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  • Leonard Little 10 years later

    http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/spo...C?OpenDocument


    Little feels pain of his actions 10 years later
    By Bryan Burwell
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    05/02/2008


    The 10- and 11-year-old boys say they know all about him. They know he is a larger-than-life football star who makes millions of dollars, performs in giant stadiums and races across their television screens on Sundays.

    They are sixth- and seventh-graders at the Loyola Academy of St. Louis, a small all-boys Jesuit middle school that sits in the shadows of the Fox Theatre. They sit in this brightly lit classroom with their eager faces, their blue polo shirts and beige khaki pants, and are giggling and joking. They have been keenly anticipating the arrival of the tall, muscular man in the loose-fitting jeans, starched striped cotton shirt and spotless white Nike sneakers who has just walked into the room.

    "I want to tell you guys a story," Leonard Little said in a gentle voice spiced with a soft Southern lilt.

    The boys stop giggling and they snap to attention as Little sits on the top step of a three-tiered choir riser, leans his back against the dry eraser board and settles under a 12-inch-long silver crucifix.

    You can draw your own conclusions about the symbolism of this juxtaposition, but it's impossible to ignore it because Little had come to this classroom to pay for his sins.

    "I want you guys to pay attention to what I'm about to say," he said.

    You could hear in his voice how uncomfortable he was. He stuttered a bit, occasionally looking into the audience to establish eye contact with a friend for some reassurance that he was saying all the right things. But the longer he spoke, you could also hear the eagerness in his voice, too. These were words and emotions that he was aching to get out of his gut. He's been keeping this pain inside for a long time, and even if it sounded a bit uncomfortable, it felt liberating.

    "Please don't do what I did," he said. "I killed someone and I constantly think about the hurt I caused that family. I'm not a bad person, but I made a bad decision, and it cost someone her life and ruined her family's lives. You don't want that burden on you."

    Even if you don't want to forgive him, Leonard Little wants to say he's sorry, and it has taken him nearly 10 years to get up the nerve to do this publicly.

    So what we witnessed on this Tuesday afternoon was another phase in the personal penance the Rams defensive end is paying as retribution for the fateful night of Oct. 19, 1998, when he climbed behind the wheel of his Lincoln Navigator and made two fateful turns out of a hotel parking area, then struck and killed Susan Gutweiler.

    The toxicology reports said Little was drunk, and he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served 90 days in jail. There are plenty of angry people out there who think Little got off easy, that his sentence was too short, that the punishment didn't fit the crime. It might surprise you to know that for a long time, Leonard Little was one of those people.

    "A few weeks later, I tried to kill myself," he said Tuesday afternoon as he sat inside the principal's office sipping bottled water. "I had gone back home to my mom's house outside Knoxville (Tenn.), and the first thing I did was just go down in her basement. It had no windows, just a bathroom, a sink and a television. I stayed in the dark for days. All I did was cry. I couldn't deal with what I'd done."

    His mother could see the pain eating away at him. His mother made him go see a psychologist in Knoxville. He saw her four or five days a week. One day in broad daylight as he was driving a little rental Toyota on his way home from the psychologist's office, still unable to shed the guilt, Little stared at the tall trees that lined both sides of the highway.

    "It was like I was in one of those movies where the good angel is on one shoulder and the bad one's on the other," he said. "Well the bad one kept telling me, 'Just go ahead Leonard, turn the wheel. It'll be easy. Crash into those trees and all this pain will be over.'"

    As Little talked, he held his hands out in front of him like he was driving.

    "I actually did turn the wheel," he said. "I did it. I tried to end my life. I swerved the steering wheel. But like I said, I guess there was a good angel on my other shoulder, because just as soon as I swerved, I turned the wheel right back."

    When he got home, he told his mother what he almost did.

    "I was ready to end my life, Mom," he said.

    "All she did was look at me and say, 'Do you want your daughter to live like you did without a father (his father left his house shortly after he was born)?' I said no. Then she said, 'Well you can't kill yourself. You can't do that to her.' I told her I wouldn't do it again, but I still went back into that basement in the dark."

    He tells the schoolboys this story:

    "I want to give you an example of my life," he said. "I don't ever want you to do what I did or have to feel what I feel because it's not an easy thing to deal with. I killed someone and I think about it every day."

    He knows the Gutweiler family will never forgive him and he understands. He wants them to forgive him, but "It's not in my hands. I understand what they're going through. If or when they decide they're ready to forgive me, well that's all in their hands."

    But in the meantime, he suffers privately every day. October 19th will haunt him the rest of his life. It is his birthday, and he says he hates his birthday.

    "I don't celebrate it," he said. "I don't want anyone to give me presents. What's there to celebrate? It's an annual reminder of what I did. My mom tried to give me a surprise party a few years ago and we got into a big fight over it."

    On every Sunday Rams home game, he will drive past that corner that changed his life on his way from the team hotel to the Edward Jones Dome.

    Is that a coincidence, he's asked?

    "Not exactly," he said. "I could go any number of ways to the game. I go because I need to remind myself of what I did."

    Guilt is a powerful force. It does things to your head and your heart that you are often unprepared for. In the fall of 2005, Little had contemplated bringing his younger brother to live with him in St. Louis.

