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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Michael Philpott Arson-Murder Case

     Michael Philpott of Derby, England, a city of 250,000 in the central part of the country, was an eccentric, violent man who domineered and abused his women. He was also lazy, and had a taste for group sex. In December 1978, the 21-year-old, angry that his 17-year-old girlfriend planned to leave him, stabbed her 27 times. When Kim Hill's mother tried to intervene, Philpott thrust the knife into her 11 times. Prior to these attacks, Philpott had punched and slapped Kim Hill, and on one occasion had broken several of her fingers.

     After the jury found Philpott guilty of two counts of attempted murder, the judge sentenced him to seven years in prison. The man who had tried to kill two women, served only three years and two months of his sentence. In 1991, another judge sentenced Philpott to probation after he pleaded guilty to head-butting another man. Several years after that, Philpott pleaded guilty to a road-rage related assault.

     The aging control-freak/hippie became a minor TV celebrity in England after appearing on the "Jeremy Kyle Show." A year later the volatile eccentric was featured in a documentary on English television.

     In 2011, the 55-year-old Philpott was living with his wife, his girlfriend, and eleven children in a 3-bedroom,  two-story house in Derby. The unemployed oddball who rarely bathed had fathered 17 children with five women. Four of the children living in the house had been produced by Philpott with his live-in mistress, Lisa Willis. (Another man was responsible for Willis' fifth child.) The remaining six children belonged to Philpott and his 45-year-old wife, Mairead.

     On February 11, 2012, Lisa Willis, who had been under Philpott's thumb since she was 17, made her escape. She told Philpott that she and her kids were going swimming. The six of them left the house and didn't return. Three days later, when the 29-year-old ex-mistress came back to the house to collect clothing and other items, Philpott got physical. The police came and kept the peace while she gathered her belongings and left.

     Philpott's relationship with Willis deteriorated further after she sued for custody of their four children. On May 1, 2012, he filed a false police report claiming that she had threatened his life. The revenge-seeking former lover began telling his friends that he, his wife, and one of Mairead's regular sexual partners, Paul Mosley, had concocted a plan that would get his children back. The scheme was this: they would start a small fire in the house, save the six children, then blame the arson and attempted mass murder on Lisa Willis. The plan was not only harebrained, it was dangerous.

     At 12:45 in the morning of May 11, 2012, as the children--five boys and a girl between the ages 5 and 13--slept in a bedroom on the second floor, Philpott ignited a puddle of gasoline in the hallway outside the bedroom. Outside, he climbed a ladder to the bedroom window, but couldn't smash a hole large enough to enter the house and save the children. In a state of panic, he dialed 999 (England's 911) and screamed, "I can't get in!"

     By the time the children were removed from the burning house, five of them were dead. The sixth child died a few days later in the hospital.

     The police, after Philpott accused Lisa Willis of setting the fire, took her into custody. They released her shortly thereafter when it became obvious she had nothing to do with the arson. Investigators quickly figured out who had started the fire and why.

      Philpott and his wife moved out of their fire-damaged house and into a motel. Police bugged their motel room, and in one of the electronically intercepted conversations, Philpott told his wife to "Make sure you stick to the story."

     The Michael Philpott, Mairead Philpott, and Paul Mosley manslaughter trial got underway in February 2013. Following the eight-week trial, the jury, on April 2, found all three defendants guilty as charged. The next day, at the sentence mitigation hearing, Michael Philpott's attorney, Anthony Orchard, asked the judge for the minimum sentence. The barrister said, "Despite Mr. Philpott's faults he was a very good father and loved those children. All the witnesses, even Lisa Willis, agree on this. There is no evidence at any stage that he deliberately harmed any of them." (He did, however, in an extremely reckless manner, use his children as pawns in a plot to frame his ex-mistress of a serious crime. I don't believe that qualifies him as a "very good father." That makes him, in my view, a mass murderer. In the United States these defendants would have been tried under the felony-murder doctrine, a more serious offense than manslaughter.)

