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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Watery Graves: The Mystery of Foss Lake

     There's no telling how many murder victims lay on the bottom of America's lakes, rivers, and ponds. Most people don't realize that these boating, swimming, and fishing sites are also the unmarked graves of people who have gone missing and might never be found. It's a sobering thought.

     Whenever a lake goes dry or is drained, law enforcement officers often gather to recover guns, knives, cars, safes, cellphones, computers, wallets, and other potential indicia of foul play. Occasionally, the remains of missing persons are exposed as well. When that happens, one mystery is solved and another is created.

     On September 10, 2013, Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer George Hoyle, while testing a sonar detection device from a boat on Foss Lake 110 miles west of Oklahoma City, discovered a pair of vehicles sitting under twelve feet of murky water.

     A week after the vehicles were detected, Darrell Splawn, a member of the state's underwater search and rescue team, dove into the lake for a closer look. At this point, officers believed they had found a pair of stolen cars.

     When officer Splawn opened the door to one of the vehicles and probed its interior, his hand came in contact with a shoe. He also discovered, near the car, a human skull. The diver surfaced to report his finds. When the diver slipped back into the muddy water to check on the other vehicle, he saw skeletal remains inside the second car.

     Once the heavily corroded cars--a 1952 Chevrolet and a 1969 Chevy Camero--were pulled out of the reservoir, they revealed their gruesome secrets. Each vehicle contained the skeletal remains of three people. Officers also recovered, among other items, a muddy wallet and a purse.

     On April 8, 1969, 69-year-old John Alva Porter, the owner of a 1952 green Chevy, went missing. In the car with him that night were his brother Arlie and 58-year-old Nora Marie Duncan. These three residents of nearby Elk City, along with the Chevy, disappeared without a trace. No one had any idea what had happened to them.

     Jimmy Williams, a 16-year-old from Sayre, Oklahoma, a town of 4,000 a few miles from the lake, owned a 1969 Chevrolet Camero. On the night of November 20, 1970, he and two friends--Thomas Michael Rios and Leah Gail Johnson--both 18, were riding in Williams' car. Instead of going to the high school football game in Elk City, the trio had gone hunting on Turkey Creek Road. The teenagers and the Camero were never seen again.

     While the six skeletal remains are presumed to match the two sets of missing persons, it would take months to scientifically confirm their identities. Forensic scientists in the Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office compared DNA from the bones with DNA samples from surviving family members. Dr. Angela Berg, the state forensic anthropologist, determined the gender, general stature, and approximate ages of the people pulled out of the lake. She did this by analyzing leg and pelvic bones along with the skulls. This data was compared with information contained in the missing person reports.

     What the 44-year-old remains did not reveal was the manner and cause of these deaths. While the six people presumably drowned, they could have been murdered by gun, knife, or blunt instrument then dumped into the lake. To rule out foul play, the forensic pathologist and the anthropologist looked for signs of trauma such as bullet holes, knife wounds; and smashed or broken bones. The forensic scientists also attempted to determine if the fates of the people inside the two cars were somehow connected.

     Custer County Sheriff Bruce Peoples told an Associated Press reporter that it was possible these underwater victims had been driven accidentally into the lake where they had drowned. "We know that to happen even if you know your way around," he said. "It can happen that quick." While that is certainly possible, until murder is ruled out, it should be presumed.

     In October 2014, the forensic pathologist officially confirmed the identities of the six sets of remains. Two months later, the medical examiner's office ruled out foul play. Some of the victims' family members, however, remained skeptical and suspected foul play in the deaths.
     

Lawyer Suicides

     Lawyers are killing themselves [according to] the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention….Lawyers ranked fourth when the proportion of suicides in that profession is compared to suicides in all other occupations in the study population….They come right behind dentists, pharmacists, and physicians.

     Lawyers are also prone to depression, which the American Psychological Association identified as the most likely trigger for suicide. Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers.

     Prominent lawyers keep turning up dead….Kentucky has seen 15 known lawyer suicides since 2010….There was no clear explanation for the rash of suicides in Kentucky, two of which came days apart. "It's been primarily men," said Kentucky Bar Association Executive Director John Meyers. "To a large degree it's been trial attorneys. The men are primarily middle-aged."

Rosa Fores and Rose Marie Arce, "Why Are Lawyers Killing Themselves?" CNN, January 20, 2014

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Jeffrey Lee Michael Murder Case

     Jeffrey Lee Michael, a 44-year-old unemployed truck driver, lived on Juniata Valley Road in Geeseytown, a village 70 miles west of Harrisburg in south central Pennsylvania. Mr. Michael hadn't worked since being injured in a traffic accident in the spring of 2012. As Christmas approached, Michael had been behaving in a way that made his neighbors "uneasy." Health problems, a divorce, and child custody battles mixed with his apocalyptic beliefs based upon biblical prophecy and the ancient Mayan end-of-the-world calendar, had turned Mr. Michael into an unstable, unpredictable, walking time-bomb. Other than a few speeding tickets, Jeffrey Michael had not been in trouble with the law.

     On Friday morning just before nine o'clock on December 21, 2012, Jeffrey Michael loaded several handguns into the cab of his pickup truck. Before driving off, he aimed one of the guns at the Juniata Valley Gospel Church across the road from his house and fired a bullet through one of its windows. With a gun in his hand, Michael walked across the street and entered the building where he encountered two women who had come to the church to decorate the interior for an upcoming children's Christmas party. Although he didn't know either of these church volunteers, Mr. Michael shot 58-year-old Kimberly Scott in the head, killing her on the spot. (The other woman either wasn't in the room at the time, or escaped being shot by fleeing the scene.) The dead woman's husband owned and operated the car dealership in nearby Duncanville.

     Before climbing into his pickup, Michael approached Ken Lynn, a neighbor who was about to get into his car to go Christmas shopping with his wife. The 60-year-old neighbor, seeing Michael come toward him with a gun in his hand, tried to flee but was shot before he could get away. The calm, matter-of-fact gunman killed him with a single bullet to the head.

     After randomly murdering Kimberly Scott and Ken Lynn, Jeffrey Michael got behind the wheel of his truck and drove north on Juniata Valley Road. Less than a mile from his house, after intentionally ramming into the rear of another pickup stopped at an intersection, Michael climbed out of his vehicle with a gun in his hand and approached the other driver, William Rhodes. Michael shot the 38-year-old construction worker in the head, killing him instantly.

     Having murdered three people he didn't know, Mr. Michael got back into his truck and continued to drive north on the rural road. He had traveled a mile or so when a pair of southbound Pennsylvania State Police cruisers sped past him. As they went by, Michael fired shots at the police cars, striking both vehicles. With the fired-upon officers in pursuit, Michael crashed head-on into an oncoming police vehicle. The collision caused one of the pursuit cruisers to slam into the back of Michael's truck.

     Immediately following the crash, Jeffrey Michael climbed out of his damaged truck and opened fire on the state troopers. The officers responded in kind, killing him instantly. Before he died, Michael had shot one of the state troopers in the wrist and chest. Had this officer not been wearing a bullet-proof vest, he may have become Mr. Michael's fourth murder victim. A second officer had been injured by bullet fragments and flying car glass and the third had been hurt in the head-on vehicle collision. The state police officers were treated at a hospital in Altoona and released.

     A few days after Jeffrey Michael's murder spree, the Blair County coroner and the district attorney announced that this police-involved shooting had been legally justified. It appeared that Jeffrey Michael, after randomly murdering three people he didn't know, had committed suicide-by-cop. Since he had left his house that day with suicide on his mind, why hadn't this mentally disturbed man just blown his brains out? What compelled him to take three innocent lives before getting into the hopeless gun battle with the police? In murder-sucide cases, this is always the question that goes unanswered. We also wonder if steps could have been taken to stop these murders before they happened. But the problem is, you can't prevent what you can't foresee. And who could have foreseen this?

The Get-A-Way Kayak

     A fast-paddling Good Samaritan in a kayak helped sheriff's deputies in Washington state nab a suspected Christmas mail thief…Deputies received multiple calls on Wednesday morning December 24, 2014 that a man and a woman were going through mailboxes around the town of Sammamish. While deputies were on their way, residents spotted a car filled with mail and used their cars to block it in.

     The suspected mail thieves ran off, and one was caught immediately. The other fled into a nearby pond with a kayak he stole out of a yard. A resident grabbed his own kayak, caught up with the suspect and convinced him to return to shore where he was arrested.

     The sheriff's office said the suspect didn't get very far because he was using his hands to paddle.

