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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Writer's Workshop Fiction

According to the writer Chris Altacuise, workshopped fiction "displays the hallmarks of committee effort; emotional restraint and lack of linguistic idosyncrasy, no vision, just voice; no fictional world of substance and variety, just a smooth surface of diaristic, autobiographical, and confessional speech." Having presided over a few writer's workshops myself, I consider this description extremely kind.

Thornton P. Knowles

The Catholic Priest Child Molestation Grand Jury Report: Serial Rape, Cover-Ups, And Passing The Trash

     On August 14, 2018, authorities released a historic 900-page grand jury report involving 70 years of child molestation by 300 priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses. According to the grand jury investigation, the case involves more than 1,000 victims. (A vast majority of these church pedophiles cannot be prosecuted because the cases are old and the suspects are protected by the statute of limitations.) The cases exposed by this grand jury report reflect the tip of the Catholic Church child molestation problem.

     An excerpt from the report: "Yet another priest finally decided to quit after years of child abuse complaints, but asked for, and received, a letter of reference for his next job--at Walt Disney World." 

The Brett Seacat Arson-Murder Case

     In 2011, 35-year-old Brett Seacat, a police instructor at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center, lived with his wife Vashti and their two boys, aged two and four, in Kingman, Kansas. During the early morning hours of April 30, 2011, a fire broke out in the Seacat house in the small south central Kansas town of three thousand. Brett and the boys got out of the dwelling unharmed. Vashti Seacat, found by firefighters in her bed with a bullet in her brain, did not.

     According to Brett Seacat, he had been sleeping on the living room couch when, during the middle of the night, his wife called him on her cellphone from the master bedroom with instructions to get the boys out of the house. He ran upstairs to find the master bedroom on fire. When Brett lifted his wife from the bed, her body was limp, and she was bleeding from a bullet wound to her head. Because the room was breaking out in flames, Brett left his wife and rushed to save the boys.

     Arson investigators determined that someone used gasoline as an accelerant to set fires at several points of origin in the Seacat master bedroom. Criminal investigators with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) assumed that the arsonist had shot the victim in the head before torching the house. Since the Seacats were in the midst of a divorce, suspicion immediately fell upon Brett Seacat as the arson-murderer.

     On May 12, 2011, two agents with the KBI interrogated Brett Seacat at the Reno County Sheriff's Office. The session lasted seven hours during which time the suspect admitted that he had purchased software to track his wife's text messages and her GPS location. He told his questioners that he had threatened to move out of the house with the boys if his wife proceeded with the divorce. The day before her death, Vashti had served her husband with the divorce papers.

     During the interrogation, Seacat also conceded that on the day before his wife's sudden and violent death, he was in his office at the training center destroying computer hard drives. He said he understood why the investigators considered him a suspect in his wife's death and the arson, but insisted that she had set the fire before shooting herself in the head. According to the suspect, this was an arson-suicide case, not an arson-murder.

     In describing his discovery of the fire and his wife's body, Seacat said, "I remember hearing my own voice inside my head saying, 'dead.' Then all of a sudden it sort of came to me, 'dead, fire,
kids.' "

     In the course of the prolonged interrogation (the suspect was not under arrest), Seacat showed no emotion, and on several occasions laughed with his questioners. The KBI agents made it clear they didn't think Seacat's account of that night made any sense. Why would Vashti risk her children's lives by setting the fire, calling him on the phone, then climbing into bed, pulling up the covers, and shooting herself in the head? Moreover, Brett had no traces of soot from the fire, or blood from his wife, on his clothing. The suspect responded to this by saying: "I'm with you on that. It doesn't make sense at all."

     Agents with the KBI, on Friday, May 14, 2011, arrested Brett Seacat on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated arson, and two counts of child endangerment. A magistrate set his bail at $1 million.

     On May 23, 2013, the Seacat murder trial got underway at the Kingman County Court House in the town of Kingman. Following the opening statements by the attorneys on both sides of the case, the state began presenting its evidence with testimony from the medical examiner, arson investigators, and the KBI agents who had interrogated the defendant in May of 2011.

     On May 30, 2013, the state put Karen Roberts on the stand. Roberts, who worked with the defendant at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center, testified that on the day before Vashti Seacat's death, the defendant had asked for an overhead projector to be pulled out of storage. According to the witness, Seacat spent the entire day locked into his office. (According to prosecutors, the last handwritten entry in the victim's journal, a message suggesting suicide, had been forged. Pursuant to this theory, Seacat had used the overhead projector to practice writing in his wife's hand. Seacat claimed that he needed the device in connection with a fraud investigation he was conducting.)

     KBI forensic scientist Chris Riddle, on May 31, 2013, testified that he had found traces of gasoline on the defendant's trousers. A state forensic document examiner revealed that the last entry in Vashti's journal was not in her handwriting. The expert could not, however, identify the defendant as the forger.

     Joy Trotnic, one of Vashti Seacat's co-workers, took the stand and said that on the day before her death, Vashti had expressed concern that her estranged husband would not move out of the house as promised. "Do you think Brett would burn down the house with me in it?" she asked.

     Connie Suderman, the Seacat marriage counselor, told the jurors that the defendant had called her shortly after Vashti's death. According to this witness, he said, "I killed her. Vashti is dead and it's my fault." In describing her conversation with the defendant that day, the therapist said, "I wouldn't say in hearing his voice that I thought he was distressed in any way. He was quite calm. I didn't hear sadness. I didn't hear tearfulness or crying or expressions of surprise or horror or words of exhaustion."

     According to the marriage counselor, Vashti Seacat had indicated that her husband "wasn't doing well" with the pending divorce. "She [Vashti] told me that he [the defendant] had awakened her from her sleep and told her that he had a dream that he had killed her.

     On June 6, 2013, after the prosecution rested its case, defense attorney Roger Falk put his client on the stand. The defendant explained that he had melted two laptop hard drives after he had arrived at work that day to protect against identity theft. He said he had planned to sell the computers. During his testimony, the defendant spoke with ease, and occasionally smiled at the jurors. While portraying himself as a loving husband and father, the defendant admitted that he had threatened to expose his wife's alleged affairs, wreck her career, and take away her sons if she divorced him.

     An expert witness named Gene Gietzen testified for the defense that the pair of trousers the defendant had been wearing on the day in question had been improperly packaged by a KBI arson investigator. As a result, this evidence could have been contaminated.

     On Monday, June 10, 2013, the prosecutor and the defense attorney made their closing arguments to the jury of five men and eight women. The next day, the jury returned its verdict: guilty of all charges. At Seacat's sentencing hearing on August 5, 2013, the judge sentenced Seacat to life in prison.
     

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A Case Of Cold Blooded Murder: Young, Dimwitted, And Evil

     Charles Severance and his wife Shirley, both seventy years old, had lived thirty years in Sterling, Colorado, a rural plains community 110 miles northeast of Denver. In 2014, the couple allowed their grandson, Brendan Johnson, a recent high school graduate without prospects, to take up residence in their modest, single-story $47,000 home.

     These decent grandparents had no idea that Brendan and his 18-year-old girlfriend, Cassandra Rieb, had been planning to murder them for their house, their 2009 Chevrolet pickup truck, and $20,000 in the elderly couple's bank account. According to the harebrained murder plan, Brendan would smother his grandfather as he slept while Rieb, in similar fashion, executed Shirley Severance.

     During the early morning hours of May 20, 2014, the grandson, accompanied by his sociopathic girlfriend, launched their attack on Mr. and Mrs. Severance. But as if often the case involving killers who are dimwitted, things did not go according to plan, and certainly not smoothly. As Rieb began to smother Shirley Severance, Mr. Severance fought against his homicidal grandson. During the struggle, Brendan, unable to smother his grandfather, placed his hands around his neck to strangle him. Mr. Severance couldn't breathe, lost his strength, then died.

     While Brendan was killing his grandfather, his girlfriend continued to have problems dispatching Mrs. Severance. Having fought against being smothered, Shirley begged for her life and offered to give the couple money. Rieb discontinued the assault when Brendan took charge of the murder. The killer's grandmother pleaded with him to stop the attack. She again begged for her life and asked for a drink of water. As the victim drank from the glass, Brendan pulled out a knife to slit her throat. She moved, and the knife instead sliced her in the jaw.

     When the 70-year-old woman tried to escape, Johnson used the knife to stab her repeatedly. "Why are you doing this to me?" she cried.

     "You know why," he replied. Shirley Severance died a few seconds later.

     The double murder not only failed to unfold as planned, it produced a bloody crime scene that the degenerate killers would have to clean up. The killers dragged both bodies into a bedroom where they remained for a day while Johnson and Rieb did their best to clean up the blood and dispose of other physical evidence. But what were they supposed to do with the bodies?

     After scrubbing the murder site, the cold-blooded killers loaded Mrs. Severance into Mr. Severance's pickup truck and hauled her to a wooded area near a reservoir outside of town. At that spot, they cut off her head and set fire to the corpse.

     Two days after the murders, Johnson and Reib returned to the dump site outside of Sterling, placed Mrs. Severance's charred remains back into the truck, and drove the body thirty miles to an area near Lorenzo, Nebraska. At that place they buried the murder victim in a shallow grave.

     Mr. Severance's body remained at the murder scene because he was too heavy to carry to the truck. When planning how to dispose of the bodies, the killers failed to account for this victim's weight.

     On May 29, 2014, a few days after forging and cashing two checks on the Severance bank account for a total of $4,500, Brendan Johnson called 911 to report that he had just discovered his grandfather's body in his house. He also reported that his grandmother was missing.

