that’s not the consensus within
the families to this day.

A Word About Hostels

Another alternative way to save money when traveling through Europe is to stay in a hostel. Sure we have all seen the horror flicks and heard the stories floating around pop culture but trust me, the many hostels I have stayed at are NOTHING like what you watch in the make believe world of movies.

In 2016 when I made my first trip to Europe I was determined to get the full European experience when it came to lodging. I especially wanted the quaint English cottage behind the white picket fence covered in vines or moss but chances are, since I was not going to be driving, that was not going to happen for me. Plus, since I was going to be on a very tight budget luxury hotels offering turn-down service and my very own English butler were definitely out as well. So, instead I settled for staying in hostels, then rented a room in a house from a private citizen when I placed an ad on a Yahoo Forum looking for accommodations recommendations.

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First and foremost they are definitely a money saver. I literally rented a bed in a 12 person coed dorm room for $9 a night at Paddy’s Palace in Dublin. With this rate I had access to a fully stocked kitchen to store and cook my own food. They provided what we in America call a Continental Breakfast for free; I had access to laundry; storage lockers; the TV room and even free WiFi. As an extra bonus for me, if I booked and stayed for two nights, I received a free bus tour of Wicklow and Kilkenny. I literally felt like with the savings I had they were paying me to stay with them.

Now, I’m sure you are asking “what’s the catch?” and “if it’s so cheap why isn’t everyone staying in hostels?” Well I will tell you. One catch is that the time of year you make your visit will play a small part in the nightly rates. Taking a trip during the off season not only ensures less crowds but cheaper rates. I took my first trip for a month starting January 20th.

Secondly, the environment in a hostel is not for everyone. If you like it a little more quiet and your own private space then it might not work for you. There are plenty of people who take advantage of the “chill out rooms” who are for the most part friendly. Many times I was invited to join someone at a party or just to be part of a group of travelers talking about our experiences. When it came time for bed never once did I feel uncomfortable or threatened sleeping next to my coed strangers. Quiet times were quiet and most everyone was mindful if coming in drunk at 3AM. If I had to complain about one thing during any of my hostel stays around Europe it would be the noise on the streets from traffic and passersby.

If you are traveling with a small child, or as a family, a hostel stay may be for you as well. They only catch to this is that not all hostels are “kid friendly”. Be sure to check their policies online when booking, it will state if children are allowed or not. If they are allowed they will only be able to stay with their family in a private room. How this works is like this. Say there are three of you traveling, you, your spouse and a child age four. You can rent a private room in the hostel or you will have to pay for however many beds there are in your room. So if you only need three beds and the hostel has a four bed room available, you are paying for the fourth bed to ensure no stranger is placed in your room with you. We had to do this on our most recent trip to Europe when we took our toddler granddaughter along.

I personally like the value of staying in a hostel especially when I know for a fact that I am not there for anything other than sleeping and maybe eating if I need to cook myself something. Otherwise, I will be out and about seeing the sites and rarely in the hostel anyway.

The down side of staying in a hostel is that there is a possibility that you will have to climb to the top of a three or four bed bunk in an already over crowded room. Yeah, I had this experience as well and let me tell you, it sucked! But, I was at the end of my trip and was heading back to the States the next morning so I climbed up and went to sleep. At least it had a private bathroom in the dorm. But now that I know what this particular hostel offers you can bet I’ll never be staying with them again.



Budget Travel Tip to Save on Food Costs

On our recent trip to Europe we knew ahead of time that our two biggest expenses were going to be lodging and food throughout the five countries we were planning to visit. Since we were planning to be gone for six weeks it would be an enormous expense to feed three off us three times a day. So with some advanced planning we decided that we were absolutely not going to be eating out every night.

Instead we decided to take advantage of the dining and kitchen areas at the hostels or hotels we were going to be staying in when we did not stay in an apartment. Also when we booked all of our lodging we found out where a supermarket or grocery store was close by. It saved us a ton of money to buy a few days worth of groceries and cook meals, even preparing snacks ahead of time for our sight-seeing or hiking trips.

