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Friday, October 31, 2014

Derek Ward's Horrific Crime and Sudden Death

     Patricia Ward resided in an apartment complex on Secatogue Avenue in Farmingdale, an unincorporated village of 8,000 in the western Long Island town of Oyster Bay, New York. The 66-year-old taught English at Farmingdale State College's Long Island Educational Opportunity Center, an institution attended by high school students preparing for college.

     The assistant professor's son, 35-year-old Derek Ward, lived with her in the Farmingdale apartment. The unemployed son, over the past ten years, had experienced problems with the law and his mental health. In 2003, the schizophrenic young man was convicted of criminal mischief. In that case, the judge fined Ward and placed him on probation for a year. In 2006, police in Nassau County arrested Ward for possession of drugs and a 9 mm handgun. That judge sentenced him to 45 days in jail and three years probation.

     Just before eight o'clock at night on Tuesday October 28 2014, Derek Ward attacked his mother with a kitchen knife. In their apartment, he stabbed her several times, cut off her head, dragged the headless body down the stairs, through the apartment lobby and onto Secatogue Avenue.

     After depositing his decapitated mother on the street in front of their apartment, Ward walked about a mile to a set of Long Island Railroad tracks. From there he threw himself in front of a speeding commuter train heading east from Penn Station in Manhattan. The impact killed him instantly.

     When police officers arrived at the Ward apartment complex they found Patricia Ward lying in the street about ten feet from her head.

     Neighbor Nick Gordon told a reporter with The New York Post that, "I saw the body laying right in front and her head was across the street near the corner. I thought, 'holy shit!' There was blood all over. You can see smears going down the stairs." Other neighbors, when they saw Patricia Ward's body, thought they were looking at a Halloween prank. 

Adolfo and Deborah Gomez: Parents From Hell

     In January 1994, 34-year-old Adolfo Gomez walked out of prison in Illinois after serving three years for burglary and theft. Four years later, he was living in the suburban Chicago community of Naperville with his 29-year-old wife Deborah and their two sons, ages one and two. In October 1998, Deborah pleaded guilty to child neglect after leaving the boys alone in their apartment for 8 hours.

     In 2007, the couple, now with four children ages 2 to 11, were living in Lombard, Illinois. That November Adolfo pleaded guilty to a drunk driving charge.

     From 2008 through 2010, the Gomez family, now comprised of 5 children, moved from one apartment to another around DuPage and Cook Counties, Illinois. Their landlord in Wood Dale from whom they rented a basement apartment, noticed that Adolfo had installed padlocks on the doors to his children's bedrooms. The oldest Gomez child told the landlord he did all the cooking, and that the family acquired its food from local churches.

     While living in Northlake, another suburban Chicago community, the Illinois Department of Family Services, in November 2011, opened a child neglect case on Adolfo and Deborah Gomez. Following the investigation, the agency, in April 2012, closed the case without taking action against the parents. Two months earlier, Adolfo spent 12 days in the DuPage County Jail for failure to pay several fines and comply with various court orders.

     On June 10, 2012, the Gomez family, while on a road trip to Arizona to visit relatives, had car trouble in Lawrence, Kansas. Adolfo managed to coax the Chevy Suburban utility vehicle into a remote spot on a Walmart parking lot. Late in the morning of Wednesday, June 13, a Walmart shopper noticed a 5-year-old boy sitting on the ground near the Gomez vehicle. The child's hands were tied behind his back and his feet were bound. The boy had also been blindfolded. The shopper called 911.

     When officers from the Lawrence Police Department rolled up to the scene, they saw the boy and his 7-year-old sister, also bound and blindfolded, sitting near the broken down Suburban. The other three Gomez children were in the vehicle with their father. Deborah was inside the Walmart store.

     Adolfo Gomez resisted arrest causing the officers to subdue him with a stun gun. Ten minutes later, they took Deborah Gomez into custody when she walked out of the store. The five children were turned over to a child protection agency and the Chevy was hauled to a police towing lot.

