We know how the sad story ends: A mother is dead; a son faces life in prison. It's the earlier chapters that leave us pondering the factors that led up to murder.
Jesse James Campbell, 21, is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison after being convicted of first- and third-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless endangerment in connection with the death of his mother, Cindy Jo Coleman.
A Mercer County jury spared the Houtzdale man from the death penalty.
During the penalty phase, the jurors heard a plea from Campbell's grandmother and half-sister to spare his life. "I still want a part of Cindy to hold onto," grandmother Doris Coleman said.
The testimony of Campbell's grandmother and his half-sister, Kelly McCoy, painted a less-than-desirable picture of his childhood.
McCoy said Campbell watched as his mother was threatened and abused by an ex-boyfriend. She also said his mother spent a lot of time in bars and took her young son with her. And at times Campbell was left for days at a friend's house before he was picked up.
We only can speculate how these instances affected the behavior of Campbell, who has been diagnosed as bipolar and having a personality disorder.
Clearly, it could not have been helpful.
But he made bad choices as well, including crime and drugs. He served two-and-a-half years in detention and a period in drug and alcohol rehabilitation and in a hospital psychiatric unit as a juvenile and later three years in state prison for stealing a car.
We may never know how all these factors contributed to that night in March Campbell and his mother argued over a computer. We do know that Campbell left his girlfriend's apartment and went to his mother's house, where he hit her in the head and face with a dumbbell before stabbing her repeatedly and then cutting her neck with a steak knife.
Campbell's girlfriend says he later told her that he read the Bible to his mother while she was bleeding to death.
The entire case is disturbing, and no matter how bad Campbell's childhood might have been, it can't excuse the vicious attack on his mother, who can't defend her actions.
Still, we are left to ponder how things could have turned out differently. Certainly, all of us are the sum of our experiences that are shaped by our actions and by those close to us. It's something all of us as adults, and especially as parents, must constantly keep in mind.
This story doesn't have a happy ending. One life was cut short. Another life will be spent behind bars, and the horror of this attack will shadow the lives of relatives and friends.
We only hope that people learn from this tragic tale. We don't need a sequel.