Rebel without a clue

John Alpert imagined a life filled with freedom and adventure. Briefly, he found that life

Staff writer Scott Thomas Anderson, who covered the Roseville train-hopper murder as a reporter at the Press Tribune, had been waiting for that case to come to a conclusion so he could tell the remarkable story of how two local detectives captured the killers (convictions were handed down in late July). He’s told pieces of the story to folks here at SN&R since he arrived just over a year ago. That’s probably why his article inspired a lot of conversation this week as the editorial and design departments worked together selecting images for the cover and inside layout.

Scott’s story, as you will see, gets pretty deep into the hidden world of illicit train-hoppers. A handful of these folks, like three of the four killers you will read about here, are hardened misanthropes with contempt for society. Others, including the fellow on our cover, belong to gangs such as the Freight Train Riders of America. Still, others are just outcasts who want nothing to do with the straight world, and have successfully escaped. A smaller handful hearken back to the hobos and beatniks of old—there is a romantic edge to their chosen lives.

John Alpert, who was killed in Roseville in 2013, was one of those. Naively, he imagined a life filled with freedom and adventure. Briefly, he found that life. Too briefly.

Serene Lusano, our creative director, pointed out in our discussions that the rail-riders are a varied enough group that they reflect the general population. These are folks not so different from you and me who have decided that they can’t or won’t conform. They’re a lot less comfortable than us, and they face physical danger daily. After getting to know them just a little, especially in the light of this week’s events, I want us to make some more room for them.