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Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Andrew Steele Murder Case

     Andrew Steele, in June 2014, a month after being diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease), had no choice but to resign his position as a deputy sheriff with the Dane County Sheriff's Office in Wisconsin. The 39-year-old resided in Fitchburg, Wisconsin with his wife Ashlee and their two children, ages 10 and 13.

     The ex-law enforcement officer's wife, following the ALS diagnosis, organized dozens of "ice bucket challenges" that raised $23,000 for his medical expenses.

     Ashlee Steele's recently married sister, 38-year-old Kacee Tollefsbol, visited her sister and brother-in-law in August 2014. At one in the afternoon on August 22, 2014, Kacee Tollefsbol called 911 from the Steele's basement recreation room. She said she had been shot by Andy Steele.

     Police officers arrived at the Steele house shortly after the 911 call, but did not enter the dwelling until the arrival of a SWAT team. At 2:20 PM, from the basement of the house, officers heard a woman screaming, "I am dying, I am dying."

     Kacee Tollefsbol had been shot in the torso and died an hour later at a nearby hospital. Before she died she identified the shooter to police officers as her brother-in-law, Andrew Steele.

     The interior of the Steele house was filled with a haze of smoke that had activated a carbon monoxide detector. In the laundry room, officers encountered Andrew Steele lying on the floor next to a 9mm pistol. The officers recognized this man as a former law enforcement colleague.

     The laundry room was extremely hot from burning charcoal briquettes in an outdoor grill. The dryer was running and had been vented back into the room instead of outside.

    When the police tried to pull Andrew Steele out of the room he surprised them by vigorously resisting. The officers had to subdue him before paramedics could transport him from the attempted suicide scene to a nearby hospital.

     In the upstairs master bedroom, police officers found Ashlee Steele tucked into her bed with a sleeping mask on her face and a pillow on her chest. She had been shot once in the head and appeared to have been strangled with a black zip tie. She had also been bound by her wrists with zip ties. The victim's sundress had been pulled up to her thighs.

     The tableau in the master bedroom caused detectives to believe that the killer, for some reason, had posed the body.

     On Andrew Steele's iPhone, investigators discovered a long, rambling message written the day before the murders. The message had been edited at six o'clock on the morning of the killings. In the note, Andrew Steele spoke of having had numerous sexual threesomes with his wife and dead sister-in-law. He also said the three of them had agreed to a suicide pact. "We had a great run and I wanted to go out with a bang so to speak," he wrote. "Please use all donation money for the kids' needs. Mom and dad, stay in the house, retire and focus on the kids' needs…See you all on the other side."

     The Dane County prosecutor's office charged Andrew Steele with two counts of first-degree murder. The defendant, through his attorney, pleaded not guilty to the murder charges. The arraignment magistrate set his bail at $1 million. A few weeks later, at the urging of the prosecutor, the judge raised the bond to $2 million.

     The Andrew Steele murder trial got underway on Monday April 6, 2015 in the Dane County Courthouse. In his opening statement to the jury, Assistant District Attorney Anthony Jurek accused the defendant of premeditated double murder. According to the prosecutor, Mr. Steele had lied to investigators, and had staged his wife's murder scene to fit his story of having kinky sex with her and her sister. (I have no idea why the defendant felt the need to push this story.)

     Defense attorney Paul Barnett had changed his client's initial not guilty pleas to not guilty by reason of mental disease. Because ALS is not a psychiatric disease and the defendant had been early in the diagnosis, this was a highly unusual and legally inappropriate defense.

     Attorney Barnett told the jury that the defendant had kinky sex with his wife, an encounter that had gone terribly wrong, Although the defendant killed his wife, he had no memory of committing the act.

     The lead detective on the case took the stand for the prosecution and testified that physical signs of struggle throughout the house were not consistent with the defendant's story of a three-way suicide pact. Crime scene photographs revealed that the suspect had given detectives different false accounts of the killings. Moreover, the bedroom scene looked staged. According to the detective, on the day before the murders, the defendant had purchased two 8 pound bags of charcoal and a can of lighter fluid.

     The deputy medical examiner testified that Ashlee Steele's body contained several defensive wounds and did not contain evidence of recent sexual activity.

     A state psychiatrist testified that in his expert opinion Andrew Steele and his wife had not engaged in unconventional sex. A DNA expert said that blood on the defendant's 9mm pistol came from the defendant and Kacee Tollefsbol.

     After the prosecution rested its case, attorney Barnett put the defendant's parents on the stand who said their son had never been a violent person. A defense neurologist testified that there is a connection between ALS and a tendency toward violence. On cross-examination, the prosecutor asked the doctor, "Do many ALS patients commit homicide?"

     "No."

     "Are there many cases of violent acts?"

     "No, again," said the witness.

     Dr. Douglas Tucker, a forensic psychiatrist, testified how ALS deteriorates the brain.

     On April 20, 2015, following ten hours of deliberation, the jury returned its verdict. Ten of the twelve jurors found the defendant guilty by reason of mental disease. The judge committed Andrew Steele to the State Department of Health Services for the rest of his life.

     There is a lot about this case I do not understand. I don't understand the insanity plea as well as the verdict. Mr. Steele was not psychotic when he murdered his wife and sister-in-law. He knew exactly what he was doing. His behavior was deviant, yes, but he had the necessary criminal intent. I also don't know why the defendant went to the trouble of staging his wife's murder. And what was behind all the business about a suicide pact? There is something missing here. What an odd and tragic case.

     

Monday, May 28, 2018

Bath Salts and the Hannibal Lecter Syndrome

     At five in the evening on Saturday, June 2, 2012, 21-year-old Brandon De Leon, accompanied by three other homeless men, walked into a Boston Market fast-food restaurant in North Miami Beach, Florida. High on marijuana, Xanax, and a bath salt called Cloud 9, De Leon had also consumed a bottle of rum and an alcohol and caffeine-laced drink called Four Loko.

     The moment De Leon entered the restaurant, he became belligerent. Cursing loudly, he challenged one of his homeless companions to a fight. As it happened, two uniformed police officers were eating there. As the officers approached the manifestly intoxicated and unruly man, he swore at them. De Leon was asking for trouble, and he got it.

     Although De Leon resisted, the officers hustled him out of the eating place and onto the ground outside. Once handcuffed behind his back, and seated in the patrol car, De Leon began bashing his head against the glass divider between the back seat and the front interior of the police vehicle. As he slammed the glass with his head, De Leon yelled, "I'm going to eat you!"

     At the police station, De Leon continued to behave like an animal intent on eating its prey by baring and gnashing his teeth. Several officers wrestled him to the floor, then carried the squirming, spitting, growling, and snapping maniac to a holding cell where De Leon tried to bite one of his captors in the hand as they put him in leg restraints. Once they had the prisoner physically under control, officers slipped a Hannibal Lecter-type "bite-mask" over his head.

     Following drug testing procedures at Aventura Hospital, police officers transported the chained and masked De Leon to the Miami-Dade County Jail where he was held on $7,500 bond.

     Because of the recent rash of cases involving cannibalistic behavior, Brandon De Leon's Hannibal Lecter act became more than a local crime story. The intense interest in these type cases brought a gruesome homicide, committed in 2009 by a San Antonio woman named Otty Sanchez, back into the news. Sanchez was found not guilty by reason of insanity for killing and eating parts of her 3-week-old baby. The schizophrenic said the devil made her do it.

     In December 2010, Stephen Griffith, a Ph.D. student in England, murdered three women and ate the body parts of two of them. (He killed one of his victims with a crossbow.) In Russia, a chef, in August 2011, lured his victims to his apartment through a gay-dating website, then killed them with a butcher-knife. He made meatballs and sausages from their corpses.

     More recent murders of this nature include Miami's Rudy Eugene who chewed the face off a homeless man, and Alexander Kinyua, the Morgan State University student who allegedly ate a portion of his victim's heart and brain. In Sweden, a professor, in a fit of jealous rage, cut off and ate his wife's lips. He was charged with attempted murder, and was undergoing psychiatric evaluation.

     Perhaps the most disturbing cases involving cannibalistic behavior have unfolded in Japan and Canada, countries we normally don't associate with violent crime. In May 2012, a man named Mao Sugiyama advertised a meal where five diners each paid 100,000 yen to eat, in a banquet setting, Sugiyama's surgically removed genitals. Sugiyama and the five diners who ate his flesh were not charged with a crime. In Japan, consensual cannibalism is not illegal. (I'm not sure if it's a crime here.) The Canadian case involved Luka Magnotta, the porn star snuff-video maker who ate parts of his dismembered victim, then mailed four of Jun Lin's body parts to two addresses in Ottawa and two in Vancouver.

         The use of designer drugs was linked to 31-year-old Rudy Eugene, the Miami causeway flesh-eater, and Brandon De Leon, the homeless man transported to the Miami-Dade County Jail in the Hannibal Lecter mask. In De Leon's case, he was under the influence, among other substances, of the bath salt Cloud 9 (also called Ivory Wave), a synthetic form of cocaine. Legal in the United States, Cloud 9 can be purchased online, in smoke shops, convenience stores, and at gas stations. (It is illegal in the United Kingdom and Australia.) Cloud 9 comes in 500mg packets containing instructions on how to add it to bath water for a soothing and relaxing soak. There is also a warning not to sniff or inject the product. (I once saw a warning on a curling iron that read: "Not for internal use.")

     Cloud 9 users snort, smoke, and eat the bath salt. The drug produces an euphoric ecstasy-like sensation combined with an amphetamine-like high. Cloud 9 has been known to produce violent and bizarre hallucinations, extreme paranoid delusions, acute agitation, and thoughts of suicide. When the drug wears off, users suffer painful hangovers.

