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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Richard Bistline Child Pornography Case

     In 2007, 67-year-old Richard Bistline lived with his ailing wife in Mount Vernon, a central Ohio town of 17,000 not far from Columbus, the state capital. In October of that year, FBI agents came to his home, arrested him for possessing child pornography, and seized his home computer. A search of Bistline's computer revealed 305 images and 56 videos of eight to ten-year-old girls being raped by adult men. Bistline had downloaded this material from an online program called "Limewire" which provided access to child pornography without a fee.

     Three years after his arrest, Bistline pleaded guilty in a Columbus U. S. District Court to one count of possessing child pornography. The Sentencing Guidelines for this federal offense, as established by Congress, consisted of a sentence of between 63 and 78 months in prison.

     Assistant United States Attorney Deborah A. Solove, in preparation for Bistline's sentencing hearing before federal judge James L. Graham, submitted a detailed memorandum outlining the government's argument for a sentence that fell within the established guidelines.

     Judge Graham, a 1986 Reagan appointee who was Bistline's age, opened the sentence hearing with statements that telegraphed his decision to be lenient with the child porn possessor. Noting that mere possession of this kind of material did not constitute a very serious offense, Judge Graham declared the federal Sentencing Guidelines for the crime "seriously flawed." The judge also stated that in determining who should go to prison and who shouldn't, the age and health of the convicted person are important considerations. Judge Graham said that he was worried that Mr. Bistline, who over the past decade had suffered two strokes, would not receive adequate health care in prison. Moreover, if he sent this man away, who would care for his sick wife?

     Judge Graham shocked the federal prosecutor when he handed down his sentence of one night in the federal courthouse lockup. That was it. No prison time for a man caught in possession of images and videos of young girls being raped by adult men. Congress and its sentencing guidelines be damned.

     After prosecutor Solove objected to the sentence as being extremely lenient, and outside the bounds of the guidelines, Judge Graham convened a second sentencing hearing two months later. At that hearing, the judge simply added ten years of supervised release to his original sentence. Still no prison time for Mr. Bistline.

     Assistant Unites States Attorney Deborah Solove appealed Judge Graham's sentence to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on the grounds the district court judge had improperly rejected the federal Sentencing Guidelines in this case.

     In January 2012, the panel of three appellate judges handed down its decision. The federal appeals court justices held that a district court judge cannot, without a "compelling" reason, ignore sentencing guidelines created by the U. S. Congress. The justices ruled that in the Bistline case, Judge Graham's personal belief that the guidelines were too harsh for the possession of child porn did not constitute a "compelling" reason for ignoring them.

     In justifying this legal decision, the appellate court laid out the following rationale: "Knowing possession of child pornography...is not a crime of inadvertence, of pop-up [computer] screens and viruses that can incriminate an innocent person. Possession of child pornography instead becomes a crime when a defendant knowingly acquires the images--in this case, affirmatively, deliberately, and repeatedly, hundreds of times over, in a period exceeding a year."

     The 6th Circuit justices noted that Mr. Bistline never expressed genuine remorse for his actions. In fact, the defendant said he didn't understand why the possession of child pornography was even a crime. (Bistline was also angry at FBI agents for seizing his illegally downloaded music along with the child pornography.)

     The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals justices ruled that Judge Graham's sentence "... did not remotely meet the criteria that Congress laid out. We vacate Bistline's sentence and remand his case for prompt imposition of one that does."

     In January 2013, at Bistline's third sentencing hearing, federal prosecutor Solove urged Judge Graham to sentence the defendant to five years in prison. Intent on keeping this man out of prison, Judge Graham sentenced him to three years of home confinement. This sentence was a far cry from the recommended sentence of 63 to 78 months behind bars. If Judge Graham thought the federal sentencing guideline for the possession of child pornography was too harsh, he should run for Congress. Otherwise, as a judge, he should follow the law.
     

Greyhound Bus Therapy: Losing Your Mind in Las Vegas

     According to mental health experts, the city of Las Vegas not only drives people crazy, it attracts unbalanced folks from around the country. The place is a mental illness magnet. In Washington, D.C. you have idiots and fools; in Detroit, empty buildings and bullet-ridden corpses; in Los Angeles, narcissistic celebrities; and in Las Vegas, a lot of people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. If I had to live in one of these places, I'd pick Detroit.

     Dr. Lorin Scher, an emergency room psychiatrist with the University of California at Davis Medical Center explains why so many mentally ill people end up in Las Vegas: "As the whole country knows, Las Vegas is a pretty unique place. [Thank God.] Many bipolar patients impulsively fly across the country to Vegas during their manic phases and go on gambling binges. Vegas probably attracts more wandering schizophrenics, people who are drawn to the warm weather, lights, and action."

     Other psychiatrists have pointed out that Las Vegas is home to a disproportionate number of residents displaced by the housing and mortgage collapse of 2007. People lost their jobs, their homes, and apparently their minds.

     Nevada, in 2009, began cutting its mental health service budget. By 2012, the funds for this form of health care had been cut by 28 percent. The reduced spending occurred during the period Las Vegas experienced the surge in psychiatric admissions. Something had to be done to hold down the state's health care costs.

     In March 2013, James Flavy, a 48-year-old schizophrenic living in a complex in Sacramento, California for the homeless, told the authorities a rather disturbing story. A month earlier, when discharged from the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas, a mental health worker drove him to the Main Street bus station and put him on a Greyhound bus destined for Sacramento. Following a 15-hour bus ride, Mr. Flavy rolled into Sacramento with a two-day supply of medication and instructions to follow-up his care with a doctor in California. Someone suggested that upon his arrival in the Golden State he call 911. Flavy got off the bus without any identification or access to his Social Security benefits. He wound up in a University of California at Davis Medical Center emergency room where he lived for three days before someone arranged temporary housing.

     Mr. Flavy's story led to the remarkable revelation that over the past five years, more than 1,500 Las Vegas mental patients had been shipped via Greyhound bus to more than 200 cities in every state in the continental United States.

     The Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services, between July 2008 and December 2014, spent $205,000 on mental patient bus tickets. (The agency had a special arrangement with Greyhound.) The busing program has saved the state of Nevada millions of health care dollars.

     One-third of the Greyhound therapy recipients were bused to California, 200 of whom to Los Angeles County. In 2012, Greyhound buses rolled out of Las Vegas carrying 400 mental cases destined for 176 cities in 45 states.