     A Douglas County prosecutor charged the 52 and 37-year-old couple with two counts of child abuse and five counts of child endangerment. Adolfo was also charged with resisting arrest. The judge scheduled the preliminary hearing on the case for August 10. In the meantime, Adolfo and Deborah were held in the Douglas County Jail under $50,000 bond each. Adolfo had informed the court he intended to represent himself and his wife against the charges. The judge ordered mental evaluations of both defendants. (The fact Adolfo planned to be his own attorney tells me all I need to know about his mental state. The fact Deborah is married to him is all I need to know about her.)

   In May 2013, Deborah Gomez pleaded no contest to child abuse. The judge sentenced her to one year probation. A month later, her husband, pursuant to a plea arrangement, pleaded guilty to child abuse and resisting arrest. The judge sentenced Adolfo to 30 months in prison minus the 371 days he had spent in jail. At his sentencing hearing, Gomez told the judge that he and his children had been fearful of demon possession. (The children were in effect already possessed by the Devil, their father.) They are still being cared for by others.


Criminal Justice Quote: Meth Cook's Dog Helps Cops

     Edwin Henderson ran from officers with the Prattville, Alabama police who were serving a drug search warrant on October 29, 2014. The suspected meth manufacturer jumped into a ravine behind his house and was followed by his dog, Bo and two Prattville Drug Enforcement Unit investigators.

     Bo found Henderson lying in tall grass. He was arrested when the officers saw the dog had stopped to wag his tail. Henderson has been charged with failure to obey police, manufacturing a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

"Dog Helps Alabama Police Arrest Owner During Chase," Associated Press, October 30, 2014 

Writing Quote: The Meaning of Literary Awards

In the literary world there are far more awards for "serious" fiction than championship title belts in the field of professional boxing. While boxing fans and pundits lament the glut of prize fighting titles, the boxers who hold these belts have at least proven themselves to be superior athletes. Literary awards, on the other hand, warn us that these award-winning novels are virtually unreadable works of pretentious, show-off fiction.

Thornton P. Knowles, The Psychology of Writing, 1976 

Writing Quote: How Long Does it Take to Write a Novel?

Someone will always ask, "How long does it take you to write a novel?" I hardly ever give them the real answer. "It depends," I will say. "A year. Sometimes three or four." The real answer, of course, is that it takes your entire life. I am forty-four, and it took me forty-four years to get this novel finished. You don't mention this to too many people, because it can fill their hearts with sadness, looking at you and thinking, Jesus, forty-four years to come up with this? But it's always the truest answer. You could not have written it any sooner. You write the book when its time has come, and you bring your lifetime to the task, however few or many years you have behind you.

James D. Houston in The Writer's Life, Carol Edgarian and Tom Jenks, editors, 1997 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Who Killed Five Members of the Strack Family?

     Benjamin Strack, his wife Kristi, and their children resided in a duplex in Springville, Utah, a town of 30,000 45 miles south of Salt Lake City not far from Provo. Just before eight o'clock on the night of Saturday September 27, 2014, the oldest Strack child, accompanied by his grandparents, approached the Strack half of the duplex to check on the family. Mr. and Mrs. Strack and three of their children had not responded to emails, text messages or phone calls.

     The grandparents and the oldest child entered the house through the front door that stood wide open. (The back door was cracked open.) In the master bedroom they discovered Mr. and Mrs. Strack and the three children. The 36-year-old parents and the children--Benson, 14; Emery, 12; and Zion, 11--were dead. 

     Police officers at the scene noted that none of the bodies showed signs of physical trauma. Moreover, there was no evidence of a struggle and nothing had been taken from the house. 

     Firefighters tested the air inside the dwelling and did not detect traces of carbon monoxide. The fact that pets in the house were alive and the other residents of duplex were unharmed, pointed away from death by carbon monoxide poisoning. 

     Following the five autopsies, the medical examiner announced that none of the Stracks had been subjected to violent assault. The cause and manner of these deaths remained undetermined pending the results of toxicological tests. A police spokes person told reporters that foul play had not been ruled out in this case. The medical examiner did not reveal when the Stracks had died. 

    On October 28, 2014, reporters learned that investigators believe that the children and their parents had been poisoned to death on September 27, 2014. According to detectives, the children's bodies had been positioned in their parents' bedroom after their deaths. The bodies of Benjamin and Kristi and their children were each lying next to a cup of red liquid. Kristi Stack had red liquid coming out of her mouth.

