The lost boys
The Terrible Boy Remember bullies? There's now a movement to legislate them out of existence. This is a story about what children do to other children
and what happens when we decide that children deserve to be treated precisely like adults.
by Tom Junod | Oct 01 '02 | Esquire Magazine
THERE IS NOTHING ON THIS EARTH SO TERRIBLE AS A TERRIBLE BOY.
A terrible boy has
learned the specifics of Cruelty without learning the generality of mercy. A terrible boy worships what is worst In himself end despises what is best. A terrible boy is alienated by his own sense of enmity and seeks connection
through the certainties of slaughter. A terrible boy makes even ants his enemies, for he wishes above all to make his enemies ants--and to entertain himself by squashing them both. When a terrible boy closes his hand, he finds a fist;
when he opens it, he finds a rock. So terrible are terrible boys that armies the world over have discovered the utility of using them to do their bidding. So terrible are terrible boys that aboriginal tribes used to dispatch them on
impossible and solitary missions, hoping they would come back tempered by quest and grown into men. We, who demand something softer from our civilization, have no such uses for terrible boys and no such rituals. Instead, we
call them bullies and by new and coming consensus seek to outlaw them.
Was Jonathan Miller a terrible boy? Was he mean enough, hard enough, heartless enough? Did he hate enough?
Maybe not. Probably not. Unlike many a terrible boy, he had his sympathies. He loved animals. He loved his family and his friends. He loved the downtrodden and was known to stand up for them when the terrible boys came
calling. He was a Boy Scout, for God's sake. He just didn't want to go to school, and, more particularly, he didn't want to go to school in Cherokee County, Georgia. He was from New York, you see. He'd lived happily near
Kingston, just upstate from New York City, where he was born. When his father, who worked for a large computer company, transferred to Woodstock, on what used to be the outer edge of Atlanta, he asked to stay in New York
with his grandparents. When his parents refused his request, he took on the trappings of the terrible, hoping somehow to achieve by negative means what he couldn't by positive-hoping to force his parents' hand by getting
What did he do? Oh, the usual, his parents say-kid stuff. He shot spitballs. He mouthed off to teachers, often
profanely. He farted in a kid's face when he was at the blackboard. He flicked at a kid's ears with a sharp snap of his fingers. He slapped a gym ball out of a girl's grasp. He took up residence in the principal's office, then sampled both
forms of suspension, "in school" and "at home." Thirty-odd times, Robin and Alan Miller were called with regard to their son's behavior, but never did they concede that he was a terrible boy, and though he came damn close to
getting kicked out of E. T. Booth Middle School, Jonathan seemed to calm down when he moved on to Etowah High, except on the school bus. He didn't like riding the bus, for his brother had a car, and so he adopted the same
strategy with regard to the bus that he had once employed with regard to middle school: He pursued the possibility of forced exile. He sat in the back and raised hell, causing the rest of the riders--who were generally students at E.T.
Booth rather than Etowah and a year or so younger than Jonathan--to cringe when he got on. Indeed, for the purposes of achieving a triumphant suspension, he carried in his pockets mustard and ketchup packets he obtained
from the school cafeteria, and on November 2,1998, he may--or may not--have thrown one at the head of a boy
sitting a few rows in front of him, an eighth-grader named Joshua Belluardo.
It was not, in and of itself, the offense--even in light of what was to happen--of a terrible boy. First of all, the
boy who was sitting next to Jonathan swears to this day that whatever was thrown at Josh was thrown by someone else. Second, Josh didn't like Jonathan any more than Jonathan liked Josh. They lived one house away from each
other on a cul-de-sac called Shallow Cove, and though they were friendly enough when Jonathan first moved in--Josh Belluardo being in Jonathan's recollection the first boy he met when he moved to Georgia--they quickly
accepted the terms of mutual estrangement. They were just very different, and out of difference grew dislike. Josh was established in the neighborhood; Jon was new. Josh was quiet, while Jonathan had, in the words of his mother,
"a mouth on him." Josh was athletic; Jon preferred those activities in which he could keep to himself--camping, swimming. For reasons only they could know, they had been edging toward a fight for years, and on this day, when
Josh accused Jonathan of throwing the mustard packet, Jonathan challenged him to fight, and Josh answered by inviting him to fight in his yard. When the bus stopped at the corner of Shallow Cove and Driftwood Drive, Josh
got off first and cut across a neighbor's lawn on the way to his house. Jonathan, following behind him, closed his right hand and found a fist. He took five or six accelerating steps to close the gap between them. Then, with
gathered momentum--and without a word of warning--he smote Josh Belluardo in the back of his head and became in that one terrible instant a terrible boy. No, he became more than that: For the purposes of the school, for the
purposes of the state, and for the purposes of the media he became a bully, and as a bully, he became, barely one month past his fifteenth birthday, a man who committed murder.
THIS IS A STORY ABOUT cruelty and mercy. It is a story about the mercy available to the cruel, and how it--
or its absence--shapes not only the lives of American boys, terrible and otherwise, but American boyhood itself. We
in America today are deciding not to extend mercy to boys in their common cruelty, and as a result, a boy perceived as cruel--Jonathan Miller--is, in the eyes of the law, no longer a boy at all. When I was a boy, we were at the mercy
of the cruel, for the cruel were only at the mercy of, well, themselves. There was no stopping them if they didn't want to be stopped. Our freedoms were genuine, but they were achieved at terrible cost: the cost of terrible boys.
This is a story, then, about what we disallow when we try to disallow terrible boys. It is a story not just of one terrible boy but of two, and of the mercies lost when we assume that terrible boys must be terrible forever.
