Waiting to Meet the Parents: At the Loughners' House

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Eric Thayer / Reuters

A man stands outside the home of accused gunman Jared Lee Loughner in Tucson, Arizona January 11, 2011.

By noon on Tuesday, the pavement on Soledad Avenue was lined with vehicles in both directions. Birds chirped and palms bent in the wind. A Pomeranian yipped. But most of the bustle came from a throng of reporters outside the Loughner home in Tucson. Word had gone around in the morning that the parents of Jared Lee Loughner would be giving a statement, and outlets were hungry for it — the only news of their reaction so far having come from half-informed neighbors in their quiet, middle-class neighborhood.

For hours little happened. There was only the silent scene of the home. Two cars, mottled with rust and spattered with mud, sat in front of the flat, tawny house. One was a cream-colored Chevy truck, the other a dark two-door car. Under the windshield wiper of the car was a single blue envelope, which was addressed, in a childish writing, to "Mr. and Mrs. Loughner." Accompanying it was a rose, withering and nearly black.

Later in the day, investigators in the Pima County sheriff's department would say that, hours before the Safeway rampage, Jared Loughner had fled the home with a mysterious black bag after his father Randy had asked him what was in it and why he was removing it from the trunk of their car. The authorities would also say that the police had come to the Loughner home on more than one occasion in the past, though they have not yet disclosed why.

The front yard of the Loughners' property was landscaped with stones and cacti. The biggest plant had been worn to its wooden skeleton and draped sadly over a tree that blocked much of the house from view. Amidst the plants were empty buckets and kindling. Around them the sand yard was covered in the footprints of reporters who had tried to get a glimpse into the fortressed home.

Some of the nearby houses still bore remnants of Christmas: icicle lights along their eaves or deflated North Pole figurines. Next door there was a travel trailer with a window busted out. There was also their neighbor, a 46-year-old aircraft mechanic named Stephen Woods. He said that the Loughner house is uncharacteristically secluded. "From my backyard, you cannot see into their backyard, even with a 6-foot ladder, " he says. (He had tried the day before.) "You know, you just never think that something of this magnitude can happen in your city, let alone right next door to you."

Across the street was the Pomeranian's home with a "No Trespassing" sign. The dog ran behind a chain-link fence, among gasoline cans and haphazard, mismatched chairs. In front, the police — half-heartedly keeping people off the Loughner's property — stood chatting with the neighbors. Residents from nearby streets nosed around the commotion. "It's kind of scary to think that somebody who did this lives within walking distance of our kids and our neighborhood," says Andrea Toldeo-Leyva, 45, a hairdresser trainer with four children. "That nice little warm cocoon that we've lived in seems to have burst."

Every now and then, some noise would come from the fence beside the Loughner garage. The milling reporters would immediately stir to attention, like as many sleepy golden retrievers suddenly zealous at hearing a crackling bag of treats. A man with a yellow legal pad, presumably a lawyer, came out and the pack chased him down the street. With the crowd gone, a path was clear to the fence, where part of a carport could be seen through a hole. The wall beside the house was decorated in graffiti, mostly of electric-guitar outlines. Another car was protected by a blanket beside backyard odds and ends. What looked from behind like a stuffed chimpanzee, which at some point had lost its right arm, hung from a chain.

The anticipation was next disturbed by a delivery man. He put a modest basket of flowers by the plywood blockade someone had erected to keep people from the door. Finally, hours later, two presumed lawyers emerged with a written statement. Ignoring the microphone stand set up by a cameramen, they handed out sheets of paper and explained that Randy and Amy would remain inside their home. There would be no other statement, from any of them.

It read predictably — stilted, sad and confused:

This is a very difficult time for us. We ask the media to respect our privacy. There are no words that can possibly express how we feel. We wish that there were, so we could make you feel better. We don't understand why this happened. It may not make any difference, but we wish that we could change the heinous events of Saturday. We care very deeply about the victims and their families. We are so very sorry for their loss.
Thank you.
The Loughner Family