     From the house, investigators had removed 14 drinking cups and bottles, a pitcher of red juice, and a purple bucket containing yellow liquid. Searchers also seized a pair of slippers that contained a drop of blood and a towel stained by a red substance. Detectives, in the family's garbage, found empty methadone bottles, 10 empty boxes of nighttime cold medicine, various pill bottles, several empty boxes of sleeping aids, a bag of marijuana, and Pepsi cups containing traces of a red liquid.

     At this point the authorities aren't revealing who they think poisoned the family. The obvious conclusion, based on the physical evidence, is mass murder-suicide orchestrated by the parents. The big mystery is why. 

Criminal Justice Quote: Man Lured Boys By Posing as Woman on Craigslist

     A Tustin, California man arrested for allegedly posting an ad on Craigslist in which he attempted to lure teenage boys by pretending to be a woman was released from jail on October 18, 2014…Sherwin Ngo, 34, posted bond a day after he was arrested by Irvine police…

     The mother of one of the alleged victims, a 15-year-old boy, found explicit emails on her son's computer…A 16-year-old from Mission Viejo has been identified as a second victim…

     Irvine police arrested Ngo on suspicion of committing a lewd act on one of the teens and an attempted lewd act on the other. Detectives suspect there may be additional victims based on emails seized during a search of Ngo's online accounts.

Scott Glover, "Irvine Police Say Man Posed as Woman on Craigslist to Lure Teen Boys," L.A. Now, October 18, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Cracking Down on Argumentative Unarmed 75-Year-Old Debtors

     When officials in the small town of Stettin in Marathon County, Wisconsin, went to collect a civil judgement from 75-year-old Roger Hoeppner this month, they sent 24 armed officers and an armored military vehicle…

     The unrest in Ferguson, Missouri has focused attention on the growing militarization of local law enforcement, particularly the use by small police departments of surplus armored military vehicles. Marathon County sheriff's deputies are not apologizing for their militaristic tactics. Sheriff's Captain Greg Bean said officials expected to seize and remove tractors and wood pallets to pay the civil judgment--hence the cadre of deputies. He also said that while Hoeppner was never considered dangerous, he was know to be argumentative.

     Mr. Hoeppner said when he noticed deputies outside his house, he called his attorney, Ryan Lister of Wausaw. Lister said he quickly left for Hoeppner's house but was stopped by a roadblock that was kept up until after his client had been taken away in handcuffs. "Rather than provide Mr Hoeppner or his counsel notice…and attempt to collect without spending thousands of dollars on the military-style maneuvers, the town unilaterally decided to enforce its civil judgment with a show of force," the attorney said.

John Galt, "Marathon County Uses Newly Acquired Armored Vehicle to Collect Debts,", October 28, 2014


Criminal Justice Quote: Rape Fugitive Caught

     Accused child rapist Gregory Lewis, the subject of a multi-state manhunt, was arrested on October 28, 2014 in upstate New York after fleeing from the police then crashing his vehicle into a river…Police said a New York Police trooper attempted to pull over Lewis' vehicle because it was missing a license plate. Lewis fled from the trooper and drove into Fort Edward Village…The trooper and Fort Edward Village police began searching for Lewis. A short time later a 911 call came in indicating that a vehicle had crashed into a river.

     Lewis was taken into custody at the scene of the crash. At that time the arresting officers recovered a handgun from the fugitive.

     Lewis had cut off a court-ordered ankle bracelet and fled Massachusetts after his September 2014 arraignment on two counts of statutory rape of a child and indecent assault and battery on a child under 14. He is accused of going on a multi-state crime spree in the weeks since that included alleged sexual assaults, kidnappings, and robberies.

"Fugitive Captured: Southbridge Man Accused of Child Rape Caught in New York," October 29, 2014 

Writing Quote: Setting Up Traps For Your Protagonist

If you're writing a novel where you are not springing an actual physical trap on your protagonist, think about other less dangerous entrapments. They can be benign, like staging a surprise party for a notoriously shy protagonist; sending a character who is inappropriately dressed to a fancy party or dangerously cold environment; or sending him into a room where another character is fuming with anger. Or it can be a situation in which an antagonist wrests information, a promise, or a concession from your protagonist, who gives in against his better judgement.

Jessica Page Morrell, Between the Lines, 2006