Jonathan Miller is one of this story's terrible boys. I am the other. For a brief time, I was a terrible boy. I was a
terrible boy to a boy named, for the purposes of this story, Timmy Titimski. I wasn't terrible to anyone else; I wasn't
big enough, or strong enough, or powerful enough, or scary enough. I didn't even know that I was a terrible boy until Timmy Titimski sat in front of me in the fifth grade. I was smart, I was studious, I was obedient in a
particularly Catholic way. When Timmy Titimski sat in front of me, though, I was transformed. It wasn't simply that he was smaller than I was, or that I was bigger, stronger, more powerful--scarier--than he was. It was that he made
me feel bigger, stronger, more powerful--scarier. He was new, if I remember correctly. He was scant on friends, so I had him all to myself. He asked me one day what my favorite song was. He volunteered that his own favorite was
"Snoopy vs. the Red Baron," and I remember still the distaste he aroused. Timmy Titimski? Timmy Titimski was
just a baby, and from that observation--that information--I deduced what it was that Timmy Titimski did. what it was I could make him do. Timmy Titimski was a baby, and so I could make him do what babies do. I could make
It took me a while to test my thesis. For most of the year, I kept it to myself, as my own little secret, until one
day a spitball fight broke out in my class. We had a lot of spitball fights in the fifth grade. Our teacher had died of a heart attack before Christmas, and so we were often stewarded by substitutes. Fifth grade was one frenzied
crossfire, but on this day, when I saw Timmy Titimski standing against the blackboard, the chaos dimmed and clarity took over. The crowded classroom consisted suddenly of me and him, and so what I did was stand in front
of him and methodically paint his face with spitballs. He didn't fight back or raise a straw of his own. He just stood there, as if counting on the extent of my mercy, and what he faced instead was the compass of my cruelty. He did
nothing to stop me, and for some reason his lack of resistance stoked not pity in me but rage. I just kept going, framing the blackboard behind his head with threads of spit--my spit--that in time ran like black tears. He didn't cry,
though, not at first. A teacher was returning to our class after lunch, and to protect me--yes, me--and my terrible endeavor, a group of boys closed around me--us--in a semicircle. Thus insulated, I was emboldened and inspired,
and when I found a wad of tinfoil, I twisted a piece between my fingers and with a mighty puff of breath shot the silver spur at an imagined bull's-eye at the center of Timmy Titimski's forehead. The shot hit its target, and the
tinfoil bounced off the little red mark it had imprinted in Timmy Titimski's skin. It must have hurt a little; he must have felt something of a nip, but that didn't explain what happened next. No, as I think of it now, he was not so
much a baby as he was an innocent, with as little resistance to true cruelty as an American Indian had to smallpox. He simply had no immunity to what I was all about, and when he saw what I was all about--when he saw the face of
the terrible boy before him--well, he didn't merely cry, and I didn't merely make him cry. I hit a gusher.
What began that day lasted at least a year, or maybe as long as a year and a half--well into sixth grade. I had
never known that I was a predator, but now I had found my prey. I was a bully in the truest sense of the word, which is to say the modern sense of the word, which is to say the sense of the word as now defined by activists and
experts whose studies have helped frame the debate about the justice deserved by Jonathan Miller. I selected a victim based on what I perceived as a disparity in power, and I measured my power by the pain I could inflict.
Indeed, the more I've come to understand about bullying, the more I've come to understand that I was more of a bully in my relationship with Timmy Titimski than Jonathan Miller ever was in his relationship with Joshua
Belluardo, and so, when it came to the question of mercy for Jonathan Miller--the question of mercy for terrible boys in general--I decided to call the one expert whose qualifications I personally accredited. I decided to call
YOU REMEMBER THEM, of course. You remember the bullies; you remember the terrible boys. If you were
unlucky, you remember your own personal terrible boy, the one designed for you like a bullet with your name on it.
How could you forget him? He made you. He helped form you, and for all his cruelties, he helped you grow up by
standing like a sentry on the road to adulthood. Once you made it past him, you were home free.
What you don't remember is a school like Etowah High, in the town of Woodstock, in the county of Cherokee,
in the state of Georgia. Etowah is where Jonathan Miller went to school. It is where Josh Belluardo--as a student at E. T. Booth Middle School--would have gone to school if Jonathan's punch hadn't killed him. Etowah is a large
school in what used to be a rural community, turned now, like the rest of America, into a shopping opportunity. Occupying the center of what might be termed a sprawling "educational complex," it is flanked by, and shares
school buses with, both E. T. Booth Middle School and Chapman Intermediate School. Because it is riven with some of America's trembly little fault lines-between the people who have lived there for a long time, the people who
have recently moved there, and the people just passing through--Etowah is institutional in feel and corporate in intent. It is a school that prides itself on giving its students choices, and so it is a school where many students
choose to remain insulated by nothing but their own anonymity. It is, in other words, absolutely average, a school not unlike, say, Columbine, outside of Denver. Its homogeneity accentuates disparity, and disparity presents the
terrible boys their opportunities to be terrible. It is at schools like Etowah--not to mention Columbine-where bullying mutated from individual incidents to a social and political issue, because it is at schools like Etowah where
the nature of bullying is said by activists and legislators to have changed. It is at schools like Etowah where bullies went from being objects of dread and nostalgia to objects of necessary quarantine, because it is at Etowah High
School where bullying, in fact, turned into a fatal exercise, not just in the case of Jonathan Miller, but before him, in the case of Brian Head.
