UPma 02/04 1610 Goldsboro residents told teen deaths not occult-related GOLDSBORO, Md. (UP
UPma 02/04 1610
Goldsboro residents told teen deaths not occult-related
GOLDSBORO, Md. (UPI) -- A small Eastern Shore town continues to struggle
with the recent deaths of several teenagers, deaths that have spurred
rumours of death lists and Satanism.
Since Nov. 14, five teens have died in the small town of 200.
Two of the deaths were 14-year-old girls who slammed a car into a tree
at a high rate of speed. Also, three teenage boys in the Goldsboro area
have taken their own lives.
The deaths have led to an investigation by the Caroline County State's
Attorney's Office, the county Sheriff's Department, and Maryland and
Delaware state police.
Last week, authorities held a meeting and assured several hundred people
from surrounding communities that they found nothing connecting the five
deaths to Satanism.
Eastern Shore Town Struggles to Cope With Teen Deaths
By Sue Ann Pressley
Washington Post Staff Writer
GOLDSBORO, Md. - Goldsboro is like many small, faded towns on the
Eastern Shore - like Smyrna and Oil City and Burrsville. It has a general
store, a "fix-it" shop, a one-room town hall people call "the outhouse." On
Route 313, a sign offers visitors a comic message: "You are now leaving
magnificent downtown Goldsboro, Pride of the Delmarva Valley, Hub of the
Until recently, nothing much had ever happened in this town of 200 to
attract the attention of the outside world. But now, a makeshift memorial
near the Sandy Island Bridge symbolizes the current source of pain, worry
and notoriety in Goldsboro: five funeral wreaths, five teenagers dead.
Since Nov. 14, three teenage boys from the Goldsboro area have committed
suicide. Two 14-year-old girls died in a high-speed car crash, slamming
into a tree where the small memorial now stands. All five teenagers
happened to be friends, and their deaths, accompanied by rumors of death
lists and Satan worship, have unnerved the community. Adults ask, "How
could this happen?" Teenagers wonder, "Who will be next?"
"Every last one of them is upset," said Town Clerk Emily Shockley. "This
is something, normally, a kid doesn't go through. Maybe they've known the
death of a grandparent or the death of a pet, but they never expected to
look at the face of death in so many of their friends.
"They say they're tired of going to funerals. They say they don't want
to look at any more coffins."
The deaths have prompted an investigation by the Caroline County State's
Attorney's Office, the county Sheriff's Department, and Maryland and
Delaware state police. At a meeting last week, authorities told several
hundred people from the surrounding communities that they had found nothing
connecting the deaths to Satanism. But residents are desperate for reasons
to explain what has happened, and the rumors have not disappeared - rumors
of dire Ouija-board predictions and more deaths to come.
"The deaths of five teenagers in a small community in a short period of
time does not make sense to people - and people want to make sense out of
life," said the Rev. Michael Rokos of Baltimore, an Episcopal priest and
president of the Cult Awareness Network who is assisting investigators.
If you blame it on the devil," he said, "you don't have to ask, `Did I
let them down? Did the community let them down?' "
Maybe there is no good explanation for what has happened. It is true
that Goldsboro, a couple of miles from the Delaware state line, is an
isolated spot. The nearest McDonald's is 10 miles away in the county seat
of Denton; the nearest movie theater, 20 miles away in Easton. At night,
depending on your point of view, Goldsboro is either refreshingly quiet or
painfully remote, surrounded by dark fields and woods, with yellow porch
lights glowing in the dark.
Children there grow up knowing one another well, spending so much time
together that, authorities believe, the death of one might prompt suicidal
feelings in others - the domino effect often seen in teen suicides. The
last teen to die, Paul Pinder, 18, who shot and killed himself in his
bedroom on Jan. 12, had been a pallbearer at three of the preceding
"It's such closeness with the kids around here," said resident George
Bixler, who with his wife, Linda, has started a Monday-night Christian
meeting for the town youth. "They grew up with one another, they know each
other's birthdays. And when one of them died, I guess some could handle it
and some couldn't."
Funny what you remember about your friends. Jennifer Bixler, 16,
remembers Lisa Harris's distinctive walk, the way Norman Lee used his hands
when he talked about the deer he had seen, how Paul Pinder always slept
during class in the ninth grade. On the blackboard in Jennifer's bedroom
is a message Dawn Bilbrough wrote a few days before she died: "Dawn was
"This has been the most shocking experience I've ever been through,"
said Jennifer, a junior at North Caroline High School. "That's the one word
for it - shock."
The troubles began on Nov. 14. John T. Kirby, 19, known to his friends
as J.T., drove his 1972 Chevrolet down a dirt road on the outskirts of
Goldsboro, put a gun to his head and killed himself. An unemployed
deckhand, Kirby lived with his family in nearby Queen Anne's County, but
spent a lot of time in Goldsboro with his friend, Paul Pinder.
When news of his death reached the high school, "everybody was crying
and carrying on and going to the office to talk to the counselors,"
Jennifer said. "We just couldn't believe he was dead."
But there was more to come. On Nov. 26, Dawn Bilbrough and Lisa Harris,
both 14, were killed when Dawn apparently lost control of a friend's
borrowed pickup truck and struck a tree at 80 mph. The accident occurred at
1 a.m. on a two-lane country road.
A 20-year-old Delaware man, who told police he had assumed Dawn was at
least 16 because he had seen her driving her mother's car, was fined $400
for allowing an unauthorized person to drive a vehicle and providing
alcohol to a minor. Bottles of champagne and peppermint schnapps were found
in the truck, and Dawn had a blood alcohol level of 0.05 percent, police
said. State law defines impairment at 0.07 percent and intoxication at
The second suicide occurred a month later, on New Year's Eve. Norman Lee
Jr., 17, closed his bedroom door and killed himself with a .22-caliber
rifle. Twelve days later, Paul Pinder also was dead.
"It was a bad holiday season," said Jennifer, who took part in group
discussions at her school and in the town. "Nobody had any Christmas spirit
and then it was the new year and Norman and Paul . . . .
It hit everybody so hard," she said. "Everything seemed wrong and nobody
knew the right thing to say. We all kept hurting each other's feelings."
It was rumored that during a party last fall, a Ouija board predicted
the deaths of seven teens, and five of them are now dead. It was rumored
that Lisa Harris and Dawn Bilbrough intended to die. It was rumored that
someone - or something - forced their truck off the road. All just rumors,
"We've been trying to stop people from getting carried away with the
occult angle," said Christian Jensen, the Caroline County state's attorney.
"We're not saying there's no occult activity in the county; there always
has been, and some kids are just attracted to that stuff . . . .
"But I think it's more a question here of, what is the social life of a
kid in this area? What's available for a kid to do when he's not in
At sunset on a recent evening in Goldsboro, a boy rode his bicycle down
Route 313, past the older green-and-white clapboard houses. Pickup trucks
crowded the lot at the Goldsboro Store, and blackbirds flew over the muddy
brown fields. The huge irrigation machines looked spidery in the dim light.
At the town's community park, a small patch of land with several rusty
swing sets, three teenage girls got up from a picnic table and slowly began
to walk home.
"It's different here now," said Shockley, the town clerk. "I miss
looking out my bedroom window and seeing Lisa and Dawn and the others walk
by. A lot of the old faces are gone forever."
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank