A Horrible Anniversary

by jhwygirl

One year ago tomorrow December 5th, Forrest Clayton Salcido was brutally stomped to death – murdered – for no excuse other than being somewhere at the wrong time, and encountering the worse of human kind.

Salcido, 56, was a Navy veteran of the Vietnam war. He was known as a kind and gentle soul, who was more comfortable – despite family in the area – braving the elements and shunning the rat race. He had worked for years at the Evans mill after leaving the service, and later MRL when the mill closed.

I had met Forrest, briefly, in mid-October, while home in mid-day for lunch. He was rooting through the dumpsters, collecting aluminum cans – and had huge bags tied to his bike. I waved and said hello, and ran inside and grabbed my recycling cans to give to him. It was a Wednesday. We struck up a conversation. He was pleasant and sociable – and other than the more-than-usual amount of necessities he had tied to his bike, one might never have known he was living on the street. As we parted, I asked him if he collected cans regularly, and he said he did it every Wednesday because (if I remember correctly) Pacific Recycling paid double for aluminum.

So I started collecting the cans at work. I missed the next week, but the following I left them out the back door in the morning, and they were gone when I got home. I mighta got another two batches out there for him – but later there was another that wasn’t picked up.

Forrest was murdered on a Wednesday.

A week later, when I saw this story in the paper, I got sick to my stomach all over. I say all over, because as I had read the coverage of his senseless murder that previous week, I had been sicked to think that someone would meet such a horrible end for nothing other than ‘I’m having a bad day’ reasoning.

But there was his picture. Forrest Clayton Salcido was the guy I had struck up a conversation with just what seemed just a few short weeks ago. I knew then why that bag of cans was still sitting out the door.

Months and months later – maybe it was spring this year? – I found another guy reaching through the dumpsters nearby for aluminum. It was a Wednesday. He’s a military veteran also. Pleasant, sociable – his hobby is race cars. He stops by every Wednesday to bring another veteran who is a neighbor a warm lunch or dinner meal and a visit of conversation. I occasionally take that same neighbor a meal (on the rare occasion I cook something that he can eat – he likes my stew and my chicken and dumplings), but not nearly enough.

I try every week to get my workplace’s cans brought home with me on Tuesdays, and set them out there for my neighbor’s friend to pick up. Remembering Forrest Clayton Salcido reminds me to do it – and for a year now, I don’t think there’s been a Wednesday, whether I get the cans out there or not, that I don’t think of Forrest.

Forrest’s death opened the ugly door to the realities of life that homeless people face amongst our oh-so-civil world. On any given night in Missoula, more than 500 are homeless. A canvas done in 2008 turned up 906 homeless people in Missoula County. Nationally, more than 1 in 4 homeless are military veterans. The VA estimates that 200,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. 400,000 will be homeless during the course of a year. 11% of Montana’s population are military veterans. Is this how we treat the men who sacrifice so much to defend our freedom? Councilman Jon Wilkins spoke eloquently about just this issue on Veteran’s Day last month. If you didn’t see it then, you should read it now.

His murder also shed some more undesirable light on the ugly violence that is here in Missoula – that many choose or refuse to acknowledge. Salcido’s murderers were an 18-year old Hellgate High senior and a 20-year old friend. What environment – what community – unwittingly fostered a situation that created such monsters? That may be tough to hear – but this paragraph and the paragraph above it are all questions we should be asking ourselves.


I believe I will make a trip down to the bridge tomorrow at darkness and light a candle for Forrest.

  1. Lizard

    What environment – what community – unwittingly fostered a situation that created such monsters?

    incidents of teenagers and young men beating to death homeless people have been increasing for the last couple of years, and for me it just reinforces the fact that deep down, we are animals, and like a dog pack, the lowest ranking members are more expendable and prone to attack than those at the top.

    it might be easier to blame video games, violence on tv, or Marilyn Manson, as was the case after the columbine shootings, but maybe it would be more accurate to say that, as a society, we’ve reached our capacity for caring for people outside our immediate sphere of family and friends because self-interest reigns supreme across this mighty country, and each subsequent generation after the spoiled-rotten Baby Boomers seems to be more and more grotesquely self absorbed.

    anyway, thank you j-girl for sharing your story. the man was a human being senselessly murdered by two disturbed, drunk young men who behaved like vicious animals, and remembering his death is a human act, not an animal one.

