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The long reach of abuse.

Byline: The Register-Guard

The death of Stephanie Amber Moss at a Eugene nursing home last Friday brings a wave of sadness and regret, followed by rekindled outrage at the crime that left her disabled for most of her short life.

It's appropriate that Lane County District Attorney Doug Harcleroad is considering a charge of aggravated murder against her abuser, should medical evidence show that Moss died of the injuries she suffered at her father's hands.

Moss was 7 years old in 1991 when her father, Philip Lee Kephart, beat her into a coma. It was the last of many beatings he inflicted on her, the record of which amounts to a catalogue of torture. Kephart is serving a 50-year prison sentence for 19 counts of assault and mistreatment. The criminal justice system may not be through with him.

The little girl survived, as she had survived earlier cruelties, and under the care of her grandmother and the state grew into a young woman. Contrary to expectations, she emerged from her coma and gained a limited ability to communicate. But she was never able to dance, or pick blueberries, or have a part in the school play. Or walk. Or speak.

Moss' life and death are a lesson in the long reach of child abuse. One moment of adult rage can stretch many years into the future, altering forever a child's life and the lives of everyone around her. Every child represents infinite potential, and Kephart robbed the world of what his daughter might have been. The loss cannot be calculated, any more than sorrow can be weighed.

It's a lesson everyone must learn. The torments that Moss endured were not invisible. There were signs of abuse that should have been seen by those around her - including child welfare officials, of course, but also including neighbors, friends and family members. The natural inclination is to mind one's own business. A child's well-being, however, is everyone's business. No one rescued a little girl from her hell, but the shame of that failure is greatly compounded if people learn nothing from Moss' story.

That's an important lesson - as important as life itself - but there's an even bigger message. Showing concern for children involves far more than avoiding causes for guilt or regret. For every opportunity to keep something bad from happening to a child, there are a hundred chances to do something good. And a simple act of kindness or a simple gift of time can stretch as far into the future as any evil deed.

The best, and maybe the only way to push back the long shadow cast by the crimes against Moss is to mourn her by showing some form of generosity toward a child.
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Title Annotation:Editorials; A brain-damaged victim dies 16 years later
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jul 6, 2007
Next Article:The eagle soars.

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