"Good Samaritan in a Kayak Helps Nab Suspected Christmas Mail Thieves in Washington State," Associated Press, December 25, 2014 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Bill Cosby Rape Case

     Bill Cosby, married to his wife Camille for more than 50 years, was one of the most recognizable comedians in the world. A graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia where he starred in track, the 77-year-old still resided in eastern Pennsylvania. When the former TV star began criticizing certain aspects of black culture a few years ago, he became a somewhat controversial figure. While conservatives generally considered him a courageous speaker of the truth, many liberals and members of the black community considered him a traitor to his race.

     In November 2014, Mr. Cosby's good name and wholesome image came under public attack in connection with allegations of past behavior that violently clashed with his longstanding public persona. On November 16, 2014, 64-year-old Joan Tarshis told a CNN interviewer that Cosby, in 1969 when she was nineteen, knocked her out with a drugged drink and raped her.

     Tarshis said she met Bill Cosby in 1969 over lunch in Los Angeles. She accompanied him back to his bungalow on the set of "The Bill Cosby Show" to work on some comedy routines. After she drank a bloody Mary he had mixed for her, she passed out. She awoke to find him removing her underwear. In an effort to avoid being sexually assaulted, she told him she had an infection that he'd pass on to his wife. Instead of raping her, Cosby allegedly forced her to give him oral sex. She did not tell anyone, not even her mother, about what had happened to her.

     Cosby later called Tarshis at her home in New York to invite her to watch him perform at The Theater at Westbury. She accepted drinks at Cosby's hotel and in his limousine before the performance. While at the theater she began to feel drugged. She asked the chauffeur to take her home in the limo where she passed out. The next morning, Tarshis woke up naked in a hotel bed next to Cosby.

     Out of "guilt and shame," Tarshis did not reveal that Cosby had sexually assaulted her for the second time. She didn't think that anyone would take her word over a man revered as America's dad.

     On Saturday November 16, 2014, Scott Simon, in an interview on NPR, repeatedly asked Cosby if the rape allegations were true. Each time Cosby simply shook his head, no.

     The Cosby rape allegation scandal intensified the next day when a reporter with Village Voice wrote about a comedy routine on a 1969 Cosby album involving "Spanish Fly," a drug that supposedly made women beg for sex. As part of the comedy bit, Cosby joked that when he visited Spain he tried to acquire the drug.

     Janice Dickinson, the 59-year-old former supermodel, sat for an interview conducted by "Entertainment Tonight" co-host Kevin Frazier that aired on November 18, 2014. According to Dickinson, Bill Cosby had sexually assaulted her in 1982 after they had dinner in Lake Tahoe. He had invited her there to open a show for him. After dinner at his hotel, he gave her a pill and a glass of red wine. She passed out. "The last thing I remember," she said, "was Bill Cosby in a patchwork robe, dropping his robe and getting on top of me."

     Dickinson told the "Entertainment Tonight" interviewer that she wanted to expose Cosby in her 2002 memoir, No Lifeguard on Duty: The Accidental Life of the World's First Supermodel. The publisher, however, got cold feet when Cosby and his lawyers threatened a lawsuit.

     Cosby's lawyer, Martin Singer, in a letter to the Associated Press, claimed that Dickinson's allegations were "false and outlandish." According to the lawyer, she contradicted her story in her memoir where she described stopping at Cosby's hotel room door after they had dinner. When she declined to enter the room, he said, "After all I've done for you, this is what I get."

     On November 19, 2014, a detailed and damaging article about Bill Cosby and another alleged rape victim, 41-year-old Andrea Constland, came out in the Internet publication, "Mailonline." In November 2002, the 29-year-old former Temple University basketball star met Bill Cosby. She became a regular dinner party guest at his home and considered him a mentor.

     Constland, while visiting Cosby at his home in January 2004, told him she had been stressed at work. To help her relax, Cosby allegedly gave her what he called a "herbal medication." Shortly after consuming the three blue pills, she became dizzy and her knees began to shake. A little later she was unable to move her arms and legs. At that point Cosby gave Constand another drug. He led her to the sofa where she passed out. When she awoke her outer clothes and her underwear were in disarray.

     Constand waited a year before reporting that Bill Cosby had raped her. She had returned to Canada, her native country. It was there she reported the assault.

     Bruce Castor, the then district attorney of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, the site of the alleged rape, was informed by the Canadian authorities of Constand's allegations. He launched an investigation. In the "Mailonline" article, the former prosecutor lamented the fact he didn't have enough evidence to file charges against Bill Cosby. "I wanted to arrest Cosby,"  he said, "because I thought he was probably guilty." But being able to prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt and thinking that a suspect is guilty are two different things."

     Mr. Castor, in the "Mailonline" piece, pointed out that Constand's one-year delay in reporting the crime hurt the case. "We couldn't test for hairs, fibers, DNA and drugs that might have linked the victim to Cosby or his house."

     In March 2005, Andrea Constand sued Bill Cosby for causing her "serious and deliberating injuries, mental anguish, humiliation, embarrassment, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, sleeplessness, anxiety, and flashbacks." The plaintiff asked for $150,000 in damages. Her attorney had rounded up thirteen other women who supported her claim that Bill Cosby was a rapist.

     In 2006, Bill Cosby settled the Constand civil suit out of court. Given the damaging publicity the trial would have brought him, and the relatively small amount asked for by the plaintiff, this was not surprising. Some took this as a sign of his guilt while others simply considered it a good business decision on his part.

     Shortly after the "Mailonline" article came out, executives at Netflix postponed Cosby's comedy special that was scheduled to air on November 28, 2014. NBC followed suit by scrapping a Bill Cosby project that was in development. TV Land cable network stopped airing reruns of "The Bill Cosby Show."

     On Friday night, November 21, 2014, Cosby appeared at the Maxwell C. King Center For The Performing Arts at Eastern Florida State College in the central Florida town of Melbourne. Following his 90-minute set he received a standing ovation from an adoring audience. One of the male attendees to the show, in speaking to a reporter with the Los Angeles Times, said, "If he raped all these woman, why did they not say something before?"

     The University of Massachusetts Amherst, where Cosby earned his master's and doctorate in education in the 1970s, cut ties with the comedian on November 28, 2014. According to a university spokesperson, "Bill Cosby has agreed to resign as an honorary co-chair of UMass Amherst's capital campaign. He no longer has any affiliation with the campaign nor does he serve in any other capacity at the university."

    On September 25, 2018, after being convicted of the aggravated assault of Andrea Constland fourteen years earlier, the judge sentenced Bill Cosby to three to ten years in prison. Following the sentencing hearing, Cosby was led out of court in handcuffs. His criminal past had finally caught up with him. This was clearly a case of justice delayed.
     

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Justin Schneider Assault Case: Justice Denied

     In 2017, 34-year-old Justin Schneider, a husband and father, worked as an Air Traffic Controller at the Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, Alaska. In August 2017, at an Anchorage service station, he asked a 25-year-old woman he didn't know if he could give her a lift. She said yes and climbed into his vehicle.

     Instead of driving the woman to her destination, Schneider took her to a remote area where he grabbed her, put his hands around her throat, and threatened to kill her if she screamed. The victim passed out and when she awoke, Schneider was zipping up his trousers after masturbating on her. He gave her tissue to clean off the semen. He told her that he hadn't really intended to kill her, that it was just a threat to keep her quiet. She grabbed her belongings and alighted from the vehicle. As he drove off she had the presence of mind to note his license plate number.

     From the side of the road the victim used her cell phone to call 911. She provided the attacker's license plate number. After being examined at a local hospital, the victim picked Justin Schneider out of a police lineup.

     Following his arrest, a grand jury sitting in Anchorage indicted Schneider on counts of kidnapping and felony assault, crimes that together carried a prison sentence of up to 99 years. Shortly thereafter, the prosecutor in charge of the case dropped the kidnapping charges because the woman had gotten into Schneider's vehicle willingly. (In Pennsylvania and most other states, restraining a person in a vehicle against their will constitutes kidnapping.)

     Following the indictment, Schneider lost his air traffic control job.

     On September 22, 2018, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Grannik allowed Schneider to plead guilty to one count of second-degree felony assault. Judge Michael Corey sentenced Schneider to two years in prison then suspended the prison time by giving him credit for a year in jail and a year of house arrest. The convicted felon not only walked out of the courthouse a free man, he was not required to register as a sex offender.

    Schneider did not have to register as a sex offender because under Alaska law, "physical contact with bodily fluid such as semen" did not qualify as a sexual offense.

     It's not surprising that the disposition of this case caused a public uproar. In defending the state's handling of this case, a spokesperson with the Alaska Department of Law announced that the plea deal had been based on an expert's opinion that Mr. Schneider would not re-offend. This absurd rationale did not attenuate the criticism of the prosecutor or the judge.