  2. klemz

    “Salcido’s murderers were an 18-year old Hellgate High senior and a 20-year old friend.”

    Hello judge, jury and executioner.

  3. What do you call it when one of them has admitted it and the other one’s closet was found with Salcido’s blood on his clothing and shoes?

    What you are suggesting is like like putting the term “alleged child molester and murderer” before Joseph E. Duncan’s name, prior to his conviction.

    Some things aren’t defensible, and some people aren’t worth wasting pleasantries.

    Don’t worry – the monsters got their trial venue changed and I won’t be on the jury.

  4. Lizard

    sad. just focus on the monsters so the broader implications of our warped societal values don’t get called into question.

    would you like to personally inject them, klemz? pull the switch? will killing two deeply disturbed young men change anything? no, it won’t.

  5. will killing two deeply disturbed young men change anything? no, it won’t.

    Actually, it will. They will never kill again. You argue very well, Lizard, that our society has grown (organically) to a size where it suffers parasites, diseases. The only reason I personally still favor the death penalty is that one alone. Call it ‘medical’.

    When I read the stories last year, I went through deep denial that the Missoula I had left could be so cruel. There can be no making sense of this crime. I’m sorry, jhwygirl. And I still hope for better in the future.

  6. Lizard

    my problem, Wulfgar, is that by solely focusing on the perpetrators of this particular crime, the larger trend of violent youth who target homeless people for joy-killings and casual beatings is being ignored. we want to demonize them because their behavior is so abhorrent, and we assume their actions have nothing to do with us, or how we live our lives, because we are good, decent people.

    but maybe you’re right, killing them would be the easiest thing to do, after all, with 1 of every 10 Americans incarcerated, our jails and prisons are at capacity, so maybe we should step up killing prisoners, for instance making crimes against children punishable by death. From there we could look at reviving sterilization programs so undesirables can’t reproduce. then it’s just a hop, skip, and jump to eugenic programs, you know, to cure our society of these unsavory creatures who prey on vulnerable people.

    that may sound dramatic, but since we seem to be sliding faster and faster into fascism, who knows what might start happening in a couple of years. you think Nazi Germany invented eugenics?

    and if you think it implausible here, in noble America, check out the Georgia Guidestones

  7. Don’t be sorry Wulfgar! – I completely agree.

    I think many here have been in denial about the brutality out there on our streets. Remember that Iraqi war Marine veteran that was stomped/beaten? Many people spoke out about the increasing violence on the streets, and yet there were city police officials being quoted in the paper saying violence was not on the rise. (More on that later.)

    The whole Duncan thing made me cease questioning my inability to completely object to the death penalty. From the moment they found him, I thought it better to just put a bullet in his head rather than feed and house the disgusting piece of you-know-what until his trial. And if you or anyone followed the trial, you know how he actually enjoyed it, defending himself and cross-interrogating Shasta Groene.

  8. klemz

    It’s more than a pleasantry. You don’t slap a capital offense on someone until a jury’s done it first, and yes I’m aware of the facts of the case–more than you, I venture.

  9. Then declare yourself, Mr. Venture.

  10. Now, if I were here getting paid to do journalist work, I suppose I’d share your point of view, klemz. In fact, I know I would.

    Fortunately, I’m not.

    On the other hand – you, perhaps, shouldn’t make assumptions regarding your other assertion(s). Then again, knowing the gory details aren’t exactly the type of stuff that makes for interesting conversation. Not for me, at least.

  11. goof houlihan

    No I don’t buy Lizards idea that humanity is fundamentally animalistic. We’ve got that base nature, but also reason and self awareness that does let us rise above the animal.

    I’m all for the death penalty. I think it would do more good than Wulfgar! does; not only does it permanently remove the convicted offenders, but also it would give some 18 years olds pause to know the finality of the consequence.

  12. klemz

    My point of view in this matter is not an effect of any temporary condition.

    Furthermore, I have no idea what you know or what you’re privileged to. Nor do most people here, I’m sure. Isn’t that the point?

  13. Thanks for this reminder and remembrance.

    We live in a culture of violence. You can’t point the finger at any one thing, like movies or video games or war. It’s all of them, and more. It’s the whole culture.

