DEAR ABBY: What is happening to this world? I just read in the newspaper that a 32-year-old man in East Dubuque, Ill., was convicted of strangling his wife during an argument. He killed her in the presence of their two daughters, who were 8 and 10 years old at the time.

He was originally charged with murder. However, after the court ruled that the daughters were too young to testify, the charge was reduced to voluntary manslaughter. He served 20 months of the four-year sentence and was released. Fourteen months later, the Illinois Appellate Court in Elgin gave him custody of his two daughters, who are now 10 and 12!I am hoping that you will print this in order to generate a response from the general public protesting the court's decision. Thank you. - HORRIFIED IN ST. PAUL

DEAR HORRIFIED: I am equally horrified - as I am sure others are. Something appears to be drastically wrong with our judicial system. This kind of "justice" sends a sad message to society.

But perhaps we are living in a sick society: A recent newspaper reported two items that were enough to cause one to lose his or her breakfast.

Item No. 1: "A West Covina, Calif., woman was arrested after she allegedly stabbed her 7-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter with a kitchen knife. The boy escaped through a bathroom window after being stabbed at least 10 times. He ran to a neighbor who called the police. The little girl was found crying under a bed with several knife wounds in her back."

Item No. 2: "A 28-year-old mother was charged with murder when her 3-year-old son was found (by his father) hanging from his neck on a rope from a bedroom rafter in the family home."

Obviously, perpetrators of such violent crimes are mentally ill. Yet, our mental health clinics are closing left and right because our government says they have to cut public spending "somewhere."

God help us!

DEAR ABBY: Hi! I am an 18-year-old father who needs some advice. Six months ago my ex-girlfriend and I had a baby boy together, but that's not the problem.

When she was seven months into her pregnancy, we broke up permanently and I started seeing someone else. Well, this "someone else" and I had sex and now she's pregnant. I want no part of this. I don't love her and never did. She was just another girl, and I want to forget that this ever happened.

Here's my question: How can I live a normal life without this someone else and her family bothering me? I've got a beautiful 6-month-old son now, and I'm going for custody because his mother has proven herself unfit to raise him. What should I do? - C.S. IN OREGON

DEAR C.S.: Whoa - back up. You say you got a girl pregnant, and now you want no part of it; you want to forget it ever happened. You must be kidding.

Sorry, young fellow, even if you feel no moral obligation for any child you father, you have a legal obligation to support that child.

I suggest you see a lawyer. And I hope you can come up with all the money you'll need to handle the financial responsibility of supporting these children until they are adults.

You'd better develop a conscience and a sense of responsibility soon, or your son will become a man before you do.

DEAR ABBY: I know people who proudly recite by heart every single gift they have ever given anyone - also every favor they have ever done anyone in their entire lifetime.

I used to admire the terrific memories of people like this until I realized it's much easier to remember a short list than a long one. - BARBARA SACKS, ORANGE, N.J.

DEAR BARBARA: We all know people like that. It's one thing to remember, but to "recite" it is something else.

DEAR ABBY: Thank you for your continued stand against using live animals in research. As you and some of your readers have expressed, a great deal of this research is duplicative, useless and just plain cruel. Our money could be far better spent on the research alternatives already available, and developing yet more. Let's hope it won't be long before animal research is seen as being as barbaric and backward as slavery. - LYN ROSEN SPRINGUT, ROCHESTER, N.Y.

DEAR LYN: I am well aware that there are areas of medical research where, for the sake of mankind, the use of live animals is absolutely necessary, and I have no quarrel with that, provided there is no other alternative and the animals are treated humanely.

But I abhor the use of live animals to test cosmetics and household products.