My name is Sandy Strassman, and I am the sister of Jacob Baars. Yes, that Jacob. The same one the public has made out to be the new Jesse James. Everyone else is writing in to voice their opinion ... now it's my turn.
Let me start by saying Jacob's entire family is appalled, angered, disgusted and in a state of absolute shock over the recent happenings in our lives. We still do believe though, that Jacob is a decent kid, who got somehow “sucked in” with the wrong crowd.
Jacob had dreams of really making something of his life. He and his best friend had hopes of getting on “the big ships” that you see on the Great Lakes. He has talked of nothing else since he was a little boy. His entire room has been filled with pictures of ships and anything related to them since I can remember. He was a straight A honor student throughout school. He had been accepted to the Maritime Academy in Traverse City, Mich., with the dream of eventually going into the Coast Guard. And then he met a certain person involved in this little ring of thieves, and his life took a sudden plunge into the depths of **** .
You don't believe peer pressure could have been an influence? Think back to when you were young. Think back to how your friends affected your life. Think back to last weekend when you were sitting on a bar stool having a few cold ones with your buddies, and getting pressured to “come on ... have one more for the road,” knowing you already had enough. How many of you stayed for that last one, and made it home only by the grace of God?
I know there is a petition going around town to “hang ‘em high,” so to speak. (I just didn't realize lynch mobs were back in vogue). I want you to take a good look at some of the names on that petition. Then go to the Wisconsin Circuit Court web site and type in some of those names. It's amazing to see how many have been arrested for drug paraphernalia and possession, traffic violations, etc. I realize they may be minimal infractions, but isn't that still breaking the law? Where are the pointing fingers now?
Don't get me wrong, I fully believe Jacob should pay for his crimes. I cried along with everyone else when I watched the report of the horse shooting on the news. It wasn't just because my brother was involved. It was because it involved an innocent animal. My heart goes out to the family who owned this horse. I can only imagine the range of emotions that they are dealing with. I know how much I love my pets. My sister owns horses, as does my aunt. I think of how we would of felt if it would of been one of theirs.
So, yes, I fully agree that Jacob needs to pay for his crime. But one thing you seem to be forgetting is that he was not the only one involved. His name was the one plastered all over the media, because he was the only one who was man enough to admit to his involvement. He didn't run to hide out in another state. It wasn't “the community that banded together to solve these crimes” as reported by the media. It was Jacob's parents who turned him in. Do any of you have even an inkling of what that was like for them? Jacob's mother and step-father stepped forward once Jacob confessed his involvement to them. How many of you could have done that? Would of done that? I don't know that I could have. I love and admire my mother that much more for having the strength to do it.
One of my good friends told me that people do not realize that this is something that Jacob will have to live with for the rest of his life. Every time he looks in the mirror, he will see his guilt. It may fade for the rest of us, but this is something that he will live with forever.
Jacob's family didn't commit these crimes. He did. He admits to it. So, when you see us on the street or in the grocery store, but pretend you didn't, we won't take offense. When you come as close to glimpsing **** as this family has, it can't get much worse. Just remember, it may be you dealing with something equally devastating in your lives at some point, and people will be judging you as you have judged us. Last time I looked, there was only one that had the power to do that, and it wasn't you or I.
To all those who have offered support, whether in the form of a card, a word of encouragement or a hug, you have our heartfelt gratitude.
Krista, thank you for allowing me to cry on your shoulder (and all over your sweater!) more times than I can count. God Bless.