     Do Cloud 9 and other designer drugs turn people into Hannibal Lecter types? According to Deborah Schurman-Kauflin in a 2011 Psychology Today article, "Most cannibals are extreme loners. They do not have friends and they are bitter about it. Killing and eating a victim ensures that the offender is never alone." Jack Levin, author and co-director of the Center on Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University in Boston, in discussing America's most infamous cannibal, Jeffrey Dahmer, points out that Dahmer was a loner. Levin theorizes that Dahmer, who killed and ate parts of 17 young men, consumed his victims out of "affection." According to Levin, this was Dahmer's way of physically possessing the objects of his love.

     While cannibalism has been in the news here and around the world, it is still an extremely rare form of deviant behavior. It is tempting to associate the trend in bath salts abuse with the recent rash of cannibalism cases. The De Leon incident provides a good case in point, but in all probability, notwithstanding increased drug abuse, cannibalism, although freakish and newsworthy, will remain a rare form of deviant behavior.   

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Whitney Heichel Kidnap Murder Case

     Whitney Heichel, at 6:45 in the morning of Tuesday, October 16, 2012, walked out of her Gresham, Oregon apartment with the intent of driving her 1999 Ford Explorer to her nearby job at Starbucks. That day she had to attend an early morning employee meeting. Instead of reporting to work, she was seen two and a half hours later sitting in the passenger's side of her SUV at a service station in Troutdale, Oregon. (The man behind the wheel had used Heichel's ATM card to purchase gas.)

     A Starbucks employee called Heichel's apartment when she didn't show up for work. Whitney's husband Clinton, at 9:56 AM, called 911 and reported his 5-foot-2, 120 pound wife missing. Ninety minutes later, police officers found Heichel's vehicle in the parking lot of the Walmart store in Wood Village. The front passenger's side window had been broken out. The next day, children found the missing woman's cellphone in the brush between the service station and the abandoned SUV.

     Detectives began questioning residents of Heichel's apartment complex. They spoke to a 25-year-old acquaintance and neighbor named Jonathan Holt. The investigators grew suspicious when Holt's account of himself on the morning in question contained glaring inconsistencies. Detectives grilled Holt on Wednesday the 17th, and when they interrogated him again the next day, he confessed. The police  also recovered the 9 mm pistol Holt used to murder the victim.

     On the morning of October 16, 2012, Holt waited outside the apartment complex for Heichel. When she came out of her apartment he asked her for a lift. Holt had been in Heichel's SUV about five minutes when he pulled a gun and told her to drive to an area near Roslyn Lake. At the lake, Holt forced Heichel at gunpoint to give him oral sex. He then shot her to death.

     After murdering Whitney Heichel, Holt drove the body to Larch Mountain, a 40 minute drive up winding roads from the apartment complex. After hiding her corpse in the underbrush, he drove to the Walmart parking lot where he abandoned the vehicle. (Holt had either broken the passenger's side window to throw off the police, or it had been blown out by a bullet when he shot her.)

     Twelve hours after Whitney Heichel didn't show up for work at Starbuck's, a pair of Holt's friends spotted Holt walking along 257th Avenue in Gresham. When they offered him a ride, he refused, saying, "I just need to finish clearing my head." A short time later, Holt's friends tracked him down and asked him again to get into the car. After accepting the lift, Holt told his friends a strange story. He said that on his way to work that morning at a Swan Island vending company, two black men robbed him at gunpoint. Holt later admitted to detectives that this story was untrue. After confessing to Whitney Heichel's murder, Holt admitting to downloading child pornography onto his laptop computer.

     According to Holt's wife Amanda, her husband felt like a failure, and this had let "so many things build up. I think he just loses it." (Whatever the hell that means.)

     On Friday, October 19, 2012, police officers found Whitney Heichel's body in a remote spot in the woods on Larch Mountain. Besides the confession, detectives  linked Holt to Heichel's murder through his fingerprints and other physical evidence crime scene investigators recovered from her SUV.

     According to medical examiner Dr. Christopher Young, Whitney Heichel had been shot four times. On Monday, October 22, Jonathan Holt, at his arraignment hearing in a Clackamas County court, was charged with aggravated murder. The judge denied him bail. His trial was set for April 2013.

     Jonathan Holt, in July 2013, pleaded guilty to the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of his neighbor. The judge sentenced him to life without the possibility of parole. 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Judge Douglas Walker Sentenced Baby Killer Dylan Kuhn to 90 Days in Jail

     On November 1, 2011, police officers in Cortez, Colorado, a town of 8,000 in the southwest corner of the state, responded to a call involving an infant who was not breathing. At the residence shared by Dylan Kuhn and his girlfriend April Coleman, police discovered the corpse of their 6-month-old daughter, Sailor Serenity Kuhn.

     Officers found the baby lying half off the bed with a blanket wrapped around her neck. One didn't have to be a trained, experienced homicide detective to know this was the scene of a crime rather than a natural or accidental death.

     According to the 19-year-old father of the dead baby, she had been crying in her bed when he returned home from a Halloween party. He calmed her down and went to bed himself. The next morning, Kuhn found the baby with the blanket wrapped around her neck. Kuhn said that a few days before her death, the infant had fallen off the couch and bumped her head.

     Following the autopsy, the Montezuma County Medical Examiner announced that the child's fatal injuries--a subdural hematoma and hemorrhaging in her optic nerve sheath--had been caused by being slammed violently against a soft but unyielding surface such as a mattress. The medical examiner ruled the baby's manner of death a homicide. The head trauma was too severe to have been caused by a fall off a sofa.

     When police interrogators confronted Kuhn with the forensic pathologist's findings, he admitted slamming the baby down hard on the mattress. He also confessed to placing the blanket around his daughter's neck to throw off investigators. He said he didn't mean to hurt his daughter. As to why he had lied to the police, Kuhn said he was scared, and worried what his girlfriend would think of him if he told the truth. The Montezuma County district attorney charged Dylan Kuhn with child abuse causing death, and the offense of manslaughter.

     Several months after Kuhn's arrest, District Attorney Russell Wasley, perhaps because of procedural mistakes made by the police and his office, approached Kuhn with a plea-bargain offer. If the defendant came clean, the prosecutor would drop the child abuse causing death charge. If the defendant pleaded guilty to manslaughter, the worst sentence he could get would be four years in prison.

     In accepting the deal, Kuhn admitted that he had "aggressively" put the baby to bed that night. She had  been crying, he became frustrated, told her to "shut-up," then slammed her body against the mattress. "I put her to bed too hard," he said. After his confession, Kuhn asked to consult with a defense attorney. The defendant said he was too young to understand how much trouble he might be in. (Kuhn was 19, old enough to vote and serve in the military. Under Colorado law, he is considered an adult. He had assaulted and killed his 6-month-old daughter. He wasn't retarded, or insane. He knew he had committed a terrible crime. That's why he lied to the police.)

     On October 2, 2012, Dylan Kuhn entered his guilty plea to the charge of manslaughter before District Court Judge Douglas Walker. Before imposing his sentence, Judge Walker heard from Kuhn's girlfriend (and mother of the dead baby) and his mother. According to April Coleman, Kuhn had always been good to his daughter. The defendant's mother, Vicki Espinoza, told the court that she was worried about what might happen to her son if he had to serve time in prison. (Perhaps Kuhn's mother should have worried about what might happen to her granddaughter when her son lost his temper.) "I don't know why it [the case] went this far," she said. "It was an accident." (Since when is slamming your baby to death an accident?)

     Judge Walker agreed with the defendant's mother that prison might not be a good thing for her son. (Who is it good for?) The judge also noted that the defendant was young, and had no history of violent crime prior to killing his daughter. In addressing Kuhn, the judge said, "I am giving you an opportunity. Make the best of this opportunity, if nothing else, to honor your daughter's memory."

     The judge's "opportunity" was this: He sentenced Dylan Kuhn to 90 days in jail, and four years of probation. Lest critics (like me) characterized this sentence as insanely lenient, Judge Walker ordered Kuhn to take parenting classes. (So does this mean that Judge Walker believed that the reason Kuhn killed his daughter involved his lack of formal education in parenting? I helped raise three children without parenting classes, and they're still alive.) The judge also ordered Kuhn to undergo mental and substance abuse evaluation. And finally, Kuhn, during his four year probationary period, was prohibited from being alone with any child under the age of ten.

     In June 2015, with 15 months remaining on his four year probation sentence, correction officials filed probation revocation charges against Kuhn for missing his mandatory appointments with his probation officer. When Kuhn failed to show up at his July 9, 2015 revocation hearing, a warrant was issued for his arrest. A few days later Kuhn was taken into custody at his mother's home in Cortez.

     At Kuhn's August 2015 probation revocation hearing, Judge Walker allowed the defendant to plead guilty to the revocation charges in return for a promise to undergo drug treatment.

     In November 2016, Montezuma County citizens voted to give Judge Walker another term in office. He won 62 percent of the vote.

    

Friday, May 25, 2018

The William and Christopher Cormier Murder Case

     Sean Dugas was an active participant in the community of enthusiasts devoted to the role-playing fantasy game, "Magic: The Gathering," a more violent version of "Dungeons & Dragons." The 30-year-old former reporter with the Pensacola Journal News shared a house in Pensacola with 31-year-old twins William and Christopher Cormier. At one time, the brothers had been part of the so-called "Magic community," but had lost interest.

     According to the police version of events, during the early morning hours of August 27, 2012, the Cormier twins murdered Sean Dugas by bludgeoning him with a hard object. Motivated by the intent to steal Dugas' $25,000 to $100,000 collection of Magic game cards, the murder took place in the rented Pensacola dwelling.