You remember Brian Head, and if you don't, you remember someone just like him. If the bully was eternal, so
was he; he was the kid the bullies picked on. At E. T. Booth and then at Etowah, he was not only a victim, his
victimization was accepted as part of the natural order. He was overweight, and he wore thick glasses. He was quiet, clumsy, and kind hearted. He attended special-education classes and hurried home. His father, Bill Head, thought
that Brian loved being home simply because he loved his family, loved the outdoors, and loved his life. He did not suspect what he would find out later--that "Brian loved being home because school was such a nightmare." In the
fall of 1993, when Brian came home from school bloodied, his father accepted a teacher's explanation--that Brian was a boy, and boys got into fights--and did not suspect that Brian had gotten bloodied because Brian was
considered prey at Etowah. And of course Bill did not suspect that one morning Brian would secret his father's gun in his book bag and take it to economics class. How could he suspect something like that? Brian was not a terrible
boy; he was intent on taking a stand against the terrible boys. He was in class when one of the terrible boys--a "well-known bully," in Bill Head's words--slapped a kid in the face. Brian came to the kid's defense, as perhaps he had
hoped someone would come one day to his. "Hey, pick on someone your own size," is what Bill Head says his son said to the terrible boy. The terrible boy complied and slapped Brian. Brian responded by taking the gun out of his
book bag. As his classmates scattered and fled, Brian pointed the gun at the terrible boy and pulled the trigger. The gun did not go off; no bullet was chambered. Brian pointed the gun at his head. "I'm sick of it," he said and once
again pulled the trigger. This time, a bullet was chambered. This time, the gun went off, and Brian Head, fifteen
He was the first at Etowah-first at a school where there would be a second--and he was also the first nationally.
After Brian came the deluge. After Brian Head brought his gun to school at Etowah, boys brought their guns to school in Paducah, Kentucky; in Jonesboro, Arkansas; in Springfield, Oregon; in Pearl, Mississippi; in Littleton,
Colorado; and in Conyers, Georgia. They all succeeded where Brian failed-their guns all had chambered rounds--and they are all remembered as the very essence of terrible boys. What Bill Head discerned in what most citizens
saw as random slaughter, however, was a pattern that started with a constant. "There is no doubt in my mind that bullying and peer abuse are at the heart of most schoolyard tragedies," he says. "Schools have failed to protect the
children in their care. A kid comes home bloodied, they say he got into a fight. It doesn't matter if he started it or not. It doesn't matter if he was getting picked on. The victim is just as guilty as the perpetrator. No wonder kids
After Brian's death, Bill started a foundation called Kids Hope and poured his savings into a video aimed,
essentially, at teaching schoolchildren the mechanics of mercy. He also urged schools to begin making sure "seven-year-olds receive the same basic protections as seventy-year-olds," and to winnow the merciful from the cruel by
treating "fights" as instances of battery, as instances of assault. as outright attacks. Although he would never have as much effect as Brian himself-for it was Brian who spoke most eloquently and whose effect was indelible--he was,
like Brian, at the head of what would become a groundswell, of what would become, indeed, a movement. As schoolyards became venues of slaughter, the role of the bully became the one issue that generated anything
approaching consensus. The issues of handgun availability and the influence of violence on television and in the movies polarized liberals and conservatives along predictable lines. Bullies, though--well, bullies were bad. An
antibullying movement flourished because there could be no pro-bullying movement, and by its terms, we can no longer afford to consider bullying an inevitable if unfortunate fact of childhood. What do bullies do? They hurt
children. They cause lasting and in some cases fatal damage. They must be stopped, and it is quite simply our moral obligation to stop them, even though they are of course children themselves.
"I used to be able to light up a cigarette in a department store or at the end of a dinner party," says Cindi
Seddon of Bully B'ware, an organization at the forefront of antibullying education. "Now the first is against the law,
and the second is stigmatized. That's what I would like to see happen with bullying." Based outside Vancouver, Canada, and started by Seddon and her partners in response to the spate of schoolyard shootings and suicides, Bully
B'ware has distributed its videotapes and teaching tools to schools across North America and has helped implement antibullying programs. Central to the Bully B'ware mission are two observations that Bully B'ware has itself helped
turn into gospel: one, that the bullies who roam the halls of schools like Etowah and Columbine are not the same as the bullies you remember--that the bullies who used to stop at intimidation now don't stop at all; and, two, that
bullying is linked to criminality, as both a precursor and an actual manifestation. The Bully B'ware Web site cites a statistic holding that by age twenty-four, "60 percent of all people identified as childhood bullies have at least one
criminal conviction," and in conversation Cindi Seddon notes that jails are filled with criminals who got started as
Are such statistics reliable? Well, Jonathan Miller was identified as a childhood bully and at age eighteen does, in
fact, have at least one criminal conviction. The question, though, is whether he was convicted as a murderer because he was identified as a childhood bully. The question is whether he was convicted as an adult because he went to
Etowah High School, which was haunted by the death of Brian Head. The question is whether he was convicted as a criminal because the death of Brian Head--along with the deaths of far too many others--had forced our culture to
change its mind about bullying and to view it as an act that was in and of itself criminal. The question is whether he was sentenced to life in prison because he stood as indisputable proof of the newly advanced thesis that bullying
IT IS MARCH 29, 2002, when Bill Head tells me, in a restaurant in Cherokee County, Georgia, not so far from
where his son, Brian, and then Josh Belluardo fell dead, what he thinks he knows about Jonathan Miller. "The boy was already a career criminal by the time he murdered Josh," he says. "It was no accidental thing. He used to take an
extra lap in the school bus just so he could terrorize kids." He is a big man, thick and dense--so big, in fact, that he never had to deal with bullies when he went to school, because bullies never wanted to deal with him. He wears a
broad-brimmed brown hat and sports a thick red beard, and squeezed between the beard and the hat are small and steady blue eyes that are clearly the eyes of a man who has never hurt another soul by intention in his entire life.