Disappointed at the Tower of London

During our trip around Europe in March 2017 we made the same stop that millions of tourists make each year, the Tower of London. Before going I had a plan of the spots I wanted to stand, Ann Boleyn’s execution spot (the Scaffold Site), and the things that I wanted to see, the Bloody Tower and the Ravens.

Unfortunately the day we chose to go, it rained. Now I know that the weather being crappy has nothing to do with my disappointment at the Tower of London, and trust me, the weather had nothing to do with it. However, there were plenty of other issues we had that day that led to our disappointment.

To start with the Tower of London is not very friendly for those who are disabled. If you want to see the tower from the outside, walking around the grounds it’s fine, but you will definitely not be seeing the Bloody Tower, the White Tower or even walk along the walled perimeter. There are many steps to climb to see either of those and there is no handicap access.

We began our tour walking through the Main Entrance then made our way to the Medieval Palace beginning our tour with St Thomas’s Tower. This tower was built by King Edward I between 1275 and 1279.  We then proceeded into King Edward I’s, Edward the Longshanks, bedchamber. Then we walked through the Palace past Edward’s oratory, up a turret to the Wall Walk to walk the perimeter. Along the way we climbed many very thin steep steps along narrow walkways.

We walked along the wall to the East Wall Walk entrance and made our way down to the White Tower. Unfortunately in order to see the exhibits in the White Tower you must be able to climb 236 steps. One of our party is disabled and was not able to do so, so none of us seen it.

From the White Tower we decided to see the Crown Jewels in the Jewel House. The line to get into the exhibit was long and it took us about 30 minutes to get into the Jewel House. However while we waited we did get to see some guards changing outside the exhibit. Once inside, we meandered around a maze of darkness from room to room for an additional 30 minutes till we actually made it to the Crown Jewels. Although they are beautiful and expensive, the room is so dimly lit that we nearly missed them.

From the Crown Jewels we headed to the Scaffold Site. I wanted to stand on the spot where so many had taken their last breath. From the Scaffold Site we once again climbed a set of narrow steep stairs to view the Bloody Tower. The disappointment for this exhibit came when we entered a room that had two wall boards with the tale of the Two Princes who were murdered in the tower by their uncle King Richard III. We felt that these two boards did not do the story or their memory justice.20170312_142431

Next we exited the Bloody Tower and made our way to the Torture at the Tower Exhibit where we found several devices that were used in medieval torture. This exhibit was interesting but unfortunately it was in a small room that had people crammed in like cattle in a pen. On more than one occasion I was literally shoved as people made their way past me out the door.

We finally decided to end our day at the Tower of London by making a stop by Traitor’s Gate, the Coins and Kings exhibit and to see the Ravens. Our granddaughter enjoyed to Coins and Kings exhibit and the Ravens were no where to be found.

During our trip to London we found many things we did not care for, and plenty that we absolutely loved, but our trip to the Tower of London was definitely NOT on our “loved” list.

Traveling With Young Children

I am the mother of four children, the oldest is 30 and the youngest is 22, and I still hear to this day how one of their friends will often ask if they regretted all the traveling and moving around they did as kids. Thankfully none of them do and I often hear from each of them how thankful they are that we did that. Here’s why.

I have always been a nomad, felt like I belonged someplace else and have always had the desire to see and experience new places. Not the usual tourist traps that millions of people flock to every year, but to the places off the beaten path. I want to know the life and history about a place. I want to feel the blood pumping through its veins, its life force. I want to know why the place came into existence and why it’s still around today.

When my children were younger we took them everywhere with us. Not once did we ever go on vacation or a trip without them. Before any of them had turned eighteen they had been back and forth across the country, and many places in between, probably a hundred times.

