A Stolen Soul

'I want the world to see him,'' Yong Jones thought as she pinned the red, white and blue badge over her son's heart.

On a chilly spring evening, the local Bangor Boy Scouts troop gathered to honor Yong's son, Laurence Alton Jones Jr. Junior had earned his Eagle Scout badge, the highest rank in scouting. Yong had watched her son work toward that goal for nearly five years. He had built steps leading down to a popular Bangor riverfront park and had hammered together picnic tables for the elderly. He'd honed his camping, swimming and leadership skills.

''That's our son,'' Laurence Jones Sr. whispered to his wife as Junior stood on stage in his pressed khaki uniform, his new Eagle Scout badge hanging from his shirt pocket.

It was March 25, 1987, and their blond boy was 16. From the moment they had first cradled him in the delivery room, Yong and Larry had begun dreaming of the wonderful life they would give this child. They wanted him to be thankful for his family and his comfortable home.

But they also hoped to nurture his soul and teach him the importance of helping others who did not share his good fortune.

Yong tried to set a good example. She used her law degree to help other Koreans who got into trouble after coming to the United States. She volunteered to translate for them and often helped new immigrants settle into their homes and find work.

''Helping others is good, Junior,'' Yong told her son.

At the age of 5, Junior already seemed to understand his mother's advice. He came home one day from kindergarten, his white shirt bloody. When Yong asked him what happened, he explained that a little girl had fallen and skinned her knee. He took his shirt off to wipe the blood away.

Though he was a sensitive child like his mother, Junior also pleased his dad with his athletic ability. Not long after he learned his ABCs, he was playing hockey and baseball, excelling in both sports. Above: Laurence Jones Jr. chose lyrics from a song by the rock band Van Halen to appear with his yearbook photo at Bangor High School - "...And someone said fair warning Lord will strike that poor boy down..." The quotation would prove to be prophetic.

He also did well in school, and with his mother's encouragement he learned to play the violin.

''He is everything a parent could wish for,'' Yong thought.

Junior's achievements did not go unrewarded. Yong and her husband doted on their only child. They bought him a dirt bike when he was a teen-ager, a motorcycle after he got his driver's license. They gave him money for gas, pizza, clothes and whatever else he asked for.

On his 18th birthday they presented him a special gift: a 24-karat gold ring with a fire opal stone that shone in the sunlight like the colors of the rainbow. Yong and Larry had had the ring made in Korea when Junior was a toddler.

Larry Jr. wore the ring on his left hand, and rarely took it off. He was proud of it, and saw the ring as a link to his mother's Korean heritage. He planned to pass the ring on to his own son someday.

Now out of high school, Junior was eager to move away from home and begin college. In August 1987, his mother and father drove him to Orono, where he enrolled as a freshman at the University of Maine.

''Please be careful, Junior,'' his mother cautioned.

''Oh, Mom,'' he groaned.

''Junior, until I die you'll always be my little baby.''

While his mother fretted about her only child heading off to college, young Larry quickly made new friends and reveled in his newfound independence.

He was known around campus for his raucous laugh and his adventurous nature. Like many freshmen, he liked to party and stay out late drinking beer in local bars.

He joined the Delta Upsilon fraternity and quickly became one of its more popular members. He was athletic, bright and handsome. His easygoing personality drew people to him.

He seemed perpetually optimistic and sure of himself. He never doubted that he could succeed in whatever came his way.

Initially a computer science major, Larry quickly realized his passion was people, not machines. He eventually switched his major to psychology.

During his last summer at school, he landed a research job at a Syracuse, N.Y., university. Laurie Walter, another University of Maine psychology student, worked with him. Together, they evaluated senior citizens with high blood pressure to see if they suffered memory loss or bouts of muddled thinking.

When they weren't working, Larry and Laurie explored Syracuse. At first, Laurie was reluctant to go out.

Six years earlier, she had been raped, and the assault had left her frightened and withdrawn. Larry refused to allow her to remain a victim. He dragged her to restaurants, pizza joints, bars and festivals.

''C'mon, we're going out,'' he'd tell her. ''Don't worry. I'll be with you and I'll make sure nothing happens to you. Promise.''

While Laurie was overly cautious, Larry was fearless. He roamed Syracuse and strange neighborhoods at all hours of the night.

''Larry, you should be more careful,'' Laurie told him, knowing that bad things did happen to people. Two of her friends had been murdered in the past couple of years. ''There are a lot of crazy people out there.''

''Oh, Laurie,'' he'd say, shrugging off her concern. Nothing could hurt Larry Jones.