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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On His Grandparents

As a kid I often visited my maternal grandparents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You could tell my grandfather, as a young man, had been a handsome devil. Because my grandmother was quite overweight and wore false teeth she must have purchased secondhand, you couldn't envision a younger version of the woman. Even though I didn't know anything about marriage, I didn't think they had a good one. He constantly referred to her as The Old Bat, and said he must have been born married because he had no recollection of being single. She frequently reminded everyone that he was a dimwit who had no memory at all. She often hid his pipe for fear he'd burn down the house. On many occasions he would pull me aside and warn me of the perils of marriage. "Don't do it," he would say, "a wife will wear you down then throw you away." My grandmother died first. She tumbled head-first down a flight of cellar stairs. I often wondered if someone had helped the old woman get down those steps so fast. I never married.

Thornton P. Knowles

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Jorelys Rivera Murder Case: The Polygraph as an Interrogation Tool

     Several years ago, a story went around about an ingenious small town cop who hooked a young thief up to a copy machine the kid thought was a lie detector. When the suspect gave an answer the interrogator didn't like, he hit the print button causing a sheet of paper to come out of the copier that read, "Not True." The suspect, convinced he had been caught by a sophisticated lie detection instrument, confessed. Whenever I told this story in class, I said it happened in West Virginia, and that the judge, offended by the cop's clever dishonesty, threw the confession out.

     The copy machine-as-polygraph story probably didn't happen in West Virginia, or anywhere else. But it illustrates an important point about scientific lie detection, and how the polygraph technique can be used by examiners to coax confessions out of guilty suspects. The debate over polygraph accuracy, in this context, is not relevant. What does matter is this: most criminal suspects who happen to be guilty, believe the polygraph works. In the right hands it can be an effective interrogation tool. A few years ago, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation made public a video-tape of a murder suspect's polygraph examination and follow-up interrogation. The transcript of this session reveals how a professional polygraph examiner/interrogator can acquire a confession.

The Jorelys Rivera Murder Case

     On Friday, December 2, 2010, 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera, a resident of the River Ridge Apartment complex in Canton, Georgia outside of Atlanta, went missing. Three days later police officers found her body in a dumpster not far from where she had been abducted. Ryan Brunn, a 20-year-old newly hired maintenance man had lured the girl into a vacant apartment where he had raped and murdered her.

     On the day following the discovery of the murdered girl's body, Keith Sitton, a special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, gave the suspect a polygraph test. What follows is the word-for-word account of that session:

SITTON: Regarding that girl, do you intend to answer the [polygraph] questions truthfully?

BRUNN: Yes.

SITTON: Did you participate in any way in causing the death of that girl?

BRUNN: No.

SITTON: Do you know for sure who caused the death of that girl?

BRUNN: No.

     In discussing the results of the polygraph test with Brunn, Sitton said, "I can see you're not doing good on this test. Those [last two] questions are really bothering me."

     "I promise you. I'll take the test again," Brunn replied. His voice was weak, and he was obviously nervous.

     "There's something on this that you're not telling us. Something that you're keeping to yourself. What is it you're holding back? Because we're going to solve this thing. It's just written all over you. Something's bothering you."

     "I'm not bothered at all."

     "You haven't told the complete truth about everything."

     "I have," Brunn replied.

     The GBI agent asked Brunn about having been accused of sexually fondling a young girl in Virginia: "You know what I'm talking about," he said.

     "I don't."

     "Remember, I said you had to be 100 percent truthful. I asked you [on the polygraph] if anyone made accusations. So what you have done is told me a lie.

     "They put things in that child's head. I'm a good person. I didn't do nothing to that little Spanish girl, and I didn't do nothing to the other girl [the one in Virginia].

     The next day, Sutton questioned Brunn again. He informed the suspect that according to the polygraph he had lied. To this, Brunn said, "I should have told the truth straight up. But I didn't. I was scared." At this point, Brunn made a full confession. He said he had raped the girl, cut her throat, wrapped her in a garbage bag, and dumped her body in the trash compactor.

     On January 17, 2011, Ryan Brunn pleaded guilty to murdering Jorelys Rivera. The judge sentenced him to life without parole. A year later, while serving his time at the Georgia State Prison, Brunn used his sweatshirt to hang himself.

     

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Female Arsonist

     Arson is mainly a man's crime, but women have gotten into the act. Men usually use arson to defraud insurance companies while women tend to set fires for pathological reasons.

Sadie Renee Johnson

     In July 2013, a wildfire broke out on the Warm Springs, Oregon Indian Reservation. Before being brought under control it scorched 51,000 acres and cost the federal government $8 million to extinguish. At least no one was injured.

     Two day after the start of the blaze, 23-year-old Sadie Renee Johnson wrote this on her Facebook page: "Like my fire?"

     Interrogated by detectives, Johnson confessed to intentionally setting the fire by throwing a firecracker from her car into roadside brush. She said she had no idea the fire would spread so fast, burn so much land, and threaten so many people. Asked why she committed arson, Johnson said she thought her firefighter friends were bored and needed work.

     On May 19, 2014, Johnson pleaded guilty to arson in federal court. Pursuant to the plea agreement the judge will sentence her in September to 18 months in prison. Under federal law the maximum penalty for this crime is five years behind bars and three years probation.

     To quote John Wayne, "Life is tough. It's even tougher when you're stupid."

Martha Dreher

     In early August 2014, Adam Williams came home to his empty house in Austin, Texas to find the dwelling filled with smoke. His father, Glenn Williams and Adam's two pre-teen sisters were out of town.

     Fire investigators determined that fires had been set in each of the girls' bedrooms. Due to lack of oxygen and highly combustable fuel, the fires had burned themselves out. Nevertheless, the 90-year-old  historic house, due to smoke damage, had to be gutted. So, who had committed this arson?

     Glenn Williams told detectives that a couple of months ago he had hired 57-year-old Martha Dreher to babysit his daughters. According to him, she had recently complained that the girls treated her with disrespect. As a result, she had threatened to quit.

     In reviewing surveillance camera footage, investigators saw Martha Dreher drive up to the Williams house. Twenty minutes later, when she drove off, flames could be seen in the bedroom windows.

     Based on this circumstantial evidence, a Travis County prosecutor charged Dreher with felony arson. At her arraignment, the suspect pleaded not guilty. Her attorney, Amber Bode, in speaking to reporters, said, "The thing that we are going to be pushing for--in addition to lie detection tests and everything else that we can do to prove her innocence--is evidence." (I cannot find a disposition of this case.)

The Kleber Cordova Bathtub Murder Case

     On May 9, 2008, at 7:30 in the morning, 29-year-old Kleber Cordova called 911 and reported that his wife had accidentally hit her head on their bathtub faucet and slipped, unconscious, under the water. He said he had tried but failed to lift his 4 foot 10 inch, 125 pound wife out of the tub.

     First responders to the Morristown, New Jersey home found a nude Eliana Torres submerged on her back with her face directly under the spout. Given cardiopulmonary resuscitation and rushed to the Morristown Memorial Hospital, the 26-year-old woman died five days later without regaining consciousness.

     Kleber Cordova and Eliana Torres had a one-year-old son and an eight-year-old daughter who attended second grade at the Normandy Elementary School. Cordova, his wife, and their eight-year-old girl had been born in Ecuador and were in the United States illegally. The victim's mother, Rita Valverde, on the day of the bathtub "accident," rushed to the Morristown hospital from her home in Danbury, Connecticut.

     Cordova, when questioned by the police at the  hospital a few hours after his 911 call, said he had arrived home from his night job to find his wife lying face-up in the bathtub with water from the spout pouring directly into her mouth. After failing to remove her from the tub, Cordova had called for help. The next day, aware that his wife was still alive and could possibly regain consciousness, Cordova asked to speak with detectives.

     In a video-taped statement given in Spanish through an interpreter, Cordova changed his story. During the week prior to the bathtub incident, he and Eliana had been arguing. She had informed Kleber that she had a boyfriend and planned to leave him. That morning, after she asked him for a divorce, he want "crazy" and held his wife's head under the water for about three minutes. To make the drowning look like an accident, Cordova removed her wet clothing and hid the garments in his car. (The interrogators had not warned Cordova of his Miranda rights, but since he had initiated contact with them, the judge, in a preliminary hearing, ruled the confession admissible.)

     Charged with the murder of his wife, Cordova was placed in the Morris County Jail in lieu of $1 million bond.

     On March 23, 2009, Morris County prosecutor John McNamera offered Cordova a deal. If he pleaded guilty to murder, the judge would sentence him to 30 years in prison. If tried and found guilty, he could receive up to 75 years in prison. Cordova rejected the offer. He would take his chances with a jury.

     The Cordova murder trial began in early March, 2012 at the Morris County Superior Court in Morristown, New Jersey. Assistant prosecutor Brian DiGiamaco did not show the jury Cordova's video-taped confession because a judge had ruled it inadmissible. The prosecutor put the defendant's daughter, now twelve years old, on the stand. On the morning in question, the eight-year-old girl awoke to the sound of her mother's cries for help. From the bathroom Eliana had screamed, "God help me!" in Spanish. The witness said she walked into the bathroom where she saw water splashing out of the bathtub. Her father was leaning over her mother who was clawing at his face. (When the police spoke to Cordova at the hospital they noticed fresh scratches on his face.) Cordova, when he realized that his daughter was standing nearby, said, "Everything is all right, go to your room." Fearing that her father would get angry if she disobeyed, the girl returned to her room, closed the door, and sat on her bed.