     Later on the morning of Sean Dugas' death, his girlfriend, with whom he had made plans to have lunch, stopped by his house. She knocked on the door, and when no one answered, left a note. Over the next couple of days, Dugas did not return his girlfriend's phone calls or text messages.

     On September 7, 2012, Dugas' girlfriend returned to his house to find it unoccupied and, except for a TV set, empty. She couldn't believe Dugas had moved out of the house without telling her. According to a neighbor, two men, four days earlier, had been at the house with a U-Haul truck. The girlfriend, after another week of not hearing from Dugas, reported him missing.

     On September 3, 2012, the Cormier twins, after buying a large plastic container at Walmart for Dugas' body, loaded up the U-Haul truck. Later that day they rolled up to their father's house in Winder, Georgia, a small town 45 miles northeast of Atlanta. They dug a hole in their father's backyard, lowered in the plastic container holding Dugas' body, then filled the grave with concrete. (The brothers told their father they had buried a dog.)

     Police investigators in Pensacola learned that the Cormier twins had sold Magic fantasy cards in Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia. People who knew Dugas told the police that he had recently spoken of moving to Georgia with William and Christopher Cormier.

     On October 8, 2012, detectives in Pensacola asked the police in Winder to locate the twins. At the Cormier house, officers noticed the fresh digging in the backyard. Shortly thereafter, a crew unearthed Dugas' concrete entombed remains.

     Police arrested the Cormier brothers the day the remains were found. They were initially charged with concealing the death of another. Two days later, after a forensic pathologist identified Dugas' body through dental charts and facial bone CT scans, a prosecutor in Pensacola charged the defendants with first-degree murder. Pending extradition to Florida, the brothers were held, without bail, in Georgia.

     In February 2014, the Cormier twins, in separate Pensacola murder trials, were found guilty as charged. In William's case, the jury deliberated only thirty minutes before reaching its verdict. The judge sentenced William Cormier to life without parole. His brother received a sentence of twenty-five years to life.

Drug War Informants: Collateral Damage

     Americans love drugs and they hate informants. But as a result of the endless war on drugs, more and more citizens are snitching on each other. Many arrested users are being turned into informants, or "flipped" by narcotics officers. Instead of snitching to avoid long prison sentences, some of these reluctant drug informants end up dead. In the language of war, they are collateral damage.

     For good or bad, informants have always played a vital role in law enforcement. Most of them can be placed into one of three groups: paid "professionals;" jailhouse snitches; and flipped drug arrestees. The professionals snitch for money, the jailhouse types do it for lighter sentences, and many of the flipped drug informants cooperate with the police out of fear and desperation. People caught in possession of small quantities of marijuana tend to be the least street-wise, and ill equipped to protect themselves against the targeted professional drug merchants. A good number of flipped informants are addicts who feel they have no choice but to put themselves in harm's way.

The Rachel Hoffman Case

     In February 2007, a Tallahassee police officer pulled over 23-year-old Rachel Hoffman for a routine traffic violation. The Florida State University graduate consented to a search of her vehicle that resulted in the discovery of less than an ounce of marijuana. A few weeks later, narcotics officers found, in her apartment, 5 ounces of grass and 4 ecstasy pills. The prosecutor charged her with several narcotics counts that, according to her arresting officers, would send her to prison. However, if she agreed to act as a snitch/undercover operative in a bust-buy drug sting, the prosecutor would put in a good word with the judge. After some initial resistance, Hoffman agreed to buy 1,500 ecstasy pills, 2 ounces of cocaine, and a handgun from two drug dealers she had never met. The fact a gun was involved didn't seem to bother Hoffman's police handlers.

     At seven in the evening on May 7, 2008, when Hoffman arrived at the sting site, the two suspects told her the deal would go down at another location. Surveillance officers watched as she climbed into a stolen BMW with the two drug dealers. They drove off, and Hoffman's handlers, unprepared for a last minute change of plans, lost touch with their civilian undercover operative. The drug suspects had figured out that Hoffman was a snitch, and shot her to death in the car with the firearm she was supposed to buy.

     In response to public outrage over Rachel Hoffman's murder while working for the Tallahassee police, Chief Dennis Jones publicly called her a criminal responsible for the botched undercover drug operation that led to her death. His mindless statement created such a firestorm of public criticism, the chief was forced to apologize. (I'm sure that was sincere.) The chief suspended the narcotics officers with pay, and admitted that his bungling drug cops had put an untrained informant in danger.

     In 2010, the two men who killed Rachel Hoffman were convicted of murder and sentenced to life. Also that year, the Florida legislature passed "Rachel's Law," a statute that requires law enforcement agencies in the state to take the following steps with regard to drug informants: upon arrest, advise them they cannot promise light sentences in return for their cooperation as snitches; and instruct them they have a right to consult with an attorney before agreeing to go undercover. If the drug arrestee agrees to help catch other drug offenders, they must receive a certain amount of training.

     I doubt that Rachel's Law has had much impact on how many arrestees drug cops in Florida flip. In my view, the practice of using arrestees as undercover narcotic agents should be prohibited. Unarmed civilians without police training and experience should not be coerced into becoming soldiers in American's drug war.
   

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On His One Childhood Vacation

When I grew up, very few lower middle-class people in West Virginia went places on vacation. When I was twelve, three years before my father went out to our barn to hang himself, we drove up to Niagara Falls, New York. We spent one night on the American side in a five-bucks-a-day place called Al's Cozy Cabins. No TV, no air conditioning, and no shower. Not too cozy. Rather than stand around looking at a lot of water falling off a cliff, I wanted to go to the local wax museum. My father said no, we needed that money for gas. I don't know what I expected to see up there, but found the whole experience tedious. That trip was our families' first and last, and I'm still not a vacations person. I guess I never learned how to relax away from home.

Thornton P. Knowles

Workplace Murder-Suicide: The Dangerous Employee

     During the past forty years, hundreds of government and private sector employees have gone ballistic and murdered two or more of their fellow workers, then killed themselves. While workplace shooting sprees have become relatively common, they still produce local headlines, and for a few days, national television coverage.

     News accounts of these violent outbursts almost always feature the question of why. What motivated the employee to commit mass murder, then take his own life? (About 85 percent of these killers are male.) Was the killer mainly motivated by the intent to murder, or to commit suicide? If suicide, why the murders? If murder, why the suicide?

     Many workplace killers are disgruntled, revenge-seeking employees with emotional problems and histories of mental illness and violence. The increasing frequency of these blood baths might reflect the deteriorating mental health of a nation devolving into a culture of violence, materialism, and entitlement.

     Employers of these homicidal workers are often accused, after the fact, of lax job applicant screening procedures. This is unfair because under federal law, employers are not allowed to ask job seekers all kinds of pertinent questions, including if they have histories of drug abuse, alcoholism, or mental illness. Whether or not a job applicant has ever been arrested is, by law, none of the employer's business. All of this information, of course, is relevant to the question of the applicant's fitness and qualifications for employment.

     Employers in workplace shooting cases are usually sued for having failed to recognize and react to signs of future workplace violence. But to be fair, there is no sure-fire way to identify employees who will "go postal." Quite often, employees who have been fired for violent and threatening workplace behavior return to the job weeks, months, and even years later with murderous and suicidal intentions. There is no way to predict or prevent this type of behavior. Police officers patrol the streets, and are now present in many public schools, but they are not in our homes and places of employment where the real danger lies.

     Lawrence Jones of Fresno, California is a good example of someone an employer shouldn't hire. The 42-year-old, since his early 20s, had been in and out of prison for armed robbery, assault, auto theft, and gun-related crimes. He had spent most of  his adult life behind bars. In September 2011, three months after his last parole, Jones began working at Apple Valley Farms, a chicken processing plant in Fresno. He was hired because there aren't many people willing to work in places like this. For fourteen months, Jones did his job, then something happened to set him off.

     At eight-thirty on the morning of November 6, 2012, four hours into his shift, Jones walked up to 32-year-old Salvador Diaz who was working in the grinding room. Because of the sound of the machinery, and the fact employees wore noise-protection gear, no one heard Jones shoot Mr. Diaz in the back of the head with his 4-shot .357 Derringer pistol.

     After murdering Mr. Diaz execution-style, Jones entered the deboning room of the plant and executed Manual Verdin, 34. Jones then wounded 28-year-old Arnuflo Conrriguez, and shot Fatima Lopez in the back as she fled the scene. Jones pressed the muzzle of his Derringer to the back of Estevan Catono's head and pulled the trigger. Fortunately for the 21-year-old intended victim, the gun was out of rounds.

     After killing two of his fellow employees, and wounding two others, Jones walked out of the plant, re-loaded the handgun, and fatally shot himself in the head.

     Investigators did not have a motive for the killings, nor did they know if these victims had been targeted. In all probability, these workers were simply unlucky by being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

     Fatima Lopez was treated at a local hospital and released. Arnuflo Conrriguez remained for awhile in serious condition at Fresno's Community Regional Medical Center.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Why So Many Novelists Are Drunks

William Faulkner, Sinclair Lewis, and F. Scott Fitzgerald are probably three of the most notorious fall-down drunks in the literary history of Twentieth Century America. They are followed by Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and John Cheever. Many literary critics believe that all this drinking among male novelists stems from the fact that, in American culture, creative writing is not considered masculine. In other words, real men don't write. I'm not sure I buy that. I think maybe these literary booze-hounds where simply alcoholics who happened to take pen to paper. I'm a writer, and I accept the fact that a male who spends a good deal of his life sitting at a writing table is not a particularly manly way to live. In my case, while writing and teaching writing has significantly contributed to a life of self-loathing, it has not driven me to the bottle. At least not yet.

