Cody Harter’s death should not, cannot, be in vain

There are a million tragic things about the death of 23-year-old Cody Harter last week in Lee’s Summit.

The one most sobering is this — any one of us could have come face-to-face with Nicholas Webb. Let that sink in for a minute.

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While Webb will have his day in court — and in fact has told police he may have recognized the victim — he claims he did not kill Harter. This is despite mounting visual evidence and witness accounts that seem to indicate otherwise.

Nicholas Webb has ruined so many lives since 1981, it’s hard to believe he was even out among free people to commit this act. He strangled a young woman, did 15 years in prison and then spent the better part of the next two decades in and out of (mostly in) our penal system.

If Webb could do one decent thing in this world, it would be to not put Cody Harter’s family through a trial. While I strongly support the fact that every man deserves his day in court, the mounting evidence against Webb — coupled with his violent and wasted history — gives me pause on that right.

In fact, I am frankly appalled he was ever let out to see the light of day after killing a teenager in the 1980s. Our legal system was so broken then that someone like Nicholas Webb is free to take out his anger on unsuspecting citizens any time they want.

Life is random. Crimes can be random. I get that. Any one of us could have encountered someone as heinous and disgusting as Nicholas Webb as we merged onto Interstate 470 from Missouri 291.

Would we have exited our vehicles if an altercation had ensued? I can’t say. None of us really can.

Harter may have recognized Webb as well. Leaving your car at such a busy merge seems extreme. And someone with Harter’s military background surely would have taken that into consideration when he made the decision to pull over.

But, really, why Harter left his car isn’t even the issue here. Now is hardly the time to question that.

Why Nicholas Webb was ever out of jail is the real tragedy.

We have heard this week that if convicted, with new laws in place, Webb will have to do at least 85 percent of his sentence.

However many years he spends in prison this time is far too easy of a punishment for this man.

My hope is we can somehow evolve beyond this anger, this rage that with one action took the life of a young man with so much ahead of him.

Perhaps the Missouri Department of Transportation and the City of Lee’s Summit can work together to memorialize this spot at the 291/470 merge as a place of kindness, peace and friendship.

Whatever we can do to remember Cody will be fitting. His name — not Webb’s — is the only name we should remember. And we should remember it with hope for a kinder future at the site of this abhorrent act.

Editor's Note: John Beaudoin is a Lee's Summit resident and award winning writer and former newspaper publisher in the Lee's Summit community. Views and opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily reflect those of Link 2 Lee's Summit, it's employees or any other guest contributors.