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  1. #1
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    Little feels pain of his actions 10 years later

    Little feels pain of his actions 10 years later
    By Bryan Burwell
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    05/02/2008

    The 10- and 11-year-old boys say they know all about him. They know he is a larger-than-life football star who makes millions of dollars, performs in giant stadiums and races across their television screens on Sundays.

    They are sixth- and seventh-graders at the Loyola Academy of St. Louis, a small all-boys Jesuit middle school that sits in the shadows of the Fox Theatre. They sit in this brightly lit classroom with their eager faces, their blue polo shirts and beige khaki pants, and are giggling and joking. They have been keenly anticipating the arrival of the tall, muscular man in the loose-fitting jeans, starched striped cotton shirt and spotless white Nike sneakers who has just walked into the room.

    "I want to tell you guys a story," Leonard Little said in a gentle voice spiced with a soft Southern lilt.

    The boys stop giggling and they snap to attention as Little sits on the top step of a three-tiered choir riser, leans his back against the dry eraser board and settles under a 12-inch-long silver crucifix.

    You can draw your own conclusions about the symbolism of this juxtaposition, but it's impossible to ignore it because Little had come to this classroom to pay for his sins.

    "I want you guys to pay attention to what I'm about to say," he said.

    You could hear in his voice how uncomfortable he was. He stuttered a bit, occasionally looking into the audience to establish eye contact with a friend for some reassurance that he was saying all the right things. But the longer he spoke, you could also hear the eagerness in his voice, too. These were words and emotions that he was aching to get out of his gut. He's been keeping this pain inside for a long time, and even if it sounded a bit uncomfortable, it felt liberating.

    "Please don't do what I did," he said. "I killed someone and I constantly think about the hurt I caused that family. I'm not a bad person, but I made a bad decision, and it cost someone her life and ruined her family's lives. You don't want that burden on you."

    Even if you don't want to forgive him, Leonard Little wants to say he's sorry, and it has taken him nearly 10 years to get up the nerve to do this publicly.

    So what we witnessed on this Tuesday afternoon was another phase in the personal penance the Rams defensive end is paying as retribution for the fateful night of Oct. 19, 1998, when he climbed behind the wheel of his Lincoln Navigator and made two fateful turns out of a hotel parking area, then struck and killed Susan Gutweiler. MORE BURWELL

    The toxicology reports said Little was drunk, and he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served 90 days in jail. There are plenty of angry people out there who think Little got off easy, that his sentence was too short, that the punishment didn't fit the crime. It might surprise you to know that for a long time, Leonard Little was one of those people.

    "A few weeks later, I tried to kill myself," he said Tuesday afternoon as he sat inside the principal's office sipping bottled water. "I had gone back home to my mom's house outside Knoxville (Tenn.), and the first thing I did was just go down in her basement. It had no windows, just a bathroom, a sink and a television. I stayed in the dark for days. All I did was cry. I couldn't deal with what I'd done."

    His mother could see the pain eating away at him. His mother made him go see a psychologist in Knoxville. He saw her four or five days a week. One day in broad daylight as he was driving a little rental Toyota on his way home from the psychologist's office, still unable to shed the guilt, Little stared at the tall trees that lined both sides of the highway.

    "It was like I was in one of those movies where the good angel is on one shoulder and the bad one's on the other," he said. "Well the bad one kept telling me, 'Just go ahead Leonard, turn the wheel. It'll be easy. Crash into those trees and all this pain will be over.'"

    As Little talked, he held his hands out in front of him like he was driving.

    "I actually did turn the wheel," he said. "I did it. I tried to end my life. I swerved the steering wheel. But like I said, I guess there was a good angel on my other shoulder, because just as soon as I swerved, I turned the wheel right back."

    When he got home, he told his mother what he almost did.

    "I was ready to end my life, Mom," he said.

    "All she did was look at me and say, 'Do you want your daughter to live like you did without a father (his father left his house shortly after he was born)?' I said no. Then she said, 'Well you can't kill yourself. You can't do that to her.' I told her I wouldn't do it again, but I still went back into that basement in the dark."

    He tells the schoolboys this story:

    "I want to give you an example of my life," he said. "I don't ever want you to do what I did or have to feel what I feel because it's not an easy thing to deal with. I killed someone and I think about it every day."

    He knows the Gutweiler family will never forgive him and he understands. He wants them to forgive him, but "It's not in my hands. I understand what they're going through. If or when they decide they're ready to forgive me, well that's all in their hands."

    But in the meantime, he suffers privately every day. October 19th will haunt him the rest of his life. It is his birthday, and he says he hates his birthday.