     Health care administrators in Nevada defended their mental ward on wheels program as sort of a revolving door operation. If unbalanced folks from all over the nation can roll into Las Vegas, they ought to be able, following emergency mental health treatment, to roll them back out of town.

     This story makes one wonder if homeless people arrested by the Las Vegas police are packed off in Greyhound buses. Such a program would save the city a lot of criminal justice money and help deal with jail overcrowding.

     Can you imagine what it must be like for ordinary tourists riding Greyhound buses out of Las Vegas? Moreover, what would it be like to be the bus driver on one of these rolling mental institutions? I can envision a reality TV show called "Crazy On Wheels."

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Laurel Schlemmer Bath Tub Murder Case

     Laurel Michelle Ludwig married Mark Schlemmer in July 2005. In May 2006, the couple purchased a house in McCandless, Pennsylvania, a suburban community north of Pittsburgh.

     By September 2009, the couple had two sons. The youngest was 18-months-old. His brother was three. Mark Schlemmer was 39 and working as an insurance actuary. Laurel, a former teacher, stayed at home to raise the boys. On September 5, 2009, a patron at the nearby Ross Park Mall noticed a parked Honda Odyssey with an unaccompanied toddler inside. Although the van's windows were cracked, the temperature inside the vehicle had risen to 112 degrees. The passerby called 911.

     When Laurel Schlemmer returned to her van she was met by Ross Township police and EMT personnel who had managed to unlock a door and remove the three-year-old boy. Due to the fact the mother was gone from the car twenty minutes, the boy did not require medical treatment.

     An Allegheny County prosecutor charged the 36-year-old mother with the summary offense of leaving a child unattended in a vehicle. Laurel pleaded guilty to the crime and paid a fine. No one read anything into this incident other than a mother's lapse of due care.

     By 2013, Laurel Schlemmer and her husband had three sons. On April 16 of that year, Laurel, when backing her van out of her parents' driveway in Marshall, Pennsylvania, ran over her two and five-year-old boys. One of the children suffered internal injuries while his brother ended up with broken bones. Both boys survived the incident.

     An investigator with the Northern Regional Police Department conducted an inquiry into the driveway collision and concluded that it had been an accident. Personnel with the Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth, and Families conducted an assessment of the Schlemmer family and found no evidence or history of child abuse.

     The pastor of the North Park Church, Reverend Dan Hendley, counseled Laurel in an effort to help her cope with what everybody assumed had been a nearly tragic mishap. Members of the church were supportive of their fellow parishioner.

     At 8:40 on the morning of Tuesday, April 1, 2014, Laurel Schlemmer put her seven-year-old boy on the school bus and waved him goodbye. She returned to her house and told her three and six-year-old boys to take off their pajamas as she filled the bath tub. The fully dressed mother, once the boys were in the tub, held them under water then climbed into the tub and sat on them.

     Laurel pulled the limp bodies out of the water and laid them out on the bathroom floor. She replaced her wet clothes with dry garments. In an effort to hide the wet pieces of clothing, she bagged them up with two soaked towels and placed the container in the garage.

     At 9:40 that morning, Laurel called 911 and reported that her two sons had drowned in the bath tub. Emergency personnel rushed the Schlemmer children to the UPMC Passavant Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. An hour later, three-year-old Luke Schlemmer died. His six-year-old brother remained in critical condition.

     Questioned by detectives, Laurel said she figured she would become a better mother to her oldest son if his younger siblings weren't around. "Crazy voices" had told her the younger ones would be better off in heaven.

     Later that day, detectives booked the mother into the Allegheny County Jail in downtown Pittsburgh. Mrs. Schlemmer faced charges of homicide, attempted homicide, aggravated assault, and tampering with evidence. The judge denied her bond.

     On April 5, 2014, a spokesperson for the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office announced that six-year-old Daniel Schlemmer had died. The boy had been on life support at UPMC's Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

     At a mental competency hearing on April 7, 2014, Dr. Christine Martone, an Allegheny County psychiatrist, testified that Mrs. Schlemmer was psychotic, suicidal, and suffered from depressive disorder. Judge Jeffrey Manning, based upon this testimony, ruled the defendant mentally incompetent to stand trial.

     Judge Manning ordered the defendant committed to the Torrance State Hospital in Derry Township, a mental health facility 45 miles east of Pittsburgh.

     In Pennsylvania, defendants are considered mentally incompetent to stand trial if due to mental illness they are unable to distinguish right from wrong or cannot assist their attorneys in their defense.

     In January 2015, Judge Manning postponed the murder trial indefinitely. He also imposed a gag order that prohibited the prosecutor and defense attorney from discussing the case publicly.

     On May 5, 2016, Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey Manning, after the prosecution and the defense could not agree on a plea arrangement, set the Schlemmer murder trial for June 21, 2016. According to the defendant's attorney, Schlemmer was pursuing a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity.

     Judge Manning, on June 21, 2016, heard from psychiatrist Dr. Christine Martone who testified that the defendant was still too mentally disturbed to be tried. The judge ordered the defendant to be forcibly medicated until she became mentally competent to stand trial for the murder of her sons.

     On March 16, 2017, following a bench trial featuring psychiatric testimony on both sides, Allegheny County Judge Manning found Schlemmer guilty of two counts of third-degree murder but mentally ill. The prosecution had argued for first-degree murder but the judge, due to the defendant's mental condition, found that she had acted in "diminished capacity." In Pennsylvania, a guilty but mentally ill sentence simply meant that the convicted person would be given the appropriate mental health medication in prison instead of a mental institution. In Schlemmer's case, she will serve ten to twenty years behind bars.
        

English Teacher Brittni Colleps and Her Senior High Orgy Club

     In the fall of 2010, Brittni Nicole Colleps, a married 28-year-old with three children, started teaching English at Kennedale High School near Arlington, a city located between Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas. She had also been hired to coach the girl's basketball team. Her husband Christopher served in the military and was stationed in the area.

     In April 2011, Brittni began sending sexually explicit text messages, including nude photographs of herself, to some of her senior male students. That quickly led to sexual encounters with five 18-year-old boys at her Arlington home. On at least four occasions, the teacher engaged in group sex with three of her students. (Colleps and her husband were so-called "swingers" who participated in group sex with other consenting adults. On her job application, Brittni probably did not list this activity as one of her hobbies. This was Texas, not California. Just kidding.)

