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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Richard Bistline Child Pornography Case

     In 2007, 67-year-old Richard Bistline lived with his ailing wife in Mount Vernon, a central Ohio town of 17,000 not far from Columbus, the state capital. In October of that year, FBI agents came to his home, arrested him for possessing child pornography, and seized his home computer. A search of Bistline's computer revealed 305 images and 56 videos of eight to ten-year-old girls being raped by adult men. Bistline had downloaded this material from an online program called "Limewire" which provided access to child pornography without a fee.

     Three years after his arrest, Bistline pleaded guilty in a Columbus U. S. District Court to one count of possessing child pornography. The Sentencing Guidelines for this federal offense, as established by Congress, consisted of a sentence of between 63 and 78 months in prison.

     Assistant United States Attorney Deborah A. Solove, in preparation for Bistline's sentencing hearing before federal judge James L. Graham, submitted a detailed memorandum outlining the government's argument for a sentence that fell within the established guidelines.

     Judge Graham, a 1986 Reagan appointee who was Bistline's age, opened the sentence hearing with statements that telegraphed his decision to be lenient with the child porn possessor. Noting that mere possession of this kind of material did not constitute a very serious offense, Judge Graham declared the federal Sentencing Guidelines for the crime "seriously flawed." The judge also stated that in determining who should go to prison and who shouldn't, the age and health of the convicted person are important considerations. Judge Graham said that he was worried that Mr. Bistline, who over the past decade had suffered two strokes, would not receive adequate health care in prison. Moreover, if he sent this man away, who would care for his sick wife?

     Judge Graham shocked the federal prosecutor when he handed down his sentence of one night in the federal courthouse lockup. That was it. No prison time for a man caught in possession of images and videos of young girls being raped by adult men. Congress and its sentencing guidelines be damned.

     After prosecutor Solove objected to the sentence as being extremely lenient, and outside the bounds of the guidelines, Judge Graham convened a second sentencing hearing two months later. At that hearing, the judge simply added ten years of supervised release to his original sentence. Still no prison time for Mr. Bistline.

     Assistant Unites States Attorney Deborah Solove appealed Judge Graham's sentence to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on the grounds the district court judge had improperly rejected the federal Sentencing Guidelines in this case.

     In January 2012, the panel of three appellate judges handed down its decision. The federal appeals court justices held that a district court judge cannot, without a "compelling" reason, ignore sentencing guidelines created by the U. S. Congress. The justices ruled that in the Bistline case, Judge Graham's personal belief that the guidelines were too harsh for the possession of child porn did not constitute a "compelling" reason for ignoring them.

     In justifying this legal decision, the appellate court laid out the following rationale: "Knowing possession of child pornography...is not a crime of inadvertence, of pop-up [computer] screens and viruses that can incriminate an innocent person. Possession of child pornography instead becomes a crime when a defendant knowingly acquires the images--in this case, affirmatively, deliberately, and repeatedly, hundreds of times over, in a period exceeding a year."

     The 6th Circuit justices noted that Mr. Bistline never expressed genuine remorse for his actions. In fact, the defendant said he didn't understand why the possession of child pornography was even a crime. (Bistline was also angry at FBI agents for seizing his illegally downloaded music along with the child pornography.)

     The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals justices ruled that Judge Graham's sentence "... did not remotely meet the criteria that Congress laid out. We vacate Bistline's sentence and remand his case for prompt imposition of one that does."

     In January 2013, at Bistline's third sentencing hearing, federal prosecutor Solove urged Judge Graham to sentence the defendant to five years in prison. Intent on keeping this man out of prison, Judge Graham sentenced him to three years of home confinement. This sentence was a far cry from the recommended sentence of 63 to 78 months behind bars. If Judge Graham thought the federal sentencing guideline for the possession of child pornography was too harsh, he should run for Congress. Otherwise, as a judge, he should follow the law.
     

Greyhound Bus Therapy: Losing Your Mind in Las Vegas

     According to mental health experts, the city of Las Vegas not only drives people crazy, it attracts unbalanced folks from around the country. The place is a mental illness magnet. In Washington, D.C. you have idiots and fools; in Detroit, empty buildings and bullet-ridden corpses; in Los Angeles, narcissistic celebrities; and in Las Vegas, a lot of people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. If I had to live in one of these places, I'd pick Detroit.

