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A little girl’s memories stir questions about good and evil: Terror in a small town

September 28, 2011

To write her book, Rebecca told me, she returned to Sellerstown, to the church and home where her life was blown apart. What Rebecca experienced could so easily have turned her bitter and broken. Yet she spoke not of hate and animosity but of love and forgiveness.

As we talked, I couldn’t help but wonder what had become of others who lived through the ordeal: the parishioners who lost their pastor, the federal agent who eventually put Horry Watts behind bars.

And what about the trigger man whose actions on March 23, 1978, affected so many lives?

If it is true that a killing can crack a place wide open and spill out long-kept secrets, then what had become of the community at the epicenter — Sellerstown?

Over the next several months, I drove more than 2,500 miles across the South — from Sellerstown, North Carolina, to Mobile, Alabama, to the Appalachian foothills in Tennessee — exploring how the actions of a few still echoed through the lives of many.

Listening to their versions of events, watching folks grapple with what happened while holding fast to their faith, I realized this wasn’t just a murder story. For them, it was a struggle between the forces of good and evil.

In Sellerstown, I found everyone talking about the same thing: the little girl few had laid eyes on since she took the witness stand three decades ago.

Read the whole series.


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