     From her bedroom, the witness heard someone turn off the bathtub water. Her father then walked out of the bathroom and into the kitchen. She could hear his wet sneakers on the kitchen floor. The witness said she took this opportunity to re-enter the bathroom and check on her mother. That's when she saw "the thigh part of her body" in the tub and a lot of water on the floor. Frightened, the little girl ran back to her bedroom.

     Later that morning, in the hospital waiting room, the defendant told his daughter not to say anything about what she had seen. The victim's mother, Rita Valverde, was sitting nearby and overheard Cordova say this to his daughter.

     On cross-examination by Cordova's attorney, public defender Jessica Moses, the defendant's daughter acknowledged that the first time she accused her father of killing her mother was in December 2008, several months after the incident. The defense attorney, in this line of questioning, hoped to convince the jurors that detectives had wrangled this story out of the eight-year-old. (Since the incident, the witness had been living with her grandmother, Rita Valverde, who had moved from Connecticut to Florida.)

     On March 28, 2012, the victim's sister, Zaida Solis, took the stand and testified that three days after Cordova's arrest he had said this to her: "How could I do that to the love of my life?" The defendant also told his sister-in-law that the drowning had "happened fast," and that he was sorry about it. According to Cordova, on the night before the bathtub attack, Eliana had phoned her boyfriend in front of her husband. The next morning she demanded a divorce.

     After the state rested its case, Jessica Moses asked Judge David Ironson for a judgment of acquittal on the grounds the prosecution had not made a prima facie case against her client. If she did not prevail on that request, the public defender asked for a reduction of the charge from murder to passion/provocation manslaughter. "There is no evidence to support a murder conviction," she argued.

     In opposition to the public defender's reduced charge motion, assistant prosecutor Maggie Calderwood asserted that the defendant had killed his wife "knowingly," and "on purpose." Judge Ironson denied the public defender's motions. The murder charge would stand.

     Jessica Moses didn't have much of a defense beyond a character witness who said Cordova worked hard as an overnight cleaner at a Morristown restaurant and a hospital security officer who saw the defendant faint after visiting his unconscious wife. Cordova did not take the stand on his own behalf.

     In her closing argument to the jury the public defender said that the defendant's daughter had changed her story when questioned by the police months after her father called 911. The defense attorney, in explaining why Cordova had taken off his wife's clothing and hid them in his car, said he "panicked" after the 911 dispatcher asked him a series of questions regarding what had happened in the bathroom. He staged the scene as an accidental drowning because he was sure the authorities would accuse him of murder. As evidence that the killing was not premeditated, the public defender pointed out that two days before the struggle in the bathtub, Cordova bought his wife a new computer and paid an extra $99 for a one-year warranty.

     On April 5, 2012, after deliberating two hours, the jury found Kleber Cordova guilty of murdering his wife. The defendant showed no emotion as the foreman read the verdict.

     The judge, on July 24, 2012, sentenced Kleber Cordova to fifty years in prison. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Na Cola Franklin: The Case of the Prenuptial Murder

     Billy Brewster and Na Cola Franklin lived in an apartment complex in Whitehall Township outside of Allentown, Pennsylvania with their three children. The couple was scheduled to be married at ten in the morning of Saturday, August 11, 2012. Brewster's cousin, Nakia Kali and his wife Monique had traveled to eastern Pennsylvania from Illinois to attend the wedding. They were staying in the apartment with the 36-year-old and his wife-to-be.

     Just after midnight on the morning of the wedding day, Brewster and his visitors returned to the apartment after being out for an undetermined period. Two hours later, when Billy, Na Cola, and Nakia were in the living room, Na Cola and Billy started arguing. Monique Kali, from one of the bedrooms, heard the shouting. When she cracked the door open and looked into the living room, she saw a large blood stain on the front of Billy's shirt, and Na Cola swinging a kitchen knife. Afraid that Na Cola Franklin would attack Naki with the weapon, Monique charged into the room and tackled her. Nakia knocked the knife out of Na Cola's hand, and one of Franklin's children carried the bloody weapon into the kitchen.

     Billy Brewster staggered out of the apartment onto the second-story landing and collapsed. His cousin called 911.

     Police officers arrived at the scene at 2:19 AM. Less than an hour later, Billy Brewster was pronounced dead at the Lehigh Valley Hospital. Na Cola, in custody at the Lehigh County Jail, had stabbed him twice in the heart.

     At her arraignment on the morning she was supposed to be standing at the alter getting married, Na Cola wept and said, "I did not kill him on purpose. I want my family back." The judge denied her bond.

     In May 2013, a jury in Allentown, Pennsylvania found Na Cola Franklin guilty of first-degree murder. Six weeks later the judge sentenced her to life in prison.

     Because Na Cola Franklin had killed the man she was within hours of marrying, this homicide has attracted more attention than it would have otherwise. Aside from the wedding element, this is not an unusual case. Every year there are hundreds of homicides involving people who kill spontaneously for trivial reasons. Not all murders come with a motive equal to the crime. Cases like this usually involve alcohol, drugs or mental illness. Weddings alone can make people do crazy things.
       

Friday, July 27, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On A New Religion

If I were to start a new religion I would call it Reversalality. Reversalists believe that bad people go to Heaven where they are rehabilitated for eternity. Good people, on the other hand, go to Hell where they are rewarded with an eternity of debauchery to make up for lives of self-denial. In the Reveralists' version of Hell you might see an Amish man, a martini in one hand and dice in the other, laughing it up with a prostitute at a Las Vegas crap table. Just a thought.

Thornton P. Knowles

The Turkish Severed Head Murder Case

     Nevin Yildirim lived with her husband and two children, ages two and six, in a village in southwestern Turkey. In January 2012, her husband left home to work at a seasonal job in another town. Shortly after Mr. Yildirim began working at the other place, a 35-year-old member of the village named Nurettin came to Nevin's house and raped her. This married father of two threatened to shoot Nevin's children if she reported the crime to anyone.

     By August 2012, after months of being raped on a regular basis by Nurettin, Nevin was five months pregnant with his child. When she visited a clinic regarding an abortion, a health care worker informed her that her pregnancy was too far along for that option. In Turkey, abortions are illegal after the first ten weeks of pregnancy.

     On August 28, 2012, when Nurettin came to Nevin's house to rape her again, she pulled her father-in-law's rifle off a wall rack and shot him. As the wounded Nurettin reached for his handgun to return fire, Nevin shot him again. Hit with her second slug, he tired to run, but stumbled and fell. As he lay on the ground cursing her, Nevin fired a third bullet, this one into his genitals. The rapist went silent, and a few seconds later, died where he lay in a pool of his own blood.

     The woman who had just killed the man who for months had been raping her, laid down her rifle and picked up a kitchen knife that she then used to decapitate him. She picked up the detached head by the hair and carried it triumphantly to the village square. To a group of men sitting around a coffee house, Nevin, still gripping her rapist's head as it continued to drip blood from the base of the severed neck, said, "Here is the head of the man who played with my honor."

     As the coffee house drinkers looked on in horror, Nevin Yildirim tossed her blood trophy. The severed head rolled along the ground and came to rest in the public square. A short time later, a local police officer took the blood-splattered woman into custody.

     A few days after the killing, in speaking to her court-appointed lawyer who came to the local lock-up, Nevin reportedly said, "I thought of reporting [Nurettin] to the military police and to the district attorney, but this was going to make me a scorned woman. Since I was going to get a bad reputation, I decided to clean my honor, and acted on killing him. I thought of suicide a lot, but couldn't do it. Now no one can call my children bastards....Everyone will call them the children of the woman who cleaned her honor."

     On August 30, 2012, at the preliminary hearing on the charge of murder, Yildirim told the magistrate she didn't want to keep her rapist's baby and that she wished to die. The public prosecutor advised the court he had ordered psychiatric evaluations of the defendant.

    Nevin Yildirim gave birth to her rapist's child on November 17, 2012.

     On March 25, 2013, the district judge found Yildirim guilty of murder. Before he handed down the sentence, the judge ordered police officers to remove feminist protesters from the courtroom.

     After clearing the courtroom of protesters, the Turkish judge imposed the maximum punishment of life in prison. Among women in Turkey and others around the world, the verdict and sentence created an uproar. Had Nevin Yildirim committed the exact crime in the United States, she would have been charged with second or third-degree murder. Her attorney would have had the option of putting on either an insanity or battered woman defense. If found guilty, her punishment wouldn't be anything close to life behind bars. In the U.S. a case like would likely be resolved through the plea bargaining process that would lead to much lighter sentence.
     

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Nyia Parker: The Mother From Hell

     Nyia Parker resided on the west side of Philadelphia with her 21-year-old son Daequan Norman. Daequan, a quadriplegic, suffered from cerebral palsy. The unemployed 41-year-old mother received Social Security benefits for Daequan and relied upon a network of relatives and friends to help care for her completely dependent son.

     At ten o'clock on Monday morning April 6, 2015, Parker pushed her son in his wheelchair into a wooded area off a walking trail along Cobbs Creek about a quarter mile from their home. She lifted him out of the chair, laid him on his back, placed a Bible on his chest, and covered him with a blanket.

     After depositing her helpless son amid the leaves, empty beer cans and other litter, Nyia Parker boarded a bus to Silver Spring, Maryland to spend a week with her boyfriend, a former Philadelphia resident. She didn't tell anyone that she had left her son lying alone and helpless in the woods.

     Twenty-four hours after leaving her son in the woods exposed to the weather, wild animals, and people who might harm him, Nyia Parker, under a Facebook photograph depicting her and the boyfriend having a good time, wrote: "I am so happy."

     At nine o'clock Friday night April 10, a man walking through the Cobbs Creek woods came upon Daequan Norman lying in the leaves near his wheelchair. He had been there for five days and four nights.