     Dr. Lorin Scher, an emergency room psychiatrist with the University of California at Davis Medical Center explains why so many mentally ill people end up in Las Vegas: "As the whole country knows, Las Vegas is a pretty unique place. [Thank God.] Many bipolar patients impulsively fly across the country to Vegas during their manic phases and go on gambling binges. Vegas probably attracts more wandering schizophrenics, people who are drawn to the warm weather, lights, and action."

     Other psychiatrists have pointed out that Las Vegas is home to a disproportionate number of residents displaced by the housing and mortgage collapse of 2007. People lost their jobs, their homes, and apparently their minds.

     Nevada, in 2009, began cutting its mental health service budget. By 2012, the funds for this form of health care had been cut by 28 percent. The reduced spending occurred during the period Las Vegas experienced the surge in psychiatric admissions. Something had to be done to hold down the state's health care costs.

     In March 2013, James Flavy, a 48-year-old schizophrenic living in a complex in Sacramento, California for the homeless, told the authorities a rather disturbing story. A month earlier, when discharged from the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas, a mental health worker drove him to the Main Street bus station and put him on a Greyhound bus destined for Sacramento. Following a 15-hour bus ride, Mr. Flavy rolled into Sacramento with a two-day supply of medication and instructions to follow-up his care with a doctor in California. Someone suggested that upon his arrival in the Golden State he call 911. Flavy got off the bus without any identification or access to his Social Security benefits. He wound up in a University of California at Davis Medical Center emergency room where he lived for three days before someone arranged temporary housing.

     Mr. Flavy's story led to the remarkable revelation that over the past five years, more than 1,500 Las Vegas mental patients had been shipped via Greyhound bus to more than 200 cities in every state in the continental United States.

     The Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services, between July 2008 and December 2014, spent $205,000 on mental patient bus tickets. (The agency had a special arrangement with Greyhound.) The busing program has saved the state of Nevada millions of health care dollars.

     One-third of the Greyhound therapy recipients were bused to California, 200 of whom to Los Angeles County. In 2012, Greyhound buses rolled out of Las Vegas carrying 400 mental cases destined for 176 cities in 45 states.

     Health care administrators in Nevada defended their mental ward on wheels program as sort of a revolving door operation. If unbalanced folks from all over the nation can roll into Las Vegas, they ought to be able, following emergency mental health treatment, to roll them back out of town.

     This story makes one wonder if homeless people arrested by the Las Vegas police are packed off in Greyhound buses. Such a program would save the city a lot of criminal justice money and help deal with jail overcrowding.

     Can you imagine what it must be like for ordinary tourists riding Greyhound buses out of Las Vegas? Moreover, what would it be like to be the bus driver on one of these rolling mental institutions? I can envision a reality TV show called "Crazy On Wheels."

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Laurel Schlemmer Bath Tub Murder Case

     Laurel Michelle Ludwig married Mark Schlemmer in July 2005. In May 2006, the couple purchased a house in McCandless, Pennsylvania, a suburban community north of Pittsburgh.

     By September 2009, the couple had two sons. The youngest was 18-months-old. His brother was three. Mark Schlemmer was 39 and working as an insurance actuary. Laurel, a former teacher, stayed at home to raise the boys. On September 5, 2009, a patron at the nearby Ross Park Mall noticed a parked Honda Odyssey with an unaccompanied toddler inside. Although the van's windows were cracked, the temperature inside the vehicle had risen to 112 degrees. The passerby called 911.

     When Laurel Schlemmer returned to her van she was met by Ross Township police and EMT personnel who had managed to unlock a door and remove the three-year-old boy. Due to the fact the mother was gone from the car twenty minutes, the boy did not require medical treatment.

     An Allegheny County prosecutor charged the 36-year-old mother with the summary offense of leaving a child unattended in a vehicle. Laurel pleaded guilty to the crime and paid a fine. No one read anything into this incident other than a mother's lapse of due care.

