Contra Costa Times

Sunday August 10, 1997

Joe Garofoli Times Columnist

Sometimes we look for justice in the wrong places. A 680-pound girl dies, her 13-year-old body covered with bedsores, and stewing in her own excrement. Insects were eating thrxough the sores. She hadn't seen a doctor in four years, and hadn't left her house for months before her death. Photos of the scene made the toughest homicide investigators look away.

Your gut wants to hold someone responsible for this disgusting scene. No child should live like this. So the Contra Costa District Attorney's Office charges her mother, Marlene Corrigan, with neglect. Not in connection with her daughter's death, but with the pain of her final days.

She had reached the point of parental exhaustion that maybe the family of a drug addict might relate to: She was hoping for "a miracle" to save her child.

If we are going to prosecute Marlene Corrigan, let's go after someone else, too. You and me.

We feed the culture that worships supermodels and athletes. We hire people based on appearance because nobody wants a slob in their office. We dismiss fat people because we think they're either to lazy to exercise, or too undisciplined to stop eating.

As long as we can remember, we haven't stopped the local cretin from yelling, "Hey, tubbo. Go on a diet." We were too busy laughing.

We are partially responsible for the pain of a 13-year-old obese girl too ashamed to leave the house. It's socially uncomfortable being a fat adult; it's hell being a fat adolescent.

Blame her mom for the conditions inside her house. Blame us for the conditions outside.


Interesting trivia: the man prosecuting this case, Deputy District Attorney Brian Haynes, carries 260 pounds on his 5-foot-9 frame. He, too, was overweight at age 13. "I was large, but I was able to excel in other things, whether they were sports or school, and it didn't affect me."

He was lucky. It affected 13-year-old Christina Corrigan.

I want to know what happened between the time she was in sixth grade, when her principal described her as a well-adjusted and attending school regularly, and the next fall. She refused to go to seventh grad, terrified that the other kids would tease her unmercifully. She was probably right.


Teresa Colter wished she could have spoken to Christina. When she was Christina's age, the 41-year-old Concord woman refused to attend school for half a year once because she was afraid of the abuse; only the threat of reform school made her show up. She, too , heard idiots yell, "Lose weight, you pig," everyday as she walked to Pinole Valley High School.

But Colter could have also told her about the Women of Width, a group that reserves the Albany High School pool on Sundays for women over 200 pounds. Or about how she's been happily married for four years after a lifetime of thinking she was to ugly for anybody to want. Or how it took years to accept herself as she is, even when others didn't.

"Do people just want me to get my guts torn out?" Colter asks. "Is that any healthier?|"

There's a whole list of people to point fingers at here. What about school officials, for not calling Child Protective Services? What about truancy officers, for not finding Christina in time? What about other family and friends, for not getting a doctor or a nurse, or hell, a police officer, in that apartment sooner?

There's no shortage of potential villains. But only one will be prosecuted. And it won't be you or me.

Joe Garofoli is at 943-8061; e-mail at