     An ambulance crew rushed the abandoned son to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. As a result of his ordeal, Daequan suffered from dehydration, was malnourished, and had an eye infection. There was no telling what kind of permanent mental and emotional damage he had suffered.

     A few hours following the abandoned man's removal from the west Philadelphia woods, police in Silver Spring, Maryland took Nyia Parker into custody at her boyfriend's house. Due to some undisclosed ailment, the arresting officers took her to a nearby hospital for some kind of treatment.

     Back in Philadelphia, a local prosecutor charged Parker with half of the offenses in the Pennsylvania Crimes Code. Upon her extradition back to Philadelphia, she faced charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment of a person, neglect of care of a dependent person, unlawful restraint, kidnapping, and false imprisonment. (Why wasn't she charged with attempted murder?)

     People under the influence of mental illness, alcohol, and drugs commit all kinds of strange, and inexplicable crimes. But how can one even begin to understand why this mother left her quadriplegic son in the woods for five days while she visited her boyfriend. And why the Facebook posting?

     Did she expect her disabled son to die alone in the woods? If Daequan had died, what would have been her story? Would she have blamed his death on kidnappers? If so, how would she have explained the fact she had left him alone in the first place? And why would anyone abduct her son?

     Was it possible that Nyia Parker actually expected to get away with this atrocious act of cruelty? If this case ever goes to trial, this woman is looking at 20 years in prison. (I have searched the Internet and have been unable to find a disposition for this case.)

     

The JonBenet Ramsey Case And The History Of The Internet Subculture

     …It's been said that JonBenet Ramsey's murder, like that of Nicole Brown Simpson's, was made for the supermarket tabloids. Both cases had the right mix of glitz and sordidness, shocking details and rabid public curiosity to bring out the worst strains of Enquirer-style journalism. But the Ramsey case, with its endless clues and possible suspects, its queasy connections to the worlds of child beauty pageants and the sexual objectification of little girls, was also made for the Internet--and became the impetus for an entire subculture of online sleuths, speculators and voyeurs.

     O. J. Simpson's 1995 murder trial came a little too early in the cyber-revolution to get much online traction; most people followed the case on television. But by the time the JonBenet case began making headlines outside of Colorado in early 1997, a nation primed with AOL accounts and dial-up service was ready and eager to weigh in--anonymously, of course…

     The JonBenet virtual community got its start in the Boulder Daily Camera's online News Forum, which featured back-and-forth posts from readers curious about the case and a live chat room. The rising traffic from the Ramsey-obsessed fans soon led to the launch of websites providing opportunities for more detailed discussions about the case.

     One of the most popular news sites, Mrs. Brady's URLs, became a much imitated template, offering links to breaking news and emerging discussion forums. A spectrum of sites catered to various shades of opinion, from those convinced that an Intruder Did It (IDIs) to those who thought the parents were good for it--referred to disparagingly by IDIs as BORGS, a Star Trek reference that also served as an acronym for "Bent On Ramsey Guilt." There were also sites for fans of lead detective Steve Thomas, detractors of District Attorney Alex Hunter, and more.

     The surging online phenomenon produced some impressive archives of Ramsey-related documents, recordings and photos; the still active JonBenet archive at A Candy Rose remains one of the most useful and extensive….

Alan Prendergast, "JonBenet Ramsey and the Rise of an Internet Subculture," blogs.westword.com, December 2014 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Mary Whitaker Murder Case

     In the summer months for the past 35 years, 61-year-old Mary Whitaker played violin for the Chautauqua Institution Symphony Orchestra in western New York not far from the Pennsylvania line. She lived in a one-story home outside of Westfield, New York. During the rest of the year the New York City resident played for the Westchester Philharmonic.

     On Tuesday night, August 19, 2014, someone drove 43-year-old Jonathan Conklin and Charles Sanford, 30, from Erie, Pennsylvania to Westfield, New York. Both men, with long histories of crime, had met a few months earlier at an Erie homeless shelter. After their driver dropped them off, Conklin broke into an apartment near a bar and stole several guns that included a .22-caliber rifle.

     From the site of the burglary, the two criminals walked to Mary Whitaker's rural home on Titus Road. With Conklin hiding nearby, Sanford rapped on her door. When she responded to his knock, he said he had run out of gas and needed to use her phone. After she handed him her cellphone, Conklin came out of hiding with the rifle in hand and said, "This is a robbery." A moment later, Conklin shot Whitaker in the chest. She screamed and grabbed the gun that went off again in the struggle. The second bullet entered her leg.

     Following the shooting, the robbers dragged the bleeding woman into her garage where they left her  dying while they ransacked her house for items to steal. Upon returning to the garage, Conklin ordered his accomplice to kill the victim. Sanford stabbed the wounded Whitaker in the throat.

     As Mary Whitaker bled to death in her garage, the two cold-blooded killers drove back to Erie in her Chevrolet HHR. They had also stolen her checkbook and credit cards.

     Upon the discovery of Whitaker's body, police in Chautauqua County, aware that Jonathan Conklin had been in the area, immediately suspected him of burglarizing the apartment and murdering the violinist.

     On Friday morning, August 22, 2014, after using Whitaker's credit cards to buy a flat screen television and some clothing at Walmart, Erie detectives took Conklin and Sanford into custody.

     On the day of their arrest, the suspects appeared before a federal magistrate on charges of interstate transportation of a stolen motor vehicle, carjacking, and federal firearms violations. In Chautauqua County, New York, Conklin and Sanford faced state charges of first-degree murder, burglary, and robbery.

     A Chautauqua County grand jury in January 2015 indicted Conklin and Sanford on charges of second-degree murder, burglary, robbery, and criminal use of a firearm. Four months later, the Chautauqua County district attorney announced that the suspects would be tried together in January 2016. Conklin was represented by an attorney with the local public defender's office while Sanford had a defense lawyer from Fredonia, New York.

     In September 2015, Charles Sanford pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and agreed to testify against Jonathan Conklin. Conklin, facing a sure-fire conviction, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder a month later.

     In May 2016, the judge sentenced Charles Sanford to fifteen years to life. Jonathan Conklin received a sentence of twenty-five years to life.

     Cases like this remind us that we live among predatory, cold-blooded killers who ought to be behind bars but are not.

     

Joe Rickey Hundley: The Airline Passenger Who Slapped a Baby

     On February 8, 2013, Jessica Bennett, a passenger on a Delta Air Line flight from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Atlanta, sat in row 28 seat B next to Joe Rickey Hundley. Jonah, her black 19-month-old adopted son (she is white) sat on her lap. Hundley, the 60-year-old president of an aircraft parts manufacturing company in Hayden, Idaho had been knocking down double vodkas and made the passengers seated around him uncomfortable with his belligerent remarks and attitude. At one point Hundley, in an obnoxious fashion, told Jessica Bennett that the kid was too big to be sitting on her lap.

     As the plane descended into Atlanta, the change in cabin pressure caused Jonah to cry. Aware that Hundley was becoming increasingly annoyed with the boy, Bennett did her best to calm her son down. But the child was in pain and continued to bawl. Hundley, unable to control his anger, turned to Bennett and said, "shut that [N-word] kid up!"

     Stunned by what she had just heard, Bennett asked, "What did you say?"

     Hundley pushed his lips next to Bennett's ear and repeated the racial slur. He then did something even more outrageous and unexpected; he slapped Jonah in the face with an open hand, cutting the child below his right eye. This did not, obviously, stop the crying.

     Passengers and crew, aware of the intoxicated, loud and bellicose passenger, rushed to Bennett's aid to make sure the angry drunk didn't hit the boy again. When the executive from Idaho walked off the plane in Atlanta he was met by a couple of FBI agents.

     Later that day Hundley was charged in federal court with assaulting a child younger than 16. If convicted, Hundley faced a maximum sentence of one year in prison. According to court records, Hundley, in 2007, pleaded guilty in Virginia to the misdemeanor assault of his girlfriend.

     Joe Hundley denied slapping the boy on the plane. His attorney, Marcia Shein, told reporters that she planned to plead him not guilty. Pointing out that her client was on a personal flight to visit a sick relative, Shein wanted the public to know that Mr. Hundley was under a lot of stress and was distraught. "He's not a racist. I'm going to make that clear because that's what people are suggesting. There's background information people don't know about, and in time it will come out."

     Attorney Shein, in her public relations effort on Hundley's behalf, mentioned that her client had been getting hate mail. "Hopefully," she said, "this situation can be resolved. Both people are probably very nice. No one should rush to judgment."

     Joe Hundley lost his job over the slap heard around the world. On February 17, 2013, the head of Hundley's parent company, AGC Aerospace and Composites Group, a corporation headquartered in Decatur, Georgia, issued a statement which read: "Reports of the recent behavior of one of our business unit executives while on personal travel are offensive and disturbing. We have taken this matter very seriously and worked diligently to examine it since learning of the matter. As of Sunday [February 17] the executive is no longer employed with the company."

     The slapped boy's father, Josh Bennett, told a reporter that, "We want to see this guy do some time."

     In October 2013, Mr. Hundley pleaded guilty to assault after the Assistant United States Attorney indicated that he would be satisfied with a six-month prison sentence. When it came time for sentencing, however, the federal judge ignored the prosecutor's suggestion. On January 6, 2014, the judge sentenced Hundley to eight months in a federal lockup. In justifying the stiffer sentence, the judge cited the defendant's prior assault conviction.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Arthur Morgan III: A Narcissistic, Remorseless Child Killer

     By November 2011, Imani Benton, a 26-year-old resident of Lakehurst, New Jersey, had terminated her relationship with Arthur Morgan III, the father of their two-year-old daughter, Tierra. The couple had fought constantly, and on several occasions had taken each other to court. He continued to deny the breakup even after she returned the engagement ring and the other jewelry he had given her. The two of them had also traded accusations of child abuse. As a result of Benton's domestic complaints, state child protection agents conducted four separate investigations that ended up clearing Morgan of these accusations. As a result, he continued to have access to his daughter.

