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The Rest of the Story: William Todd

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Aug. 21st, 2006 | 03:14 pm

THE REST OF THE STORY: William Todd

"That picture... it haunts me.   The violent eyes, the dark, sweaty skin, that rough, tangly beard.  You think to yourself: that man right there's got some troubles.  That's not what I ever wanted to put forward."

At 62, William Todd has led a tough life.  He is one of the hundreds of thousands displaced in Biloxi, Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina.  Todd lives in FEMA trailer lot 117C, three miles from where his family's home once stood.  A day before the storm approached, on August 28th, 2005, Todd loaded his three children and his wife Gladys into a neighbor's minivan and drove north, to Memphis.   When he returned to his home two weeks later, everything was gone.

"My employer... he'd come back to town before I did and tried to warn me and my wife, but there's no preparing for it.  Everything we had, everything I'd worked on in the last ten years, it was gone."

Todd says he's back to square one, but it's not the first time.  Twelve years ago, he was homeless, a recovering crack c
ocaine addict trying to survive on the streets of Biloxi while staying off the pipe.  He doesn't like to talk much about what led him to drugs, except that chronic unemployment created a vicious cycle that was hard to break.  A great deal of William's time was spent at the Gaston Hewes Recreation Center (also since destroyed by Katrina).  The Hewes center housed the Feed My Sheep soup kitchen, and it's where he came to eat, take a nap, and play some checkers. 

"When you're homeless, it's the only place you can go to find people who'll talk to you."

That's where Todd met Matt Kenlon, a freelance photographer living in Biloxi.  Matt had recently come back from Hannibal, Missouri, where he worked for the Quincy Herald-Whig in covering the Mississippi River flooding of 1993.  There he says he saw utter and complete devastation.

"It put me in touch with people whose lives were forever altered and ruined," Kenlon says, "and there, was, I guess, a connection with those people.  I felt like I had to tell the stories of those less fortunate."

When he returned to Biloxi, Kenlon began spending his time on the streets.  "It's not especially the safest thing to do, and not really the most profitable, but it was something I wanted to devote some time to."  Matt met William Todd in November of 1994 at Feed My Sheep. 

"Matt asked me if he could take my picture," William recalls.  "I said 'sure, but let's go to Winn-Dixie first.'  He took me over and I got some fruit and vegetables."

Kenlon shot William's pictures behind the Hewes center, against a plain slate wall.  "Most of them were unremarkable.  One shot, though, stood out.  The anger and hurt in his eyes.  I sold that picture a month later."

The photo was published in a coffee table book produced by McLaren Press in 1996 called "America's Refuse: Homeless in the Heartland."   Matt was able to bring William a copy at his very own apartment.   Todd had been clean and sober for more than two years, and had managed to hold down a job delivering newspapers for over a year.  He'd restarted his life at 52.

That should have been the end of William Todd's story.   Five years later, everything changed.

"When I went to the market, people started looking at me funny."  By then he'd married Gladys  Parker and adopted her three sons, Julius, Tyrone and Bo.  Julius was sixteen in 2001 and when the family bought a computer, he began spending most of his time online.

"I was hanging out in chatrooms, message boards, things like SomethingAwful.com or Fark.com, and then, all of a sudden, I see my stepdad's face." Julius took it rough.  "Someone was using it as a joke, I guess.  I was afraid to say something, I didn't know what it meant or why it was."

Someone had scanned the picture of Todd from America's Refuse and placed it online as a sort of punchline.  Julius wasn't the first Biloxi native to notice.  The picture was forwarded to inboxes across town.  Todd was, by then, a supervisor at the newspaper.  At his next employee review, the picture surfaced.   He didn't know what to say.   He was let go.  William was jobless for six months after that.

Things are different now.  William works for a contractor that's rebuilding several buildings in Biloxi-- including the Hewes Center.   Todd still doesn't know what to say about the picture.

"It makes me sick... when I see it.  I see someone who might be capable of such things, I see someone I don't recognize.  Who's not redeemable.  You know, I see a rapist, I really do.  And that scares me."

William's identity?

Find out after the cut!
You know him better as the YOU GONNA GET RAPED guy.

And that's... the REST of the STORY!
 

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Comments {4}

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from: wshcaps
date: Aug. 21st, 2006 10:07 pm (UTC)
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There's something uncomfortably bizzare about you lately.

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Tough but fair.

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from: stupidis
date: Aug. 21st, 2006 11:14 pm (UTC)
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Innnn the good way?

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from: wshcaps
date: Aug. 22nd, 2006 01:48 am (UTC)
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Yes, I suppose. Insomuch as someone can be uncomfortably bizzare.

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Sam

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from: bmann49
date: Aug. 22nd, 2006 03:20 am (UTC)
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