     In responding to the public outrage over the Justin Schneider case, Alaska's governor Bill Walker said he planned to propose legislation that would make "coming in contact with semen" a sex offense that carried a sentence of two to twelve years in prison plus registry as a sex offender. Even those who chose to believe the words of a politician were not put at ease regarding how the authorities had handled this case.

     Justin Schneider said the experience would make him a better person. That didn't make anyone feel any better either.

The Michael Barbar Murder Case

     On 2009, 51-year-old Michael Barbar, a native of Lebanon, lived with his wife Maysam and their two daughters, ages 10 and 6, in a two-story house in Perris, a Riverside County town of 70,000 in southern California. Michael had a 19-year-old daughter from a former marriage who didn't live with him and Maysam.

     In mid-August 2009, Michael learned that his 43-year-old wife, at the time attending cosmetology school, had not been faithful to him. According to information that had come to his attention, Maysam, over the past six months, had been with three other men. He also learned that the 6-year-old Tamara, the child he had helped raise from birth, had been conceived as a result of Maysam's affair with a man in 2000.

     Some time after receiving this disturbing information, Michael Barbar checked Tamara out of school early one day and took her to a McDonald's where he swabbed the inside of her mouth for a DNA sample. On November 6, 2009, the paternity test revealed that she was not his child.

     On the night of November 13, 2009, after handcuffing Maysom behind her back during sex, he wrapped an electrical cord around her neck and strangled her to death. He then placed her nude body face-down on the master bedroom floor and covered it with a blanket.

     In Tamara's bedroom, Barbar coiled a television cable around her neck as she slept. When the 6-year-old awoke and struggled, he bashed her head against a bedpost twenty times, crushing her skull. In a third bedroom, the 10-year-old sister heard Tamar's cries and the sounds of her violent death. After the murder, she heard her father carrying what sounded like trash bags out of the house. The next morning, Barbar's surviving daughter discovered her sister's body. The door to the master bedroom was locked. She called 911.

     Following the double murder, Michael Barbar drove to nearby Cabazon, California where, at the Morongo Casino, he played the slots. The next morning, he drove east to Deming, New Mexico, a border town 60 miles west of Las Cruces. His plan was to enter Mexico and from there fly to his homeland of Lebanon. On November 15, 2009, the police in Deming interrupted his escape by taking him into custody.

     In early June 2012, Barbar went on trial in a Riverside County Superior Court for the murders of Maysam and Tamara Barbar. Because he was being tried for a double, premeditated murder, the defendant, under California law, was eligible for the death penalty. Barbar's defense attorney, while he didn't deny that his client had committed the homicides, argued that the killings had not been premeditated. According to the defense version of the case, when Michael confronted Maysam with the paternity test results, she had mocked him with a smirk. So enraged by the victim's smirk, Barbar snapped and killed his wife and the 6-year-old who was not his daughter. As a result, this was a crime of involuntary manslaughter. (Sometimes defense attorneys are paid to embarrass themselves. This is one of those cases.)

     Prosecutor John Aki offered the jury of seven women and five men a wealth of evidence that showed the defendant's preparation and planning for the murders. He had acquired a set of fake identification, rented a car, researched flight schedules between Mexico and Lebanon, and had withdrawn $30,000 from his bank account. On July 13, 2012, after only three hours of deliberation, the jury found the 54-year-old defendant guilty of two counts of first-degree murder.

     On July 30, the penalty phase of the trial before the same jury got underway. For Michael Barbar, the two possible outcomes involved life without parole, and state imposed death. On August 10, 2012, the jury recommended that Judge Edward Weber sentence Michael Barbar to death.

     Crime scene investigators, on the morning after the murders, had found, among Michael Barbar's possessions, a copy of Truman Capote's nonfiction novel, In Cold Blood. In that book, the two men who murdered a Kansas farm family in 1959 were hanged. Barbar would not end up dangling at the end of a rope. Because the authorities in California do not execute anyone, Mr. Barbar will avoid the death penalty altogether.
        

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Ronald J. Harris Murder Case: There's No Such Thing As An "Open And Shut" Case

     Over the past several years, places of worship have become places of sudden, violent death. A few preachers, a church organist, and a handful of congregants were murdered inside their churches. Most of these homicides occurred during religious services. Some of the killers belonged to the church while others were outsiders. All of these murderers were caught, and most were pathologically motivated.

     None of the church murders involved acts of terrorism. Notwithstanding these bizarre incidents, inside a church on Sunday or any other day was still one of the safest places to be. This was not true in many middle eastern countries as well as other places around the world where there is religious persecution and related terrorism.

The Killing of Pastor Ronald J. Harris

     Lake Charles, Louisiana is located in the southwest part of the state. At 8:30 Friday evening, September 27, 2013, 53-year-old Woodrow Karey, armed with a shotgun, walked into the Tabernacle of Praise Worship Center in Lake Charles. Pastor Ronald J. Harris was standing in front of the church preaching to sixty revival service congregants when Karey blew him off his feet with a blast from his shotgun. As the preacher lay bleeding on the church floor, Karey stood over him and fired a second shot into his head, killing Reverend Harris instantly.

     As congregants, including the pastor's wife, mother and daughter scrambled for cover, Woodrow Karey walked out of the church. Shortly thereafter, the shooter called 911. Karey identified himself, and informed the dispatcher of what he had just done. Kerey said he wanted to turn himself in, and informed the 911 dispatcher where the police could find him.

     In a matter of minutes after Woodrow Karey's 911 call, deputies with the Calcasieu Parrish Sheriff's Office took him into custody without incident. Before being hauled off to jail, the shooter took the officers to a wooded area where he had hidden a .22-caliber pistol and a shotgun.

     Detectives believed that Karey had shot Ronald Harris because the pastor and Karey's wife Janet had been having an affair.

     A parish prosecutor initially changed Woodrow Karey with second-degree murder. He was held on $1 million bond at the Calacasieu Corrections Center. According to reports, Mr. Karey did not have a criminal record. The authorities did not reveal if he had a history of mental illness or some kind of grievance against the pastor or the church.

     In December 2013, following  a plea agreement, a grand jury indicted Karey for the lesser offense of manslaughter. The judge reduced his bail to $500,000. In Louisiana, manslaughter carried a sentence of 10 to 40 years. The defendant's trial was scheduled for late 2014.

     In June 2014, a second grand jury indicted Karey for the more serious homicide of second-degree murder. However, in January 2015, Calcasieu Parish Judge Clayton Davis, on the grounds the prosecution reneged on their promise only to pursue manslaughter in the case, threw out the second indictment.

     In June 2015, an appellate court reinstated the second-degree murder charge. The Kaey defense appealed that decision and on September 7, 2016, the Louisiana Supreme Court granted Karey a stay, further delaying the resolution of this so called "open and shut" case.

     Woodrow Karey finally went on trial in April 2018. Janet Karey took the stand for the defense and testified that Pastor Harris, over a period of 14 years, had repeatedly raped her. The defendant took the stand on his own behalf and said he had killed the minister after learning of what the victim had done to his wife.

     Following the closing arguments, the case went to the jury. After deliberating three hours, the jury stunned virtually everyone in the courtroom with the verdict of not guilty. After five years behind bars, Mr. Karey was a free man.

     Woodrow Karey had confessed to killing the pastor, and 40 to 50 people saw him do it. The not guilty verdict was particularly difficult for the victim's mother, wife and daughter who were in church that day and who had witnessed the killing.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Murder She Wrote: The Nancy Crampton Brophy Murder Case

     Sixty-three-year-old Daniel Brophy, a master gardener and expert on marine biology who also knew a lot about the growing of mushrooms, was the chief instructor at the Oregon Culinary Institute located in the Portland, Oregon neighborhood of Goose Hollow. Brophy and his 68-year-old wife of 27 years, Nancy Crampton Brophy, resided in nearby Beaverton, Oregon.

     Nancy Brophy was a self-published author of nine "romance suspense" novels featuring, according to the author's website, "pretty men and strong women." She promoted her fiction, available on Kindle, on her website. All of her male protagonists were Navy SEALS.

     At eight-thirty on Saturday, June 2, 2018, officers with the Portland Police Bureau responded to a 911 call regarding a man who had been found shot to death in the culinary school's kitchen area. The authorities identified the victim as Danial Brophy. He had been shot with a 9mm pistol.

     Other than perhaps a disgruntled culinary student, detectives didn't have a clue as to who had shot the instructor. Without an eyewitness, they didn't have much to go on.

     On Sunday, June 3, 2018, the day following Chef Brophy's homicide, Nancy Brophy wrote the following on her Facebook page: "For my Facebook friends and family, I have sad news to relate. My husband and best friend, Chef Dan Brophy was killed yesterday morning...I am struggling to make sense of this right now."

     The next day, Nancy Brophy attended a candlelight vigil for her dead husband that was held outside the Oregon Culinary Institute.

     By July 2018, detectives had started thinking about the possibility that Mr. Brophy had been killed by his wife. In November 2011, on her blog "See Jane Publish," Nancy Brophy had posted a 700-word essay entitled, "How to Murder Your Husband." Regarding her marriage to Daniel Brophy, she wrote: "My husband and I are both on our second (and final--trust me!) marriage. We vowed, prior to saying 'I do,' that we would not end in divorce. We did not, I should note, rule out a tragic drive-by shooting or a suspicious accident."

      In her murder essay, Brophy wrote that she and her husband had their "ups and downs but more good times than bad." The romance novelist also had plenty to say on the subject of murder: "I find it easier to wish people dead than to actually kill them...But the thing I know about murder is that every one of us have it in him/her when pushed far enough."

     In her treatise on how to commit murder, Brophy gave this advice to anyone contemplating criminal homicide: To get away with the crime, she said, do the killing yourself. She warned against hiring an assassin to do the job because when most hit men get caught they roll over on the mastermind to save their own necks. (Actually, this is not bad advice.)

     In Brophy's 2015 novel, The Wrong Cop, the female protagonist fantasizes about murdering her husband. In The Wrong Husband, also published in 2015, Brophy's female hero tries to flee an abuse marriage by faking her own death.

     On September 5, 2018, detectives with the Portland Police Bureau took Nancy Crampton Brophy into custody for killing her husband, Daniel. At her arraignment hearing, the prosecutor charged her with murder and the unlawful use of a weapon. (Presumably the 9mm pistol.) The defendant pleaded not guilty and the judge denied her bail. Officers booked the homicide widow into the Multnomah County Jail where she would await her trial.

     At the prosecutor's request, the judge sealed the probable cause affidavit in support of Nancy Brophy's arrest. As a result, exactly what evidence the authorities had connecting her to her husband's murder remained a mystery.  (This suggests to me that detectives were investigating the possibility of an accomplice in the case.)

     

The Michelle Boyer Double Murder-Suicide Case

     In 2014, 40-year-old Jonathan Masin, an employee of Texas Instruments, broke up with Michaelle Boyer, a fellow employee at the massive corporation. Three years earlier, Boyer and her husband, Charles Hobbs, were divorced. The 45-year-old Boyer lived in a house in Dallas not far from her ex-husband's place.

     Jonathan Masin, a resident of Murphy, a quiet suburban community northeast of Dallas, had left Boyer for a 38-year-old woman named Amy Picchiotti. Amy, a physical trainer, had left Larry Picchiotti, her husband of seven years, in March 2014. Amy, the mother of two young girls, moved in with Masin.

     Michelle Boyer reacted with anger when Masin left her for another woman, a person she had considered a friend. She made her feelings known by sending her former boyfriend threatening emails and text messages.

     At eight in the morning of Saturday, May 10, 2014, Jonathan Masin's father, concerned about his son (for reasons that were not reported), called the local police department and requested a welfare check at his house in Murphy.

     Inside the dwelling, in separate rooms, officers found the bodies of Amy Picchiotti and Jonathan Masin. The partially clothed, barefooted couple had been shot to death with a handgun. Neighbors later told the police they had heard what might have been gunshots at 6:30 that morning.

     In Dallas, thirteen miles from the murder scene, police officers came upon Michelle Boyer's SUV parked on the street in front of her ex-husband's house. They found her slumped behind the wheel with a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. The suicide gun matched the caliber of the firearm used to murder Picchiotti and Masin.

     Inside the vehicle, officers recovered a suicide note that described the double murder in Murphy. According to one of Boyer's friends, she felt that Picchiotti had stolen Masin from her. The jilted woman felt betrayed and extremely angry. While the authorities did not release the text of the suicide note, the motive behind the double murder presumably involved revenge.

     The longtime Murphy city manager, James Fisher, told reporters there hadn't been a criminal homicide in this community as long as he could remember.  

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Linsey Attridge's Outrageous False Rape Report

     In 2008, Linsey and Gary Attridge were married in the central Scotland town of Grangemouth. The 26-year-old bride had grown up in Grangemouth where her mother worked as a seamstress and her father was a window cleaner. Linsey and her new husband, a financial advisor, honeymooned in Malta.

     Less than two years after the wedding, Linsey was unhappy with her marriage. In August 2010, after meeting kickboxing instructor Nick Smith online, Linsey and her daughter moved into the 32-year-old's house in the northern city of Aberdeen. By the summer of 2011, that relationship had fallen apart after Linsey confessed to having sex with one of Nick Smith's friends while Nick was in the house asleep. Although they were no longer a couple, Nick allowed Linsey and her daughter, to whom he had become a surrogate father, to continue living in his house.

     In August 2011, while browsing through Facebook pages, Linsey came across a photograph of 26-year-old Philip McDonald, a cook at a downtown Aberdeen cafe. He was pictured with his 14-year-old brother James. Philip lived outside of the city in a modest flat with his partner Kelly Fraser and their daughter. To Linsey, Philip and James McDonald were total strangers.

     A few days after stumbling across the Facebook photograph, Linsey Attridge, in a scheme to rekindle her relationship with Nick Smith, decided to falsely report that that Philip and James McDonald had broken into her house and brutally raped her. Before alerting the authorities, she staged the crime by overturning furniture, punching herself in the face, and ripping her clothing.

     Police officers who responded to the false rape report found a woman who looked and acted as though she had been beaten and sexually assaulted. She submitted herself to various physical examinations including tests for sexually transmitted diseases. In an act of extreme self-centered cruelty, LInsey Attridge identified Philip and James McDonald as her rapists. (Since they were total strangers, I don't know how Linsey explained knowing who her attackers were.)

     Two days after receiving the false crime report, police officers arrested the younger brother at his mother's house. James McDonald was a student at a residential school for teenagers with behavioral problems. (This made him an ideal rape suspect.) Less than a hour after taking James into custody, police officers walked into the cafe where Philip worked as a cook.

     On the worst day of Philip McDonald's life, the detectives who showed up at the cafe told Philip that he and his brother were the prime suspects in a brutal rape case. The officers asked the shocked and frightened young man to accompany them to the police station for questioning. In the police vehicle en route to police headquarters, the officers identified the victim and described the home invasion and crime. Philip broke down and cried. (The officers probably took this as a sign of guilt.)

     At the police station, detectives photographed, fingerprinted, and swabbed the rape suspect for DNA. During the five-hour interrogation, when a detective revealed exactly when the crime had taken place, Philip was relieved. While the two men were supposedly raping Linsey Attridge, Philip was at home putting his daughter to bed. Several members of his family were in the house with him that night. His relatives would vouch for his whereabouts at the time of the rape. He had an alibi.

     The detectives questioning Philip were not interested in his so-called alibi. Everyone had an alibi. Big deal. Philip didn't realize that police investigators, once they have a suspect in their cross-hairs, are extremely reluctant, even in the face of exonerating evidence, to change targets.

     Over the next two months Philip McDonald's life was a living hell. He couldn't be out in public without being harassed, and had to enroll his daughter in another school. By October 2011, Linsey Attridge's story began to unravel. When pressed by detectives who had finally become skeptical, she admitted that she had made the entire story up. She had done it in an effort to attract attention and sympathy from her estranged boyfriend, Nick Smith. In so doing, she had put Philip and his brother through hell, wasted police resources, and made the detectives look like monkeys. Cops hate people who lie to them about as much as they hate rapists.

     Shortly after Linsey Attridge's false report confession, a pair of detectives walked into the cafe to inform Philip that he was in the clear. That was it. Out of the blue he was accused of rape, and out of the blue he was told that his ordeal had ended. The cops left the restaurant without offering even an insincere apology. Like their counterparts in American, and probably throughout the world, police officers never say they are sorry. Why? Because they are not sorry.

     A local prosecutor charged Linsey Attridge with the crime of filing a false report. In June 2013, the defendant pleaded guilty to the charge in an Aberdeen courtroom. The judge shocked everyone by sentencing Attridge to 200 hours of community service and two years probation. Nick Smith, her former boyfriend, was in the courtroom that day. He told reporters outside the court house that he thought the judge's sentence was "ridiculous." He was right. 22

      

Looking Back at England's Child Sex Exploitation Scandal

     In Rotherham, a city of 250,000 in northern England, five men from the Pakistani community were convicted in 2010 of grooming teenage girls for rape. The victims were trafficked across northern England by crews made up of Asian men. The high-profile trials brought to light other child sex exploitation rings run by Pakistani men in the cities of Rochdale, Derby, and Oxford.

