On a recent summer evening after work, my wife and I traveled from Tupelo to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to visit friends. Returning home on Highway 78 later that evening we passed the tiny community of Dorsey, Mississippi. Ann commented that a friend had recommended a restaurant in Dorsey, Comer’s Family Restaurant.
Comer’s – that sounds familiar, I thought. Then I remembered why. Twelve years ago I wrote a three-part feature series about a high school girl whose family owned the restaurant. At about 9 p.m. one summer evening in 2000, Leesa Marie Gray was leaving work at the restaurant. As she drove away down a dark Itawamba County road, an 18-year Marine veteran lay in wait for her. He would kidnap, torture, rape and kill Leesa Marie.
Today the murderer, Thomas Loden, remains on death row at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. He will be 50 years old on August 16. His execution date has not been set.
An unspeakable tragedy, for sure, but you might ask why AFA would be interested in such a story. My short commentary below, which also ran in the August 2002 issue of AFA Journal, answers that question:
A personal confession: I am a people-pleaser, frequently more concerned with the opinions of others than with God’s.
Maybe that’s why before coming to work at AFA, I rationalized that pornography wasn’t a big deal. If I spoke out, others might think I was a self-righteous moralist. That would hurt.
But I’ve awakened to the fact that the sting of a little rejection doesn’t compare to the suffering of the victims of pornography addiction.
I’ve learned that porn is more than dirty pictures. It’s the match that can ignite an inferno of lust, as well as the fuel that makes it burn hotter.
I knew a pastor who often said our hearts are like a tinder box that can burst into flame when we stand too close to sin. He later experienced that truth when pornography killed his marriage and ministry.
“Vile Passions” is the story of another pornography casualty, a beautiful 16-year-old high school junior savagely murdered by a porn addict playing out a sexual fantasy. The tragedy happened just 15 miles from AFA headquarters here in Tupelo, Mississippi.
In interviews for the feature, I heard the sad stories of the surviving victims, including the girl’s mother and the murderer’s former wife. Again, I was reminded of how easily we underestimate the power of sin.