Stabbing death, now fire unsettle normal calm on Fox Island

Staff writerDecember 7, 2013 

Pinned to a bulletin board inside the doors of the Fox Island Grocery and Deli are two fliers out of place among the listings for yoga classes, piano lessons and dog-walking services.

One flier offers a $5,000 Crime Stoppers award and asks for information about the Nov. 21 stabbing death of 23-year-old Jacob Glenn, whose body was found not far from the store’s front door.

The other asks for donations of clothing, toiletries, gift cards and money to help the Babson family, whose home burned nearly to the ground Wednesday night. Dr. Thomas Babson, 62, and his 8-year-old daughter Alice died in the fire. His wife, June, 12-year-old daughter Katie and 8-year-old son Tobey, Alice’s twin, survived.

Fox Island residents aren’t used to public tragedies in their quiet bedroom community, let alone twice in two weeks.

“It’s a community in mourning,” said Dwane Herzog, owner of the grocery store. “It’s a very sober time around here.”

Herzog’s store is less than half a mile from the Babson home. One of his employees discovered Glenn’s body.

Herzog was hesitant to talk about the impact these events have had on Fox Island residents, but it was fresh on the minds of many visiting his store Friday morning.

“It’s sad,” said Troy Russi. “I love our little island; it’s our little paradise.”

Russi moved in May to Fox Island from Gig Harbor where he had lived for 30 years. The serenity and safety appealed to him, as well as its spectacular views.

When he learned of the stabbing death, a piece of reality chipped away at his perceptions.

“When something like this happens, it gets your guard up,” Russi said.

Fox Island is a community of around 3,700 residents, a place where some people don’t lock their doors. The type of low-level mischief usually seen here is reflected in crime watch notices that neighbors post on an island website — mail theft, illegal passing on the Fox Island Bridge, two downriggers stolen from a boat docked on Honeymoon Bay, signs taken from the historic Chapel on Echo Bay.

Outsiders may see the island as an enclave only for the wealthy, but those who live here say there’s an economic mix.

“There’s a lot of perspective outside of Fox Island that Fox Island is an exclusive island, and it’s not,” said Warren Gustafson, who has lived on the island for almost 33 years.

The community isn’t as tight-knit as it was 30 or more years ago, he said, but it’s easy to get involved and meet neighbors, such as through the Fox Island Community Recreation Association or by adopting a patch in the community garden.

The stabbing death and fatal fire have left residents with a reminder that they aren’t immune to tragedy, said the Rev. Janet Matthews, who leads the Fox Island United Church of Christ, where the Babsons worship.

“Bad things can happen here,” Matthews said. “We’re no longer an island where that kind of thing doesn’t happen.”

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sadness, but Matthews is focused on her faith that brings hope, she said — a hope bolstered by overwhelming community support for the Babson family.

In a 24-hour period people donated enough clothing that by Friday morning no more clothes were needed. Gift cards and financial donations were still being accepted.

“When people have the opportunity to give, they choose to give without the prompting, without the coaxing,” Matthews said. “At our core we want to give.”

Bob and Lynda Wickline, who live down the road from the Babsons and who attend church with them, said a sense of community and acceptance prompted them to move to the island in 1975.

“It sounds a little hokey, but we’re about as Norman Rockwell as you get,” Bob Wickline said of the island.

The community might not be bound together as it used to be, but the recent events have changed that, Lynda Wickline said.

“It brings people together on a very human level,” she said. “We get busy with our lives, but these things really bring you together and ground you.”

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467 brynn.grimley@ thenewstribune.com

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