     On November 15, Morgan's boss at Creative Building Supplies Company in Lakewood, New Jersey fired him.

     On November 21, 2011, just eight hours after he had called Imani Benton a bad mother and a whore, Morgan made arrangements with her to take Tierra to see a movie about dancing penguins. Four hours after Morgan promised to return the toddler, the girl's mother called the police to report Tierra missing.

     Police officers from thirteen New Jersey law enforcement agencies looked for the girl and her missing father. The search came to an end when searchers found Tierra's body in Shark River Park twenty miles north of her Lakehurst home.

     Homicide investigators believed that Arthur Morgan had dropped the girl's car seat, with her strapped into it, fifteen feet into a creek that ran below an overpass. The partially submerged car seat had been weighed down by a car jack. The drowned girl, still wearing her Pink Hello Kitty hat, had landed in three feet of water. (According to the father who did not deny throwing his daughter off the bridge, he heard her scream as he got back into his car.)

     After leaving his daughter to drown in the creek beneath the overpass, Arthur Morgan drove to a friend's house where he had a few drinks. The next day, he boarded a train for San Diego, California.

     At four in the afternoon on November 29, 2011, agents with the U.S. Marshals Service arrested Morgan at a house in San Diego. (He was arrested on a federal unlawful flight to avoid prosecution warrant. These UFAP warrants are dismissed after the fugitive is returned to the local jurisdiction.)

     Back in New Jersey a few days after his apprehension, Morgan faced the charge of first-degree murder. Over the objection of his court-appointed lawyer, the arraignment judge set Morgan's bond at $10 million. Peter J. Warshaw Jr., the Monmouth County prosecutor in charge of the case, said he would seek the maximum penalty of life without parole. (New Jersey abolished the death penalty.)

     The Arthur Morgan child murder trial got underway in a Freehold, New Jersey Superior Court on March 12, 2014. In his opening remarks to the jury, prosecutor Warshaw accused the defendant of killing his daughter simply because he was angry that Imani Benton had ended their relationship. According to the prosecutor, Morgan killed Tierra to get back at his former girlfriend. Mr. Warshaw called the killing a "knowing and purposeful murder" motivated by pride and revenge.

     The public defender told the jurors that her client was merely guilty of reckless manslaughter, a lesser degree of criminal homicide that carried a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Given the undisputed facts of this case, that would turn out to be a hard sell.

     The murdered girl's mother, Imani Benton, took the stand as the prosecution's star witness. To the jury, Benton read a letter the defendant had sent her from the San Diego jail shortly after his arrest. In that letter, Morgan, in justifying the murder, accused members of Benton's family of abusing Tierra. He referred to their behavior as "heinous and depraved." Morgan also blamed the girl's mother for her death: "You should have come with us to the movie. It would have been so different, I'm sure. That was the plan, to go as a family."

     Regarding the defendant's self-serving letter, Imani Benton testified that, "If I would have gone to the movie, we wouldn't have gone to the movie. We all would be dead."

     One of the defendant's co-workers at the Lakewood lumber yard testified that Morgan had been paid every Tuesday, and by Friday, he was broke. According to Tulio Bazan, the defendant spent a lot of money on clothes. "He showed me the Gucci sunglasses, a Gucci wallet, and the Gucci shoes." Morgan told the witness that the wallet itself cost him $400.

     In mid-April 2014, the jury in Freehold, New Jersey, following a short period of deliberation, found Arthur Morgan guilty as charged.

     Six weeks after the guilty verdict, at his May 28, 2014 sentence hearing, the convicted murderer apologized to Imani Benton for the breakdown of their relationship. (He didn't apologize for killing their daughter.) "I want to say I'm sorry for the deterioration of what I thought was a beautiful friendship between the two of us that blossomed into a daughter. For anybody that was truly affected by this, I hope we can all heal from the situation, knowing that Tierra is in a better place." (In other words, he was the victim in this story.)

     As one might expect from a narcissistic sociopath with a god-complex, the convicted murderer whined about the media coverage of the trial. He said he didn't like newspaper photographs that depicted him as either angry or inappropriately jolly. He informed the court that had he known that reporters would make negative comments about his designer court room attire, he would have dressed more modestly.

     The complaining sociopath also rambled on about how badly his murder victim had been treated by members of Benton's family. He contrasted that behavior to how, before he murdered his daughter out of wounded pride, he had been such an excellent father.

     Judge Anthony Mellaci, Jr., before handing down Morgan's sentence, lamented that New Jersey no longer imposed the death penalty. "You'd be candidate number one for it's imposition," he said. "Your actions were horrific, unthinkable and appalling. This child was alive when she was placed in the water in pitch darkness. She had to suffer the unthinkable action of having water rush in and fill her lungs while strapped into that car seat. This child suffered before she died."

     Judge Mellaci sentenced the remorseless sociopath to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
     

Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Frederick Harris III Murder Case

     In 1987, when he was 20-years-old, Pittsburgh area (Penn Hills) resident Frederick Harris III joined the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and the Army Reserve. Four years later, he graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in psychology. In 1996, Harris left the National Guard and the Army Reserve with the rank of first lieutenant.

      From December 1997 until May 2000, Harris worked as a correctional officer at the State Correctional Institution at Somerset, Pennsylvania. In May 2000, he trained as a case worker for Allegheny County Children and Youth Services, but didn't stay beyond his six-month probationary period.

     Despite his college degree and military background, Harris' life began to unravel due to mental illness that included bipolar disorder. In 2001, he was treated at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh where the psychiatrist prescribed a mood stabilizer. By 2004, he was living on a disability payment of $800 a month. In December 2004, at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Harris participated in group therapy sessions that lasted until November 2005.

     In 2009, Harris pleaded guilty to insurance fraud after he lied to his insurance company about how his motorcycle had been stolen. The judge sentenced him to six months probation.

     Harris pleaded guilty in April 2011 to criminal trespass in a bizarre case. After a real estate agent showed him a $500,000 home in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, Harris moved into the vacant house without permission. He stocked the refrigerator with food and slept in a sleeping bag. When police officers came to evict him, they found Harris hiding in a closet. The judge sentenced the house squatter to probation, the terms of which he quickly violated.

     In May 2012, an assistant Allegheny County prosecutor charged Harris with the assault and harassment of his sister Angela in her home. Harris put her into a headlock and dragged her into a bedroom where he punched her several times. That day, police officers arrested him at a Pittsburgh area homeless shelter. Declared mentally incompetent to stand trial, the judge sent Harris to Torrance State Hospital for treatment. Upon his release from the mental institution, Harris pleaded guilty to the assault and harassment charges. The judge sentenced him to seven months in the Allegheny County Jail plus seven years of probation. Upon his release from the Allegheny County Jail, the authorities incarcerated Harris at a state prison in Westmoreland County in connection with his probation violation in the criminal trespass case. He remained behind bars in Westmoreland County until March 2013.

     Harris' father, in 2014, kicked his son out of his Forest Hills home after the 47-year-old tried to choke him. The homeless man's mother, Olivia Gilbert and her husband Lamar, had allowed Harris to move in with them at their home in Penn Hills, a suburban community a few miles northeast of downtown Pittsburgh.

     On Tuesday December 16, 2014, at two in the afternoon, Harris' sister Angela called the police to report that she hadn't heard from her mother and stepfather since Saturday December 13. Officers, in response to the welfare check call, met Angela Harris at the Gilbert house.

     From the outside, the Penn Hills residence looked normal. Because the house was locked and the officers didn't have probable cause to force their way in, Angela Harris kicked open a back door.

     Olivia Gilbert, 73, and her 76-year-old husband Lamar didn't seem to be home. A police officer, finding the master bedroom door locked, jimmied his way into the room to find Frederick Harris III lying under covers on the bed. While Harris was breathing and didn't appear injured or sick, he didn't move or speak.

     Paramedics removed Frederick Harris from the Gilbert house on a stretcher and took him to the Forbes Regional Hospital where doctors couldn't find anything wrong with him physically.

     From the hospital, deputies with the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office put Harris in a patrol car and drove him to downtown Pittsburgh to be questioned at the department's homicide unit. The officers transported Harris from the police vehicle to the interrogation room in a wheelchair. When deputies asked him questions, Harris closed his eyes and refused to speak.

     Back at the Gilbert residence, detectives made a series of gruesome discoveries. In the garage deputies found three trash cans containing knotted garbage bags. One trash can contained two heads. Another bag held human arms, legs, feet, hands, and Mr. Gilbert's torso. The third trash can contained a section of a blood-soaked blue carpet that had been cut from an area near the basement laundry room. This bag also held five bloody knives. (A latent fingerprint expert would later connect the suspect to one of the garbage bags.)

     In the laundry room, officers found dried blood spatter and three bottles of bleach. They also recovered a bottle of anti-bacterial kitchen cleaner. Although parts of the laundry room had been scrubbed, a crime scene luminol test revealed the presence of blood.

     Detectives at the murder site found a receipt that showed that the three garbage cans had been recently purchased at a Home Depot store in nearby East Liberty.

     Back at the Allegheny County Sheriff's office, deputies found, in one of the suspect's pockets, a handwritten note signed "Mr. & Mrs. Gilbert" that thanked Frederick for house sitting while they were on vacation. The note contained a PS that read: "Don't answer the door for anyone."