     Colleps' extracurricular sex sessions were exposed in May 2011 when a cellphone video recorded by a participant in one of the home orgies came to the attention of school officials. The police were called in, and when a detective with the Arlington Police Department asked Colleps about this, she denied being involved in such activity. However, when confronted with her text messages to these students, she confessed. The high school immediately suspended her, and a short time later, she resigned.

     While it is not a crime in Texas for a 28-year-old woman to have sex with 18-year-old boys, it is an offense for a school teacher to have an "inappropriate" sexual relationship with a student. The text messages did not constitute a crime, but in Texas, the texting would have been sufficient grounds to fire her. A prosecutor in Tarrant County charged Brittni Nicole Colleps with 16 counts under the inappropriate teacher-student sexual relationship statute. These second-degree felonies carried sentences of two to twenty years in prison each. Colleps was clearly a serial offender.

     On August 13, 2012, the Colleps student orgy trial got underway in Arlington, Texas. The prosecutor put five of the defendant's student sex partners on the stand. All of the witnesses, while describing how their teacher had lured them into sex, testified that they did not consider themselves victims of sexual abuse. The prosecutor showed the jury portions of the cellphone recorded group sex episode that had ignited the scandal. (Colleps's face was not depicted, but a distinct tattoo on her lower back identified her as the female participant.

     The jury, on August 17, 2012, after deliberating less than an hour, returned a verdict of guilty on all counts. Colleps' sentence: five years in prison. Following the verdict, Christopher Colleps told reporters that while his wife's extramarital sexual activities had angered him, he was standing by her.

     In recent years, there have been several cases involving female high school teachers who have engaged in sex with male students. These women tended to be immature, overly romantic types who fell in love with a single kid who was just too cool to resist. Brittni Colleps, on the other hand, simply enjoyed group sex with young men.

     On January 7, 2015, after serving less than half of her five year sentence, the parole board granted Colleps' request for early release. She returned home where she would undergo monthly supervision for the remaining period of her sentence.
    

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. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Aaron Schaffhausen: What Kind of Man Murders His Daughters?

     Jessica Schaffhausen and her three daughters, ages five to eleven, lived in River Falls, Wisconsin, a town of 15,000 30 miles east of the twin cities of St. Paul-Minneapois, Minnesota. The 34-year-old mother had been single six months after she and her husband of 12 years, Aaron Schaffhausen, divorced in January 2012. In March, Jessica had called the police after Aaron threatened to harm one of the children. No arrest followed the complaint which was classified by the police as a "harassment incident."

     On July 5, 2012, Aaron Schaffhausen, a construction worker employed by a St. Paul company to work on projects in western North Dakota, was fired after he didn't show up for work. He was living in Minot, North Dakota.

     Just before noon on July 10, 2012, Aaron called Jessica, who worked in St. Paul for a nonprofit agency on aging, and asked if he could pay the girls a surprise visit. Amara, age eleven, eight-year-old Sophie, and Cecilia who was five, were at home in River Falls. Jessica agreed to the visit, but wanted Aaron out of the house before she got home from work.

     That afternoon, when Aaron Schaffhausen arrived at his former place of residence in the subdivision on the east side of town, the babysitter said goodbye to the girls and went home. Around four that afternoon, Aaron called his ex-wife and said, "You can come home now because I killed the kids."

     Jessica Schaffhausen, after receiving this horrific message, called the police. River Falls officers arrived at the scene about the time Jessica pulled up to the house. Upstairs, officers found the three girls dead and tucked into their beds.

     As the officers were trying to understand what had happened to these children, Aaron showed up at the police department and turned himself in. When asked to describe what he had done, and why, the suspect refused to speak.

    The autopsies of the three victims revealed they had been murdered by what the forensic pathologist called "sharp force entry." They had been stabbed, and the five-year-old had been strangled as well.

     On July 12, 2012, the St. Croix County district attorney charged Aaron Schaffhausen with three counts of first-degree murder. Held on $2 million bond, the defendant faced a mandatory life sentence on each count. A few days after filing these charges, the district attorney appointed Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Gary Freyburg to take over the case as a special prosecutor.

     St. Croix County Circuit Judge Scott Needham, on July 24, 2012 at Schaffhausen's preliminary hearing, heard testimony from River Falls detective John Wilson who said he found a large pool of blood in one of the bedrooms where he believed the three girls had been stabbed. Wilson also noted that the walls were splattered in blood. The girls, lying on their backs with their eyes wide open, had been tucked into their beds. The woman at the police department who had taken Jessica Schaffhausen's call that afternoon described the caller as "hysterical and hyperventilating." Following the 90-minute hearing, the judge bound the case over for trial.

     In early March 2013, Aaron Schaffhausen pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder. Although he pleaded guilty he maintained that, due to insanity, he should not be held criminally responsible for his daughters' deaths. On March 5, 2013, at the prosecutor's request, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Erik Knudson interviewed Schaffhausen for seven hours. During that session, Schaffhausen revealed that before the murders he had experienced reoccurring images in his head that featured the violent deaths of his ex-wife and children. Schaffhausen told Dr. Knudson that on two occasions he had aborted plans to murder the girls.

     After the killings, Schaffhausen, when he realized he couldn't clean up the murder scene, decided to burn down the house. In furtherance of that plan, he went to the basement and poured gasoline on the floor. He didn't go through with the arson out of fear he would get trapped in the fire.

     On March 25, 2013, Aaron Schaffhausen went on trial before a jury that would decide whether or not he had been insane at the time of the murders. Dr. Erik Knudson, testifying for the prosecution, opined that the defendant's depression and alcohol dependency had no relevance to why he killed his children. According to the psychiatrist, the defendant, rather than insane, possessed an antisocial personality disorder.

     In his closing remarks to the jury following the testimony phase of the trial, Schaffhausen's attorney argued that his client suffered from a rare mental disorder rooted in his deep dependency on his ex-wife that caused him to believe the only solution to his problems involved murdering his children. The defense attorney blamed the mass murder on what a defense mental health expert had called "catathymic homicide."

     On April 13, 2013, the jury returned a guilty verdict. Notwithstanding Schaffhausen's mental defects, the jurors wanted this defendant held criminally accountable for his murderous behavior. The jurors obviously believed that Schaffhausn, at the time of the murders, knew what he was doing, and that what he was doing was wrong.

