The Honor Roll Murder

The beating death of a promising student shatters the peace -- and the stereotypes -- of a privileged California town

"IT IS AN ILLUSION THAT YOUTH IS happy," said W. Somerset Maugham. "An illusion of those who have lost it." That illusion has been fading especially fast in one of the most prosperous and conservative corners of the country, home to the fantasy capital of America, Disneyland, and to a host of quieter fantasies as well. For residents of Orange County, California, the most perishable myth would seem to be that honor students, computer geniuses and star athletes would make headlines only for their remarkable achievements, never for their ruthless crimes.

After police discovered the body of 17-year-old Stuart Tay, any...

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