     While questioning Harris his interrogators noticed a relatively fresh laceration on the palm of his right hand.

     On December 17, 2014, an Allegheny County assistant district attorney charged Frederick Harris III with two counts of murder and two counts of abuse of corpse. The judge denied the suspect bail.

     According to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office, Mr. Gilbert had died from a stab wound to his torso. The forensic pathologist found that Mrs. Gilbert, whose torso was missing, had died  "by sharp instrument." (Investigators suspect Mrs. Gilbert's torso and other body parts were picked up by refuse workers and taken to a landfill.)

     In September 2016, in an Allegheny County court room, the jury found Frederick Harris III guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of abuse of corpse. The defendant's attorney had failed to convince the jurors that someone else had committed the murders. The judge sentenced Harris to life without parole.
     

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Lucious Smith Murder Case: The Dangerous Job of Helping Dangerous People

     Stephanie Ross, after graduating in 2009 from the University of South Florida with a bachelor's degree in psychology, landed a job as a counselor at a central Florida high school. In September 2012, the 25-year-old began working for a firm that according to its corporate literature, provided a "...comprehensive approach to managing the health needs [for insurance companies'] most costly and complex members." Ross' employer, Integra Health Management Company, arranged health care for clients diagnosed with chronic illnesses. Ross had been hired as a service coordinator which involved visits to the homes of disabled people.

     One of Ross' mentally deranged clients, 53-year-old Lucious Smith, lived in a one-story, cement-block apartment complex in Dade City, a town thirty miles north of Tampa. Smith, an anti-social person who was seriously mentally disturbed, paranoid, and violent, embodied the kind of man nobody wants as a neighbor, co-worker, relative, customer, or mental health patient. Residents of the neighborhood perceived Smith as more than just a bellicose pain-in-the-neck, they considered him physically dangerous. Because association with this man brought trouble, he was a person to avoid.

     Since 1981, Lucious Smith had served four separate stints in Florida's prison system for committing various crimes of violence. In 2005, after doing seven years for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, Smith moved into the small apartment in Dade City. (Since he didn't have a job, he must have been on the public dole). Over the next six years, police were called to investigate 60 criminal complaints against Smith that included assault, trespassing, public intoxication, and disorderly conduct. Smith constantly fought and threatened his neighbors, and as a result of his bad behavior, had been banned from the local convenience store.

     As part of her job, Stephanie Ross had to visit Lucious Smith in his apartment. After three house visitations, Ross placed a notation in Smith's file that this man had made her "very uncomfortable."

     On the morning of December 10, 2012, Stephanie Ross was in Dade City delivering insurance paperwork to Mr. Smith. Shortly after entering Smith's apartment, neighbors and other witnesses saw Lucious Smith chasing a young woman down the street. Stephanie Ross was yelling, "Help me! Help me!" As she ran, Smith stabbed her in the back with a butcher's knife. Smith grabbed the fleeing victim by her pony-tail and threw her to the ground. He climbed on top of his bleeding victim and plunged the knife several more times into her body.

     As people ran to Stephanie Ross' aid, Smith got up and casually strolled back to his apartment. A motorist pulled up to the bloody scene and drove Ross to a nearby hospital where she died a few hours later.

     Not long after the fatal knife attack, police officers found Smith waiting for them outside his apartment. They arrested him without incident and hauled him to the Pasco County Jail where he was held without bond. A local prosecutor charged Smith with first-degree murder. Shortly thereafter, a grand jury indicted him on that charge.

     In February 2013, two psychologists hired by Smith's defense attorney testified at a preliminary hearing that Mr. Smith was still mentally ill and therefore not competent to stand trial. A psychiatrist hired by the state disagreed. As a result, the judge ruled the defendant mentally competent. However, in May 2013, after further examinations of Mr. Smith, the state mental health expert changed his evaluation. This led the judge to change his mind and rule the defendant incompetent for trial. Judge Pat Siracusa ordered that Mr. Smith be treated at a state mental hospital until doctors there determined he was competent to stand trial.

     On June 11, 2013, the U. S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Integra Health Management with two workplace safety violations. According the the agency's news release, "A serious violation has been cited for exposing employees to incidents of violent behavior that resulted in death." The second violation involved the company's failure to report the workplace fatality.

     In February 2014, Stephanie Ross' family filed a wrongful death negligence suit against her former employer, Integra Health Management and several other firms including the owner of Smith's apartment complex and his insurer. According to the plaintiffs, Ross' Integra Health Management supervisor, aware of her documented concerns about Mr. Smith, "took no action whatsoever." The plaintiffs' attorney, Bradley Stewart, argued that the employer violated its duty to protect Ross from violence.

     Who knows how many ticking time-bombs like Lucious Smith live among us. Social workers like Stephanie Ross whose work puts them in touch with people like Smith are more vulnerable than the police who are armed and wear bullet-proof vests. Violent, out of control mental cases should not be living in open society and social workers and others who try to help them do so at great risk to themselves.

     As of October 2016, no trial date had been set in the Smith/Ross murder case. The resultant civil suit also remained pending.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Militarized Policing: The Gibson Guitar Company SWAT Raid

   The Gibson Company, located in Nashville, Tennessee, has been manufacturing quality guitars since 1830. On August 24, 2011, heavily armed U.S. Marshals and a Fish and Wildlife Service SWAT team (Yes, the Fish and Wildlife Service has a SWAT team--hell, they all do.) burst into the Gibson plant in full combat gear. Terrified employees looked on as the federal agents ransacked the place, carrying off computers, documents and other material. These SWAT unites weren't raiding a huge meth lab, a Mafia headquarters, a nest of Hell's Angeles, or a terrorist bomb making hideout. The SWAT officers had no reason to believe that anyone of the Gibson premises was armed, a fugitive from the law, or in anyway dangerous. In fact, no one associated with the company had been charged with a crime. The place could have been searched by a couple of laid-off postal workers, well, maybe more than a couple. This is government work.

     Pat Nolan, writing for National Review Online ("The Gibson Raid: Much to Fret About," September 27, 2011) describes the occasion for the SWAT raid this way: "The law that Gibson allegedly violated is the Lacey Act, which bars importation of wildlife or plants if it breaks the laws of the country of origin. It was intended to stop poachers. The ebony and rosewood that Gibson imported was harvested legally, and the Indian government approved the shipment of the wood. But Fish and Wildlife bureaucrats claim that, because the wood was not finished by Indian workers, it broke Indian law. In other words, a U.S. agency is enforcing foreign labor laws that the foreign government doesn't even think were violated."

     So what's really going on here? According to Henry Juszkiewcz, Gibson's Chairman and CEO, it's federal harassment and intimidation. Juszkiewcz has stated that the seizures (this was the third raid) and resulting manufacturing disruptions, have cost the company more than $1 million.

     In my book, "SWAT Madness," regarding modern shock-and-awe policing, I wrote: "Stunning the enemy with overpowering, high-tech ordinance as a prelude to a full-scale military invasion, while effective as a combat stategy, is not a suitable approach for ordinary, everyday law enforcement."  Regarding the trend town federalizing criminal law and law enforcement: "Police authority has become increasingly centralized through the federalization of criminal law. In the 1960's, there were fewer than 1,000 federal crimes. Today, there are 4,450 federal offenses and dozens of federal law enforcement agencies staffed by thousands of armed officers. The FBI alone fields 56 SWAT teams. Several other federal agencies have SWAT-type units such as the Special Response Team of the Bureau of Alcohol Tax and Firearms (ATF), the Special Operations Group of the U.S. Marshals Office, and the Special Response Team of the U.S. Immigration and Custums Enforcement (ICE) Office....Even the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has its own SWAT Team."

     At the time I wrote that last sentence, I wondered how the Fish & Wildlife people would inappropriately utilize their SWAT teams. (Once you get a SWAT team, whether you need it or not, you have to use it.) I figured it would take imagination on their part to abuse their power this way, and I was right.

      

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Dorice "Dee Dee" Moore Murder Case

     In 2006, an illiterate, 37-year-old part time sanitation worker from Lakeland, Florida named Abraham Shakespeare (what a name for an illiterate), won the state's $30 million jackpot lottery. Shakespeare elected to accept the $17 million lump-sum payout. Soon after winning the money, he purchased fancy cars, jewelry, furniture, and a $1.7 million mansion in his hometown. Over the next two years, the soft-touch millionaire who couldn't tell $6,000 from $60,000, spent, lent, and gave away 90 percent of his fortune. Like so many big lottery winners before him, Shakespeare was beleaguered and overwhelmed by needy relatives, greedy acquaintances, and complete strangers begging him for  hand-outs. The money had taken over his life and brought him problems he hadn't had before hitting it big.

     In late 2008, the confused, depressed, and vulnerable lottery winner met a 36-year-old predatory fortune-hunter named Dorice "Dee Dee" Moore who befriended him with the claim she was writing a book about how people take advantage of lottery winners. (Such as by claiming to be writing a book on how people take advantage of lottery winners.) Shakespeare fell for the ploy, and by early 2009, Moore, as his financial advisor, was looting what was left in his bank accounts.

     On April 6, 2009, the former millionaire, now with just $14,000 in the bank, disappeared. His family, however, didn't report him missing for seven months. During this period, Dorice Moore paid people to tell Shakespeare's mother that they had spotted her son around town in the company of a woman. Moore even paid one of the missing man's friends to send the mother a forged letter from Abraham. (Since he couldn't write, this should have raised eyebrows.) Moore also hired an impersonator to fake a phone call to Shakespeare's mom.