     English authorities, responding to public pressure in the wake of the trials and accusations, asked Alexis Jay, the former chief social worker for the Scottish government, to investigate the scandal and publish a report on the depth and scope of the criminal operation. She released her report on August 25, 2014.

     Ms. Jay and her investigators determined that from 1997 to 2013, 1,400 girls, some as young as eleven, were sexually assaulted in the massive criminal enterprise. They were gang-raped, beaten, and threatened. The author of the report wrote: "There were examples of children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told someone."

     How could so many girls be exploited, by so many men, for so long? According to Alexis Jay, "Police regarded these child victims with contempt." Moreover, a good number of these children were known to child protection agencies. Police chiefs, detectives, and council members chose to believe the sex was either consensual or the allegations of rape were false. These crime were, according to the report, "effectively suppressed."

     In some instances, parents who tried to rescue their children from the exploitation operators were themselves arrested. (Police bribery must have been rampant.) In the report, Alexis Jay wrote: "The collective failures of political and police leadership were blatant. From the beginning, there was growing evidence that child sexual abuse exploitation was a serious problem in Rotherham."

     Following the publication of Ms. Jay's shocking report, Roger Stone, the head of the Rotherham City Council resigned. Outraged parents and others called for the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire to step down as well. The commissioner told reporters he had no intention of resigning. No one else in the public sector has been held accountable for the scandal.

     Currently, authorities in northern England were investigating 32 other cases of child sexual exploitation by Pakistani men and their Asian accomplices. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Julia Merfeld Murder-For-Hire Case

     Early in 2013, 27-year-old Jacob Merfeld and his wife Julia moved from Keyport, a small Monmouth County town in eastern New Jersey, to Muskegon, Michigan. While they settled into their Muskegon apartment, the couple's two children, a 4-year-old daughter and a boy who was two, were cared for by Jacob's parents in neighboring Wisconsin.

     There was nothing about Jacob Merfeld, a member of the U. S. Coast Guard, or his 21-year-old wife that seemed out of the ordinary. To the outside world they appeared to be a typical middle-class couple doing their best to raise their children and succeed in life.

     In late March 2013, Julia told co-worker Carlos Ramos that she wanted out of her marriage. She said that although her husband was a nice guy who treated her well, she had found someone else, a person she wanted to live with. While Ramos found this revelation mildly provocative, what came out of this woman's mouth next truly shocked him.

     Julia, over a period of several days, talked about how her husband's death would be so much better for her than a divorce and all that went with such a prolonged, complicated process. For one thing, a divorce would be embarrassing, and it would break Jacob's heart. So this was her plan: She would pay Carlos $50,000 out of Jacob's $400,000 life insurance policy if he murdered her husband. The money would be paid to the hit man in $10,000 installments.

     When this ordinary, unexceptional young wife and mother offered Carlos $50,000 to commit cold-blooded murder, he didn't take her seriously enough to notify the authorities. Carlos figured she was either joking or just blowing off steam. The cool, unemotional way Julia discussed having her husband dispatched by a contract killer made the whole proposition seem unreal.

     Carlos Ramos started to change his mind about Julia as she continued to talk about her murder-for-hire fantasy, and his role in it as the hit man. He eventually decided that she meant business, and that his best course of action involved notifying the Muskegon County Sheriff's Office about her deadly plan. He certainly had no intention of becoming a hired killer. The fact she even considered him a candidate for such an assignment boggled his mind, and convinced him there was something profoundly wrong with this woman. She spoke of murdering another human being the way one would speak of squashing a cockroach.

     On April 9 and 10, 2013, an undercover officer with the Muskegon County Sheriff's Office who posed as a hit man, met with Julia Merfeld in the officer's car in a Fruitport Township parking lot. With the hidden camera running, the murder-for-hire mastermind explained her reasons for such a drastic solution to a common problem: "It's not that we weren't getting along," she said. "But as terrible as it sounds, it was easier than divorcing him. You know, I don't have to worry about the judgment of my family. I don't have to worry about breaking his heart." (I'm sure if given the choice, Jacob Merfeld would say, "break my heart, please.")

     Julia instructed the phony hit man that she didn't want him to kill Jacob as part as a staged burglary that turned violent. Her reason for not wanting him to do that was self-serving: she didn't want to scare off the person she hoped would move into the apartment with her after Jacob's death. Besides, an inside killing would be, in her words, "messy."

     Julia said she hoped the hit man would do his job in such a way that wouldn't cause Jacob a lot of pain. She recommended the breaking of his neck. (This woman had obviously seen movies featuring trained killers adept at fatally snapping necks. In real life, breaking a person's neck is not an efficient or easy way to commit murder.) The undercover cop remarked that he usually killed people with guns and knives. Throughout the murder-for-hire conversation, the officer repeatedly told Julia that he was going to put two bullets in Jacob's "noggin." To that she repeatedly responded, "Okay."

     Julia informed the undercover officer that she did not want to know in advance when he planned to commit the murder. "It would be better if you surprised me," she said. "The more shocked I am when it happens, the better. I just want to make it as non-suspicious as possible."

     At one point during her two meetings with the sheriff's deputy, Julia asked, "What happens if you are caught?" The officer assured Julia that as long as he or an associate kept receiving the hit money installments, her name would be kept out of the investigation. (It's hard to image anyone stupid enough to believe that a captured hit man would not immediately roll over on the mastermind.)

     Toward the end of their second meeting on April 10, 2013, Julia handed the undercover officer $100 in upfront money to show that she was serious about having her husband murdered. She also gave the officer a floor-plan to the apartment, a photograph of  her husband, and written directions to the apartment complex where she hoped the hit man would kill Jacob as he walked out of the building. At this point, the man Julia thought was a contract killer, displayed his badge and placed her under arrest.

     A Muskegon County prosecutor charged Julia Charlene Merfeld with solicitation to commit murder. The local magistrate denied her bail.

     On June 27, 2013, faced with the certainty of a conviction based on the videotapes of her conversations with the undercover officer, Merfeld pleaded guilty to the solicitation charge. Three days later, as she stood before the sentencing judge, the defendant said, "I do not believe I'm above punishment. I know what I did was wrong and I take full responsibility. My tears are for remorse, not pity."

     Julia's husband, the man she tried to have murdered, also spoke at the sentencing hearing. Jacob Merfeld told Judge William C. Marietti that he had forgiven his wife because she was a "godly woman who did an ungodly thing." Jacob asked the judge not to send his wife to prison.

     Judge Marietti sentenced the murder-for-hire mastermind to six to twenty years behind bars, a light sentence given the circumstances of this case.

     

Freddie Lee Hall: Should Cold-Blooded Killers Be Spared The Death Penalty Simply Because They're Stupid?

     Throw a ball in any maximum security prison and it will bounce off a lot of stupid men. If these vicious rapists, thugs, and murderers were smart, they wouldn't be behind bars. Thank heavens so many criminals are dimwits. Moreover, it's not stupidity that makes a person violent. Most stupid people obey the law and wouldn't hurt a fly. So, just because a cold-blooded, sadistic killer has an IQ so low he can't get into community college is no reason to cut him a break when it comes time for the death penalty. Take Freddie Lee Hall.

     In February 1978, 33-year-old Freddie Lee Hall was out on parole in connection with a recent conviction for assault with intent to rape. Given his long history of violent crime, it's hard to believe he wasn't in prison. Hall and one of his criminal associates, on February 21, 1978, were in Leesburg, Florida looking for a car to steal for use in an armed robbery.

     That afternoon Hall and his accomplice spotted 21-year-old Karol Hurst coming out of the Pantry Pride Grocery Store. She was seven months pregnant. As Hurst walked toward her car the men accosted her and forced the terrified victim into Hall's vehicle.

     Hall drove off with the abducted woman in his car. The accomplice followed in the victim's vehicle. Hall drove Hurst to a wooded area where the two thugs raped and beat the victim savagely before, execution style, they shot her to death. To hide the body, Hall dragged the pregnant corpse deeper into the woods.

     That night, in the murdered woman's car, Hall and his friend drove to the convenience store in Hernando County they planned to hold up. As they sat in the parking lot waiting for the right moment to strike, a suspicious clerk inside the store called the sheriff's station. The sheriff's office happened to be across the street from where Hall and his accomplice were casing out the robbery.

     Deputy Lonnie Coburn pulled into the parking lot and confronted the suspicious men. After getting the drop on the deputy, Hall shot the officer to death with his own service revolver.

     A jury found Freddie Lee Hall guilty of two counts of first-degree murder on June 23, 1978. Jurors, by an eight to four vote, recommended the death penalty. The judge, four days later, sentenced Hall to death row.

