The Fallout of Political Rhetoric in Mesquite that Gathered National Attention

mesquite nevada
Photo by Stan Shebbs

MESQUITE, NEV – People in St. George may not think about Mesquite, Nev. very much, but CNN is giving our small neighbor attention.

“Deaths reveal a small town’s mean streak” is CNN’s headline about Mesquite, and the story centers on the town’s murder/suicide in January 2011. City councilwoman and mayoral candidate Donna Fairchild killed her sleeping husband, Bill, and then herself after being accused of filing a fraudulent $94 expense report with the city.

CNN reports that anonymous comments made about Donna Fairchild on the Internet may have pushed her over the edge. Friends of the Fairchilds and the entire population of Mesquite were shocked, and the sad event made CNN’s front page that day.

I moved from Southern California to Mesquite in 2007 and lived there until just before the murder/suicide, when I moved to St. George. But until April I spent time in Mesquite weekly, so I saw some of the fallout – and I saw the surprisingly intense political rhetoric that led up to the tragedy.

Even people in Mesquite who didn’t know the Fairchilds personally were affected by the murder/suicide. Mesquite’s mental health clinic called in grief counselors from Las Vegas to help grieving residents. Though daily business continued as usual, the entire town seemed to pause. The question on everyone’s minds was “How on Earth did this happen?”

We’ll never know why Donna Fairchild killed her husband and then herself – while she did leave a note and call 911, she didn’t talk about her reasons. CNN has explored several possible causes, including Mesquite’s economic stagnation and the small town’s shockingly malicious political atmosphere.

I’m not going to speculate about the cause of this tragedy – speculation won’t bring Donna or Bill Fairchild back. But there is something that I think residents of Mesquite, St. George, and elsewhere should stop and think about:

It’s so easy to get caught up in things that really aren’t important – a debate with a neighbor over parking space, arguing about the local “he said she said” gossip, pointing fingers in a small-town mayor race. We, as people, are capable of incredible cruelty to our peers. Often we don’t realize how much our words and opinions can hurt other people.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” the saying goes. That saying lies – words may be what killed Donna and Bill Fairchild.

So I invite you to take a moment and step back. See the big picture. If your neighbor parks in the spot you like, it’s not the end of the world. Figuring out what he said or she said won’t really affect anyone’s life much. And a small-town mayor race is never worth the cost of a human life.

Instead of pointing the finger, try practicing compassion for your neighbor, for your child’s schoolteacher, for the person who’s getting on your nerves today. There can never be too much compassion in this world.

Who knows – maybe a little bit of compassion would have saved Donna and Bill Fairchild’s lives, and saved the town of Mesquite a lot of pain and grief.

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Copyright 2011 St. George News

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  • Tim August 24, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Why does there always have to be a reason? Who cares what the reason is? The bottom line is that Donna Fairchild is a murderer and a coward, and that is how she will be remembered. The only one I feel bad for is her murdered husband. I feel like murder suicides are good for the public. More murderers should off themselves, preferably before they kill someone else. It is clean, absolute and, best of all, it saves the taxpayers millions.

  • Amy Appleton August 24, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    WOW, so true, gossip can stop a beating heart…that was a tragedy! When will people go back to being allies rather than enemies to each other? What the world needs now, is people supporting people and not people tearing each other down.

    Thanks for your great article, Tracie. Hopefully it will have an impact on many and start changin’ the world!


  • tyler August 24, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    Interesting story.

  • Marcus Williams August 24, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Yes, that’s what Mesquite residents should do…put their heads in the sand, don’t make any waves, pretend everything is fine.

    Cracking wise on our “small town mayor” problems and marginalizing its importance is precisely the kind of arrogance one would expect from a larger city dweller looking down their nose at those of us in the “sticks.”

    We have problems every bit as important, vital, and legitimate as the kind of political problems seen in larger cities. The difference is that we care enough to give a damn and fight the good fight instead of throwing up our hands and giving up, like millions of nearby urban dwellers we could name.

    If caring enough about our community to fight against corrupt politicians makes us “mean,” then I guess we’re mean.

  • tyler August 25, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Btw, St Georgians do actually think about Mesquite quite a bit. I mean it’s the only place for grown-up entertainment in the area which is why it’s always been STG’s close escape for fun.

  • San September 11, 2011 at 7:10 am

    Life in a small town is very ‘personal’, and very hard to establish yourself in, much more so than the daily existence people in cities live. There’s moments to pause, local events that are attended by the same people you attend church with, who are the same people you see in the only market, who are parents of the kids your kids attend school with…who they will grow up to marry and repeat the cycle. It’s the way hometowns work.

    Donna Fairchild was not a coward. The wrap-around existence she and her husband shared with her local constituents defined her existence. They abandoned her, literally, and she collapsed under the strain. It’s not unreasonable to believe that she felt utterly doomed by the loss of her friends, colleagues and even enemies. There was nothing left, not even a battle to fight. It had all been determined by others, who were so selfish that they intentionally consumed her existence, knowing the pain that they would inflict but indifferent all the same. It was unthinkable and it happened in broad daylight.

    Shame on the hater who said that murder/suicides where a social benefit. That’s just one more example of what went so wrong in Mesquite.

  • Joe Doe August 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Right-wingers + secular society + isolation = extremism

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