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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: The Juan-Carlos Cruz Murder For Hire Case

     Celebrity chef Juan-Carlos Cruz, having lost forty-three pounds, tried to lose about 120 more--his wife. Cruz is a 1993 graduate of the California Culinary Academy. As a pastry chef at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, he created delectable treats for such celebrities as Jack Nicholson, Oprah Winfrey, and Julia Roberts. Too much sampling, however, had Cruz looking like the Pillsbury Doughboy. He enrolled in the Discovery Health Body Challenge 3 on cable TV, lost a lot of weight, and gained his own Food Network show, Calorie Commando.

     In May 2010, Cruz, then age forty-eight, was arrested for trying to hire three homeless men to kill his wife, attorney Jennifer Campbell. The couple had been sweet on each other since high school, but he, at least, had soured on the romance. Lucky for her, the prospective hit men found Cruz's offer not to their taste and contacted the police. Cruz ended up starring in a police video production, The Chef Is Toast. He was sentenced to nine years in prison, where he can work in the kitchen whipping up aphrodisiac dishes for the other inmates from his new cookbook--this is true--The Love Diet. 

The Monday Murder Club, Miscellany of Murder, 2011


Friday, June 21, 2013

Aaron Hernandez and the Murder of Odin Lloyd

     If there's one subject Americans are more interested in than crime, it's sports. A news story that features a current member of the NFL and the murder of another football player will automatically achieve high-profile case status. If the National Football League player becomes a suspect in the homicide, the story will attract even more media attention. In print and television journalism, the marriage of sports and crime comprises a union made in heaven.

     In 2010,  the New England Patriots drafted tight end Aaron Hernandez. Two years later, they signed him to a multi-million dollar, five-year contract. The deal included a $12.5 million signing bonus. From Bristol, Connecticut and of Puerto Rican descent, the 22-year-old played college football at the University of Florida. He recently purchased, from former Patriots player Ty Warren, a $1.3 million, 5,600-square foot North Attleborough mansion with a home gym and indoor swimming pool. North Attleborough, Massachusetts, a town south of Boston on the Rhode Island State Line, is  home to several Patriot players because of its proximity to Gillette Stadium.

     According to several news sources, a 30-year-old man named Alexander Bradley claimed to have been shot in the face by Hernandez at a Miami strip club. The incident, which was not reported to the police, allegedly happened last February. Bradley, who lost an eye, filed a civil suit against Hernandez on June 13, 2013. The plaintiff alleges that when Hernandez pointed the gun at his face, it accidentally discharged. Back in 2007, detectives in Gainesville, Florida questioned Hernandez about a shooting that occurred after Florida's loss to Auburn. Hernandez and a friend of his from Connecticut had been in a nightclub not far from the shooting. He was never a suspect in the case.

     On Monday, June 17, 2013, at five-thirty in the evening, a citizen came upon a body in an industrial park less than a mile from Hernandez's house. In speaking to reporters, the man who discovered the copse said, "I saw an African-American male, probably 25-35 years old, decently dressed. He was stiff and motionless. One of the police officers...said it looked like the guy had been shot somewhere else and dumped here."

     The body found in the clearing off John Dietsch Boulevard, was 27-year-old Odin L. Lloyd, a semi-professional linebacker with the Boston Bandits. Crime scene investigators found, not far from Lloyd's corpse, an Enterprise rental car with Rhode Island plates. The vehicle, a 2013 Chevrolet Suburban SUV, had been rented in Hernandez's name. Lloyd had been dating the sister of Shayanna Jenkins, Hernandez's girlfriend.

     Investigators have learned that on the night of the murder, Hernandez, Lloyd and two other men were drinking together at a bar in Dorchester. The men left the bar in a car driven by Hernandez. Later that night (early the next morning), three men were seen on a surveillance camera entering Hernandez's house. The men entered the dwelling not long after neighbors had heard gunshots around three-thirty in the morning coming from the Hernandez house. This has led detectives to theorize that Lloyd had been shot in Hernandez's dwelling then hauled to the dump site where the rented SUV was abandoned. Hernandez and the two other men then returned to the house in another vehicle.

     At 5:00 PM on Tuesday, the day following the discovery of Odin Lloyd's body, a dozen police officers arrived at Hernandez's home armed with a search warrant. Detectives with the Massachusetts State Police and the North Attleborough Police Department spent several hours inside the mansion. Later that evening, a police officer was seen carrying a box out of the football player's house.