     At Hall's sentencing hearing, his lawyers argued that their client was too stupid to execute. Hall had been classified by public school officials in the 1960s as "mentally retarded." Ten years before his death sentence, Hall had scored as low as 60 and as high as 80 on IQ tests. According to the American Psychiatric Association's Manual of Mental Disorders, an IQ of 70, plus or minus five points, represents the upper range of intellectual disability.

     Over the years, Hall's anti-capital punishment attorneys arranged to have him examined by a battery of psychiatrists and other medical practitioners who declared the death row inmate mentally disabled.

     In 2002, the United States Supreme Court barred states from executing "mentally disabled" prisoners. The high court left the determination of who is so afflicted to the states. In Florida, as measured by an IQ test, the threshold for concluding that an inmate is mentally disabled is a score below 70. (In Florida, people with IQs as high as 75 are classified as mentally disabled for purposes of state welfare.)

     On March 3, 2014, appellate attorneys appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Freddie Lee Hall. The death house lawyers, in challenging Florida's mental threshold for execution, argued that IQ tests alone were insufficient in establishing mental disability.

     Justice Antonin Scalia pointed out the brutality of Hall's crime, and noted that it had taken several steps for Hall to abduct then kill the pregnant woman. The killing of the police officer was certainly premeditated. Didn't the crime itself reflect sufficient mental capacity?

     On May 27, 2014, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that defendants whose IQ scores are near 70 should not be executed. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy noted that states should not "view a single factor as dispositive in determining intellectual disability." As a result of this high court decision, Freddie Lee Hall will live out his useless life on death row.
 
     If a criminal is smart enough to read, get a driver's license, plan a robbery, and make an effort not to get caught, he should be smart enough to execute. Implicit in this Supreme Court decision is the notion that somehow society is to blame for all the stupidity in this country.

Thornton P. Knowles On The Harsh Reality Of Life

Growing up, the toughest pill to swallow is the realization that life is not fair and that nothing is on the level. The quality of one's life depends on how one deals with this harsh reality. To various degrees, this reality eventually destroys all of us.

Thornton P. Knowles

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Alix Tichelman: A Hooker, Heroin, and a Dead Millionaire on a Yacht

     Alix Catherine Tichelman described herself on her Facebook page as a fetish ("bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism") model with more than 200 "client relationships." In plain words, the 26-year-old worked as a Silicon Valley prostitute. Her "clients" were wealthy Johns willing to shell out big fees for the rope, the whip, and who knows what else.

     If one believed Tichelman's Facebook entries, the self-described high-end hooker graduated from high school in Deluth, Georgia before studying journalism at Georgia State University in Atlanta. (Maybe in college she heard that journalists were whores and decided to make real money in that profession.) Tichelman started her sex worker career at Larry Flynt's Hustler Club.

     In early 2012, Tichelman began dating Dean Riopelle, the lead singer of a rock-and-roll band called "Impotent Sea Snakes." (Catchy.) Riopelle also owned the Masquerade Night Club in Atlanta, a popular music venue. Interestingly enough, Riopelle had earned a degree in construction engineering from the University of Florida. Eventually Tichelman moved into Riopell's luxury home in Milton, Georgia.

     On September 6, 2013, officers with the Milton Police Department responded to a domestic call that originated from the Riopelle house. Tichelman, the caller, accused her boyfriend of physical abuse. He returned the favor with assault accusations of his own. The officers departed without taking anyone into custody.

     On September 19, 2013, Tichelman dialed 911 and to the dispatcher said, "I think my boyfriend overdosed on something. He, like, won't respond." Tichelman, in response to the emergency dispatcher's questions, said Riopelle's eyes were open but he was unconscious. She described his breathing as "on and off." The dispatcher overheard the caller say, "Hello Dean, are you awake?"

     When the 911 dispatcher asked Tichelman how she knew her boyfriend had overdosed on something, she said, "Because there's nothing else it could be." The dispatcher inquired if the overdose was intentional or accidental. "He was taking painkillers and drinking a lot," came the reply.

     Dean Riopelle died a week later at a local hospital. The medical examiner's office, following the autopsy, identified the cause of death as excessive heroin and alcohol consumption. The medical examiner ruled the death an accident.

     On November 23, 2013, about a month after Dean Riopelle's overdose fatality, a 51-year-old Google executive from Silicon Valley named Forrest Timothy Hayes enjoyed Tichelman's purchased company on his 50-foot yacht. (The vessel has also been described as a powerboat.) Later that day, the authorities discovered Hayes dead in one of the boat's bedrooms. (The yacht was not at sea.)

     In the course of the investigation into this sudden death, detectives with the Santa Cruz Police Department viewed the yacht's videotape footage that revealed just how the executive had died. Tichelman was seen injecting Hayes with what investigators presumed to be a shot of heroin. Immediately after the needle went in, he clutched his chest and collapsed. Tichelman responded to the obvious emergency by finishing her glass of wine then gathering up her belongings. As she casually strolled out of the bedroom, she stepped over Hayes' body. She did not call 911.

     Santa Cruz detectives, on July 3, 2014, executed a search warrant at Tichelman's parents' home in Folsom, a upscale Silicon Valley community. Her father, Bart, was CEO of a tech firm that offered "energy efficient infrastructure" for data centers. At the Tichelman house, detectives carried away the suspect's laptop. On the computer, investigators found that Tichelman, just before Hayes' death, had made online inquires regarding how to defend oneself if accused of homicide in a drug overdose case.

     On July 4, 2014, an undercover Santa Cruz officer, through the website SeekingArrangement.com, lured Alix Tichelman to a fancy hotel on the pretext of being a John willing to pay $1,000 for a session featuring fetish sex. The officer took the hooker into custody on suspicion of criminal homicide in the yacht owner's death.

     At her arraignment on July 10, 2014, the judge informed the suspect she faced a charge of manslaughter along with several drug related crimes. She pleaded not guilty to these offenses. The judge set her bail at $1.5 million.

     Homicide detectives, in the wake of Forrest Hayes' suspicious death, were looking into the Dean Riopelle overdose case. As a result of the Hayes case, SeekingArrangement.com was shut down. This upset Silicon Valley prostitutes who said they used the site to screen Johns with histories of violence. Affluent sex worker clients in the valley also used the site to arrange hooker dates. (I guess if you're a whore, doing business in an area populated by a lot of rich nerds is a good thing.)

   On May 18, 2015, Alix Tichelman pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and numerous drug offenses in connection with Forrest Hayes' fatal overdose. Larry Biggam, the lawyer who negotiated the plea bargain on Tichelman's behalf, told reporters that although his client had been sentenced to six years in prison, she will only spend three years behind bars.

     The Tichelman case illustrates the difference between immoral and illegal behavior. While not raising a hand to save a dying man is a highly immoral act, in law it is merely a minor form of criminal homicide.

Silence is Golden

We are a nation of talkers. Everyone is talking--nonstop. We talk about everything, and about nothing, and we don't listen because we're too busy talking. Often the talking turns into shouting. Turn on your television and you get talking heads going on and on about sports, politics, the weather, entertainment celebrities, and, of course, themselves. And there's talk radio with more of the same. We're in the Golden Age of Talk. The air is filled with words. There's nowhere to go to get away from it. Some day scientists my find that all of this media gabbing caused climate change. What ever happened to the old adage: "Silence is Golden."


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Franc Cano and Steven Dean Gordon: Why Serial Sex Offenders Should Not Be Paroled

     In 1992, 23-year-old Steven Gordon, a resident of Orange County, California, was convicted of two counts of lewd and lascivious acts with girls under 14 and 10-years-old. Ten years later, in Riverside County, California, Gordon went to prison on a kidnapping conviction.

     Twenty-one-year-old Franc Cano, another Orange County sexual predator, went to prison in 2008 for rape.

     In April 2012, Gordon was on parole and wearing a federal GPS device. His friend Cano, also on parole, wore a state-issued ankle bracelet. That month, the two transients removed their tracking devices, and under the names Dexter McCoy and Joseph Madrid, boarded a Greyhound bus for Law Vegas.

     On May 8, 2012, federal agents apprehended the two paroled sex offenders at the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Back in California, they both pleaded guilty to failure to register as sex offenders. Instead of sending these men back to prison where they belonged, the parolees were ordered to provide DNA samples. As further "punishment", their computers (they had computers?) would be monitored by parole and probation authorities. They were also required to check in once a month with the Anaheim Police Department. New GPS tracking devices were attached to each man and they were sent on their way.

     On October 10, 2013, Kianna Jackson, a 20-year-old from Las Vegas, disappeared while she was in Santa Ana, California. In Santa Ana, she had been charged with prostitution and loitering to commit prostitution. Jackson wasn't the only sex worker that had gone missing in southern California during that period. Thirty-four-year-old Josephine Monique Vargas was last seen on October 24, 1913 after attending a family birthday party at a Santa Ana Red Roof Inn. Vargas had a history of drug abuse and prostitution.

