I remember when this happened.
PALMYRA — Every Aug. 1, Carole Bauer visits her son's grave to mark the anniversary of his murder.
She calls it a sacred place. There, over the past 18 years, she has grieved alone, each time getting a little more distance from the horror of the day when her 17-month-old son, Curtis Rizzo, and his 15-year-old babysitter, Cynthia Lewis, were stabbed to death.
But today could be the last Aug. 1 when Bauer and Cynthia's mother, Nancy Lewis, can visit their children's side-by-side graves at Palmyra Cemetery while the killer remains behind bars.
Chad Alfred Campbell, who was 14 when he killed Cynthia and Curtis, comes up for parole next week for the first time since a jury convicted him of two counts of second-degree murder and he was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison in 1991.
The murders stunned this Wayne County village of 4,000 people and captured the attention of national media. Over time, the families' public grief became private. But now — with the parole hearing just days away — it's public again.
Lewis, Bauer and their families circulated a petition earlier this year to keep Campbell locked up. They also met with a member of the state Parole Board to plead their case, saying that if Campbell is released, he will kill again.
"If they look at what he did, how he did it, they won't let him out," Bauer said.
If Campbell is denied parole, he can apply again in two years. And, if denied again, two years after that. And two years after that.
Eventually, say the prosecutor and investigator who put Campbell behind bars, he will be released.
Campbell's father, Alfred, said not a day goes by when he doesn't feel sorry for Bauer and Lewis, but he believes his son is not a danger to society.
Bauer and Lewis disagree.
"If I have to do it every two years, I will," Lewis said — no matter how many times she must relive the day when her daughter's lifeless body was found.
On a Wednesday morning in the summer of 1990, Bauer, then 21, left her two-story house on Stafford Street for her job at Fay's drugstore in Pittsford and dropped off her toddler with his babysitter next door. Curtis, a blond-haired, "happy, little go-lucky guy" who regularly pushed a small plastic lawnmower in his front yard, liked spending every weekday with Cynthia.
Cynthia, a popular 15-year-old who was an avid swimmer and a member of the color guard, had asked Bauer if she could watch Curtis for the second consecutive summer to save up money to buy clothes for the coming school year.
Cynthia and Curtis, their relatives say, were like family.
"I used to call him my little munchkin," Cynthia's mom recalled.
When she arrived home about 6 p.m., Bauer went next door to the Lewises' mobile home to pick up Curtis, but he and Cynthia weren't there. Bauer and her parents, James and Elaine Hartnagel, with whom she still lives in the same home, began to worry. Cynthia regularly took Curtis on a walk in his stroller, but they were always home before Bauer.
About 8 p.m., they called police, who began searching immediately.
Bauer and her family spent the night checking every street, every park, every all-night business in and around the village. They walked along the nearby Erie Canal, checking for bodies.
Curtis' father, Don Rizzo, who had been in a custody dispute with Bauer over their son, joined the search.
About 3 p.m. the next day, a State Police helicopter spotted the stroller in woods behind Palmyra-Macedon Middle School, where Cynthia had finished the eighth grade just weeks before. Then, shortly after 4 p.m., searchers found the bodies.
Cynthia had been stabbed 44 times, mostly in the chest and neck. Curtis' six wounds were confined to his neck. The throats of both victims had been slit.
"Thank God we didn't find them," Cynthia's mother said.
As a teenager growing up in Palmyra, Campbell was known by his classmates as an athletic, clean-cut prep who charmed and pursued girls — including Cynthia. The two had shared the same homeroom, Room 52, during the previous school year.
In the days leading up to the killings, Campbell telephoned her house several times, asking Cynthia to walk with him from Stafford Street, where they lived a dozen homes apart, to the middle school two blocks away. Initially, she rebuffed his advances. Her family later discovered that Campbell had called other neighborhood girls with the same request.
But on Aug. 1, 1990, Cynthia agreed to meet him.
Using DNA evidence, investigators later concluded that the two teenagers had sex in a wooded area behind their former school. Investigators said Campbell told them he then made rude comments to her, causing her to kick him in the groin. Campbell stabbed Cynthia 44 times and Curtis six times with a hunting knife.
About 1 a.m. Aug. 3, after two hours of interrogation by State Police investigators, Campbell confessed.
"I understand the rage after being kicked like that, but what I never really understood was why would he go over to the carriage and kill an infant, a toddler, a 17-month-old," said Wayne County District Attorney Richard Healy, who prosecuted Campbell. "He never really gave an explanation for that."
During the three-week trial a year later, Campbell's attorney, James Foley, claimed that Satanism had a role in the murders. He argued that 17-year-old Michael Hutchinson, not Campbell, killed Cynthia and Curtis.
But Hutchinson, who committed suicide three months later, had an alibi: He was working at McDonald's in Macedon during the time of the killings.
On Sept. 28, 1991, the jury found Campbell guilty. Later he was sentenced to the maximum punishment allowed: nine years' imprisonment for each murder.
Campbell, who did not respond to two letters from the Democrat and Chronicle requesting an interview, has lived more years in prison than out. He is locked up in Bare Hill Correctional Facility, a medium-security state prison in Malone, Franklin County, about 200 miles northeast of Palmyra.
But Healy believes Campbell hasn't been punished enough.
"I think he's a sociopath," he said. "This guy is dangerous. I think to protect the community, he needs to be incarcerated — maybe forever."
