The “Disneyland” tragedy
Judge Philpot describes a tragic fire that occurred in Knox County on Saturday March 9th 2013. In the book the event is fictionalized as occurring in Perry county some time in November. However, the events are unmistakably the same and not just coincidently similar because of the number of identical details. A pregnant woman (Nina Asher) and her fiancé (Jesse Disney)were killed in a house fire along with three of her children from a previous relationship (ages 3,2 and almost 1) and other children who were having a sleepover at a location nicknamed “Disneyland” , so named because of the concentration of people with the surname “Disney” living nearby. The number of guest children sleeping over numbers three in the book, making the fictional total killed eight instead of seven.
The judge appears to find fault in the surviving father, (identifiable as William Gray, who was living separately from his family) for lackluster display of grief.
More troubling is the blame attributed to the grieving father in the horrific deaths of his children and former partner. The author blames the adult victims because they “‘partied’ until 3 a.m.” and the father of the three siblings for allowing another man to “sleep in his bed” as the root causes of the gruesome disaster. In a characteristic manipulation of the facts to support his moralistic agenda, the author suggests that the pregnant woman and surviving father were previously married by giving them the same last name and so implying that divorce was the underlying cause of the heart wrenching catastrophe. The press accounts do not suggest that Nina and William were married but rather that Jesse and Nina were engaged to be married. Instead of being found in bed as described in Judge Philpot’s account, news reports indicate that Jesse Disney and the mother of his unborn child died attempting to rescue the other children.
There was a bigger headline in the paper over a very different story: “Eight Dead in Perry County ‘Disneyland’ Trailer-Park.” Top of B-1.
Underneath the big headline was a small one: “No Foul Play.” The story quoted a fire marshal who said there was no evidence of arson. No “cause” had been discovered.
Even Judge Z was shocked by the story. In Perry County, deep in the mountains, eight people died in a fire, not counting an unborn baby. Killed by smoke inhalation was Johnny Disney, twenty-six, a boyfriend who was soon to be a father. He was found in bed with Kim Brown, twenty-three, the pregnant mother of three, ages three, two and one. Their father, Jack Brown, still Kim’s legal husband, “was visibly upset about the death of his three children,” the story said.
It seemed to have never occurred to Jack Brown that his three children might not be safe in the care of Mom and her boyfriend.
Barely mentioned were three more kids, ages five, three, and two, who had been over for a sleepover, according to the news story. These three children were not named, “pending notification of family.”
Family? thought Judge Z.
So, six kids and two adults, not counting the unborn baby. Dead.
The fire broke out early Sunday morning—about the time other children headed to Sunday school. The adult victims were still asleep because they had “partied” until 3 a.m., according to a Disney family member living nearby.
“The area of the fire is known as Disneyland,” the story said. “It’s a real close family,” one of the Disneys told the reporter. The cause of death was being investigated.
“Is it that hard to understand?” the judge wondered aloud to his staff attorney Clay Henderson. “Maybe it was a bad heater that caused the fire or someone forgot to put out a cigarette. But the real cause is a total breakdown in the family. Marriage means nothing. A father who is not there to protect his children is so common nobody even mentions it. How can any man find it okay for another man to be in bed with his kids and their mom?”
Clay nodded. “Those kids never had a chance. And the three kids over for the sleepover, there was not even any mention of their names or parents.”
By including this narrative of an easily identifiable event, it appears that Judge Philpot is seeking to profit from tragedy: not just by virtue of sensationalism for his readers but also by twisting the facts to present a cautionary parable in support of his religious dogma. Surviving family members should not have to relive their pain or have the memory of their loved ones tarnished just to provide a falsified anecdote for Judge Philpot’s heartless morality tale.
As an addendum, Judge Philpot recently revisited the tragedy during a recorded presentation at Asbury Theological Seminary. He made the same troubling attack against the real life family members and explained that he added an extra overnight guest amongst the victims to make the death toll 8 because the media did not count the unborn child as a separate victim. He then seamlessly meandered into a lighthearted description of his own recent frolics at the real Disneyland in California.
Children burning to death because they didn’t go to Sunday school is no lesson for a family court judge to teach