There is an inkling in him of the man Brian Head might have become if he had survived the trials of his adolescence, and toward the end of the interview, I ask him the date of Brian's death. "March 28, 1994," he says,
and seems startled when he says it--no, rattled. In the deep sigh that follows his answer, tears storm his eyes. "So, eight years ago yesterday," he says. "You picked a good day for your interview." Suddenly, the interview is over, for
when we stand up to leave, the tears are still shining in the shadow of his hat, and I don't have the heart to ask him the one question I had left to ask. His son was dead. The only solace left to him was that he was able to list Brian
among the merciful, among the legions of those beset by the cruel, but from what I knew of adolescence, I knew that sometimes all that separates the cruel from the merciful is one irrevocable moment. In class that day, there
were two such moments for Brian Head. In the first, the gun didn't go off. In the second, it did, and what I wanted to ask Bill Head was if he ever allowed himself to wonder what fate would have befallen his family had a bullet been
chambered in Brian's gun when he pointed it at the boy who slapped him. if he ever allowed himself to think that his son was just one irrevocable moment from being remembered not as one of the victims of the terrible boys but
ON NOVEMBER 2, 1998, Jonathan Miller and Joshua Belluardo each had their irrevocable moment. That's all
it was, really; think how long it takes to throw a punch. Because the moment was irrevocable, however, people asked how long Jonathan had had that punch in him and started focusing not on the irrevocable moment but rather
Here is the irrevocable moment. Two boys, Josh and Jonathan, neighbors but not friends, two grades apart in
school and fifteen months apart in age, get on Cherokee County school bus number 155, which serves both E. T. Booth Middle School and Etowah High School. Josh sits in what may be roughly defined as the middle of the bus.
Jonathan sits in the back with his friend James Nachtsheim. They are supposed to go camping that night near a local lake, and they start discussing their plans. Or, rather, they start discussing their plans until their general urge to make
trouble--to mess around on the school bus--distracts them. They begin throwing packets of ketchup and mustard at some of the other boys, and the other boys start throwing packets of ketchup and mustard at them. Out of the
fracas, one of the packets hits Josh in the back of his head. Later, some of the kids will say that Jonathan threw it; James Nachtsheim will say he didn't. It doesn't really matter. This is their moment, the moment they've been
heading for ever since the Miller family moved to Shallow Cove, one house away from the Belluardos. Josh turns around and glares at Jonathan. Jonathan responds by asking him to fight, right there on the school bus. Josh accepts
his challenge but specifies that the fight will take place not on the bus but on his front lawn, after they get off. "All right, bitch," Jonathan says. "All right, faggot." "Are you gonna kick his ass, Jon?" one of the kids asks. "Yeah, I'm
gonna kick his ass," Jonathan answers. "How you gonna kick his ass, Jon?" the kid asks. "I don't know," Jonathan says, and later, at the trial, one kid will say that Jonathan articulated the idea: "Maybe I'll hit him from behind."
Bus number 155 turns into the Port Victoria subdivision and stops at Shallow Cove. Josh gets off the bus and
heads for his front lawn. Jonathan follows, with James Nachtsheim following behind him. Jonathan rushes up
behind Josh and hits him in the back of his head before he ever reaches his front lawn. Josh slumps to his knees, Jonathan takes another swing and hits his face, Joshua falls to his neighbor's grass, and Jonathan kicks him in the
side. The fight, in Jonathan's mind, is over, and he may or may not stand over Josh, raising his fists in exultation. Then it really is over: Jonathan and James leave Josh behind and go to Jonathan's house to prepare their camping
gear. They don't mention the "fight"--or what prosecutors will later call "the assault"; the Belluardos, "the attack"; and the Millers, "the incident" or "the accident"--to Jonathan's father when they say hello to him, and then, as is
their custom, they head for the woods in back of the Millers' house. Someone standing on Shallow Cove sees them and calls Jonathan's name. Jonathan hears the anger in the voice, sees the outlines of the storm gathering where
Josh fell, and runs. He hides with James in a culvert in the woods, then sneaks off to a friend's house. By now, he knows he is in trouble, but he can't imagine what kind; he can't imagine that his trouble is irrevocable, because he
can't imagine that his moment was irrevocable: "I didn't think I hit him that hard," he will say later. Certainly, he can't imagine that his first punch opened a microscopic tear in Josh's vertebral artery, and so by the time he threw
his second punch, blood was flooding Josh's brain, and so by the time he kicked Josh in the side, Josh was, for all intents and purposes, already dead. He can't imagine Josh turning purple on the grass, or Josh's sister, Katie, crying
over him and begging her brother to live, or Josh's mother, a bus driver for the Cherokee County schools, hearing about what was happening to her son by radio dispatch. And no, he can't imagine that with one punch he has
destroyed not only Josh's life but also his own, as well as the lives of two families. He's a kid, after all, so he can't imagine moments in terms of their irrevocability, or punches in terms of consequences that are as freakish as they
are unforeseen. He just knows he is in trouble, and when his friend drives him home, past the ambulances and
police cars and fire trucks, he slumps in the car. He wants to tell his father what happened-what he did--but it is too late: A policeman sees him and arrests him. He is charged with aggravated assault and aggravated battery, and when
Josh is taken off life support two days later, he is charged, as an adult, with felony murder. He is fifteen, and Josh was the most terrible word a parent can hear--thirteen.