     Martha Anaya, a 28-year-old Santa Ana woman with a history of prostitution, was last seen on November 12, 2013. Before her disappearance, Anaya had asked her boyfriend to pick up her 5-year-old daughter so she could work her trade.

     On March 14, 2014, the naked body of 21-year-old Jarrae Nykkole Estepp was found on a conveyor belt at an Anaheim trash-sorting plant. Estepp was known to work on a strip of beach in Anaheim known for prostitution. She had moved to southern California from Oklahoma.

     On April 11, 2014, Anaheim police officers arrested Franc Cano, 27 and his traveling partner Steven Dean Gordon, 45, near the trash-sorting facility in Anaheim where Jarrae Estepp had been raped and murdered. (I presume the suspects are linked to this victim through DNA.)

     On Monday, April 14, 2014, an Orange County prosecutor charged Cano and Gordon with four felony counts of special circumstances murder and four counts of rape. If convicted as charged, these men could be sentenced to life without parole. While they are also eligible for the death penalty, no California judge will impose that sentence.

     Anaheim Police Lieutenant Bob Dunn, at a press conference on April 15, 2014, said the suspects may have raped and killed more women in southern California. The officer would not say if the bodies of the other three prostitutes had been found. According to Lieutenant Dunn, the suspects, when they raped and murdered the four victims, were wearing their GPS tracking devices.

     Just prior to his December 2016 Orange County murder trial, Steven Dean Gordon fired his public defender in order that he could act as his own defense attorney. In his opening remarks to the jury the defendant did not deny murdering the four women. Instead, he blamed Franc Cano and the parole and probation department for not monitoring him more closely.

     On December 16, 2016, the jury just took one hour to find Gordon guilty as charged,.

     On February 2, 2017, at the recommendation of the jury, Superior Court Judge Patrick H. Donahue sentenced Franc Gordon to death. (A symbolic gesture because in California they don't execute anyone. A lot of people in that state would find executing a serial sex offender and murderer offensive.)

     Franc Cano, who took the Fifth to avoid testifying at the Gordon trial, has pleaded not guilty. Being tried separately, Cano awaits his day in court. There's no doubt that he will be convicted as well and will end up spending the rest of his life on death row. 

A Look Back at the Notorious McMartian Preschool Case

…..Starting in 1983, with accusations from a mother whose mental instability later became an issue in the case, the operators of the McMartin Preschool Day Care Center near Los Angeles were charged with raping and sodomizing dozens of small children. The trial dragged on for years, one of the longest and costliest in American history. In the end…no one was ever convicted of a single act of wrongdoing. Indeed, some of the early allegations were so fantastic as to make many people wonder later how anyone could have believed them in the first place. Really now, teachers chopped up animals, clubbed a horse to death with a baseball bat, sacrificed a baby in a church and made children drink the blood, dressed up as witches and flew in the air--and all this had been going on unnoticed for a good long while until a disturbed mother spoke up?

     Still, the McMartin case unleashed a nationwide hysteria about child abuse and Satanism in schools. One report after another told of horrific practices, with the Devil often literally in the details….

     Often enough in these cases, news organizations share blame. In the McMartin case, they were far from innocent observers. A pack mentality set in after a local television journalist first reported the allegations. Across California and beyond, normal standards of fairness and reasoned skepticism were routinely thrown to the wind, with news gatherers scrambling to outdo one another in finding purposed examples of monstrous behavior by the principal defendants: Peggy McMartin Buckey and her son Raymond Buckey. (Mrs. Buckey, daughter of the school's founder, died at 74 in 2000. Raymond Buckey, now in his mid-50s, said years ago that he wanted simply to be left alone….) It would be comforting to believe that mindlessly frenetic news coverage is a relic of the past. But who could make that claim with a straight face?

     Did the McMartin case have any lasting effect? In some respects, yes. Teachers across America grew afraid to hug or touch their students, out of fear of being misunderstood and possibly being brought up on charges. A widely held notion that young children do not lie about such matters took a huge hit. Some are vulnerable to implanted memories. In the McMartin case, many jurors found that leading questions from therapists steered impressionable children toward some of the most macabre tales….

Clyde Haberman, "The Trial That Unleashed Hysteria Over Child Abuse," The New York Times, March 9, 2014 

Cases For Home Schooling

The Criminal Compliment

     An elementary school principal in North Carolina recently suspended a fourth grader for sexual harassment after the 9-year-old called one of his teachers "cute." (One can only imagine what would have happened to the kid if he had called her "ugly.") The reason behind the school suspension caused such an uproar the school board forced the principal, after a 44-year career in education (I'm thinking of the Peter Principle here), to retire. While admitting that he may have been a little quick on the sexual harassment trigger, the public school administrator blamed his fall from grace on media overreaction to his overreaction. The principal wanted people to believe that because he lost his job, he, not the sexually abused teacher, was the victim.

No Holding or Biting

     A fifth grade teacher near Albany, New York, during an arm wrestling contest with several students yanking on his arm, bit one of his opponents. The girl on the receiving end of the bite, suffered a deep bruise on her forearm. The principal placed the biting educator on administrative leave, and the local prosecutor charged him with endangering the welfare of a child. If the defendant pleaded not guilty and denied inflicting the wound, one could imagine a battery of prosecution bite mark identification and DNA analysts testifying at his trial. While this case did not reflect the best in American elementary education, it had the potential of  becoming a triumph in forensic science.

All Students in Illinois Are Above Average

     An investigation by the Chicago Tribune in 2008 revealed that elementary school teachers in Illinois, to produce better state required test results, helped their students cheat. The cheating involved excessive coaching to providing kids with answers to the tests. While the state legislature, since 2009, had given the Illinois State Board of Education $1.3 million to investigate educator misconduct, teachers throughout the state caught in the test cheating scandal were not disciplined. They were still teaching, and I presume, still cheating with their students. (When I was a kid we learned to cheat on our own.)

Left Hanging

     A special education student at an elementary school in Baltimore complained to his teacher that he was being bullied. The teacher, apparently busy with another student, ignored the kid. To get her attention, this student threatened to hurt himself. When the distracted teacher didn't respond, the boy stood on a chair, tied his coat around his neck, attached the other end to a hook, then kicked the chair over. As the boy dangled in the air, the teacher grabbed her cellphone, and instead of calling 911, photographed the boy as he gasped for air. "Now that's the picture I want," she reportedly said before placing the chair back under the kid's twitching feet.

     When summoned to the school, the student's grandmother was shown the photograph of her dangling grandson. The boy survived his swing, but spent a week in the hospital. Grandma, claiming gross negligence, sued the school for $10 million. The school district settled out of court.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Steven Capobianco Murder Case

     On Sunday night, February 9, 2014, 27-year-old Carly Scott, a resident of Makawao on the Hawaiian island of Maui, received a call from Steven Capobianco. Scott's 24-year-old ex-boyfriend and father of her unborn child said his truck was stuck in a ditch off the Hana Highway near mile marker 30 in the Keanae area.

     Carly left her house that night with her bit bull mix Nala in her 1997 Silver Toyota 4Runner. On Monday morning, when Carly didn't show up for work, her mother reported her missing to the Maui police. That day, friends and family of the missing 5-foot-10, 160 pound woman with shoulder-length red hair, drove up and down the Hana Highway looking for her. They were concerned she might have driven off a cliff.

     That morning, February 10, 2014, one of Carly's sisters, Kimberly Scott, spoke to Steven Capobianco who said that after Carly had pulled him out of the ditch, the two of them proceeded on the highway with her following behind his truck. At some point he didn't see her headlights anymore.

     At six in the evening of Wednesday, February 12, 2014, Carly's friends came across the missing woman's SUV in Haiku, Maui. The vehicle, completely gutted by fire, had been rolled over onto its side. The burned-out Toyota was lying in a pineapple field off Peahi Road that led to a popular surfing spot known as "Jaws." Carly was not in the vehicle. (Her dog Nala had turned up two days earlier in Nahiku.)

     The day after friends found Carly's torched 4Runner in the pineapple field, Mileka Lincoln, a reporter with Hawaii News, interviewed Steven Capobianco. The ex-boyfriend confirmed that on Sunday, the night Carly went missing, she picked him up and drove him to Keanae so he could repair his truck and get it out of the ditch. Later, the two of them headed toward Haiku 25 miles up the road. She followed behind, and when he reached Twin Falls, he looked in his rearview mirror and didn't see her headlights. Capobianco drove home and assumed that Carly had made it back safety to her house.

