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Pulitzer Prize

A Father's Pain, A Judge's Duty, and a Justice Beyond Their Reach

In the wintry stillness of Utah's Chalk Creek wilderness, Paul Wayment makes a terrible choice. He leaves Gage, his 2-year-old, asleep on the seat of his pickup as he goes to scout deer. When he returns, Gage is gone. He has wandered off.

Six days later, a searcher and his schnauzer find Gage in six inches of snow. He lies in a fetal curl, his hands clenched, his eyes open. His pajama legs are up to his knees. His feet have worn through his thin booties. In his eyes are frozen tears.

At the courthouse in Silver Summit, Utah, Judge Robert Hilder is waiting for Paul Wayment to begin a jail sentence for negligence in the death of his little boy. Not even the prosecutor had wanted this distraught father to go to jail, but Judge Hilder had ruled that there must be a consequence: 30 days.

Now nobody can find Wayment. Judge Hilder braces himself. Has he driven Wayment to take his own life? It's possible—just as it's possible that he might have caused his own father's suicide 20 years ago.

With grace and compassion, Barry Siegel takes readers on a soul-searching journey into a hell of choices, consequences and conscience.

Barry's Pulitzer Prize winning article

Barry Siegel and the Weight of Consequences ("'Why's this so good?' No. 7: Nieman Storyboard)