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Monday, August 20, 2018

Dr. George Kenney: The Case of the Hypnotizing School Principal

     In 2001, Dr. George Kenney became the principal of North Port High School in North Port, Florida. In 2006, in an effort to help students deal with anxiety and other emotional problems, he learned how to hypnotize people at the Omni Hypnosis Training Center in DeLand, Florida. Although in Florida it is a crime to practice therapeutic hypnosis without a medical-related license, Dr. Kenney hypnotized dozens of students.

     In 2009, a Sarasota County School District supervisor told the principal to limit student hypnosis to psychology class. Dr. Kenney did not obey this directive, noting that all of his hypnotic sessions were done with parental consent.

     In February 2011, the principal hypnotized a 17-year-old senior named Brittany Palumbo. The girl had sought his advice on how, in anticipation of getting into a good college, she could do better on tests. Dr. Kenney used hypnosis to reduce this student's anxiety over taking exams.

     Shortly after hypnotizing Brittany Palumbo, Dr. Kenney taught the school's star quarterback, 16-year-old Marcus Freeman, how to hypnotize himself to improve his on-field concentration.

     On March 15, 2011, while reportedly hypnotizing himself while behind the wheel of a car, Marcus Freeman drove off the road. He died in the crash. (Since he died in the accident, I'm not sure how anyone knew he was under self-hypnosis while driving.)

     In April 2011, Dr. Kenney, notwithstanding Marcus Freeman's fatal accident, hypnotized 16-year-old Wesley McKinley. The next day the boy committed suicide.

     Brittany Palumbo, on May 4, 2011, took her own life. Dr. Kenney had hypnotized her the past February to help her with her test taking anxiety.

     Following Brittany Palumbo's death, the Sarasota County school superintendent placed the North Port High School principal on paid administrative leave pending the results of investigations by the school district and the local police.

     While initially denying that he had hypnotized Marcus Freeman and Brittany Palumbo, Dr. Kenney admitted putting both students under. Investigators determined that since 2006, the principal had hypnotized 75 students and members of the high school staff. He had hypnotized one basketball player 30 to 40 times to help the boy concentrate better on the basketball court.

     On June 12, 2012, a Sarasota County prosecutor charged Dr. Kenney with the misdemeanor offense of practicing therapeutic hypnosis without a license. Shortly after being charged, Dr. Kenney resigned from North Port High School.

     Later in 2012, the former principal pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor offense. Pursuant to the plea deal, the judge sentenced Dr. Kenney to one-year probation.

     About the time of his guilty plea, families of the three students brought a civil suit against the Sarasota County School District. The plaintiffs were prohibited under Florida law from suing Dr. Kenney personally.

     In 2013, under pressure from the Florida Department of Education, Dr. Kenney gave up his state teaching license. He was also banned from reapplying for another license to teach in Florida.

     As the date of the civil trial approached, the plaintiffs and the school district agreed to a $600,000 court settlement split three ways. On October 6, 2015, the civil suit settlement became official.

     Had the lawsuit gone to trial, the plaintiffs would have had the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, a direct causal link between George Kenney's  hypnosis and the deaths of the students.
     

The Lawrence Capener Knife Attack

     On Sunday morning, April 28, 2013, all hell broke loose inside St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The mass had just ended and the choir had begun its final hymn when a 24-year-old man who had been nervous acting and fidgety throughout the service vaulted over several pews toward the front of the church. Lawrence Capener, the crazed churchgoer, possessed a knife which he used to stab the choir director several times.

     Gerald Madrid, the church flutist, came to Adam Alvarez's rescue by attempting to put Lawrence Capener into a bear hug. During the scuffle, Capener, before collapsing to the church floor under the weight of other churchgoers who mobbed him, stabbed the flutist five times in the back. Daren De Aquero, an off-duty Albuquerque police officer, put the subdued assailant into handcuffs.

     Greg Aragon, an off-duty Albuquerque Fire Department Lieutenant, treated the choir director, the man who came to his aid, and a female member of the choir who had been slashed by Capener's knife. None of the victims incurred life-threatening injuries.

     As Capener was led out of the church, an elderly parishioner spoke to him. She said, "God bless you, forgive yourself."

     "You don't know about the Masons," the attacker replied.

     Later that Sunday, a local prosecutor charged Lawrence Capener with three counts of aggravated battery. A magistrate set his bail at $250,000.