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We didn’t have a lot of money back then, and still don’t, but we always made it fun and interesting for them. Hiking is always free and we did a lot of that through many National Parks and Forests. And sleeping in a tent or the back of our suburban in a free city park because we couldn’t afford a hotel room for six was just camping to them, and boy did they love to go camping.

Juarez, Mexico October 2006

Each of them has their own distinct memories of places they have been to and the things they have seen. Some were to young to even remember camping at Gettysburg or going to work with mom and dad when they worked as security guards at Disney World but they all know that while most children were reading about our historical places in history books, they were visiting them.

Of course we haven’t visited them all, but we have been to quite a few. There’s still time to fill in the gaps now with our grandchildren in tow!

Us in Europe with our granddaughter Ukiah – 2017

How We Traveled From Central Kansas to Europe and Back for FREE!

There’s a little known privilege available to active duty and retired military personnel that allows them to travel around the world virtually free. This perk is called Space Available, or Space-A, travel.

Since November 2016 I had been watching the flight schedules from several bases near us, my husband, granddaughter and I, to get an idea of some “regularity” in order for us to plan our trip. Other than us needing to be in London on March 6th to meet my brother who was joining us for his 10 day vacation we were very flexible on when and where we wanted to go.

Through the Eyes of a Traveler

I found that the base closest to us, McConnell AFB in Wichita at two hours away, has a pretty regular flight to RAF Mildenhall  in Suffolk, England weekly so we decided that we were going there first. Next we needed to decide when to go. Well, as I said before other than March 6th, we could go anytime. We were already going to Ireland and Scotland while with my brother so we decided we would try to catch the first flight available after February 15th and try to get to Germany or Italy.

Suddenly on February 7th there were two new flights added to the schedule, one leaving  the next morning and one for Friday, February 9th. For the most part we were already packed with each of us carrying our own backpack for what we planned to be six weeks of travel. So with passports in hand we loaded up the truck and headed to Wichita on Friday for the 4PM roll call. After a four hour wait after checking in we finally boarded the KC-135 bound for England.

When it was time to come home we once again made our way back to RAF Mildenhall to catch a flight back to anywhere in the states. We waited nearly a week before there was a flight heading  home. Unfortunately for us that flight was full so we caught the next flight out heading close to home, Fairchild AFB in Spokane, Washington. once in Washington, we shared a rental car with two other retirees who were heading back to McConnell AFB and drove home.

By using this perk  we literally traveled round trip to Europe for FREE! Saving us nearly $4,000.00.

Follow my blog to get some more budget travel tips and hacks.

Thomas DeJong: Abused to Death

Just before 4pm on March 11, 2011, 54 year old Susan DeJong called the Jefferson County Nebraska emergency dispatch to report that her 52 year old husband Thomas was not breathing and was cold to the touch. She stated that Tom had been in South Dakota to be with his “whore” and came home “all beat up”. The operator had Susan begin CPR until emergency units arrived at their rental home at 55930 Highway 136, about nine miles west of Fairbury.

When emergency personnel arrived, Susan was hysterical and she repeatedly stated that the “whore” did this to Tom. Emergency personnel found that Tom was not breathing and there was no heartbeat. He had dried blood around his nostrils and the top of his mouth. His hands, arms, feet, legs, torso and head were all visibly cut, scratched and bruised. CPR efforts were able to restart Tom’s heartbeat before he was transported to Jefferson Community Health Center then to Bryan LGH Medical Center in Lincoln.

Lab and blood test results indicated a threat of imminent heart and renal failure. A chest x-ray showed multiple rib fractures and a partially collapsed lung. A full body CAT scan revealed a swollen brain; a tremendous amount of fractures within the chest cavity; spinal fractures; a broken scapula; a fractured nose, and a possible fracture of the hyoid bone. The treating physicians concluded that Tom would not recover from his injuries and following permission from Susan, Tom was removed from Life support. He died shortly thereafter.

One of the examining doctors in Lincoln described the visible injuries to Tom as being small incisions and bruising over most of his body and face. He suffered blunt force trauma and bruising near his knees familiar with “a pedestrian being struck by a car”.