     Judge Scott Needham, on July 15, 2013, sentenced  Aaron Schaffhausen to three consecutive life sentences. Because of the nature of his murders, prison authorities were faced with the likelihood that this prisoner's life will be under constant threat from other inmates.

     

Problems in Forensic Science

     Practitioners of forensic science fall generally into three groups: police officers who arrive at the scene of a crime whose job it is to secure the physical evidence; crime-scene technicians responsible for finding, photographing, and packaging that physical evidence for crime lab submission; and forensic scientists working in public and private crime laboratories who analyze the evidence and, if 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. As a result, a lot can, and does, go wrong between the crime scene investigation and the courtroom.

     Television series like "CSI" have generated public knowledge and interest in forensic science, even ramping up scientific expectations for those involved in real-life criminal investigation and prosecution. Prosecutors call this the "CSI effect," the expectation among jurors that the prosecution will feature physical evidence and expert witnesses. The CSI effect has also caused jurors to expect crime lab results far beyond the capacity of forensic science. Some prosecutors either eliminate potential jurors who are fans of "CSI," or downplay the necessity and importance of physical evidence as a method of proving a defendant's guilt. Prosecutors who have lost cases have been known to blame their defeats on the CSI effect. Criminal justice scholars who have investigated the CSI effect disagree over whether it has had much impact on trial results.

    While public expectations of forensic science are high, persistent problems within the various forensic fields have kept scientific crime detection from living up to its full potential. Because a shortage of qualified personnel has caused DNA testing logjams, rapists, pedophiles, and serial killers have been given extra time to commit more crimes. The shortage of DNA analysts has also placed a heavy burden on crime lab personnel, creating problems of quality control. In the past few years, dozens of crime lab DNA units have been temporarily closed when audits revealed sloppy work, scientific errors, unqualified analysts, weak supervision, poor training, and evidence contamination. Even the highly regarded FBI Laboratory has experienced problems with DNA analysis and other forms of forensic identification. Recently, crime labs in Detroit, Boston, Raleigh, Houston, New Haven, and Los Angeles have had serious problems.

     Ironically, advances in DNA technology have exposed problems in other fields of forensic science. For example, DNA analysis has revealed that over the years, experts have been overstating the identification value of human hair follicles and bite-mark impressions. Hundreds of criminal defendants, if not thousands, have been sent to prison on what many experts now consider unreliable forensic evidence.

     A critical shortage of board-certified forensic pathologists has also adversely affected the overall quality of homicide investigation. Overworked forensic pathologists are prone to take shortcuts and make mistakes. The shortage has meant that in many cases of suspicious death, autopsies are not performed.

     The field of latent fingerprint identification, while still considered the gold standard of forensic science, has recently come under attack as a result of a handful of high-profile misidentifications. These cases have revealed that not all fingerprint examiners have been properly trained, and that many have either failed or never taken proficiency tests. Questions have also been raised regarding the scientific objectivity of many fingerprint experts. This is particularly true of examiners who, as police officers, see themselves as part of a law enforcement team. Forensic scientists have to be loyal to their science, even when it displeases the people who employ them, a stance that takes courage and independence.

     There are fakes, incompetents, and charlatans in every profession, but over the years a series of high-profile cases have featured the so-called experts from hell, forensic scientists whose false testimony has helped convict innocent people. Many of these experts from hell are hired guns willing to testify for whatever side is willing  to pay. The alarming aspect of these expert-from-hell stories is how long these forensic scientists practice before they are exposed and defrocked. Just below the expert from hell on the damage scale are the well-meaning but incompetent forensic scientists as well as the experts who are either blinded by media attention, or bow to prosecutorial pressure. Maintaining a firewall between science and criminal prosecution is a constant challenge, one that is not always met.

     Jurors are often called upon to make judgments in trials in which experts representing each side offer opinions that contradict. When jurors are faced with opposing experts, they tend to disregard the physical evidence entirely. The dueling expert problem is destroying the credibility of forensic science itself. Judges reluctant to exclude the testimony of witnesses who are not real experts, dump the problem on the laps of jurors who are not qualified to distinguish the true scientists from the phonies.

     Most of the problems in forensic science are caused by personnel shortages, poor quality control, the inherent difficulties of crime scene investigation, the pressures imposed by the adversarial nature of our trial process, the lure of pseudoscience, and the evolving character and complexity of science itself. Over the past twenty years, the emphasis in American law enforcement has been the escalating war on drugs, anti-terrorism, and controlling inner city street gangs. Criminal investigation has taken a back seat to these priorities. As long as this is the case, the many problems facing forensic science will not be solved, and will probably get worse.

     The history of forensic science has been one of false hope, missed opportunities, and failed expectations. 

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. 

Infanticide

     Infanticide has been committed throughout human history for a multiplicity of reasons--personal, political, superstitious, and strategic. Whether or not a culture supports the perpetrators of infanticide, it is, like other forms of violence, highly mutable [subject to change]. In many cultures, offspring weren't considered to be fully human until they reached a certain age, one or two, sometimes three years old. Perhaps the most common cause of violence against infants arose from the need to space children in the absence of birth control. The Japanese word for infanticide means, "weeding," as in the thinning of rice saplings. Today, in some of the poorest communities in the world, infanticide as birth control takes a passive-aggressive form: babies are given birth to, then simply not fed.

     Cultures have also engaged in crude forms of eugenics, turning against twins, against girls, against deformities--as some societies continue to do, now, through selective abortion. Infants have been killed, as well, during famine, or in the midst of war, or as an offering in ritual sacrifice.

Patricia Pearson, When She Was Bad, 1998


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.

     

The Professor Kirk Nesset Child Pornography Case

     Dr. Kirk Nesset taught contemporary literature at Allegheny College, a small liberal arts school located in Meadville, a western Pennsylvania town about 90 miles north of Pittsburgh. In 2007, the then 49-year-old professor won the Heinz Literature Prize awarded by the University of Pennsylvania for his short story collection, Paradise Road. In addition to literary prestige, the award came with a $15,000 cash prize.

     In August 2014, in Arizona where Professor Nesset had a second home in Prescott, a sex offense investigator working undercover traced two pornographic movies to Nesset's computer billing address in Meadville. The films depicted two 8-year-old girls having sex with men. A month after this discovery, a detective with the Pennsylvania State Police found another pornographic film Nesset had purchased online. This movie featured a naked girl who was about six.