     By 2013, Laurel Schlemmer and her husband had three sons. On April 16 of that year, Laurel, when backing her van out of her parents' driveway in Marshall, Pennsylvania, ran over her two and five-year-old boys. One of the children suffered internal injuries while his brother ended up with broken bones. Both boys survived the incident.

     An investigator with the Northern Regional Police Department conducted an inquiry into the driveway collision and concluded that it had been an accident. Personnel with the Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth, and Families conducted an assessment of the Schlemmer family and found no evidence or history of child abuse.

     The pastor of the North Park Church, Reverend Dan Hendley, counseled Laurel in an effort to help her cope with what everybody assumed had been a nearly tragic mishap. Members of the church were supportive of their fellow parishioner.

     At 8:40 on the morning of Tuesday, April 1, 2014, Laurel Schlemmer put her seven-year-old boy on the school bus and waved him goodbye. She returned to her house and told her three and six-year-old boys to take off their pajamas as she filled the bath tub. The fully dressed mother, once the boys were in the tub, held them under water then climbed into the tub and sat on them.

     Laurel pulled the limp bodies out of the water and laid them out on the bathroom floor. She replaced her wet clothes with dry garments. In an effort to hide the wet pieces of clothing, she bagged them up with two soaked towels and placed the container in the garage.

     At 9:40 that morning, Laurel called 911 and reported that her two sons had drowned in the bath tub. Emergency personnel rushed the Schlemmer children to the UPMC Passavant Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. An hour later, three-year-old Luke Schlemmer died. His six-year-old brother remained in critical condition.

     Questioned by detectives, Laurel said she figured she would become a better mother to her oldest son if his younger siblings weren't around. "Crazy voices" had told her the younger ones would be better off in heaven.

     Later that day, detectives booked the mother into the Allegheny County Jail in downtown Pittsburgh. Mrs. Schlemmer faced charges of homicide, attempted homicide, aggravated assault, and tampering with evidence. The judge denied her bond.

     On April 5, 2014, a spokesperson for the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office announced that six-year-old Daniel Schlemmer had died. The boy had been on life support at UPMC's Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

     At a mental competency hearing on April 7, 2014, Dr. Christine Martone, an Allegheny County psychiatrist, testified that Mrs. Schlemmer was psychotic, suicidal, and suffered from depressive disorder. Judge Jeffrey Manning, based upon this testimony, ruled the defendant mentally incompetent to stand trial.

     Judge Manning ordered the defendant committed to the Torrance State Hospital in Derry Township, a mental health facility 45 miles east of Pittsburgh.

     In Pennsylvania, defendants are considered mentally incompetent to stand trial if due to mental illness they are unable to distinguish right from wrong or cannot assist their attorneys in their defense.

     In January 2015, Judge Manning postponed the murder trial indefinitely. He also imposed a gag order that prohibited the prosecutor and defense attorney from discussing the case publicly.

     On May 5, 2016, Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey Manning, after the prosecution and the defense could not agree on a plea arrangement, set the Schlemmer murder trial for June 21, 2016. According to the defendant's attorney, Schlemmer was pursuing a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity.

     Judge Manning, on June 21, 2016, heard from psychiatrist Dr. Christine Martone who testified that the defendant was still too mentally disturbed to be tried. The judge ordered the defendant to be forcibly medicated until she became mentally competent to stand trial for the murder of her sons.

     On March 16, 2017, following a bench trial featuring psychiatric testimony on both sides, Allegheny County Judge Manning found Schlemmer guilty of two counts of third-degree murder but mentally ill. The prosecution had argued for first-degree murder but the judge, due to the defendant's mental condition, found that she had acted in "diminished capacity." In Pennsylvania, a guilty but mentally ill sentence simply meant that the convicted person would be given the appropriate mental health medication in prison instead of a mental institution. In Schlemmer's case, she will serve ten to twenty years behind bars.
        

English Teacher Brittni Colleps and Her Senior High Orgy Club

     In the fall of 2010, Brittni Nicole Colleps, a married 28-year-old with three children, started teaching English at Kennedale High School near Arlington, a city located between Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas. She had also been hired to coach the girl's basketball team. Her husband Christopher served in the military and was stationed in the area.