Jonathan's irrevocable life began that night, on television, and the next morning, in the newspapers. The packet
of mustard, the challenge, the insults, the attempts at bravado, the first punch, the second punch, the kick in the
side, the bus driver's recitation of Jonathan's victory dance: Everything was there in the news stories, but what might have been adolescent ephemera was now judged by the stain of permanence. Jonathan had been in trouble a
lot, it was reported, when he went to E. T. Booth. Jonathan's parents could have curbed his behavior, it was reported, but chose not to. Jonathan terrorized Joshua unmercifully, it was reported, until one day Josh couldn't
take it anymore. Jonathan didn't like gay people. Jonathan said, like, gay people deserved to die, or something. Joshua didn't just die at the bus stop; he died at the hands of the "bus-stop bully." Joshua didn't die as the
consequence of a punch; he died as a consequence of bullying. Bullying was bad. Bullies were bad. Jonathan was bad. The death of Josh Belluardo became the murder of Josh Belluardo, and the murder of Josh Belluardo entered
its endless afterlife as an object lesson in what one antibullying Web site calls "the number one social concern in America today." Joshua entered heaven as an angelic victim, and Jonathan, although certainly not the first "well-
known bully" in Cherokee County--although not even the first well-known bully involved in a fatality at Etowah High School--entered his earthly career as the first bully in Cherokee County intended to be the last.
Indeed, both Cherokee County and the state of Georgia changed laws and policies as a direct result of Josh's
irrevocable death and Jonathan's irrevocable life. In early 1999, Cherokee County instituted "three strike"
antibullying programs in all of its schools, whereby bullies would be expelled or assigned to alternative schooling after their third offense, whether verbal or physical. At the same time, the county hired a police chief for its entire
school system, and the police chief not only installed armed officers in all the middle and high schools under his supervision but also subtly criminalized the daily scrimmage of the schoolyard. A threat was no longer a threat;
specific enough, it counted as simple battery. A shove was no longer a shove; forceful enough, it counted as simple assault. The change in the state began in Cherokee, when a reporter called state representative Chuck Scheid and
asked, "What are you going to do about bullying?" In January, Scheid responded by drafting what was known informally as the Josh Belluardo bill and pushing it through Georgia's state legislative session. The bill basically
called upon the rest of the counties in Georgia to adopt antibullying policies, and when Jonathan Miller went on trial at the end of April, Representative Scheid visited the courtroom to meet the Belluardos and extend his
condolences. He did not speak to the Millers for he believed what he had heard from trial judge Michael Roach--that the trial of Jonathan Miller on felony-murder charges was the tragic result of the Millers' refusal to discipline
The trial of Jonathan Miller, terrible boy, began on April 26, 1999, six days after two terrible boys carried out
their slaughter at Columbine. Jonathan's lawyers asked for a continuance, but Judge Roach denied the motion, and the trial began, with both the defense and the prosecution conceding something up front.
The defense conceded that Jonathan killed Joshua and asked the jury to convict Jonathan of involuntary
manslaughter. The prosecution conceded that Jonathan never intended to kill Joshua, because, under Georgia's
felony-murder statute, it did not have to prove that Jonathan intended to kill Joshua. Under Georgia's felony-murder statute, all it needed to prove was that Jonathan intended to commit the felonies leading up to Joshua's
unintended death--felony battery and felony assault--and so all it needed to prove was that Jonathan was a terrible boy. "Ladies and gentlemen, the defense is preying on your desire and the desire of all people to believe that
children are innocent, that fifteen-year-olds couldn't mean to hurt each other," the prosecutor, Rachelle Carnesale, said in her summation. "We know better than that. We know that children every day do horrible things to other
children." Then: "The victim wasn't the aggressor. The victim was being bullied on the bus and stood up to the bully." Then: "You need to think about what you are telling the children of this community through your verdict.
It's time for Mr. Miller to reap the whirlwind."
The jury was out for five hours. Jonathan was found guilty of the charges of felony battery and felony assault,
which meant that he was also guilty of felony murder. In accordance with Georgia's sentencing guidelines, Judge Michael Roach sentenced him to life in prison.
I WAS LIVING IN ATLANTA when Jonathan killed Josh. I remember reading the story on November 3, and
I remember a chill passing through me, because, let me tell you, nothing serves as a better madeleine to a bully's
memories than a story of a bully killing a kid at a bus stop. Although I had never gone so far as to hit Timmy Titimski in the back of the head, I had certainly terrorized him, as Jonathan was said to have terrorized Josh, but I
had gotten away with it and Jonathan hadn't. What gave me the chill, I guess, was the sudden realization of bullying's irrevocable consequences--the sudden realization that it might be an activity people can't get away with, or
shouldn't get away with, or never get away with. What I never doubted, though, was that Jonathan and I were of the same ilk. What I never doubted was the basic characterization of Jonathan Miller as a bully and as a terrible boy.
Four years later, the chill still hadn't gone away. It stayed with me exactly as the memories of torturing Timmy
Titimski stayed with me, and I began doing some research into the case as a way of deciding if a boy like Jonathan
could ever be forgiven. What I found at first didn't surprise me: a Web site that portrays bullying as a gay-rights issue--because of the abuse suffered by gay teens--portraying Josh Belluardo as the "non-gay victim" of gay bashing;
people who still lived in the Port Victoria subdivision portraying Jonathan not only as a bully but as a threat to overall peace and security. In the afterlife of the tragedy, Joshua continued rising as an angel to the precise degree
that Jonathan continued mutating into an all-purpose bogeyman, and when I talked to one Port Victoria resident about real estate on Shallow Cove, this is what she told me: "What happened to Josh changed a lot of lives, not just
the lives of the Millers and the Belluardos. I think most of the houses in that cul-desac have turned over a couple of
times. People just left, and you know why? I think it's because they know that however long that boy goes to jail,
one day he's going to get out. They know he's coming back, and they don't want to be around."
