By ED RUNYAN
Before 12-year-old Raymond Fife’s abduction and murder on Sept. 10, 1985 made him a symbol of senseless violence, he was just a mischievous boy who loved animals, baseball and the Michael Jackson song “Beat It.”
He was 11 during the summer of 1984 when he rode solo in a commercial airliner that took him to Newark, N.J., to spend time with a former Warren pal.
He called his mom, Miriam Fife, after arriving in Newark, and said, “‘Mom, we almost hit the Umpire State Building!’”
He’s the same boy who, when he was about 3 years old, got a bike ride from his sister Yvonne, sitting in the basket she used to deliver fliers. The bolts came loose on the basket, causing him to tumble onto a busy West Market Street.
While his sister anxiously gathered him back up, Raymond said, “Wheee, Vonn! Do it again!”
He’s also the boy who put plastic bugs in his mother’s bed and delighted in seeing her reaction.
Those are the kinds of memories Miriam Fife wants to share with those who attend Friday night’s commemoration of the day 25 years ago when he died from injuries two teen boys inflicted on him in woods off of Palmyra Road Southwest, near his home.
The perpetrators, Danny Lee Hill and Timothy Combs, are on Death Row and serving a life prison term, respectively.
“I wanted to share a little bit of him as a little boy, and what he meant to us, and if I can get through it without tears ...” Miriam Fife said.
She has invited many of the people who played a role in the criminal trials and conviction of Raymond’s killers to speak at the 5 p.m. celebration at First United Methodist Church, 309 N. Park Ave. It is open to the public.
Dennis Watkins, Trumbull County prosecutor, and W. Wyatt McKay and Peter Kontos, current common pleas court judges who were part of the prosecution team, were asked to speak, along with a Boy Scout leader, pastor, school and city official and Raymond’s sister, Paula Lazzari.
Miriam Fife, who has become a recognizable figure in the 25 years since Raymond’s death, helping to get the prosecutor’s office’s Victim-Witness Division up and running, says she believes this is a good time for people to learn more about her son and the positive things that have come about because of his death.
“In that sanctuary, everybody will be touching on the positive,” she said.
Though Miriam Fife became a volunteer for the Victim-Witness Division shortly after her son’s death, her son’s death did not directly lead to the establishment of the office, she said Wednesday.
An application had been made for funding to start the office before Raymond’s death, she said.
“His death had a lot to do with the growth of it, though,” she said, adding that she made it her mission to educate people on the victims of crime.
Jeff Goodman, a longtime defense attorney in Trumbull County, said Miriam Fife’s work as a victim-witness advocate has been one of the biggest difference makers that came out of the tragedy of her son’s death.
“She’s taken possibly the most unimaginable tragedy and turned it into a positive for change for a quarter of a century,” Goodman said.