     In April 2011, Brittni began sending sexually explicit text messages, including nude photographs of herself, to some of her senior male students. That quickly led to sexual encounters with five 18-year-old boys at her Arlington home. On at least four occasions, the teacher engaged in group sex with three of her students. (Colleps and her husband were so-called "swingers" who participated in group sex with other consenting adults. On her job application, Brittni probably did not list this activity as one of her hobbies. This was Texas, not California. Just kidding.)

     Colleps' extracurricular sex sessions were exposed in May 2011 when a cellphone video recorded by a participant in one of the home orgies came to the attention of school officials. The police were called in, and when a detective with the Arlington Police Department asked Colleps about this, she denied being involved in such activity. However, when confronted with her text messages to these students, she confessed. The high school immediately suspended her, and a short time later, she resigned.

     While it is not a crime in Texas for a 28-year-old woman to have sex with 18-year-old boys, it is an offense for a school teacher to have an "inappropriate" sexual relationship with a student. The text messages did not constitute a crime, but in Texas, the texting would have been sufficient grounds to fire her. A prosecutor in Tarrant County charged Brittni Nicole Colleps with 16 counts under the inappropriate teacher-student sexual relationship statute. These second-degree felonies carried sentences of two to twenty years in prison each. Colleps was clearly a serial offender.

     On August 13, 2012, the Colleps student orgy trial got underway in Arlington, Texas. The prosecutor put five of the defendant's student sex partners on the stand. All of the witnesses, while describing how their teacher had lured them into sex, testified that they did not consider themselves victims of sexual abuse. The prosecutor showed the jury portions of the cellphone recorded group sex episode that had ignited the scandal. (Colleps's face was not depicted, but a distinct tattoo on her lower back identified her as the female participant.

     The jury, on August 17, 2012, after deliberating less than an hour, returned a verdict of guilty on all counts. Colleps' sentence: five years in prison. Following the verdict, Christopher Colleps told reporters that while his wife's extramarital sexual activities had angered him, he was standing by her.

     In recent years, there have been several cases involving female high school teachers who have engaged in sex with male students. These women tended to be immature, overly romantic types who fell in love with a single kid who was just too cool to resist. Brittni Colleps, on the other hand, simply enjoyed group sex with young men.

     On January 7, 2015, after serving less than half of her five year sentence, the parole board granted Colleps' request for early release. She returned home where she would undergo monthly supervision for the remaining period of her sentence.
    

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Dorice "Dee Dee" Moore Murder Case

     In 2006, an illiterate, 37-year-old part time sanitation worker from Lakeland, Florida named Abraham Shakespeare (what a name for an illiterate), won the state's $30 million jackpot lottery. Shakespeare elected to accept the $17 million lump-sum payout. Soon after winning the money, he purchased fancy cars, jewelry, furniture, and a $1.7 million mansion in his hometown. Over the next two years, the soft-touch millionaire who couldn't tell $6,000 from $60,000, spent, lent, and gave away 90 percent of his fortune. Like so many big lottery winners before him, Shakespeare was beleaguered and overwhelmed by needy relatives, greedy acquaintances, and complete strangers begging him for  hand-outs. The money had taken over his life and brought him problems he hadn't had before hitting it big.

     In late 2008, the confused, depressed, and vulnerable lottery winner met a 36-year-old predatory fortune-hunter named Dorice "Dee Dee" Moore who befriended him with the claim she was writing a book about how people take advantage of lottery winners. (Such as by claiming to be writing a book on how people take advantage of lottery winners.) Shakespeare fell for the ploy, and by early 2009, Moore, as his financial advisor, was looting what was left in his bank accounts.

     On April 6, 2009, the former millionaire, now with just $14,000 in the bank, disappeared. His family, however, didn't report him missing for seven months. During this period, Dorice Moore paid people to tell Shakespeare's mother that they had spotted her son around town in the company of a woman. Moore even paid one of the missing man's friends to send the mother a forged letter from Abraham. (Since he couldn't write, this should have raised eyebrows.) Moore also hired an impersonator to fake a phone call to Shakespeare's mom.

