Last year, I wrote about Adeline Bagley Buice, a brave woman who was sent north by the Union Army during the Civil War (along with many other Roswell woolen mill workers) and spent five years walking home. She’s buried in Sharon Baptist Church Cemetery in Forsyth County, Ga.
At some point during the two occasions I visited that cemetery last spring, I took a lot of random photos. I looked to see if any were already posted on Find a Grave. For those without a memorial, I created one and posted the photo.
Most of the time after I do this, nothing happens. Once in a blue moon, I get an e-mail from someone thanking me for helping them locate a family member they’d been looking for. The amazing story of Carrie Turner is one of those occasions.
A few weeks ago I got an e-mail from a woman named Jenn. She wanted to thank me for photographing a grave and creating a memorial for a young man named Joshua Stulick.
The name was not familiar to me so I looked him up. He had died in 1992 at the age of 19 for reasons I didn’t know at the time. I do remember his tender age had stood out to me.
Thank you so very much for your post of a grave for Joshua Stulick. I have looked for so very long to find him. At last I have it because of you. There was no goodbye when he was tragically killed. Now at least I can visit. Thank you! It means a lot.
I took a moment to Google Joshua’s name to find out what happened. Tragically, he was murdered late at night in a park in Staten Island, N.Y. in April 1992. His murder remained unsolved for many years.
According to an article in The Staten Island Advance, Joshua went to a friend’s house for drinks after finishing his shift in the hospital cafeteria where he worked. From there, he and some other people went to Ingram Woods (a nearby park) to continue drinking.
On April 28, 1992, Joshua’s body was found by a man walking his dog. It was covered in the park’s underbrush. He had a fatal stab wound to the throat and was wrapped in the interior lining of a car trunk.
Suspicion quickly fell on James Russell, a co-worker Joshua knew from the hospital. Russell was on probation for a felony assault conviction when Joshua was killed. In that case, Russell had plead guilty to a 1989 attack.
The trunk lining Joshua was found wrapped in was thought to have belonged to Russell’s 1986 Pontiac Grand Am, which was impounded. But no other evidence was found. Russell claimed he knew nothing about what had happened, was released and the case froze up. Russell went on to become an oncology radiologist at the hospital and he got married.
In 2005, after 13 years, an anonymous female witness came forward. Based on what she said, Russell was arrested and later charged with second degree murder. He initially plead not guilty.
In December 2007, after spending several months in jail, Russell changed his story. He claimed that he and Stulick were drinking and doing drugs that April day before they took their party to Ingram Park. There, he said, the two of them started to “fool around with knives that we each had, playing karate moves and lunging and sparring with each other.”
“Joshua lunged at me as I was swinging my arm with the knife, and I cut him,” Russell admitted. “To my horror, the knife cut into Joshua Stulick’s throat.”
He said he covered the body in Ingram Woods and left after realizing that “everyone would blame me no matter what I said.”
Justice Stephen J. Rooney sent Russell to prison for a minimum of three and a half years up to a maximum seven years under an agreement by which Russell pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter. Had he been found guilty of second-degree murder, he might have faced a lifetime jail sentence. As part of the deal, he was not allowed to appeal his sentence.
Joshua’s mother, Kathleen Melchers, was justifiably outraged and said so at James Russell’s sentencing:
Your actions of cold violence not only took my son’s life, but to drag his body onto a car trunk liner and lay him on the ground behind a rock for two days until being found by someone walking a dog, is an act of sensitivity coming from a wicked heart and extreme lack of respect for the human body and soul.
As a mother of a son myself, I felt disbelief and anger when I read about James Russell’s plea deal. Yes, he was finally brought to justice but it is bittersweet. His sentencing took place in 2007 so he’s probably out walking the streets again as I write this.
There are few articles about Joshua online. I think Kathleen lives in North Georgia, which explains why he’s buried in Forsyth County. I emailed Jenn back to ask her if she would like to share some of her memories of Joshua. She said she might be able to do so at a later time. The memories are still very painful.
By reading the comments following an article about the trial, I learned that Joshua was in a band called Section 8. One of his friends left this comment:
I can’t stop thinking of his father waiting for Josh to come home from work and not knowing his son was dead. How could James Russell just leave his FRIEND there? If he was afraid, how about an anonymous call to the police and save Josh’s family and friends 15 years of wondering why?
Nothing will ever bring Josh back, will never pay for the life that was taken-so much potential wasted-what he could have become, and he would have grown up to be. I hope his family finds peace and takes some comfort that some justice was finally served.
There’s a lot about Joshua Stulick I will never know. I do know that he deserved more time on this earth than he got.
Nineteen years is not enough.