     The authorities have not charged Aaron Hernandez with a crime, and have not classified him, at least publicly, as a suspect in Lloyd's killing. As of this writing, the police have not articulated the nature of Hernandez's relationship with the dead man. We don't know why the SUV rented in the NFL player's name was at the crime scene. Moreover, the medical examiner's office has not announced the cause and manner of Odin Lloyd's death. Because this is already a high-profile case, detectives will be under a lot of pressure to get results, and get them fast.

     On Friday, June 21, 2013, the authorities in Boston issued a warrant for Hernandez's arrest. He has been charged with obstruction of justice in the Lloyd case. According to reports, Hernandez destroyed the hard drive to his home security surveillance system. He also smashed his cell phone, and after Lloyd's death, hired a crew to clean parts of his house. Additional charges could filed against the professional football player.

     Police arrested Hernandez at his home on Wednesday, June 26 on the charge of murder. Homicide investigators believe that the suspect had brought in two of his hoodlum friends from Connecticut to  help him murder Mr. Lloyd. As for motive, Hernandez was angry at the victim after Lloyd spoke to a group of men in a bar. Apparently Hernandez didn't approve of these people. The day after the arrest, the Boston Patriots cut Hernandez from the team.

     It seems to me that Hernandez's attorney is in for a losing battle, particularly if there is DNA evidence, and the two thugs cut a deal with the prosecution. Perhaps the attorney, as a defense, should consider pathological stupidity.

     On June 27, news sources were reporting that detectives with the Boston Police Department were looking into a possible connection between Hernandez and a July 16, 2012 double murder in Boston's South End. Correla deAbreau, 29, and Safiro Teixeira, 28, both of Dorchester, were killed when someone fired into their BMW from a silver SUV with Rhode Island plates. Detectives believe the murders stemmed from a fight that broke out at Cure, a South End nightclub. Odin Lloyd may have had information regarding Hernandez's role in the double murder.
      

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: Daniel Ellsberg on NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden

     I was overjoyed that finally an official with high access, good knowledge of the abusive system that he was revealing was ready to tell the truth at whatever cost to his own future safety, or his career, ready to give up his career, risk even prison to inform the American people.

     What he was looking at and what he told us about was the form of behavior, the practice of policy that's blatantly unconstitutional. I respect his judgment of having withheld most of what he knows, as an information specialist, on the grounds that its secrecy is legitimate and that the benefit to the American people of knowing it would be outweighed by possible dangers. What he has chosen on the other hand, to put out, again confirms very good judgment.

Daniel Ellsberg, 1971 Pentagon Papers Leaker, June 12, 2013

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Stiletto-Heel Murder Case

     At four in the morning on Sunday, June 9, 2013, a resident of the Parkline condominium  high rise in Houston's upscale Museum District, called 911 to report a possible domestic disturbance in an adjacent apartment. When police officers knocked on the door of the 18th floor residence, they were met by a woman covered in someone else's blood.

     The woman who answered the door that morning was 44-year-old Ana Lila Trujillo, a former message therapist who was visiting the home of a University of Houston research professor employed in the school's  biology and biochemistry department. The officers found Professor Alf Stefan lying face-up in a pool of his own blood. The 59-year-old researcher in the field of women's reproductive health, lay sprawled on the floor in the hall between the entranceway and the kitchen. The dead man had ten puncture wounds in his head, and fifteen to twenty such wounds to his neck and chest. The death scene had all the markings of an overkill murder committed by someone who was enraged and out of control.

     The blood-covered Trujillo told the Houston police officers that the professor, her boyfriend, had physically attacked her. In defending herself, she had struck him with the stiletto heel of one of her pumps. When questioned by detectives at police headquarters, Trujillo asked for a lawyer then clammed-up.

     Later that Sunday, Trujillo was booked into the Harris County Jail on the charge of murder. The next day she walked free after posting her $100,000 bond.

     Since Trujillo and Professor Stefan were alone in his apartment, the prosecution would have to make a circumstantial case of murder based upon the physical evidence and the character of the defendant and the history of her relationship with the professor.

     On April 10, 2014, a jury in Houston, Texas found Ana Trujillo guilty of capital murder. The prosecutor had successfully portrayed her as a self-serving, violent woman who lived in her own world. The Trujillo defense failed to make the case that she had killed an abusive lover in self-defense.

     Based on the advice of her attorney, the defendant did not take the stand on her own behalf.

     The judge sentenced Trujillo to life in prison.  