     Police officers, in response to Brendan Johnson's phony 911 call, met the grandson and his girlfriend at the tiny house on Third Avenue. In the bedroom, the officers came upon Mr. Severance's decomposing corpse.

     Questioned that day at the police station, Johnson said his grandfather had died of a heart attack, and that he had no idea what happened to his grandmother. According to Johnson, prior to Mr. Severance's death, the old man had given him the pickup truck as a gift. He said his grandfather had also given him  the $4,500 drawn from his bank. Detectives didn't buy Johnson's story.

     When asked to take polygraph tests, the young killers confessed. Cassandra Rieb led officers to the place outside of Lorenzo, Nebraska where detectives discovered Shirley Severance's charred and dismembered remains. During her session with the polygraph examiner, Rieb said, "The plan was to kill them so he [Brendan] could get their inheritance. Together we went and we did it together. We had agreed to do it together, obviously. Like one gets one [of the victims] and one gets the other."

     On June 3, 2014, a Logan County prosecutor charged the young couple with two counts of first-degree murder along with several lesser offenses. Johnson and Rieb were booked into the county jail. The judge denied the murder suspects bond.

    In April 2015, Cassandra Rieb, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon. The judge sentenced the young degenerate to consecutive terms of 48 years and 32 years, respectively. Under Colorado law, Rieb will have to serve at least 75 percent of her sentence behind bars.

     In May 2015, Brendan Johnson, after initially pleading not guilty to murder and fourteen lesser charges related to the case, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. The plea brought an automatic sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

    It's crimes like this that makes it difficult not to support the death penalty. 

Killing Monroe Isadore

     Police officers in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, a town of 48,000 forty-five miles south of Little Rock, responded to a call on September 7, 2013 regarding an elderly man who had pointed a gun at two people in his house. Shortly after arriving at the scene at 4:30 that Saturday afternoon, officers managed to get the endangered people safely out of the dwelling. The man with the gun, 107-year-old Monroe Isadore, locked himself into his bedroom and refused to come out.

     Police officers who surrounded the house had the legally blind, dementia-confused old man contained. Although Mr. Isadore wasn't holding hostages or posing a threat to the general public, the officer in charge of the situation called for a SWAT team, law enforcement's heavy artillery.

     By inserting a camera into Monroe's room, SWAT team officers were able to confirm that he still possessed the handgun. After a couple of hours of trying to talk the old man out of the house, a SWAT officer tossed a teargas canister through a bedroom window in an effort to flush the subject out of the dwelling. When the teargas didn't work, SWAT officers entered the home and destroyed the bedroom door with a battering ram. The second the door went down, a SWAT officer rolled in a concussion grenade that produced a loud noise and a disorienting flash of light.

     As SWAT officers charged into the bedroom, Monroe fired his handgun. Several officers shot back, killing Monroe Isadore on the spot. The county coroner pronounced the bullet-ridden old man dead at 7:30 that evening. Just three hours had passed since the initial police call. In Pine Bluff, Arkansas, the cops don't mess around. You can come out of the house now or be shot to death a couple of hours later.

     While the police-involved killing of Monroe Isadore was legally justified, was it absolutely necessary? Were innocent lives at risk? Of course not. The police had the 107-year-old trapped in the house. Had the half-blind, confused old man stumbled out the front door holding the gun, a healthy 80-year-old woman could have disarmed him.

     With the police camera in the bedroom, officers could have watched and waited until Monroe either passed out, fell asleep, or set the handgun aside. At the opportune moment,  SWAT officers could have stormed the house and taken this man into custody. But in an era where police officer safety trumps civilian safety, this is not how they do it. It's kill the armed son-of-a-bitch, then go home to your family.

     The Monroe Isadore shooting reflects, perhaps in the extreme, the effects of a highly militarized style of law enforcement where citizens are either treated like enemy combatants or potential enemy combatants. The armed public servant has been replaced by the crime-fighting warrior.

     What is truly concerning here is the stupendous lack of good judgement and police discretion. Also, where was the public outrage over the unnecessary killing of a confused, legally blind 107-year-old man? People demonstrate and wring their hands over the execution of a cold-blooded serial killer, but shrug their shoulders when the police use unnecessary deadly force. 

Retail Theft: Protecting Items Shoplifters Want To Steal

     In our anything-goes time, shoplifting forbidden objects is more difficult than you might think. Take cigarettes: A lot of people used to shoplift them, particularly young people. That is no longer possible now that the law mandates that cigarettes be placed behind the cash register. You have to commit an armed robbery to steal smokes. Or take pornographic magazines, once widely stolen. (For the articles.) Today, with Internet porn available at the click of a mouse, why bother shoplifting Playboy?

     But take condoms. After two decades of selling them on the open shelves, chain pharmacies, citing shoplifting in the 1990s, began locking them up. In the spring of 2006, an article about CVS doing so in its twenty-two D.C. stores appeared in The Washington Post.

Rachel Shteir, The Steal, 2011 

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Highly Professional Criminal Investigator: A Dying Breed

     Successful criminal investigators are intelligent, analytical people who like to solve problems and get to the bottom of mysteries. They are also curious, competitive, and well-organized in their work habits. The are unafraid of complexity, pay attention to detail, are articulate, and can express themselves well on paper. Dedicated crime investigators are lifelong students of their craft, people who embrace new challenges and tough assignments. They are not only intelligent, they train themselves to think clearly, draw relevant conclusions, and keep personal bias out of their calculations. They are people of integrity and intellectual courage.

     The history of American criminal investigation shows that men and women who possess these qualities are few and far between, even in our top investigative agencies. And, unfortunately, there is no indication that this will change any time soon. In fact, criminal investigation, performed at the highest levels, may soon be a lost art, a dead profession. We are now living in a time when what is true and not true, what is fact and not fact, is irrelevant. Moreover, it's not what we know that counts, it's what we believe. America has become a land of magical thinkers, and magical thinking does not solve crimes.

     Without highly professional criminal investigators who can think clearly, there can be no justice in our criminal justice system.  

The Joseph Oberhansley Murder Case

     On Wednesday night September 10, 2014, Tammy Jo Blanton, following an argument with her boyfriend Joseph Oberhansley, threw him and his belongings out of her house. A few hours later Blanton's father changed the locks on her Jeffersonville, Indiana dwelling.

     The next day at three in the morning, Blanton called 911. Her 33-year-old ex-boyfriend had returned and was trying to break into her house by kicking in the back door. Police in the southern Indiana town confronted Oberhansley at the Locus Street residence.

     Instead of taking Oberhansley into custody for attempted burglary and threats, officers ordered him off the property and told him to stay away from his former girlfriend. Oberhansley, just before he drove off in his 2002 Chevrolet Blazer, complained to the officers that the police aways favored the woman in domestic disputes.

     From his 46-year-old ex-girlfriend's home, Oberhansley drove to his mother's place. He got her out of bed and complained about his mistreatment at the hands of Blanton and the police officers his ex-girlfriend had summoned. He left his mother's home at three-thirty that morning.

     The Jeffersonville police must have known that Joseph A. Oberhansley was an unstable and dangerous man. (I don't know how much Tammy Jo Blanton knew about him.) In 1998, outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, shortly after Sabrina Elder, his 17-year-old girlfriend, gave birth to their child, he shot her to death. He shot the victim's mother in the back and in the arm when she tried to protect her daughter. The mother survived her wounds.

     After shooting his girlfriend and her mother, Oberhansley put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. The bullet entered his frontal lobe and damaged his brain. A year later he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sent to prison. He got out of prison in 2012 after spending eleven years behind bars.

     In March 2013, after putting a man into a chokehold and fighting the Jeffersonville police when they broke up the fight, a Clark County prosecutor charged Oberhansley with assault and resisting arrest. He posted his bail and was released from the county jail.

     In July 2014, Oberhansley led Jeffersonville police officers on a vehicle chase that ended up with his arrest in Louisville, Kentucky. Due to a bureaucratic screwup, the judge set Oberhansley's bail at $500. Once again Oberhansley walked out of jail a free man.

     On Friday September 11, 2014, when Tammy Jo Blanton did not show up for work, the police, at ten o'clock that morning, returned to her house. They were met at the door by Oberhansley who had a fresh cut across the knuckles of his right hand. Officers searching him incident to his arrest found a bloody folding knife in his back pocket.

     Officers discovered Tammy Jo Blanton's body beneath a vinyl camping tent draped over the bathtub. She had been stabbed numerous times in the chest and head. Her killer had also slashed her throat. Her torso had been cut open and several of her internal organs were missing.

     Officers at the murder scene found a piece of skull sitting on a bloody dinner plate. A kitchen skillet contained traces of blood as did the handle to a pair of tongs. Searchers found hunks of human flesh in the victim's garbage can.

     Confronted with this physical evidence of horrific violence, Oberhansley confessed that he had stabbed and slashed his ex-girlfriend. He cut out her heart, her lungs, and other internal organs that he said he had eaten. Some of the body parts he cooked, others he consumed raw.

      Charged with murder, abuse of corpse, and breaking and entering, Oberhansley appeared before Clark County Judge Vickie Carmichael on September 15, 2014. At the arraignment hearing, the defendant took back his confession. "Obviously you've got the wrong guy," he told the judge. Moreover, he claimed that he was not Joseph Oberhansley but a man named Zeus Brown. The suspect also asserted that he didn't know how old he was or if he were a U.S. citizen. The judge denied him bail.

     To reporters after the arraignment, Clark County prosecutor Jeremy Mull said, "There's a motive and a reason behind Oberhansley's denial of guilt. There's no doubt in my mind he is responsible for Tammy Jo Blanton's murder."

