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Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Jessica Hernandez Case: Police Kill 17-Year-Old Girl in Stolen Car

     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 would be 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 are not equipped with dashboard cameras, investigators of the shooting will have to rely on witness accounts of the incident. It would be helpful to detectives if the incident had been caught on a neighborhood surveillance camera.

     Even if the facts of this shooting turn out in a light most favorable to the police, the killing of a teenage girl will leave a bad taste in this community. In all probability it will also lead to a wrongful death lawsuit. 

Criminal Justice Quote: Drunk Man Urinates On Waitress

     Even in the freewheeling nightspots of Key West, Florida, a patron is not allowed to urinate onto a waitress…According to police, that is what Orion Jones, 20, did early Saturday morning January 24, 2015 at Ricks Bar. A bar employee flagged down a Key West police officer and told him that a man had urinated on a female member of the staff…

     When officers confronted Jones, he was fighting with club security. They had chased him through the bar and had him pinned down. To subdue him, the officers had to use a Taser on him twice…

     Waitress Tia Cruz, 26, told officers that she was talking with a customer when she felt something wet hitting her body. She initially thought it was rain until a fellow employee pointed out Jones who was urinating on her from a balcony above...

     Jones was charged with disorderly intoxication and resisting arrest. His criminal record included two marijuana possession convictions as well as arrests for burglary and trespassing…

     Jones told the authorities that he needed help with his alcohol problem. [If he can't drink without peeing on people, he has a bigger problem than just alcohol.]

"Patron Relieved Himself Onto Waitress," thesmokinggun.com, January 27, 2015 

Criminal Justice Quote: Drunk, Wrong-Way Driver Kills Woman in Phoenix

     The Phoenix, Arizona man arrested in the wrong-way freeway accident in which a fire department dispatcher was fatally injured had a blood-alcohol level nearly four times the legal limit…Stephen B. Martin, 39, after the January 27, 2015 accident, told officers that he knew he was drunk and shouldn't have been driving…

     Martin told police and hospital personnel that he was on the road because he had to rescue his girlfriend from being sexually assaulted…

     Megan Lange, a 26-year-old married mother of two who'd recently returned to work after coming off maternity leave, was killed when her small SUV collided head-on with Martin's larger vehicle. Lange was driving home after finishing her shift when the accident occurred at one in the morning on Interstate 17. Another motorist whose vehicle was sideswiped by Martin's SUV suffered minor injuries…

     A woman who was a passenger in Martin's SUV said she told Martin they were going the wrong way on the interstate but they couldn't find a place to turn around. Martin had a blood-alcohol level of .313. The legal limit for driving in Arizona is .08…Martin was jailed on the charge of second-degree murder in lieu of $700,000 bond.

"Man Arrested in Fatal Wrong-Way Accident," chron.com, January 28, 2015  

Criminal Justice Quote: Vague Mug Shot Identifications

When you have crime victims look through a computerized mug book of suspects, it's rare that someone makes an identification. You need a "That's-the-guy" moment from the victim to move forward on the case, but what you often get instead are the victims squinting at the screen and saying, of multiple photos, "I dunno. That kinda looks like him."

Adam Plantinga, 400 Things Cops Know, 2014


Writing Quote: What Can You Tell About a Writer From His First Novel?

     First novels are unpredictable. For one author it's the best thing he will do in his career, something into which he empties so much of his heart and talent and experience that he's left with too little fuel to light much of a fire under future work.

     For another the first novel sets the course for an entire career: He's found the key in which his voice is most comfortable and he sticks to it.

     For some writers that first novel gives no hint as to what is to come. Every new work is a departure from the last.

F. Paul Wilson in How I Got Published, edited by Ray White and Duane Lindsay, 2007 

Writing Quote: Dealing With a Bad Review

My favorite Kirkus review labeled my writing as "awkward and repetitious." I framed that one.

Charles Knief, mysterylinkonline.com, August 29, 2001 

Writing Quote: Story-Driven Nonfiction

Story-driven nonfiction is extraordinarily successful, and there's a huge market for it. I think it's partly because when you publish a nonfiction book, especially one that's story driven as opposed to didactic or scholarly, you can target the market in a easier way.

Charlie Conrad, Poets and Writers, May/June 2004 

Writing Quote: Eccentric Characters in a Novel are More Memorable

If you were to examine the surviving novels of this century, you would find that a majority of the most memorable characters in fiction are to some degree eccentric. Eccentricity has frequently been at the heart of strong characterization for good reason. Ordinariness is what readers have enough of in real life.

Sol Stein, Stein on Writing, 1995 

Writing Quote: The Romantic Plot in Women's Memoirs

All of us live with a life history in our mind, and very few of us subject it to critical analysis. But we are storytelling creatures. So it's very important to examine your own story and make sure that the plot is one you really want. When I give talks as a historian about the dominance of the romantic plot in women's telling of their life histories, I'm amused to see women investment bankers and corporate lawyers giving a wry smile, as if to say, "It's true--that's how I do see my life." As a young person it's important to scrutinize the plot you've internalized and find out whether it accurately represents what you want to be, because we tend to act out those life plots unless we think about them. I'm impatient with the postmodern effort to obfuscate the validity of narrative. We are time-bound creatures. We experience life along a time continuum; things happen sequentially in our lives, and we need to understand the causation. But we never really do understand it until we sit down and try to tell the story.

Jill Ker Conway in Inventing the Truth, edited by William Zinsser, 1998 

Writing Quote: Young Writers Don't Write Biographies

Aspiring writers find biography a less attractive form of creative nonfiction because they like to write about themselves, and unlike memoir, poetry, fiction, and drama, biography offers little chance for self-expression.

Philip Furia in Writing Creative Nonfiction, edited by Carolyn Forche and Philip Gerard, 2001 

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Curtis Bonnell Murder Case

     Fourteen-year-old Hilary Bonnell, in 2007, resided with her mother Pam Fillier on the Esgenoopetitj  Fist Nation Indian Reservation in northeastern Canada's New Brunswick Province. In 2008, the girl and her mother moved to Miramichi, New Brunswick, the largest town in the province. The teen had behavioral problems that included drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, and running away from home. Her mother, in an effort to help her daughter get control of her drinking and drug use, put Hilary into a group home for two months in the fall of 2008. Because Hilary Bonnell missed her old friends, her mother, in 2009, allowed the strong-willed teen to spend the summer on the reservation with her aunt.

     On September 5, 2009, at 3:11 in the morning, Pam Fillier received a call from her daughter who sounded like she had been drinking. Hilary said she was at a party and having fun. Mother and daughter agreed to go shopping the next day. Later that morning, and throughout the day, Hilary Bonnell did not show up at her aunt's house. Because of her history of running away and staying for days at the homes of friends, Hilary's mother didn't report her missing until September 7.

     The missing persons case came under the jurisdiction of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Tracadie-Shelia, Canada. Sergeant Greg Lupson took charge of the investigation.

     As time passed and the 16-year-old remained missing, the RCMP began considering the possibility of foul play. On September 19, Sergeant Lupson questioned the missing girl's 32-year-old first cousin, Curtis Bonnell as a person of interest. Curtis and Hilary had been captured on a 4D Convenience Store surveillance camera on the morning she disappeared. (They were not together, but in the store between 7 and 8 AM.) Curtis Bonnell denied any knowledge of his first cousin's disappearance.

     On November 13, 2009, officers with the RCMP arrested Curtis Bonnell on the charge he had murdered Hilary Bonnell. When questioned in police custody, the suspect admitted picking Hilary up in his truck as she walked along Micmac Road en route to  her aunt's house. Curtis told the officers that he wanted to have sex with his cousin, but when she demanded $100 for the act, he got angry and sexually assaulted her. According to his account of her death, she died when he covered her mouth to keep her from screaming. He said he didn't intend to kill her.

     After killing Hilary, the suspect, in a state of panic, drove her body to a remote area near the town of Tracadie-Sheila where he buried her corpse in the woods. Bonnell returned to his home (he lived with his father) and burned some of Hilary's personal items in his backyard. Following the confession, Bonnell led officers to his cousin's remains.

     On November 14, 2009, Dr. Ken Obenson performed the autopsy. The forensic pathologist identified her cause of death as asphyxia. In Dr. Obenson's opinion she had either been strangled or smothered. The pathologist didn't find any fractures or injuries other than two cuts--one on her hand and the other on her head near her eyebrow.

     According to a toxicologist who worked on the case, the victim had evidence of cannabis and alcohol in her system.

     The Curtis Bonnell first degree murder case went to trial on September 17, 2012 in Miramichi, New Brunswick before a jury of six men and six women. The prosecutor for the Crown showed the jury a video tape of the defendant's police station confession. On October 22, Dr. Graham Bishop, a respiratory physician, took the stand and testified that it was plausible that Hilary Bonnell had died from someone sitting on her chest with his hands covering her nose and mouth. The witness said it was his expert opinion the victim had died the way the Crown believed she had been killed.

     On cross-examination by defense attorney Gilles Lemieux, Dr. Bishop said it was also possible that the victim had somehow "self-smothered" under the effects of alcohol and drugs. The witness conceded that without "definitive proof" such as handprints or video surveillance, it was impossible to say for sure exactly how Hilary Bonnell had died.