I was surprised, then, when I met Jonathan's parents, Robin and Alan Miller, and they told me that at the time
of the "accident," Jonathan was two inches shorter and nearly twenty pounds lighter than Josh Belluardo. Of course, I was not surprised that the Millers tried their best to present Jonathan as a harmless innocent--hell, they
were his parents and had a reputation for defending their son at any cost--but what they told me checked out, and the surprises kept coming. Josh, as it turned out, was not weak. He was not helpless. He was more athletic than
Jonathan. He was more popular than Jonathan. He had the reputation as someone who could handle himself; indeed, in some quarters, he had the reputation as something of a bully himself. He was never terrorized by
Jonathan because he never allowed himself to be terrorized, and so when I asked Jonathan's friend James Nachtsheim what he expected to happen when Jonathan punched Josh, I was surprised when he said that he
expected Josh to turn around and "kick Jonathan's ass." When I went to E. T. Booth Middle School and talked to Pat Patterson, the counselor who runs the school's antibullying program and who knew both Josh and Jonathan, I
was surprised to hear him say that the boys' relationship "didn't follow the classic guidelines" of bully and bullied, because "a bully usually recognizes a victim, and that wasn't Josh. Josh was a stand-up kid, and he didn't allow
Jonathan to push him around." When I had my interview with Bill Head, I was surprised when he said that after he was quoted calling Josh another victim of bullying, the Belluardos called and asked him to please stop using Josh's
name in his crusade. And when I went to the Belluardos' lawyer and asked to speak to his clients, I was surprised by the explanation the lawyer offered for their refusal: They did not want to speak on the subject of bullying. They do
not believe that Josh was bullied. They believe that he was viciously attacked. "And quite frankly," the lawyer said, "they believe that if Jonathan had given Josh a fair fight, Josh would have kicked his ass."
He was not a bully, then. Jonathan Miller, the bus-stop bully, was not a bully--or at least not a bully at the bus
stop, and above all not a bully to the boy he was said to have killed as a result of bullying. But if he was not a bully,
what was he, and why did people insist on making bullying the basis of his crime? If he was not a bully, how did he suffer the terrible cruelty of being judged a bully for life? And if he was not a bully, well, then was he still a terrible
Here's a story about
Jonathan Miller and his parents--a story that Jonathan's parents, Robin and Alan Miller,
tell about their son and themselves. Jonathan was in high school at the time: Etowah. He had made it out of middle school. He had made it out of E.T. Booth despite the suspensions, despite the referrals, despite a principal who,
according to the Millers, tried to crush his spirit. Here was a boy whose name was decided after his parents watched Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Here was a boy who, in Robin's words, "always flew where he wasn't supposed to go,"
and all the administration at E. T. Booth wanted to do was put him on Ritalin. They convened what Robin calls "the Ritalin meeting" when Jonathan was in eighth grade. Robin stormed out, and after that it just got worse for
Jonathan. "They suspended Jonathan three days for farting," she says. " 'Serial farting,' they called it. I mean, c'mon." The Millers were lucky that Jonathan wanted to go to school at all after what he went through at E. T.
Booth, but at Etowah the assistant principal was creative and amenable to Robin's input. When she called Robin to
say that Jonathan was about to be suspended for being continually late to science class, Robin remembers saying, "Don't suspend him. It's gotten so he likes suspensions. Give him something he really dislikes." So one day, when
Jonathan got out of the class before science class, she was waiting out in the hall for him. "In front of all his friends, I said, 'If you can't make it to class on your own, your mother is going to have to help you.' He said, 'Mom, I can't
believe you're doing this.' I said, 'I can't believe you're late for science class.' And you know what? He was never late again."
Do you see? After Josh's death, angry mobs gathered on Atlanta's talk-radio shows and called Robin an unfit
mother. Does an unfit mother escort her son to science class? Alan could not help himself: As he drove to his
lawyer's office, he used to turn on the radio and listen to complete strangers call for his castration. Does a father who takes his two sons camping and volunteers for the Boy Scouts deserve to be castrated? They were both
involved in the life of their son Jonathan. They both made sure they were always home for their son Jonathan. The only thing they wouldn't do for their son Jonathan was give up on him. They couldn't give up on him. He was a kid.
He was a knucklehead. He was mouthy and reckless. But he wasn't violent, he wasn't mean--he was never a lost cause. Do you know what he did after he found out that he had killed Josh? He screamed for a half hour. He
pounded his head against the concrete floor of the jail. He had to be put on suicide watch.
But it's no use, is it? No matter what they say about Jonathan--that he wasn't, that he isn't--he was and he is.
They were and they are. They are marked. Their son killed Joshua Belluardo, and they have nothing left but his cause. Alan Miller is eminently reasonable in his son's cause, almost businesslike; he is a bespectacled man with a
pinkish face and longish silver hair and the softness of Tennessee in his voice. Robin Miller is passionately volatile in her son's cause; she's from upstate New York, with her mass of corkscrewed hair tied tightly back, a slight space
between her front teeth, a small white scar jabbing her upper lip, and her broad forehead creased with care. They are speaking from the living room of their house, where they are surrounded by pictures of their nieces and
nephews, and of their son Jeremy, and of their son Jonathan, which are all at least four years old. Their house is an hour and a half outside of Atlanta. It is a hardscrabble little house in a hardscrabble little neighborhood of the kind
that used to ring the mill in hardscrabble Southern towns. They left Shallow Cove not long before the Belluardos did. The Belluardos sued them and are now in the process of suing Cherokee County School District for allowing
Jonathan on the bus in the first place. The Millers' insurance company paid the claim, but the suit--and the fees of their lawyers--has bankrupted them. They have lost everything and are fully aware that their cause is sabotaged by
the awful fact that they haven't lost enough. Their loss is consummate. The Belluardos' loss is infinite. It's permanent and irrevocable, and now, when Robin says, "I'd just love to feel Jonathan's face again," she quickly
adds, "I feel guilty saying that. Because Mrs. Belluardo would love to feel Josh's face again. I wrote her a note once, but how can you tell someone, 'I'm sorry my son killed your son'?"