     On March 8, 2017, Clark County Circuit Judge Vicki Carmichael, pursuant to a defense motion declaring the defendant mentally incompetent to stand trial, ordered additional psychiatric examinations of the accused killer. These examinations were to be conducted by mental health experts selected by the court, not by parties to the case.

     Oberhansley was receiving psychiatric treatment at the Logansport State Hospital in Logansport, Indiana.

     In October 2017, after hearing the testimony of three mental health experts, the judge ruled that Oberhansley was unfit to stand trial. However, on August 9, 2018, after an Indiana state psychiatrist testified that the defendant was now mentally competent, Judge Carmichael ruled that the murder trial could go forward. While no trial date has been set, prosecutors have indicated their desire to pursue the death penalty in the case.
     

SIDS Is Not a Cause of Death


     Until 1959, whenever a presumably healthy baby died in its bed for no apparent reason, forensic pathologists called it "crib death" or "cot death." These terms described where, not how, the baby died, and didn't sound very scientific. But "sudden infant death syndrome," a purely descriptive term coined by a pediatrician named J. Bruce Beckwith, sounded more technical and more ominous.

     By describing the suddenness of the death instead of the place where it occurred, the term Sudden Infant Death Syndrome carries an implication of violence and foul play. While breaking new ground rhetorically, the introduction of the letters SIDS into the vocabulary of forensic pathology and criminal investigation added nothing but confusion. The time would come when SIDS, in essence, meant suspicious infant death syndrome, a designation that sounds more than vaguely criminal.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

August Vollmer: The Forgotten Father of Community Policing

     In the modern-day struggle between the opposing models of law enforcement--community-based policing in which officers interact with citizens as public servants versus militaristic policing comprised of cops who see themselves as crime fighters in a hostile environment--the concept of community policing is losing out. The rise of police militarism parallels the escalating war on drugs aided by the growing fear of domestic terrorism. The emergence of shock-and-awe policing and zero-tolereance peace keeping at the expense of police-community relations and the advancement of professionalized criminal investigation would have concerned August Vollmer, the now forgotten police administrator who envisioned an entirely different future for American law enforcement.

     In 1905, the citizens of Berkeley, California banded together to rid themselves of the prostitutes, gambling houses, and opium dens operating openly in their town. The man they elected to do the job was a 29-year-old uneducated mail carrier who promised to clean things up. Reform candidate August Vollmer kept his campaign promises, and as a result, rose from town marshall to chief of police, and, within a period of 16 years, became president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), and one of the most influential police administrators in the country.

     During his law enforcement career, Vollmer introduced advances in police training, established concepts of effective personnel deployment, developed methods of dealing with juvenile offenders, established one of the nation's first fingerprint bureaus, maintained and used crime statistics, and crusaded for the use of science in crime detection. Over the years, Vollmer hammered out a theory of police professionalism later adopted by J. Edgar Hoover when he became director of the FBI in 1924.

     Vollmer did not believe in capital punishment and became skeptical of J. Edgar Hoover's efforts to rid America of the "Red Menace" in the late 1940s and early 50s. He spoke out against the KKK at the peak of its power. After Pearl Harbor, he formed a committee to seek humane treatment for Japanese-Americans who were interred in prison camps. Vollmer also spoke out against the so-called "third-degree" as an interrogation technique.

     In 1919, Vollmer placed an ad in the school newspaper at the University of California soliciting student applicants for jobs as police officers. Over the years, hundreds of full-time college students applied for these positions. Vollmer's "college cops" included Walter Gordon, the department's first black officer, John Larson, the future inventor of the polygraph, and V.A. Leonard who became a well-known writer and criminal justice educator.

     Hundreds of Vollmer's proteges became police administrators like O.W. Wilson who became chief of the Chicago Police Department. Others became forensic scientists, lawyers, military leaders, and politicians. By the late 1940s, at least 25 police chiefs around the country had served under August Vollmer.

     In 1924, Vollmer took leave of the Berkeley Police Department to reorganize and head the Los Angeles Police Department. There he established hiring standards and set up a crime lab and a crime records bureau. He formed a vice squad, and created a bank robbery unit to combat the epidemic of bank hold-ups in the city. Notwithstanding his efforts to professionalize the Los Angeles Police Department, Vollmer was unable to eliminate the graft and political corruption that had become ingrained in the organization. After a year in Los Angeles where he had lost political support for his reform agenda, Vollmer resigned in defeat. He had learned that big city police departments, unlike law enforcement agencies in college towns like Berkeley, were almost impossible to control.

     Following his retirement from the Berkeley Police Department in 1932, Vollmer visited Scotland Yard, the Surete in France, and dozens of other European police departments. He wrote four books and continued to survey and reorganize troubled law enforcement agencies in the United States. He became a law enforcement professor at the universities of Chicago and California.

     In 1955, at the age of 79, Vollmer ended his life by shooting himself with his service revolver. Suffering from Parkinson's Disease and cancer, he didn't want to become a burden. His wife had predeceased him and they had no children. Before ending his life, he called the Berkeley Police Department to report his own suicide. He had willed his papers and extensive criminal justice library to the University of California at Berkeley. His archives are located at the university's Bancroft Library.

     

The History Of Private Security

Although America inherited the historic English tradition of citizens individually and collectively protecting self and neighborhood, this concept slowly moved to the background in the nineteenth century with the formation of public police departments. But when crime rates were rising in America during the late 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, citizens and commerce tried once again to develop their own ways to feel safer and protect their assets. Institutions created internal security measures or hired outside personnel and consultants. Individuals, organizations, and business proprietors spent money on a wide variety of security products and services. [In the retail sector, reducing employee theft and shoplifting is called loss prevention.]

Henry Ruth and Kevin R. Reitz, The Challenge of Crime, 2003

Thornton P. Knowles On The First A-Word

During my grade school years, the worst thing a kid could say in class was "ain't." I remember sitting next to a kid in fourth grade who, upon being accused of chewing gum, said, "I ain't got no gum in my mouth." Suddenly every kid in the room stopped breathing. Lying to a teacher was bad enough, but using the A-word to do it constituted a major offense. The teacher yanked the hapless offender out of his desk and frogmarched him straight to the principal's office for a paddling. I still don't chew gum and never utter the A-word.

Thornton P. Knowles

The No Good Dead Drowning Case

     The Jesus Christ Light of Sky Church performed baptisms several times each year along the Pacific coast in Santa Barbara County, California. During a baptism Sunday morning, March 30, 2014, one of the participants got swept out to sea and drowned.

     The pastor, Mauro Cervantes, told a television reporter that his cousin, Benito Flores, was helping him baptize a man when a rogue wave pulled him out into the ocean. Cervantes said he tried to grab his cousin, but a second wave took him out to sea. Flores was dragged out with two other people just before ten in the morning at the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve. The other two church members survived the ordeal.

     The preserve, west of the town of Guadalupe, has sand dunes more that are 550 feet high, the tallest on the west coast. Officials had warned on its website that the surf can be "very dangerous."


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Posthumous Publishing

Unless a book was in the publishing pipeline at the time of the author's death, I do not believe an author's unpublished work should be published after his or her death. Whether or not a book is published should be in the hands of the author and no one else. To prevent the posthumous publishing of his or her work, the author should destroy all writing deemed unsuitable for public consumption. I believe this should also apply to journals, letters, notes, and other documents pertaining to a writer's work. I just piled up all of my papers in my backyard and tossed a lit match into the heap. I enjoyed watching my unpublished stuff go up in flames. It's too bad I can't retroactively burn the manuscripts of some of my published work.

Thornton P. Knowles

Types of Criminal Behavior

It is conventional to draw a line between property crimes, crimes against the person, morals offenses, offenses against public order, and regulatory crimes. Social reactions depend on the type of crime. Typologies are not very systematic; but they can be illuminating. For example, there are what we might call predatory crimes--committed for money and gain; usually, the victims are strangers. These are the robberies and muggings that plague the cities and inspire much dread. There are also lesser and greater crimes of gain: shoplifting, minor embezzlements, confidence games, cheats, frauds, stock manipulations in infinite form. There are also what we might call corollary crimes--conspiracies, aiding and abetting, harboring criminals; also perjury, jail break, and the like. Much rarer are political crimes--treason, most notably; also sedition, and, in larger sense, all illegal acts motivated by hatred of the system, and which strike out against the constituted order. There are crimes of desperation--men or women who steal bread to keep from starving, addicts who steal or turn a trick to support their habit. Some crimes are thrill crimes--joyriding, shoplifting at times, acts of vandalism, and the like; some of these, too, can be little bursts of petty treason. There are crimes of passion--violence generated by thwarted love, jealousy, hatred that rises to the level of obsession. There are also crimes of addiction--crimes that arise from failure of control; crimes that stem from what some of us might consider flaws of character, or overwhelming temptation; this can be as minor as public drunkenness, or as horrific as rape. Lastly, there are what we might call subcultural crimes--acts that are defined as crimes of the big culture, yet validated in some smaller social group; Mormon polygamy in the nineteenth century, for example.

Lawrence M. Friedman, Crime and Punishment in American History, 1993

The Female Pedophile: The Tabatha Partsch Case

     In the 1980s, criminologists believed that 80 percent of molested boys were victimized by men, and that 95 percent of sexually assaulted girls were victims of adult males. More current research suggests these figures do not reflect the true number of female pedophiles.

     Female pedophiles can be placed into three general categories: women who target children under six; those who molest adolescents; and women who assault children with a male partner. Female pedophiles who were themselves victimized tend to target their own children. So-called self-made female offenders tend to prey upon victims outside the home. These pedophiles acquire access to children as trusted daycare workers, relatives, school teachers, and coaches.