Friday, June 14, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: NSA's Spying on Millions of U. S. Citizens

[The National Security Agency collecting of 3 billion phone calls a day] doesn't look like modest invasion of privacy....We're talking about trolling through a billion phone records a day. The Founding Fathers didn't want that. I think the American people are with me. Young people who use computers are with me.

Rand Paul, U. S. Senator, June 9, 2013

Writing Quote: A Bad Review for Catch-22

Whitney Balliett reviewed a novel for The New Yorker in 1961, saying, "[The author] wallows in his own laughter and finally drowns in it. What remains is a debris of sour jokes, stage anger, dirty words, synthetic looniness, and the sort of antic behavior that children fall into when they know they are losing our attention." The book was Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.

James Charlton and Lisbeth Mark, The Writer's Home Companion, 1987

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Montia Parker: The Teen Pimp

     Montia Marie Parker lived in Maple Grove, a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The 18-year-old cheerleader was one of 1,800 students who attended Hopkins High School. In February 2013, Parker sent a text message to a 16-year-old member of the cheerleading squad asking if the girl was interested in performing sexual acts for money. The Hopkins High School sophomore, who received special education services due to "developmental cognitive delay," had been telling her friends that she needed money.

     In response to the senior cheerleader's query, the 16-year-old, in a return text, said yes. She didn't want to engage in sexual intercourse for money, but she would perform oral sex for paying clients. Montia Parker asked the girl to send photographs of herself that were "not too nasty but kind of cute." When Parker received the photographs, she posted them on Backstage.com, a website that advertises juvenile prostitution.

     Parker, on March 5, 2013, drove the high school sophomore to an apartment building in a nearby community to service a client willing to pay for oral sex. "You're up!" Parker said to her passenger as she pulled up to the address. The 16-year-old entered the building, and when she returned, handed Parker $60. The young pimp deposited the money into her bank account.

     The next morning, Parker, identifying herself as her young sex worker's mother, called the school and reported that her "daughter" wasn't feeling well and would staying at home that day. The young pimp drove her novice prostitute that morning to a John's house in Brooklyn Park. When the teenager met the John, he insisted in engaging in sexual intercourse. To the reluctant girl, Parker said, "You'll be fine. I didn't drive up here for nothing. Eventually you will need to have sex." The 16-year-old offered oral sex, but not sexual intercourse. The John refused, and the high school girls departed without a sale.

     The sophomore's mother noticed changes in her daughter's behavior, and had also learned that she had skipped school on the pretext phone call. When the mom checked her daughter's cellphone, she discovered the text messages pertaining to prostitution. She called the police.

     On May 22, 2013, police officers, on charges of sex trafficking and promoting prostitution, booked Mantia Parker into the Hennepin County Jail. The next day the suspected pimp posted her $50,000 bond. If convicted as charged, Parker faced a maximum prison sentence of twenty years and a $50,000 fine. She was being represented by a lawyer from the county public defender's office.

     While the sex trafficking in young girls by adult men is common criminal activity, a teenager pimping a fellow teen is not so common.

     

Writing Quote: Journal Writing for Authors

In writing your journal give primary attention to detail; for it is detail which organizes and preserves experiences for your future self or some other reader. General statements like "We had a wonderful time," or "It was a dismal morning" make a mockery of the whole procedure, for they evaluate experience without recreating it. I kept long journals from ages two to twenty-two, chronicling events and describing emotional states, but again and again missing the physical immediacy of the experience, the tiny hooks by which experience could have been caught and held. I failed to record how we looked, what we saw, the minor eccentricities of circumstances which gave special character to a day. I ignored these elements not only through lack of training but through misplaced priorities: I mistakenly assumed that one could discuss the heart of things without discussing the immediate details of life.

Robert Grudin in The Writer's Life (1997) edited by Carol Edgarian and Tom Jenks

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: Is NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden a Hero?

Edward Snowden [the NSA leaker] is a hero because he realized that our very humanity was being compromised by the blind implementation of machines in the name of making us safe. Unlike those around him, who were too absorbed in their task to reflect on their actions and pause in the pursuit of digital omniscience, Snowden allowed himself to be "disturbed" by what he was doing. More in the midst of technology that most of us will ever be, Snowden disengaged for long enough to be human and to consider the impact of what he was helping build. He pressed pause. Thank heavens our intelligence agencies are staffed by people like Snowden, not robots. People who can still think....In the coming months, I expect a campaign to be waged against this young man that will make the one against Daniel Ellsberg [the "Pentagon Papers" leaker] look like child's play. His enemies have the full force of the machine--every e-mail he's written and every phone call he's made--to use against him. This won't be pretty....