     By November of 2009, police started investigating Moore as a suspect in Shakespeare's disappearance. Officers, while searching her home in Plant City, Florida, found the missing man's mummified remains in her backyard beneath a thirty-by-thirty foot slab of concrete. The forensic  pathologist who performed the autopsy dug two .38-caliber slugs out of the corpse. Shakespeare had died after being shot twice in the chest.

     Following her arrest on February 3, 2010, Moore told her police interrogators that Shakespeare had been murdered by five shadowy drug dealers. She knew two of them by the names Ronald and Fearless. The others she didn't know. The detectives questioning her, because they had been investigating the murder, didn't buy the drug dealer story.

     The Moore murder trial got underway on November 29, 2012 in Tampa, Florida before Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Emmett Battles. In his opening remarks to the jury prosecutor Jay Pruner said that Moore, after stealing $1.3 million from Shakespeare, shot him to death on April 6, 2009. She and an accomplice buried his body behind her house under the concrete.

     In addressing the jurors, defense attorney Bryon Hileman said his client had been trying to protect Shakespeare's dwindling fortune from people trying to take advantage of him, and that the lottery winner had fallen in with dealers who had killed him over a drug deal. Regarding the prosecution's case, Hileman pointed out that the state could not link the defendant to the .38-caliber revolver used in the crime. Moreover, Dorice Moore had not confessed, and no eyewitnesses would be testifying against her. According to the defense attorney, the prosecution's case was weak and circumstantial.

     Following several days featuring prosecution witnesses who testified that the defendant had paid them to cover-up Shakespeare's disappearance, the state rested its case.

     Defense attorney Hileman did not put Dorice Moore on the stand to testify on her own behalf. During Hileman's closing argument to the jury, Moore sat at the defense table and sobbed loudly. On December 11, 2012, following a three-hour deliberation, the jury found Moore guilty of first-degree murder.

     Before sentencing the 40-year-old Moore to the mandatory life sentence without parole, Judge Battles called her "cold, calculating, and cruel." According to the judge, she was "probably the most manipulative person this court has ever seen."

     In less than three years, Abraham Shakespeare's good luck turned into a nightmare that led to his murder. This case is a good example how, when it comes to money, big winners can quickly turn into big losers. Mr. Shakespeare should have secured good financial advice, found a way to avoid all of the freeloading beggars, then paid someone to teach him how to read and write. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Having Fun And Being Happy

A critic once wrote that none of the characters in my novels were happy, or having any kind of fun. I thought about that, and it's true. I don't have happiness in my stories because I've never experienced happiness myself. How can I write about an emotion I have never felt? Moreover, my capacity for fun is quite limited and quickly exhausted. Not only that, I avoid happy, fun type people because being around them exhausts me. On a good day I do not feel terribly unhappy and am not in a situation where I have to pretend to be having a great time. I think that in the long run people like me are less prone to clinical depression and suicide than our happy fun seeking counterparts. I think it's a matter of low expectations and the ability to simply carry on.

Thornton P. Knowles

The Jason Hendrix "Good Boy" Murder Case

     Kevin Hendrix and his wife Sarah lived in a middle class neighborhood in Corbin, Kentucky with their 16-year-old son Jason and 12-year-old daughter Grace. Mr. Hendrix, a beekeeper, sold honey at a farmer's market in the small, southeastern Kentucky town. His wife, Dr. Sarah Hendrix, worked as a professor at Union College in nearby Barbourville.

     In December 2014, Jason was baptized at the Forward Community Church where he and his family were active members. The church, founded in 2012, held its services in a local movie theater. Besides being involved in church activities, Jason Hendrix participated in his high school ROTC program.

     Late Wednesday afternoon February 11, 2015, two days after Jason's parents disciplined their son by taking away his computer privileges, the boy, in a most cold-blooded way, murdered his family.

     The 16-year-old shot his father twice in the head the moment he came home from work. The young killer ambushed his mother with two bullets to the face when she entered the kitchen after parking her car in the garage following her day at work. His 12-year-old sister Grace lay dead in the house from two shots to her head. She had also been shot in the arm. In the close-range shootings, Jason fired through pillows to muffle the sound and shield himself from the victim's blood spatter.