     Female pedophiles most likely to grab headlines are the school teachers who fall in love with and have affairs with adolescent males. According to criminologists who study these women, they lack self-esteem, are co-dependant, and are afraid of rejection. They tend to romanticize their victims as ideal partners who truly understand them. There seems to be a current epidemic of this type of female pedophilia. For some reason most of these offenders are English teachers.

     Many female pedophiles avoid prison because prosecutors believe they are more difficult to convict than their male counterparts. Moreover, convicted women receive lighter sentences than their male counterparts. Even journalists, when referring to women accused of pedophilia, use words like "had sex with," or "affair," instead of "rape," or "molestation."

The Tabatha Partsch Case

     Tabatha Partsch, a chubby, round-faced 39-year-old with cat-lady eyeglasses and acne, lived in Claysburg, a town of 1,500 in central Pennsylvania about 35 miles south of Altoona. In September 2011, a 14-year-old boy who had been to Partsch's house, told police he'd seen her take a girl his age into her bedroom and lock the door.

     The Greenfield Township Police, pursuant to their investigation of Partsch (also known as Tabatha Sossong) as a suspected pedophile, acquired, in March 2012, a day-long exchange of text messages between her and a 12-year-old boy. Partsch instructed the kid to skip school and come to her house, noting that if his parents found out, she'd hide him. Partsch also suggested they exchange nude photographs of each other.

     Detectives learned that Partsch had been involved in several conversations like this one with other boys she was possibly grooming for sex. In one of her texts, she wrote, "We can do stuff, maybe touch each other."

     Shortly after midnight on March 29, 2012, police officers from several local jurisdictions arrived at Partsch's house with a search warrant. Among other items, they seized nine cellphones, two computers, and a Playstation 3 video game console. Officers found nude photographs of children on several of the recovered cellphones.

     Over the next few weeks, detectives questioned several children who had spent time at Tabatha Partsch's dwelling. According to them, the suspect had showed her young guests Internet pornography, supplied them with cigarettes and alcohol, and sexually molested them. According to an 11-year-old boy, Partsch forced him to sexually assault a 5-year-old girl.

     On July 13, 2012, a detective, accompanied by a Blair County social worker questioned the suspect at her home. Partach said she didn't put the sexually explicit photographs on her cellphones, and denied sexually molesting anyone. All of the children were making things up and lying, she said.

     Ten days following the interview, police officers took Tabatha Partsch into custody. Charged with 18 felonies related to child sexual abuse, she was placed into the Blair County Jail on $150,000 bond. Richard Consiglio, the Blair County District Attorney, charged Partsch with child rape, statutory indecent assault, disseminating explicit material to minors, and corrupting minors. Questioned by a local reporter, Consiglio noted that convictions in trials involving young witnesses are not sure things. At least in this case, not much time has passed since the alleged crimes took place.

    In November 2012, following her guilty plea, a Blair County judge sentenced Tabatha Partch to fifteen to thirty years in prison. (In November 2013, Partsch's 34-year-old husband, Patrick, was sentenced to 8 to twenty-eight years for his involvement in the child molestations.)

     In late 2014, Judge Daniel J. Milliron ordered a review of the case by the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board. The board, on July 5, 2015, found that Partsch, under the terms of Megan's Law, met the criteria to be declared a sexually violent predator. That meant that Partsch would be required, once out of prison, to register annually with the local police for the rest of her life. Moreover, once she was released from the State Correctional Institution at Muncy, Partsch would undergo monthly counseling for the duration of her 15 years on probation. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Criminal Investigation As A Thinking Person's Game

     Successful investigators are intelligent, analytical people who like to solve problems and figure things out. They are also curious, competitive, and well-organized in their work habits. They are unafraid of complexity, pay attention to detail, are articulate, and can express themselves on paper. Dedicated investigators are lifelong students, people who embrace new challenges and tough assignments. They are not only intelligent, they train themselves to think clearly, draw relevant conclusions, and keep bias out of their calculations.

     Individuals who make first-class detectives are often not suited for general police work, and a good cop will not necessarily turn into a competent investigator. The fields of law enforcement (peace keeping and order maintenance) and criminal investigation are vastly different functions that appeal to different kinds of people. The uniformed officer, often having to act quickly and decisively, instead of thoughtful discretion, is more likely to behave pursuant to a detailed code of rules and regulations committed to memory. Training a police officer is therefore nothing like preparing someone for criminal investigation. For that reason, criminal investigators should be recruited from an entirely different pool of candidates. For example, there is no reason to require trainee investigators to be as physically fit as uniformed police officers. Moreover, there is no reason to train future investigators on how to issue traffic tickets, handle drunks, bust drug suspects, or deal with domestic disturbance situations.

     The gap between policing and criminal investigation widened as law enforcement agencies, focused on drug enforcement, and concerns with terrorism, became more paramilitary in nature. Even small police departments field SWAT teams that keep sharp by arresting deadbeat dads, bad check passers, and shoplifting suspects. As the police have become less interested in criminal investigation, the public, having been educated by the O. J. Simpson case, and hooked on TV shows like "CSI," "The New Detectives," and "Forensic Files," have become increasingly more interested in, and knowledgeable about, the art and science of criminal investigation. This has widened another gap, one between public expectation, and police performance.

     Until general policing and criminal investigation are recognized and treated as separate vocations, criminal investigations of major, difficult crimes will continue to be regularly bungled. It is becoming increasingly difficult to think of a celebrated case that hasn't suffered from what could be at best termed mediocre detective work. In America, people who commit criminal homicide, not a particularly clever group of criminals, have a one-third chance of either avoiding detection, or arrest. One in a hundred arsonists end up in prison, and child molesters are having a field day. For the law breaker, America is the land of opportunity. And it is not because the U. S. Supreme Court has handcuffed detectives. Blaming democracy and due process for investigative failures has become second nature to investigators unwilling to face up to their inadequacies.

     Crime solution rates reveal just how bad our criminal investigators are doing. Only 20 percent of all criminal cases lead to an arrest. The crime solution rate hasn't changed since the FBI started keeping crime records back in 1933. The reason for this has to do with the fact that criminal investigation, as a function of the American criminal justice system, has never been a priority. This reality has created decades of public frustration and disillusionment. Instead of fixing the problem, the law enforcement community has tried to indoctrinate the public into believing that solving one out of five crimes is the best that can be expected. It's the old war-is-hell excuse. Even in baseball, batting 200 is considered mediocre.

     Investigative trainees are not only drawn from the wrong well, they are improperly trained by instructors who emphasize methods and techniques designed to resolve cases quickly rather than correctly. The emphasis is on the acquisition of direct evidence in the form of eyewitness identification, and the confession, rather than the more time consuming, and complex gathering and interpretation of physical evidence; an endeavor that requires special training, and more complicated thinking. Perhaps this is why so many crime scenes are either ignored, or improperly processed. This also explains why there are so many false confessions, and people sent to prison on the strength of questionable line-up and mug shot identifications. Another method of quickly getting a case off the books involves the use of unreliable jailhouse informants who testify against defendants to get off the hook themselves. The plea bargaining process that accounts for 90 percent of the convictions in this country masks how police detectives go about their business. Because there are so few criminal trials, there is no way to know how many confessions are illegally acquired, or how many searches are not based upon adequate probable cause.

     Because most detectives are not accustomed to digging deeply into a crime, that is peeling away layers and layers of leads, they are often stumped when merely scratching the surface of a case fails to reveal the perpetrator. There is also the problem of what I call the veteran rookie, the uniformed cop who after fifteen years on patrol, is rewarded with detective duty. These veteran rookies are not only ill-equipped to be investigators, they are often burned-out bureaucrats eyeing retirement.

     The use of task forces, and team investigations, attenuate investigative responsibility, and produces poor results. A single, competent investigator will out perform a team of fifty amateurs, without direction of vision, spinning their wheels around a case.

     Only a handful of college level criminal justice programs include credible courses on criminal investigation. Most criminal justice courses are in the areas of policing, corrections, and the sociology of crime. Too many criminal investigation courses are taught by academics teaching out of textbooks, or worse, by retired cops earning a little part time money by regaling students with war stories. This begs the question: can a qualified practitioner/lecturer teach college students how to become competent, well-rounded criminal investigators? Assuming that the classroom is filled with serious students who want to become investigators, the answer is, unfortunately, no. The most a criminal investigation professor can do is educate students about the art and science of criminal investigation. While this will not turn criminal justice majors into detectives, it might enhance a student's police training, and the all-important apprenticeship that should follow the police academy.

     At the very least, besides the basic crime solving techniques--crime scene work, interviewing, interrogation, and the like--students should be exposed to a philosophy or theory of crime solution that includes the proper attitude, mind set, and core investigative values that competent detectives possess. They can be taught how to recognize the elements of a solid investigation, and identify cases that are incomplete or flawed. If nothing else, students should come away from the course knowing the basic dos and don't of criminal investigation. All outstanding criminal investigators are the products of a solid education, good training, a long internship, close on-the-job mentoring, and relevant experience.         

The Santa Monica Art Heist

     A burglar broke into investment fund manager Jeffrey Gundlach's Santa Monica mansion sometime between 3 PM September 12 and 8 PM September 14, 2012. The intruder made off with $10 million worth of art as well as bottles of rare wine and several expensive watches. The burglar returned to the scene a few hours after the initial break-in to steal Mr. Gundlach's red 2010 Porsche Carrera 4S.

     Investigators did not reveal how the thief gained entry, or how the intruder circumvented the home burglary alarm system. Moreover, there was no information released regarding how the thief knew the art was in Gundlach's dwelling. The house burglar also knew to strike when Gundlach was on a business trip.