     In September 2014, FBI agents and officers with the Pennsylvania State Police, pursuant to a search warrant, took Nesset's hard-drive from his home in Meadville. Over the next several days forensic computer experts found, on the professor's computer, 540,000 images of children. While not all of the images were pornographic, at least 36,000 of them featured erotica or photographs depicting female child sexual molestation. One of the professor's computer files contained more than 1,000 images and movies depicting babies. In one film, a man had sex with an infant during a diaper change.

     Professor Nesset's computer revealed that he had been collecting child pornography since November 2005. (He had, no doubt, began collecting this kind of material long before that.)

     A federal prosecutor in Erie, Pennsylvania, on October 1, 2014, charged Kirk Nesset with possessing, receiving, and distributing child pornography. FBI agents and officers with the state police booked him into the Crawford County Jail on the federal charges.

     At Nesset's arraignment, the federal magistrate released him on a $10,000 unsecured bond. As a condition of his release the suspect was required to wear an electronic monitoring device. Shortly after posting his bail, the 57-year-old resigned from Allegheny College. Classes at the school were cancelled for a day during which time students could seek counseling.

     When questioned by FBI agents, Nesset said his massive child pornography collection allowed him to "release steam." He also explained that looking at child pornography gave him "solace." He said his sexual viewing preference involved girls 10 to 13-years-old.

     Professor Joe Tompkins, Assistant Professor of Communication Arts at Allegheny College, in an October 4, 2014 opinion piece in The Campus, the school newspaper, wrote the following regarding what he considered the school's over-reaction to the Nesset case: "We should ask ourselves, are there "sexual predators" simply outside the realm of civilized behavior, or are they actually over-conforming to the cultural norms--norms that result in all too frequent incidents of not only child porn, but related instances of pornographic media, male violence and sexual assault against women (of which there have been numerous cases at Allegheny)? Indeed, we're fooling ourselves to think these are completely unrelated matters…."

     An Allegheny student, in response to Professor Tompkins' article, wrote: "I completely agree that pornography is a more overt extension of the way women are implicitly abused by our androcentric culture, and I agree that culture is largely to blame. I agree that largely, Kirk Nesset is being dehumanized as a fluke in our community, instead of a product of the culture…."

     What a load of academic drivel from an ivory tower egghead and a liberal arts student. It's society's fault that a 57-year-old man gained "solace" from watching another man have sex with an infant? Is this what American higher education had devolved to?

     Enjoying child pornography is criminally deviant behavior, and purchasing it is not a victimless crime. Children were being horribly abused because of people with Kirk Nesset's sexual appetite.

     On April 6, 2015, at the U.S. District Courthouse in Erie, Pennsylvania, the former college professor pleaded guilty to one count each of possessing, receiving, and distributing child pornography. At his sentencing hearing scheduled for August 10, 2015, Nesset faced five to forty years in prison. Because he cooperated with the authorities and pleaded guilty, his attorney hoped the judge would hand down a light sentence.

     In July 2015, federal judge David Cercone postponed Nesset's sentencing to October 5, 2015 in order that his supporters could attend the hearing. (Only in academia would a person like Nesset have supporters.) Following a second sentencing postponement, the judge, on February 8, 2016, sent the former professor to prison for six years and four months. This was, in my view, an extremely light sentence.

     In December 2016, eight of the children depicted in Nesset's internet porn collection filed suit against the former professor in federal court. The plaintiffs, identified by pseudonyms, sought $150,000 apiece plus compensatory and punitive damages.
    

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Sheetal and Rajesh Ranot Child Abuse Case: No Protection For Maya

     In January 2011, Rajesh Ranot gained custody of his 9-year-old daughter Maya. A family court judge in Queens, New York, at Rajesh's request, issued a protection order against the girl's mother and her 20-year-old brother. The father, of Indian descent, accused his former wife Ramona Roy of abusing Maya.

     Maya moved into the top floor of an Ozone Park, Queens duplex with her father, his second wife Sheetal, and her four children. The family resided on a block inhabited by other families of Indian descent by way of Guyana and Trinidad. Mr. Ranot drove a taxi and worked most nights until four in the morning.

     Neighbors began to notice that Maya's stepmother treated her differently than the other children in the family. While Sheetal watched TV, Maya cleaned the house, cooked, swept the front porch, and did other household chores. Moreover, unlike her step-siblings, Maya wore dirty clothes and looked malnourished. In the winter, she wore flip-flops and often didn't have a coat.

     Someone in the neighborhood alerted the New York City Administration For Children Services which led to regular visits to the Ranot home by social workers. A neighbor from Guyana would later tell a reporter with The New York Times that in India, stepmothers didn't like their stepchildren and treated them like slaves. The fact that Maya was more like a maid than a daughter was, under the cultural circumstances, normal. But Maya lived in the U.S., not India.

     In December 2012, Maya's teachers and classmates noticed that the girl had lost so much weight it looked as though she was being starved. She also came to school with bruises and scratches on her arms and face. A social worker continued to visit the Ranot home. The child protection agents were told by Sheetal Ranot that Maya stole money from the family to give to her biological mother. The stepmother also claimed that the girl was crazy, and giving the family all sorts of problems. When asked by social workers how she had gotten her scratches and bruises, Maya claimed to have fallen. To her friends, however, Maya revealed that her stepmother regularly beat her and locked her in a room.

     On April 16, 2014, the 12-year-old, now weighing 56 pounds, was taken to the Jamaica Hospital Center in Queens with a badly bruised and swollen face. At the hospital, Maya and her stepmother told the doctor, a detective, and a child protection worker named Ruby Perez, that the injuries had been caused by her falling off a ladder.

     Social worker Perez had visited the Ranot home many times and expressed concern that Maya was being abused. The detective at the hospital told the social worker that he didn't have enough proof to establish an abuse case. As a result, the girl went home with her abusive stepmother.

     On May 6, 2014, Sheetal Ranot took her now 46-pound stepdaughter to the emergency room with a deep cut on her left wrist and a laceration on her right knee. According to the stepmother, Maya had tried to commit suicide in the kitchen with a large knife. Although Maya went along with this absurd story, the doctor called the police.

