There were desperate moments after Edward Kreiner came to realize that his son, Stuart, might be involved in the slaying of three neighborhood girls. Kreiner and his wife talked of many things, even of destroying two pieces of evidence, a knife and a blood-stained jacket, that might link their son to the brutal stabbings.
The elder Kreiner did not want to believe it - that his son could have had any part in the deaths of the schoolgirls, whose bodies and been found near a creek in the woods that bordered the neighborhood's backyards. But the evidence was there: it could not be ignored.
So the parents of the youth, who was then 16, decided the only thing to do was to ask Stuart if he had been involved. When the elder Kreiner confronted his son, Stuart "went into a seizure, a convulsion . . . he seemed disassociated from everything around him." Kreiner said in an interview yesterday shortly before Stuart was sentenced to life in prison in the case. The youth pleaded guilty to the slayings earlier this year.
The moments that followed Stuart's convulsion in the Kreiners' suburban Anne Arundel County home that night in October 1977 are a jumble of disjointed recollections for the elder Kreiner.
One thing he remembers clearly: the idea of destroying evidence was discarded just as quickly as it had been brought up.
"We asked ourselves, could you and I jointly live, as people, as parents, and face each other, if we allowed Stuart out, maybe to repeat this situation?" Kreiner recalled of the agonizing talk he and his wife, Lee, had that night.
Kreiner remembers calling his lawyer. J. Edward Davis, who he had come to know through his work as a Maryland labor leader, and driving for nearly two hours to Davis' Towson office with Stuart in the car, staring out the window, hugging his father all the way.
He recalls Stuart and Davis together in an inner office for several hours while he waited outside, and then Davis emerging.
"I broken down, I said, 'Did he do it?' and Davis said, 'I don't know,'" Kreiner now says.
The next hours were spent in another drive, to a Glen Burnie police station. This time, Davis drove.
"I sat with Stuart in the car. He laid in my arms for three hours, sleeping. I hugged him like a baby," Edward Kreiner recalls.
Even before the car arrived at the station, police already had been told about Stuart, a teen-ager apparently shunned by his neighborhood contemporaries as "straigh arrow," "slssy" and "sort of weird" and they said they eventually would have gotten to him for questioning.
But there was no need. For the Kreiners were not only turning their son over to police, but also handing authorities crucial evidence - the knife and the boy's jacket.
On Monday, Oct. 11, the day the girls' bodies were found, the elder Kreiner had been as horrified by the grisly crime as his neighbors. He invited reporters in to use his telephone, he talked compassionately of the tragedy and his wife prepared food to take to the girls' grieving parents. But the next day, the Kreiners' grief over their neighbors' loss, turned into a more private agony.
The elder Kreiner explained in his quiet, deliberate way that he and his wife decided from the start that if Stuart were involved in any way, that "the one thing he needed more than anything else was psychiatric treatment."
Through the months while Stuart was hospitalized and imprisoned since his arrest, the elder Kreiner said his son often asked him: "Dad, am I sane or insane? I never hurt anybody in my life. I wouldn't hurt three little girls."
But, finally, last September, 10 days before his trial for murder was about to begin, Stuart for the first time told psychiatrists what happened the night the children were killed, according to the elder Kreiner.
"But he has never said to his mother or me, 'I did it,'" the elder Kreiner says, his voice breaking.
Kreiner says that when he visits his son, they talk of "baseball, football the fun we used to have."