My editor gave me a single task today: Find Edward Hackett.
Well, she wasn’t quite that…intense in her direction, but you get the picture. Hackett is the 77-year old Domino’s Pizza delivery man stabbed on a false delivery call before midnight Saturday in southeast Oklahoma City. We reported today that police arrested a trio of teenagers in the attack.
Police arrested Sethe Higgins, 15, and Keith Stewart, 14, on complaints of robbery with a dangerous weapon and Marcus Smith, 18, on complaints of robbery with a dangerous weapon, assault with intent to commit a felony and conspiracy to commit a felony.
Hackett’s stab wound left his organs protruding from his abdomen, but somehow, he is recovering and in fair condition at OU Medical Center.
The senseless crime left a lot of heads shaking in Oklahoma City. It also raised the questions: Who was Edward Hackett and why, oh why, is he delivery pizza in his golden years?
I left the office and headed southeast, toward Del City, Hackett’s town, to find out.
In southeast Oklahoma City, old warehouses and fast food joints opened up to reveal…more old warehouses and fast food joints. A pale, tattooed hitch hiker walked along the road near Trosper Park. I passed. Near Tinker Air Force Base, I found a little strip plaza with the take-out Domino’s store where Hackett worked, a 7-Eleven, dry cleaner and a liquor store.
For the sake of the assignment, I ordered a pizza. Really, they couldn’t kick me out if I was waiting to eat. An employee who enthusiastically convinced me to try the new deep dish was apologetic in passing along the news that she couldn’t talk to me about her co-worker. The manager wouldn’t come to the front of the store, either. I ate a slice outside in the hopes a regular customer might stop by who knew Hackett. That didn’t happen. Really, how well does any one know their pizza delivery guy? Three slices later and I’d gotten no where with my stupid idea, except for uncomfortably full of pizza (a tad dough-y, btw, much like I was soon to be).
I cut my losses and headed to the crime scene, Chapel Ridge apartments. I did encounter a woman who knew Hackett! Like me, she likes pizza. She’d seen him on and off for years during pick-ups and described him as “kind and caring.” This was nice and all, but again, how well does anyone know their pizza delivery guy? The apartment complex was part of a good community, she said, though she was growing increasingly wary of teenage boys who seemed to just hang around.
I headed toward Hackett’s home in Del City. In his neighborhood, another pale tattooed man walking along the street (what’s with that today?) I parked and looked around. An elderly man in overalls lifted a lawnmower out of a teal vintage pickup across the street. A spark of hope. Perhaps this fellow, who looked to be about 77, knew Hackett. No, he was just there to mow that resident’s lawn. “Good, you can knock on her door and wake her up, so she can pay me, heh heh,” he said. A tiny woman answered the door who looked to be a good decade older than her yard man. “Hi, I’m Juliana, a reporter with The Oklahoman,” I said. Her yard man fired up the mower. “What?,” she said in a small voice, pointing to her ear. About six inches from her face now. “HI I’M JULIANA, A REPORTER WITH THE OKLAHOMAN.” Horrified, I remembered my pizza breath. I’d make this quick. “DO YOU KNOW YOUR NEIGHBOR ACROSS THE STREET?” I asked, pointing. She shook her head. I left her alone.
Next door to Hackett’s house, a rundown brick home with a white cross that said “Jesus Saves.” Beyond that, a rickety fence with an ominous warning sign posted about pit bulls. Pass.
When I knocked on the door to Hackett’s small, one-story home, a younger man answered who said he was his roommate and co-worker. I explained who I was and what I wanted, and he explained, apologetically, that he’d been asked not to talk, by his roommate’s family and by the store. I left a note with my contact information and went on my way. Prior to my quest, I’d been shut down on the phone by a hospital nurse who explained that, no, Mr. Hackett and his family wish to be left alone by the media. She sounded tough, and like a good advocate for her patients. I wasn’t about to mess with Nurse Betty.
As focused as I was on this progressively failing mission, I don’t have veins full of ice water (just pizza triglycerides). There’s always a chance a good profile on the victim would generate some help for his hospital bills, which is often the case in stories like these. I took some solace in the fact that Domino’s corporate has an employee-funded program set up for employees who encounter hard times. Mr. Hackett being brutally stabbed in the guts for a measely few bucks? Yeah, I think, I hope, that he gets some support from the pizza giant for that.
We may never know who Edward Hackett is or why he is delivering pizza at 77. My assignment went unfulfilled, and as a result, a recovering victim will get what he wants – to just be left alone.