Columnist: Deadly encounters — some do live to see another day

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 2, 2016

On Dec. 13, 1977, a chartered DC-3 carrying the entire University of Evansville basketball team crashed in a field near the Evansville Regional Airport. Every member of the team and coaching staff on the plane was killed.

One player was not able to attend the game and thus was not on the plane; however, soon afterward, he was killed in an automobile accident. Three people did survive the crash but died shortly thereafter (

Was the crash destined to happen? Was the entire team supposed to die in the crash? The player who missed the flight, but was killed shortly thereafter in an automobile accident — coincidence or fate?

The Evansville crash has been debated for years by some in the religious community who believe that you cannot trick, deceive or delay death. It is believed that each of us at birth has an appointed day that cannot be negotiated when we will ultimately meet our maker.

Ralph Daniel’s song, “Oh Death,” made even more popular by actor George Clooney in the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” depicts Death visiting a victim who begs him for his life. As you can see from the lyrics of the song, the pleading is to no avail:

“Please don’t take me at this stage

My wealth is all at your command

If you will move your icy hand

Death responds to the plea by saying coldly:

Oh the young, the rich or poor

Hunger like me you know

No wealth, no ruin, no silver no gold

Nothing satisfies me but your soul”

Most of us avoid discussions related to our ultimate mortality. It’s as if we expect to live forever. Many of us, in fact, actually have close encounters with death during our lives and we thank God for his protection and allowing us to live another day.

My encounter with death occurred nearly 10 years ago. It began with a message that was left on my answering machine by a former neighbor.

The neighbor, whom I knew quite well, left a message one evening that my tenants were leaving my rental property, located next to his home. He believed that they were acting suspiciously and might be trying to abandon my home without my knowledge.

He indicated that I should immediately check on the tenants. I was not home at the time and could not validate his suspicions.

Upon arriving home an hour or so later, I retrieved his message. Shortly thereafter, I received a call from a friend, who was a detective with the local police department. What she said, although not a surprise, sent chills down my spine.

She stated that my former neighbor had shot his wife with a .45-caliber weapon and killed himself. She intimated that the crime scene was the weirdest she had ever investigated. She indicated that every room in the house leading up to the bathroom was filled to the ceiling with what appeared to be rabbit cages.

I immediately rushed down to my home next to the scene of the crime. You know what? My tenants were not attempting to abandon my home and had no idea as to how I could have conceived such notions. They indicated they were happy and had no reason to think about leaving.

Questions. Why did my former neighbor lie about my tenants leaving? Did he intend to kill me as well? He knew that I would stop by his home after validating his suspicions — did he have intentions of implicating me in his dastardly deeds?

My friends, some of whom are in law enforcement, believed he could have conceivably done so.

As I reflect on my former neighbor, there were indicators that he was a dangerous person. He was a 6-foot-4, bespeckled, nerdy type that was consumed with guns. He was a loner type who appeared to have also insulated his wife from her family and friends.

During the 10 years he was my neighbor, I never witnessed one person visiting the home. I was the only person he had any extended conversations with in the community.

When I moved, I would telephone him from time to time, mainly talking about how renters in the neighborhood were forcing property values down.

I never considered my former neighbor a friend. I now realize that he definitely didn’t consider me as one. But the question remains — did I avoid death that fateful evening? What do you think?

By Glenn Dowell

Contributing columnist

Glenn Dowell, a LaGrange native, is an author and columnist who currently resides in Georgia. He has been a guest speaker on major college campuses and has appeared on TV programs including ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show.’ He may be reached at