     The Crown rested its case on October 24, 2012, and five days later, the defense put Curtis Bonnell, its chief witness, on the stand. Dressed in a dark suit and a blue tie, the witness gave the jury a different story than the one he had told the RCMP. Bonnell said that on the morning of September 5, 2009, he woke up in his truck that was parked in his father's garage. Next to him in the front seat was slumped the body of a woman. At first he didn't know who she was, so he climbed out of the vehicle and opened the passenger's side door. The woman, who he recognized as his cousin, started to fall out of the truck. Thinking that she was passed out from a night of drinking, he grabbed her body that was cold and rigid. He panicked when he realized that Hilary Bonnell was dead. "What am I going to do?" he thought. "Nobody is going to believe me. I just got out of jail. Nobody's going to believe an Indian."

     The defendant testified that he put Hilary's body into the bed of his truck, drove to the wooded area near Tracadie-Sheila, and laid her on the ground with her sandals beside her. He drove back to his home to look for physical evidence that might link him to his dead cousin.

     That night, according to Bonnell, he couldn't sleep because he was worried that animals might get to Hilary's body. The next day, he took a shovel from his father's garage and drove to Tracadie-Sheila and the spot where he had dumped her corpse. He put the body back into his truck and drove it to a different place where he dug a shallow grave. He tossed the victim into the hole, shoveled in the dirt, and drove home. (There had been prosecution testimony that the victim may have been buried alive.) Throughout his testimony, the defendant denied having sex with his cousin or doing anything to cause her death.

     On cross-examination, Crown prosecutor Bill Richards challenged the defendant over numerous discrepancies between his police statements and his courtroom testimony. The blistering cross-examination lasted two days and at one point the defendant broke down in tears.

     On re-direct, defense attorney Gilles Lemieux asked Bonnell why he had confessed to a crime he didn't commit. The defendant replied that he felt pressured and just wanted the interrogation to end. He told the RCMP officers what he figured they wanted to hear. The defendant also accused his interrogators of putting ideas into his head, suggesting incriminating details for him to include in his confession. According to Curtis Bonnell, his police station confessions reflected the police theory of the case rather than what really happened that night in his pickup truck.

     On October 31, 2012, the Bonnell defense put a forensic pathologist on the stand named Dr. David Chiasson. Dr. Chiasson, a pathologist with the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, said, "I don't think we have enough information [in this case] to make a homicide determination. You have a young woman buried in clandestine circumstances. I believe that is why a homicide determination was made." Under defense attorney Lemieux's guidance, Dr. Chiasson said that Hilary Bonnell did not have any of the physical injuries he would expect to find had she been smothered by a hand forcible held over her nose and mouth.

     On cross-examination, Dr. Chiasoon agreed with the prosecutor that if someone had sat on the victim's chest while covering her nose and mouth, it would have taken less force to smother her. The prosecutor also got the forensic pathologist to concede that the circumstances of this girl's death were, at the very least, "criminally suspicious."

     On November 3, 2012, the Bonnell case jurors, after deliberating six hours, found the defendant guilty of first degree murder. The Miramichi courtroom erupted in cheers. Curtis Bonnell's conviction carried with it an automatic sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole.

     Bonnell's attorney appealed his client's conviction to the New Brunswick Court of Appeals. Defense attorney Peter Corey argued that the trial judge should have given the jury the option of finding the defendant guilty of manslaughter. He asked the appellate justices to overturn the conviction.

     Lawyers for the Crown and Curtis Bonnell presented their oral arguments before the appellate judges in April 2014.

     On January 29, 2015, in a written decision, the New Brunswick appellate court declined to reverse the murder conviction. "There was no error," wrote Justice Kathleen Quigg, adding that the trial judge's instructions to the jury "were more than adequate."

      

Criminal Justice Quote: Arby's Customer Thwarts Robbery

     A Vernal, Utah man who just wanted to order food at an Arby's restaurant ended up thwarting a robbery attempt by a knife-wielding woman with a criminal history…The customer was placing his order in the drive-thru on Sunday January 25, 2015 when he realized the cashier was not responding to him. He pulled out of the drive-thru, parked his truck, and walked inside to place his order. In the store, one of the cashiers mouthed to him the words "We're being robbed."

     Stephanie Lee Lente, 37, was threatening cashiers with a knife and demanding money.

     "I went back out to my truck and got my gun," the man, a concealed carry permit holder, told a reporter…After retrieving his firearm, he returned to the restaurant and showed Lente that he had a gun and ordered her not to move. She didn't listen. "She came at me," the man said. "That's when I pointed my gun at her." After wrestling the knife from Lente he held her at gunpoint until the police arrived…

     Lente is being held in Uintah County of charges of aggravated robbery and possession of a controlled substance…Her criminal record includes charges of abuse of psycho-toxic chemical solvents, theft, assault, criminal mischief, violation of a protective order, and wrongful appropriation.

"Armed Arby's Customer Stops Knife-Wielding Robber," The Daily Caller, January 25, 2015 

Criminal Justice Quote: Woman Assaulted With Snow Blower

     An on-going feud between two Arlington, Massachusetts neighbors in their early 60s got out of hand during Tuesday's [January 27, 2015] blizzard when one of the women attacked the other with a snow blower…Police responded to an assault call where they found a 60-year-old woman with cuts to her foot. The injured woman had taken out a harassment protection order against her neighbor, Barbara Davis, 61.

     Police officers arrested Davis for violation of the protection order and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon…Davis was held on $35,000 bond. The victim was treated for minor injuries.

"Arlington Woman Attacks Feuding Neighbor With Snow Blower," boston.com, January 27, 2015 

Writing Quotes: Historical Romance Novels Made Into Movies

I think historical romances are difficult to produce as films because of the expense of the sets and costuming. But I know there is a tremendous demand in Hollywood for modern day romantic comedies. Certainly a good contemporary, with a lot of witty sparring, could very easily translate into film.

Patricia Cabot, likesbooks.com, 2001 

Writing Quote: The Genre Called New Autobiography

This is what the New Autobiography genre is: the discovery of the unique story or stories your life makes. It is the application of story structure to your life experiences to give them meaning. It's reading your life as if it were a dream, asking, "What hidden significance do these characters and these events have for me?" It's shaping these elements into what is compelling to read as a contemporary novel. The New Autobiography asks that you perceive your life as a writer would, not simplistically, but with the mystery and complexity of literature.

Tristine Rainer, Your Life as Story, 1998 

Writing Quote: Harry Potter's Effect On The Teen Fantasy Genre

The first novel I published was the fifth I'd written and when it sold I was working on novel thirteen. What finally made the difference? Harry Potter. I slid into publication on Harry Potter's big, beautiful coattails. When I first started writing you couldn't sell a fantasy novel for teens to save your life. An editor once told me, "First you have to sell three or four realistic novels, about real kids, preferably humorous. If they do well then maybe, maybe someone will look at your fantasy." Then Harry Potter hit, and every editor in the country started pulling fantasy out of their slush piles.

Hilari Bell in How I Got Published, edited by Ray White and Duane Lindsay, 2007 

Writing Quote: First Novel High Expectations

     I wrote my first novel when I was nineteen. It was bad, the kind of mystery they call "cozy" these days, but with added pretensions to high literary values. I had never taken a creative writing class and knew nothing of plot, character, or pace except for what I had gleaned from my random reading habits. It took me about a year to finish it, and the moment it was done I set about mailing it out to whatever big, famous publishers seemed most likely to back a dump truck full of money up to my parents' front door. It was, I figured, no more than I deserved.

     No one bought it. No one so much as nibbled. I'd be astonished to learn that anyone read more than a few pages of the thing before mailing out the obligatory polite rejection. Over the years I accumulated quite a stack of polite rejections.

A. J. Hartley in How I Got Published, edited by Ray White and Duane Lindsay, 2007 

Writing Quote: The Confusing Short Story

Deliberately puzzling or confusing a short story reader may keep him reading for a while, but at too great an expense. Even just an "aura" of mystery in a short story is usually just a lot of baloney. Who are these people? What are they up to? Provoking such questions from a reader can be a writer's way of deferring exposition until he feels the reader is ready for the explanation of it all. But more likely it's just fogging things up. A lot of beginning writers' fiction is like of beginners' poetry: deliberately unintelligible as to make the shallow seem deep.

Rust Hills, Writing in General and The Short Story in Particular, 1987 

Writing Quote: Fiction Writing Over Journalism

Fiction writing is a calling…Who wouldn't choose the role of literature's divinely chosen hand-servant over that of some schmo hustling to meet a deadline? There are many days when I am that schmo, beset by overlapping commitments, late on bills, typing the same sentence over and over with minuscule variations that somehow make it worse each time, wishing I had learned a proper trade.

Dana Stevens, The New York Times, January 27, 2015 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Crimson Stain: "Murder in Amish County" was Re-Broadcast on the Discovery ID Channel January 28, 2015

     On Wednesday January 28, 2015, the Discovery ID channel re-broadcast "Murder in Amish County," the one-hour docudrama based on my book, Crimson Stain. The show, featuring dramatic re-enactments of the 1993 murder of an old-order Amish woman by her husband, Edward Gingerich, premiered in June 2013 as the first episode of the network's new series, "Deadly Devotions."