  14. Lizard

    thank you, goof, for your direct response.

    in all honesty i could probably get behind a morally determined execution in extreme cases, but our justice system is too corrupt.

    also, as long as our two treasonous executives and their suckled jackals are allowed to live for their crimes, no one in this country should be executed.

    instead, let’s get creative, and export our worst criminals into countries our govt seeks to destabilize. give them a few million dollars from the pentagon black hole Obama won’t fix, and let ’em just go wild, like privileged princesses flashing their tits in florida.

    as for that base nature thing, goof, we’re lucky not to be in that state of mind, but not everyone is that lucky. being homeless and experiencing war can both cause PTSD. take away a few more conveniences and push a few more to the edge and anything is possible.

    oh, and one more thing; i doubt those kids would have done what they did if they weren’t drunk.

  15. in all honesty i could probably get behind a morally determined execution in extreme cases, but our justice system is too corrupt.

    This pretty well states where I come down on the death penalty. I’m not in favor of it primarily because it is very possible that we could — and likely have — execute people who were innocent of the crime for which they were convicted. In this case, the “you can’t bake a cake without breaking a few eggs” argument doesn’t work for me.

    I appreciate this piece, j-girl.

  16. JC

    I don’t know why this thread had to stray off-topic to a discussion on the death penalty.

    Jhwygirl, many thanks for putting a heartfelt human face on this tragedy, and shared your connection to the story.

    Your line:

    “What environment – what community – unwittingly fostered a situation that created such monsters?”

    is what we need to be thinking about. Instead of indulging in feel-good tirades and discussions on revenge and retaliation and deterrents, we need to take a good look at our community to see where WE went wrong, and what WE can do to help prevent future tragedies like this. And not just in creating monsters, but in allowing the homeless situation to go unchecked, so that the two life-stories intersect with such devastating consequences.

    If you see a middle-aged slightly pot-bellied and graying gent out there on the bridge with you tonight, it might just be me.

  17. jmv

    Memorial gathering tonight on the bridge. 5:30. Please come share a moment of reflection with the community.

    Thanks for the article and the link hwygirl.

  18. Lizard

    I tried to address that question in my first comment, JC, but obviously it’s easier to discuss punishment than root causes of violence and homelessness.

  19. JC

    Shifting the discussion to one allows us to ignore the other. Typical avoidance syndrome when it comes to the community trying to accept their part of the responsibility for senseless and heinous crimes.

    Nobody wants to end up being the victim–like Salcido was, in more ways than one. So the discussion diverts to a more base and subconscious psychological reaction attempting to overwhelm our own fears.

  20. Uhh, Lizard, you were the one who brought the death penalty up. Just sayin …

    And, knowing a thing or two about complexity theory and behavioral mechanics, I can tell you that you will never be able to find or rationally discuss a “root cause” for this or other violent crime. We are all welcome to choose among the myriad of ‘sufficient causes’, but one choice would be very hard to defend against another.

    The one indisputable fact is that these young men chose their actions. The only recourse many of us have left is to stand for the example of the numerous consequences, to deny behaviors that reinforce effect. People are hurt. That has little to do with fear (JC), and everything to do with challenging the future in the hope this won’t happen again.

  21. Lizard

    i certainly followed the thread shift from cause to punishment because that is where the prevailing winds were blowing, but obviously i indicated up-thread i thought it was a distraction.

    i’m glad j-girl will be at the bridge tonight. she won’t be alone. and something good will come of clay’s senseless death.

  22. JC

    Wulfgar, fear is what I feel when I walk across that bridge, when my kid walks across that bridge–if only from the memory of what has happened there. It is easy to indulge in thinking about punishments and deterrents when doing so in order to overcome my primal feelings of vulnerability.

    But I also know that drunks and addicts don’t weigh the consequences of their actions like other people do. And they lose the ability to choose socially acceptable actions over unacceptable ones, regardless the punishment.

    I prefer to put my energy towards working to relieve homelessness and addiction, instead of increasing and advocating punitive measures (and I spend many hours every week doing so). How I feel about capital punishment is a whole ‘nother topic–not one really related to the tone of this thread, in my opinion.

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