    "I knew he was running the streets back and home getting into no good, and I thought maybe if I got him up here I could save him," Little said. "But then folks started talking to me and suggested that if he came up here, he might still get in trouble. And now it's here and it would stick to me. So I decided that it wasn't such a good idea."

    A few weeks later, his brother was killed near Knoxville by a female acquaintance.

    "For a while I felt a little guilt," he said. "But the truth is, I probably couldn't have saved him."

    The woman who shot Little's brother was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, and Leonard Little was faced with one of those defining twists of fate.

    Now it was his turn to forgive someone for killing someone he loved. Could he do it?

    "I couldn't be mad with her," he said. "The Bible always talks about forgiveness and I am not a perfect man. I had no choice. What happened to her already happened to me, too. How could I not forgive her after all that had happened to me?"

  • #2
    Shouldn't this be merged with the beer sampling thread?




    Too little taste on my part?
    On my mind: How can I shut up the singing English graduate student? How many more lossess will KU's basketball team have than its football team? How will the Rams front office screw up this year?


    Official lounge sponsor of Will Witherspoon, Russell Robinson, and all other things Jayhawk at the lounge (which ain't much).

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    • #3
      Originally posted by chiguy View Post
      Shouldn't this be merged with the beer sampling thread?




      Too little taste on my part?
      Why not, it seems to be all the rage nowadays to laugh at other people's misfortune.
      Make America Great For Once.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Bleacher Creature View Post
        Why not, it seems to be all the rage nowadays to laugh at other people's misfortune.

        How is Leonard unfortunate here? I thought you believed in personal choice.
        On my mind: How can I shut up the singing English graduate student? How many more lossess will KU's basketball team have than its football team? How will the Rams front office screw up this year?


        Official lounge sponsor of Will Witherspoon, Russell Robinson, and all other things Jayhawk at the lounge (which ain't much).

        Comment


        • #5
          Good story.

          I hope the family can forgive him, and I hope he can forgive himself.
          His mind is not for rent, to any god or government.
          Pointless debate is what we do here -- lvr

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by chiguy View Post
            How is Leonard unfortunate here? I thought you believed in personal choice.
            Don't put words in my mouth. The entire situation is unfortunate, especially the death of Ms. Guttweiler.

            But what good does it do any of us to hold unforgiveness? Seriously, that only hurts us, the person we're not forgiving has moved on. That's trrue in every situation.
            Make America Great For Once.

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            • #7
              Jesus Christ almighty, I asked a question and offered a conjecture. I didn't put words into your mouth. For someone who puts on the face of forgiveness, you sure as hell are quick to judge.

              And I was making fun of Leonard, who by the way did the same thing again afterwards, no Susan Guttweiller or her family. Lighten up.
              On my mind: How can I shut up the singing English graduate student? How many more lossess will KU's basketball team have than its football team? How will the Rams front office screw up this year?


              Official lounge sponsor of Will Witherspoon, Russell Robinson, and all other things Jayhawk at the lounge (which ain't much).

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by chiguy View Post
                Jesus Christ almighty, I asked a question and offered a conjecture. I didn't put words into your mouth. For someone who puts on the face of forgiveness, you sure as hell are quick to judge.

                And I was making fun of Leonard, who by the way did the same thing again afterwards, no Susan Guttweiller or her family. Lighten up.
                Can I have your miter saw after Kev kills you?

                Moon

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                • #9
                  I'm glad Leonard is finally dealing with this and meeting with kids to tell them about the mistakes he made. If I was the Gutweiler family, though, I would wonder why it took him 10 years to start doing this.
                  Official sponsor of Mike Shannon's Retirement Party

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Moon Man View Post
                    Can I have your miter saw after Kev kills you?

                    Moon
                    Only because I won't cuddle with you after we do it.
                    On my mind: How can I shut up the singing English graduate student? How many more lossess will KU's basketball team have than its football team? How will the Rams front office screw up this year?


                    Official lounge sponsor of Will Witherspoon, Russell Robinson, and all other things Jayhawk at the lounge (which ain't much).

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by chiguy View Post
                      Jesus Christ almighty, I asked a question and offered a conjecture. I didn't put words into your mouth. For someone who puts on the face of forgiveness, you sure as hell are quick to judge.

                      And I was making fun of Leonard, who by the way did the same thing again afterwards, no Susan Guttweiller or her family. Lighten up.
                      I don't see the point in making fun of him, either. Yes, he did do another DWI a little later, but I'm hoping that he finally allowed common sense to kick in. Some people drink out of depression, even though they look like they may be having a good time. Maybe that's what happened on the second time, I don't know. But I'm pulling for him to defeat his personal demons.
                      Make America Great For Once.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Who said I'm not rooting for him? It doesn't mean I can't make fun of him too.
                        On my mind: How can I shut up the singing English graduate student? How many more lossess will KU's basketball team have than its football team? How will the Rams front office screw up this year?


                        Official lounge sponsor of Will Witherspoon, Russell Robinson, and all other things Jayhawk at the lounge (which ain't much).

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Trade his ass.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by FatherDemon View Post
                            Trade his ass.

                            For Lito Sheppard

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by chiguy View Post
                              Who said I'm not rooting for him? It doesn't mean I can't make fun of him too.
                              Well, you see, if you don't make fun of him then that will be one less person that Little doesn't know making fun of him.

                              Think of all of the good that you could do for Little by not making fun of him.

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