     The brutal murder, committed in front of two of the Amish parents' children, took place in the couple's northwestern Pennsylvania farmhouse. Found guilty of criminal homicide but mentally ill, Ed Gingerich went to prison for four years. In January 2011, seventeen years after he stomped his wife Katie to death, Ed Gingerich hanged himself in a barn.

     At the time of his death, the shunned Amish man was depressed, isolated from his family, and off his anti-psychotic medication. He was a man without a future. In a message scratched in dust near the suicide site, Ed asked for forgiveness. No one knows what he was asking forgiveness for--killing himself, or killing his wife, or maybe both.   

What Caused The Fatal Fire At The Pyle Mansion in Annapolis?

     Donald Pyle and his wife Sandra lived on Childs Point Road in Annapolis, Maryland in a 16,000 square-foot waterfront mansion. The massive house, built on an eight-acre tract of land, featured seven bedrooms and as many bathrooms. Mr. Pyle, the chief operating officer of ScienceLogic, an information technology company located in Reston, Virginia, had grown up in Baltimore County north of the city. The 55-year-old had attended Delaney High School and graduated from the University of Delaware. Prior to accepting the position at ScienceLogic, Donald Pyle had been the chief executive of IT companies in Pittsburgh and Annapolis.

     At three-thirty in the morning of Monday January 19, 2015, firefighters responded to what turned out to be a four-alarm fire at the Pyle mansion, a massive house referred to by neighbors as "The Castle." By the time 85 firefighters brought the blaze under control at seven that morning, the $6 million dwelling had been reduced to rubble in what had been an extremely hot, fast-moving fire.

     Although rescue personnel were unable to immediately sort through the debris due to heat and unstable structural conditions, investigators believed Mr. and Mrs. Pyle and their four visiting grandchildren, all uncounted for, had died in the fire.

     The search for bodies and evidence of the fire's cause and origin--traces of accelerants, multiple points of origin, and abnormal burn patterns--was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and investigators with the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office. Bomb and arson dogs as well as cadaver canines augmented the fire scene inquiry.

     Construction of the mansion had been completed in 2005 before the state mandated home sprinkler systems. Had it been otherwise, the fire damage might have been minimal.

     On Wednesday evening January 21, 2015, fire investigators accompanied by a cadaver dog located the bodies of two people. Preliminary reports indicated the remains belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Pyle. The charred bodies were sent to the Maryland State Medical Examiner's Office for identification and autopsy. Fire investigators wanted to know, among other things, if the couple had been alive at the time of the fire.

     According to media reports, there had been no police activity at the residence prior to the fire. Moreover, there was no record of lawsuits, financial trouble, or marital discord associated with the family.

     The four missing children, Wes 6, Charlotte 8, Katie 7, and Lexi 8, were the offspring of Mrs. Pyle's two sons from a previous marriage. On Thursday January 22, searchers found two more bodies. The next day the authorities recovered the remains of another child. Searchers located the sixth and final body on Monday, January 26.

     The exterior of the Pyle mansion was built of stone in the tradition of a castle. Stone was used in the construction of the dwelling's interior as well. This makes the fast development of the inferno, the extreme heat, and the total destruction of the structure hard to explain in the context of an accidental fire. What was in the house that could fuel such a destructive fire? How did it start?  The fact that six people died in the fire makes the cause and origin determination all the more important. The conditions of the bodies might offer clues as to whether foul play was involved.  

Criminal Justice Quote: Man Killed in Shootout With Police Outside City Council Meeting

     A volley of gunfire erupted outside the New Hope, Minnesota city council meeting Monday night January 26, 2015 when a man shot at a group of police officers, injuring two of them. Officers returned fire, killing the man…

     The bizarre and shocking event began shortly after the two new officers…were sworn in during the city council meeting that started at 7 PM. The officers along with others who attended the ceremony walked out of the chambers fifteen minutes later. A man with a "long gun" shot at the officers…The wounded police officers are expected to survive….

"Gunman Injures Two New Hope Police Officers, Then is Fatally Shot," startribune.com, January 27, 2015 

Writing Quote: Agatha Christie's Hoax

Agatha Christie nearly pulled off a real-life hoax worthy of her mystery novels. Upset that her husband was leaving her for another woman, she set up an incriminating scene that almost got him arrested for her "murder." Luckily for him, an employee at a distant seaside hotel saw news photos of Christie and recognized her as the woman who had slipped into the hotel under an assumed name. Although Christie claimed amnesia, the police were not amused after having wasted a week of searching rivers and bogs.

Erin Barrett and Jack Mingo, It Takes a Certain Type To Be A Writer, 2003 

Criminal Justice Quote: Top Secret Service Personnel Reassigned

     Four upper management officials at the Secret Service were asked to resign and did so on January 14, 2015. A fifth agent also decided to resign voluntarily. Secret Service Acting Director Joseph Clancy obtained resignations from the agency's top four assistant directors in order to enact "change" at the agency. "Change is necessary to gain a fresh perspective on how we conduct business," Clancy said in a statement to The Washington Post. "I am certain any of our senior executives will be productive and valued assets either in other positions at the Secret Service or the department." [In other words, they weren't fired, just reassigned. In government, competence is not a job requirement.]

     Secret Service director and former professional Disney World costume character Julia Pierson resigned in October 2014 after a man managed to jump the White House fence, get in through an unlocked front door, and run into the White House residence. Pierson previously told colleagues that the Secret Service needed to be "more like Disney World." [Like what? A Mickey Mouse operation?]…

Patrick Howley, "Top-Ranking Secret Service Agents Forced Out," The Daily Caller, Jaunuary 14, 2015


Writing Quote: In Romance Novels Love Conquers All

We romance writers get to make people happy. We assure our readers that no matter how bad things get, our heroines will aways win in the end. We confirm what romance readers believe in their heart of hearts: Love will conquer all.

Julie Beard, Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Your Romance Published, 2000

Writing Quote: The Affect of Political Correctness on Humor

Humor, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. What's uproariously funny to one person may leave another cold. What's funny today may seem insensitive tomorrow. This is certainly true with Leo Rosten's 1937 book The Education of Hyman Kaplan, which describes the very funny struggles of a group of adult immigrants learning English. Many readers may find Rosten's book patronizing at best and offensive at worst. Issues of political correctness--the death knell for humor--arise, too

Nancy Pearl, Book Lust, 2003 

Writing Quote: Journalistic Blogging

     The debate regarding blogging versus journalism involves the question of whether or not a blogger can be a journalist…Is there a sharp distinction between the two disciplines, or has time blurred that line?…

Blogging is Not Journalism

     When blogging first became a popular method of content distribution, this opinion was likely the most correct view. In the earliest days of blogging, even the best blogs incorporated a good deal of opinion and were relatively light on actual journalism. Indeed, this opinion still holds a fair amount of currency to today's more developed blogosphere…

Blogging is a Training Ground For Journalists

     Other people see blogging as a step along the road to becoming a journalist…Proponents of this opinion say bloggers can gain the tools to operate in a newsroom environment…

It's Not the Source, It's the Quality

     Rather than judging the medium with wide sweeping strokes, blogging should be judged on the basis of content…This view, which notes a distinction between the products of personal blogs and news sites, holds water in light of expert blogs. After all, if you're looking for information, you're likely to be better served by visiting a specialist blog rather than relying on the coverage of a writer less well-versed in that particular field…As bloggers become better and more experienced, they can become some of the best resources in their given field, especially if that field is underserved…In the end, there's little that distinguishes a good blogger and a good journalist, and the line between the two is hazy at best. A blogger may inject a little bit more analysis into a post than a journalist does in a news article, but when a blogger tracks down sources, does investigative reporting, and presents the fact clearly and fairly, that is journalism, plain and simple….

Jacob Friedman, "Blogging Versus Journalism: The Ongoing Debate," thenextweb.com, August 18, 2010


Writing Quote: Robert Barnard on Hard-Boiled Detective Fiction

We must cut off the modern detective story from the novel proper, put it in quite another category, one with its own traditions, conventions and demands, and thus develop a completely independent critical approach to it. I feel, in fact, that however we react to novels of the American hard-boiled school, nothing but harm can be done by an attempt to see them as "realistic" or closer to the novel proper than other varieties of crime fiction.

Robert Barnard, A Talent to Deceive, 1990 

Writing Quote: The Villain in Crime Fiction

Often I start working out a story in terms of its villain. Sometimes he's more interesting than anyone else. I'm curious about what makes a murderer who he is. Was he born missing some human quality? Did his early environment shape him? Or was it a combination of both?

Sandra Scoppettone in Writing Mysteries, edited by Sue Grafton, 2002 

Writing Quote: The Illness Autobiography

Dealing with adversity is in some ways the theme of all narrative autobiography, but there is a particularly rich tradition about struggles with a particular medical or physical malady, such as blindness, cancer, or paralysis. Originally, this type nearly always took the form of the Inspirational, a struggle against the odds in which the courage of the subject brings a triumph, at least of spirit, in the end. More recently, a new Literature of Adversity has evolved, which does not depend upon the "final triumph" but which derives its values from the depth and frankness of its discussion.

