Thursday, October 05, 2000

John Arcady

Musician, thoroughly good son

        Sally Arcady is in the courtroom every day, listening to the unspeakable details of her son's death.

        The orange and white cab he was driving was still running when police arrived.

        A witness said John Arcady “took two deep breaths — I guess he was trying to gasp for air.”

        The mother listens to these things. Sometimes weeping silently. But she never leaves the room. Not once. She even looks at the photograph of the crime scene. John with a toothpick still in the corner of his mouth, his foot on the brake.

John Arcady
John Arcady
        John Arcady, 49, was shot in the back of the head a year ago during a robbery. A 26-year-old woman named Denise Lipscomb pulled the trigger. Cincinnati, thank goodness, is still civilized enough that a murder, any murder, still is news. But this one has gotten more than the usual attention.

        On Tuesday, a Hamilton County jury convicted Denise Lipscomb of aggravated murder, which means the possibility of a death sentence. She would become the only woman on death row in Ohio. So there have been headlines. News stories. Sound bites.

        “A cabby,” Sally says. “They always call him a Silverton cab driver. He drove a cab to pay the bills. He was a musician.”

        Born in Chillicothe, John grew up in Cincinnati and played in the band at Moeller High School. After traveling around the country for 25 years, he came back here in 1994. But he was planning to move to Florida.

        He and Sally had a 70-minute conversation about it the week before he died. Retired and living in Ocala, she hasn't been well. Colon cancer. Two recurrences. “He said he wanted to take care of me.” Typical, she says. “He was my oldest. He was always there for me.”

        So, she sits in a courtroom filled with strangers. In a courtroom with the woman who killed her only son. “I wish you could have known him,” she says. “So nice. So funny. Such a good musician.”

        A drummer, John Arcady played with the Platters, Los Bravos and the Hager Twins. “He could swing like crazy,” local guitarist Mary Ann Kindel told The Enquirer's Larry Nager.

        His musician friends have made contributions to the Make a Wish Foundation, John's favorite charity. He had a favorite charity. That should tell us something. And his fellow cabbies wound black ribbons around their radio antennas.

        People liked John.

        Some people loved him.

        I promised I would pass along the following information: He was a good son, a wonderful brother, an attentive uncle. He was a whole lot more than an argument one way or another about capital punishment. He was more than a crime victim. More than a statistic.

        The defense attorneys presented the jury with another story — the sad and terrible life of Denise Lipscomb. Abuse. Ugliness. “The penalty phase,” they call it, when the jury is asked to decide her punishment. Maybe today.

        And still, Sally Arcady listens, a perpetually sodden tissue in one hand. She is not trying to change the outcome of the trial. She is not there for the histrionics. She's just there out of respect for her only son. A good man.

        Maybe that's how he got to be that way.

       E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


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