Thornton P. Knowles

The Bobby Wilson Murder Case

     About 6,000 people live in Spanish Fort, Alabama, a Gulf Coast suburb of Mobile on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. In the early morning hours of August 11, 2007, Spanish Fort police officer Steve McGough pulled into Wilson's Service Center for gas and a cup of coffee. When McGough walked into the convenience store he found the owner, Arthur "Bobby" Wilson, slumped over the counter. The officer grabbed hold of the bleeding 71-year-old and helped him onto a chair. Mr. Wilson had been beaten in the head with a blunt object, and robbed. As the officer called in the robbery and assault, the victim made "gurgling sounds," and mumbled incoherently. Four months later, Mr. Wilson died from his head wounds. The victim had been unable to describe or name his assailant. The robbery/assault case had turned into a murder.

     In December 2008, shortly after Bobby Wilson's death, Baldwin County prosecutor Michael Plyant charged Leslie Eric Buzbee with capital murder in the case. Police arrested the 23-year-old and hauled him to the Baldwin County Corrections Center in nearby Bay Minette, Alabama. The murder suspect remained in custody without bail.

     Detectives had learned that days before the robbery/assault, Buzbee, who lived ten minutes from the service station and knew the victim well, had asked Mr. Wilson to cash a check. According to the police theory of the case, when Bobby Wilson refused to cash Buzbee's check, the suspect assaulted him with an aluminum baseball bat the victim kept on the premises. The authorities were convinced that Buzbee, high on cocaine and in desperate need of money, assaulted Mr. Wilson out of anger and the need for cash to support his drug habit.

     Leslie Buzbee's trial got underway on May 4, 2009 in Bay Minette. His attorney, John Beck, exploited the fact the prosecution, without the murder weapon, physical evidence linking the defendant to the crime scene, a confession, or an eyewitness, had an extremely weak, circumstantial case. As it turned out, Attorney Beck was right. Four weeks later, the judge declared a mistrial after the jury could not reach an unanimous verdict.

    Following the hung jury, prosecutor Plyant decided to try again. The second trial, which commenced in August 2009, ended prematurely when the judge declared a mistrial on a procedural issue.

     On August 8, 2009, the Baldwin County prosecutor took a third run at Leslie Buzbee. Without new, incriminating evidence, the third jury to be empaneled in the case, after four hours of deliberation, found the 25-year-old defendant not guilty. Buzbee, having been incarcerated in the Baldwin County Correction Center since December 2008, walked free. (The double jeopardy clause of the U.S. Constitution protects Buzbee, regardless of what new evidence might surface, from being tried a fourth time for Mr. Wilson's murder.)

     Following the not guilty verdict, in response to a reporter's question about whether the authorities would re-open the murder case, prosecutor Plyant said, "The investigation is done because we tried the person we believe did the crime."

     The Wilson murder case, from an investigative point of view, produced a suspect, but didn't feature enough hard evidence to support a conviction. Had Bobby Wilson, before he died, been able to communicate with the police, the outcome of this case might have been different.

     On December 31, 2012, officers with the Mobile Police Department arrested Leslie Eric Buzbee in connection with a series of residential burglaries and thefts from vehicles. Officers found cocaine and drug paraphernalia in his car. At the time of his arrest, Buzbee was the subject of several burglary warrants issued out of Baldwin County. He was back in jail, but not for murder.

     In May 2013, while out on bond for the December 2012 case, Buzbee was charged in Baldwin County with second-degree receiving stolen property. (As of this writing I can find no disposition of these cases on the Internet.) As for Bobby Wilson, no one has been held accountable for his murder.

The Illegal Possession of a Secret Compartment

     Civil libertarians are criticizing Ohio police for arresting a driver because his car contained a compartment that could theoretically store illegal drugs, though no drugs were found at that time.

     The driver…was pulled over for speeding. A highway patrolman noticed wires running to a secret compartment in the car and arrested the suspect, even though there were no drugs in the compartment. The officer also claimed he smelled marijuana in the compartment--giving him probable cause to search it--though none was ultimately discovered.

     It makes no difference whether police find drugs or not, according to a new Ohio law that prohibits secret compartments.

Robby Soave, The Daily Caller, December 30, 2013 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Adam Kaufman "Spray Tan" Murder Case

     Adam Kaufman, on November 7, 2007, called 911 from his home in Aventura, Florida. Sounding hysterical, the 34-year-old south Florida real estate developer informed the dispatcher that he had awaken that morning to find his wife, Eleonora (Lina) slumped unconscious in the bathroom, her neck draped over a bar on a magazine rack. Paramedics rushed the 33-year-old to the hospital where she died later that day.

     One of the responding officers with the Aventura Police Department touched the hood of Adam's car and found it warm. Another officer noticed that only one side of the couple's bed had been slept in. As a result, the police didn't believe Adam Kaufman when he claimed to have slept all night next to  his wife.

     Associate Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Dr. Chester Gwen conducted the autopsy. Although the forensic pathologist found injuries on Lina's upper-back and abrasions on her chin, neck, left shoulder, and chest as well as hemorrhages in her interior neck muscles, declared her cause and manner of death "undetermined."

     Without a finding of death by homicide, the Kaufman case remained in limbo for 18 months. In May 2009, Miami-Dade County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Bruce A. Hyma, ruled that Lina Kaufman had died by mechanical asphyxiation, that she had been strangled. The following month, the prosecutor, even though he didn't have evidence of marital strife, or a motive, charged Adam Kaufman with second-degree murder.

     At Kaufman's bond hearing, his attorneys revealed the defense version of the death: Lina Kaufman, with a history of fainting spells, had applied a spray-on tanning substance that resulted in a violent allergic reaction causing respiratory failure. When she collapsed, she fell with her neck draped over the magazine rack bar.

     Adam Kaufman's trial commenced on May 7, 2012 before Judge Brownyn Miller in Miami, Florida. A week later, following the jury selection process, defense attorney Bill Matthewman, in his opening remarks, unveiled the new defense version of Lina Kaufman's death: while sitting on the toilet she had a heart attack and fell forward with her neck hitting the bar of the magazine rack. In addressing the prosecutor's case, attorney Matthewman said, "The state's evidence cannot even prove that a homicide occurred, let alone that Adam Kaufman did it....The case is a tragedy of errors. An innocent man was charged with a non-existent crime...."

     Prosecutor Joe Mansfield, in his opening speech to the jurors, said that Lina Kaufman had been a "healthy, active woman, arguably in the best shape of her life. All of that ended because of the actions of that man, her husband."

      In this case, the outcome would come down to how Lina Kaufman had died, naturally or by the hand of her husband. That meant that the important testimony would be of a medico-legal nature.

     On May 16, Dr. Bruce Hyma took the stand for the prosecution. The Chief Medical Examiner for Miami-Dade County testified that Lina Kaufman had died from strangulation and not a heart attack. Dr. Tracy Baker, the plastic surgeon who had enhanced Mrs. Kaufman's breasts, told the jury that when he examined her a few months before her death, she was in good health. Defense attorney Albert Milian asked Dr. Baker on cross-examination if Lina could have been lied to him about her medical history. The witness answered yes.

     Dr. Chester Gwen, the former Miami-Dade County forensic pathologist who had performed the autopsy in 2007, testified that the injuries he had found on Kaufman's body had not been caused by emergency personnel who had tried to revive her. On cross-examination, Dr. Gwen admitted that in April 2012, he had said that in his expert opinion, the cause of Lina Kaufman's death was still a mystery to him. The forensic pathologist also said that Dr. Hyma, before he ruled the death a homicide by strangulation, had not consulted with him.

     Larissa Adamyan, a friend of the deceased woman, took the stand on behalf of the prosecution. As it turned out, her testimony helped the defense more than the prosecution. The witness described the relationship between the defendant and his wife as a "loving marriage." Ten hours before Lina's death, in anticipation of Adam's brother Seth's upcoming wedding, she had gotten a spray tan.

     Aventura police officer Robert Meyers took the stand and said that at the hospital the day Lina died, he overheard the defendant tell three different versions of what he had seen that morning in the bathroom. According to this witness, the defendant said he had found Lina's neck resting on the toilet bowl; her body slumped over the toilet; and her head hung over the magazine rack. On cross-examination, defense attorney Milian got the witness to admit that none of this information was included in his police report.

     Dr. Bruce Hyma re-took the stand on May 2, 2012 to explain why it had taken 18 months to declare Lina Kaufman's cause and manner of death as a strangulation homicide. The forensic pathologist attributed this passage of time to a delayed toxicological report and the fact he wanted to be sure he made the right call. On cross-examination, the defense attorney accused the medical examiner of caving in to pressure from the prosecutor to declare Lina Kaufman's death a homicide.

     Prosecutor Mathew Baldwin, during the direct examination of a friend of the deceased woman, asked if the witness had been aware that the defendant, shortly after his wife's death, had been carrying on with another woman. This question brought an objection from the defense. Judge Miller called the attorneys to the bench and excused the jury. In justifying this line of questioning, prosecutor Baldwin said, "He's [the defendant] is asking this girl out with his dead wife's wedding ring on his finger the next month in December 2007. [Lina died in November.] By January and February, they're having regular sex. He was not exactly devastated by his wife's passing. The best analogy I can think of is when Casey Anthony was getting a tattoo [after the death of her child]."

     Judge Miller asked the prosecutor if the state had evidence that the defendant had been unfaithful to his wife. The answer was no. Judge Miller ruled that the prosecution could not present evidence of the defendant's post-death dating. At his point, defense attorney Matthewman asked the judge for a mistrial on the grounds the jury had heard the question which had planted the idea in jurors' minds that the defendant had not been a good husband. Judge Miller denied the motion. She had told the jurors to disregard the question.