     After detectives advised Capener of his Miranda rights, the subject informed his interrogators that he was "99 percent sure" that the choir director was a Mason involved in a conspiracy "that is far more reaching than I could or would believe." He apologized for stabbing the flutist and the woman in the choir.

     While Capener does not belong to the 3,000-member church, his mother was an active parishioner. He had recently graduated from a community college, and had started a new job. According to people who know him, Capener struggled with mental illness.

     In February 2014, Carpener's attorney petitioned the court to lower his client's bail so he could live at home under the supervision of a GPS device. The judge, after hearing from Carpener's victims, denied the request. The trial was scheduled for September 2014.

     On September 29, 2014, pursuant to a plea bargain deal, a judge sentenced Lawrence Capener to five years in prison.

Thornton P. Knowles On Point Of View

I don't know what is worse, being on the outside looking in, or being on the inside looking out. I guess it depends on who you are. Like a lot of novelists, I've always felt like I was on the outside of society looking in, never fully belonging. It's a lonely life, but there's nothing I can do about it. You're either in or you're out, and that's just the way it is.

Thornton P. Knowles

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Alexander Kinyua: Cannibalism Murder Case

     Cannibalism by cold-blooded serial killers, or psychotics under the influence of mind-altering drugs, is a rare form of criminal homicide. In 1936, Albert Fish, a child molester, serial killer, and cannibal, died in Sing Sing's electric chair. He is believed to have eaten 28 children. Ed Gein, a Wisconsin butcher (a really disturbing thought) robbed graves, committed serial murder, and ate (and sold) human flesh. In 1968, the authorities sent Gein to a state mental institution for life. Another Wisconsin man, Jeffery Dahmer, killed and ate the parts of dozens of young homosexual men. When arrested in 1991, the police found heads and other body parts in his refrigerator. One of Dahmer's fellow inmates bludgeoned him to death in 1994.

     In May 2012, the big true crime stories in the news involved cannibalism. In Miami, a police officer killed Rudy Eugene as he ate most of a homeless man's face along a busy highway. Eugene is believed to  have been under the influence of a LSD-like drug called bath salts. His victim is in critical condition. In Montreal, Canada, a porn actor named Luka Magnotta stands accused of stabbing and dismembering a man on videotape. The victim's torso was found behind Magnotta's apartment building. The authorities also believe Magnotta is the person who mailed the dismembered man's body parts to Ottawa. And now there was a cannibalism case in Maryland involving a college student named Alexander Kinyua.

The Alexander Kinyua Case

     Alexander Kinyua, a 21-year-old electrical engineering student at Morgan State University in Baltimore, lived with his family in Joppatowne, an unincorporated bedroom community in southwest Maryland. A top student at Morgan State, this native of Kenya was in the ROTC program at the school. Kujoe Agyie-Kodie, a 37-year-old immigrant from Ghana who attended Morgan State as a graduate student, roomed in the Kinya family home.

     At dawn on Friday, May 25,  2012, Agyie-Kodie, wearing at T-shirt and shorts went out for a jog. He left his wallet and his cell phone at the Kinya house. When he didn't return, Alexander's father, Anthony Kinyua, reported him missing to the Harford County Police.

     On Tuesday, May 29, 2012, Alexander Kinya's brother, while in the basement laundry room, discovered two tin cans hidden beneath a blanket. Inside one of the containers he found a human head, and in the other, two hands. Confronted by his brother, Alexander said the bloody objects were not human. The sibling ran to the second floor to fetch his father. When the two of them returned to the basement, Alexander was washing out a pair of empty cans.

     Anthony Kinyua called the Harford County detective who was looking for Kujoe Agyei-Kodie. At the Kinyua house, the detective and his partner found the head and two hands hidden on the first floor of the dwelling. The officers questioned Alexander who admitted murdering Agyei-Kodie with a knife, then dismembering his body. He also confessed to eating the dead man's heart, and part of his brain. Shortly thereafter, the detectives found the headless corpse in a dumpster on the parking lot of the nearby Town Baptist Church.

     Alexander Kinyua was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. He was held without bail at the Harford County Detection Center.

     Three weeks before his homicide arrest, Kinyua was charged with severely beating a fellow student at Morgan State University. He had allegedly blinded the victim's left eye, and fractured his skull, arm, and shoulder. In the days leading up to this vicious assault, Kinyua's behavior had been erratic and bizarre.