Tristine Rainer, Your Life as Story, 1998 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Elrey and June Runion Murder Case

     Elrey "Bud" Runion posted a Craigslist ad in hopes of connecting with someone willing to sell him a 1966 Ford Mustang convertible. On Thursday afternoon January 22, 2015, the 69-year-old Vietnam veteran and AT&T retiree and his wife June, a 66-year-old former elementary school teacher, left their home in Marietta, Georgia en route to McRae, a Telfair County town 180 miles southeast of the Atlanta area. They were on their way to meet a man in McRae who said he had a 1966 Mustang for them to look at.

     The day after Mr. Runion and his wife left Marietta, family members reported them missing after they failed to show up to babysit their grandchildren.

     Investigators in Telfair County, Georgia determined that a 28-year-old man named Ronnie Adrian Towns had called Mr. Runion Thursday afternoon from a disposable cellphone. Deputies with the sheriff's office questioned Towns about the call and his relationship with the missing couple.

     Later, when the authorities realized that Towns had given them information that turned out to be false, a Telfair County prosecutor charged him with giving false statements to the police and criminal attempt to commit theft by deception. At that point, Mr. Towns' whereabouts were unknown.

     On Monday morning January 26, 2015, accompanied by his relatives, Towns surrendered to the local authorities. According to the sheriff, the suspect had no criminal record and came from a good family.

      In the meantime, the search for Mr. and Mrs. Runion, a law enforcement operation that involved helicopters and watercraft, centered around a shallow pond and wooded area not far from land owned by the suspect's parents. On Monday afternoon, searchers found the missing couples' 2003 GMC Envoy partially submerged in the pond. Their bodies were discovered nearby in the woods along Webb Cemetery Road not far from the property owned by the suspect's family.

     The sheriff of Telfair County, at a press conference, made it clear that investigators believed that Ronnie Adrian Towns had lured Mr. and Mrs. Runion to McRae on the pretext of selling them a 1966 Mustang. He did so with the intent to rob them. The sheriff withheld information regarding how the Runions had died pending the completion of their autopsies. When the forensic pathologist completed his work, a local prosecutor would make a decision regarding additional charges in the case.

     On Tuesday January 27, 2015, the Telfair County prosecutor charged Ronnie Towns with malice murder and armed robbery. The judge denied him bond. According to the forensic pathologist, the victims had been shot in the head.

     The murder suspect grew up in the southern Georgia farming community where his father raised pine trees and grew soybeans, corn, and peanuts. Ronnie Towns lived with his wife and young daughter and worked on construction jobs for a local homebuilder. He also helped his uncle install carpets. "He's a good kid and very smart," the uncle said to a reporter. "It just doesn't make any sense why this would ever go down. It's hard for his parents. They're not understanding."

     Mr. Runion had been known in the community for fixing up old bicycles he gave to poor children through a charity run out of the Mount Paran Church of God in Marietta. Over the years he and his wife had participated in other charities throughout the south.    




Criminal Justice Quote: NYC Home Depot Employee Murders Manager in The Store Before Killing Himself At The Scene

     Shoppers crowded into a Manhattan Home Depot store to prepare for an anticipated snowstorm streamed into the streets Sunday afternoon January 25, 2015 after an employee shot a store manager and then himself…The 38-year-old manager, who was shot in a aisle of the store, was transported to Bellevue Hospital where he was later pronounced dead…

     The shooting happened in the store at 40 West 23rd Street in the Flatiron section of Manhattan…The shooter, a 31-year-old male worker at the store, was not scheduled to work when he came in. The shooter was pronounced dead at the scene from a self-inflicted gunshot wound…Police recovered a .38-caliber revolver at the murder scene….

"Shoppers in Crowded Home Depot Store Forced to Flee Murder-Suicde," CNN, January 25, 2015 

Criminal Justice Quote: Amazon.Com Investigated in Japan For Child Porn Sales

     Amazon.com's Japan unit has said it is cooperating with the local authorities in an investigation into whether child pornography has been sold on its website…On Friday January 23, 2015, the Japanese police raided Amazon's Tokyo headquarters, a distribution center and the offices of an affiliate…The police were searching for evidence that the site was selling child pornography such as books with photos of nude girls under the age of 18…

     The allegations of child pornography sales have drawn anger from some consumers and nonprofit groups. Amazon said in a statement that, "We are committed to enforcing our policies and the law for items listed on our site."

"Amazon Investigated in Japan Over Child Pornography," The New York Times, January 27, 2015 

Writing Quote: Children Take What They Read Literally

While some young readers can think abstractly, most children understand fiction quite literally. This means you have to be careful about what you suggest to them. Perhaps you have a story idea about a little girl who is lonely. Suddenly, a magical man arrives and takes her away on a fantastic adventure. That may be a solid story idea, but your young reader might also take that story line literally, and the repercussions of that in today's world could be very dangerous.

Tracy E. Dils, You Can Write Children's Books, 1998

Writing Quote: Sherlock Holmes Would Have Ridiculed His Creator

Sir A. Conan Doyle's detective Sherlock Holmes was the epitome of rationalism and logic. However, Doyle himself was not. He believed deeply in ghosts, fairies, and other spiritualistic claptrap, and was duped over and over again by charlatans and hoaxers.

Erin Barrett and Jack Mingo, It Takes A Certain Type To Be A Writer, 2003 

Writing Quote: Most Critics of Romance Novels Have Never Read One

Most people who hate romance novels will admit--if pressed and if they're honest--they haven't actually read one since the 1970s when the so-called bodice ripper novels represented the genre.

Linda Lael Miller in Novel and Short Story Writer's Market, edited by Anne Bowling and Vanessa Lyman, 2002 

Writing Quote: The Ups and Downs of the Traditional Regency Romance Novel

Publishers (like television executives) have this "thing." They find something that sells, and they do it and do it and do it until they have killed it. If you're around long enough you'll see Regency romance novels come in, be beaten to death, go out, then come back seven to ten years later. I was dropped by Avon in the mid-eighties because traditional Regencies weren't selling and they weren't going to do them anymore. Ten months later, they called and asked me for three more. Now traditional Regencies are dying again. I have my own theory on that--the publishers tried putting graphic sex in them, that was a mistake. Traditional Regencies were perfect little gems, never with a large following, but always there, always to be counted on by older readers and for young women just getting into reading romance. Traditional Regencies introduced several generations of readers to romance.

Kasey Michaels, likesbooks.com, 2005 

Writing Quote: Humor And The "Serious" Novelist

The world likes humor, but treats it patronizingly. It feels if a thing is funny it can be presumed to something other than great. Writers know this, and those who take their literary selves with great seriousness are of considerable pains never to associate their names with anything funny or flippant or nonsensical or "light." They suspect it would hurt their reputation, and they are right.

E. B. White, The Second Tree From The Corner, 1954 

Writing Quote: Susan Sontag on the Literary Journal

A writer's journal must not be judged by the standards of a diary. The notebooks of a writer have a very special function: in them he builds up, piece by piece, the identity of a writer to himself. Typically, writers' notebooks are crammed with statements about the will: the will to write, the will to love, the will to renounce love, the will to go on living. The journal is where a writer is heroic to himself. In it he exists solely as a perceiving, suffering, struggling being.

Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation, 1969 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Death of a University Of Massachusetts Student Drug Informant

      The University of Massachusetts at Amherst has a 61-officer police department that includes a unit that handles drug cases. In the fall of 2012, campus drug cops learned from one of their student snitches that a sophomore named Logan (his full name has not been made public) was selling the ecstasy drug Molly as well as LSD to other students. Not long after that, an undercover UMass officer bought drugs from the former high school hockey star and scholarship student.

     In most colleges and universities a student caught selling drugs on or near campus is suspended from school and charged with a crime. These schools also inform the student's parents why their son or daughter was kicked out of the institution. Once alerted, parents of children with drug problems have the option of trying to get them help.

     In Logan's case, the campus police gave him a choice: he could be thrown out of school, pay back the $40,000 in scholarship money, face the wrath of his parents, and risk going to prison for up to five years or he could avoid all of that by becoming a drug informant for the campus police. Logan decided to snitch on his fellow students.

     In December 2012, the UMass drug officer in charge of Logan's case, gave him back the $700 officers had seized from him at the time of his arrest. His parents, proud of the fact their son was earning good grades in college, had no idea he had a drug problem, had been caught dealing, and was now an informant for the UMass police. In the department he was identified as "CI-8."

     Over the next several months, Logan made drug buys for the campus police, became seriously hooked on heroin, and snitched on his fellow students. He continued, through all of this, to maintain grades good enough to hold on to his scholarship. (Because he was an out-of-state student, Logan's tuition was almost double that of his in-state counterparts.)

     On a Sunday afternoon in October 2013, Logan's parents showed up on campus to pay him a surprise visit. They went to his living quarters and knocked on his door. When he didn't respond they assumed he was working at his campus job. But he wasn't at his job site either. The parents became worried when he didn't answer their text messages. It was then they asked a maintenance employee to let them into his dwelling.

     In the bathroom, the parents found their son lying dead on the floor next to a needle and a spoon. He had been dead for some time because his body had cooled. The medical examiner determined the cause of death to be "acute heroin poisoning."

