By JIM HALEY
EVERETT — There was anger and concern in the Cascade High School library Tuesday when parents met with school officials and police to learn more about the brutal assault early Monday on a 14-year-old girl from the school.
The concern was for their own children. A few of the parents also focused their frustrations on the conditions at or near a trail where the ninth-grader was repeatedly stabbed while en route to a friend’s home, and then to school.
"I’m real angry with this," said Paulene Watson, who lives near the Interurban Trail where the teen-ager was attacked near 112th Street. Watson has six children, and chided the city for not mowing down weeds where an attacker could hide near apartment complexes south of the Everett Mall. She also lamented a lack of police presence and not installing lights along the trail.
She said the trail is a hangout for youths and adults, and there’s drug activity there.
Police Capt. Jim Seaman assured Watson police patrol the trail, which continues into the unincorporated county. Officers also have chased away vagrants living in some woods near the trail, he added.
Three people were discovered living in tents near the location where the girl was attacked when police began the investigation.
Seaman said there are police bike and foot patrols on the trail, but there’s no way a police officer can be present all the time, just as anywhere else in the city.
Seaman and Deputy Chief Jerry Burke came armed with the message that children must be taught not to walk alone or in areas that could be dangerous.
"There are people just waiting for someone to make a mistake," Seaman said.
Another resident, Matt Thompson, was so concerned about what he thought were bad trail conditions that he went to a Snohomish County PUD meeting Monday. He complained that not enough has been done to beat back the brush near it. He made the comments before examining the trail, which is located to a great extent in PUD right-of-way.
Thompson said he had to eat his words later in the day when he met PUD officials inspecting the trail and learned that most of the area in the PUD right-of-way is free of thick bushes.
There are still woods around, however.
He likes the idea of such urban trails, but "if they’re going to build trails similar to this, and they’re going to bury them in the woods, they ought to be lit and well lit. Perhaps they should be fenced."
Watson and Thompson agreed that citizens have to take some responsibility and not depend solely on police for protection.
Thompson said there’s a need for people looking out for themselves and their children.
"It comes back to the people," Thompson said. "Are the people willing to get out there and police their neighborhoods? Are the people willing to go out there and take their kids by the hand?"
Watson said she’s ready to step up and do something, perhaps coordinate a neighborhood effort.
She described walking down the trail and seeing faces peering out at her from the thick bushes in an area not far from the Everett Mall. Still, she likes the trail, she added, "but we need it to be safe. I’m tired of worrying about my kids. I’m tired of worrying about everybody else’s kids."
Cascade principal John Green told parents he talked with the stabbing victim’s mother, and the good wishes from folks connected with the school mean a lot.
Students signed posters and contributed cash to buy balloons and flowers. The school also is coordinating donations to assist the girl’s mother, who has encountered unusual expenses.
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