     A few hours after executing his parents and his sister, Jason met up with some friends at his church. There was nothing in his demeanor that suggested what he had just massacred his family.

     The day after the triple murder, Jason, armed with four handguns and a backpack full of ammunition, drove out of town in one of the family cars, a green Honda Pilot.

     Late Saturday morning February 14, 2015, a Maryland state trooper tried to pull Jason Hendrix over for speeding in Harford County 500 miles from the still undiscovered bodies in his house back in Kentucky. Jason, having no intention of being pulled over by a cop, led the officer and others on a car chase that took them into Baltimore County where police officers in that jurisdiction joined in the pursuit.

     The high-speed chase came to an abrupt end when the teenager crashed his SUV into another vehicle. When six officers with the Baltimore County Police Department approached the green Honda, Jason Hendrix shot at the officers, striking one of them. All six of the officers returned his fire, killing the boy at the scene.

     The wounded officer received treatment at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center. The next morning doctors discharged him from the hospital. All of the officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

     That Saturday, a Baltimore County detective called the authorities in Corbin, Kentucky and requested a check of the address to which the green Honda was registered. If the occupants of the house were related to the boy, they needed to be informed of his death.

     At five o'clock that afternoon, officers with the Corbin Police Department entered the Hendrix house on Forest Circle. Inside they found the bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Hendrix and their daughter. Following a cursory investigation, the authorities in Corbin concluded that the boy killed by the police in Maryland had murdered his family.

     Friends and relatives of the family as well as residents of the community were stunned by the news of these violent deaths. As is often the case in "good boy" murder cases, no one saw the bloodshed coming.

What is Forensic Science?

     The principal role of the forensic scientist is to identify physical crime scene evidence by comparing it to known samples acquired either from a suspect's person or from an object such as a gun, shoe, or burglar tool that this person has possessed, worn, or otherwise has been associates with.

     Forensic science relies on the principle that the criminal leaves part of himself or something that he's associated with at the scene of the crime. Evidence left at the site of a crime might include blood, semen, latent fingerprints, shoe impressions, bite marks, hair follicles, textile fibers, bullets, and tire tracks. Moreover, the suspect will often inadvertently take something away from the scene. A criminal might, for example, leave the crime site carrying traces of the victim's blood and tissue under his fingernails, or follicles of the victim's hair, or fibers from her carpet on his clothing.

     Practitioners of forensic science fall generally into three groups: police officers who arrive at the scene of a crime and whose job it is to secure the physical evidence; crime scene technicians responsible for finding, photographing, and packaging physical evidence for crime lab submission; and forensic scientists working in public and private crime laboratories who analyze the evidence, and when the occasion arises, testify in court as expert witnesses.

     While uniformed police officers and detectives may be trained in the recognition and handling of physical evidence, they are not scientists and do not work under laboratory conditions.

     Forensic science fields include document examination, firearms identification, toxicology, forensic pathology, forensic chemistry, latent fingerprint identification, and DNA analysis. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Aaron Schaffhausen: What Kind of Man Murders His Daughters?

     Jessica Schaffhausen and her three daughters, ages five to eleven, lived in River Falls, Wisconsin, a town of 15,000 30 miles east of the twin cities of St. Paul-Minneapois, Minnesota. The 34-year-old mother had been single six months after she and her husband of 12 years, Aaron Schaffhausen, divorced in January 2012. In March, Jessica had called the police after Aaron threatened to harm one of the children. No arrest followed the complaint which was classified by the police as a "harassment incident."

     On July 5, 2012, Aaron Schaffhausen, a construction worker employed by a St. Paul company to work on projects in western North Dakota, was fired after he didn't show up for work. He was living in Minot, North Dakota.

     Just before noon on July 10, 2012, Aaron called Jessica, who worked in St. Paul for a nonprofit agency on aging, and asked if he could pay the girls a surprise visit. Amara, age eleven, eight-year-old Sophie, and Cecilia who was five, were at home in River Falls. Jessica agreed to the visit, but wanted Aaron out of the house before she got home from work.