     Although Logan had beeen arrested in 2011 for possession of cocaine, his parents thought he had beaten his drug problem. They were shocked that as a UMass student he had been hooked on heroin.

     Since the vast majority of UMass police cases involved underage and excessive drinking, Logan's heroin overdose came as a shock to everyone in the college community. There hadn't been a heroin related death at the school since 2008.

     Until the Boston Globe published an investigative article about Logan's case, no one but the campus police knew about Logan's role as a campus drug snitch. His parents and others were outraged by the revelation.

     In September 2014, in response to the Boston Globe story, the UMass Police Department discontinued flipping drug arrestees into snitches.
   

      

Whackademia Quote: Fraternity and Sorority Kids Trash Hotel

     Several fraternities and sororities at the University of Michigan stand accused of wreaking havoc by destroying hallways and hotel rooms at two ski resorts. The total in damages is estimated to be at least $50,000 in two northern Michigan resorts.

     The Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity and Sigma Delta Tau sorority did significant damage in the Treetops Inn in Gaylord, Michigan…Four other Greek houses were implicated in ruining furniture and fixtures and trashing 12 condo units at the Boyne Highlands resort in Harbor Springs, resulting in thousands of dollars of damage…The university said the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and the Chi Psi and Delta Gamma sororities had caused that damage.

     About 120 men and women were staying in 45 rooms at the Treetops resort. They damaged ceiling tiles in the hallway, ripped lights out of fixtures, broke furniture and windows, and generally left the place filthy….

"Several Michigan Fraternities, Sororities Accused of Trashing Two Resorts," huffingtonpost.com, January 22, 2015 

Criminal Justice Quote: Video Shows Cop Abusing Man in Wheelchair

     The San Francisco Police Department announced Wednesday January 21, 2015 that it is launching an internal investigation after videos emerged showing an officer pushing a man in a wheelchair into the street and trying to dump him there…The incident occurred at four in the afternoon on Sunday, January 19, 2015…

   According to bystanders' videos posted to YouTube, the incident began when Bo Frierson--who is in a wheelchair due to a spinal cord injury--approached officers who were questioning his friends. The officers didn't appreciate the intervention and angry words were exchanged. One of the officers pushed Frierson over the curb into the street…"He tried to dump me out, you can see, a couple times," Frierson told a local TV reporter. "Lucky for the seat belt. What if I were to just fall on my face? I mean, I could have died."…

"Police Launch Investigation After Video Shows Cop Shoving Man in Wheelchair Into Street," huffingtonpost.com, January 22, 2015 

Writing Quote: The Memoir-Worthy Life

     The truth is out there. You can't miss it, in fact--it's everywhere. But even as we embrace the twenty-four hour confession cycle of social media, the popularity, and subsequent disparagement, of the memoir reveals our mixed feelings about true stories. We might be lured into tales of harrowing childhoods or devastating divorces, but our internal machinery will monitor the narratives based on the same arbitrary rubrics that guard our own personal revelations (or lack thereof): Is the author honest about his motives? Are her experiences exotic enough to teach us something new? Does he learn a big lesson at the end, or does he tumble off a cliff into a nihilistic abyss?

     Blogs and Instagram and YouTube have rendered brutal honesty and statements of "my truth" about as mundane as instructions on how to dye your hair. Nevertheless, committing your life experiences to the published page is still viewed as an audacious act, one reserved for celebrated authors, public figures, or those who've lived outside the norm and endured horrors untold. For every phalanx of writing instructors exhorting their pupils to write what they know, there's an equal and opposite gaggle of critics urging them to keep their junior-varsity trials and tribulations to themselves. If your pain doesn't equal the pain of the reader, you are merely indulging yourself.

Heather Havrilesky, Bookforum, February/March 2015 

Writing Quote: Literary Critics Don't Like Storytellers

I think I function in the direct tradition of the early American novel, as a storyteller rather than a philosopher or a teacher; so I'm resented by the school of criticism that rejects storytelling as superficial and looks on the novel as basically as examination of the interior life. The critics don't choose to examine how well you tell a story, and that's what I'm interested in.

Howard Fast in Writing For Your Life, edited by Sybil Steinberg, 1992 

Writing Quote: The Literary Biography

Literary biographers are parasites. They are Fifth Column agents within the ranks of literature, intent on reducing all that is imaginative, all that is creative in literature to pedestrian biography. They are the slaves of their absurd and meager theories. They feed off literature: they attempt to replace it.

Michael Holroyd, Works on Paper, 2002 

Writing Quote: Test Your Children's Book On An Adult

My child would enjoy the phone book if I sat her on my lap and read it to her. Test your children's manuscript on discerning adults and ask, "Does it engage you?"

Stephen Roxburgh, Byline, January 2000

Writing Quote: The Short Story As Practice For The Novel

A young fiction writer should try everything, but some literary forms will come more naturally to him than others. Short stories are more within his scope than longer forms, and he will learn most by making many beginnings and endings--the hardest parts of any piece of writing.

Wallace Stegner, On Teaching and Writing Fiction, 2002 

Writing Quote: The Empowerment Fantasy in Romance Fiction

In the romance novel the domineering male becomes the catalyst that makes the empowerment fantasy work. The heroine isn't as big as he is; she isn't as strong, as old, as worldly; many times she isn't well-eductated. Yet despite all these limitations she confronts him--not with physical strength but with intelligence and courage. And what happens? She always wins! Guts and brains every time. What a comforting fantasy this is for a frizzled, overburdened, anxiety-ridden reader.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips in Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, edited by Jayne Ann Krentz, 1992 

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Chris Kyle Murder Case

     Chris Kyle, during his four tours of duty in Iraq as a Navy SEAL sniper, recorded 160 kills which earned him the unofficial title "America's Deadliest Sniper." (He killed one of his targets from a range of 1.2 miles.) The highly decorated SEAL was awarded two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation.

     After his combat duty, Kyle became the Chief Instructor in the training of Navy Special Warfare Sniper and Counter-Sniper teams. He wrote a Navy SEAL manual called the Naval Special Warfare Sniper Doctrine.

     Kyle, upon leaving the Navy in 2009, founded Craft International which provides firearms training to military, police, and corporate clients. He became a celebrity in 2012 after the publication of his memoir American Sniper which became a New York Times bestseller.

     In American Sniper there is a passage in which the author claims to have punched former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura over a comment Kyle considered unpatriotic. Governor Ventura, who said the punch never happened, sued Kyle in federal court for defamation, invasion of privacy, and unjust enrichment.

     In 2012, Kyle appeared on the NBC reality television show "Stars Earn Stripes." And in the aftermath of the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, Kyle publicly recommended arming school teachers. A book he co-authored called American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms, was released in May 2013.

     On Saturday, February 2, 2013, Chris Kyle was in Glen Rose, Texas, a Hill County town 50 miles southwest of Fort Worth. At 3:30 in the afternoon, during a gun range charity event held at Rough Creek Lodge, a resort and conference center, the 38-year-old former SEAL was shot to death. He was shot by 25-year-old Eddie Ray Routh. After killing Kyle and 35-year-old Chad Littlefield, Routh fled the scene in Kyle's Ford pickup truck. Texas Rangers arrested Routh later in the day at his home in Lancaster, a town just south of Dallas about 70 miles from the shooting range. He confessed to the murder.

     Eddie Ray Routh, an ex-Marine who was deployed to Iraq in 2007, reportedly suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He was charged by the Erath County prosecutor's office with two counts of capital murder. Rough was held on $3 million bond.

     Former Texas Congressman Ron Paul, on February 4, 2013, responded on Twitter to Kyle's habit of taking veterans like Eddie Routh with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to firing ranges. The Libertarian, whose opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were well-documented, in referring to Chris Kyles' murder, wrote that "he who lives by the sword dies by the sword." Mr. Paul also said that in his opinion, taking veterans with PTSD to firing ranges didn't make any sense.

     In the four months prior to the murder, Routh, after he threatened to kill his family and himself, received mental health treatment. After murdering Chris Kyle and Kyle's friend Chad Littlefield, Routh drove to his sister's house in Midlothian, Texas where he informed his sister of what he had done on the shooting range.

     Eddie Ray Routh's murder trial is scheduled to start on February 11, 2015. Prosecutors have said they will not seek the death penalty. The defendant's attorney, in speaking to reporters on January 22, 2015, said, "My client will plead not guilty by reason of insanity." The judge had rejected attorney J. Warren St. John's earlier motion to have the trial moved out of Erath County. However, in light of the box-office success of the movie "American Sniper," the attorney will refile the change of venue request.

     Following Chris Kyle's murder, Jesse Ventura continued his defamation suit against the Kyle estate. He won the civil action at the expense of Kyle's widow. Many consider Ventura's lawsuit greedy and unpatriotic. For him it has been a public relations nightmare.
      

Criminal Justice Quote: When the Bank Account is Alive But The Account-Holder Isn't

     Seven hours before Caryl Vanzo was reported dead at the age of 91, she went to the bank with her son and withdrew $850. Now authorities believe Vanzo, wheeled into the Wells Fargo bank in Plymouth, Minnesota, was dead…

     David Vanzo, her son, called 911 on January 5, 2015 to report his mother's death. But an investigation is underway to determine when Caryl Vanzo died and if her son had anything to do with it…

     Officers who responded to the Vanzo home reported that the stench of urine and feces was overwhelming. They found the dead woman wrapped in a robe and a fur coat…

     Neighbors said they saw the mother and her son get into a taxi to go to the bank. She looked either dead or unconscious. Witnesses at the bank said her feet kept dragging under her wheelchair. ..The cab driver said he believed she was alive when they got into the taxi, but may have died on the way to the bank.

