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Jewish World Review Dec. 20, 2001 / 5 Teves, 5762

Bob Greene

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Neither father nor
6-year-old will be jailed -- THE Nebraska father who resisted sending his 6-year-old son to prison for sleepovers with a double murderer will not be going to jail himself.

Bruce Faust -- who faced a jail sentence if he did not come up with $3,800 to pay the contempt of court fine levied against him by Otoe County, Neb., Judge Randall Rehmeier -- will not be incarcerated, because the fine has been paid. The Omaha World-Herald, the Lincoln Journal Star and the Associated Press all reported last week that readers of this column had sent money to the Otoe County courthouse, and that the money met and then exceeded the amount of the fine Judge Rehmeier ordered against Faust.

Teresa White, an employee of the Otoe County District Court, told us late last week that all money in excess of the contempt fine -- which she said represented court costs and legal fees for Faust and his former wife, convicted double murderer Kimberly Faust -- is being returned to the people who sent it.

This would seem to bring to an end the troubling story of the 6-year-old child who was on the verge of being ordered by a court to sleep twice a month in a state prison with his mother, who is serving two life sentences for two brutal murders. After we began reporting on the case, and Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns stepped in to change prison regulations that allowed violent criminals to have children delivered to prisons for overnight visits, the matter seemed to have been resolved. But then Judge Rehmeier -- who had originally threatened to hold the father, who could not afford to hire an attorney, in contempt if he did not deliver the boy to prison at Kimberly Faust's request -- went ahead with the contempt action anyway, even though the governor had spared the child from the visits.

This case never was -- or at least never should have been -- about the adults, although the crimes committed by Kimberly Faust were especially vicious. On April 25, 2000, she lured a woman named Shannon Bluhm to a rural area in Otoe County. She believed Bluhm was having a relationship with Bruce Faust, from whom Kimberly Faust was estranged. In a car, Kimberly Faust repeatedly stabbed Bluhm on her face, hands and chest. As Bluhm lay bleeding in the car, Kimberly Faust set the car on fire and left.

In his nearby home, a man named Robert Parminter, 45, who lived with his wife and three children, saw there was a car on fire outside, and hurried to offer help. He saw Shannon Bluhm -- who by this time was in flames -- in the car, and tried to pull her out. Kimberly Faust returned. She shot Parminter in the left eye, the left side of his mouth, and -- after he was on the ground -- under his chin, killing him and leaving his family without a husband and father. She then shot Shannon Bluhm in the back of her head.

She might have seemed an unlikely candidate for having children sleep in her company inside a state prison -- at her murder trial, her own attorneys, in seeking a lighter sentence for her, had told the court that she suffered from psychological conditions that caused her to handle stress poorly, and that she was not always able to appreciate the consequences of her actions.

After we began writing about the case, Gov. Johanns, saying he was troubled by the entire situation, ordered that prison regulations be revised. The boy would not have to sleep in prison. But Judge Rehmeieir found Bruce Faust in contempt anyway.

The judge seemed to have lost sight of the notion that the paramount issue in this case was whether the state has any right to order a 6-year-old child, who has been accused or convicted of no crime, to be locked overnight in a prison. Whatever Bruce and Kimberly Faust may have worked out in their divorce settlement, the State of Nebraska was not a party in that divorce -- and the State of Nebraska was not required to order any child into a prison. Gov. Johanns certainly understood that.

We wrote last month: "If the judge believes that levying the contempt fine is the proper thing to do, perhaps some citizens will, as a symbolic gesture, choose to pitch in to help pay the fine, to send the message that in this country a person should not be punished for standing up for what is right."

The message was sent; the fine has been paid. The case is closed.

JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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