Recently, we told the tragic story of Michael Malmkar and the respected man that he killed, Levern Walter. Like too many real stories, there was no happy ending, at least not yet. We wish there were and we hope something good comes of it.
A real story has real power. Malmkar’s tragedy could convince more people not to live and drive in the fast lane, seeing how it hurt others, and that it can and does lead to prison.
For our cover that week, we combined images of Eagle Scouts and handcuffs, to illustrate that this tragedy can happen anywhere and to anyone who makes wrong choices.
We might have put a bottle on the front page, instead of an Eagle Scout badge, to emphasize the point.
A number of people knew Michael. Few of them ever saw this coming. He was a respected young man, an Eagle Scout.
For his Eagle project, he organized the construction of a sound stage at Bethel Evangelical Free Church.
But Malmkar evidently also had a secret life of addiction and self-destruction.
A few days ago, I spoke with Capt. Jim Parish of the Nebraska State Patrol, who is also a Scoutmaster for Troop 293, one of largest in the area.
I had called the State Patrol Troop D headquarters to find out more about a father and son who were busted late last week for hauling pot out of Colorado on I-80 --another sad-but-real story.
I ended up talking to Capt. Parish.
The Malmkar tragedy hit Parish hard. He didn’t see it coming either. And of course the Scouts stand for a completely different lifestyle.
“I don’t know offhand how many hours of community service the Scouts provide, but we make a positive difference,” Parish said. “It’s terribly disappointing to see a young man spend as much time in Scouts as he did, with a great deal of potential to make good things happen to others, and see things go in the opposite direction.”
Malmkar couldn’t seem to pull himself out of trouble with alcohol and drugs. He hurt others and he lost his freedom.
He was sentenced to 6-10 years in prison.
Reactions to the sentence are divided. Some think it wasn’t harsh enough for ending Walters life, for not immediately owning up to it, and for continuing to drink, steal and use drugs while he was out on bond, seeking treatment.
Others think it’s too harsh a sentence for a young man, that he will fall further into despair, cynicism and crime if he spends too much time behind bars.
Parish had some thoughts on that.
“If he recalls what he was taught during his years as Boy Scout, his 3-4 years as a Cub Scout, to make good decisions, to be trustworthy and loyal, to help other people; if he turns his life around and is truly remorseful, he can accomplish great things in his lifetime,” Parish said.
“Our duty is to help others at all times,” he said. “When we look inward, we don’t always like what we see, but if we look outward, we see others need help and we see that we can help, and what a rewarding experience that can be. Some very profound things are pretty simple. If you are concerned with other people, that helps end a personal cycle of resentment, anger and depression.”
Parish said Malmkar will have plenty of opportunity to examine how deep his faith runs. He will see many things in prison that are discouraging, but he will also have plenty of opportunities to consider others and help them.
If he cares more about others than himself, he can triumph over his failings.
Good wishes, Michael.
George Lauby is the editor of the North Platte Bulletin.