     On April 4, 2013, Mrs. Justice Thirlwall of the Nottingham Crown Court, sentenced Michael Philpott to life with a minimum term of 15 years in prison. The judge said, "I have not the slightest doubt that you, Michael Philpott, were the driving force behind this shockingly dangerous enterprise."  Judge Thirlwall went on to describe this defendant as a "deliberately dangerous man," with "no moral compass."

     The judge sentenced Mairead Philpott and her lover Paul Mosley to 17 years in prison. I think these people, under the circumstances, got off light.

   

   

      

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Brenda Delgado Murder-For-Hire Case

     At quarter to eight on the night of Wednesday, September 2, 2015, 35-year-old dentist, Dr. Kendra Hatcher, parked her car in the garage of her upscale Dallas, Texas apartment complex. As Dr. Hatcher did so, a man hiding in the back seat of a Jeep Cherokee driven by a woman, jumped out of the vehicle and approached her. It was at that moment the assailant shot the dentist one time with a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol, killing the victim on the spot. After stealing two of Dr. Hatcher's purses, the shooter climbed back into the Jeep and was driven off by his driver.

     On Friday, September 4, 2015, detectives with the Dallas Police Department arrested 23-year-old Crystal Cortes on suspicion that she had been the person behind the wheel of the Jeep Cherokee. Cortes, during her interrogation, confessed to her role in the robbery-murder. She also identified the shooter as 31-year-old Kristopher Love.

      After a week or so into the Hatcher murder investigation, detectives came to believe that robbery had not been the motive behind the killing. The officers suspected the slaying had been the culmination of a murder-for-hire plot orchestrated by a 33-year-old dental hygiene student at Stanford-Brown College named Brenda Delgado.

     Two months before the murder, Delgado, a Mexican citizen, and her boyfriend, 38-year-old dermatologist Dr. Ricardo Panigua, had broken up following a two-year relationship. After the split, Dr. Panigua began dating Dr. Kendra Hatcher. Detectives suspected that Delgado had the dentist murdered out of jealousy and rage.

     When questioned by investigators, the murder-for-hire suspect admitted lending Crystal Cortes the Jeep Cherokee, and meeting with Cortes and the suspected hit man, Kristopher Love. She met with the murder suspects at a Dallas apartment complex a few days before the killing. Delgado, however, denied being the mastermind behind a plot to have her ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend murdered. That, she claimed, had been Love's idea.

     On September 11, 2015, a Dallas County prosecutor charged Crystal Cortes with capital murder. Police officers booked her into the Dallas County Jail under $500,000 bond. Cortes' attorney, George Ashford III, told reporters that his client, before what she believed was just going to be a robbery, had tried to call and warn Dr. Hatcher of the hold-up plot. The lawyer said that after the killing, Mr. Love had threatened to kill Cortes' 6-year-old son if she went to the authorities.

     According to Cortes, Brenda Delgado had promised her and the hit man free prescription drugs if they robbed Dr. Hatcher. Also, Delgado had allegedly paid Cortes $500 to drive Kristopher Love to the robbery scene. Just before Love climbed out of the Jeep in the victim's parking garage, Cortes asked him how much money Delgado had paid him to commit the robbery. Love replied, "That's none of your business."

     On October 3, 2015, Dallas detectives arrested Kristopher Love on suspicion of capital murder. At the time he was taken into custody, Love was still in possession of the murder weapon. A magistrate set his bail at $2.5 million. In Texas, a capital murder conviction can lead to the death penalty.

     About the time Kristopher Love was arrested, a Dallas County prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for Brenda Delgado. At that time, the murder-for-hire suspect's whereabouts were unknown.

     In speaking to reporters regarding Delgado, Major Max Geron of the Dallas Police Department, said: "Ms. Delgado was involved in the planning and the commission of Kendra Hatcher's murder."