     Forensic psychiatrist Steven Hoge, the director of the Columbia-Cornell Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship Program in New York City, in an article, said that cannibalism was usually the product of mind-altering drugs, psychosis, or both. As for the pathological motive behind this kind of violence, Dr. Hoge said that human flesh eaters were trying to "capture the power or the spirit of their victims."

     On August 19, 2013, Alexander Kinyum pleaded guilty but not criminally responsible due to legal insanity. As a result, he would remain incarcerated in a mental institution until a judge ruled him mentally healthy enough to rejoin society. In light of the facts of this case and Kinyua's violent history, it is unlikely he will ever be released back into the world.

     

Shoplifting As a Cultural Phenomenon

What's new about shoplifting today is that it has become a cultural phenomenon--a silent epidemic, driven by pretty much everything in our era. Some scholars connect it to traditional families' disintegration, the American love of shopping, the downshifting of the middle class, global capitalism, immigration, the replacement of independent stores with big chains, and the lessening of faith's hold on conduct. Shoplifting gets tangled up in American cycles of spending and saving, and boom and bust, and enacts the tension between the rage to consume conspicuously and the intention to live thriftily. The most recent suspects include the Great Recession, the increasing economic divide between rich and poor, and ineffectual response to the shamelessness of white-collar fraudsters; the shoplifter as the poor man's Bernard Madoff.

Rachel Shteir, The Steal, 2011

Thornton P. Knowles On Government's Relationship With The Governed

I wouldn't want to live in a country where the government protects itself from the people it governs. I'd rather live in a country where citizens are protected from the government. Because it is in the nature of government to seek more and more power, it must be restrained. History shows that citizens, over time, almost always lose this battle. Government is the necessary evil that gets out of control and simply becomes evil.

Thornton P. Knowles

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Death BY Hospital Negligence: The Lynne Spalding Case

     On September 19, 2013, Lynne Spalding, suffering from a bladder infection, checked herself into the San Francisco General Hospital. The 57-year-old native of Peterlee, England worked in San Francisco's tourist industry. The thin, frail divorced mother of two seemed confused and disoriented, perhaps from the effects of  her medication. Members of the hospital staff assigned to her care were under orders to look in on Spalding every fifteen minutes.

     When one of Spalding's friends showed up at the hospital on September 21 for a visit, Spalding was not in her room. Hospital employees searched the immediate area and couldn't find her. Maybe she had checked herself out. The friend went to Spalding's apartment and found it vacant. When Spalding didn't return to her dwelling, the friend filed a missing persons report with the police.

     Over the next few days, the missing woman's friends and members of her family looked for her at various places in the city. They posted missing persons flyers around as well. One of her friends created a "Find Lynne" Facebook page. Deputies with the sheriff's office, the agency in charge of hospital security, conducted a search of the giant medical complex. It seemed this woman had vanished into thin air.

     At ten in the morning of October 8, 2013, seventeen days after Lynne Spalding went missing from her hospital room, a hospital employee discovered the body of a middle-aged woman lying dead in a stairwell used as a fire escape. Todd May, the chief hospital medical officer tentatively identified the dead woman as Lynne Spalding. (I presume she was wearing a hospital identification bracelet.)

     The job of determining when, where, and exactly how this woman had died rested in the hands of the San Francisco Medical Examiner's Office. The principal determination involved Spalding's manner of death. While it was not unreasonable to presume that this hospital patient's death occurred naturally, the forensic pathologist looked for signs of physical trauma that suggested a struggle. The pathologist who performed the autopsy also looked for physical evidence of a sexual assault.

     Assuming the absence of foul play in this unusual death, the Spalding case presented the obvious question as to how this sick woman had gotten from her room to the stairwell without being observed by hospital staff. Unless the stairwell where Spalding's body was found was located in an extremely remote section of the hospital, someone should have detected the odor of decomposition.

     San Francisco General Hospital spokesperson Todd May, at a press conference held on October 8, 2013, said, "What happened at our hospital is horrible. We are here to take care of patients, to heal them, to keep them safe. This has shaken us to our core. Our staff is devastated."

     David Perry, Lynne Spalding's friend and the family spokesperson told reporters that "We need to know what Lynne's condition was. We need to know what she was being treated for and frankly we need to know what medications she was on and what state of mind she was in. We're not trying to place blame. We're trying to find answers."