     That afternoon, when Aaron Schaffhausen arrived at his former place of residence in the subdivision on the east side of town, the babysitter said goodbye to the girls and went home. Around four that afternoon, Aaron called his ex-wife and said, "You can come home now because I killed the kids."

     Jessica Schaffhausen, after receiving this horrific message, called the police. River Falls officers arrived at the scene about the time Jessica pulled up to the house. Upstairs, officers found the three girls dead and tucked into their beds.

     As the officers were trying to understand what had happened to these children, Aaron showed up at the police department and turned himself in. When asked to describe what he had done, and why, the suspect refused to speak.

    The autopsies of the three victims revealed they had been murdered by what the forensic pathologist called "sharp force entry." They had been stabbed, and the five-year-old had been strangled as well.

     On July 12, 2012, the St. Croix County district attorney charged Aaron Schaffhausen with three counts of first-degree murder. Held on $2 million bond, the defendant faced a mandatory life sentence on each count. A few days after filing these charges, the district attorney appointed Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Gary Freyburg to take over the case as a special prosecutor.

     St. Croix County Circuit Judge Scott Needham, on July 24, 2012 at Schaffhausen's preliminary hearing, heard testimony from River Falls detective John Wilson who said he found a large pool of blood in one of the bedrooms where he believed the three girls had been stabbed. Wilson also noted that the walls were splattered in blood. The girls, lying on their backs with their eyes wide open, had been tucked into their beds. The woman at the police department who had taken Jessica Schaffhausen's call that afternoon described the caller as "hysterical and hyperventilating." Following the 90-minute hearing, the judge bound the case over for trial.

     In early March 2013, Aaron Schaffhausen pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder. Although he pleaded guilty he maintained that, due to insanity, he should not be held criminally responsible for his daughters' deaths. On March 5, 2013, at the prosecutor's request, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Erik Knudson interviewed Schaffhausen for seven hours. During that session, Schaffhausen revealed that before the murders he had experienced reoccurring images in his head that featured the violent deaths of his ex-wife and children. Schaffhausen told Dr. Knudson that on two occasions he had aborted plans to murder the girls.

     After the killings, Schaffhausen, when he realized he couldn't clean up the murder scene, decided to burn down the house. In furtherance of that plan, he went to the basement and poured gasoline on the floor. He didn't go through with the arson out of fear he would get trapped in the fire.

     On March 25, 2013, Aaron Schaffhausen went on trial before a jury that would decide whether or not he had been insane at the time of the murders. Dr. Erik Knudson, testifying for the prosecution, opined that the defendant's depression and alcohol dependency had no relevance to why he killed his children. According to the psychiatrist, the defendant, rather than insane, possessed an antisocial personality disorder.

     In his closing remarks to the jury following the testimony phase of the trial, Schaffhausen's attorney argued that his client suffered from a rare mental disorder rooted in his deep dependency on his ex-wife that caused him to believe the only solution to his problems involved murdering his children. The defense attorney blamed the mass murder on what a defense mental health expert had called "catathymic homicide."

     On April 13, 2013, the jury returned a guilty verdict. Notwithstanding Schaffhausen's mental defects, the jurors wanted this defendant held criminally accountable for his murderous behavior. The jurors obviously believed that Schaffhausn, at the time of the murders, knew what he was doing, and that what he was doing was wrong.

     Judge Scott Needham, on July 15, 2013, sentenced  Aaron Schaffhausen to three consecutive life sentences. Because of the nature of his murders, prison authorities were faced with the likelihood that this prisoner's life will be under constant threat from other inmates.

     

Problems in Forensic Science

     Practitioners of forensic science fall generally into three groups: police officers who arrive at the scene of a crime whose job it is to secure the physical evidence; crime-scene technicians responsible for finding, photographing, and packaging that physical evidence for crime lab submission; and forensic scientists working in public and private crime laboratories who analyze the evidence and, if the occasion arises, testify in court as expert witnesses. While uniformed police officers and detectives may be trained in the recognition and handling of physical evidence, they are not scientists, and do not work under laboratory conditions. As a result, a lot can, and does, go wrong between the crime scene investigation and the courtroom.