    "I don't celebrate it," he said. "I don't want anyone to give me presents. What's there to celebrate? It's an annual reminder of what I did. My mom tried to give me a surprise party a few years ago and we got into a big fight over it."

    On every Sunday Rams home game, he will drive past that corner that changed his life on his way from the team hotel to the Edward Jones Dome.

    Is that a coincidence, he's asked?

    "Not exactly," he said. "I could go any number of ways to the game. I go because I need to remind myself of what I did."

    Guilt is a powerful force. It does things to your head and your heart that you are often unprepared for. In the fall of 2005, Little had contemplated bringing his younger brother to live with him in St. Louis.

    "I knew he was running the streets back and home getting into no good, and I thought maybe if I got him up here I could save him," Little said. "But then folks started talking to me and suggested that if he came up here, he might still get in trouble. And now it's here and it would stick to me. So I decided that it wasn't such a good idea."

    A few weeks later, his brother was killed near Knoxville by a female acquaintance.

    "For a while I felt a little guilt," he said. "But the truth is, I probably couldn't have saved him."

    The woman who shot Little's brother was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, and Leonard Little was faced with one of those defining twists of fate.

    Now it was his turn to forgive someone for killing someone he loved. Could he do it?

    "I couldn't be mad with her," he said. "The Bible always talks about forgiveness and I am not a perfect man. I had no choice. What happened to her already happened to me, too. How could I not forgive her after all that had happened to me?"


  2. #2
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    Re: Little feels pain of his actions 10 years later

    Great story. He really has been through a lot. First, to be convicted of involuntary manslaughter and then to have your younger brother killed. It's good to see that he is talking to the kids about how dangerous it is to drink and drive.
    Last edited by Ramer; -05-02-2008 at 08:41 AM.

  3. #3
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    Re: Little feels pain of his actions 10 years later

    I personally believe that Leonard is sincere in his apology and the pain he deals with. Others may have a different view, but he has certainly paid a steep personal price for his actions. Granted, maybe not as steep as someone who wasnt rich and famous might have paid in terms of jail time, but more in the context of his internal demons.

    Notwithstanding the foregoing, on the basis of that fateful night, there is no excuse of any kind for leonard to ever get behind the wheel of a car again after even one drink.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel


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    Re: Little feels pain of his actions 10 years later

    I would believe him more if he hadn't gotten pulled over for a DUI again a couple of years later. I know he skirted the charge on a technicality, but that doesn't mean a thing.

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    Re: Little feels pain of his actions 10 years later

    Quote Originally Posted by moloch41 View Post
    I would believe him more if he hadn't gotten pulled over for a DUI again a couple of years later. I know he skirted the charge on a technicality, but that doesn't mean a thing.
    It doesn't matter wether you believe him or not, nor does it matter if I believe him. What's important is people be understanding of what he's going thru. Him making a stake cause someone to be killed. His actions caused someone else to loose their life. That's a heavy guilt. People like yourself thinks he got off easy. Believe me the rest of his life in jail, wouldn't be worse than what he's going thru now. Why, because he can't forgive himself. People talk about us forgiving others or others forgiving us. But they never think about forgiving themselves. I can guarantee you he's lost 10 years of his life. Because he's stuck on that one day.

  6. #6
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    Re: Little feels pain of his actions 10 years later

    Hopefully others will learn from his actions and not make the same mistake he did.

  7. #7
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    Re: Little feels pain of his actions 10 years later

    Quote Originally Posted by jjigga3000 View Post
    It doesn't matter wether you believe him or not, nor does it matter if I believe him. What's important is people be understanding of what he's going thru. Him making a stake cause someone to be killed. His actions caused someone else to loose their life. That's a heavy guilt. People like yourself thinks he got off easy. Believe me the rest of his life in jail, wouldn't be worse than what he's going thru now. Why, because he can't forgive himself. People talk about us forgiving others or others forgiving us. But they never think about forgiving themselves. I can guarantee you he's lost 10 years of his life. Because he's stuck on that one day.
    Well, considering most of America (who aren't professional athletes or entertainers) would have gone to jail for years for the same thing means he got off easy. But more to the point- the fact that he got pulled over again for drunk driving AFTER killing a wife and mother of two- makes me question this massive guilt. I know that if I ever killed someone while drinking drunk- my guilt wouldn't let me touch a drop of alcohol again- nevermind getting in a car and driving after I had done so...
    Last edited by moloch41; -05-02-2008 at 04:41 PM.