     That afternoon, a Miami-Dade crime scene technician testified that Lina Kaufman's fingernails contained traces of her blood and tissue, suggesting she had clawed at something around her neck. The prosecutor also called a physicist to the stand who said it would have been physically impossible for Lina to have fallen off the toilet and land with her head draped over the magazine rack. With that, the prosecution rested its case.

     On Thursday, May 24, the defense launched its case by calling Lina's mother Frida Aizman to the stand. This witness told the jury that she and her family loved the defendant, and after Lina's death they had become even closer. The witness also testified that in the weeks leading up to her daughter's death Lina had complained of headaches and feeling weak. She had tried yoga to relieve her headaches.

     Miami-Dade fire rescue captain, Joseph Carman, the first responder to enter the Kaufman house, testified that he found the defendant giving Lina CPR. According to the witness, Mr. Kaufman was wearing a t-shirt and boxer shorts. The defense presented this testimony because it was consistent with Adam Kaufman's story that he awoke after a night of sleep to find his wife collapsed in the bathroom.

     Thomas Hill, a Broward County Sheriff's Office crime scene investigator took the stand for the defense and criticized Kaufman case investigators for not collecting important physical evidence. The witness said they had failed to gather Adam Kaufman's clothing, magazines from the bathroom rack, and bedding from the master bedroom. The crime scene investigator also said he could see no evidence of a struggle in the small bathroom. "My goodness," he said, "she would have been kicking those walls in, and I don't see any of that." The witness said that if Lina had been strangled, the defendant would have had gouge marks on his arms from her trying to claw them from her neck.

     Dr. John Marriccini, the former Palm Beach County Chief Medical Examiner, testified that the forensic pathologists in the Kaufman case had overlooked Lina Kaufman's history of health problems which included heart disease. Celebrity forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden climbed into the witness box and said, "Lina Kaufman did not die of unnatural causes. There was no homicide, there was no murder. She died of natural causes." Dr. Baden testified that in his expert opinion, Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Bruce Hyma had based his homicide ruling on the work of two rookie forensic pathologists who had gotten it wrong. Dr. Baden said Lina Kaufman died of an heart attack and that the injuries to her throat from hitting the magazine rack had been exacerbated by bungled resuscitation attempts by the defendant and paramedics. Following Dr. Baden's testimony, the defense rested its case without putting the defendant on the stand.

     On May 31, 2012, because the defense had portrayed the Kaufman marriage as blissful, Judge Miller allowed the prosecution to put Fara Corenblum, a rebuttal witness, on the stand. According to Corenblum, she and the defendant started an affair a month after Lina's death. The witness said she ended the twice-a-week relationship after she realized he was not ready to move on following his wife's death. For the prosecution, Corenblum's testimony, by casting a sympathetic light on the defendant, may have done more harm than good.

     Both sides made their closing arguments on Monday, June 4, 2012. The next day, the case went to the jury. At five o'clock that evening the jury returned with its verdict: not guilty.

    

Monday, May 21, 2018

Murdered in Abu Dhabi

     In October 2014, the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the Gulf Arab nation of United Arab Emerates (UAE), alerted Americans in the country to a posting on a jihadist web forum that called for "lone wolf" attacks on American teachers working in international schools. Abu Dhabi, an international business and banking hub that featured huge skyscrapers and glitzy shopping malls, had a low violent crime rate and was considered one of the safest big cities in the world.

     Ibolya Ryan, Hungarian-born and raised and educated in Romania as a kindergarten teacher, came to the United States in the 1990s. In 1997, while living with her husband in Denver, Colorado, she took a job as a special needs teacher and enrolled in a course on how to teach English as a foreign language. In 2001, she returned to Hungary then later accepted a teaching position in Austria.

     In 2014, Ryan was living in Abu Dhabi and teaching at a large international school 35 miles from the downtown section of the city. The 47-year-old mother of three had divorced her husband and was residing in the UAE with her twin 11-year-old sons.

     On Monday December 1, 2014, while shopping at a high-end mall on Reem Island, a newly developed area of the city that was home to thousands of Western expatriates, Ryan entered the ladies restroom. Mall surveillance camera footage showed a person fully covered in a black, full-length gown called an abaya and a headscarf or hijab, following Ryan into the public restroom. This person was later seen leaving the mall in a hurry.

     Officers with the Criminal Investigation Department of the Abu Dhabi Police, when they responded to the shopping mall restroom, found a large, bloody kitchen knife with a blue handle and a trail of blood leading to one of the stalls. That's where they found Ibolya Ryan, the victim of a vicious knifing.

     Shortly after being rushed to a nearby hospital, Ryan died from her many knife wounds. Her sons were placed in the care of Abu Dhabi officials until their father came from abroad to pick them up.

     On Thursday December 4, 2014, UAE police officers raided an apartment in Abu Dhabi and took an Emirati woman named Ala'a Badr Abdullah Al-Hashemi  into custody. The authorities believed this murder suspect had earlier planted a homemade bomb at the doorstep of an Egyptian-American physician. The doctor's son found the bomb and called the police. Bomb experts came to the scene and defused the device.

     The day following the suspect's arrest, a spokesperson for the Abu Dhabi police said investigators believed Ryan's cold-blooded killing was an act of terrorism committed by a self-radicalized terrorist who acted alone.

     Ibolya Ryan's murder destroyed the sense of security expatriates in Abu Dhabi once enjoyed.

     The U.A.E. authorities moved quickly to try Ms. Hashemi. The prosecutor described the killing as an "Islamic extremism terror attack." In June 2015, the defendant was convicted as charged and sentenced to death. On July 13, 2015, Hashemi was executed by firing squad in Dubai, U.A. E.

     Attorneys for the executed woman said she had suffered from chronic mental illness. Court-appointed doctors, however, had determined that she was fit to stand trial. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Wiseguy Nicknames

In the heyday of the Mafia, a lot of wiseguys were given colorful nicknames. For example, there was Tony "Big Tuna" Accardo, Al "Scarface" Capone, Tony "Three Fingers" Rizzocascio, George "Butterass" DeCicco, Peter "Horseface" Licavoli, and Sam "The Plumber" DeCavalconte. If it ever becomes custom to nickname the wiseguys of academia, we might get: Professor Monty "Man Bun" Lawrence, Dean Gibson "Gobbledygook" Sinclair, Associate Professor Peter "Power Point" Lucas, Dr. Henry "Hypothesis" Higgins, Assistant Professor "I Want Tenure" Thomas, and Chancellor Miles "Mission Statement" Barnes.

Thornton P. Knowles

The Luka Magnotta Cannibal Killer Case

     Tenants in a working-class Montreal, Canada neighborhood complained of a bad smell coming from a pile of garbage behind their apartment building. At ten in the morning on May 29, 2012, when the janitor opened a suitcase at the site of the odor, he discovered a man's bloody torso.

     At 11:15 that morning, in Ottawa, at the Conservative Party headquarters, Jenni Bryne, a top political advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, opened a box that had been mailed to that address. As she opened the package, Bryne was hit by a terrible odor and recoiled at the sight of dried blood. She immediately called 911 which brought the Ottawa police, a hazmat unit, and officers with the Emergency Special Operations Section. The box contained a human foot and a note indicating that six other human body parts were in the mail.

     At 9:30 that night, the Ottawa police announced they had found a second severed body part mailed from Montreal. It was a hand found inside a piece of mail intercepted at the Ottawa Postal Terminal.

     On Wednesday morning, May 30, crime scene investigators and hazardous materials officers entered an apartment in the building where the janitor had found the suitcase containing the blood splattered torso. The masked searchers were interested in a second-story studio apartment rented by a 29-year-old tenant named Luka Rocco Magnotta.

     Luka Magnotta, a stripper, model, and bisexual actor in low-budget adult films who used the names Eric Clinton Newman (his born name) and Vladimir Romanov, had lived in the apartment about four months. Originally from Toronto, Magnotta had an Internet presence that included uploaded videos of animal cruelty. Two years earlier, a video appeared on the Web featuring Magnotta placing a pair of kittens inside an airtight bag then using a vacuum cleaner to suck out the air. He also had a blog under his name called "Necrophilia Serial Killer Luka Magnotta" that featured the following quote: "It's not cool to the world being a necrophiliac. It's bloody lonely. But I don't care." Magnotta was also the author of an Internet article titled, "How to Completely Disappear and Never be Found" in which he laid out a six-step program for changing one's identify.

     On May 25, four days before the gruesome discovery at the Montreal apartment, an uploaded 11-minute Internet video on an Alberta-based website called "Best Gore," showed a man being stabbed, his throat slashed, and his head cut off by an unidentified killer in a dark hoodie. The man in the video also severed the victim's limbs, then committed sexual and cannibalistic acts on the corpse. A dog in the dimly lit room ate part of the body. The snuff video was called, "1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick." The Canadian authorities believed the torso found behind Magnotta's apartment building, as well as the mailed body parts, belong to the man seen murdered online. Investigators also theorized that Luka Magnotta was the killer/cannibal in the video.

     In Apartment 208, crime scene investigators believed they were at the site of the videoed murder/dismemberment. Detectives also thought the torso found behind the building came from this apartment. The walls and floor were splattered in dried blood and in the bedroom they found a blood-soaked mattress.

     A forensic pathologist examined the torso and the two mailed body parts and found that the remains belonged to the same person.

     Luka Magnotta, the subject of a massive international manhunt, was described as a slightly built man who was five-foot-eight with short black hair and blue eyes. The authorities searching for the fugitive believed he was hiding out in Europe under a false identity.

     The man believed to have been killed in the snuff film was identified as a student from China named Jun Lin. The 33-year-old had been attending Concordia University in Montreal. He had been going out with Magnotta and was last seen on May 24, 2012. Lin was an undergraduate in the engineering and computer science department.