     Following the heist, Jeffrey Gundlach offered a $1 million reward for one of the paintings as well as a separate $500,000 for information leading to the recovery of another piece of art.

     On September 26, 2012, detectives in Pasadena called the Santa Monica burglary squad regarding a tip they had recieved about the location of some of the stolen paintings. According to the tipster, most of the stolen art was being held at Al and Ed's Autosound Store in Pasadena. Detectives executed a search warrant at the store that led to the recovery of several of Mr. Gundlach's paintings.

     Following the Pasadena search, officers arrested the store's 45-year-old manager, Jay Nieto. A Los Angeles County prosecutor charged Nieto with receiving stolen property and possession of stolen items.

     Shortly after Nieto's arrest, detectives recovered four of the stolen paintings from a house in San Gabriel owned by 40-year-old Wilmer Cadiz. Cadiz was charged with the possession and receipt of stolen property.

     Nieto and Cadiz's cooperation with investigators led to the arrest, on January 4, 2013, of a known burglar named Darren Agee Merager. Charged with first-degree residential burglary and receiving stolen property, the 43-year-old Merager faced up to nine years in prison.

     The Los Angeles prosecutor also charged Merager's 68-year-old mother, Brenda Merager, and his two brothers, Wanis and Ely Wahba, with receiving stolen property. According to detectives, Merager's mother and his brothers had tried to sell some of the loot. Eventually the prosecutor dropped the charges against the mother.

     On January 22, 2014, Jay Nieto and Wilmer Codiz each pleaded no contest to one count of receiving stolen property. In return for their pleas, the judge sentenced each man to three years probation.

     The Wahba brothers also pleaded no contest to receiving stolen property. A judge sentenced them in April 2014 to probation.

     The burglar and car thief, Darren Agee Merager, pleaded guilty on January 22, 2014 to first-degree residential burglary and receiving stolen property. The judge sentenced him to four years in prison.

     All of the wealthy financier's paintings, as well as his Porsche, were recovered in good condition. (I don't know abut the watches and the wine.) Breaking into middle class homes and selling off the loot--usually TVs, computers, jewelry and guns--is not that difficult. But high-end mansion burglaries like this case often unravel when thieves try to convert the extremely valuable merchandise into cash. Also, when there are several thieves involved in the caper, chances are someone will talk too much, and when brought in by detectives for questioning, snitch on the others in return for a plea deal. 

The Rise of Shoplifting and the War to Stop It

     Shoplifting came of age in America in 1995, when the FBI reported that it had jumped 93 percent in the previous five years and was "the nation's fasted-growing form of larceny." The crime was part of President Johnson's Commission on Law Enforcement; his "Special Message to Congress on Crime and Law Enforcement in the U. S." It marked the first time a president ever mentioned shoplifting. The shoplifting spike also inspired three men in different parts of the country to launch the modern anti-shoplifting technology industry, which in the past half century has claimed multibillion dollar profits, evoking both rags-to-riches tales and a morality play about the costs of trying to suppress the crime.

Rachel Shteir, The Steal, 2011


Thursday, August 9, 2018

In Greece, You're Not a Criminal, Just Disabled

     In Greece, a welfare state in financial crises, the Labor Ministry issues government disability payments to, among others, pyromaniacs, compulsive gamblers, sadomasochists, and peeping Toms. That's right. Before being too critical of this form of governmental generosity, put yourself in the shoes of a pyromaniac. Who's going to hire a compulsive fire setter? (Surely you don't want fire-bugs lying on their job applications.) While sadomasochists can find satisfying jobs as bureaucrats, what do you do with the peeping Toms? (Those not afraid of heights could work as window washers, but how many jobs is that?) Lest you think the Greek government treats is pathological criminals harshly, the labor minister expanded the list of state-recognized disability categories to include: pedophiles, exhibitionists, and kleptomaniacs.

     At the risk of coming off a bit insensitive to compulsive firesetters, child molesters, and serial killers, why aren't these pathological criminals receiving the full benefits of the state while serving time in prison? How can one declare himself a pedophile and not be questioned, arrested, and put in jail?

      Perhaps you have to be a socialist to understand what's going on here. I'm also not an economist, but I do think I know why the country of Greece is in financial trouble.
    

Score One For The Devil: The Arkansas Church Murder Case

     Every once in awhile you hear of a homicide that reminds you that regardless of who you are, where you are, or what you are doing, you can be murdered. It's a sobering thought, but it's true. There are people among us, ordinary-looking people, pushing carts at Walmart, driving around in SUVs, watching their kids play soccer, sitting in movie theaters, and eating in restaurants, that for little or no reason, will take your life. As Charles Lindbergh said after the kidnapping and murder of his son in 1932, life is like war.

     On Sunday morning, June 6, 2010, Patrick Bourassa, a 34-year-old drifter with a shaved head, an ordinary face, and a tattoo featuring three skulls and a flaming dragon, was driving in eastern Arkansas on Highway 64. Slightly tall, thin, and clean-cut, Bourassa, if placed in a group of men his age, wouldn't stand out. Originally from Danielson, Connecticut, he had recently worked in a Dotham, Alabama barbecue restaurant, and had tended bar in Phoenix, Arizona and Wichita, Kansas.

     At eight-thirty that Sunday morning, as Bourassa drove west toward the small town of Hamlin, Arkansas, 80-year-old Lillian Wilson was alone inside the Central Methodist Church. She had gone there to pick-up donation baskets that had been used to collect money for victims of a recent storm. As Bourassa approached the town, his car broke down. Leaving the vehicle along the highway, he walked to the church, and forced his way into the building.

     About an  hour after Bourassa broke into the Methodist Church, he pulled into a nearby Citgo station driving Lillian Wilson's car. A few miles down the highway from the gas station, he used Wilson's credit card to buy food at a Sonic convenience store.

     As Patrick Bourassa drove west through Arkansas, the pastor of the Central Methodist Church discovered Lillian Wilson's body lying on the floor between two pews. She had been bludgeoned to death with a heavy brass cross.

     On Thursday of that week, police arrested Bourassa in Bremerton, Washington on Kitsap Peninsula west of Seattle. He still possessed Lillian Wilson's car, and admitted to the arresting officers that he had murdered the old woman in the Arkansas church.

     On June 16, 2010, after waiving extradition, Bourassa and his attorney stood before a judge in Wynne, Arkansas. Advised that he had been charged with capital murder and several lesser charges, Bourassa pleaded not guilty. He awaited trial without bail in the Cross County Jail.

     On Monday, April 2, 2012, in Wynne, Arkansas, the jury selection phase of Bourassa's capital murder trial got underway. A week later, the prosecutor showed the jury a video-tape of the defendant re-enacting how he had picked the brass cross off the communion table and used it to beat Lillian Wilson to death. In response to why he had killed an old woman he didn't know, Bourassa said it was because he became enraged when she told him that God loved him and would forgive him.

     Bourassa's attorneys did not dispute the fact their client had killed Lillian Wilson. It was their mission to convince the jury to find Bourassa guilty of a lesser homicide charge in order to save him from execution. To get that result, the defense put two expert witnesses on the stand. A psychologist and a forensic psychiatrist testified that Bourassa was genetically predisposed to violence. These mental health practitioners told the jury that the defendant had suffered childhood abuse, and was bipolar. Moreover, he had a personality disorder. (No kidding.) Because these experts were not saying that Bourassa was not guilty by virtue of legal insanity, the relevance of this testimony was not clear. Surely they were not trying to make the jurors feel sorry for this man.

     On April 13, 2012, after four hours of deliberation, the jury found Bourassa guilty of capital murder as well of the the lesser charges. The defendant, at the reading of the verdict, showed no emotion. Having found Patrick Bourassa guilty, the jury had to either sentence him to life in prison or death. The next day, after deliberating two hours, the jury sentenced Bourassa to life without parole. The jurors had spared this killer's life because they didn't think Lillian Wilson, the woman he had murdered, would approve of the death sentence. 

The Christopher Wells Murder-For-Hire Case

    Unlike what we see on TV and in the movies, few real-life murder-for-hire cases involve highly trained, professional contract killers. Most murder-for-hire cases consist of either emotionally unstable or desperate, sociopathic masterminds who hire rank amateurs who almost always botch the job. Identifying a mastermind is one of the easiest assignments a homicide detective will get. Masterminds are most commonly motivated by love, lust, money, rage and/or hatred. They come in all walks of life and often don't have criminal histories. Mothers hire hit men to kill cheerleading coaches, husbands hire losers to kill estranged wives to avoid the cost of divorce, life insurance beneficiaries put out murder contracts on the insured, and teenagers and young adults have parents killed in order to inherit their estates. These cases are not only shockingly common, they are intriguing because of the variety of motives and people involved. Every day someone is arrested for soliciting a contract murder. Most of these masterminds are caught before the homicide is completed because the "hit men" don't realize the people they are talking to are in reality undercover detectives. All of these mastermind/hit-man conversations (many of which take place in Wal-Mart parking lots) are caught on audio and video tape providing detailed insight into the anatomy of this crime.

CHRISTOPHER WELLS CASE

     In August 2010, Amara Wells, the 39-year-old wife of 49-year-old Christopher Wells, declared that she wanted a divorce. The couple lived with their six year old daughter in Monument, Colorado. The day after he received this news, Christopher destroyed $1000 worth of his wife's wardrobe. She and the little girl fled to Castle Rock, Colorado where they took up residence with Amara's sister-in-law and her husband. Within days of the separation, Amara filed for divorce and obtained a restraining order, informing the authorities that she feared for her life. The restraining order did not stop Christopher Wells from stalking and harassing his wife.

