Sunday, March 9, 1998
Killer isn't the only one
hearing voices

BY CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Be careful when you open your voice mail. Someone may want to send you on an all-expenses paid trip to death row.

''What did you eat for breakfast, ground glass?'' - Beth Morgan, Withamsville.

''What happened to your good sense?'' - Ed Beckham, Clifton.

''Are you nuts?'' - Doug Fowler, Carthage.

Readers inquired about my eating habits and mental state after my column about Wilford Lee Berry.

Dubbed ''The Volunteer,'' Berry is a convicted killer. He wants to skip his appeals and die by lethal injection.

If he gets his wish, he would be the first convict to be executed in Ohio since 1963. I say give him life instead.

Berry has said he hears voices. One of those voices probably belongs to his victim, a baker. Before Berry shot him in the head with a rifle, the baker was pleading for his life.

My hope? That Wilford Lee Berry hears the baker's voice for the rest of his natural-born days.

''Right on. After 17 years as a court reporter, and all the garbage I heard from, for and about murderers, I can only say, you are right on the money.'' - Grace Thompson, Westwood.

''May you burn in hell.'' - Bernie Howard, Mount Washington.

''You've got guts.'' - Jack Engelhart, Covedale.

''Shame on you for talking about revenge.'' - Gary Payne, Glendale.

''You simply have not contemplated your own capability of mental illness and violence.'' - Teresa A. Davis, Hebron.

''Inmates on death row can pay back their debt to society by volunteering for the animal-testing that P&G does.'' - Amy Adams, White Oak.

''When decent people take revenge, they lower themselves to the level of the murderer.'' - Arlene Dickerson, Northside.

''I've had it with all of these 'I had a bad childhood' killers. By the time you're 14 you can't blame anything on your childhood. I can match them hurt for hurt. And, I'm no killer.'' - June Francis, Norwood.

Board of Education

For a display of gutlessness under pressure, Cincinnati's Board of Education goes to the head of the class. Confronting a tough choice on teacher benefits, the board's members recently said one thing and voted another. Then they blasted top school administrators for ignoring orders and giving in to the teachers.

This led to a column questioning the courage of the board's convictions. And readers replied:

''These people had all kinds of opportunities to raise questions. There's no excuse for this.'' - Forrest Buckley, Westwood.

''Nobody's running this nuthouse and they're putting out a lousy product to boot.'' - Pat Ormond, Mount Lookout.

''School board members say the administration misled them. Now they know how the parents of Cincinnati Public School kids have felt for years.'' - D.A. Colgate, Hyde Park.

Mohawk Honor Roll

Charles Barnett has people waving the flag for him. After my Friday column about his efforts to maintain the World War II memorial in Mohawk, readers called with offers of red, white and blue, as well as green.

The weather and thieves force Charles to go through three flags a year at the memorial. He puts them up at his expense, $35 a piece, because he owns the land where the memorial stands. The city of Cincinnati deeded it to him in 1988 for $1. Enough readers want to donate flags to keep Old Glory flying over the memorial for the next five years.

John Petersman of Pleasant Ridge plans to send Charles ''the flag the government gave me when my wife died last year.'' Mr. Petersman met his wife, Carmella, while they were in the Army.

''If I donate this flag, this will do her good,'' Mr. Petersman said. ''Where she is, she'll see it's being put to good use.''

Charles Barnett said he'll accept the flags. As for the green donations of cash, ''people can put their money to a better use. I'm just doing this because I admire what those veterans did for all of us.''

Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.

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