     By November of 2009, police started investigating Moore as a suspect in Shakespeare's disappearance. Officers, while searching her home in Plant City, Florida, found the missing man's mummified remains in her backyard beneath a thirty-by-thirty foot slab of concrete. The forensic  pathologist who performed the autopsy dug two .38-caliber slugs out of the corpse. Shakespeare had died after being shot twice in the chest.

     Following her arrest on February 3, 2010, Moore told her police interrogators that Shakespeare had been murdered by five shadowy drug dealers. She knew two of them by the names Ronald and Fearless. The others she didn't know. The detectives questioning her, because they had been investigating the murder, didn't buy the drug dealer story.

     The Moore murder trial got underway on November 29, 2012 in Tampa, Florida before Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Emmett Battles. In his opening remarks to the jury prosecutor Jay Pruner said that Moore, after stealing $1.3 million from Shakespeare, shot him to death on April 6, 2009. She and an accomplice buried his body behind her house under the concrete.

     In addressing the jurors, defense attorney Bryon Hileman said his client had been trying to protect Shakespeare's dwindling fortune from people trying to take advantage of him, and that the lottery winner had fallen in with dealers who had killed him over a drug deal. Regarding the prosecution's case, Hileman pointed out that the state could not link the defendant to the .38-caliber revolver used in the crime. Moreover, Dorice Moore had not confessed, and no eyewitnesses would be testifying against her. According to the defense attorney, the prosecution's case was weak and circumstantial.

     Following several days featuring prosecution witnesses who testified that the defendant had paid them to cover-up Shakespeare's disappearance, the state rested its case.

     Defense attorney Hileman did not put Dorice Moore on the stand to testify on her own behalf. During Hileman's closing argument to the jury, Moore sat at the defense table and sobbed loudly. On December 11, 2012, following a three-hour deliberation, the jury found Moore guilty of first-degree murder.

     Before sentencing the 40-year-old Moore to the mandatory life sentence without parole, Judge Battles called her "cold, calculating, and cruel." According to the judge, she was "probably the most manipulative person this court has ever seen."

     In less than three years, Abraham Shakespeare's good luck turned into a nightmare that led to his murder. This case is a good example how, when it comes to money, big winners can quickly turn into big losers. Mr. Shakespeare should have secured good financial advice, found a way to avoid all of the freeloading beggars, then paid someone to teach him how to read and write. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Having Fun And Being Happy

A critic once wrote that none of the characters in my novels were happy, or having any kind of fun. I thought about that, and it's true. I don't have happiness in my stories because I've never experienced happiness myself. How can I write about an emotion I have never felt? Moreover, my capacity for fun is quite limited and quickly exhausted. Not only that, I avoid happy, fun type people because being around them exhausts me. On a good day I do not feel terribly unhappy and am not in a situation where I have to pretend to be having a great time. I think that in the long run people like me are less prone to clinical depression and suicide than our happy fun seeking counterparts. I think it's a matter of low expectations and the ability to simply carry on.

Thornton P. Knowles

The Jason Hendrix "Good Boy" Murder Case

     Kevin Hendrix and his wife Sarah lived in a middle class neighborhood in Corbin, Kentucky with their 16-year-old son Jason and 12-year-old daughter Grace. Mr. Hendrix, a beekeeper, sold honey at a farmer's market in the small, southeastern Kentucky town. His wife, Dr. Sarah Hendrix, worked as a professor at Union College in nearby Barbourville.

     In December 2014, Jason was baptized at the Forward Community Church where he and his family were active members. The church, founded in 2012, held its services in a local movie theater. Besides being involved in church activities, Jason Hendrix participated in his high school ROTC program.

     Late Wednesday afternoon February 11, 2015, two days after Jason's parents disciplined their son by taking away his computer privileges, the boy, in a most cold-blooded way, murdered his family.

     The 16-year-old shot his father twice in the head the moment he came home from work. The young killer ambushed his mother with two bullets to the face when she entered the kitchen after parking her car in the garage following her day at work. His 12-year-old sister Grace lay dead in the house from two shots to her head. She had also been shot in the arm. In the close-range shootings, Jason fired through pillows to muffle the sound and shield himself from the victim's blood spatter.

     A few hours after executing his parents and his sister, Jason met up with some friends at his church. There was nothing in his demeanor that suggested what he had just massacred his family.

     The day after the triple murder, Jason, armed with four handguns and a backpack full of ammunition, drove out of town in one of the family cars, a green Honda Pilot.

     Late Saturday morning February 14, 2015, a Maryland state trooper tried to pull Jason Hendrix over for speeding in Harford County 500 miles from the still undiscovered bodies in his house back in Kentucky. Jason, having no intention of being pulled over by a cop, led the officer and others on a car chase that took them into Baltimore County where police officers in that jurisdiction joined in the pursuit.

     The high-speed chase came to an abrupt end when the teenager crashed his SUV into another vehicle. When six officers with the Baltimore County Police Department approached the green Honda, Jason Hendrix shot at the officers, striking one of them. All six of the officers returned his fire, killing the boy at the scene.

     The wounded officer received treatment at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center. The next morning doctors discharged him from the hospital. All of the officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

     That Saturday, a Baltimore County detective called the authorities in Corbin, Kentucky and requested a check of the address to which the green Honda was registered. If the occupants of the house were related to the boy, they needed to be informed of his death.

     At five o'clock that afternoon, officers with the Corbin Police Department entered the Hendrix house on Forest Circle. Inside they found the bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Hendrix and their daughter. Following a cursory investigation, the authorities in Corbin concluded that the boy killed by the police in Maryland had murdered his family.

     Friends and relatives of the family as well as residents of the community were stunned by the news of these violent deaths. As is often the case in "good boy" murder cases, no one saw the bloodshed coming.

What is Forensic Science?

     The principal role of the forensic scientist is to identify physical crime scene evidence by comparing it to known samples acquired either from a suspect's person or from an object such as a gun, shoe, or burglar tool that this person has possessed, worn, or otherwise has been associates with.

     Forensic science relies on the principle that the criminal leaves part of himself or something that he's associated with at the scene of the crime. Evidence left at the site of a crime might include blood, semen, latent fingerprints, shoe impressions, bite marks, hair follicles, textile fibers, bullets, and tire tracks. Moreover, the suspect will often inadvertently take something away from the scene. A criminal might, for example, leave the crime site carrying traces of the victim's blood and tissue under his fingernails, or follicles of the victim's hair, or fibers from her carpet on his clothing.

     Practitioners of forensic science fall generally into three groups: police officers who arrive at the scene of a crime and whose job it is to secure the physical evidence; crime scene technicians responsible for finding, photographing, and packaging physical evidence for crime lab submission; and forensic scientists working in public and private crime laboratories who analyze the evidence, and when the occasion arises, testify in court as expert witnesses.

     While uniformed police officers and detectives may be trained in the recognition and handling of physical evidence, they are not scientists and do not work under laboratory conditions.

     Forensic science fields include document examination, firearms identification, toxicology, forensic pathology, forensic chemistry, latent fingerprint identification, and DNA analysis. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Postulant Sosefina Amoa's Secret

     Sosefina Amoa came to the United States from the Pacific nation of Samoa to become a Catholic nun. The 26-year-old postulant sought admission to the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic order that operates nursing homes and assisted living residences for impoverished old people in the United States and around the world.

     On October 15, 2013, Sofefina, following a 7,000 mile journey, arrived at the Little Sisters of the Poor Elderly Center, a 100-unit complex in Washington, D. C. located across the street from Catholic University. Five days later, while alone in her convent room, Amoa gave birth to a six pound, two ounce boy she named Joseph.

     To muffle the infant's cries, Sosefina covered his nose and mouth with a wool garment. Unable to breathe, the baby died.

     The day after she suffocated her child, Sosefina told one of the nuns she had found the dead infant on the sidewalk outside the convent. She and the nun carried the little corpse in a satchel to a nearby hospital.

     When questioned at the hospital by detectives, Sosefina admitted the baby was hers. Not knowing she was pregnant, the stillborn infant had been a complete shock. Police officers, skeptical of her story, searched Amoa's room at the convent.

     A few days later, while being interrogated at the police station, Sosefina Amoa admitted that in trying to silence the infant with the garment, she had killed him. She said she had considered throwing the body into the trash but decided instead to alert one of the nuns.

     Following the autopsy, the medical examiner's office announced that Baby Joseph had been asphyxiated. The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.

     On October 15, 2013, a District of Columbia prosecutor charged Sosefina Amoa with first-degree murder. If convicted of this charge, she would spend no less than thirty years in prison. Held without bond, jail authorities put the murder suspect on suicide watch.

     At a preliminary hearing on October 24, 2013, the prosecutor offered Amoa a plea deal. If she pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, thirty years in prison would be the maximum rather than the minimum sentence. Her public defender attorney said he and his client would consider the offer.

    In February 2014, Sofefina Amoa pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. At her sentencing hearing on May 23, 2014, defense attorney Judith Pipe asked federal judge Robert Morin to sentence Amoa to time served after which she would be sent back to her family in Samoa. "Of course this is a case that deserves punishment," said attorney Pipe. "But she will be punished by it every day of her life."

     Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Wright pointed out that Amoa had been "plagued by fear" of being thrown out of the convent and made a "conscious decision" to end her baby's life. The prosecutor argued that Amoa chose to have the baby herself in her room then lied about the dead infant.

     Judge Morin sentenced Sofefina Amoa to four years in prison and five years of supervised release. Upon completion of her sentence she would face deportation back to Samoa.