     Television series like "CSI" have generated public knowledge and interest in forensic science, even ramping up scientific expectations for those involved in real-life criminal investigation and prosecution. Prosecutors call this the "CSI effect," the expectation among jurors that the prosecution will feature physical evidence and expert witnesses. The CSI effect has also caused jurors to expect crime lab results far beyond the capacity of forensic science. Some prosecutors either eliminate potential jurors who are fans of "CSI," or downplay the necessity and importance of physical evidence as a method of proving a defendant's guilt. Prosecutors who have lost cases have been known to blame their defeats on the CSI effect. Criminal justice scholars who have investigated the CSI effect disagree over whether it has had much impact on trial results.

    While public expectations of forensic science are high, persistent problems within the various forensic fields have kept scientific crime detection from living up to its full potential. Because a shortage of qualified personnel has caused DNA testing logjams, rapists, pedophiles, and serial killers have been given extra time to commit more crimes. The shortage of DNA analysts has also placed a heavy burden on crime lab personnel, creating problems of quality control. In the past few years, dozens of crime lab DNA units have been temporarily closed when audits revealed sloppy work, scientific errors, unqualified analysts, weak supervision, poor training, and evidence contamination. Even the highly regarded FBI Laboratory has experienced problems with DNA analysis and other forms of forensic identification. Recently, crime labs in Detroit, Boston, Raleigh, Houston, New Haven, and Los Angeles have had serious problems.

     Ironically, advances in DNA technology have exposed problems in other fields of forensic science. For example, DNA analysis has revealed that over the years, experts have been overstating the identification value of human hair follicles and bite-mark impressions. Hundreds of criminal defendants, if not thousands, have been sent to prison on what many experts now consider unreliable forensic evidence.

     A critical shortage of board-certified forensic pathologists has also adversely affected the overall quality of homicide investigation. Overworked forensic pathologists are prone to take shortcuts and make mistakes. The shortage has meant that in many cases of suspicious death, autopsies are not performed.

     The field of latent fingerprint identification, while still considered the gold standard of forensic science, has recently come under attack as a result of a handful of high-profile misidentifications. These cases have revealed that not all fingerprint examiners have been properly trained, and that many have either failed or never taken proficiency tests. Questions have also been raised regarding the scientific objectivity of many fingerprint experts. This is particularly true of examiners who, as police officers, see themselves as part of a law enforcement team. Forensic scientists have to be loyal to their science, even when it displeases the people who employ them, a stance that takes courage and independence.

     There are fakes, incompetents, and charlatans in every profession, but over the years a series of high-profile cases have featured the so-called experts from hell, forensic scientists whose false testimony has helped convict innocent people. Many of these experts from hell are hired guns willing to testify for whatever side is willing  to pay. The alarming aspect of these expert-from-hell stories is how long these forensic scientists practice before they are exposed and defrocked. Just below the expert from hell on the damage scale are the well-meaning but incompetent forensic scientists as well as the experts who are either blinded by media attention, or bow to prosecutorial pressure. Maintaining a firewall between science and criminal prosecution is a constant challenge, one that is not always met.

     Jurors are often called upon to make judgments in trials in which experts representing each side offer opinions that contradict. When jurors are faced with opposing experts, they tend to disregard the physical evidence entirely. The dueling expert problem is destroying the credibility of forensic science itself. Judges reluctant to exclude the testimony of witnesses who are not real experts, dump the problem on the laps of jurors who are not qualified to distinguish the true scientists from the phonies.

     Most of the problems in forensic science are caused by personnel shortages, poor quality control, the inherent difficulties of crime scene investigation, the pressures imposed by the adversarial nature of our trial process, the lure of pseudoscience, and the evolving character and complexity of science itself. Over the past twenty years, the emphasis in American law enforcement has been the escalating war on drugs, anti-terrorism, and controlling inner city street gangs. Criminal investigation has taken a back seat to these priorities. As long as this is the case, the many problems facing forensic science will not be solved, and will probably get worse.

     The history of forensic science has been one of false hope, missed opportunities, and failed expectations.