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Sunday, August 18, 2019

"Evil Evan" Ebel: The Violent Death Of A Dangerous Parolee

     In February 2011, the governor of Colorado appointed Tom Clements to the position of Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections. Clements left his job as Director of Operations for Adult Correctional Facilities in Missouri to head up the 6,000-employee department. The 58-year-old corrections administrator, his wife, and two daughters resided in Monument, Colorado, a rural, upscale community in El Paso County 45 miles south of Denver.

     At 8:37 in the evening of Tuesday, March 19, 2013, a member of the Clements family called 911 to report a shooting at the Monument Colorado home. Deputies with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office found Tom Clements lying dead in his front doorway. According to the family member, he had been shot when he answered the doorbell.

     Sheriff's lieutenant Jeff Kramer told reporters that the Clements murder didn't appear to be the result of an attempted robbery. Moreover, it didn't have the markings of a random act of violence.

     On Thursday night, March 21, 2013, a Montague County Sheriff's deputy in northeast Texas near the Oklahoma line, pulled over a black Cadillac with Colorado plates. It was a routine traffic that turned into a violent crime. The driver of the vehicle, a 28-year-old paroled Colorado gang member and white supremacist named Evan Spencer Ebel, shot the deputy twice in the chest, and with a third bullet,  grazed the officer's head. The downed deputy had been wearing a bullet-proof vest therefore was able to call for help and describe Ebel's car.

     Following a high-speed police chase, Ebel slammed his Cadillac into an eighteen-wheeler in Decatur, Texas thirty miles south of the traffic stop and shooting. The Colorado parolee bearing the tattoos "hopeless," and "Evil Evan," climbed out of his damaged car firing at the police. The officers gunned him down on the spot. He died at a hospital in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

     Homicide detectives in Colorado believed that Evan Ebel had murdered Tom Clements. Inside the wrecked Cadillac, police found a Domino's Pizza uniform jacket and a cardboard pizza box. This discovery suggested that Ebel had murdered a 27-year-old pizza delivery man named Nathan Leon in Denver on March 17, 2013.

     Evan Ebel, a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, was scheduled for parole on April 13, 2013 but was released early to the custody of his father, Jack Ebel, a Denver area lawyer. The parolee's violent crime history dated back to 2003 when he was convicted of robbery. In 2008, he was found guilty of assaulting a prison guard. 

The Execution Of Walter Storey

     Missouri carried out its first execution of 2015. The state executed 47-year-old Walter Storey who was sentenced to death for the murder of 36-year-old Jill Frey, a neighbor. Storey murdered the victim with a knife on February 2, 1990. He received a lethal dose of pentobarbital just after midnight on February 11, 2015 in the execution chamber of the Eastern Reception Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre.

     As the lethal injection took place, Storey turned his head toward family members and began to sing or chant until his breathing stopped.

     Storey, on February 2, 1990 had received a divorce petition from his estranged wife. At the time he was living with his mother in a St. Charles, Missouri apartment complex. After a heavy night of drinking, Storey ran out of alcohol and decided to rob his across-the-hall neighbor, Jill Frey, a special education teacher.

     Storey grabbed a knife from his kitchen and climbed up to Frey's balcony and entered her apartment through an unlocked sliding glass door. He brutally beat Frey to death, inflicting no fewer than twenty blunt force blows. He broke the victim's ribs, stabbed her in the abdomen, and slashed her neck. After the murder, he stole the victim's purse and car.

     The next day, Storey returned to Frey's apartment and attempted to wipe down the scene to cover up evidence. He cleaned under the victim's fingernails using her own toothbrush. Storey tossed physical evidence of the murder in a dumpster and threw Frey's car keys in the lake behind the complex.

     The day after the crime scene clean-up, co-workers discovered Frey's body after she failed to show up for work….

"Missouri Carries Out Execution of Walter Storey," missourinet.com, February 11, 2015

Thornton P. Knowles On Exploratory Surgery

I asked my doctor if he could recommend a good surgeon. "For what?" he asked. "I want him to open me up to see if I have any more books in me." Without cracking a smile he replied, "If you do, do you want them removed?"

Thornton P. Knowles

Are Manic-Depressives Better Novelists?

     A surprising proportion of novelists are manic-depressive. The psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison, one of the foremost experts on manic-depression, has explored this phenomenon in depth…The work of Jamison and others shows that novelists are ten times more likely to be manic-depressive than the rest of the population, and poets are a remarkably forty times more likely to suffer from this condition...

     Although most writers who have been successfully treated for depression find that their work begins to flow again as their mood improves, paradoxically, a few writers have linked their desire to write to their depression…

     One justification for such a position is that an artist must suffer to create, and what more effective way to suffer than through mental illness?..

     Other writers argue that depression is not necessary for creativity directly, but is an inevitable side effect of the mechanism that produces elated creative states…Several more writers have described how their desire to write disappeared as their depressions lifted, but blame the antidepressant--not the loss of their depression--for their decreased creativity.

Alice W. Flaherty, The Midnight Disease, 2004 

The Reluctant Novelist

The anxiety involved in writing is intolerable. And the financial rewards just don't make up for the expenditure of energy, the damage to health caused by stimulants and narcotics, the fear that one's work isn't good enough. I think, if I had enough money, I'd give up writing tomorrow.

