Marvin Repinski: A review of the novel, ‘The Final Case’

Published 5:45 pm Friday, February 4, 2022

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned.” (The Bible — Isaiah 43:1-5)

A novel that I am presently reading, is a story I would recommend to those who can endure the ugly; who can, while noting forbidden actions and acknowledging that some behaviors are reprehensible, evil, and to be condemned. The conclusion of this story puts these words in the mouth of the Judge, Mary Ann Rasmussen. She looks over the tops of her glasses to give her pronouncement.

The author of this novel, “The Final Case,” David Guterson, writes of the judge’s statement: “At some point in this trial, each and every one of us is stunned and speechless without the slightest hope of making any sense of this whatsoever. This was not about mental illness or drug abuse or alcohol or any of those factors. This is a form of evil, in my book — evil dressed up as a higher morality, as a superior or even supreme morality. Delvin and Betsy Harvey, you are not the victims here, you are the perpetrators. And yet I haven’t seen a whit of remorse from you. Not one whit. Only more certainty. In your heads, you are still right. You remain right and will always be right. You have one-hundred percent confidence that you didn’t commit a crime and that the legal system and Sheriff’s office, and CPS (Child Protection Service), and everyone else is joined in a giant conspiracy designed for the purpose of bringing you down. You will always look into a world that is misguided and in error because it doesn’t agree with you, and that’s no basis for rehabilitation.”

We have noted the manner that the judge has compressed her inventory before a sentence is announced. She has used the word “crime” and the reader will ask “what was it?”

The children of Delvin and Betsy Harvey were home-schooled in a vicious environment where, for the parents, God and religion were turned into a form of ignorant, hurtful, impoverished, ruthless Christian fundamentalism. Some of the tactics used as forms of physical and mental abuse, were as follows: One boy recalled being beaten — head-slammed, locked in a cellar and deprived of food. Testimony was given to the court that the defendants adopted a girl from Ethiopia and brutally beat her, not only with their hands, but with a variety of cruel and vicious instruments, and struck her in the head, the feet, the arms, the legs, and the torso.

An additional witness spoke of the adopted daughter being locked in a little shower room where she was to sleep alone in a bathtub. She was not allowed to use the bathroom in the house, but instead had to use an outdoor toilet behind a barn. Another reprehensible scene was to a girl viewed as “breaking the rules.” Almost all of her hair was cut off on more than one occasion.

Betsy (the wife), was particular about hygiene, and was dedicated to cleanliness, so it was hard for her to bear any violation of this rigid expectation. When the adopted child brought lice and fungus into the house, she was not only scolded, but punishment was severe. When the punishment turned brutal, Delvin (the husband) finally put a stop to it. Betsy grew angry when he spoke against her and when he refused to listen to her point of view. The business of running the home when he was at work, was her job. The fact was right, for her! Delvin didn’t know that his wife was deceiving him about the depth, cruelty, and extent of her punishments while he was gone.

In this novel, the trial revolves around bickering, blaming, and lying to the attorneys, attempting to put a pleasant face on things or give reasons for the behaviors that covered a number of years. The form that evil and human hurt, a twisted form of believing, a rancid demeaning practice of perverted Fundamentalism can take, is to be noted.

My conclusion of this review is to return to Judge Mary Ann Rasmussen: “This sentencing is a denunciation. It is an expression of a common ethos that you, with your actions as parents, have defied and denied. You are being denounced here.” (Among the deeds of abuse was the resulting death of the adopted girl.)  “I am acknowledging, with your sentences, that the life of your victim very much mattered and was equal to every life in value, and that it cannot be taken without society stepping in to say, ‘absolutely not, and if you do, you must pay!’ And so you will pay. I sentence you, Delvin Harvey, to thirty-seven years to be served in a Washington State Correctional Facility.” The judge sentenced his wife Betsy, to the same maximum sentence available.

My writing this review is to state for all of us, the importance, the motivation to lead lives that will embrace the kind of character that we desire for all persons. My urging, is that especially in the environment of families, settings be appropriate examples of respect, of love, mercy and God’s grace.