In the cauldron of human tragedy still simmering in Oregon City, a new bit of information surfaced last week, providing another test for our collective gag reflex: Ashley Pond's mother has a lawyer and is starting to point her finger at the deep pockets of the state.

We can now look forward to the lawsuit, filled with such phrases as "dereliction of duty" and "pain and suffering," and the argument that because a couple of state caseworkers failed to follow up on calls made with concerns about her daughter, Lori Pond ought to have her meal ticket punched for life.

Michael Haines, the Oregon City lawyer who represents Lori Pond, released this statement last week from his distraught client: "My daughter might be alive today if someone in authority would have believed her."

Translation: "Ka-ching!"

The Nose may be premature. Haines, who also represents the mother of Miranda Gaddis, has not yet filed a lawsuit. The Oregon City lawyer and his partner are at this point helping the two distraught mothers navigate the media circus and criminal-justice system. But eventually they, or some other lawyers, will weigh the options and evidence (as all good lawyers should do) and consider a civil suit.

The Nose just hopes that whoever puzzles out the calculus of cost and opportunity factors in the domestic bliss that Lori Pond provided Ashley during her 12 long years of life.

A home life in which men with criminal backgrounds were drawn to the Pond apartment like horseflies to a swamp.

A domestic sphere in which Ashley was subjected to ongoing sexual attacks by her biological father, one Wes Roettger, who didn't live with Lori Pond but had made regular "visits" since Ashley was 7 years old.

A place where, one March afternoon in 2000, Lori Pond locked her adolescent daughter out of the house, because, according to a 911 call, Mom was soused.

An environment in which over a period of two years Lori Pond allowed her daughter to spend so many nights at the home of neighbor Ward Weaver that Ashley moved her toiletries to his bathroom. In which six months before her death, Ashley told friends and family members that Weaver had molested her, yet Lori Pond did nothing to intervene.

The Nose is reminded of that great social critic Keanu Reeves, who, in the movie Parenthood, observed, "You know, you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car. Hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they'll let any asshole be a father."

The Nose doesn't mean to dismiss Lori Pond's suffering. He cannot fathom the depths of pain that must come when a child is murdered. He believes that revenge sometimes is an appropriate part of justice.

So go ahead. Hook up a lethal IV line to Ward Weaver, or whoever is found guilty of killing Ashley Pond and Miranda Gaddis and burying them in Weaver's backyard. Fire the state bureaucrats who failed to snuff the fuse that burned too quickly on these girls' lives. Change the rules to create a better early-warning system for teachers, counselors and others who too often are the only adults who seem to notice the troubling signals of the Ashleys and Mirandas who walk through their doors. Fasten flowers to a chain-link fence. Rage against the horror of a world that creates monsters in our back yard.

But don't, don't put more mad money in the pockets of those who reared these kids.

2002 Give Guide
For the Nose, there is no better recipient for your hard-earned dollars than Sisters of the Road Cafe, the nonprofit restaurant that serves low-income folks in Old Town/Chinatown. Diners don't get their food for free, however. They must either pay $1.25 for a meal or agree to work for their grub. This "no handouts for anyone" policy, combined with the uniquely humble style of the Sisters' organization, makes it the Nose's favorite charity, and he strongly encourages you to send a few bucks its way--particularly since some anonymous benefactor has agreed to match 50 cents for every dollar given the nonprofit between now and the end of the year. Mail your check to Sisters at 133 NW 6th Ave., Portland, OR 97209, or make a donation via its website at