Michael Kaire: Snapshots
A rambling by Tom Knapp,
December 2002

He always called me "sir."

He was ambitious and creative. He had an unusually good eye for photography and, by a young age, had already compiled an impressive portfolio of work. He was cheerful and friendly, with a ready smile -- one of the nicest and gentlest people I knew.

On Dec. 13, 2002, he was savagely beaten to death by a baseball bat-wielding madman whose only motive was to see someone die.

Michael J. Kaire was 27 years old. A longtime resident of Lancaster, Pa., he had traveled the country taking pictures, exploiting every opportunity he could find to improve his photographic technique. But he always came home to Lancaster and the Intelligencer Journal newsroom -- the place where his career began.

Our editor recalls how Michael got started at the Intell, tagging along with his sister, a summer intern, and begging for a chance to take pictures. He got his shot, proved his worth and, over the next eight years, became a familiar face in the newsroom.

He never seemed to stay for long.

After graduating from a local high school he took the slow route through college, preferring to follow his passion and hone his skills as a photographer in the field, not the classroom. He took advantage of internship opportunities across the country -- including posts in Colorado, Iowa and Michigan -- and was building a reputation for a sharp eye and a keen sense of timing.

But he always returned to the Intell and, when he walked into the newsroom and grinned, it seemed like he'd never left. But in September 2002 it was different -- he was there to tell us he'd landed a full-time staff position for The Courier down in Houma, La. He moved to nearby Thibodaux and threw himself into his work when back-to-back hurricanes gave him plenty to shoot.

He made an impression, and people who knew his work predicted a great future for Mike.

But then Dustin Caldwell, 20, walked into Mike's unlocked apartment early one morning and ended his career and silenced his passion. Years of experience as a news reporter tell me to put "alleged" somewhere in that sentence, but I just don't see the point. The killer has confessed to the crime and, according to Louisiana police, Caldwell has shown no remorse for cutting short a man's life.

People always look for a reason when something of this nature occurs. A reason doesn't make it easier, really, but it's a natural function of the coping process. But Mike's family was denied the solace of even the slightest rationale. He wasn't the victim of a robbery gone wrong. He wasn't targeted by a man with a grudge. It wasn't an accident.

The killer, who was apprehended 570 miles away in Paris, Tenn., said he wanted to watch someone die.

"He gave no motive other than he wanted to see what it felt like to kill somebody," Thibodaux Police Chief Craig Melancon told a reporter shortly after Caldwell's arrest. "He expressed that he was glad that they caught him because he really felt like he might do this again."

We read about brutal murders in the newspaper and it rarely touches us any more. Brutality is all too common in the 21st century, and it's easy to lose perspective, to forget the real people who suffer from senseless, random acts of violence.

But now and then it hits close to home, and we're forced to remember that a life is too precious to waste. A person is too valuable to take for granted.

I knew Michael Kaire. He called me "sir" in a joking, gleeful way. He had a lot of talent, heaps of potential and a bright future ahead. He was a friend I wish I'd taken the time to know even better. Now it's too late.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 4 January 2003