Susan drove to Lincoln where she was interviewed by Investigator Wendy Ground from the Lincoln Police Department. Susan told Ground that Tom had returned home from South Dakota that morning looking pale that he had stated that he did not feel well. He was repeatedly stating to Susan that he was sorry and that he had made a mistake. According to Susan, Tom said his mistress did not love him and wanted to kill him.

Ground asked Susan about Tom’s medical history and she stated that he had been feeling weak and clumsy for the last 2 ½ years. After Tom was declared dead Susan was transported to police headquarters for an interview.

During her interview she stated that Tom was often called a “weenie” because he was beat up by his “whore” all the time and he just took it.

“He used to come home bruised, bloody nose, black eyes. He’s got marks on him that are not from me. He’s got scars on his back that are not from me. Everybody thinks Toms such an innocent man. He used to be. He used to be the most loving, gentle, sweet man you could meet. Till he met that cunt. Then they started molesting children. I still say I think he was on drugs because you don’t drive 14, 16 hours with nothing. He is what he is from what he plays with.”

At one point during the interview Susan asked if she was under arrest, then she continued to ramble.

“Self-defense because I don’t bruise, he does. That’s pretty much the way it goes. She did that to him. I have to be arraigned in 24 hours. I know that. Just like the deal in Minnesota. And he’ll walk away scott free. And there’s a lot of injuries that he had that were not from me. Why didn’t I just leave? Why didn’t I just run? I need some sleep, so tired. I haven’t slept for two days. It’s all partly true. The whole story is partly true. I don’t know. I didn’t hit him in the head. He fell on it. I stepped on it. That was after he threw it at me is how it ended up there. I’m not under arrest. I can go outside and have a cigarette if I want.”

Shortly after 4am March 12, 2011 Susan was placed under arrest and charged with first degree murder and the use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony.


According to the probable cause affidavit for Susan’s arrest, Tom sustained injuries to nearly every part of his body and “would have had great pain and suffering from the wounds.” A search of the house found that the beating appeared to have taken place throughout the main floor, as blood was found in most of the rooms. Seized during the search was a weapon described as a sword or bayonet with a sheath that had blood and hair on it. When asked by a detective what happened to a coffee cup in the house Susan replied, “his head cracked it.”

During the trial, evidence was presented that showed more than 70 drops of blood throughout the house; blood and DNA from Tom on the hood and front fender of Susan’s pickup; several hammers with blood and DNA from Tom.

In Tom’s autopsy report the pathologist found defects on Tom’s hands and arms that she described as defensive wounds. She stated that she had “never seen someone so extensively injured” and that Tom’s death was a homicide. Expert testimony for the defense opined that Tom’s was really beaten up in the last 24 to 36 hours before his death.

It was revealed that in September 2010 Susan had exchanged instant messenger chats with her son James about Tom. Stating that, “I can’t do this anymore. I’ve come to realize I literally hate him. Now I wish he was dead. I really hate him more than I have ever hated ANYONE. I’m looking to get rid of Tom.”

The week prior to Tom’s death he reported to his farm job as normal on Tuesday. He was bruised and had a little trouble getting around but he was there. He called in sick on Wednesday and Thursday. His boss drove by his house on Thursday and found both Susan’s and Tom’s vehicles in the driveway. His cell phone showed no pings or calls made anywhere other than the Fairbury and Hebron, Nebraska area.

Susan DeJong was found guilty of first degree murder and use of a deadly weapon and was sentenced to life plus 50 years to be served consecutively. She is currently housed in the Nebraska Corrections Center for Women in York, Nebraska.


Sibling Criminals: Nature vs Nurture

Since the beginning of psychology man has been asking if it’s nature or nurture that determines our human behavior. There are some valid points on both sides of the argument and I as a former psychology student believe that we ARE the product of our environment.

