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Steve Lunetta: The most gifted can fall the farthest

Right About Now

Posted: July 4, 2010 10:50 p.m.
Updated: July 5, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Every family seems to be blessed with one member who causes extreme heartache and sorrow. Our family is no exception. My sister’s youngest daughter turned out to be that one.

Leslie was such a sweet little girl. With golden locks and a winning smile, Leslie was always a ray of sunshine wherever she went. Able to talk with the girls but roughhouse with the boys, there seemed to be no social situation in which she would fail.

Leslie was not a brilliant person but could get good grades with even a small amount of effort. When pursuing a goal, she could be driven to succeed. But in some ways, her tremendous gifts may have hastened her downfall.

Isn’t it odd how the most gifted of individuals sometimes fall the farthest?

Leslie’s road to ruin began with a relationship with a handsome, young University of California, Davis biochemistry student who was studying to become a doctor. While all of us were excited at first, something was strange about the young man.

Bill, as we will call him here, was always looking for the quick road to wherever he was going. Never satisfied with simply working hard and enjoying the fruits of his labors, Bill was forever seeking the quick buck, the “winning” formula or the can’t-fail business proposition.

The son of a missionary family in China, it seemed like Bill came from good stock. However, it soon became apparent that he was a refugee from a family plagued with an absentee father, an inept mother and mental illness.

One day, Leslie had to marry Bill suddenly. The rest of the family never got an explanation, but one can guess. A few short months later, the baby arrived.

The pressure of college life, a wife and a new baby proved too much for the handsome, young Bill. “Why go to school,” he reasoned, “when I can make a good living as a day trader?” Dropping out of Davis, Bill began trading online to earn his living.

No one could tell Bill that the day-trader success stories are few and far between and that the markets are really controlled by “makers” who seek to squelch young upstarts such as he. Intelligence, Bill had. Wisdom and experience, he did not.

My sister had given her home to them as a gift for their young family. This was a home in which all of her children were
raised, including Leslie.

Bill’s day-trading losses began to mount. Of course, he always spoke of the “huge gains” he made while omitting the even larger losses. Soon, the home that was their gift was sold to pay off a massive trading debt.

Homeless and without an education, Bill went back to the only thing he knew, working steel. Moderately successful at first, Bill created a small business with several employees and a decent client list. However, his penchant for “shortcuts” once again got the best of him.

It started with alcohol but soon evolved into harder drugs. This was Bill’s shortcut to fun and relaxation. Leslie, of course, was drawn into Bill’s partying ways, often acting as his drinking or drugging partner.

By this time, the family numbered two adults and three children, although most of us simply saw five children.

The first true warning signs appeared when the children were often late or absent from school. Leslie began to sleep longer into the morning and failed to wake her children for class. She would devise elaborate excuses for the kids to tell their teachers.

Bill began to lose steel-working jobs. No one wanted a high worker on their property, and I’m not talking about elevation. 

Eventually, Leslie left Bill and came to live with her parents. But, Bill’s siren song and the allure of the drugs proved too much. Leslie did the unthinkable and left her children to return to her dope-addled husband.

From November of last year through early June, Leslie did not call her children once. I have heard that only one thing can make a mother abandon her children, and that is drugs. Now that I’ve seen it, I believe it.

Other depravities came to light as well during the time that Leslie turned from her family. Affairs, alternate personalities, violent fights and crime all shocked this conservative, normal, extended family.

In April, my niece was arrested with her husband while sitting in a stolen van filled with stolen computer equipment.

Currently serving time in prison, my niece has been given the opportunity to get sober and see her life for what it truly is.

It is our fervent prayer that she can turn her life around and become the wonderful golden-locked girl with the vibrant personality that we all know and love.

Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita. He can be reached at His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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