     On Thursday, October 10, San Francisco General Hospital Chief Operating Officer Roland Pickens announced that pursuant to the medical examiner's office report, the corpse in the stairwell was Lynne Spalding's body. A second hospital spokesperson revealed that the stairwell in question was located several hundred feet from the unit where Spalding was being treated. According to this spokesperson, Spalding was being treated in a unit where patients are not watched closely. This contradicted previous information regarding the fifteen minute patient check-ups.

     In a private ceremony held on October 21, Spalding's body was cremated. (This meant, of course, that there would be no second autopsy if one became necessary.)

     On October 22, 2013, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that four days before sheriff's deputies responded to the dead woman found in the city-owned hospital's stairwell, an orderly had twice stepped over her body thinking she was a homeless person. To reporters, Haig Harris, the attorney representing Spalding's children, said, "This is a hospital. Why didn't somebody put their hand on the body to see if there was a pulse?"

     David Perry, a Spalding family spokesperson said this to reporters: "The family is angry and frustrated and out of patience. While we understand the need for a thorough investigation, it has now been one month and three days since Lynne Spalding went missing....The time for answers and real solutions that will protect lives of future patients is long past due."

     A woman who had been visiting her son at the hospital in June 2013 said she had been locked in the same stairwell. She had taken the stairs instead of the elevator, entering the fifth-floor stairwell without realizing it was an emergency exit. The woman walked down to the ground level, but the door sounded an alarm when she opened it. She slammed the door shut and went back upstairs where she pounded on the door window to attract attention. A nurse who happened by let her back inside. No one had responded to the exit alarm.

     Investigators and hospital authorities did not reveal if Spalding had changed into her street clothes before leaving her room. (The fact the orderly presumed she was a homeless person suggests that she had.) While the coroner still had not revealed Spalding's cause of death, the family was assured she had not been the victim of foul play.

     Dan Cunningham with the San Francisco Police homicide unit announced on October 28, 2013 that four days before Spalding's body was discovered, an Asian man in his thirties wearing a hospital name tag told a hospital supervisor that he had seen a person lying in the stairwell. The supervisor checked out the stairwell but didn't see anyone there. Homicide investigators were trying to identify this man for questioning. (It's not clear if the Asian man was the orderly who stepped over the body on October 4, 2013.)

     On December 15, 2013, the medical examiner's office released the results of Spalding's autopsy. According to the San Francisco medical examiner, Spalding had died of "probable electrolyte imbalance with delirium clinical sepsis." In other words, she had died from a chemical imbalance related to chronic alcoholism. According to Dr. Thomas Shaughnessey, the electrolyte imbalances, in combination with a liver that is unable to compensate form the imbalance, resulted in a collapse of Spalding's heart or brain resulting in her death. The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy was not able to say exactly when she died.

     Members of Spalding's family immediately disputed the allegation that she was an alcoholic. They were therefore outraged by the contents of the medical examiner's report.

     In February 2014, the Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, a federal agency that decides whether hospitals meet minimum standards to be eligible for Medicare payments, announced the results of its extensive investigation into the Spalding tragedy. According to the report, hospital nurses failed to act on a doctor's order that this patient be watched around the clock. Federal investigators also blamed the sheriff's department for not having an emergency plan worked out with hospital staff. Investigators concluded that the hospital's "chaotic and poorly coordinated response had contributed to patient Spalding's death."

     The sheriff, in the wake of the hospital scandal, fired one member of the agency's hospital staff and suspended two others. Five more deputies were disciplined administratively. No hospital employees were punished for the Spalding fiasco.

     The Spalding family filed a wrongful death suit against the hospital and the city. In December 2014, the city of San Francisco settled the case for just under $3 million.

     

The Perception Versus The Reality of Crime

Whether we live in a more violent age than did, for example, the Victorians is a question for statisticians and sociologists, but we certainly feel more threatened by crime and disorder than at any other time I remember in my long life. This constant awareness of the dark undercurrents of society and human personality is probably partly due to the modern media, when details of the most atrocious murders, of civil strife and violent protests, come daily into our living rooms from television screens and other forms of modern technology. Increasingly writers of crime novels and detective stories will reflect this tumultuous world in their work and deal with far greater realism than would have been possible in the Golden Age [of mystery fiction 1920-1940]. The solving of the mystery is still at the heart of a detective story but today it is no longer isolated from contemporary society. We know that the police are not invariably more virtuous and honest than the society from which they are recruited, and that corruption can stalk the corridors of power and lie at the very heart of government and the criminal justice system.

