The Story of Bob: synergy and choices 

Katy Hutchison continues to search for lessons from her husband’s beating death

The Powerpoint images of Bob McIntosh, the athlete, lawyer, husband and father flash up on the screen in front of 350 students at Rockridge Middle School in West Vancouver. McIntosh is riding his bike, running, standing in his tuxedo with his new bride Katy, clowning with friends, and holding his newborn twins, Emma and Sam.

While Katy Hutchison explains The Story of Bob, the only sound that can be heard in the gym is the faint rustling of notebooks as students scribble salient facts for an assignment. Even those faint sounds stop, and a few gasps can be heard, as the next image appears. This time McIntosh is lying dead on the medical examiner’s gurney at the morgue in Squamish, the victim of a fatal beating at a house party shortly before midnight on New Year’s Eve in 1997.

Hutchison explains the code of silence lasted five years in Squamish, before an undercover police operation resulted in a guilty plea by Ryan Aldridge. The young man kicked McIntosh in the head four or five times after he had been punched unconscious by another partygoer, Ryan McMillan, who later pleaded guilty to assault.

She tells the students the toughest part of that tragic night was returning home from the morgue and looking in on her sleeping children, knowing she would have to tell them in the morning their father was dead.

"It was a revelation looking into the faces of my children," she said.

"I immediately knew I was going to have to find a way to get through this."

Hutchison, since remarried, is still getting through it, and along the way has astounded many people.

After Aldridge was arrested, she met with him privately, and encouraged him to confess so that she, her children, his family and friends, and the community would not have to go through a lengthy and devastating trial. A few hours later, Aldridge did just that.

Near the end of the trial in North Vancouver, Hutchison explained that she wanted to take her husband’s story into schools to help students understand some of the issues surrounding youth violence, and the choices they have to make. She has met with Aldridge, who is serving a five-year sentence in Matsqui Prison in the Fraser Valley.

"We met for five hours and I showed him my presentation," said Hutchison. "It was an emotional meeting, and he has agreed to do this with me. It will be a much more powerful story with him involved, telling students how he came to this point in his life."

Hutchison tells the students about synergy and group dynamics, in which the power of a group is greater than the sum of its parts. She compared it to team sports, in which a group of players exceeds the success they could contemplate as individuals.

"But synergy can also be a bad thing," she said, pointing out the frightening consequences of a "mob mentality."

"When you get a group together – then add alcohol and drugs – you are dealing with the substances rather than the individuals," she said.

"There was a negativity in the mood at this party and it caught on like wildfire, creating a synergy of silence."

She said she thinks young people were pressured and bullied into not standing up for what they really believe in.

"I also believe society has created a generation which is almost totally desensitized to violence," citing video games, movies, television and other forms of entertainment.

She talked about what students will see at parties, from alcohol and drugs to rapes and catastrophic property damage, explaining that they and their parents can be held legally responsible for any activities which take place in their homes.

"Don’t put pressure on your friends whose parents aren’t home to have parties," she urged.

"And if you’re hosting a party, have a plan. Have a start and finish time, have a plan in advance of what you are going to do about uninvited guests. If somebody comes to your house drunk or high, you’ve got to get them home safely."

She stressed the need for safe parties, and for an immediate call to 911 if anything goes wrong.

"Did Bob do the right thing?" she asked. "I like to think so. But when you’re dealing with a group involving alcohol and drugs, you’re not dealing with your friends or your friends’ kids.

"The kids in that house felt entitled to have a party there, and made some grossly bad decisions because they were caught up in a group dynamic of anger. If Bob had called 911, I wouldn’t be here.

"We all have choices, we have to exercise our choice to react from our heart and our gut. Your group has the ability to resist peer pressure to engage in high-risk behaviour. Let’s not waste another life, and remember the Story of Bob."

Hutchison estimates she has already told The Story of Bob to 10,000 students in the Lower Mainland, and requests are coming in daily from as far away as Saskatchewan. An educational video and documentary are in the works.

Asked if she would be prepared to tell The Story of Bob at schools in the Sea to Sky corridor, Hutchison said she would love to give the talk in Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton, but so far has not been asked.

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