The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

63° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No one is above the law

A recent incidence of first-degree murder, pedophilia and police deaf to allegations shines light on a deceptively obvious question: At what point, if ever, is taking the law into your own hands acceptable?

Aaron Vargas is charged with first-degree murder for killing former Boy Scout leader and local businessman Darrell McNeill. An intoxicated Vargas drove to McNeill’s mobile home in Northern California the night of Feb. 8, 2009, and shot him in front of his wife, Mendocino County Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Norman said.

At first glance, the answer appears to side with instinct: At no point and in no way is it acceptable to take the law into your own hands, let alone murder. But years of alleged pedophilia and various victims coming forward blur the seemingly clear line between right and wrong.

According to Vargas’ sister Mindy Galliani, McNeill utilized his Boy Scout troop leader and active-neighborhood-father reputation to gain the trust of Vargas and other young boys. With their trust, McNeill took the boys on hiking and camping trips during which he would give them alcohol or drugs and molest them, Galliani contended.

Though the alleged sexual abuse faded as Vargas got older, McNeill continued to call and visit his home. Galliani believes that McNeill’s unrelenting communication pushed Vargas to his breaking point.

Longtime Fort Bragg resident Todd Rowan has publically come forward with allegations of abuse against McNeill as well. According to Rowan, the abuse continued on and off between ages 15 and 19.

“”He’d give me pot and beer,”” Rowan asserted, “”and he’d get me stoned and a little drunk, and he took advantage of me that way.””

The emotional presence and toll of McNeill’s abusive action has persisted long after the conclusion of said abuse. Rowan claims that he brought allegation to Fort Bragg Police in 2001, but no action was taken.

“”When I got news that he’d been shot, the first thing I thought was, ‘Who got him? Somebody got him. Who else did he do it to?'”” Rowan said.

McNeill’s second wife, Jenny Cotila, who divorced him in 1980, said that she too went to Fort Bragg Police in the ‘90s, having heard that McNeill had sexually abused her son.

Police were warned not once, but twice, of McNeill’s alleged sexual abuse. Had the police taken action, would Vargas have been driven to pull the trigger? If the police had protected their community, would McNeill’s wife have been forced to witness her husband’s murder?

The CNN report of this story received many varied responses:

According to Even, “”If the law will not … then we can and should! And in this case, the law failed.””

RyanTexas commented: “”We are supposed to not take the law into our own hands, but it looks like the laws was in no one’s hands.””

Yet reasonedman asserts, “”No excuse for taking the law into your hands. EVER!””

Despite the incomplete sentence and unnecessary capitalized letters, reasonedman’s comment maintains some truth. Though the circumstances are terrible and McNeill’s actions, if true, were cruel, heinous, and illegal, no one is above the law. Murder is murder, and, as such, Vargas deserves punishment.

But if we are to keep our hands to ourselves, we should be able to trust that the police will use theirs to handle the law. When coming forward with allegations is all that lies within reach, and such gestures are overlooked or ignored, it is only natural to break known barriers and put hands where they don’t belong — like on the trigger of a gun.— Rachel Leavitt is a creative writing sophomore.

She can be reached at

More to Discover
Activate Search