P. D. James, Talking About Detective Fiction, 2009 

Thornton P. Knowles On The Master Detective

A master detective is the product of a traditional liberal arts education; deep and extended training; prolonged on-the-job monitoring by people who know what they are doing; and years of relevant investigative experience. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Thornton P. Knowles

Friday, August 17, 2018

Ethel Anderson: The Unrepentant Child Molester

     In 2011, Ethel Anderson, a 29-year-old teacher at the Mango Elementary School in suburban Seffner, Florida outside of Tampa, resided in Riverside with her husband and 5-year-old daughter. Anderson had recently been named the Diversity School Teacher of the Year.

     In December 2011, Teacher of the Year Anderson began tutoring a 12-year-old math student in her home. Over the next three months, she and the boy exchanged 230 pages of test messages in which she described, in vivid language, her lust for the child. Anderson also expressed her anxiety over feeling unattractive because of her weight. In these exchanges, the boy used the name Dirty Dan. No one reading this material would have guessed that Dirty Dan was a 12-year-old kid communicating with one of his public school teachers. The online exchange between teacher and student, while a bit puerile, was pretty raunchy.

     In February 2012, the teacher-student affair ended following a lover's spat. The angry kid got his revenge by telling his mom everything. It's hard to imagine what was going through the mother's mind when her son described receiving oral sex from a woman paid to teach him math. The couple, according to the boy, also simulated various sexual acts while fully clothed. The boy's tutor also fondled him.

     The mother, perhaps worried that school officials and police officers would take the teacher's word over her son's, confronted Anderson before alerting the authorities. During that meeting, the teacher admitted having an inappropriate relationship with the boy. The student's mom, having clandestinely audio-taped the conversation, went to the police with the evidence. (The mother may also have seen the texted messages between her son and Anderson.)

     Hillsborough County Assistant State Attorney Rita Peters, in March 2012, charged Ethel Anderson with nine counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child. Each count carried a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Following the teacher's arrest, the school suspended her without pay. Eight months later, Anderson resigned.

     The child molestation trial got underway in Tampa on September 18, 2013. The boy, now 14, took the stand for the prosecution. "I felt she was like my real girlfriend," he said. "She said I was her boyfriend and she loved me. I was thinking, 'I'm living a guy's dream...dating my teacher.' "

     According to the young prosecution witness, Anderson told him she planned to leave her husband because he wasn't a good father, and didn't communicate with her. As time went on, however, the student began having doubts about the relationship. "I'm dating a girl I'm in love with and she thinks of me as a kid. It didn't feel right."

     On the third and final day of the trial, defense attorney William Knight, in a bold move, put his client on the stand. Rather than plead some kind of emotional breakdown, drinking problem or addiction to drugs, the former school teacher denied having physical contact with the boy, essentially calling him a liar. Claiming that the 12-year-old had tried to instigate a sexual relationship, Anderson said, "He attempted, at one point, to grab me in an inappropriate manner. He attempted to kiss me and I pushed him off."

     Regarding her sexually vivid text messages, the defendant said they were nothing more than "sexual therapy" tools to get the boy to focus on his studies. "I recognize it was explicit and inappropriate, but it was all fantasy," she said. "He was going through puberty. He couldn't connect with his family. He was always thinking sexually. My purpose was to get his attention."

     Prosecutor Peters, in a blistering cross-examination of the defendant, asked, "You want the jury to believe that you were in fantasyland to help the boy? Was that part of your training as a teacher? So by giving in to these sexual fantasies he did better in school?"

     "Sometimes, yes," Anderson replied.

     Defense attorney Knight, in his closing remarks to the jury, pointed out that the prosecution had not presented one piece of physical evidence proving any kind of sexual contact between his client and the student.

     When it came her turn to address the jury, the prosecutor called the former teacher's attempt to explain herself "remarkable," and "amazing in its audacity." The state attorney told the jurors that "everything the defendant told you defies logic and common sense."

     On December 19, 2013, Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe, calling Ethel Anderson a parent's worst nightmare, sentenced the former teacher to 38 years in prison.

     Judge Tharpe was Anderson's worst nightmare.