     Montreal Police Commander Ian Lafreniere believed that Magnotta was hiding in France. The fugitive was immediately placed on Interpol's equivalent of the FBI's most wanted list. A Toronto transsexual who had a sexual relationship with Magnotta, informed the police that the porn actor used drugs and possessed a bad temper.

     In 2010, after Luka Magnotta posted the disgusting video involving the kittens, a London reporter with The Sun newspaper questioned him for an article. In an email to The Sun, Magnotta warned that his next uploaded snuff video would not involve cats. "Once you kill, and taste blood, it's impossible to stop," he wrote. After the animal cruelty video was published, animal rights activists in Canada tried to get the authorities to intervene.

     On Monday, June 4, 2012, seven  police officers in Berlin, Germany, acting on a tip from a person who recognized Magnotta, arrested him in an internet cafe. At first Magnotta gave the officers a false name, then said, "You got me." Magnotta was in the cafe reading about himself on the Internet.

     On the day following his arrest, as Magnotta appeared before a German judge on the matter of his extradition back to Canada, staff members at two private boy's school in Vancouver, British Columbia, each received a package that had been mailed from Montreal. The package to the False Creek Elementary school contained a human foot. The parcel opened at St. George's contained a hand. The body parts belonged to Jun Lin. The authorities were still searching for the victim's head.

     Several months following his extradition back to Canada, Magnotta acquired an attorney named Luc   Leclain who argued that his client should be tried for the lesser homicide offense of second-degree murder because the Crown could not prove premeditation in Jun Lin's killing. In May 2013, following a week-long preliminary hearing involving thirty witnesses for the Crown, the Court of Quebec judge ruled that the prosecution had enough evidence to justify trying Magnotta for first degree-murder.

     In addition to first-degree murder, Luka Magnotta stood charged with the lesser offenses of causing indignity to Jun Lin's body (in the U. S. it's called abuse of corpse), broadcasting obscene material, using the postal service to send obscene material, and the harassment of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of Parliament. The Quebec judge scheduled Magnotta's first-degree murder trial for September 14, 2014.

     Luka Magnotta's murder trial got underway on Monday December 15, 2014 before Justice Guy Cournoyer of the Quebec Superior Court. His attorney, Luc Leclair, tried to convince the jury that the defendant, a schizophrenic, committed the murder is a psychotic state that had rendered him legally insane and therefore not guilty by reason of insanity.

     The Magnotta jury did not buy the insanity defense and found the defendant, on December 23, 2014, guilty of first-degree murder. The jurors also found him guilty of the lesser offenses. Judge Cournoyer sentenced Magnotta to life in prison for first-degree murder and gave him 19 years behind bars for the other offenses.
     

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Eric Toth: Pedophile On The Run

     Born in 1982, Eric Toth grew up near Indianapolis, Indiana. He earned good grades in high school where he was considered self-centered and eccentric, and when he wanted to be, charming and manipulating. Abused as a child, he suffered bouts of depression and engaged in compulsive lying.

     The lanky young man enrolled at Cornell University in New York State. A year later he transferred to Purdue University at Calumet (Indiana) where he graduated with a Bachelor's degree in elementary education. During his college years he told several people he was an agent with the CIA.

     Upon his graduation in 2002, Toth volunteered at an elementary school in Indianapolis where he worked as a teacher's aide. His intense interest in boys between the ages 8 and 11 led to parental complaints and concerns. The principal, suspecting that Toth was a pedophile, terminated his association with the school. A lot of parents were glad to see him go.

     In 2003, Toth drifted around the midwest, always inserting himself into environments that put him in proximity to young boys. In 2004 and part of 2005 Toth worked as a counselor at a boy's camp in Madison, Wisconsin. It was at this camp he made videotapes of himself engaging in various sexual activities with several boys. When his behavior began to raise suspicion, he moved on. Moving on is what pedophiles do when too many people get suspicious.

     In the fall of 2005, administrators at the Beauvior Elementary School attached to the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., hired Toth to teach third grade. Many of the students in this small prestigious Catholic School came from families of wealth and political power.

     Toth's enthusiasm for his job included tutoring children for free and even babysitting them at their homes. His gung-ho work attitude made him a popular teacher at the school. But his excessive familiarity with his male students, including having boys sit on his lap, raised eyebrows and suspicions.

     In 2008, a fellow Beauvior employee found disturbing photographs on a school camera assigned to Toth. The pornographic pictures featured the teacher and several boys. The school's principal confronted Toth, then fired him on the spot. After a security officer escorted Toth out of the building and off the campus, the principal called the police. The delay gave Toth the head start he needed to get out of town and disappear.

     Based upon the photographs recovered from Toth's camera, a federal prosecutor charged him with producing and possessing child pornography. This made Toth a fugitive from the law.

     A month after the Beauvior principal kicked Toth out of Beauvior Elementary, a car that had been rented under the name Jay Kellor turned up at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport.  Inside the Honda, FBI agents found child pornography linked to Toth's tenure as a boy's camp counselor in Wisconsin.

     In the rented vehicle, agents also discovered a suicide note signed by Toth. According to the handwritten document, the authorities would find his body on the bottom of a nearby lake. A search of that lake failed to turn up Toth's remains. The FBI considered the suicide note a fake, a ploy to throw agents off his trail.

     Toth, going by the name David Bussone, showed up in January 2009 at the Lodestar Day Rescue Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Toth volunteered to help homeless man complete their 12-step alcohol and drug addiction treatments. He told his colleagues at the rescue center that he had been an educator at an elite east coast school, and that the experience had turned him against wealth and the materialistic lifestyle. He said he had taken a five-year oath of poverty, and had re-dedicated his life to helping the downtrodden.

     In the meantime, FBI agents across the country were still searching for Toth. The federal manhunt received a boost when the Toth case appeared on the television show, "America's Most Wanted." One of the homeless men at Lodestar saw the segment and recognized David Bussone as Eric Toth. The next day, realizing that he had been identified, the fugitive pedophile disappeared again.

     In July 2009, under a another pseudonym supported by stolen identification documents, Toth turned up at a hippie commune in Austin, Texas. One of the members of the community found Toth a job at an Austin computer repair shop called P.C. Guru. Toth worked at the store two and a half years during which time he tutored grade school boys for free. He also gave the mother of two of his students financial aid.

     The FBI, on April 10, 2012, replaced Osama bin Laden on the Bureau's Top Ten Most Wanted List with Eric Toth. In October of that year Toth used a fake passport, under the name Robert Shaw Walker, to flee to Nicaragua. He took up residence in a house in Esteli, a town 90 miles north of the capital, Managua. Toth told people he met that he had come to Nicaragua to write a book.

     On April 18, 2013, while attending a social function, Toth ran into an American tourist who recognized him. Two days later, Nicaraguan police officers surrounded his house in Esteli. Following the arrest, officers found 1,100 images of child pornography Toth had downloaded from the Internet onto his personal computer.

     Four days after his capture in Nicaragua, Toth was back in Washington, D.C. sitting in jail awaiting his trial.

     On December 13, 2013, Toth pleaded guilty before a federal judge to three counts of child pornography and two counts of identify theft. He faced up to 30 years in prison.

     On March 11, 2014, the judge sentenced the 32-year-old pedophile to 25 years in federal prison. At his sentencing Toth said, "I don't pretend that anything I could say here today would ever make up for what I did. Everything the prosecutor said about me is true."
   

Pedophilia: America's Hidden Crime Wave

     Anyone who follows the news regularly comes across stories about boys who have been repeatedly sexually molested by relatives, neighbors, mothers' boyfriends, teachers, priests, ministers, Boy Scout leaders, coaches, and youth counselors. These accounts tend to have the same narrative arc: following years of suspicious behavior and rumors of molestation, someone finally comes forward to report the crimes. After a plea bargained sentence, families of the victims sue the pedophile's school, church or institution, and if the offender is a public employee, the city or the state. Following this, local politicians and others call for measures that will protect future victims. But it never stops. Why?

     While we are familiar with the general profile of the adult male who preys on boys under thirteen, we have no idea how many of them are out there working in our schools, juvenile facilities, churches, and daycare centers. Dr. Gene Abel, an expert in this field, has estimated that between 1 and 5 percent of our adult population sexually molests children. If this is true, there are hundreds of thousands of them among us victimizing millions of youngsters. Because pedophiles are serial offenders who cannot be cured or rehabilitated, the victimization rates for this type of offense are through the roof. According to studies, before being caught for the first time, the average pedophile assaults 120 boys. Once released from prison, a vast majority of them reoffend. Since only a small percentage of pedophiles end up in prison, who knows how many children are victimized during the sex life of just one of these criminals?

     Although conscientious parents teach their children to be wary of strangers, most cases of pedophilia involve preditors who are either related to or acquainted with the boy. The most vulnerable targets are "at-risk" youths from dysfunctional families.

     Pedophiles flourish in our society because, in matters of criminal justice, we are taught to be careful with our accusations. No one wants to be part of a "witch hunt." Moreover, if you make a false accusation, you can be sued. Besides pedophiles, America is home to a lot of lawyers. According to the FBI, only between 1 to 5 percent of child molestation crimes are reported to the police. I believe it's more like one percent. According to one study of 255 cases involving students sexually molested by their teachers, in only one percent of these cases did the school district superintendent attempt to revoke the offenders' teaching licenses.