     On February 22, 2011, El Paso County (Colorado) police arrested Christopher for violating the restraining order. Instead of posting bail, he chose to remain in custody overnight. That evening someone entered the Castle Rock home and brutally murdered Amara and her sister-in-law's husband. They were beaten, stabbed and shot at close range. Amara's six year old discovered the bodies at three in the morning on February 23. At the time of the killings, Amara's sister-in-law was away on business.

     A few weeks after the double murder, the police arrested Christopher Wells for mastermining the two homicides. Wells and his accomplices, Josiah Sher, Matthew Plake, and Micah Woody had been employed at the Rocky Mountain Auto Brokers in Colorado Springs. Wells stood accused of paying 26-year-old Josiah Sher of Calhan, Colorado, $20,000 for the murder of Amara and her family. Sher's two helpers were charged with buying the weapons, planning the hit, driving the hit man to the scene, and disposing of the evidence. Woody and Plake were each paid $15,000 for their roles in the murders.

     The accused hit man, Josiah Sher, had been arrested in July 2005 for assault, domestic violence, and harassment. Five years later police arrested him for speeding, driving with a revoked license, and being a habitual offender. At the time of this arrest, he was a sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserves.

     Christopher Wells, a hot-tempered drug user, had a history of violence himself. Thirteen years earlier he had asked a cellmate in Fairfax County, Virginia to burglarize his ex-girlfriend's home, and in the process beat her up. Wells gave the cellmate, Richard DeLilly, a checklist detailing the M.O. along with a hand-drawn map of the target's neighborhood and a blueprint of the interior of her home. Wells told DeLilly to take what he wanted then destroy the woman's furniture. Instead of going through with the criminal assignment, De Lilly went to the police. The intended victim told the officers that he, a former Chippendales dancer who did odd jobs and abused methamphetamine, wouldn't take no for an answer. He had called her incessantly, damaged her pickup and jammed the lock on her front door. She considered him wierd and dangerous.

     On September 14, 2011, a judge ruled that the prosecutor in the Castle Rock double murder had sufficient evidence against Wells and the other three to hold the defendants without bond until their separate trials. They were charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and felony murder. All of the defendants are eligible for the death penalty.

   On January 31, 2012, the Douglas County District Attorney's Office announced that prosecutors intended to seek the death penalty against 27-year-old Josiah Sher, the suspected hit man. Two weeks later, Christopher Wells entered a plea of not guilty in a Douglas County Court.

     In March 2012, Micah Woody and Matthew Plake each pleaded guilty to  two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Both men agreed to testify against Christopher Wells and Josiah Sher. The judge sentenced each man to 48 years in prison.

     On January 30, 2014, Christopher Wells and his hit man, Josiah Sher, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder. The judge sentenced both men to life in prison. 

Thornton P. Knowles On Mankind Outsmarting Itself

The smart boys gave us electricity, the radio, the combustion engine, television, nuclear fusion, the computer, and the Internet. In the end, it's the smart boys and their technology that will bring us all down: Mankind outsmarting itself.

Thornton P. Knowles

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Wrong House SWAT Raids

No one is entirely safe from the wrong house, pre-dawn raid by a SWAT team looking for drugs. In the drug war, a man's home is no longer his castle; it's simply a structure that can be forcefully entered by heavily armed cops operating on the word of some drug addled snitch. Over the years dozens of innocent citizens have been killed while trying to protect their homes from people they thought were criminal intruders. Moreover, countless dogs have been slaughtered in the never ending drug war. When the first SWAT teams were created in 1969, they were not intended for this. Now, because of the war on drugs, there are thousands of SWAT teams across the country engaged in a dangerous form of militaristic policing.

Thornton P. Knowles

The Father Edward Belczak Embezzlement Case

     Reverend Edward Belczak, the pastor of the 2,500-member St. Thomas More Catholic Church in the Detroit suburb of Troy, Michigan, lived extremely well for a priest who made less than $30,000 a year. In 2005, the well-known and popular 60-year-old man of the cloth purchased, with a $109,578 down payment, a luxury condo in Palm Beach, Florida from his longtime church administrator, Janice Verschuren.

     In late 2012, an internal audit of Reverend Belczak's church commissioned by the Archdiocese of Detroit, led the auditors to suspect that the priest, during the period 2004 to 2012, embezzled at least $429,000 from the parish. The archdiocese reported the audit results to the local police who turned the case over to the FBI.

     Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, in January 2013, suspended Reverend Belczak. Church administrator Verschuren, suspected of helping the pastor divert church money, resigned.

     Father Belczak's suspension did not sideline him altogether. With advanced permission from the archdiocese, he was allowed to conduct church services at other parishes throughout the Detroit area. He also continued to draw his salary.

     On April 23, 2014, a U.S. Department of Justice spokesperson announced that a federal grand jury sitting in Detroit had indicted Reverend Belczak and Janice Verschuren of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. According to the indictment, Belczal had purchased the Palm Beach condo with funds he had diverted from a parish bank account.

     Another act of theft alleged in the grand jury true bill involved the unlawful taking of $420,204, money bequeathed to the church following the death of a parishioner. That money, according to FBI investigators, had ended up in a secret money-market account in Belczak's name. Forensic accountants with the FBI reported that the 69-year-old priest and his 67-year-old former manager diverted more than $700,000 of the church's money, then filed false financial reports to the archdiocese in Detroit in an attempt to cover the embezzlements. If convicted as charged, the defendants faced up to twenty years in prison.

     Shortly after the indictments came down, Father Belczak's attorney, Jerome Sabbota, in speaking to reporters said, "My client is innocent. He is not happy. Nobody who gets indicted is happy. He looks forward to doing what he has to do."

     Following the priest's suspension in January 2013, many of his parishioners expressed their belief in his innocence. One of his supporters created a website called, "Friends of Father B." The internet site featured photographs of a smiling Father Belczak conducting a variety of church related activities. Supporters were also encouraged to write letters of support to Archbishop Vigneron and even to Pope Francis. (The pope had his own problems with Vatican related embezzlements involving staggering sums of money.) Believers in Father Belczak were asked to donate money to his legal defense fund.

     The "Father B" website also included a statement from the accused priest written after his suspension from St. Thomas More Church. Father Belczak wrote: "I would have never expected a year like this, yet I am at peace with all that has happened. Losing my job, home, and good reputation has brought me to my knees and here I found God awaiting me. His grace has never left me and His assurance continues to direct me. I sense his presence every day working on my behalf and I struggle to align myself to His time frame and not my own. I am reminded daily that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, perceiving as real what is not yet revealed to the senses."

     Faith is good I guess, but in the world of criminal justice, a good lawyer is even better. Imagine, if you will, a teenager confessing to Father Belczak that he had shoplifted something from Walmart. There is petty theft and there is grand theft. If FBI agents and the federal prosecutor were right about Father Belczak, he was not a petty thief, and the parishioners who supported him were victims of his crimes.

     As it turned out, Father Belczak was a big time thief. In September 2015, Father Belczak pleaded guilty to mail fraud in connection with stealing $573,000 from his church. As part of the plea deal, the priest agreed to forfeit the plush Florida condo he had purchased with parish money. The proceeds from the sale of the Palm Beach condo would go back to the parish in the form of restitution.  When asked why he had pleaded guilty, the priest replied, "Because I am."

     After the guilty plea, fifty parishioners and a handful of priests wrote letters to the federal district judge asking for a lenient sentence in the Belczak case.

     On January 1, 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Tarnow sentenced Father Belczak to 27 months in prison. In speaking to the court, Father Belczak said, "I have stained the reputation of being a priest. I ask for the forgiveness of St. Thomas More parishioners."

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Shane Absalon Murder Case

     In 1984, 17-year-old Shane Absalon lived in a west Fort Worth, Texas apartment building with his parents. Ginger Hayden, a year older than him, lived in the same complex with her mother. She and Absalon had attended the same high school in Fort Worth. On September 4, 1984, after recently starting class at the University of Texas at Arlington (situated halfway between Fort Worth and Dallas), Ginger, her boyfriend Jeff Green, and Shane Absalon, were gathered in her apartment drinking beer and watching television.

     At 6:15 the next morning, Ginger's mother, Sharon Hayden Harvey, was awaken by the ringing of Ginger's alarm clock. When Sharon entered the bedroom to see why Ginger hadn't turned off her alarm, she discovered her daughter lying on the floor next to her bed in a pool of blood. The hysterical mother dialed the operator and screamed, "My baby's dead!"

     According to the Tarrant County forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, Ginger Hayden had been stabbed 57 times with a kitchen knife and had bled to death. Wounds on the victim's arms and hands suggested she had put up a fight.

     Detectives with the Fort Worth Police Department questioned Shane Absalon on September 12, 1984. Absalon said that Ginger and her boyfriend were in the apartment when he left the place at 11:30 that night. When asked if he was willing to take a polygraph test, Absalon said that he would. But the next day, stating that he was acting on the advice of his attorney, the suspect declined to submit to the lie detector test.

     For whatever reason, the investigation of Ginger Hayden's brutal murder ground to a halt and died on the vine. In the meantime, Shane Absalon, during the two years following the homicide, turned into a drunk and drug abuser with a history of arrests for crimes such as burglary, arson, and assault. In July 1986, he pleaded guilty in Tarrant County to smashing a vehicle with a club while intoxicated. The judge sentenced him to a one-year period of probation. Pursuant to his sentence, Absalon was ordered to enter a drug and alcohol treatment program in Richardson, Texas called Straight Inc. (This outfit was later closed down following charges of patient abuse.)

