Domestic Violence Isn’t a Story Any More

Here’s another story of a thwarted man who chose to kill innocents.

FORSYTH COUNTY, GA (CBS46) –

Four people were killed in a shooting Wednesday morning in Forsyth County, which is about 40 miles northeast of Atlanta.

We’ve also learned the shooter has at least two felony convictions in his criminal history.

The shooting occurred just after 6 a.m. Wednesday in the 5500 block of Old Atlanta Road in the Suwanee area.

When deputies arrived on scene, three people were found dead inside a home.

Forsyth County Sheriff Duane Piper said that the gunman, Matthew Fields, committed suicide. Rebecca Manning, was shot, along with her two sons, Jared and Jacob Smith. Jared was 8 and Jacob was 9.  Both boys were dead when deputies arrived.

Rebecca Manning later died at the hospital.

Rebecca Manning’s father, Jerry Manning, was also shot and is listed in critical condition at the hospital.

Police said Fields is Rebecca Manning’s husband, but family members said they were never married. Fields is not the father of the children. The father of the children was identified as Robbie Smith, who lives a few miles from the home.

Authorities said the shooting is domestic-related and there was never any harm to the public. Sheriff Piper said officers were familiar with the residence and had been at the home before.

CBS46 dug into the criminal record of gunman Matthew Fields and learned he was arrested several times. Fields was arrested for probation violation in 2005. Prior to that, we found a 2004 felony arrest for forgery, a felony arrest in 2003 for burglary and charges related to leaving the scene of an accident in 2006.

Deputies were there Tuesday night for a report of a domestic dispute outside the house that was called in by passing drivers.  Fields was not on scene when deputies got there and Rebecca Manning refused to press charges.

Suwanee is exurban Atlanta: middle-class single-family homes, for the most part. Forsyth County was traditionally one of Georgia’s centers for racist violence: this is one of the issues in my story Cross Lap Joint. But this story has nothing to do with race: everyone in it is white. It’s just another story of a loser man who, seeing that his antisocial behavior is about to result in serious consequences, uses the guns handed out like candy to erase everyone he’s shamed before erasing himself.

As a crime writer, it’s hard to work with material like this. The plot is a cliché: Fields almost got tagged with domestic violence charges, couldn’t handle the stain on his “honor”, had a rare vision of the next forty years of increasingly downscale life, and instead of just taking himself out, chose to murder his wife and kids first. The “family annihilator” is just one facet of American life right now: guns, entitlement, thwarted masculinity. Hard to come at it from the character angle, also: there’s nothing appealing or even distinctive about Fields. A man killing his female partner isn’t even really news anymore.

The only angle that might inspire a story is that the children’s poor father lives a few miles away. Let’s all take a moment to share a little sympathy for Robbie Smith, who we know absolutely nothing about other than that his two little boys are dead. Now imagine a story that takes the same structure and tell it from the father’s point of view. Let’s say that Dad (and note: we are not talking about poor Mr. Smith here) has his issues, and reproduced way too young like people in these situations always do, and despite the ruined relationship with his ex, does what he can to keep the peace and stay in his sons’ lives. And he doesn’t like his ex’s new boyfriend, and not just because the new BF is sleeping with the ex: maybe he knows about the BF’s criminal record, or maybe he doesn’t care for the BF’s influence on his sons, or maybe, still better, he just doesn’t like the BF for unclear reasons. But he knows he can’t bring it up with his ex, like she’s going to listen to him. Then the domestic violence incident happens, and knowing that intervention will likely be counterproductive, he decides not to intervene. Now it’s a story.

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