     Pedophilia is a crime of stealth, single-minded and clever offenders, frightened victims, and, on the part of people who should intercede on the child's behalf, denial. Pedophiles are often charming, hard-working employees who have ingratiated themselves into the community. Notwithstanding the increased awareness of this crisis, it will not go away. Unfortunately, there are certain social problems that cannot be fixed by a criminal justice system.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Sylvie Cachay Bathtub Murder Case

     Sylvie Cachay grew up as the daughter of a Peruvian-born physician who practiced in Arlington, Virginia. She studied fashion design in New York City, and worked for clothing designers Marc Jacobs, Tommy Hilfinger, and Victoria's Secret. In 2006, Cachay started her own swimsuit line called Syla. She resided in a So Ho apartment in Manhattan's meatpacking district.

     Early in 2010, the 33-year-old swimwear designer met 24-year-old Nicholas Brooks, a college dropout and unemployed party-boy with a history of patronizing prostitutes, consuming large amounts of alcohol, and smoking marijuana. Nicholas Brooks' father, Joseph Brooks, achieved a bit of fame by writing the 1970s hit song, "You Light Up My Life." The songwriter supported his son's party-boy lifestyle until 2009 when the elder Brooks was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting several women, most of whom were aspiring actresses. (In 2011, Joseph Brooks, facing the chance of a long stretch in prison, committed suicide.)

     Because of Nicholas Brooks' debauched lifestyle, funded by Cachay's credit cards, the couple had a turbulent relationship. They frequently broke up and then got back together again.

     On the morning of December 8, 2010, Cachay sent Brooks an email that read: "Nick, for the past six months I have supported you financially and emotionally. I am speaking with my credit card company and the police and I am going to tell them that I never allowed you to use my card. I don't care. Have fun in jail."

     Later on the day of Cachay's angry email, at her So Ho apartment, the couple made up. That night, just after midnight, the couple walked to the SoHo House, a luxury hotel not far from Cachay's apartment. They checked into their room at 12:30 AM.

     Shortly after Cachay and Brooks checked in to the SoHo House, a hotel employee heard a man and a woman arguing loudly in their room. Thirty minutes later, Brooks left the suite and was seen eating a steak in the hotel's dining room. Upon finishing his meal, Brooks and a man who had come to the lobby to meet him, left the hotel. A short time later they were having drinks at a nightclub called Employees Only.

     At three in the morning of December 9, 2010, about two and a half hours after Cachay and Brooks checked in to the SoHo House, a guest on the floor below complained to the front dest about water leaking through the ceiling. Hotel employees entered Cachay's room and found her dead in the overflowing bathtub. One of the stunned hotel employees called 911.

     New York City homicide detectives, when they arrived at the hotel, found the swimsuit designer in the bathtub wearing a sweater and a pair of underwear. The officers didn't notice any signs of physical trauma on the dead woman's body. At five-thirty that morning, while the death scene investigators were still in the hotel room, Nicholas Brooks returned to the suite. He agreed to be questioned at a nearby NYPD precinct station.

     Brooks admitted to his questioners that he and his dead girlfriend had been arguing in the hotel room before he left to eat his steak. After that, he and a friend went out for drinks at a nearby nightclub. He said that when he left the hotel room Sylvie was alive.

     Following the autopsy, a forensic pathologist with the New York City Medical Examiner's Office ruled that Sylvie Cachay had died of asphyxia due to strangulation and drowning. The manner of death in her case: criminal homicide.

     New York City detectives arrested Nicholas Brooks on January 4, 2011 on the charge of first-degree murder. At his arraignment hearing, the magistrate denied the murder suspect bail. Brooks entered a plea of not guilty.

     The Cachay-Brooks murder trial got underway in New York City on June 7, 2013. In his opening remarks, the assistant district attorney laid out the prosecution's theory of the case: the unemployed, playboy had been using the victim to fund his taste for prostitutes, alcohol, marijuana, and expensive nights out on the town. When she threatened to cut him off and report him to the police, he strangled or drowned her to death in the hotel bathtub.

     The New York City Medical Examiner's Office forensic pathologist took the stand early in the trial. According to the pathologist, "Bruises on the victim's neck, bleeding in her eyes, and abrasions inside her mouth...were injuries consistent with [homicidal] asphyxiation."

     Through several prosecution witnesses, the assistant district attorney presented the jury with emails in which Cachay had complained to her friends about Brooks' drinking, drug use, and late-night partying. In these emails, she referred to the defendant as "the kid I'm dating," as her "man-boy," or as a "stoner" who had quit his job at a cupcake shop.

     The Brooks defense, through a forensic pathologist from Syosset, New York, presented evidence that Cachay's death had been accidental. According to Dr. Gerard Catanese, the victim had drowned in the tub because she had sedatives, anti-depressents, and muscle relaxers in her system. "That combination of drugs," Dr. Catanese said, "could account for her falling asleep, losing consciousness...and sinking under the water and ultimately dying."

     On July 11, 2013, the jury, relying solely on circumstantial evidence, found Nicholas Brooks guilty of first-degree murder. As the verdict was read, friends of Sylvie Cachay, from their seats in the courtroom, cheered loudly. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Working Humor Into Your Fiction

With regard to being funny on paper, Isaac Asimov said it best: "A story is either funny or it is not funny. Nothing in between. The humor target contains only a bull's-eye."

Thornton P. Knowles

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On How To Get Your Name On A College Or University Building

Yearly donations to America's cash-greedy colleges and universities is in the tens of billions. So, what do the big donors get in return for their money? They acquire paid-for immortality until even bigger donors knock their names off the dorms, lecture halls, cafeterias, football fields, gyms, classrooms, and research labs. The more prestigious the institution, the more money a rich narcissist has to fork out. There have been colleges and universities willing, for the right price, to change the name of the entire institution. In a small town, a local resident who had made it into major league baseball might get a street named after him. While getting a street in your name may not be a big deal, at least it's free and based on achievement beyond being wealthy. I can foresee the day when colleges and universities are so desperate for money, they will offer to name campus trees after people. The bigger the tree, the bigger the donation. So where is all this mortality-for-sale going? Here's a guess: The day will come when most college degrees are so devalued, rich donors will start paying to get their names off campus structures and trees. When that happens, maybe the names of rich narcissists will start appearing on trade school buildings.

Thornton P. Knowles


The Modern History of The Death Penalty

     While the death penalty is still lawful in 32 states, only Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Texas actually execute their death row inmates. Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled that the death penalty itself amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Constitution's Eighth Amendment.

     Since the mid-1980s, the states that carry out the death penalty have used lethal injection as the principal method of execution. Considered a more humane way to kill condemned prisoners than its predecessors the electric chair and the gas chamber, the use of drugs instead of electricity and lethal gas is more a matter of appearance--aesthetics if you will--than concern for the condemned.

     From 1976 to 2018, 1,275 inmates have been executed by lethal injection. Four states--Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, and Virginia--still allow death row prisoners to choose between deadly drugs and the electric chair.

The Electric Chair

     On August 6, 1890, William Kemmler, a convicted murderer serving time at New York's Auburn Prison, earned the distinction of becoming the first person in America to die in the electric chair. The state of Ohio followed New York by replacing hanging with electrocution in 1897. Massachusetts adopted the chair in 1900, New Jersey in 1906, and Virginia in 1908. By the 1930s most of the death penalty states used the electric chair as the primary method of execution. The other states killed their death row inmates by gas, by firing squad, or by rope. The state of Kansas continued to hang its prisoners into the early 1960s.

     The state of Nebraska was one of the last jurisdictions to employ the electric chair as its sole method of killing murderers. In February 2008, the practice ended when the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that electrocution was in itself cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the state's constitution.

The Electric Chair's Golden Era

     In the 1920s and 30s, Robert G. Elliott, an electrician from Long Island, the official executioner for six eastern states, electrocuted 387 inmates. For his work he charged $150 an execution. When he threw the switch (or turned the wheel) on two or more inmates at one prison visit, he discounted his fee. Some of Elliott's most infamous clients included Bruno Richard Hauptmann (1936), the killer of the Lindbergh baby; Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray (1928), the killers of Ruth's husband Albert; and Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti (1927), the Italian anarchists convicted of killing a Boston area bank guard. Elliott, somewhat of a celebrity, and obviously proud of his singular contribution to the American system of criminal justice, wrote a memoir called Agent of Death. The book came out in 1940. Long out of print, it is today in the libraries of true crime book collectors.

Electrocuting Fat People

     In 1981, Allen Lee "Tiny" Davis murdered a pregnant woman and her two children during a home invasion robbery in Jacksonville, Florida. A year later a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder. The judge sentenced him to death. In 1998, as Davis' execution date approached, the 54-year-old's death house attorney argued that the 355-pound inmate was too heavy for the state's 76-year-old electric chair. Since its construction in 1923, the Florida state electric chair had dispatched 200 prisoners. In recent years the chair had been involved in some unsightly executions. For example, death house witnesses in 1997 saw flames shoot from a condemned man's head. So, in 1998, following this unpleasant tableau, the prison, with "Tiny" Davis in mind, oversaw the construction of a new, heavy-duty electric chair. The new device could easily handle a 355-pound guest. On July 8, 1999, the executioner sent 2,300 volts through the metal cap on the fat man's head for two minutes. It wasn't pretty, there was some blood and a little groaning, but the new chair did its job.

The Gas Chamber

     Death in a gas chamber usually took six to eighteen minutes. The execution ritual began with the condemned inmate being led into the death chamber and strapped into a chair by his arms, waist, ankles, and chest. A mask was placed over the prisoner's face, and the chamber sealed. The executioner poured sulfuric acid down a tube into a metal container on the floor, a canister that contained cyanide pellets. The mixture of the chemicals produced a cloud of lethal gas.

     An open curtain allowed witnesses to observe the inmate inside the chamber. At the designated moment, the executioner hit an electric switch that combined the chemicals that produced the killing agent.

