On the evening of May 14 in Omaha, Neb., James Fairbanks went to the home of Mattieo Condoluci and shot him dead. Condoluci, 64, was a twice convicted pedophile, and Fairbanks, 43, had spent years working with troubled kids in the Omaha Public School system.
After the body was discovered, the dead man’s daughter, Amanda Henry, was quoted saying, “Murdering my dad was a horrible thing, but children are much safer now.”
Fairbanks is now charged with first-degree murder.
During an emotional phone call with Henry, she told me of her father’s death: “I was relieved. It finally happened. It’s over. It has been hell.”
And then Henry told me what life had been like with Condoluci.
“I was beaten and raped by my own father for years,” she said. “The man who was supposed to protect me instead belittled, humiliated and tortured me until I finally escaped at age 19.” That, she told me, is why she is now supporting the man who killed her father.
“James Fairbanks answered a 27-year-long prayer for me,” Henry said. “He was there when the police weren’t there. He did something when the police didn’t.”
Henry described how her mother had fought valiantly to maintain custody of her 2-year-old daughter but lost touch when Condoluci took off with the toddler.
While Henry has tried to block out much of her early nomadic years with her dad — they moved to several cities in California, Florida, New Mexico, Iowa and Nebraska — she remembers that her father routinely preyed on single mothers with young children. “He would find a lost soul, bring her home and then do his devil’s work,” she said.
In 1994, Condoluci pleaded no contest in Florida to molesting the 5-year-old son of a woman he was dating. His sentence? Four years of probation. In 2006, by then relocated to Nebraska, Condoluci was sentenced to five years in prison for sexually assaulting the 12-year-old daughter of another woman in his life. He served less than two years.
Around the same time, Henry says she was befriended by a licensed counselor and foster mother who encouraged her to report her father to the Omaha Police Department. Henry says the Omaha Police Department told her she had waited too long; the statute of limitations had run out.
Today, others — most notably, two of Henry’s female cousins — have posted on a “Free James Fairbanks” Facebook page that they were sexually abused by “Uncle Matt,” and they are supporting his killer. One told me: “I was raped till I was 13 years old. It started when I was 7.”
In a confession that Fairbanks distributed to the local media before his arrest, he explained that while looking for a new apartment, he had checked the sex registry for a particular neighborhood and found Condoluci’s name. Fairbanks admitted he had watched the convict pretending to wash his car while ogling a group of children playing in the street.
“I felt sick to my stomach,” Fairbanks wrote. “I researched him more and more and found he had victimized dozens of kids in different states. … (He) had a playground set in his backyard.” Because of his work with victimized kids, Fairbanks said, “I couldn’t in good conscience allow him to do it to anyone else while I had the means to stop him.”
Total strangers are sending money to Fairbanks’ jailhouse account; thousands have signed petitions calling for Fairbanks to be pardoned — unlikely at this point since he hasn’t been convicted of anything. Many are saying simply that Fairbanks should not spend another night in lockup, that he did the community a favor.
This case challenges society’s ethics and our own morals. It underscores the failure of the statute of limitations laws because as any victim of childhood sex abuse will tell you, they get no reprieve from a lifetime of trauma. The case also highlights those disappointing sex registries that are clogged with the names of teenage Romeos and public urinators but fail to focus strict surveillance on career pedophiles and rapists.
The case leaves us with the unsettling idea that sometimes — when those in authority fail to protect — murder could be seen as a public service.
In that instance, should the murderer get a pass?
— Diane Dimond is the author of three books, including Be Careful Who You Love Inside the Michael Jackson Case, which is now updated with new chapters and is available as an audiobook. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.