Case in Point

Community call to come together in time of tragedy

Chantz Stevens
Chantz Stevens

Like the rest of our readership this week, we were shocked, sickened and saddened by the tragic death of 2019 Wilton graduate Chantz Stevens.

I began getting messages from staffers Sunday morning asking if I'd heard the news. Sadly I had not. In the social media world in which we live, it didn't take long to learn about the stabbing death of Stevens while at a Cedar County party late Saturday night (or early Sunday morning technically).

By that night and into Monday morning, I was in contact with both Cedar County Sheriff Warren Wethington, and Detective Matt Jackson, attaining information for the story on page 1.

I made the decision to put the story on our website as soon as it was done in order to help get information out to our readers. The most relevant is that authorities are trying to build a case against alleged killer Milton Jermaine Cole Serrano Jr., 21, of Muscatine.

Again, in this social media age — a world in which everyone has a computer in their pockets, investigators are quite sure there are several videos and/or photos of the incident floating around.

They are urging anyone with information to come forward, no questions asked.

In other words, for young people that were present, now is not the time to worry about being at a party underage with whatever was happening.

Now is the time to collect evidence.

Writing stories like the one you'll see on page 1 is the heartbraking part of this job.

Fortunately, I have not had to write about many homicides. We have covered several fatal car accidents in the past decade involving students. That too never gets any easier.

I always joke in this job that I keep getting older, the kids stay the same age. My deepest involvement with young people in our communities revolves around the field of sport. If you were a student-athlete at Wilton or Durant in the last 20-plus years, we've probably crossed paths at some point.

My earliest and fondest memories of Chantz Stevens date back to Jan. 21, 2016, when I first laid eyes on then freshman Chantz, who got his first big varsity opportunity in athletics, on the wresting mat.

Those who follow Wilton wrestling know that the Beavers rarely lose at home. It was senior night and Stevens was in the most pressurized situation he'd perhaps ever be in.

A dual with Mid-Prairie came down to the final match — Chantz's match — with the Beavers leading 39-36. The wrong kind of loss would lose the meet. A win would secure the team victory.

Chantz won a 7-3 decision in that match to secure a senior night win for the Beavers. What's most memorable for me was the photo I snapped of Chantz as his hand was being raised (right). The joy and disbelief captured simultaneously in that split second is something that I, and he remembered, as he used that clipping out of the paper as his social media picture for quite sometime thereafter.

Then during his senior year, he was selected All-State in baseball, and he sent me an email out of the blue, asking if I'd give him a photo he could use for the school plaque honoring his selection. I happily obliged. I could go on and on, but I'll just end by saying that I'm processing this like the rest of you. Rather than ramble, I'd like to reprint that first image I got of Chantz during a life that was taken far too soon. His obit appears on page 7.