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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Editor’s Desk: Waltham triple homicide hits close to home

Published: September 16, 2011
Section: Opinions

The scene Monday evening at Harding Avenue in Waltham was somber, as a community congregated in disbelief trying to understand the meaning behind the day’s events.

At least two-dozen neighbors, including both children and adults, and a slew of reporters and cameramen were on the scene, watching from behind police tape as officials went about investigating the murder of three men, Brandon Mess, 25, Eric Weissman, 31, and Rapheal Teken, 37. All were stabbed and found, according to media reports, covered in blood and marijuana.

The crime scene wasn’t difficult to find. Harding Avenue intersects with Main Street near the entrance to Bentley University, about two and a half miles from the Brandeis campus.

And yet, to those Brandeis students who even heard of the murder, the occurrence down the street in Waltham felt as though it were half a world away.

Distances are deceiving. The Hoot can confirm that Teken was a history major at Brandeis who graduated in the class of 1998.

At Brandeis, campus news again and again trumps community news; campus concerns are always more immediate than community ones.

South Waltham is much the same. Moody Street is noticeably quieter in the summer months when classes at Bentley and Brandeis are not in session, but life continues. Brandeis campus headlines rarely make the front page of The Waltham News Tribune.

But our communities are interrelated. This week, Waltham’s top story appears above the fold in The Hoot.

Indeed, the lessons of this case stretch beyond the immediate story of murder, drugs and a community left in disbelief. This is also a story of juxtaposition, the safety of Brandeis contrasted with the wariness now facing Waltham residents, especially neighbors of the victims.

A triple homicide in any community is no small occurrence. It is the kind of thing that brings the community together, the kind of tragedy that leads to more locked car doors and front doors.

These occurrences also raise fundamental questions with which the community must grapple. How is it, for instance, that Waltham has seen a handful of murders over the last few years, while a town like Weston or a city like Newton, both bordering Waltham, have crime rates so low and house prices so high that Waltham pales in safety by comparison.

Brandeis students may feel removed from local news, but many students live on city streets off campus and shop at city stores. Students driving to Watertown or points east on Route 20 have passed Harding Avenue, some multiple times per day. Why then has the wariness of the community not penetrated the Brandeis bubble?

At The Hoot, we believe students should know what happens in the area in which they live. Who knows, maybe a reader will be inspired to make a difference, perhaps, as an example, by working on a drug prevention program in Waltham for at-risk teens to help affect change in the community.

The first step is learning what actually happened on Monday afternoon. That’s why we’ve dedicated space on our front page to covering this triple homicide that, although overlooked on campus, not only happened close to home but claimed the life of one of our own.