drifter:
a person who is always moving from one place to another and who has no permanent job or home

get into trouble:
do something that causes you to be questioned, punished, criticized etc by someone who has power over you (parents, teachers, police etc)

keep someone somewhere:
make a person stay somewhere

kept sitting:
continued to sit

carnival:
travelling show with rides, games, circus etc.

set up:
put machines (for rides) together so they were ready to be used

turn around:
turn your body to face in opposite direction

make someone do something:
order (or force) someone to do something

make something up:
invent a false story; lie


Eric Nordmark (easy version)

In May 2003, Eric Nordmark arrived in Anaheim, a town near Los Angeles in the southwestern United States. Eric had been in the army. He had also gone to college but he hadn’t finished. Eric was a drifter—someone who never lives in one place for very long. He was in Anaheim on his way to Seattle in the northwestern United States. He had been living in Seattle two years earlier but he left because he wanted to get away from the cold winters there. He was hoping to find some work in Anaheim so he could get the money he needed for a bus ticket to Seattle.

On May 14, Eric got into trouble with the police because he was drunk in public. He spent the night in jail and got out the next morning. The day after that, on May 16, he was in another town close to Anaheim, called Garden Grove. He was looking for old cigarettes on the sidewalk. Suddenly two policemen came up to him and made him sit down on the edge of the sidewalk facing the road. Eric asked them if they were arresting him. They said they weren’t. They were only keeping him there for a few minutes because he looked like someone they were looking for. They kept him sitting there for a few minutes and then they took him to the police station so they could take some photographs of him. After they took the pictures, they let Eric go.

That evening Eric found work in Garden Grove, setting up rides for a carnival. He had to wait for five days before he could do this job. On May 20, he worked for thirteen hours setting up rides. When he had finished work he went to buy some beer and cigarettes.

Just after he left the store, he heard someone call his name. He turned around and saw two policemen. They told him they were arresting. him Five days later, Eric found out that the police thought he had hurt young children. He spent the next 250 days in jail waiting for his trial.

Five days earlier, on May 15 these two girls, along with another had come home from school and told their parents that, on their way they had been attacked by a man. They said they had been walking across a park when the man came up behind them and took hold of one of the girls, who was called Yolanda. He threw her on the ground, they said, and pulled her hair from one side to the other. Another of the girls, called Catilli, tried to pull Yolanda away, but then the man took hold of her. Then the third girl, who was called Catilli, came running up and kicked the man, and all the girls ran away.

The first time Eric was stopped by the police it was because the police thought Eric was perhaps the person who had attacked the girls. At that time, they had made Eric sit on the edge of the road because they had wanted to drive two of the girls by in a police car to see what they said about Eric.

No one knows what the girls said as they drove by Eric, but four days later all three girls were taken to the police station and shown a lot of photographs of different people they didn’t know. Two of the girls picked out Eric and said he was the one who had attacked them. Eric was arrested later the same day.

On January 23, 2004, after being in jail for eight months, Eric finally went to court. From the beginning he had said that he had done nothing wrong and that he knew nothing about the attack on the girls.

On the first day in court, Catili told her story. She answered a lot of questions about what had happened and everyone believed her. That was on a Thursday. The next time the court met, on the following Monday, to his surprise, Eric was told that everything was over and he was free.

Later he learned what had happened. After the first day in court, Catili had told her mother that the girls’ story had been a lie. They had made up the whole thing. There had never been an attack. The girls had never seen Eric before the police showed him to them.

The girls’ reason for making up the story was that they were late coming home and they didn’t want to get into trouble. They needed an excuse for being late.

-information from: The Los Angeles Times, 04.01.30 (Daniel Yi); The Los Angeles Times, 04.02.10 (H.G. Reza, Joel Rubin); The Los Angeles Times, 04.02.12 (Joel Rubin, Christine Hanley); The Los Angeles Times, 04.02.13 (H.G. Reza, Jennifer Mena); The Los Angeles Times, 04.02.23 (H.G. Reza, Christine Hanley, James Ricci);