Douglas Rushkoff, CNN columnist, June 10, 2013 

Writing Quote: Elements of a Book Review

A good book review should do an evocative job of pointing out quality. "Look at this! Isn't this good?" should be the critic's basic attitude. Occasionally, however, you have to say, "Look at this! Isn't it awful?" In either case, it's important to quote from the book....Criticism has no real power, only influence.

Clive James, poet and author, 2013 interview 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: Big Brother Government in America

I think [NSA's spying on the phone records of millions of Americans] is one of the most outrageous examples of the stepping on the Constitution I've heard. They have no right to phone records....It is illegal, it is unconstitutional, and it is deplorable. I didn't like it when they did it during the Bush administration, and I don't like it when they're doing it now. They have taken the Patriot Act, which I think was the most dangerous act passed, and they have taken and abused it. You talk about fascism? You're getting damn close to it.

Bob Beckel, liberal pundit, on Fox News, June 7, 2013


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: Lavish IRS Spending

In hindsight, many of the [IRS] expenses that were incurred [$50 million worth of spending for a series of lavish training conferences] should have been more closely scrutinized or not incurred at all, and were not the best use of taxpayer dollars.

IRS official Faris Fink to members of the House Oversight Committee, June 6, 2013 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Writing Quote: Dealing With Reviews

Some reviews give pain. This is regrettable, but no author has the right to whine. He was not obliged to be an author. He invited publicity, and he must take the publicity that comes along.

E. M. Forster, in Rotten Reviews & Rejections, 1998

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Writing Quote: Writing for Children

Books for kids need to be very entertaining. No preaching, no hidden messages, no condescending tone, no didactic stuff. Kids are smart: don't underestimate their bull detector. Contemporary kids have access to a lot of information, so don't even try to fool them....Kids like fantasy, imagination, humor, adventure, villains and suspense.

Isabelle Allende, novelist, 2013 interview 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

PRESS RELEASE: Upcoming Discovery Channel show on Amish murder and release of a new edition of CRIMSON STAIN


     On Tuesday, June 4, at 9:00 pm, Discovery ID will launch a new crime series that focuses on unusual subcultures and secret societies called Deadly Devotion. The first one-hour episode, Murder in Amish County, features the March 1993 murder of Katie Gingerich, an Amish wife and mother of three young children. Her brutal killing and evisceration took place in an old-order Amish enclave near Mill Village, a rural community in northwest Pennsylvania. The episode includes an interview with Jim Fisher, professor emeritus of criminal justice at Edinboro University and author of Crimson Stain, the definitive account of the case. Murder in Amish County also features re-enactments based on scenes from the book.

     Katie Gingerich’s husband, Edward, convicted of involuntary manslaughter but found mentally ill in 1994, served four years in a minimum-security prison. In January 2011, Mr. Gingerich hanged himself in a barn outside of Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania. At the time of his death he was living with one of his former attorneys.

     A revised and expanded edition of Crimson Stain will soon be available through Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback formats.  The new edition features an extensive epilogue chronicling Ed Gingerich’s troubled life between his prison release in 1998 to his death twelve years later.
   
     Jim Fisher is the author of nine nonfiction books. Two of his books were nominated for Edgar Allan Poe Awards by the Mystery Writers of America.  He currently publishes Jim Fisher True Crime, a blog about crime, forensic science, policing, and writing. Retired from Edinboro University in 2004, Fisher taught courses on criminal investigation, criminal law, and forensic science. A graduate of Westminster College and Vanderbilt University Law School, Fisher was a Special Agent with the FBI from 1966 to 1972. He has been featured in other Discovery ID crime shows, and over the years has appeared on numerous television and radio programs.

    The Gingerich episode of Deadly Devotion was produced by Lion TV in New York City. For more information, contact Matthew Hall at 212-206-8636.

UPDATE: The trade paperback version of the book is now available, at CreateSpace and at Amazon. The Kindle edition of the book will be released soon as well.

To view clips of the Deadly Devotion episode on the Gingerich case, go here

Monday, June 3, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: IRS Targeting of Conservative and Other Groups

As IRS agents we are controlled by many, many people. We have to submit many, many reports. So the chance of two [Cincinnati] agents going rogue and [targeting groups] could never happen....In my mind I still hear people saying that we were low-level employees, so we were lower than dirt, according to the people in D. C. So, take it for what it is. They [IRS administrators in Washington] were basically throwing us under the bus.

Cincinnati IRS agent, May 2013