     Police took David Vanzo into custody on the charge of neglect. He has been investigated several times in the past for exploiting his mother financially…Bank records show that David Vanzo took out a $118,000 reverse mortgage and cash withdrawals of $47,000 and $25,000…He denied any wrongdoing. "My mom and I had an agreement. I took care of my mom for years, I'm the good guy here, not the bad guy. My mother wouldn't eat in the end."

"David Vanzo Possibly Made Bank Withdrawals With Dead Mom," huffingtonpost.com, January 22, 2015 

Criminal Justice Quote: Murder-Suicde in Queens, New York

     The man who shot and killed three of his relatives in Queens, New York early Saturday January 23, 2015 is dead. Investigators said Jonathon Walker, 34, shot his mother-in-law, common law wife and their two daughters. He had previously lived in Buffalo and attended Daeman College [a liberal arts school in Amherst, New York].

     Viola Warren, 62, Shantai Hale, 31, and Kayla Walker, 7 were found dead inside a Queens home shortly after 5:30 PM on Saturday. Authorities said Jonathon Walker also shot his daughter Kristina Walker, 12 in the head--but she was able to call the police. She was taken to the Long Island Jewish Hospital where she underwent surgery and is in critical but stable condition….

"Former Buffalo Man Shoots Self Dead After Killing Three Relatives in Queens," twcnews.com, January 24, 2015  

Writing Quote: James Ellroy on Agatha Christie

Who wants to be a mystery writer? Who wants to be a crime novelist when you can be a plain old novelist with a capital "N"? You are known by the company you keep. I mean, do you want to be mentioned in the same breath as Agatha Christie and a bunch of people like that?

James Ellroy, barcelonareview.com, April 16, 2001 

Writing Quote: The "Saved By The Love Of A Good Woman" Theme in Romance Fiction

The theme of the man who is "saved by the love of a good woman" is common in both life and romance. In reality, savior complexes are dangerous because they encourage women to stay with abusive mates, but that is another story, one that belongs in "woman's fiction" rather than "romance." What matters in a romance context is that healing the wounded hero is a fantasy of incredible potency.

Mary Jo Putney in Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, edited by Jayne Ann Krenz, 1992 

Writing Quote: The Children's Book Reviewer

In essence, a children's book reviewer reads and writes with two audiences in mind: (1) adults who read reviews to help them select books for children and (2) the children themselves. It is important to remember that most books for children are created with the best intentions in mind. No one sets out to produce a crummy book that kids will hate. If this is your initial assessment of a book you're reviewing, it would be unfair and unwise to let it stand as your final assessment without a great deal of further consideration.

Kathleen T. Horning, From Cover to Cover, 1997 

Writing Quote: Everyone Has a Relative They Think Worthy Of a Biography

My last biography is no sooner in the stores when the letters start coming suggesting a subject for my next one. The grandmothers of these letter writers are crying from the grave, it seems, for literary recognition. It is bewildering, the number of salty grandfathers, aunts, and uncles that languish unappreciated.

Catherine Drinker Bowen, Adventures of a Biographer, 1959 

Writing Quote: Oral Biographies

Oral biography's biggest problem, of course, is the lack of any controlling intelligence. Recorded interviewees exaggerate and ramble on, often ludicrously.

Thomas Mallon, In Fact, 2001 

Writing Quote: L. Frank Baum On Literary Fame

When I was young I longed to write a great novel that would win me fame. My first book, Mother Goose in Prose (1914) was written to amuse children. For, aside from my evident inability to do anything "great," I have learned to regard fame as the will-o-the-wisp which, when caught, is not worth the possession. But to please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms one's heart and brings it own reward.

L. Frank Baum in L. Frank Baum by Katharine M. Rogers, 2002 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Japan's Black Widow Serial Killer

     Japan is home to one of the fastest aging populations in the world. Japanese people are living longer and fewer of them live with their adult children. (This is also the trend in America.)

     Japanese men and women in their 70s whose spouses have died are lonely and vulnerable to a variety of crimes that includes murder. Many of them, desperate for companionship in their so-called golden years, access online dating services that cater to lonely senior citizens,

The Black Widow

     In 1964, 18-year-old Chisako (This woman has had so many last names she will be referred to by her first name.), a bright, ambitious high school graduate from Muko, a small industrial suburb of the city of Kyoto, married a truck driver who later started a small printing company. Although Chisako had the intelligence and desire to attend college, her conservative parents, not wanting to waste a higher education on a woman, denied her that opportunity. She ended up working as a bank clerk, a job she felt was beneath her.

     In 1994, Chisako's husband suddenly fell ill and died at the age of 54. The authorities determined his death to be natural, and pursuant to custom in Japan, his body was cremated.,

     In 2004, Chisako, now 48, married the 67-year-old president of a small drug company. Two years later he got sick and died. With no reason to suspect foul play, the authorities listed his death as natural. His remains were also cremated.

     In May 2008, after being married to Chisako for less than two months, a 75-year-old landowner became ill and suddenly died. Two months after that, the 73-year-old clothing boutique owner Chisako was dating suddenly dropped dead. Although this was the fourth man connected to Chisako by marriage or romance to die suddenly, this man's passing did not catch the attention of law enforcement. As a result it was labeled a natural death. It seemed that when it came to partners, this woman had a lot of bad luck. She was, however, becoming rich.

     In 2012, after Chisako's 71-year-old fiance fell off his motorcycle and died, the police, now suspicious, ordered a blood test that revealed the presence of the poison cyanide. This man had been murdered and Chisako became the prime suspect in the case.

     While under investigation for the poisoning murder of her fiance, Chisako married again, this time to a 75-year-old man named Isao Kakehi. Mr. Kakehi, a longtime widower, had a substantial savings account and owned his own home. One month after marrying Chisako, he ended up dead on the floor of his dwelling. Following the initial cause of death ruling of heart failure, a test of Isao Kakehi's blood revealed a lethal dose of cyanide.

     In November 2014, detectives with the Kyoto Prefectural Police arrested Chisako on suspicion of murder in the death of Mr. Kakehi and the death of the poisoned fiance who fell off his motorcycle in 2012. When the fiance died from cyanide poisoning, Chisako was dating at least two other elderly men. Chisako's arrest probably saved their lives.

     Detectives, in December 2014, recovered a small bag of cyanide that had been hidden in a plant pot Chisako had thrown away.

     According to investigators, the suspected serial killer's M.O. had been simple and direct. She used the online dating services to find lonely, moderately wealthy men whom she showered with romantic emails professing her undying love. Shortly after she married the man she had targeted, she pressured him to change his will to make her the sole beneficiary of his estate.

     Chisako, dubbed by Japan's tabloid media as the "Black Widow," had amassed $8 million of her victims' money. Since she was richer than her last two or three victims, money may not have been her primary motive. She may have killed these men out of anger and resentment against a male-dominated society that did not recognize her worth.

     While the Cisako serial murder case is based on circumstantial evidence--no one saw her poison these men and she has not confessed--it's hard to explain these deaths in any other way. Unless she pleads guilty, she will be tried for murder in late 2015.

     

Writing Quote: Real Life Versus Literary Dialogue

If you need proof that dialogue and spoken words are not the same, go to a supermarket. Eavesdrop. Much of what you'll hear in the aisles sounds like idiot talk. People won't buy your novel to hear idiot talk. They get that free from relatives, friends, and at the supermarket.

Sol Stein, Stein on Writing, 1995

Writing Quote: The Biographic Hatchet Job

Almost every eminent person leaves behind an abundance of personal data which, skillfully manipulated, can prove him to have been a fool or a knave. Innocuous personal details and casual episodes, if sufficiently emphasized, described with archness and placed in misleading context, can be as damaging in their effect as plain evidence of dim intellect or villainy.

Richard D. Aftick, Lives and Letters, 1965 

Writing Quote: Will Writing a Memoir Make You a Healthier, Happier, Better Person?

     The scientific research on the benefits of so-called expressive writing is surprisingly vast. Studies have shown that writing about oneself and personal experiences can improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person's health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory.

     Now researchers are studying whether the power of writing--and then rewriting--your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness. The concept is based on the idea that we all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. But sometimes our inner voice doesn't get it completely right. Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health. It may sound like self-help nonsense, but research suggests the effects are real….

Tara Parker-Pope, The New York Times, January 19, 2015 

Writing Quote: The Short Story Rejection Slip

Virtually all magazines have printed rejection slips. Some make their points succinctly with little attempts to soften the blow. The basic message is straightforward: "We've decided not to publish your story." Some rejection forms make a half-hearted effort to explain the obvious: "We're not reading fiction for the time being" or "another editor may think differently" (i.e., the problem may be ours and not yours). A few try diplomacy: "We're grateful for the chance to read your work." And others are mildly apologetic: "We're sorry that the quantity of manuscripts we consider makes it impossible to reply to each one personally." At bottom, however, the message is no more and likely no less than, simply, "No."