Anthony Burgess, The New Yorker, June 14, 2004 

The Short Story Is Not A Slice of Life Piece

A basic distinction between an episode in real life and a short story is that the story does have an author, who creates his characters, selects his actions, and directs them in the exploration of some meaningful idea. Any episode in life is filled with irrelevancies of many kinds which confuse our understanding; in the story only those elements are included which serve to focus the overall effect, which is the story. The helpful author is present, then, in the creating selecting, and focusing of the materials of his story.

Jarvis A. Thurston in Reading Modern Short Stories, edited by Jarvis A. Thurston, 1955

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Jessica Hernandez Police-Involved Shooting Case

     In Denver, Colorado at six-thirty in the morning of Monday January 26, 2015, two police officers responded to a call about a suspicious vehicle. The officers knew that the parked car, occupied by five people, had been reported stolen. According to the police version of the story, as the officers approached the vehicle, it lurched toward them. Both officers opened fire, hitting and killing the driver who turned out to be 17-year-old Jessica Hernandez. The car struck one of the officers in the leg.

     Bobbie Diaz, the mother of a 16-year-old girl who was in the stolen car at the time of the shooting was in bed when she heard four gunshots followed by a man yelling, "Freeze! Get out of the car! Get down!"

     When Diaz went outside to investigate, she saw police officers pulling young people from the car. They yanked Jessica Hernandez out from behind the steering wheel and handcuffed the unresponsive girl. One of the teens in the group screamed, "She's dead! She's dead!"

     Another witness to the police shooting, neighborhood resident Arellia Hammock, told a reporter she heard three gunshots that morning. In referring to the teenagers involved, she said, "They shouldn't have stolen a car. But the cops are too fast on the gun. You've got stun guns. You've got rubber bullets. Why do they have to shoot all the time?"

     One of the occupants of the stolen car offered a version of the incident different in a very important way from the official police account. According to this witness, the vehicle didn't move toward the officers until after they killed the driver.

     The Denver chief of police, pursuant to departmental policy in such matters, placed both officers on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation into Hernandez's death. The inquiry was . conducted by three separate agencies: the Denver Police Department, the district attorney's office, and a civilian oversight organization called the Office of Independent Monitor.

     At a vigil held that night for Jessica Hernandez, residents of the neighborhood critical of the police  held signs protesting the shooting. One of the signs read: "Your Badge Is Not a License to Kill."

     Two days after the fatal shooting, 200 angry protestors gathered outside Denver's District 2 police station. An official with the independent civilian oversight organization reported to the media that in the past seven months Denver police officers had fired four times at vehicles they perceived as threats.

     According to the Denver Police Department's use of deadly force guidelines, officers in cases like this are urged to step out of the way of approaching vehicles rather than to open fire. Moreover, if the driver of the vehicle is hit, the car or truck could become an unguided missile.

     Because Denver police cars were not equipped with dashboard cameras, shooting investigators would have to rely on witness accounts of the incident. It would have been helpful to detectives if the incident had been caught on a neighborhood surveillance camera.

     Not long after the fatal shooting, Jessica Hernandez's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city.

     In June 2016, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey decided there was not enough evidence to file criminal charges against the police officers involved in Jessica Hernandez's death. The officers were returned to duty.
   
     In April 2017, the city of Denver and Jessica Hernandez's family settled the wrongful death lawsuit for $1 million. 

The Animal Cruelty Case That Sparked Public Outrage

     In April 2019, a man rummaging through a dumpster in Coachella, California made a startling discovery. Inside a white plastic bag he found seven live, three-day old Terrier mix puppies. The dogs, having been exposed to 90 degree heat, were rushed to an animal hospital where they were found to be in remarkably good health. From there the puppies were taken to an Animal shelter.

     Surveillance video footage showed that prior to the discovery of the hapless puppies that day, a car had pulled up to the dumpster and a woman had gotten out carrying the bag of dogs. She dropped the package into the dumpster and drove off.

     Investigation revealed that the woman in the video was 54-year-old Deborah Sue Culwell.

     A Riverside County prosecutor charged Deborah Sue Culwell with 14 counts of animal cruelty. She pleaded not guilty to the charges.

     In August 2019, following Culwell's guilty plea, the judge sentenced her to one year in which she would have to spend 275 days behind bars. Culwell would serve her remaining time pursuant to a work release arrangement followed by seven years of probation during which time she could not own an animal.

     Although a misdemeanor, the cruelty of Culwell's crime and the vulnerability of its victims sparked outrage in the southern California community. The judge obviously shared this view of Culwell's behavior.

     Perhaps there should be a registry for animal abusers.

Thornton P. Knowles On Cruelty To Animals

I am soft on animals, particularly pets. Defendants convicted of animal cruelty should be punished as though they have committed their crimes against children. There is no moral or legal justification for animal cruelty. A person who intentionally hurts an innocent and helpless animal is capable of physically abusing a child. While these sadists belong in Hell, very few of them even go to prison. As one of the few people from West Virginia who could never shoot a deer, the sentencing of animal abusers is a criminal justice reality that brings out the vigilante in me.

Thornton P. Knowles

The Mystery of Evil

The concept of the psychopath is, in fact, an admission of failure to solve the mystery of evil--it is merely a restatement of the mystery--and only offers an escape valve for the frustration felt by psychiatrists, social workers, and police officers, who daily encounter its force.

Janet Malcolm, The Journalist and the Murderer, 1990