     Finally, after three years of abuse, Maya was sent to live with an aunt. She also began to reveal the details of her ordeal. She had not fallen off a ladder. Her stepmother had beaten her with a rolling pin. Three weeks later she was beaten in the kitchen with a broken metal broom handle. She had not tried to kill herself.

     A prosecutor in Queens, on July 29, 2014, charged Sheetal Ranot with several counts of first-degree assault. In convicted as charged, the stepmother faced up to 25 years in prison.

     Rajesh Ranot, at the time of Sheetal's arrest, was in India visiting relatives. Three days after his wife's arrest, he returned to the U.S. where at the airport he was met by detectives who took him into custody. Charged with lesser assault related and child endangerment offenses, the father faced up to 7 years behind bars.

     When the news broke about Maya Ranot's three-year ordeal, New York City Commissioner Gladys Carrion thanked the Administration For Children's Services and their social workers "whose diligence and professionalism saved the life of a young girl."

     Investigative journalists with The New York Times looked into the Maya Ranot case and wrote a different story. Social workers, instead of interviewing Maya's teachers, classmates, neighbors, and others familiar with the family, simply took the word of the stepmother. As a result, the girl almost died from abuse and neglect.

     Ruby Perez, the 29-year-old social worker who in April 2014 expressed concern regarding Maya's wellbeing, posted the following message on her Facebook page in 2010: "I want to quit my job. Now. I can't take it." Perhaps Perez didn't like working for a child protection agency that didn't protect children.

     On July 29, 2016, following a three-week trial, a jury in Queens, New York found Sheetal Ranot guilty as charged. On September 8, 2016, Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard L. Buchter sentenced her to 15 years in prison.

     Rajesh Ranot's trial, as of July 2018, has not been scheduled. In all probability, he will enter a guilty plea for a lesser sentence. 

In a Criminal Investigation, All Physical Evidence is Circumstantial Evidence

Because inferences of guilt or innocence are drawn from the analysis of tangible things or circumstances, physical evidence is, by definition, circumstantial. For example, a suspect's latent fingerprint in safe insulation powder at the scene of a burglary is direct proof that the suspect was at the site after the safe had been broken into. That the suspect is the safe burglar requires an inference; this requirement makes the crime scene fingerprint circumstantial evidence of the suspect's guilt. This doesn't necessarily make this evidence weak; on the contrary, unless the safecracking suspect can convincingly explain his presence at the burglary scene, he will be convicted. Circumstantial evidence in the form of physical clues and scientific analysis is, at least in theory, more reliable than such direct evidence as eyewitness identification, confessions, and the testimony of jailhouse informants.

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

The Danford Grant Massage Parlor Rape Case

     In 2011, 47-year-old Danford Grant and his wife Jennifer lived in the Seattle suburb of Auburn, Washington with their 5-year-old son, 8-year-old daughter, and a 16-year-old boy from Mr. Grant's former marriage. A graduate of the University of Washington School of Law, Danford was a litigation partner at Bailey Grant and Onsanger, a prestigious Seattle law firm. Grant had handled appeals before the Washington State Supreme Court and before the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Years earlier he had been a King County prosecutor.

     Grant's 38-year-old wife Jennifer, an attorney herself, worked in the Seattle City Attorney's Office as a supervisor. She had worked in that office since the mid-1990s. To the casual observer these successful attorneys living in the big, fancy house with their beautiful children represented the American dream come true.

     As is often the case, superficial appearances can be misleading. It seemed that Danford Grant had a problem controlling his sexual urges around women. Because of his unwanted sexual advances, female paralegal employees at the law firm had nicknamed him "Dirty Dan." And this wasn't the worst of it.

     Early in 2011, using the last name Hunter, Grant received a massage from a 45-year-old Asian masseuse in Bellevue, Washington. After the massage he grabbed the woman and told her to remove her pants. When she refused and broke down in tears Grant left the parlor.

     Grant purchased a massage in June 2011 at the Carnation Chinese Massage Clinic in Greenwood, Washington. He grabbed the masseuse and had a condom in his hand when a noise from the hallway outside the room ended the assault. The victim of the attempted rape quit her job at the Greenwood parlor and opened a massage operation out of her home in Shoreline, Washington.

     On August 19, 2012, Grant had an appointment under the name Pete with the Asian masseuse he had tried to rape in Greenwood. When she cracked her front door in response to his knock she immediately recognized him as the man who had tried to rape her at her previous place of employment. Before the masseuse could close the door he pushed his way into her house and raped her.

     On August 28, 2012, the attorney returned to the massage clinic in Bellevue where he raped the 45-year-old masseuse at knife point. After the assault the victim realized this was the Mr. Hunter who had tried to rape her in early 2011.

     Not long after the Bellevue attack Grant raped a massage clinic cashier in Seattle. He attacked the woman in his Honda Pilot after identifying himself as a police officer.

     Danford Grant, at 9:30 on the night of Monday, September 24, 2012, returned to the massage clinic in Greenwood where, after the message, he pulled out a pocket knife and demanded sex with the Asian masseuse. She said she'd go along if he put away the knife then informed him that she had HIV. To that he replied, "Me too." He then slipped on a condom and raped the victim.

     After the sexual assault employees of the massage parlor called the police. Later that night Grant returned to the clinic. When employees tried to detain him, he fled on foot. Just after midnight on September 25, 2012, police officers arrested Grant and booked him into the King County Jail.

     King County prosecutor Valiant L. Richey, on September 28, 2012, formally charged the prominent Seattle attorney with four counts of first-degree rape and several lesser offenses. The judge set Grant's bail at $3 million.

     In October 2012 Grant posted his reduced bail and was confined to house arrest. Four weeks after the Greenwood massage clinic rape, detectives located the suspect's missing Honda Pilot. They found it parked in the garage of Jennifer Grant's aunt. (He had raped the massage clinic cashier in Seattle in this SUV.)

     The day after her husband's arrest, Jennifer Grant and her aunt moved Danford's SUV from where it had been parked near the massage parlor in Greenwood to the aunt's house in Auburn. Jennifer insisted that she had moved the vehicle at the direction of her husband's attorney, David Allen. She denied intentionally hiding potential evidence against her husband from the police.

     Inside the rape suspect's SUV searchers found a realistic looking pellet gun, a cell phone, an iPad, a laptop computer, a black stocking cap, and a bottle of Cialis.