C. Michael Curtis in On Writing Short Stories, edited by Tom Bailey, 2000

Writing Quote: Theme in Children's Literature

If an editor says your children's story is "slight," this may mean you have no significant theme. Don't blurt out your theme. Let it emerge from the story. If you must come out and say it, do it in dialogue, not narration. Avoid preaching. Children's stories should be explorations of life--not Sunday school lessons. Keep your theme positive. If writing about a special problem, offer constructive ways for your reader to deal with it.

Aaron Shepard, The Business of Writing For Children, 2000

Writing Quote: Romance Novels Written in The First Person

Many romance readers won't try a novel written in first-person, single person point of view. As romances go, it can be a challenge to reveal enough about the main character's love interest to make the romance seem convincing. In other words, to understand what that other person sees in the main character. What do you do to reveal these emotions to the reader?

Holly Cook, likesbooks.com, 2013 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Murder-For-Hire: The Crime and Its Cast of Characters

     Murder-for-hire cases fall generally into one of two categories: homicides in which the contract for the killing is carried out, and crimes in which, due to law enforcement intervention in the form of an undercover operative playing the role of the assassin, no one is killed. While still serious felony, the latter offense is one of criminal solicitation.

     The cast of a murder-for-hire plot features three principal characters: the instigator/mastermind who solicits/contracts the homicide, the hit man (or undercover agent playing the triggerman role), and the victim, the person targeted for death. Supporting players might include a cast of go-betweens and accomplices such as people who put the mastermind in touch with the hit man or undercover cop, and helpers brought into the scheme by the triggerman. Murder-for-hire cases frequently include potential assassins the mastermind initially reached out to who reject the assignment. These would-be hit men, often the mastermind's friends, casual acquaintances, relatives, or co-workers, after declining to participate in the plot, either remain silent or go to the police. Many of the ones who remain silent do so because they didn't take the mastermind seriously.

     While murder-for-hire stories, in terms of the characters involved, have a somewhat common anatomy, they differ widely according to the socio-enconomic status of the participants, the nature of their relationships to each other, and the specific motive behind the murder.

     Unlike rapists, sex murderers, pathological fire setters, and pedophiles, murder-for-hire masterminds do not conform to a general psychological profile. They are men and women of various ages and backgrounds who solicit their murders pursuant to a diverse range of motives. Murder plotters, compared to murder doers, tend to be older, more commonly female, and less likely to have histories of crime or violence. Given the pre-meditated nature of a murder-for-hire plot, masterminds, while sociopathic, desperate, depressed, drug-addled, or simply not very bright, are not psychotic and therefore not mentally ill enough to be found legally insane. Without the benefit of the insanity defense, masterminds, when their backs are against the criminal justice wall, tend to throw themselves on the mercy of the court. They often cite, as justification for their murderous acts or homicidal intentions, abuse, depression, and addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. Generally, these pleas for mercy and understanding fall on deaf judicial ears, particularly when the mastermind was obviously motivated by greed such as avoiding the cost of divorce, benefiting from a life insurance policy, or inheriting the victim's estate.

     Masterminds labor under the rather stupid belief that the best way to get away with murder is to pay someone else to do it. They think that having an alibi is their ticket to avoiding arrest and prosecution. These homicide plotters underestimate the reach of federal conspiracy laws as well as the incriminating power of motive. Moreover, while masterminds do not pull the trigger, wield the bat, or sink the knife, they do participate in the crime beyond simply asking someone to commit murder on their behalf. Although detectives won't find their bloody latents at the scene of the crime, masterminds can't help leaving their figurative fingerprints all over the conspiracy. Masterminds also leave behind witnesses in the form of hit men, go-betweens, confidants, and accomplices.

     Most murder-for-hire masterminds, before the homicide, make no secret of the fact they want to eliminate the object of their greed, or the source of their frustration and anger. To facilitate the murder, they pay the the hit men cash upfront, and promise the balance of the blood money following the target's death. The mastermind commonly provides the assassin with a hand-drawn map pinpointing the proposed murder site, a photograph of the victim, the license plate number to the target's vehicle, and an outline that details the future victim's daily routine. Masterminds also leave behind records of cellphone calls that can be quite incriminating.

     Some masterminds leave the murder methodology, the modus operandi, to the hit man, while other plotters actively participate in the planning stage. Masterminds who are engaged in the killing process usually want the homicide to look like an accident, a carjacking, rape, mugging, or deadly home invasion. What they don't realize is that making a murder look like something else is easier said than done. Besides, the people masterminds hire to do the job are commonly incompetent, indifferent, drug-addled, or just plain stupid.

     Paid assassins are almost always men who are younger than their masterminds. They are also more likely to have criminal backgrounds. Because of who they are, hit men do not plan the hit carefully or take steps not to leave behind physical evidence. After the murder, they seldom keep their mouths shut about what they have done, and who they have done it for. If paid a lot of money, hit men usually spend it on drugs or lose it gambling. While hit men are cold-blooded killers, they are nothing like the cool-headed professional assassins we see on television and in the movies. The are disorganized amateurs and bunglers who are easy to catch. Once they are caught, they are quick to spill their guts.

     Murder-for-hire targets are not random victims of crime. They are people with whom the mastermind has had some kind of relationship. People targeted for death can be current and former spouses, estranged lovers, or the mastermind's  parents, children, or business associates. Targets can include people the mastermind has previously victimized who are marked for elimination as crime accusers and potential trial witnesses. In cases of revenge involving masterminds who have scores to settle, victims can be judges, prosecutors, and police informants. Men who batter woman also become murder-for-hire victims at the hands of the women they have beaten.

     The crime solution rate for murder-for-hire offenses is relatively high, particularly when the defendant ends up negotiating with an undercover cop brought into the case by the person the mastermind either recruited for the job, or asked to find a hit man. Undercover operatives and masterminds meet, often in Walmart and shopping mall parking lots, where the conversations are audio and video-taped. Once the mastermind makes clear his or her homicidal intention, perhaps by supplying the upfront money, a weapon, or a photograph of the target, the unsuspecting plotter is arrested on the spot. These arrestees are charged with crimes that include solicitation of murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy to commit murder.

     Occasionally, masterminds caught red-handed in undercover sting operations plead not gulty by reason of insanity, claim they have been entrapped by the police, or raise defenses based on the battered spouse syndrome. But most of the time they confess and hope for leniency.

     Solicitation cases, while incomplete in nature, are fascinating because the police-recorded conversations between the undercover cops and the masterminds provides a window into the minds of people with sociopathic personalities intent on having assorted targets murdered. these cases reveal, in the extreme, how badly a marriage or romantic relationship can deteriorate. One gets the sense, after reviewing hundreds of murder-for-hire cases, that America has become a society of depressed, drug-addled sociopaths who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

     Murder-for-hire crimes that result in actual killings are more challenging for investigators than murder solicitation cases. This is because these offenses include crime scenes, physical evidence, autopsies, witnesses, and suspected masterminds with alibis they can establish. However, compared to drive-by shootings, drug and gang-related murders, and criminal homicides without obvious suspects, murder-for-hire crimes are relatively easy to solve.

     Masterminds generally make it easy for homicide detectives by hiring hit men who are incompetent fools. Murder-for-hire plotters also create future witnesses by casting a wide net in their search for a contract killer. Because hit men are usually careless and have big mouths, these amateur assassins are almost always caught. And when they are arrested, hit men regularly inform on the mastermind in return for a lighter sentence. Murder-for-hire dramas are less about police work, forensic science, and criminal justice than they are about sociology, criminal psychology, and American culture.

     Murder-for-hire cases, from a criminal justice point of view, raise interesting questions associated with the comparative sentencing of masterminds and their hit men. Because both the mastermind and the hired killer can be found guilty of first degree murder, they are eligible, in 32 states, for the death penalty. In most cases, however, the triggerman receives a much lighter sentence that the person who hired him. This is because hit men usually confess first and agree to testify against the mastermind.

     In the recent history of murder-for-hire crime, there have been cold-blooded killers who, in return for their cooperation with law enforcement, have been awarded sentences as light as seventeen years in prison while the mastermind was sentenced to death. Although these sentencing disparities have a lot to do with the practicalities of plea bargaining, there may be more to it than that.

     Masterminding a contract murder is generally perceived as more evil than actually pulling the trigger. The particular loathing of murder-for-hire masterminds is reflected in the fact that homicide investigators and prosecutors target the instigator more than the hit man. Amateurs who kill for money, usually petty criminals who do it for peanuts, don't shock us because they are young, male criminals doing what society expects them to do. When middle and upper-middle class people exploit these desperate and pathetic losers by hiring them to do their dirty work, we hold them more responsible for the murder. For masterminds, it's who they are that makes their behavior so repugnant and evil. This is interesting because a nation full of masterminds would be a lot safer than a country full of hit men.

     

Criminal Justice Quote: Drug Drones

     On January 21, 2015, police in Tijuana, Mexico said that a drone overloaded with methamphetamine crashed into a supermarket parking lot. The authorities were alerted after the drone fell the night before near the San Ysidro crossing at Mexico's border with California.