     On April 7, 2016, a spokesperson with the FBI announced that murder-for-hire fugitive Brenda Delgado had been placed on the bureau's "Ten Most Wanted" list. A day later, the authorities in Torreon, Mexico took the fugitive into custody.

    Before Delgado can be extradited back to Texas, the U.S. prosecutor would have to agree not to pursue the death penalty against the suspect. According to the Mexican authorities in charge of the case, it could take up to a year to complete the extradition process. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Governor Haley Barbour And His Pardons of Dangerous Criminals

     In January 2012, in his last days in office, Haley Barbour, the two-term Republican governor of Mississippi, granted pardons to 208 prisoners. Among those released were inmates who had been convicted of murder, manslaughter, rape, and aggravated assault. Forty-one of those pardoned were behind bars because they had killed someone. Five of the freed men had been working at the governor's mansion as trusties. Two of them had murdered their wives, and another had killed a man during a robbery. These were not white collar criminals, they were dangerous men. And none of them had been pardoned because they had been wrongfully tried, or were innocent.

     News of Barbour's puzzling and disturbing show of clemency to so many violent criminals stunned the families of the people these inmates had victimized. That shock soon turned to outrage. People were asking why convicted murderers were working at the governor's home in the first place, and why Barbour had felt compelled to set so many of them free. Didn't he have any regard for the nature of their crimes, and the feelings of their victims? Southern conservatives were supposed to be tough on criminals. Had this politician lost his mind? Mississippi legislators were now looking into restricting the governor's pardoning powers.

     One of the inmates Barbour pardoned, David Glenn Gatlin, had good reason to believe he would never walk free. In 1994, a jury found Gatlin, then 23, guilty of murder, aggravated assault, and burglary. Gatlin had walked into the home of his estranged wife and shot her in the head as she held their 6-week-old child. She died on the spot. Gatlin then turned his gun on Randy Walker, and shot him in the head. Walker survived the assault, but is still dealing with the consequences of the head wound.

     The trial judge, who obviously wanted Gatlin to spend the rest of his life behind bars (and not working a cushy job at the governor's house), sentenced him to life on the murder verdict, plus 20 years for aggravated assault on Randy Walker. The judge added another 10 years for the burglary. Had Randy Walker died from the bullet Gatlin had fired into his head, Gatlin would have been eligible for the death sentence. Modern medicine, and a skilled emergency room surgeon, had saved Gatlin from death row, and a future lethal injection.

     David Gatlin not only didn't feel bad about murdering his wife and trying to kill Randy Walker, he promised, if he ever got out of prison, to finish the job on Walker. Thanks to Governor Haley Barbour, Gatlin would get the chance. If he actually carried out this threat, it would be appropriate to send Governor Barbour to prison to finish out Gatlin's sentence. Perhaps Barbour would end up back at the Governor's mansion where, instead of pardoning dangerous killers, he'd be trimming the shrubbery and cutting the grass.

    After the release of documents from the Mississippi Attorney General's Office, it became clear that Governor Haley Barbour had done more than just release killers back into society. He and his wife Marsha had made sure that two of them, David Gatlin and another mansion trusty, could drive away from prison in their own cars.

     On the morning of January 6, 2012, two days before Gatlin and a trusty named Charles Hooker were scheduled for release, Marsha Barbour called a nearby car dealership to arrange the purchase of two used cars for the inmates. A member of the governor's staff had already helped the men acquire their driver's licenses. That afternoon, a staff member drove Gatlin and Hooker, in a state car, to the lot where Hooker purchased a 2007 Ford Focus, and Gatlin a Chevrolet HHR. The inmates used certified checks drawn on Bank Plus to purchase the vehicles. Two days later, the inmates' cars were delivered to the governor's mansion.

     The documents pertaining to the preferential treatment of these murderers did not reveal how these men obtained their bank accounts. Moreover, there were no documents showing who actually paid for the cars. Governor Barbour and his wife, as well as members of the former governor's staff, were not talking, except to say that no laws had been broken.