     In November 2012, Jennifer Grant filed a petition for legal separation from her husband. The couple remained married but would divide their assets and debts. Danford Grant, under the terms of the separation separation would be liable for child support. After six months either spouse could ask the family court judge to convert the separation into a divorce.

     On March 6, 2013, The Seattle Times reported that investigators recovered the September 24, 2012 rape victim's DNA from Danford Grant's underwear. One of the suspect's attorneys, Richard Hasen, told the reporter that, "Much of the DNA evidence actually favors the defense." The defense attorney acknowledged that his client had been a regular customer at several Asian massage parlors where he had been a problem client. "But that doesn't mean he was raping everyone there," said Hasen.

     On June 2013, Jennifer Grant resigned from her position in the Seattle City Attorney's Office. The Danford Grant rape trial was scheduled for the spring of 2014. If convicted as charged the once prominent attorney could be sent to prison for up to 45 years.

     On May 7, 2014, Danford Grant pleaded guilty to five counts of third-degree rape and one count of first-degree burglary. On May 19, 2914, the King County Superior Court Judge sentenced him to 25 years in prison. The day after the sentencing, officers transported Grant to the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton where they placed him in the "intensive management unit," an area segregated from the general prison population. Danford Grant, for his own protection, would have to spend 23 hours a day in a one-man cell.

    

Crime Scene Investigation Mistakes in the O. J. Simpson Case

     The [Los Angeles] police contaminated the crime scene by covering the bodies with a blanket from Nicole Brown's home, casting doubt on all the hair and fiber evidence they claimed to have recovered later.

     The bodies of the victims [Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman] were dragged around the crime scene before hair and fiber samples were taken from their clothing.

     The police failed to notify the coroner's office in a timely fashion, as required by Los Angeles Police Department procedure.

     The LAPD sent to the crime scene [criminalistics] trainee, Andrea Mazzola, who collected blood samples along with [criminalist] Dennis Fung. Mazzola had never before had primary responsibility for collecting blood evidence from a crime scene. [At the Simpson trial, Dennis Fung turned out to be a huge embarrassment for the prosecution.]

     Detective Vannatter carried around O. J. Simpson's blood in a vial in an unsealed envelope for three hours and went for a cup of coffee before booking it [into evidence]. This would allow the defense to argue that 1.5 cc's of blood could not be accounted for by the prosecution. [A serious chain of custody mistake.]

     The criminologists [actually they're called criminalists] failed to find blood on the back gate and socks (if blood was, in fact, there) during the original investigation and only found it several weeks after Simpson's blood sample had been taken and carried around by Vannatter.

     The criminalists did not count the blood samples when they collected them, did not count them when they were put in tubes for drying, and did not count them when they were taken out of the tubes. No documented booking of samples occurred until June 16. [The murders were committed shortly after midnight on June 13, 1994.]

     [While these are serious and stupid crime scene blunders, I believe the totality of the physical evidence in the Simpson case was sufficient to support a conviction. For all we know, even if these mistakes had not been made, the jury may have acquitted Simpson anyway.]

Alan M. Dershowitz, The Criminal Justice System and the O. J. Simpson Case, 1996

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Dr. Henry Lee: The Celebrity Forensic Scientist

     Dr. Henry Lee has come as close to becoming a household name as any forensic scientist in U.S. history. He has achieved fame in a profession whose practitioners generally operate behind the scenes. In the criminal justice field, it's usually the defense attorneys who get the headlines, and in forensic science, it's often forensic pathologists like Dr. Michael Baden and Dr. Cyril Wecht.

     In the 1930s, a pair of criminalists in the Seattle area, Oscar Heinrich and Luke May, achieved celebrity status by solving a number of celebrated murder cases. Clark Sellers, a handwriting expert from Los Angeles, made headlines with his testimony at the Lindbergh kidnapping trial in Flemington, New Jersey. In the 1960s, Dr. Paul Kirk, a forensic chemist from Berkeley, California became something of a celebrity. The peak of his notoriety came in 1995 when he analyzed crime scene blood-spatter patterns for attorney F. Lee Bailey in the infamous Dr. Sam Shepard murder case near Cleveland, Ohio.

     Dr. Henry Lee, because he rose to fame in the era of true crime television, has enjoyed a level of celebrity more intense and intimate than his well-known predecessors. He has made hundreds of television appearances, and hosted a show on Court TV called Trace Evidence: The Case Files of Dr. Henry Lee. Dr. Lee's personality, demeanor, and life story have helped make him a bigger-than-life character. Like sports stars and major film and television actors, he tends to be vain and dramatic. On the witness stand, he informs jurors and, as a charismatic courtroom showman, entertains them. When Dr. Lee testifies for the prosecution, he's the defense attorney's worst nightmare. When he's appearing on behalf of the defense, it's not good news for the prosecutor. In either case, the media loves it, and so do the jurors.

     Dr. Henry Chang-Yu Lee was born in Rugao City, China on November 22, 1938. When Henry was four, the Chinese communists murdered his father. Two years later, his family fled to Taiwan to avoid the communist revolution. After graduating from the Taiwan Central Police College in 1960 with a degree in police science, Henry jointed the Taipei Police Department. Six years later, after rising to the rank of captain, he came to the United States where, in 1972, he graduated from New York City's John Jay College of Criminal Justice with a bachelor of science degree in science. In 1974, he earned a master's degree in biochemistry from New York University. A year later, he was awarded a Ph.D in biochemistry.

     In 1979, Dr. Lee became the director of the Connecticut State Police Forensic Laboratory where he also held the title of chief criminalist. Following his retirement from the lab in 2000, Dr. Lee began teaching at the University of New Haven where he founded the Henry C. Lee Forensic Institute. According to his resume, Dr. Lee has been awarded several honorary degrees, written more than 20 books (most with co-authors), published numerous scientific articles, given hundreds of speeches, investigated 4,000 homicide cases (not possible), and consulted with more than 300 law enforcement agencies.