     In 2001, 18 years after Ginger Hayden's murder, cold-case investigators in Fort Worth re-opened the investigation which focused on Shane Absalon as the prime suspect. Detectives believed that he had murdered Hayden after she refused to have sex with him. Among other evidence of his guilt, a neighbor had seen the suspect, after he said he had left the apartment that night, climb over a fence and knock on the victim's sliding patio door. But the police needed more, and it wasn't until 2009 that they had enough evidence to support his arrest. After acquiring DNA samples from Absalon, forensic experts were able to link him to the murder scene.

     On August 20, 2010, Absalon was taken into custody at his home in Sierra Vista, Arizona where he lived with his wife and young child. At the time he was working as a welder. A month later, a grand jury sitting in Fort Worth indicted Absalon for capital murder. If convicted, he would be automatically sentenced to life in prison. Because he had been a juvenile at the time of the murder, the defendant was not eligible for the death penalty. Moreover, under the applicable 1984 law, the 43-year-old would be eligible for parole after serving 20 years of his sentence.

     Word of Shane Absalon's arrest reached at least three former patients who were treated with him in 1986 for alcohol and drug abuse at Straight Inc. These people had attended group therapy sessions with Absalon. The news of his arrest for Ginger Hayden's murder prompted the former patients to tell the Fort Worth police that during a group therapy session two years after the murder, Shane Absalon had confessed to killing a girl he knew. (It's a mystery to me why these former drug-alcholol patients hadn't informed on Absalon immediately after his confession.)

     Shane Absalon's trial got underway on September 17, 2012. Following the testimony of a DNA analyst who linked the defendant to the murder scene, the prosecutor put three of the former Straight Inc. patients on the stand to state their recollections of the defendant's group therapy confession. (Absalon's attorney, Gary Udashen, had objected to the introduction of this evidence, but had been overruled by the judge.)

     The first Straight Inc. witness, Sean Garrett, informed the jurors that "He [the defendant] told me he was angry. He told me he wanted more of a relationship with her [the victim], that he wanted to be more than just friends. Her response was no, and he was real embarrassed. He stabbed her until he was tired, and thought she was dead. His intentions were to kill her." According to this witness, after stabbing Hayden to death, Absalon cleaned up in the bathroom, threw his jacket and shoes in a nearby trash bin, and went back to his apartment.

     Former patient Stefany Knight took the stand and said, "Shane stood up to admit to wrongdoing when he was high on heroin. He said he killed a girl...stabbed her with a knife." Michele Valencia, the third Straight, Inc. witness, testified that Absalon's confession had made her physically ill.

     Defense attorney Gary Udashen, in cross-examining Michele Valencia, got her to admit that members of the rehabilitation center's poorly trained staff had pressured patients into confessing to crimes and former bad behavior. In this witness' opinion, some patients made false confessions just to please staff members running the group therapy sessions. "There was some brainwashing going on...I learned to conform. I had to get out," she said.

     Gary Udashen, in addressing the crime scene DNA evidence in his closing remarks to the jury, referred to unidentified semen on the victim's bed quilt and unidentified blood and tissue under Hayden's fingernails. The fact the defendant's DNA was in the apartment was not surprising because he had been there many times. Suggesting that Ginger Hayden had been murdered by a serial killer who had been loose in the Fort Worth area at the time of her death, the defense attorney said, "The person who killed Ginger Hayden is still out there, and the police need to find that person. That person is not Shane Abalson."

     On September 21, 2012, the jury, following a short deliberation, found the defendant guilty of capital murder. Absalon looked stunned after the foreman of the jury read the verdict. The convicted man's wife ran out of the courtroom in tears. Absalon was not eligible for parole until after the 45-year-old turned 65.  

Collateral Damage: Militaristic Policing In The War On Drugs

     Let's face it, no one is safe anymore from raiding drug cops who can be armed and mindless. A man's home is no longer his castle; it's simply a structure that can be forcefully entered by combat cops on the word of some lowlife snitch. Today, not all armed home invasions involve criminals.

     Eugene Mallory, a retired engineer who had worked for Lockheed Martin forty years, resided in an unincorporated community east of Palmdale, California called Littlerock. The 80-year-old shared a home with his 48-year-old wife, Tonya Pate, and her grown son.

     Drug enforcement deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's office arrived at the Mallory house at 7:30 on the morning of June 25, 2013. The officers were in possession of a search warrant authorizing them to search the house for methamphetamine and the chemicals used to manufacturer it. The probable cause underlying the search was flimsy at best. Officers, from outside the house, claimed to have smelled the odor of the ingredients used to produce meth. The narcotic officers didn't have an undercover buy or even an informant. Moreover, the suspected meth factory hadn't been subjected to a prolonged drug surveillance. All the cops had to go on was the smell of meth chemicals. (The fact that some rubber-stamp magistrate authorized this raid is frightening.)

     After forcing their way into the dwelling without notice, deputies encountered Mr. Mallory in a bedroom at the rear of the house. It was there they shot him six times as he lay in his own bed. Officers justified the lethal force by claiming that the old man had pointed a semi-automatic handgun at them.

     As it turned out, the Mallory dwelling did not contain meth or any evidence that the drug was being manufactured in the home. Deputies did come across a quantity of marijuana in Mrs. Pate's son's bedroom.

     In speaking to the media about the fatal, wrong house raid, Los Angeles County spokesperson Steve Whitmore said this: "There was a drug operation that was certainly going on in this house." (Are you kidding me? The accidental finding of grass justifies the killing of a 80-year-old man in his own bed?)

     On October 10, 2013, James Bergener, the attorney representing Mrs. Tonya Pate, announced that he had filed, on her behalf, a $50 million wrongful death suit against Los Angeles County. The out of control drug war not only cost Mr. Mallory his life, it will cost the taxpayers of bankrupt Los Angeles County a multi-million dollar court settlement.

     In the minds of our nation's drug warriors, there will always be collateral damage. War is hell.

     In January 2016, Los Angles County settled the Tonya Pate suit by paying the plaintiff $1.6 million. Militaristic drug policing is not cheap.

Monday, August 6, 2018

The Future of Small Town Policing

     Throughout the country small town police departments struggle to exist. Over the last two decades more and more small towns, primarily for economic reasons, have shut down their police departments. These communities were forced to outsource their law enforcement services to county, regional or state police agencies. This is a shame because law enforcement is best administered on a local level. Small towns have their own enforcement priorities and are best served by officers who have intimate knowledge of their town.

     In July 2018, all four members of the Blandford, Massachusetts Police Department resigned in protest. According to Interim Police Chief Roberta Samacki, "We regret leaving the town without a town police force but have no choice given the situation we face."

     The situation these officers faced involved low pay--$15 per hour--old, expired and ill-fitting bullet proof vests, and the condition of the department's best patrol vehicle. The 2010 Ford Crown Victoria, purchased secondhand, had no air conditioning and a front driver's seat stuck in the reclining position.

     Due to budget concerns, officers of the town of 1,200 may have to permanently dissolve the police department. Following the officer's resignations, the Massachusetts State Police began responding to Blandford's 911 calls.

     Unfortunately, the fate of the Blandford Police Department reflects the sad future of small town law enforcement.

The Jared Remy Murder Case

     Jerry Remy played second base for the Boston Red Sox before becoming a Boston area sportscaster. Jerry's son, Jared, a violent man who abused drugs and women, didn't succeed at anything. The only thing Jared Remy became known for was beating up his girlfriends. Between 1998 and 2005 police arrested him six times for assault and battery. The crimes usually included terroristic threats and destruction of property. Except for a man he attacked in 2001 with a beer bottle, Remy's victims were women.

     Notwithstanding his arrests for violent offenses against vulnerable victims, Jared's only punishment involved relatively short periods in jail. In most instances he got off light because his victims refused to bring charges. (Perhaps they were afraid to.)  And it didn't hurt that his father, as the color analyst for Red Sox games on the New England Sports Network, was well known among sports fans.

     In 2009, Jared lost his job as a security guard at Fenway Park in Boston after he and another guard were implicated in a steroid scandal.

     In 2013, Jared resided with his girlfriend Jennifer Martel and their 5-year-old daughter in a Waltham, Massachusetts townhouse. The 27-year-old Martel worked as an assistant store manager while pursuing a degree in elementary education at Framingham University. On August 13, Remy smashed Martel's face into a mirror. She called the police and he was arrested for assault and battery. The next day, Remy walked out of the Middlesex County Jail after posting his bond. In light of the attack, and Remy's history of violence against women, a judge granted Martel an emergency temporary restraining order.

     Just two days after assaulting his girlfriend, Remy returned to his townhouse in violation of the restraining order.  In the outdoor patio, in front of his daughter and in view of several of his neighbors, Remy pulled a knife and stabbed Martel. One of the witnesses, a neighbor named Benjamin Ray, tried to pull the frenzied Remy off the victim. Mr. Ray had to retreat when Remy threatened him with the knife. Several neighbors dialed 911.

     Waltham police officers arrested the blood-covered 25-year-old at the scene. Jennifer Martel died a short time later from multiple stab wounds. This time Remy would not be released on bail.

     On September 24, 2013, a Middlesex County grand jury indicted Jared Remy for murder as well as several lesser offenses.

     A week after Remy's indictments, a reporter for the Boston Herald interviewed Remy at the jail in Cambridge. Staying true to his sociopathic nature, Remy, with a straight face, denied stabbing Jennifer Martel to death. To the reporter, the serial abuser of women seemed upbeat and enthusiastic about his chances of an acquittal. On a more somber note, the inmate said, "I know my life is going to suck when I get out of here." ( Only a hard-core sociopath, under these circumstances, would talk about how life was going to be bad for him.)