And so they've stopped trying to match loss for loss. They've stopped trying to convince anyone that the scales
will ever be equal. In the terrible zero-sum game of life and death, they are the winners: Their son is alive. And now
they want him back. They understand that he committed a crime. They agree that he should do time in jail. They do
not believe that he was a bully or that the crime he committed was murder. "We still have hope that Jonathan can make something of himself," Alan Miller says. "The Belluardos will never be satisfied with Jonathan's punishment
until they get their son back. That's not going to happen. But we can get our son back and give him another chance."
It's a reasonable request and a reasonable position to take. But it's not all they want. It can't be. Like the
Belluardos, they want what they cannot have; they want to revoke the irrevocable. They want their boy not to be
considered terrible, and now, at the end of the interview, Robin stands up and makes the plea she is consigned to make until Jonathan comes home and the Millers are able to disappear. "I just want people to know we're not bad
people," Robin says. "That Jonathan is not a bad person. I used to be really proud of him--his kind heart. But now it's like I'm always saying, We really are good people, we really are good people . "
The terrible boy
does not look so terrible behind the glass. He looks tired. He always looks tired behind the
glass because he always is tired. No, to be more specific, sleepy; he is always sleepy behind the glass. The glass is the
glass that separates prisoners from visitors. Behind it sits Jonathan Miller, talking by means of a black phone. He is eighteen years old. Since November 2,1998, he has grown five inches and put on nearly sixty pounds. He has spent
nearly a quarter of his life in jail among terrible boys and terrible men. He has grown up behind the glass--he has, in his mother's words, been raised by the state--and he has not only spent the last four years without touching a tree or
stepping on grass, he has spent the last four years forgetting what trees and grass feel like.
He is shy, slow-moving, slightly gawky. His face is long, his hair short and combed forward. He has fledgling
sideburns and pinkish skin stained with jailhouse acne. He's wearing eyeglasses with a stylish horizontal inclination--the kind of eyeglasses kids his age wear out in the world. His hands are soft and white, uncontaminated by effort.
He has a soft, sleepy voice accented not by affect but by occasional complaint--a burbling institutional monotone, cued to react rather than make pronouncements. Although he no longer tries to speak over people-although he's
finally learned to keep his big mouth shut, or, at the very least, to speak under people, at prison volume--he still likes to talk, and as he does, his right eye starts opening like a flower whose bloom is prodded by trick photography. He's
struggling to rouse himself, and as he does, the partition between the boy raised by Alan and Robin Miller and the man raised by the state of Georgia becomes more and more apparent. He does not look like a terrible boy, but in
his prison jumpsuit--whose horizontal white-and-orange stripes are, in this jail, the designation of a murderer--he has been outfitted with the trappings of a terrible man.
He is still in a county jail. Pending his appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court, he is not yet in the state prison
system, but jail is jail, and behind him the turquoise pod of steel and stone looms like a cathedral. Over the last four
years, he has moved from one jail to another; he is happy with this one because it allows him to keep a radio in his cell. "What kind of music do you listen to, Jonathan?"
"Well, I like to tell all my macho friends that I listen to rap, but really I like to listen to love songs. Whitney
"Who did you hang around with at Etowah?"
"I didn't really belong to a group. I had a lot of friends, but they were mostly older. In school, I was sort of a
loner, going from group to group--two days with these guys, three days with these girls."
"What about Josh?" "Josh and I were friends at first. Then he turned against me. I guess he thought I was the weakest link or
"Well, it wasn't all me. They make him out to be an angel. They make him out to be all good and me all bad.
Okay, if they say I'm bad, I must be bad, but I'm good, too. I didn't even want to fight that day. All he had to say
was, I don't want to fight you, and none of this would have happened. But he gave me this look and said, Fight me at my house, and I said, I'm tired of this."
"Why did you hit him in the back of the head? Were you scared?" "I ain't been afraid of nobody my whole life. I've never been afraid of getting beat up. Maybe I did it because I
knew he'd never face me--like, Hey, I'm here. It was no big deal; the whole thing lasted ten seconds. I didn't want to fight. I wanted to go camping"
"Did you hit him with your right hand or your left?" "Right."
"Did you hit him with a roundhouse punch or a straight one?" "It wasn't no roundhouse. It was a boxing punch. I didn't think I hit him that hard because I didn't break my
knuckles or nothing, but I guess I hit him harder than I thought I did, because I was sort of going downhill."
"What was your reaction when you started becoming known as a bully?"
"I got scared. I was like, What? Because people were talking about me in the newspapers, and I didn't even
know who they were. I was like, Everybody says I'm bad, so I must be bad, but I'm not all bad. Like in jail, they call
me Killer Miller. I told them to stop--I'm no killer-but then I thought, The Belluardos say I'm a killer, the DA says I'm a killer, the judge says I'm a killer, the jury says I'm a killer; why should I get in a fight when people in jail call me
a killer? Now I just tell them, When I win my appeal, you can't call me killer no more. Because I know I'm not a killer. I know I didn't mean to kill that boy. But I don't care what anyone thinks of me except the judges who are
hearing my case and the Belluardo family. They're the only ones I care about."