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    Re: Little feels pain of his actions 10 years later

    The important thing here is that he is sharing his story. He did a horrible thing. Whether you believe his guilt is sincere or not, whether you forgive him or not, just hope that by sharing his story with those kids that it will be a lesson that sticks with them for life. For a 10 year old kid to see his favorite football player choking up and saying he didn't want to live anymore because of his awful mistake, that has to be a powerful visual. Maybe some of the kids in that room will take that to heart and make a better decision down the road when they are in that situation.

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    Re: Little feels pain of his actions 10 years later

    Quote Originally Posted by cfh128 View Post
    The important thing here is that he is sharing his story. He did a horrible thing. Whether you believe his guilt is sincere or not, whether you forgive him or not, just hope that by sharing his story with those kids that it will be a lesson that sticks with them for life. For a 10 year old kid to see his favorite football player choking up and saying he didn't want to live anymore because of his awful mistake, that has to be a powerful visual. Maybe some of the kids in that room will take that to heart and make a better decision down the road when they are in that situation.

    Hopefully, but actions speak louder than words.

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    Re: Little feels pain of his actions 10 years later

    Like I always say with topics like this.....he without sin cast the first stone.

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    Re: Little feels pain of his actions 10 years later

    Quote Originally Posted by moloch41 View Post
    Hopefully, but actions speak louder than words.
    Quite often I read your posts Moloch and just as often I disagree with you. But not this time. I'm most definitely a fan of football, and even more so a die-hard Rams fan. I love Leonard Little as a football player, but in this instance I have to set that aside. Yes, it is good that he is telling his story, but given his social status, he (like so many others in elite financial status) did get off easy. I also agree that having been cited for alleged DUI subsequent to the first tragedy he caused, is highly deplorable in my opinion. He may very well be suffering internal pain as a result of his actions as he should be, but in terms of judicially rendered punitive action, he did in fact get off easy. I'm quite sure there are many individuals whom commit such crimes that are not premeditated, yet are crimes nonetheless, that would rather have the opportunity to lock themselves in their basements or drive down the road contemplating suicide, rather than wallow in self guilt AND be incarcerated at the same time. All that being said, it is what it is and he does not have to share his experiences yet he chooses to and hopefully it does serve to keep at least one child from making his same mistakes.

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    Re: Little feels pain of his actions 10 years later

    Quote Originally Posted by txramsfan View Post
    Like I always say with topics like this.....he without sin cast the first stone.

    Hey, what happened the first time is a terrible tragedy for that family, but I'm sure most, if not all of us have gotten behind the wheel at one point or another when we shouldn't have- we've just been extremely lucky that nothing happened. I think the resentment in this case is born mostly by the clear lack of real punishment after the first incident and further fueled by the actions of his second DUI stop. I could geniuely feel for him if the intial case was the beginning and end of this story, but his second stop is completely inexcusable and the fact that he got off on that one too just makes it more so.

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    Re: Little feels pain of his actions 10 years later

    Quote Originally Posted by moloch41 View Post
    Hey, what happened the first time is a terrible tragedy for that family, but I'm sure most, if not all of us have gotten behind the wheel at one point or another when we shouldn't have- we've just been extremely lucky that nothing happened. I think the resentment in this case is born mostly by the clear lack of real punishment after the first incident and further fueled by the actions of his second DUI stop. I could geniuely feel for him if the intial case was the beginning and end of this story, but his second stop is completely inexcusable and the fact that he got off on that one too just makes it more so.
    Some people on this site know this already, my father was killed by a drunk driver. However, it's not up to me to pass judgement.

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    Re: Little feels pain of his actions 10 years later

    Quote Originally Posted by txramsfan View Post
    Some people on this site know this already, my father was killed by a drunk driver. However, it's not up to me to pass judgement.
    You obviously make your own decisions as to what you do or do not choose to pass judgment on. However, since Little has chosen to speak about the incident, then it also opens up a forum of public opinion based upon such incident. Everyone has their own opinion and if you choose to deem that as "passing judgment" well then you have the right to do so. My opinion, which is shared by Moloch as well, is that his actions after the fact are contrary to what he expresses as immense guilt immediately following the tragedy. Call it my opinion, call it passing judgment, that is just how I see it.

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    Re: Little feels pain of his actions 10 years later

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSchoolRamFan View Post
    You obviously make your own decisions as to what you do or do not choose to pass judgment on. However, since Little has chosen to speak about the incident, then it also opens up a forum of public opinion based upon such incident. Everyone has their own opinion and if you choose to deem that as "passing judgment" well then you have the right to do so. My opinion, which is shared by Moloch as well, is that his actions after the fact are contrary to what he expresses as immense guilt immediately following the tragedy. Call it my opinion, call it passing judgment, that is just how I see it.
    Well said.

    P.S.

    Sorry to hear that news about your Dad, Tex.

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