The High Cost of Dysfunction

***Graphic Content Warning***

Dan O’Donnell on the horrific murder of a child and the need for societal enforcement of behavioral norms.

Nov. 1, 2023
Perspective by Dan O’Donnell

The grisly details rival the goriest of horror films: A five-year-old boy beaten to death by two depraved monsters armed with a golf club, a barbell, and even a concrete birdbath pedestal; his tiny body wrapped in garbage bags and unceremoniously dropped in a dumpster.  Scarier still, the evil that killed little Prince McCree was coming from inside his house.

He wasn’t just brutally murdered; he was brutally murdered in the place he should have felt safest by a pair of ghouls, those he should have felt safest with chose to surround him with.  This was dysfunction in the extreme—shocking and unique because of its deadly outcome but truly terrifying because of how common it has become.

According to a criminal complaint released this week, Prince stayed home from school last Wednesday because he had a sore throat.  He wanted to play video games in the basement, but in his dysfunctional home, the basement was where a random 27-year-old named David Pietura was living.

Pietura, of course, didn’t work.  He told police after Prince’s disappearance that he spends most days playing video games.  On Wednesday, Prince apparently wanted to play with him, so he walked past the dining room—where another random person, Michelle Mendoza and her 15-year-old son Erik were living.

Prince McCree is the 21st child to be murdered in Milwaukee so far in 2023.

This was Prince’s life, a random mishmash of people strewn about, mixed with a faint hope that none of them would ever harm him.  Where was his mother?  Sound asleep.  On the day he died, she didn’t wake up until about 1pm.

If this sounds judgmental, it should.  This was no way for a child to live, and it didn’t have to be a way for one to die.  Society didn’t fail Prince McCree.  Neither did the system.  Those he loved and depended on did.

The day before Prince was reported missing, Mendoza went on a stabbing spree with his butterfly knife, brazenly attacking three people just because, as he later told police, he “was bored” and “wanted to stab someone badly.”

First, he assaulted a man who “was just sitting there on his phone,” stabbing him in the back, and then stabbed another man who happened to be walking past in the spine.  A few minutes later, he stabbed a woman who was sitting at a bus stop a few blocks away.

With his bloodlust apparently not satiated, the following day he attacked Prince in their basement, at first choking him and then bashing his skull with a pitching wedge.  Mendoza, investigators concluded, never liked Prince and had previously discussed killing him.

No one in the home, sadly, seemed to take his threats seriously or took any steps to protect Prince.

When Pietura heard the commotion from Mendoza’s attack, the complaint alleges, he didn’t try to pull the teenager off Prince, but instead joined in the assault, taking turns with Mendoza hitting Prince’s head with the golf club.  When that failed to kill him, Pietura allegedly dropped a 30-pound barbell on his head and, when the boy was still alive, dropped a concrete pedestal from a birdbath on him.  It was only when they started wrapping him in garbage bags, they told police, that Prince appeared to die.

Both Pietura and Mendoza have confessed to authorities and while both enjoy the presumption of innocence until formally proven guilty either through a plea or jury verdict, they are nothing short of monsters.  Their seemingly random attack, immediately preceded by Mendoza’s stabbing spree, evinces a level of wickedness that most cannot comprehend.

Tragically, far too many in homes just like Prince’s have to live with nearly identical dysfunction.  To be sure, almost none will suffer his gruesome fate, but all have been condemned to live in environments that are thoroughly unsuitable for children.

Violence, drug use, physical, verbal, and even sexual abuse run rampant in homes like these, and yet society is unable to protect children from them out of fear of being called racist or classist.  Government could not have protected Prince McCree—in order to remove him from the home, someone would have had to first file a complaint—so his family bore the responsibility of keeping him safe.  They failed.

It’s okay to say they failed.  That isn’t heartless victim-blaming; it’s the cold, heartbreaking reality.  Prince should not have been made to live in a house with a bloodthirsty teenager living in his dining room and an equally monstrous twentysomething in his basement.  No child should.

Society didn’t kill Prince McCree.  Neither did poverty or racism or any other socioeconomic construct that is often blamed for extreme familial dysfunction.  Two inhuman monsters welcomed into the flophouse Prince was forced to call a home did.

Society didn’t kill Prince McCree. Neither did poverty or racism or any other socioeconomic construct that is often blamed for extreme familial dysfunction. Two inhuman monsters welcomed into the flophouse Prince was forced to call a home did.

Prince McCree is the 21st child to be murdered in Milwaukee so far in 2023.  Since the beginning of 2020, when progressive America launched its most recent (and most devastating) crusade to decriminalize crime in the wake of George Floyd’s death, 96 children have fallen victim to homicide—an average of 24 per year and many the victims of domestic abuse just like Prince.

In the four years immediately preceding 2020, there were 34 children killed—an average of just 8.5 per year.  How did child homicides spike by a mind-blowing 182% so quickly?  In large measure, progressive America stopped arresting, charging, convicting, and sentencing hardened criminals, putting them back on the streets where they could victimize more children.

Neither Mendoza nor Pietura, however, had prior criminal records and no one, it seemed, could have predicted their heinous crimes.  That may be true, but the easiest prediction in the world is that random people living in a house with a young child is not at all an appropriate environment for said child.  Given the obvious contempt both Pietura and Mendoza had for him, it is all but certain that Prince was subjected to all manner of torment before his murder.

A dangerous corollary to the left’s war on criminal judgment since George Floyd is its war on societal judgment of patently dysfunctional, perilously deviant lifestyle choices—especially those that endanger children.  Sticking up for them and insisting on safe environments for them has now more than ever become socially taboo, which means it is more vital now than it ever has been.

Once upon a time, social order was upheld not through government mandate but through the reward and punishment of peer judgment.  The pressure of some modicum of social conformity is not and never has been the problem; the “do what you feel without fear of judgment” has.  Especially when children are involved, basic behavioral expectations must be enforced without regard to whose feelings get hurt.

People, particularly children, are getting hurt (and worse) because of the fear of calling out societal dysfunction.  That has to change, and it has to change now.  There is simply too much at stake for it not to.