The trial of Dylan Tate for the February 2018 murder of 18-month-old Harlan Haines opened old wounds in the community, and two similar trials are slate for this summer.
While the most severe punishment allowed by law should be invoked for those found guilty in these cases, the community must focus on curing the ills of child abuse and neglect so that other children don't suffer the fate of Harlan, Paisley Hudson and Ryder Stephen.
Ryan Ramirez, charged in the death of 23-month-old Paisley in July 2018, will stand trial in September. Alyson Stephen and Jacob Wootton, charged in the death of 23-month-old Ryder, will go before a jury in August.
Tate was convicted June 14 of murdering Harlan. He was also found guilty of felony neglect of a dependent resulting in death, felony child molesting and two charges related to drunken driving. He faces life imprisonment without parole.
Harlan's mother and Tate's girlfriend, Jennifer Harris, is charged with felony neglect of a dependent resulting in her son's death. Her trial date has not been set.
The abuse and neglect that little Harlan endured have been well documented in The Herald Bulletin's coverage.
On the night of his death, evidence shows a drunken Tate battered him and stuffed paper towel down his throat to stop his crying. Then, when Harlan wasn't breathing, Tate stuck him in the car and intentionally crashed into a pole to make it look like the collision had killed the child.
Doctors found evidence of past physical and sexual abuse on the child's body.
The emotions of the trial bubbled from the courtroom and spilled over into the community. On Facebook, some called for Tate to be tortured in prison or put to death.
While anger is a natural reaction, the community must dig at the roots of child abuse and neglect.
Substance abuse, poor parenting skills, mental illness, poverty and lack of education are among the contributing factors. Many perpetrators were abused as children; that's not an excuse, but it is a reality and a predictor of violence against children.
How many more children out there in Madison County are in danger of dying from neglect and abuse? How many more out there will survive but carry emotional scars that render them a danger to the next generation of children?
It will take a continued, concerted effort across the community to stop child abuse and neglect. Social services, health-care providers, police, schools and others must step to the fore.
The children of Madison County are counting on us.
To read related news reports, search for "Harlan Haines," "Paisley Hudson," and "Ryder Stephen" at heraldbulletin.com.