"I wanna talk about me"

Dateline: Fri 05 Jan 2007

That's the heading on Nancy Dyer's MYSPACE page -- she's the 30-year-old mother of five, pregnant with No. 6, whose 3-year-old son was found running down I-465 early Saturday morning. Apparently the former Florida/Michigan resident had time to post her sorry likeness, complete with red devil's horns, and even sorrier thoughts on MYSpace. "I wanna talk about me," she says. Yep, she had time for that little maneuver, but not time to take care of her kids.

Her son barely escaped death as he toddled down the interstate, in a diaper and a Superman T-shirt, about 9 a.m. Saturday. He had escaped from his mom's Far Northwestside apartment, while she was asleep.

While there are many compelling angles to this story, what's fascinating (and frustrating) is how it's been played out in old media: The Star reported on it Sunday on Page 1, but only briefly mentioned that police and a victims' assistance employee had been to the woman's home TWO DAYS EARLIER, because the child was seen running around unsupervised in a parking lot that Thursday. Note to readers: the two officers were not accompanied by anyone from Child Protective Services, as I reported earlier, but by a victims' advocate assigned to the police department. Those advocates often work with Children In Need of Services (CHINS). Child Protective Services confirms that agency did not open a file on Ms. Dyer until Saturday.

On Thursday, the Star followed its initial reporting with a lengthy sob story that seemed to excuse or justify Ms. Dyer's behavior towards her children, based on an unconfirmed assertion from Dyer herself that the little boy was slightly autistic. The story seemed to bend over backwards with lots of quotes from local and national experts on autism, and how impossible it is to care for such a child.

So what about this autism angle? Today's Star quotes Dyer's father and her stepmother, Chuck and Marty Lindgren, who say that the little boy is not and never was autistic. Nor is his younger sister, they told the newspaper.

"That's a lot of B.S." Marty Lindgren told me Friday over the phone. She and her husband are now taking care of the kids. Chuck Lindgren told the Star he suspected his daughter told police the kids were autistic in a bid for sympathy.

So why did the Star run with the autism angle and give it such big play, turning the mother almost into a victim? Other media outlets did not. In fact, Abdul's radio show Monday raised questions about why the kids were still with the mom Saturday, since cops and a victim's advocate had been there Thursday. But so far, this blog and Abdul seem to be the only ones asking that question.

As for the Star's devotion to the autism theory, one reader of this blog suggests it came from readers' feedback on the Star's web page. Readers commented in Talk Back about the difficulties of having an autistic child.

From this, a Page One story is born?

The only saving grace is that Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi made it clear he wasn't buying the autism gambit. Thank God somebody has some sense.

comments: ruth@ruthholladay.com

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