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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Oregon Family Drowns in Henry Hagg Lake

     On Monday August 25, 2014, 42-year-old Jova Ixtacua, her daughter Gabriela, 25, Jova's son Michael, 15, and Gabriela's 3-year-old son Jeremy Scholl, had gathered at Henry Hagg Lake for a picnic and some swimming. The reservoir is a popular recreational park 25 miles west of Portland, Oregon. The family had traveled to the lake from their home in nearby Hillsboro.

     At six-thirty that Monday evening, a passerby came upon the body of an unconscious or dead child lying on the beach at the water's edge. Emergency personnel tried in vain to revive 3-year-old Jeremy Scholl. The boy was not wearing a lifejacket. On the beach not far from his body lay a towel, a cooler, a purse, four pairs of shoes, and a small dog secured on a leash. Members of the boy's family, people associated with the items on the beach, were nowhere to be found.

     An hour after the discovery of Jeremy Scholl's body, police officers and others began searching the two square miles of Henry Hagg Lake. The next day, at ten-thirty at night, searchers found three bodies floating in eight feet of water 40 feet from the shore about 50 yards from where the 3-year-old's body had washed up. The two women and the teenage boy were identified as Jeremy's grandmother, mother, and uncle.

     Sergeant Bob Ray of the Washington County Sheriff's Office told reporters that, "We are considering the deaths a tragic accident." Investigators believed the 3-year-old had fallen over a steep drop-off into the lake near the spot where the four sets of shoes and other items had been found. According to this theory, the boy's mother, grandmother and uncle had jumped into the water to save him and drowned themselves.

     Following the autopsies, the Oregon State Medical Examiner reported that the four family members had died from asphyxia by drowning. The medical examiner ruled the manner of deaths accidental. That closed the door on any homicide investigation.

     Because of the steep drop-off into the channel of a former river than flows beneath the reservoir, Henry Hagg Lake, a recreational swimming venue that doesn't employ lifeguards, has been the site of several drownings and near drownings.

     Outside of boating tragedies, multiple accidental drownings are extremely rare. 

Criminal Justice Quote: The "AK-47 Bandit" Strikes Again

     Authorities are on the hunt for a bank robber after he struck again in August 2014 after a nearly two-year hiatus. The hold-up man is said to have robbed the First Nebraska Bank in Nebraska City, Nebraska on August 22, 2014. He is wanted in connection to a string of other bank robberies in Idaho, Washington and in California. In one of these 2012 robberies he shot a police officer…

     The suspect, dubbed the "AK-47 Bandit," stormed the bank in Nebraska with an assault style rifle and a black duffle bag…He emptied the front drawers before ordering all employees to the vault area. He told one employee to take money from the safe…

     The suspect has blue eyes, wears a black mask, a bullet-proof vest, and gloves. He's believed to be about 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighs somewhere between 175 and 200 pounds. There is a $100,000 reward for information leading to his capture.

"Suspected Serial Bank Robber Strikes Again," CNN, August  31, 2014


Writing Quote: Journalists Expose Others, Novelists Themselves

The dominant and most deep-dyed trait of the journalist is his timorousness [timidity]. Where the novelist fearlessly plunges into the water of self-exposure, the journalist stands trembling on the shore in his beach robe. Not for him the strenuous athleticism--which is the novelist's daily task--of laying out his deepest griefs and shames before the world. The journalist confines himself to the clean, gentlemanly work of exposing the griefs and shames of others.

Janet Malcolm, The Journalist and the Murderer, 1990

Writing Quote: The Difference in Writing Fiction Versus Nonfiction

Writing nonfiction is like carving a rock. It sits there. It's hard. It's big. And you whittle away at something concrete. Writing fiction is like pulling things out of the air. Nothing is there but invention. It's disconcerting, thrilling.

Marie Arana in Off the Page, Carole Burns, editor, 2008 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Three Guatemalan Roommates Involved in a Maryland Murder and Dismemberment Case

     Prince George's County Police officers, at nine-thirty on the morning of Sunday August 24, 2014, responded to a call from a resident of the Arden Pointe Apartments in Laurel, Maryland. The 911 caller had made a gruesome and shocking discovery. In two trash bags lying near an apartment complex garbage bin, the resident had come across human body parts.

     In the course of a thorough search of the area surrounding the revolting discovery, officers found, inside the nearby trash bin, two more bags containing the dismembered parts of a man. The remains belonged to a single person identified, through fingerprints, as 28-year-old Jacinto Perez, a Guatemalan immigrant.

     Investigators determined that the victim had resided at another apartment complex in the neighborhood called Finsbury Court. The dead man had shared an apartment with two other Guatemalans, 32-year-old Santos Leonel Mejia-Yanes and Bayron Cruz-Vargas, 34.

     On Thursday, August 28, 2014, officers arrested Santos Leonel Mejia-Yanes on suspicion of murder. When interrogated by detectives, Mejia-Yanes implicated himself and Bayron Cruz-Vargas in the murder and dismemberment of their roommate.

     According to Mejia-Yanes, he and Cruz-Vargas were arguing with the victim over money. The dispute took place in the apartment and became physical. Mejia-Yanes and Cruz-Vargas gave their roommate a good beating before strangling him to death.

     The two killers placed the corpse in the bathtub where they cut it into pieces. They placed the body parts into four trash bags they planned to dump in four different trash bins at other apartment complexes in the area. At Arden Pointe apartments the two human butchers panicked when they thought they had been observed. They tossed two of the bags into the trash bin and left the other two lying nearby.

     A Prince George's County prosecutor charged Mejia-Yanes with first and second-degree murder. The judge denied the suspect bail. The prosecutor charged Cruz-Vargas with the same homicide offenses.