     This sentence, in view of the facts of the case, was unbelievably lenient. Four years in prison for the intentional killing of an infant is outrageous. By agreeing to the plea of voluntary manslaughter, the prosecutor in this case cheapened the life of a murdered infant. 

The Insanity Defense: Good v. Evil or Sane v. Insane?

     On July 21, 2011, 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik set off a bomb in Oslo, Norway that killed eight. Breivik, later that day, opened fire at a summer camp on Utoya Island, killing sixty-nine people, most of whom were children. Breivik's bombing and shooting spree also injured 151 in the city and on the island. The mass murderer surrendered without incident to a SWAT team that showed incredible restraint.

     After confessing to the bombing and shooting spree, Breivik told his interrogators that he was a commander of a resistance movement aimng to overthrow European governments and replace them with "patriotic" regimes that will deport Muslim immigrants.

     A pair of psychiatrists, on thirteen visits, spent 36 hours talking with Breivik. The doctors concluded that because Breivik was a paranoid schizophrenic, he was not a proper candidate for conviction and imprisonment as a criminal. A forensic panel representing the district court will make the final ruling on Breivik's mental condition and whether he should be brought to justice as a mass murderer.

     As it stands, because Breivik "lost touch with reality," the criminal justice system in Norway will treat the murders not as crimes, but as symptoms of this killer's mental illness. These victims, in other words, were killed by paranoid schizophrenia, not an evil, cold-blooded murderer.

     Norwegian critics of the decision not to try Breivik as a criminal defendant called attention to the extensive planning and gruesome efficiency characterizing Breivik's slaughter of his helpless victims. In the opinion of the Swedish forensic psychiatrist Anders Forsman, Breivik carried out his murderous mission in a rational way. He was, in Forsman's words, an "efficient killing machine."

     Norway has a rather lenient legal insanity defense doctrine that merely requires that a defendant be in a state of psychosis during the commission of the crime. It is therefore not surprising that Norway has a tradition of not criminally punishing defendants who are adjudicated mentally ill.

     Had Anders Breivik embarked on his murderous rampage in the United States, he'd have almost no chance of successfully raising the insanity defense. This is because in America, most states operate under the M'Naghten Rule. Under this doctrine of legal insanity, a criminal defendant is not insane unless: "At the time of the commission of the act, the defendant was laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or if he did know it, that he did not know what he was doing was wrong." Popularly referred to as the "right/wrong test," a defense attorney has to prove by a preponderance of the evidence, that his client did not realize the act in question was wrong. Regardless of how mentally ill defendants are, almost all of them knew that what they were doing was wrong. In other words, in most states, merely because a criminal defendant has been diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic is not enough. For this reason, very few defendants succeed in being found not guilty by reason of insanity. In the United States, the law requires a degree of mental impairment that in reality doesn't exist.

     Serial killers like Ted Bundy are rarely found not guilty by reason of insanity. The Unabomber Ted Kaczinsky, diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, was convicted of murder in 1996 and sent to prison. It is doubtful that Jared Loughner, the mental case that wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others, will end up in a facility for the criminally insane instead of prison.

     In the United States, jurors are not comfortable with finding mentally ill serial killers and mass murderers not guilty for any reason. They don't completely trust the social scientific findings of psychiatrists who testify for the defense. And jurors don't want to replace the concept of good and evil with sane and insane. Serial killers and mass murderers, to jurors, while obviously mentally ill, are still evil and dangerous people. In America, evil people who murder, are going to be punished criminally. That doesn't mean, however, that they don't receive medical attention in prison. But it does mean, whether "rehabilitated" or not, they are never getting out.

     John Hinckley, Jr. the nut who shot President Ronald Reagan in 1981, was found not guilty by reason of insanity. This is because he was tried in federal court which applies a different standard of legal insanity. In 2016, Hinckley's was released permanently from the mental institution so he could live with or near his mother in Williamsburg, Virginia. The man who tried to kill the president of the United States is a free man.  

The Objective Forensic Scientist

In order to maintain scientific objectivity, forensic science practitioners have to rise above the adversarial nature of the trial process. They have to be true to their science. This is especially difficult when their conclusions conflict with the law enforcement view of the case. Staying at arm's length from law enforcement is much easier for experts in the private sector. Crime lab employees who get too involved in the overall crime investigation are more vulnerable to prosecutorial pressure and influence. Keeping a firewall between forensic science and criminal investigation is vital but difficult. It's easy to understand, for example, how a forensic pathologist in a medical examiner's office might feel as if he or she is part of a law enforcement team, particularly in emotional cases such as those involving suspected infanticide and child abuse.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Alice Boland Attempted Murder Case

     On May 15, 2005, 21-year-old Alice Boland from Beaufort, South Carolina was waiting in line at U.S. Customs at the Pierre Trudeau/Dorval International Airport in Montreal, Canada. After waiting longer than she considered appropriate, Boland lost her temper and became loud and unruly. When customs officials and others tried to calm the irrational young woman, she began screaming threats. "Give me a gun!" Boland screamed, "I am going to kill you. I am going to kill President Bush with a gun. Just give me a gun. I am going going to find a gun and kill you all." Boland's public outburst revealed an unbalanced mental state and an obsession with guns and murder, a dangerous combination.

     Officers with the Montreal Police Department took the American into custody. The next day, after a psychiatric evaluation and Boland's written promise to return to Canada to appear at a later court date, the authorities released her to the custody of her father who had flown to Montreal to accompany her back to South Carolina. (I'm sure the Canadian authorities were glad to get this crazy American out of their country.)

     Ten days after Boland's mental melt-down in Montreal, a deputy with the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office accompanied by a Secret Service Agent, paid her a visit at home. (I'm guessing that between the time of the incident and the officers' visit, Boland had been receiving psychiatric treatment at some mental facility.) The deputy and the Secret Service agent, shortly into the interview, realized that Boland was still fuming over having to wait in line at the Montreal airport. The secret service agent asked Boland if she still harbored anger toward President George W. Bush. "Yes, hell yes," she replied. "I would shoot him. I would shoot him and the entire U.S. Congress. If I had a gun, I would shoot you, too." This was not what the deputy and the secret service agent had expected to hear.

     The Beaufort County deputy placed Boland into handcuffs. The officers also searched the Boland house for guns, seizing an air rifle. The officers hauled Boland to the Beufort County jail on charges of making terroristic threats. To that offense, Boland pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. After paying her bail, Boland's parents committed their daughter to a psychiatric facility. Psychiatrists at the institution found that Alice Boland was mentally ill. In 2009, the criminal charges her were dropped.

     On February 1, 2013, Alice Boland was in Walterboro, South Carolina, a town of 6,000, 50 miles northwest of the coastal city of Charleston. Although federal law prohibits the sale of guns to mentally ill people, the 28-year-old former mental patient was in Colleton County to buy a firearm. She must have lied on the federal background check form because Bolton walked out of the store that day carrying a new Taurus PT-22 pistol.

     On Monday, February 4, Alice Boland showed-up in downtown Charleston outside Ashley Hall, the state's only all-girl preparatory school. It was just before noon, a time when parents were waiting in the carpool line to pick-up their children. After pacing back and forth just outside the school's iron-rod fence, Boland pointed her .22-caliber handgun at a school administrator and pulled the trigger. The gun didn't discharge. Boland next aimed the pistol at an English teacher, but the gun still didn't work. (She didn't realize the pistol was in the locked position.)

     Arrested by Charleston police officers, Boland, charged with two counts of attempted murder and other offenses, was incarcerated at the Al Cannon Detention Center in North Charleston. The judge set her bail at $900,000.

     In August 2013, the state legislature in South Carolina passed a law requiring the names of those deemed mentally ill to be sent to a federal database designed to halt their purchases of guns. (During the next three years the state sent 79,622 names to this database.)

     In January 2014, Alice Boland pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. The judge committed her to a state mental asylum where she would stay until determined sane enough to safely return to society. Boland, in January 2017, still confined at the state mental institution, filed a motion requesting the opportunity to plead guilty to the attempted murder charges in order that she may receive a fixed sentence rather than languish the rest of her life in the mental hospital. As of July 2018 her motion has not been denied or granted. In all probability it will be denied.

The History of Forensic Science Has Been One of Failed Promise

In the 1920s, forensic science pioneers and their supporters believed that one day scientific criminal investigation would significantly increase crime solution rates and at the same time reduce the dependence on the unreliable information produced by the third-degree, eyewitness testimony, and jailhouse informants. This has not happened, at least not to a great enough extent, and to that degree, forensic science has been a failed promise.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Murder Most Rare: The Anna Mae Blessing Case

     In January 2018, 92-year-old Anna Mae Blessing moved into a condo in Fountain Hills, Arizona with her 72-year-old son Thomas Blessing and his 57-year-old girlfriend who owned the dwelling.

     Around nine-thirty in the morning of July 2, 2018, Thomas Blessing was in his mother's bedroom arguing with her over plans to send the elderly woman to an assisted living facility. She did not want to live in such a place and said so in no certain terms as the argument became heated. With her son's girlfriend looking on, Anna Mae Blessing pulled a handgun from the pocket of her robe and shot her son several times at close range. He died on the spot.

     After shooting her son to death, the old woman pointed the gun at her dead son's girlfriend who managed, following a brief struggle, to disarm her. At that moment Blessing pulled a second gun from her robe, a weapon the girlfriend knocked out of her hand.

     Once she had separated the elderly shooter from her weapons, the girlfriend called 911. At ten that Monday morning members of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office rolled up the the scene. The deputies found the 92-year-old sitting quietly in a reclining chair. As officers led the murder suspect from the condo in handcuffs, she said, to no one in particular, "You took my life, so I took yours."