It is early afternoon. His right eye is open now, in full bloom, but at five o'clock, when they come around and
give him his pills, it will start closing again. As a murderer, decked in white-and-orange stripes-as Killer Miller--he's locked down in his cell twenty-one hours a day. As a murderer, he shares his cell with no one, and to make the time
pass, the jail affords him what it affords everyone else he's met in the turquoise cathedral: pharmacological intervention. Zoloft, Prozac, Placidyl, Elavil: In the interest of tractability, he's taken them all at one time or
another, but now he's just on Elavil, and he sleeps sixteen hours a day. The time passes. By the time his eyes open, they're ready to close again, and in that way, in blank, dreamless sleep, the terrible boy grows up behind the glass.
Timmy Titimski remembers the bully--his bully, the one designed especially for him, like a
bullet with his name on it. I remember him, too, of course. How can I forget? He was crucial. He helped form me, as I suppose I helped form him. He exists as a signal event in my conscience. Hell, he is my conscience: There was
nothing else to stop me back then except its slow drip. Today, if I lived in Cherokee County, Georgia, or in any of the other counties across the nation that have adopted three-strikes laws or zero-tolerance polices in response to
bullying, I would not have had to stop myself. I would have been stopped. I would have been suspended, expelled, possibly sent for a spell to a juvenile-detention center. Instead, I grew up. I had the freedom to develop a sense of
regret-the great sustaining mercy of guilt. I even had the luxury of figuring out why I did what I did to him. It was the matter of tears: I couldn't control my own, so I figured out a way to control his. I was a kid who cried whenever
my father yelled at me. My tears were a source of great shame, so when I found a boy whose tears I could turn on and off like a faucet--well, it gave me what shrinks would call a necessary sense of mastery. As the bully stands
sentry on his victim's road to manhood, so does the victim stand on the bully's road to self-knowledge, and in time, my shame over my tears has been succeeded by my shame over what I did to him. I am grateful for the time and
freedom I was afforded, but I'm sure he isn't; I'm sure he wasn't. I'm sure he prayed for something to stop me because he knew that my own leisurely prerogative wasn't enough. I'm sure he would be grateful for any laws or
policies that would keep his children from going through what he went through. And so, one day, I called him. I told myself that I was calling him to see what he thought about Jonathan Miller, and to see if he thought the
difference the antibullying movement would have made in his life justifies its existence. But, really, I was calling out of some terrible curiosity. To see if I could speak his name without threat. To see if I had, through some kind of
perverse nostalgia, exaggerated what I did to him. To see if he remembers.
He remembers. I knew it before I even spoke to him. I knew it when a little girl answered the phone, her voice
like a babbling brook, and said, "Daddy, there's a phone call for you"--because I knew he was a father, and so had something to protect. I had never called him anything but Timmy--his name seemed to exist to be spoken in the
diminutive--but when he came on the phone, I heard myself saying, "Timothy?" He had a deep voice, deeper than mine. He didn't sound like a Timmy anymore.
"Yes?" he said. "This is Tom Junod."
He sighed. As if he had been waiting His voice fashioned itself around a squint of enmity. It consigned me to
something and not just the past. It was poised, and it was patient, and it did not budge. "Tom, how did you get my
I told him that I had gone to a reunion. His name and number were in the commemorative booklet.
"Well, I don't want to waste your time. I don't want to participate in your project, Tom. I don't want to
He sighed again. He took a breath, preamble to the last words he would ever speak to me. "Tom, I've had to put
a lot of things behind me in my life. You're one of them. Please lose my number."
And that was all. It was over. I said, "Okay," but by that time the line was dead. I was preparing to apologize,
but I'm sure he knew I was going to ask for forgiveness, and that forgiveness wasn't his to dispense. We had our time long ago, and it was irrevocable. I couldn't get away with it any more than Jonathan Miller could get away with
what he had done to Josh Belluardo. Hell, what I had done to Timmy Titimski was worse than what Jonathan had done to Josh because it wasn't in error. It was pointed, concerted, extended--a campaign. I did what I wanted to do.
I had that freedom back then. It was a terrible freedom, and yet I prefer it to its opposite, for I can't help asking if we can suppress bullying without suppressing the immense and mysterious and ultimately beautiful vagaries of
childhood. I can't help asking if we can criminalize bullying without criminalizing childhood itself. I can't help wondering if it's not by our attempt to criminalize childhood that Jonathan Miller paid a man's price for a boy's
punch, and if the world he now occupies--where the action of Elavil supplants the action of guilt--mirrors our own, where the dictates of conscience are supplanted by the dictates of law and policy. I ask for mercy for Jonathan
Miller. But then again, I'm nothing but a goddamned bully. I ask for mercy for Jonathan as a way of asking for mercy for myself. I ask for mercy for Jonathan Miller as away of keeping alive the hope of all terrible boys, that they
Study reveals top ten violence-inducing prescription drugs by Terrence Aym For years many researchers have raised concerns and expressed doubts about some prescription drug's linksto outbreaks of violence. While the association of many street drugs to violence, or violent tendencies, isestablished, not much research has been focused on prescription drugs' links to violence. As more anecdota
Shiraz E-Medical Journal Vol. 12, No. 4, October 2011 http://semj.sums.ac.ir/vol12/apr2011/89032.htm Benefits of Metformin Combined with Insulin in Children with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus. Abdeyazdan Z *, Hashemipour M**, Barekatain R***, Kalantary F±, Amini MΩ. * Associate Professor, Nursing and Midwifery Care Research Center, Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, **