Deadly kid caught

UPDATE: Cincinnati Police clarified that Zachariah Hassell surrendered himself to the Criminal Investigations Section on Broadway, downtown, and was not apprehended, per se.

Just a few minutes ago I received an e-mail from Cincinnati Police Department public information officer Fran Cihon. And few times have I been happier.

Why? They caught Zachariah Hassell, the barely 15-year-old kid who also goes by the nickname “Little Zach,” who is accused by police of shooting and killing Michael Aufrance on June 18, 2007 on East McMicken in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine.

A boy who is capable of this sort of thing really freaked me out – whether he gets convicted or not. Couple that with him living in my neighborhood and it was downright unsettling. When I got the orZachariah Hasselliginal “wanted” e-mail from police back in June I remember opening it and just staring at this kid’s face. And staring.

He looks like a child. A little boy. But murder? It just seemed so impossible, but yet so very real. Every now and then one of these news stories we cover just sort of makes me pause. This one was one of them.

It reminded me of the countless children that age that I have worked with in my life. Whether it was at the now-razed Columbia Parkway YMCA or during my eight summers as a camp counselor, it just shocked me. Not much does, really, anymore. I see, read and write about horrible shit all the time. But this one just sort of got me. I wonder if his photo makes you feel the same way? Does it feel like you could have known this kid? Maybe talked to him, been his friend, talked him out of hanging with the wrong people?

A man I respect – but have not seen since my early 20s – is Stephen Kaye, the former CEO of the Tuscaloosa, Ala. YMCAs and a member of the United States Army Special Forces (one of the toughest, yet kindest, people I have ever come in contact with). He used to talk about how there were no practice children. Each one was special and not one is worth giving up on. I think of that message when I look at Little Zach’s face.

Thanks and congratulations to the Cincinnati Police for apprehending this person, but I’m sorry Zach didn’t get to meet someone who could have changed his life and sent him in a better direction. I can’t help but feel we have collectively failed as a community when I read about situations like this.

Author: Joe Wessels

Joe Wessels is a freelance journalist and photographer. Wessels covers local news events for Thomson Reuters news service and features for's Cincinnati Guide site, plus is the executive director of hyperlocal news site, He wrote for The Cincinnati Post, covering Cincinnati City Hall and Hamilton County government and wrote a weekly political column, which continued weekly at Cincinnati CityBeat. Previously, he was a reporter for the Cincinnati Business Courier and writes or has written for several publications in Cincinnati and around the country including The Cincinnati Enquirer, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Cincinnati Magazine, Cincy Magazine and the Sacramento News & Review. He is a native of Colerain Township, one of Cincinnati's western suburbs, and now lives in Over-the-Rhine near downtown Cincinnati. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a journalism writing certificate from the University of Cincinnati. He also graduated from Colerain High School, is an avid photographer, news junkie and was once a roller rink disc jockey, and sometimes rides a scooter around town.

2 thoughts on “Deadly kid caught”

  1. Melissa, well put. When something like this happens I think we all share in the sorrow that this brings. No matter what – like it or not – we are all in this together. Living in a cave ain’t an option. And until we get that I’m afraid society, as a whole, is not heading in a healthy, positive direction.

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