     Officers booked the suspect into the Maricopa County Jail on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated assault. A magistrate set her bail at $5000,000. At one point during her booking, the murder suspect said, "Put me to sleep." An official close to the case speculated that after murdering her son, Mrs. Blessing had planned to take her own life.

     By shooting her son to death, Anna Mae Blessing would experience the ultimate form of assisted living--prison, a fate a lot worse than an old folk's home, and even death.

     

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On The Dew Drop Inn

There was a honky tonk down the road from us in Wellsburg, West Virginia. According to my father, whose lips never touched a drop of booze, the place was a haven for loose women, moral degenerates, and worthless drunks. On Friday nights a local rock group called Screaming Roy Copus and the Night Crawlers tore the joint up. The first Friday night after turning 18, I found myself in this ginmill sucking on a quart of 3.2 beer. My father would have disowned me for imbibing the Devil's brew and associating with the town's lowlifes. But what the hell, he had hanged himself there years earlier. I guess what he didn't know didn't hurt him.

Thornton P. Knowles

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Criminal Investigation: The Search For Clues

It is through clues that we form our opinion about the facts of a case. This is only one alternative: to catch the culprit red-handed.

Theodore Reik, The Compulsion to Confess, 1959

Friday, July 6, 2018

Rape and Attempted Murder on a Cruise Ship: Crimes in Paradise

     Ketut Pujayasa, a 28-year-old citizen of Indonesia, worked as a room service attendant on Holland America's ms Nieuw Amsterdam. Following a background investigation that included a criminal history check, the cruise line hired Pujayasa in 2012. According to the cruise line, up until he went berserk and attempted to rape and murder a 31-year-old female passenger, he possessed an excellent work record.

     On February 14, 2014, the Nieuw Amsterdam sat in international waters off Honduras. That morning Pujayasa delivered breakfast to the American passenger's room. When he knocked on the door, she allegedly yelled, "Wait a minute, son of a bitch!"

     Taking the woman's outburst as an insult to himself and his family, Pujayasa brooded over the incident for hours. That evening, when off duty, he used his master key to enter the woman's vacant stateroom. From there he entered the room's outdoor balcony where he fell asleep.

     Later that night, when Pujayasa awoke on the balcony, he realized the woman was asleep in her bed. He crept into the room, removed his trousers and underwear, and climbed on top of her. The victim resisted, and in the course of a struggle, he slammed her in the face with a laptop computer. In an attempt to choke her silent, Pujayasa wrapped a cord attached to a curling iron around her neck. She retaliated by kicking him in the genitals and trying to stab him with a corkscrew.

     Fearing that someone on board would hear the commotion created by the fight and come to the passenger's aid, the smallish Indonesian tried to pull the victim out onto the balcony where he could toss her overboard. At this moment, another passenger, reacting to the screaming and sounds of a scuffle, pounded on the woman's door.

     Pujayasa, still naked from the waist down, let go of the victim and stepped out onto the balcony. From there he jumped to an adjacent balcony, entered that room, and fled from the crime scene.

     The victim ran out of her room with her face bruised and swollen and the curling iron dangling from her neck.

     Back in his quarters, Pujayasa told his roommate that he had just killed a passenger.

     The Nieuw Amsterdam, on February 15, 2014, docked at Roatan, Honduras. From there the victim was flown to a  hospital in southern Florida. She is expected to survive the beating.

     When the cruise ship docked at Fort Lauderdale on February 16, FBI agents took Ketut Pujayasa into custody. Before being booked into the Broward County Jail on federal charges of attempted murder and aggravated sexual abuse, the suspect confessed fully to his FBI interrogators. A federal magistrate denied Pujayasa bond.

     In late 2014, following a guilty plea, a federal district judge sentenced Pujayasa to 14 years in prison. Outraged by this sentence, the federal prosecutor appealed the sentence as too lenient for the offense. In October 2016, judges on the federal appeals court agreed. As a result, the cruise ship rapist and attempted murderer was re-sentenced to thirty years behind bars.

Jose Armando Moreno and Mexico's Teen-Age Assassins

     In the United States, boys as young as eleven have been charged and incarcerated for committing murder. Recently, boys ten and eleven were charged with conspiracy to murder one of their classmates. There have been a few American homicide cases involving children under eleven. In common law America, prior to state crime codes, children under the age of seven were presumed incapable of forming criminal intent. This culpability guideline is reflected in the statutory law of several states.

     In Mexico, kids under the age of fourteen who commit crimes, including murder, are considered too young to prosecute and incarcerate. The Mexican constitution prohibits the government from incarcerating citizens who are under fourteen. Mexican youngsters who are 14, 15, and 16 can be jailed, but not for longer than three years.

     In 2011, a 14-year-old boy only identified as "El Ponchis" (The Cloak), confessed to murdering several people for a local drug lord. The kid admitted beheading four of his victims. The judge sentenced "El Ponchis" to three years in a juvenile detention center.

     Mexican Federal Police, on February 7, 2013, detained 13-year-old Jose Armando Moreno in the central Mexican state of Zacatecas. The boy confessed to participating in the murder of ten people. The killings had been ordered by the head of a drug cartel. Moreno said he had shot six of his victims execution-style with an assault rifle.

     According to Moreno's mother, he had dropped out of school and ran away from home when he was eleven. He survived by selling drugs on the street, and committing contract murders.

     Because of the constitutional ban on youthful incarceration, the authorities had no choice but to release this young assassin back into Mexican society.

     On February 28, 2013, three weeks after being questioned by the federal officers, the boy's bullet-ridden body was found alongside a road in the town of Morelos. His killer or killers had dumped him along with the corpses of four women and a man. The victims had all been murdered execution-style. It's possible that the boy and the others were executed by another 13-year-old kid working for a rival drug cartel.  

IRS and the Mafia

The IRS! They're like the Mafia, they can take anything they want!

Jerry Seinfeld 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Leila Fowler Murder Case

     Barry Fowler lived with his fiancee and his three children in Valley Springs, a central California town of 7,500 60 miles southeast of Sacramento in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

     On Saturday evening, April 27, 2013, Barry Fowler's 12-year-old son Isiah and his 8-year-old daughter were home alone while he attended a little league baseball game. That evening, Crystal Walters, the children's mother, received a call from Isiah who reported that an intruder had just run out of the house. Crystal called 911 and informed the dispatcher that, "My children are at home alone and a man just ran out of our house. My older son was in the bathroom and my daughter started screaming. He [the boy] came out and a man was in the house. They [the children] said they're okay. My daugher is freaking out right now." (It is not clear if the mother also spoke to her daughter about the incident.)

     Deputies with the Calaveras County Sheriff's Office, upon arrival at the Fowler house, found the 8-year-old girl, Leila Fowler, bleeding to death from several stab wounds. (She died shortly after arriving at a nearby hospital. Based on the context of Crystal Walter's 911 call, I presume Leila was stabbed sometime between her brother's call to their mother and the arrival of the police.)

     The victim's 12-year-old brother Isiah described the intruder as a tall man with long, gray hair. At some point after the man ran off, the boy discovered his dying sister. (I don't know if crime scene investigators recovered a bloody knife, made a blood spatter analysis, or collected the clothing worn by the brother.) According to media reports, the officers found no evidence that theft had been a motive for the intrusion. Moreover, there was no physical evidence of a break-in. (The intruder could have gained entry by knocking on the door.)

     The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy determined the cause of death to be shock and bleeding. The manner of death, of course, was homicide by stabbing.

     Investigators with the Calaveras County Sheriff's Office, operating on the intruder theory, launched a massive manhunt for Leila Fowler's killer. The investigation included rounding up and questioning the area's registered sex offenders. With a murderous home invader on the loose, residents of the community locked their doors and loaded their guns.

     A week or so into the murder investigation, rumors surfaced that detectives now considered the Fowler boy as their prime suspect. On May 11, two weeks after the murder, deputies arrested the victim's 12-year-old brother. Detectives also searched the Fowler house and walked away with several knives. (This suggests they did not have the murder weapon.) Charged as an adult with second degree murder, the Fowler boy was placed into a juvenile detention center.

     At a press conference following Isiah Fowler's arrest, Sheriff Gary Kuntz said, "Citizens of Calaveras County, you can sleep a little better tonight."

     On May 13, two days after the arrest, the murder suspect's father told an Associated Press reporter that he will believe his son is innocent until he sees evidence that proves otherwise. "If they have the evidence, well that's another story. We're an honest family," Barry Fowler said. (I presume that detectives interrogated the boy without acquiring a confession.)

     On May 15, 2013, after a closed juvenile hearing, attorney Mark Reichel, in speaking to an Associated Press reporter, said that his young client may have lied about encountering a long-haried man in the house. Reichel added that such an admission is not evidence of the boy's guilt. "How does a 12-year-old commit the perfect crime?" he asked.

     The murder suspect's second attorney, Steve Presser, raised doubts that his client was old enough to assist in his own defense. "Can a 12-year-old be psychologically, intellectually, and emotionally mature enough to aid his attorneys in defending himself against the most serious of charges? We have no reason to have any doubts about our client's innocence," he said. "We have questions. Why do the police think the minor did this?...And how did it not lead to an immediate arrest and take 2,000 hours of resources by the sheriff's office and the FBI?"

     In October 2015, a Calaveras County judge in a trial without a jury found Isiah Fowler guilty of second-degree murder. The juvenile's attorney appealed the conviction on the grounds the boy's confessions were unalike, and not supported by the evidence. According to the defense, the boy had been pressured by his father to cooperate with detectives.

     In February 2018, three judges on Californian's 3rd District Court of Appeals reversed the conviction. A new trial date, as of June 2018, has not been set.