The New Yorker:

Until 3:35 P.M. on June 15, 1977, Maryann Gray was happy. She was twenty-two, and had just decided to take a leave of absence from Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio, where she was pursuing a master’s degree in clinical psychology. Graduate school had been her mother’s idea, and Gray was unpleasantly surprised by how scientific the program turned out to be. Inside the front cover of her statistics textbook was a squashed bug, which she had circled and labelled “Maryann at the end of Stat.”

That summer, Gray was preparing to move into a ramshackle Victorian mansion in a neglected area of Cincinnati, which its residents called an “urban commune.” There, she hoped, she would eat curry, burn incense, and talk politics late into the night with new friends. Her father, a businessman, and her mother, a homemaker, who lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, were not supportive of the plan. But Gray couldn’t wait to move in. She spent the day painting her new bedroom yellow.

By the afternoon, Gray was sweaty and paint-stained, and she decided to go back to her boxed-up apartment in Oxford to take a swim. The hot, hour-long drive crossed through suburban sprawl and then into emerald countryside. Gray had the windows of her father’s 1969 Mercury Cougar down, and the radio tuned to the news. She was only fifteen minutes from the apartment, driving at the posted forty-five miles per hour along a wooded, two-lane country road, when she saw a pale flash and felt a bump.

The statement Gray gave to the police later that afternoon is written in the neat script a young student might use on a final exam: “A child (blond male) ran into the street from my left, running in front of the car. I tried to go around him (left) but couldn’t get by. I hit my brakes instantly + skidded to the left.” The signature at the bottom of the page looks as though it had been written slowly and with care.

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