Alfred Campbell has barely talked about the events surrounding his son's arrest and conviction during the past 18 years. Normally itching to crack a joke, the 63-year-old fidgeted with his water glass and spoke softly as he sat at the kitchen table at his Macedon home on Wednesday night, sifting through memories.
"I was just blown away, crushed," he recalled of his son's arrest. "I didn't understand, and I think I'll go to my grave and never understand."
In the following months, the elder Campbell recoiled from the community. He drove from home to work to home, nowhere else.
When his wife, Peggy, finally coaxed him into going to the grocery store, he took one step inside and froze. He began to sweat and went back to wait in the car.
But while it took Campbell months to get over the public anxiety, he never second-guessed the way he raised his two children.
"I don't care what anybody says. We were good parents; we brought them up right," he said.
Until she died of cancer in 1996, Peggy Campbell insisted that her son was innocent.
But Alfred Campbell can't cling to that same claim. Not anymore.
"I think it's probably true," he said, after a long silence. "I'd like to think it's not true."
A year after his wife's death, Campbell remarried and moved three miles west to the village of Macedon.
He and his current wife, Marsha, visit Chad occasionally and talk to him regularly. Chad calls from prison on most Sunday afternoons.
"I stepped in the shoes of a mom that I didn't know, and I'm carrying on a mother's love for a son," Marsha Campbell said. "I guess that's what I felt was the right thing to do. If you love the father, then you love the children."
Chad Campbell has kept busy in prison, his father said. He reads often, plays baseball and lifts weights. He has a job driving prison employees around the compound on a bus. And throughout his incarceration, he has kept out of trouble.
Although he's a 6-foot, goateed, balding, grown man, he is still seen in Palmyra as a 14-year-old boy who killed a teenage girl and toddler.
"It's been 18 years, and I don't think a day goes by that I don't feel sorry for Mrs. Hartnagel and Mrs. Lewis," said Alfred Campbell.
Chad, his father said, has never talked to him about what happened on Aug. 1, 1990.
But the Campbells say there was a third family that was shattered 18 years ago: theirs.
Alfred Campbell admits that many people probably think otherwise, but he believes his son would not be a danger to society if he was released from prison.
"I just hope I live long enough to see that day," he said. "I don't know if it'll happen or not. I'm a firm believer if it's meant to be, it's meant to be."
On a muggy Wednesday morning last month, Lewis knelt next to two graves on the edge of the Palmyra Cemetery.
"It makes you wonder where they'd be today," she said, looking at Cynthia's stone, engraved with a unicorn, and Curtis', carved with a teddy bear.
Lewis said the families decided to bury the teenager and the toddler next to each other because they couldn't go through two funerals.
For months after her daughter's death, Lewis visited the cemetery regularly. Now she stops by only a few times a year.
"She's my angel looking over me now," said Lewis, who collects angel figurines.
If she were alive today, Cynthia would be 33 — and hopefully a mother, said Lewis, who desperately wants to be a grandmother.
In a way, she does have children to look after. After moving to Florida for a few years, Lewis came back to the town of Palmyra in 2002 with her longtime boyfriend, Walt Bardo, and got a job serving lunches at Cobbles Elementary School in Penfield.
Lewis wants to know why her daughter was killed, but she believes she won't find answers until she meets Cynthia again in heaven. Until then, she said, faith and prayer will continue to get her through the darkest times — the times like today.
"They aren't here," she said, looking down at the graves. Lewis lifted her head and peered into the sky. "They're up there."
"As sad enough as it is about my daughter," Lewis said later, "why did he have to kill the little boy?"
For the first few years after her son's death, Bauer, 39, like Alfred Campbell, withdrew from the community. Many residents were acquaintances or friends of her family and Campbell's, and Bauer didn't want people to feel as if they had to choose between them.
"You never, ever forget," said Bauer's mother, Elaine Hartnagel, "but you go on."
Hartnagel, 67, became a community activist. She went to Finger Lakes Community College to take classes in criminal justice, writing a lengthy research paper on children who kill other children and interviewing many affected families. She won a seat on the Palmyra-Macedon School Board four years ago and since then has crusaded to make the schools safer by installing electronic security systems.
Bauer, too, has moved on with her life. She just started a new job this summer.
Still, she often wonders what Curtis would look like if he were alive. Although he would be 19, Hartnagel said, "He will always be 17 months old."
Four years after Curtis was killed, Bauer became pregnant.
"At the time I wanted a boy," she said, "because of the fact I lost a boy."
But Bauer had a daughter, Lynsey, and realized it was a blessing. If she had had a boy, she said, she would have compared him with Curtis. Three years later, she had another girl, Layney.
"They have a very protective mother," Bauer said, sitting next to Lynsey. "She's 13, and she hasn't done half the things that girls her age have done."
Bauer still walks her seventh-grader to the community center, even though it is a block away. And earlier this year she returned to the field where Curtis was murdered for the first time in 18 years to take Lynsey to cheerleading practice.
Bauer and her parents are still searching for answers, still wondering why Curtis was killed.
And although she has had opportunities to pack up and leave, Bauer insists on staying in the same house, in the same community.
"I can't leave — he's here," Bauer said, her eyes welling with tears. "It would be like picking up and leaving one of your kids."
"I'll be here forever with him."
"Every man dies, not every man truly lives"