My second cousins (their father Edward Cummins is my cousin), Brittany Cummins Pilkington and her brother Stephen Cummins both grew up in the same home, with both of their parents for the first five years or so of their lives. Shortly after their parents divorced both found new partners and continued to raise their children in separate two-parent homes.

Brittany Pilkington Booking Photo
Stephen Cummins      Booking Photo

Their mother found a new partner in Joseph Pilkington for nine years. During that time there was an allegation made that Brittany was being sexually abused but the case was never progressed because in 2010 two months after turning 18, the teen mother and Joseph got married, effectively stopping the investigation.


Fast forward to April 2014, Brittany is now pregnant with her third child, still married to Joseph and has two toddlers at home, Gavin age 4 and Hailey age 3. Joseph works a full time job that keeps him away most nights while Brittany stays home and takes care of the kids. On the morning of April 6 Joseph came home around 7AM to find Gavin unresponsive. He was later pronounced dead and his death was ruled “undetermined”.

Tragedy struck once again in the Pilkington home on July 22, 2014 when her three month old son Niall was too found unresponsive. Once again, his death was ruled “suspicious but undetermined”. Several months later Brittany found herself pregnant once again and this time the Logan County Ohio Children’s Services stepped in. Once the baby, Noah, was born he and his sister Hailey were immediately taken and put into state custody pending an investigation.

On August 11, 2015 following a Logan County Children’s Services had a three-day hearing, Judge Dan Bratka ruled that there was not sufficient evidence to keep the children in state custody and ordered the children returned to Brittany and Joseph. Six days later tragedy struck the Pilkington’s home for a third time when Joseph came home and found Noah unresponsive. Listen to Brittany’s 911 call here. For a mother who just found her third child unresponsive she shows absolutely zero emotion.

In May 2014 Brittany’s brother Stephen took his six week old daughter to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio because she was “crying a lot”. After an examination it was determined that his daughter was suffering from a fractured skull, 20 broken ribs and a broken femur. After a short investigation Stephen was arrested.

In July 2014 Stephen plead guilty to three counts of second degree felony child endangering and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. At his sentencing he gave testimony as to what he actually did to his child. He said, “I just wanted her to stop crying so I hugged her tight”. He also admitting to squeezing her head between his palms hard enough to cause the fracture that went over the top of her head from ear to ear. Finally he admitted that on several occasions over her short life that he would take her in both hands and slam to to the ground.

After a lengthy hospital stay his daughter was released. Her condition today is unknown to me as her mother has no contact with me or my family.

If we apply the nature vs nurture argument to these two people who grew up in the same house, with the same parents, who for the most part are law abiding citizens, we are left asking “what went wrong here?” It has been alleged by Brittany that her father was abusive and we know for a fact that she was sexually abused as a child by her husband who also kept her isolated from her family. This definitely would have an effect on her mental health. Apparently she was so isolated that she stated that before the death of her sons her daughter was her best friend. Furthermore she confessed that she killed her three sons because her husband paid to much attention to them and not enough to her daughter.

Stephen on the other hand is a different story. He had a steady girlfriend for a few years, both were members of the Ohio National Guard and he was attending college. For all intents and purposes he was “going somewhere” in life. So, why? Why squeeze your infant daughter to the point of near death? Why slam her fragile tiny body to the ground while she was crying in an effort to make her stop crying? Only Stephen can answer these questions and I certainly hope that while he is incarcerated he takes advantage of any and all counseling that is offered to him.

My personal opinion is that Brittany was definitely a product of her environment, suffering the abuse at the hands of Joseph, who was her own step-father for nine years. After their marriage I think the abuse continued and I believe she was jealous of the attention her sons received. Stephen I think is a little different. Sure Joseph was his step-father as well and granted I do not know for a fact but I would suspect there was physical abuse going on behind closed doors. But I personally think that he is a victim of stress. The stress from having a new baby, just him and his girlfriend taking care of her and both trying to maintain work and school schedules.

So what do you think? Did their environment growing up make them into the (alleged) killer and child abuser they are? Or were they both born bad?