     During the 30-minute interview, Remy complained to the reporter that having a famous father was working against him. "You know," he said, "I think we're just like normal people. But if our name was Smith, you'd never see any of this in the newspaper." (If Remy's name was Smith, he wouldn't have been free on bail to murder his girlfriend.)

     Following the Martel's murder, state officials took custody of the killer's daughter. The murder suspect's parents petitioned a judge to turn their granddaughter over to them. (Jerry Remy, following the murder, took a leave of absence from his sportscasting job.)

     Jared Remy, in speaking about his daughter with the Boston Herald reporter, said, "If she choses to know me at some point and wants to see me, that's fine. If she doesn't, that's fine too. I just want her to be happy. I love her. I want her to go to high school, I want her to go to college, I want her to have everything in life she deserves." (In true narcissistic form, it was all about what Remy wanted.) "She's in a good place. She has a dog to play with, which makes me happy, because she loves animals. I'm happy she going to be a veterinarian one day."

     Regarding the inmate's parents who had tried to visit him (he had declined to see them), Remy said, "I'm sure they're not thrilled with me right now." (Talk about an understatement.)

     At his October 8, 2013 arraignment, Jared Remy pleaded not guilty to all charges.

     In the aftermath of Jennifer Martel's brutal and predictable murder, Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan came under criticism for her handling of the case.

     In May 2014, Jared Remy pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. The judge sentenced him to life without the chance of parole. Following the sentencing, Remy said, "Blame me for this, not my family."(Who in the hell was blaming his family?)

     

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Shayna Hubers Murder Case

     In 2012, Ryan Poston, a 29-year-old lawyer from a family of prominent attorneys and corporate executives, resided in a condo in Highland Heights, Kentucky. He was involved in an on again-off again tumultuous relationship with a 21-year-old graduate student from Lexington, Kentucky named Shayna Hubers. A 2008 graduate of the prestigious School for the Arts, Hubers was pursuing a Master's Degree in counseling from Eastern Kentucky University.

     In 2011 and 2012, Poston and Hubers exchanged hundreds of text messages that revealed she was more attracted to him than he was to her. For months Poston had been trying to get himself out of the relationship. On October 11, 2012, Poston, his mother, his stepfather and Shayna Hubers had dinner at the young attorney's dwelling.

     After dinner that night, Hubers went home but returned a few hours later. Upon her uninvited return the couple argued. Things really heated up when he informed her that he wanted to end the relationship. The argument further intensified when he told her that he had a date the following Friday night with Miss Ohio.

     At 8:53 PM the next day, Shayna Hubers called 911 from Poston's condo and said this to the emergency dispatcher: "Ma'am, I have, I have, I killed my boyfriend in self defense."

     "What happened?" asked the dispatcher.

     "He beat me and tried to carry me out of the house and I came back in to get my things. He was right in front of me and reached down and grabbed the gun, and I grabbed it out of his hands and pulled the trigger."

     Responding police officers found Ryan Poston lying on his dining room floor next to his Sig Sauer .380-caliber pistol. He had been shot in the back once, twice in the head, and three times in the torso.

     A Campbell County prosecutor charged Shayna Hubers with first-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter, and reckless homicide. Officers booked the suspect into the county jail in Newport, Kentucky. At her arraignment hearing the judge denied her bail.

     The Shayna Hubers murder trial got underway on April 13, 2015 in Newport, Kentucky before Circuit Judge Fred A. Stine. Commonwealth Attorney Michelle Snodgrass, in her opening statement to the jury, accused the defendant of killing Mr. Poston in a fit of jealous rage. According to the prosecutor's version of the killing, the defendant's first shot knocked the victim down. While he lay wounded and helpless on his dining room floor, she pumped five more bullets into his body.

     Defense attorney Wil Zevely told the jurors that in an act of self defense, his client had shot her boyfriend six times before he fell to the floor and died.

     The lead detective in the case took the stand for the prosecution and testified that the death scene, the victim's dining room, showed no signs of a struggle. Several of Mr. Poston's condo neighbors testified they had not heard anything that night that suggested physical violence.

     A prosecution witness took the stand and said that the defendant had sent her a Facebook message regarding her plan to shoot Mr. Poston at a gun range and make the shooting look like an accident.

     The prosecutor played the defendant's recorded police interview in which she had said: "I shot him probably six times. I shot him in the head. He was lying like this. His glasses were still on. He was twitching. I shot him a couple more times just to make sure he was dead."

     After Commonwealth Attorney Michelle Snodgrass rested the prosecution's case, defense attorney Wil Zevely put Dr. Saeed Tortani, a toxicologist, on the stand. Dr. Tortani testified that at the time of his death, Ryan Poston was taking Xanax and Adderall, drugs linked to aggression and paranoia.

     On cross-examination, the prosecutor brought out the fact the victim had been taking this medicine under a doctor's care. The commonwealth attorney also got Dr. Tortani to reveal he was being paid $380 an hour by the defense.

     Shayna Hubers took the stand on her own behalf. By presenting herself as the victim of her boyfriend's verbal and physical abuse, she laid out a scenario consistent with self defense. Her witness box story, however, did not conform to her recorded statement to the police or her 911 call.

     On Friday April 24, 2015, the jury, after deliberating five hours, found the defendant guilty of first-degree murder. The jurors recommended that Judge Stine sentence Hubers to 40 years in prison.

     Four days after the guilty verdict, the convicted woman's attorney filed a claim for his client's early parole on grounds she had been the victim of domestic violence. Under the Kentucky statute that created this sentencing exception, Hubers' attorney would have to prove that at the time of the abuse she and the victim had been living together. If Judge Stine ruled in favor of Hubers on this sentencing issue, she could be released from prison in five years.

     On August 14, 2015, Judge Stine sentenced Hubers to the recommended 40 years in prison. Pursuant to his ruling, she had to serve at least 85 percent of the sentence. That meant she won't be eligible for parole for 34 years. At the sentencing hearing, a prosecution psychologist described Hubers as a narcissist.

     On August 26, 2016, Campbell County Circuit Judge Fred Stine announced his decision to overturn Shayna Hubers' murder conviction. The judge based this ruling on the fact that juror Dave Craig, before his jury service, had been convicted of a felony. Under Kentucky law, felons are prohibited from jury service. The local prosecutor said she would re-charge Hubers and bring her to trial for a second time.

     In June 2018, while awaiting her second trial in the Campbell County Detention Center, Hubers married a fellow inmate named Richard McBee, a 41-year-old charged with robbery. Huber's second trial had been set for September 2017 and then January 2018 and then postponed again. 

Joelle Ann Lockwood: The Woman in the Cage

     Joelle Ann Lockwood, a 30-year-old mother of two, shared an apartment with her boyfriend in the southern Indiana city of Evansville. On July 9, 2014, after a night of drinking, Lockwood left the apartment following an argument with her boyfriend. She wandered the streets of Evansville that night, bouncing between groups of friends.

     In the early morning hours of July 10, while meandering about the city, Lockwood encountered Ricky House Jr., a man she had once dated. The 37-year-old offered her a ride to his place in Stewartsville, a small town 25 miles northwest of Evansville where House lived in a mobile home with his 44-year-old girlfriend, Kendra Tooley.

     Later that morning when Lockwood told House that she wanted to return to her apartment, he covered her nose and mouth with a rag soaked in chloroform. When she regained consciousness she found herself naked and tied to a bed. She had also been raped.

     Over the next several weeks Lockwood's captors forced her to wear a dog collar with an attached leash. The couple made her do chores that included cleaning and cooking. When House wasn't raping or beating her, she lived in a narrow wooden cage barely large enough for her body.

     On July 13, 2014, three days after Lockwood left her apartment in Evansville, her relatives filed a missing person report. The police coordinated a search but came up empty-handed.

     While the authorities and volunteers looked for Lockwood, her captor, Ricky House, attempted to impregnate her. He and Kendra wanted a child but Tooley was too old to get pregnant.

     Besides not having any children together, House and Tooley were in financial trouble. On Thursday September 4, 2014, Tooley's ex-husband, Ron Higgs, visited the mobile home in Stewartsville. He saw Lockwood but assumed she was a willing participant in some kind of perverted sex arrangement with Ricky House and Tooley.

     On Saturday September 6, the 61-year-old Higgs returned to the mobile home with some money for his ex-spouse. This time Lockwood told him she had been held against her will since early July during which time she had been raped and beaten.

     In an effort to secure Lockwood's freedom, Higgs offered the captors additional money for her release. Ricky House rejected that proposal that led to an argument that became physical. Ricky backed-off. When he returned he shoved the muzzle of a sawed-off shotgun in Higgs' face. Higgs grabbed the shotgun and stunned House with a head-butt. Ricky retreated into a bedroom as HIggs led Joelle Lockwood out of the mobile home.

     A Posey County prosecutor charged Ricky House and Kendra Tooley with multiple counts of rape, kidnapping and assault. The judge set House's bond at $500,000 and Tooley's at $150,000. At the arraignment hearing the couple pleaded not guilty. They were represented by a pair of public defender's office attorneys.

     Ron Higgs, the man who rescued Joelle Lockwood from her degenerate captors, said this to the authorities in charge of the case: "I hope you all have some small cells. That's where they need to spend the rest of their lives, in real small cells."

     In September 2015, a Posey County jury, after a one-week trial, found Ricky House guilty of rape, kidnapping and other lesser charges. The judge sentenced him to 93 years in prison. Kendra Tooley pleaded guilty in July 2016 to rape and two counts of criminal confinement. The judge sentenced her to 25 years in prison. The judge gave Tooley two years credit for time served.