     Cruz-Vargas was nowhere to be found. Officers believe the fugitive has fled the country.

     Following Mejia-Yanes' arrest, detectives searched the apartment for physical evidence of the dismemberment. The search included checking the plumbing in the bathroom.

     Killers who have the stomach to dismember their victims are either sexually perverted or extremely violent, angry and inhumanly cruel. Fortunately, at least in this country, there aren't many of them. 

Writing Quote: The Demand for Nonfiction

     For every short story that's published, perhaps a hundred nonfiction pieces are published as well--in newspapers, newsletters, magazines, books, online publications, and a variety of other media. For every new novel that released, book publishers release fifteen to twenty nonfiction titles--from memoirs to textbooks to auto repair manuals. And for every successful poet or scriptwriter in the country, there are probably forty or fifty successful writers of nonfiction. [I didn't know there were that many successful poets.]

Scott Edelstein, 100 Things Every Writer Should Know, 1999


Writing Quote: Does a Writer Have to be Obsessed with Writing?

     It is said that those who long to be a writer are infatuated, besotted, smitten with words and what they might create. Lorrie Moore famously said, "First try to be something, anything else. You should become a writer if you have no choice. Writing has to be an obsession--it's only for those who say, 'I'm not going to do anything else.'"

     I think that's nonsense…Writing is a choice of a way of spending a working life that lets you off the hook if you decide you don't like it or haven't the talent in the use of words. But if you take to it, the writing life can be rewarding even if you're struggling with perfecting a potentially important or useful work of nonfiction or, heaven forbid, a novel.

Sol Stein, Sol Stein's Reference Book for Writers, 2010 

Criminal Justice Quote: A Rare Murder Weapon

A man has been arrested on suspicion of killing his brother's friend with a bow and arrow during a dispute at his southern California home. Los Angeles County Sheriff's authorities say 23-year-old Garret Adams was taken into custody at his Lancaster home early Saturday August 23, 2014 after the victim was fatally struck in the upper torso. Investigators believe the victim was trying to break up an argument between Adams and his girlfriend when Adams shot him. He was pronounced dead at a hospital…Deputies booked Adams in the Los Angeles County Jail on suspicion of murder.

"Man Fatally Struck by Arrow in Southern California," Associated Press, August 23, 2014 

Writing Quote: Taking a College Fiction Workshop

It's quite true that fiction writing can't be taught; but the teacher can pass along a few shortcuts and get students interested in the craft of it. I don't think any student wastes his time in a good fiction workshop, not even the talentless ones. By the end of the semester they'll have developed their critical skills to some extent, will respond more deeply to literature, will know a bit more about human nature than they did at the start. It may not be much, but how many other English courses achieve more?

Martin Russ, Showdown Semester, 1980 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Anthony Novellino: New Jersey's Pig Mask Murder Case

     In 2010, after years of marriage, Anthony Novellino and his wife Judith, a teacher at Morris Catholic High School in Denville Township, New Jersey, couldn't stand each other. She accused him of being verbally abusive and controlling. He claimed that because she was such a lousy housekeeper, the place was always a mess. To back up his accusation, he emailed photographs of the unkempt home to family and friends.

     The couple also fought over their oldest son, Anthony A. Novellino Jr., a resident of nearby Parsippany. Over the past few years police officers had arrested Novellino Jr. for possession of drugs. He had also been charges with auto theft. Judith Novellino treated her drug-addicted son with compassion and accommodated his needs such as giving him money. The father, fed up with his son, believed that tough-love, such as jail, was the best way to deal with the problem.

     Judith Novellino filed for divorce that on June 8, 2010 became final. According to the divorce settlement, she would receive $110,000, her share of the house, plus $150,000, her half of their IRAs and bank savings. Mr. Novellino made no secret of the fact he felt cheated in the distribution of the family assets.

     On June 19, 2010, eleven days after the finalization of the breakup, Anthony Novellino came home and found Judith in the house retrieving her personal belongings. They argued and he became enraged. The confrontation came to a bloody end when he stabbed her 84 times with an 8-inch kitchen knife. Before he packed some of his belongings and walked to his car, Mr. Novellino slipped a pig mask over his former wife's head.

     Christina German discovered her mother's body in the bathroom when she came to the house to help the 62-year-old move her belongings to an apartment in Parsippany.

     Five days after the brutal murder, police in Puyallup, Washington took Anthony Novellino into custody. The 66-year-old fugitive had driven across the country to be with a woman he had met on the Internet. Assistant Morris County prosecutor Maggie Calderwood charged Novellino with murder and several lesser offenses.

     When interrogated by detectives in New Jersey, the suspect claimed that he had "hit" his former wife twice with the knife in self defense. The judge denied Novellino bond. Officers booked him into the Morris County Jail where he would await his day in court.

     The Novellino trial got underway in a Morristown Superior Court on July 7, 2014. In his opening remarks to the jury, the defendant's attorney, Michael Priarone, said his client, in a fit of temporary insanity, had attacked his wife. This act of violence, according to the defense attorney, was entirely out of his client's character. As a result, Priarone wanted the jury to find Mr. Novellino guilty of what he called "passion provocation manslaughter," an offense that carried a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.

     The defense attorney moved to have the death scene pig mask excluded from evidence on the grounds it was "highly prejudicial" to his client. The judge denied that request.

     On July 22, 2014, after just three hours of deliberation, the jury found Anthony Novellino guilty of murder, hindering apprehension, tampering with evidence, and two counts of illegal weapons possession. At his upcoming September 12, 2014 sentence hearing, he will face a minimum sentence of 30 years behind bars. In other words, he will be imprisoned for the rest of his life. The overkill and the pig mask sealed his fate.