     Six packets of the drug, weighing more than six pounds, were taped to the six-propeller remote controlled aircraft…Authorities are investigating where the flight originated and who was controlling it.  This was not the first time drug enforcement officers had encountered drones used for smuggling contraband across the border. Other efforts include catapults, ultra-light aircraft and tunnels….

"Drone Overloaded With Meth Crashes in Mexico Border City," Associated Press, January 22, 2015


Criminal Justice Quote: 89-Year-Old Murder Suspect Dies

     An 89-year-old man charged with fatally beating his 86-year-old roommate at a Buffalo area assisted living facility has died. Chester Rusek's attorney said he died Wednesday January 21, 2015 in the lockup at Erie County Medical Center where he was being treated for medical problems.

     The authorities had charged Rusek with manslaughter in the November 2012 killing of Salvatore Trusello. Rusek had used a 2-pound magnet to pummel Trusello as he lay in his bed at a senior living community in the town of Tonawanda. The victim died a month after the assault…Investigators believe Rusek attacked Mr. Trusello because he thought his roommate was stealing from him.

"89-Year-Old Man Charged With Killing 86-Year-Old Roommate Dies," Associated Press, January 23, 2015 

Writing Quote: Setting in Crime Fiction

The backdrop of a mystery, the world in which the action takes place--the scenery so to speak--has the potential to be as important as character or plot. Indeed, if painted vividly enough it can become a character itself; or it can determine plot. It can set a mood, create an atmosphere. It can add richness and color.

Julie Smith in Writing Mysteries, edited by Sue Grafton, 2002 

Writing Quote: Writing Blogs

     A lot of blogs about writing are self-centered, and that's fine, but a truly personal blog limits your reach. If there's one thing I've learned about the Internet it's that users come to it to see "What's in it for me?" They want valuable content that speaks to their needs.

     Most writing blogs--and blogs in general--are about the writer of the blog, not about the user. I write my blog to give readers valuable content because I know that's what they want from me. They don't care about my personal life. My readers visit me for writing and publishing advice, so that's what I dish up.

Mary Kole in Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, edited by Chuck Sambuchino, 2013 

Writing Quote: Memoirs by Journalists

Memoirs are for remembrance. And the remembrances of journalists, when they take book form, are what I think of as "and then I met" books. In my time as a journalist I have met many what we call great men--at least celebrated men. But in Growing Up I was not interested in doing an "and I met" book. My prime interest was to celebrate people that nobody heard of, people I was terribly fond of. I thought these people deserved to be known.

Russell Baker in Inventing the Truth, edited by William Zinsser, 1998 

Writing Quote: Why Some Biographers Write About People They Don't Like

Biography is not the place for "debunking," although in recent years there has been a trend in that direction. Why would a biographer wish to spend his days of work giving vent to anger or carrying on a literary association with a person he despises? Yet some enjoy this and write bestsellers.

Doris Ricker Marston, A Guide to Writing History, 1996 

Writing Quote: The Advantage of Fantasy Over Science Fiction

The fantasy genre is a much more accessible form of literature than science fiction. You don't have to possess any pre-existing knowledge to get into fantasy. In science fiction, however, you do because it has all of that science in there.

Terry Brooks, scifi.com, 2003 

Writing Quote: Books For Middle-Grade Children

Middle-grade fiction (ages 9-13) is perhaps the most satisfying category for a writer. Children are still children, but their curiosity if unbounded and the writer who can enthrall them will be cherished. Statistics have shown that this age is also known for having the most readers as a group. To satisfy these voracious and varied readers, think about writing thrillers, literary novels, fantasy and science fiction, gripping historical fiction, humor, and books about contemporary problems.

Olga Litowinsky, Writing and Publishing Books For Children, 1992 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Charles Locke: A Bad Cop in Cleveland

     In October 2007, Charles Locke, at the age of 35, joined the Cleveland Police Department. In 2009, he received some publicity when he arrested serial killer Anthony Sowell. Five years after this high point of his law enforcement career, Locke experienced his policing low point. He endured the disgrace of being arrested by his fellow police officers.

     On July 10, 2014, patrolman Locke was taken into custody at the Fourth District police station and booked into the Cuyahoga County Jail on two counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, four counts of the illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material, and pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor.

     Upon Locke's arrest, the chief of police suspended him from duty without pay pending the disposition of the case. At his arraignment, the Cleveland Municipal judge set the officer's bond at $250,000. This meant that Locke, to buy his way out of custody, would have to raise $25,000 in cash or put up sufficient collateral.

     Investigators with the department's internal affairs office had acquired video footage of officer Locke, on two occasions, having sex with a 15-year-old girl. In one of the cellphone videos he wore his police uniform.

     Locke had met the girl at an east side recreation center where she played basketball and he worked off-duty as a security officer. The girl's family became suspicious when they heard rumors that the security guard had developed relationships with some of the female basketball players. Moreover, a witness had seen the girl talking to Locke near his car.

     A week following his arrest, Locke's attorney, Deanna Robertson, at her client's bail reduction hearing, asked the judge to lower the bond to $10,000. In arguing her case, Robertson pointed out that Mr. Locke did not have a criminal record and had a family to support. (He certainly wouldn't be going back to the recreation center to resume working the security job.)

     According to attorney Robertson, her client was not a flight risk. "He has no desire," she said, "of continuing his adult life running from the law." The lawyer described Locke's financial situation as bordering on "poverty." In other words, he did not have the means to become a fugitive.

     Chris Schroeder, an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor, informed the judge that the high bond insured that the suspect wouldn't contact the girl. "Charles Locke," he said, "is a police officer who had sex with a child while wearing his uniform. Entrusted with protecting the people of Cleveland, Locke betrayed that trust and took advantage of one of the city's most vulnerable citizens to sexually gratify himself. His behavior cannot be justified, rationalized or excused."

     The judge did not reduce officer Locke's bail. The 43-year-old would remain in custody.

     Jeff Follmer, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association told reporters that the union was not supporting officer Locke in this case. How could you defend a police officer seen on video having sex with a minor?

     On October 2014, Charles Locke pleaded guilty to five counts of pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor, two counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, and one count of possessing criminal tools. Following his plea the police department fired him.

     Locke's sentencing hearing commenced before Judge Carolyn B. Friedland on November 19, 2014. When it came time for Locke to address the court, the defendant, in a disjointed, rambling statement, said that at the time of the sexual assaults he had been exhausted from working 90 hours a week as a police officer and a security guard. Most nights, he said, he slept less than three hours.

     The defendant asked Judge Friedland, when imposing her sentence, to take into consideration his life before the incidents involving the girl. "This is not who I am," he said. "I was out of my mind." The former officer, in speaking directly to his victim's parents who were in the courtroom, said, "I'm ashamed…I am so sorry."

     Defense attorney Robertson said this to the judge: "My client is a man, not a monster. He made an isolated, unfortunate mistake. He lost touch with reality."

     Assistant county prosecutor Chris Schroeder read a letter from the victim who was not in the courtroom. She wrote that she had trusted officer Locke. Since the crimes, she has struggled in school and has been depressed. "I cannot concentrate," she wrote.

     Judge Friedland sentenced Charles Locke to 19 years in prison. 

Criminal Justice Quote: Researchers Find That Addiction is Not a Drug-Centered Trait

     Addiction is not a function of drug use--rather, it is a standard feedback phenomenon that occurs with or without drugs, whereby people immerse themselves in immediately rewarding experiences that detract from their larger lives. This definition of addiction makes clear that addiction is not a drug-centered trait. Addiction doesn't occur only with drugs and doesn't invariably occur when certain drugs are used. There is nothing inherent in narcotics, cocaine, alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana that makes them irresistibly addictive. Moreover, people who do become addicted, contrary to both popular mythology and government pronouncements, usually attenuate or end their addictions…(Keep in mind, cigarettes and cocaine were only declared addictive in the 1980s, and marijuana in the 1990s.)…

     The annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that only a small percentage (less than five percent) of people who have ever used cocaine, heroin, crack, and meth are currently addicted to these drugs. Carl Hart, an experimental neuroscientist and author of High Price, calculates that 10 to 20 percent of those using drugs (he studies crack and methamphetamine) encounter problems…

     Some researchers questioned users in detail about their current and past drug experiences. The largest and most thorough such investigation of cocaine was conducted at Canada's addiction research agency. The study, published as "The Steel Drug," found that the large majority of people who experienced a range of problems from cocaine (sinusitis, nasal irritation, headaches, insomnia) quit the drug or cut back their use of it….

Stanton Peele, "How Television Distorts Drug Addiction," reason.com, January 18, 2015  

Criminal Justice Quote: Flying Drones into Prison

     On January 20, 2015 a judge in South Carolina sentenced Brandon Lee Doyle to fifteen years for trying  to fly contraband over the fence at the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville. In April 2014, officials found a crashed drone in the bushes outside the prison fence. Officers also discovered items inmates are not allowed to have such as phones, tobacco products, marijuana and synthetic marijuana.

     The drone never made it over the 12-foot-high razor-ribbon fence. Corrections officials believe this was the first known attempt to use a drone to smuggle contraband into a South Carolina prison.

"15 Years For The Man Who Tried to Fly a Drone Into Prison," Associated Press, January 20, 2015