The Wood Chipper Case

     Dr. Lee vaulted onto the national stage in 1986 when an airline pilot named Richard Crafts went on trial in Connecticut for murdering his wife, Halle. Having incurred her husband's wrath by announcing her plans to divorce him, Halle Crafts had covertly audio-taped his threats to to kill her. Perhaps even more incriminating, Richard Crafts was seen by a motorist, on the night of Halle's disappearance, operating a commercial-grade wood chipper in the midst of a blizzard along the bank of the Housatonic River. The audio-tape and the wood chipper sighting led the police to suspect Crafts of murdering his wife. But investigators had a serious problem: they didn't have a corpse. Faced with one of those maddening cases of a good suspect, but no physical evidence, the homicide detectives called on Dr. Lee

     In the couple's bedroom, Dr. Lee found traces of the victim's blood. When he examined a chainsaw that had been in the suspect's possession, Dr. Lee discovered hair follicles, traces of blood, and tissue that he identified as the victim's. In the rented wood chipper, Lee recovered the same, and at the spot where Richard Crafts had been seen operating the equipment, Dr. Lee found fragments of the victim's teeth and bones, along with follicles of her hair. It wasn't much, but it was enough to establish that Halle Crafts had been murdered. From this evidence, Dr. Lee was able to reconstruct the crime, theorizing that the defendant had bludgeoned his wife to death in their bedroom, frozen her body in a home freezer, cut her into pieces with the chainsaw, then shoved the body parts into the wood chipper which sprayed her remains into the river.

     The Crafts trial jury, obviously impressed with Dr. Lee and his evidence, found the defendant guilty of first degree murder. A few years later, while serving his life sentence, Richard Crafts confessed to murdering his wife. Featuring blood and gore, an attractive victim, a suburban killer, a dramatic trial, and scientific investigation in the mold of Sherlock Holmes, the wood chipper case turned Dr. Henry Lee into a celebrity forensic scientist.

William Kennedy Smith Case

     Five years after his famous Crafts murder trial testimony, Dr. Lee took the stand on behalf of a defendant named William Kennedy Smith who was on trail for an alleged 1991 date rape that dominated the news because of the Kennedy family connection. According to the accused, following a night of drinking in Palm Beach, Florida with his accuser, the two had engaged in consensual sex on the lawn of the Kennedy family estate. Dr. Lee, to help prove that the defendant's partner had consented to sex, testified that he had found no grass stains on the woman's pantyhose, evidence one would expect to find had there been a struggle. To illustrate this point, Dr. Lee produced a grass-stained handkerchief he had rubbed against the grass in his own yard. The jury found William Kennedy Smith not guilty.

     Dr. Lee's testimony in the Kennedy case drew criticism from John Hicks, the director of the FBI Laboratory, who called it "outrageous." Hicks characterized Dr. Lee's handkerchief experiment as unscientific, and labeled the conclusions drawn from it speculative. The crime lab director pointed out that the handkerchief was not made of the same fabric as the pantyhose, and the conditions that had created the handkerchief stains did not necessarily replicate the environment at the alleged crime site. Criticism of this type--that Dr. Lee's testimony is more theater than science--has followed him throughout his career.

The O. J. Simpson Case

     Dr. Lee's testimony on behalf of O. J. Simpson in 1995 did not endear him to many of his forensic science colleagues. In general, Dr. Lee's testimony in that case helped the Simpson defense in five ways. It depicted Los Angeles police detectives and crime scene technicians as incompetent; it suggested that blood evidence had been contaminated; it supported the theory that evidence against the defendant had been planted; it pushed the time of the crime forward 45 minutes which accommodated Simpson's alibi; and it laid the groundwork for the theory than Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman had been murdered by more than one person.

     On the last point, Dr. Lee's testimony contradicted the testimony of the FBI's renowned footwear identification expert, William Bodziak. Dr. Lee identified a bloody stain on an envelope and scrap of paper found in Nicole Simpson's house as a shoe print that didn't match the footwear--the Bruno Magli Italian designer shoes--prosecutors believed the defendant was wearing when he committed the murders. Mr. Bodziak testified that this bloody print had not been made by a shoe at all. Douglas Deedrich, also from the FBI Crime Lab, testified that the bloody pattern was in fact a fabric print.

     At the Simpson trial, Dr. Lee also raised the possibility that a bloodstain on Ronald Goldman's blue jeans had been made by a shoe that was not a Bruno Magli. On cross-examination, when pressed about this blood print identification, Dr. Lee said that if these patterns were footwear marks, they were not made by the Bruno Magli brand.

     Critics of Dr. Lee's testimony in the O. J. Simpson case called it an example of "blowing smoke"--a term referring to the giving of vague defense testimony intended to muddy the water in an effort to create reasonable doubt.

     Since his testimony in the O. J. Simpson case, Dr. Lee was involved in dozens of celebrated cases that included the JonBenet Ramsey murder, the Scott Peterson case, and the Phil Spector murder case where he was accused of removing a piece of crime scene evidence that might have incriminated the defendant.

     Dr. Lee's participation at various levels in so many cases involving such a variety of evidence and analysis is unusual for a forensic scientist. In the field, he is almost a one-of-a-kind practitioner. At the core of his expertise, he is a forensic serologist, one who examines crime scene biological stains to determine their identify and origin. As a crime scene reconstruction expert, one who determines what happened at the crime site by taking into consideration all of the physical clues, Dr. Lee is also a blood-spatter analyst. As one who studies physical evidence to figure out, after the fact, what occurred at the scene of the crime, Dr. Lee analyzes all kinds of physical evidence, including hair follicles, fibers, bite marks, bone fragments, brain matter, tissue, gunshot powder residue, soil, dust, pollen, and other forms of trace evidence.

     Dr. Lee also studies latent footwear and fingerprint patterns, and analyzes bullet trajectories. He's a generalist in a field of narrowly defined specialists. This has its appeal, and explains why he has been able to insert himself in so many cases. It may also be his weakness, because his expertise and knowledge, over all this forensic territory, is thin. One man can only know so much. Because science and ego are a bad mix, forensic science is best conducted by behind-the-scenes people who are not worried about living up to their press clippings.

       

The Locard Exchange Principle in Forensic Science

The theory that a criminal perpetrator leaves part of himself at the scene of a crime, and takes a piece of the crime site with him, was postulated in 1911 by Dr. Edmund Locard in Lyon, France. Referred to as the Locard Exchange Principle, this concept, along with the idea of interpreting physical evidence to reconstruct what took place at the site of a criminal act, is the basic rationale behind crime scene investigation. The term "associative evidence" describes items that, pursuant to the Locard Principle, can connect a suspect to the scene of an offense. 

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.