     The gas chamber was an expensive form of execution. Moreover, one could argue that because the condemned man contributed to his own death by breathing in the gas, it was the most cruel. Dr. Allen McLean Hamilton, a toxicologist, first proposed the gassing of death row inmates to the state of Nevada in 1921. That year, state legislators abolished the electric chair in favor of the gas chamber. On February 8, 1924, a Chinese immigrant named Gee Jon became the first person in America to be executed by gas. He died in the chamber inside the Nevada State Penitentiary in Carson City.

     Eventually adopted by eleven states as the official method of execution, lethal gas killed 594 prisoners in the U.S. from 1924 to 1999.

The Caryl Chessman Case

     Caryl Chessman was an armed robber and serial rapist who spent most of his adult life behind bars. In 1948, a Los Angeles jury found him guilty of 17 counts of robbery, kidnapping, and rape. Among his crimes, he had kidnapped a 17-year-old girl named Mary Alice Meza out of her car and forced her to give him oral sex. He committed a similar offense against another victim, Regina Johnson. Under California law at the time, a kidnapping that involved bodily injury was a capital offense. Under this law, the judge sentenced Chessman to die in the gas chamber.

     Following his highly publicized trial, Chessman continued to argue his innocence through essays and books. His two memoirs, written behind bars, became bestsellers. During his twelve years on San Quentin's death row, Chessman filed dozens of appeals, and managed to avoid eight execution dates. Following his failed last-minute attempt to avoid death with a writ of habeas corpus filed with the California Supreme Court, Chessman died of asphyxiation on May 2, 1960 in San Quentin's gas chamber. He is the only person to die in the gas chamber for a crime other than murder.

Lethal Injection

     By the 21st century, state executioners were injecting death row inmates with a three-drug cocktail that included pentobarbital. When the European manufacturers of this deadly drug stopped exporting it and other killing agents to the United States, executioners found themselves in a fix. Some began using a single drug--usually pentobarbital if they had it--while others concocted new, experimental cocktails made of drugs available in the United States.

     Anti-capital punishment activists have used the lethal drug supply problem to further their push to have the death penalty abolished altogether. But for these crusaders, if it's not the inhumanity of using untested drugs, it's something else. These death house lawyers and political activists object to executing prisoners who, when they murdered, were under eighteen; inmates who are fat with hard-to-find veins; killers with low I.Q.s; and in the case of a Missouri murderer named Russell Bucklew, a death row inmate who wasn't healthy enough to be humanely executed.

The Clayton Lockett Case

     In 1999, an Oklahoma criminal named Clayton Lockett tortured then buried alive an 18-year-old girl who had been unfortunate enough to cross this predator's path. On April 29, 2014, the executioner at the state penitentiary in McAlester administered a three-drug cocktail of Midazalam (to render him unconscious), Vecuronium (to stop his breathing), and potassium chloride (to stop his heart).

     Seven minutes after the drugs went into Lockett's body, he was still conscious. He moved his head and tried to get off the gurney seventeen minutes into the execution. Finally, 43 minutes after being injected, the 38-year-old died of a heart attack. It wasn't a perfect, well-oiled killing, but in the end the drugs worked.

     By describing Lockett's death as torture, a horrible ordeal, and a nightmare, death house lawyers, anti-capital punishment crusaders, and people in the media who support their cause, exploited Lockett's "botched" execution for all its worth. Suddenly, executing a sadistic rapist and cold-blooded murderer by lethal injection became cruel and unusual punishment. For those who were not losing sleep over Clayton Lockett's bumpy ride into eternity, listening to this hand-wringing was cruel and unusual punishment.

Back to Bullets

     In 2014, politicians in Utah, Wyoming, and Missouri proposed bringing back the firing squad. In Utah, legislators abolished death by firing squad in 2004, citing the excessive media attention surrounding this form of execution. Still, murderers sentenced before 2004 had the option to die by shooting. In 2010, Ronnie Lee Gardner, a man who fatally shot a Salt Lake City attorney in 1985 in Gardner's attempt to flee the court house, selected the firing squad over lethal injection. Five police officers used .30-caliber Winchester rifles to carry out Gardner's execution. Unlike Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, Mr. Gardner died instantly. Nevertheless, those who opposed capital punishment, fretted that the executioners might miss their target, causing a slow and painful death. There was, however, a simple solution to this problem: give each executioner two bullets.

The Return of the Electric Chair

     On May 22, 2014, Tennessee Governor Bill Hallam signed a bill allowing the state to electrocute death row inmates in the event the state was unable to acquire the proper drugs for the execution. Lawmakers had overwhelmingly passed the bill the previous month. And most people in the state supported the new law. According to a 2014 Vanderbilt University poll, 56 percent of registered voters in the state welcomed the return of the chair.

     Corrections officials in Tennessee have been dealing with the lethal drug shortage. Electricity, on the other hand, didn't come from Europe and was in good supply.

     In Tennessee, Daryl Holton, in 2009, was the last man in the state to die in the electric chair. In 1997, the Gulf War veteran murdered his three sons and a stepdaughter with a high-powered rifle in their Shelbyville, Tennessee  garage. Death by electrocution had been his choice of execution.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Beware of the Naked Guy

     In recent years, dozens of naked men high on meth, PCP, synthetic marijuana, or bath salts violently assaulted, murdered, and in a few cases, ate part of their victims. These hallucinating assailants shed their clothing because the designer drugs caused their bodies to abnormally heat-up. Police officers, after their taser guns failed to bring these rampaging, drugged-up zombies under control, had to shoot a few of them.

Abraham Luna: The Nude Nutcase From Tarpon Springs

     Police officers in Tarpon Springs, a Florida town of 23,000 in Pinellas County not far from Tampa, received a strange call at 6:50 Monday morning, November 26, 2012. Residents of a neighborhood near the Tarpon Springs Golf Course had seen a man running about with nothing on but a pair of construction boots. (The nude man was later identified as 30-year-old Abraham Luna.) By the time patrol officers rolled into the area, Luna, a resident of Tarpon Springs, was gone.

     The following day, at 4:17 in the morning, a Tarpon Springs officer tried to pull over a nude man driving a white van at high rates of speed on U.S. Route 19. The officer discontinued his pursuit of Luna when the van crossed into Pasco County. As a result, Luna escaped arrest.

     Fifteen minutes after eluding arrest in Pinellas County, Abraham Luna pulled into a 7-Elven store along Route 19 in Holiday, Florida. The nude man walked into the store, and without provocation, started shoving, scratching, and punching a male employee. "What's wrong with you?" the clerk exclaimed.

     "You asked for it," Luna replied.

     When a second 7-Eleven employee told Luna to leave, the naked assailant strolled out of the store and climbed back into his van. But instead of pulling back onto the highway, Luna gunned the vehicle toward the store, stopping just before crashing into the building. He next got out of the van, and tried to open the door of a car that belonged to one of the store clerks. Unable to steal the employee's vehicle, Luna climbed back into his van and drove north in the southbound lane.

     The brief police pursuit of Luna on Route 19 ended when the van sideswiped a patrol car driven by a Pinellas County sheriff's deputy. Luma jumped out of the van and ran, but was quickly apprehended by a deputy who jolted him with a taser device.

     The Pinellas County prosecutor threw the book at Luna, charging him with aggravated assault, aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer, reckless driving, aggravated fleeing to elude arrest, driving with a revoked license, and violation of his probation.

     Luna, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2007, was incarcerated in the Pinellas County Jail in Land O' Lakes, Florida. After his arrest, Luna explained his nudity to reporters by saying it was a shock tactic that gave him an advantage in fights.  Fortunately, the tactic of being nude did not protect him against being shocked by the police.

Coco Bennett: Nude Man With Samurai Sword

     The San Jose police, on New Year's Day 2013 at eight in the morning, received a call regarding a man, later identified as 29-year-old Coco Bennett, carrying an assault rifle in a residential neighborhood. Bennett climbed into a pickup and drove out of the area before the police arrived.

     San Jose officers came upon Bennett's truck a few miles from where he had been seen with the assault rifle. As they approached his truck, the nude driver exited the vehicle carrying a large, samurai sword. "You're going to have to kill me," Bennett said.

     Instead of shooting Bennett, the officers at the scene called in San Jose's Crisis Intervention Team. Following a two-hour stand-off involving 32 police officers, the naked man ran toward a nearby fence. When he tried to climb the barrier, Bennett fell and dropped his sword. Officers took this opportunity to take him into custody. From Bennett's truck officers recovered his AR-15 assault rifle. Had he come out of his truck armed with the AR-15, Mr. Bennett would have been shot to death.

     After being treated at a local hospital for minor injuries, Bennett was taken to the Santa Clara County Jail.

The Naked Connecticut Church Intruder

     The day after Coco Bennett's arrest in San Jose, a nude Gary Pohronezny burst into the St. James Catholic Church in Killingly, Connecticut. The 41-year-old from Brooklyn, New York barged into the church at one-thirty in the afternoon, interrupting a religious service attended by adults and several school children. A member of the congregation called 911, and after a brief scuffle, officers took the naked man into custody.

     Charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with police, Pohronezny ended up in a hospital in Putnam, Connecticut where he underwent psychiatric evaluation.

The Naked Home Intruder

     A Miami homeowner, on January 3, 2013, was awakened at five o'clock in the morning by the sound of his barking dog. The man causing the commotion, a naked home invader named Jeffrey Delice, was choking the pet. When the 20-year-old intruder tried to bite and choke the resident of the home, the homeowner shot him in the foot. Delice, high on drugs, was charged with a variety of offenses including burglary, assault, and resisting arrest.

     Note: Since I couldn't find any news updates on any of these men, I assume these cases were handled outside of the criminal justice system.