She photographed herself with a cell phone camera, like 18-year-old girls will, posing in shorts and slinky dresses. Her smile is welcoming but a bit shy, a sweet girl with a bit of daredevil in her. Her name is Deanna Stires and on January 18, 2013 her remains were found in woods near her Florida home. And the media seems to want to blame the victim.
The fact her body was found after she was reported missing on January 1, 2013 is horrific enough. No child should be murdered, dumped like trash. This is hard to swallow. But the media has found a salacious tidbit in Deanna Stires: what is being called her “extensive” criminal record and “wild criminal past”.
Stires’ family and friends find themselves not just mourning her, but now defending her. Unable to get fast answers in an effort to get the “scoop” first, the media is making headlines by focusing on Stires’ past behavior with a few “suggestive” photos. News reports are using photographs of Deanna Stires in skimpy outfits and her mug shots. These type of pictures have become the majority of public photographs. It insinuates she was a cheap, jail house hussy, so someone killed her. This is akin to blaming a rape victim because of her clothing.
There are high risk behaviors that can lead to a quicker demise: drug use, alcohol abuse, extreme sports, and not wearing a seat belt in the vehicle. These behaviors do not guarantee sure death, but anytime anyone partakes in dangerous activity they take a risk. Journalists are speculating that high risk behavior with illegal activities led to Stires’ demise. But “speculation” can be another word for “assume.” To assume, as one of my law enforcement instructors used to say, only makes an ASS of U and ME.
We know nothing about Deanna Stires except for her few charges. “Grand Theft” is one. The charge came when she was 16. Thus far, not one journalist has elaborated. Was she with a friend? A paramour? Was it a silly, childish act committed on the spur of the moment? No one knows, but the media is certainly jumping on it.
Everyone has done something foolish in youth: driving drunk, shoplifting, drugs, underage drinking, driving over the speed limit, naughty photos. Some people pay for these mistakes. Some people do not get caught. Perhaps Deanna Stires was influenced by friends, lovers, or family. Perhaps she took the blame for others. All we do know is, we do not know. The media needs to stop judging her and mourn the daughter, friend, and family member she is - and if it was a murder, her killer needs to be caught.
At this time, the truth about Deanna Stires is this: she was only 18 years old. She was a student. She appeared to enjoy life. She had family and friends who loved her unconditionally, who loved her very much. And she ended up dead, possibly murdered, and dumped, all while her loved ones searched frantically. That should be all we, the media, need to focus on.
My website & information on my book
Photo of J. Yates credit
All photos of D. Stires from her Facebook memorial page