     "I sent her a text that said, 'Thank you,' but I figured she was working. That's why she didn't get back to me right away." [Apparently Carly had a late night job.]

     According to Capobianco, "It wasn't until the cops showed up at my house at 5:30 in the morning the next day [Monday February 10] that I realized something was wrong." Capobianco told the reporter that Maui police questioned him at the police station where he took a polygraph exam. When he asked how he had done on the lie test, a detective informed him that according to the instrument, he had not told the truth.

     To the reporter, Capobianco insisted that he "absolutely" had not hurt his ex-girlfriend. "I mean," he said, "it's understandable that I'm probably the prime suspect, so they're [the police] not going to tell me details (of the case)." (Capobianco did not specify what he thought he was the prime suspect of--murder? If so, did he know something no one else knew?)

     The missing woman's ex-boyfriend said they broke up several years ago but had remained friends. He said that they "occasionally hooked-up."

     "Were you excited about being a dad?" asked the reporter.

     "Sort of. It was unexpected. She didn't tell me right away, but it was growing on me." At one point, Capobianco indicated that he didn't know for sure if he was the father of Scott's unborn child.

     On Thursday night, February 13, 2014, 16-year-old Phaedra Wais, the missing woman's half-sister, found a skirt, shirt, and bloodstained bra in a remote area off the Hana Highway. When Wais reported the find to the police, an officer told her not to disturb the evidence and wait for a detective. The girl ignored this advice and drove the garments to the police station in Kahuiui. Later, police officers found a jawbone, fingertips, and hair follicles near this site.

     In an unrelated matter, Maui police, in April 2014, arrested Capobianco on the charge of first-degree burglary. The judge set his bail at $10,000. Capobianco stood accused of breaking into a Haiku woman's apartment in September 2013 and stealing two computers and her jewelry. Police recovered the stolen property in a search of the suspect's house.

     The garments found by Phaedra Wais belonged to her missing half-sister. A forensic scientist ended hope that Scott was alive by identifying the jawbone, fingertips and hair as belonging to her. This meant the missing person case had turned into a homicide investigation.

     On July 18, 2014, a grand jury sitting in Maui indicted Steven Capobianco of murder and arson. According to the language of the true bill, the suspect had "intentionally or knowingly caused Carly Scott's death in an especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel manner that manifested exceptional depravity."

     Capobianco pleaded not guilty to the murder and arson charges.

     On December 28, 2016, a jury in Maui found Steven Capobianco guilty of second-degree murder and arson. Because the jurors labeled the killing "heinous," Capobianco was eligible for life in prison without parole. The judge was scheduled to hand down the sentence on March 24, 2017. 

America's Oldest Murder-For-Hire Mastermind

     Dorothy Clark Canfield, born and raised in Montgomery County, Texas in the eastern part of the state, began a life of crime at the rather late age of 57. In 1986, in Huntsville, Texas, a Walker County judge sentenced Canfield to seven years probation following a felony theft conviction. A few months after she got off probation in 1993, she pleaded guilty to forgery in Montgomery County. The judge in that case sentenced the 64-year-old forger and thief to ten years probation. In 2009, after being convicted of passing forged checks at the age of 80, Canfield was sent to prison for two years.

     Shortly after being released from prison in early 2011, Canfield formed a company in  Willis, Texas called International Profession Placement Services. Between September 2011 and September 2012, at least seven undocumented residents each paid Canfield to "facilitate their immigration paperwork for residency or citizenship in the United States. According to a Montgomery County assistant prosecutor, Canfield's operation was a scam. In November 2012, the prosecutor charged Canfield with stealing between $20,000 and $100,000 from her clients. A magistrate set her bond at $100,000.

     On April 4, 2013, while incarcerated in the Montgomery County Jail 30 miles north of Houston, 84-year-old Dorothy Canfield decided to hire someone to murder the assistant district attorney in charge of her case. She also wanted her hit man to beat-up the district attorney so bad he'd be hospitalized for three weeks. The long-time thief took inspiration from the recent Texas murders of the Kaufman County District Attorney, his wife, and one of his assistant prosecutors. By killing the Montgomery County assistant prosecutor, Robert Freyer, and incapacitating his boss, D. A. Brett Ligon, Canfield hoped to buy some time in her theft case. (At 84, I'm not sure buying time is a useful tactic.)

     In search of an assassin, Canfield reached out to a fellow inmate who promptly reported Canfield's inquiry to the Texas Rangers Office. On April 5, the inspired murder-for-hire mastermind met with an undercover investigator who showed up at the jail posing as a contract killer. In the recorded conversation that followed, Canfield offered the phony hit-man $5,000 for assistant prosecutor Robert Freyer's murder, and half of that for the beating of Freyer's boss, District Attorney Brett Ligon.

     Ten days after the Montgomery County Jail murder-for-hire meeting, Texas Rangers Wende Wakeman and Wesley Doolittle showed Canfield staged crime scene photographs depicting the murders of the Montgomery County prosecutors. The elderly inmate, showing no remorse at the sight of the men she had tried to have killed, confessed to the murder plot.

     Dorothy Canfield was charged with solicitation of capital murder and solicitation to commit aggravated assault on a public figure. She remained incarcerated in the Montgomery County Jail under $500,000 bond.

     In August 2014, Canfield pleaded guilty to the theft and murder solicitation charges. At her sentencing hearing, her attorney asked Judge David Walker to grant the 85-year-old probation. The defense attorney argued that because of his client's poor health and age, she was not a danger to society. Unmoved, the judge sentenced the career thief and murder-for-hire mastermind to 53 years in prison. 

Thornton P. Knowles On Why a Pedophile Would Become a Priest

A difficult but fair question: Why would a pedophile, a man who craves sex with boys, go into the priesthood? Perhaps such a person truly believes that such behavior is not sinful, or maybe there is hope that once he becomes a priest he will be able to control his perverted sexual urges. The pedophile might become a priest simply because it gives him access to easy prey. While cynical and hard to accept, I think this explains it best. How did this all get started, and where will it all end? When will the Catholic Church stop being such a friendly place for sexual abusers?

Thornton P. Knowles

Monday, September 17, 2018

Deputy Shaquille O'Neal And The Botched SWAT Raid

     In 2006, Michael Harmony, a lieutenant with the Bedford County Sheriff's office, commanded the battle against child pornography in south central Virginia. Lieutenant Harmony headed a high-profile regional task force called Blue Ridge Thunder. Shaquille O'Neal, the 7 foot 1, 325-pound center for the Miami Heat professional basketball team, an off-season reserve deputy with the Bedford County Sheriff's Office, was a member of the regional task force. The sheriff had enlisted the famous basketball player, also a gun-carrying reserve officer in Miami Beach, as the public face of the area's anti-child pornography campaign. O'Neal had accompanied the Blue Ridge Thunder team on several military-style child pornography raids.

     In September 2006, a cyberspace undercover investigator assigned to the task force, downloaded child pornography via an Internet Provider (IP) address. Based on this information, a local magistrate subpoenaed Fairpoint Communications, the source IP, requiring the company to identify the person or persons at this IP site. The IP complied, providing the authorities with the name of A. J. Nuckols, a resident of Gretna, Virginia. The police didn't know it, but someone at Fairpoint Communications had misread the subpoena. Therefore the identification of the Nuckols family in connection with the IP address was a mistake. Without further investigation into the identify of Mr. Nuckols and his family, the police used this faulty information to acquire a warrant to search his house.

     Mr. Nuckols, a 45-year-old tobacco and cattle farmer, lived with his wife, Lisa, an elementary school teacher, on a farm near Gretna. Two of their children, ages 12 and 16, lived at home. Their 21-year-old daughter attended a nearby college. The family kept their one computer, mostly used by the children for homework, in their living room. The parents didn't know their own email address, and rarely shopped online or downloaded information from the Internet. There was nothing in their histories, lifestyle, or associations that suggested any connection to child pornography.

     Saturday morning at 10:30 A.M., September 23, 2006, two officers from the Blue Thunder Task Force knocked on the Nuckol's front door. Invited into the house by Lisa, they informed her of the warrant allowing them to search the dwelling for child pornography. "I was in shock," Lisa later told a newspaper reporter. "At first it was not just disbelief. I told them, 'We don't live that way.' "

     As the police officers spoke to Lisa Nuckols, a fleet of police cars from Bedford and Pittsylvania Counties rolled up to the house. Suddenly ten officers, dressed in black and camouflage, and wearing flak jackets, were moving about the yard carrying semiautomatic weapons. Mr. Nuckols, working near the barn, looked across the field and saw all the police vehicles. Fearing that something awful had happened to his wife, or one of his children, he jumped into his truck and sped to the house.

     "What's going on?" Mr. Nuckols asked as he climbed out of the pickup. Instead of getting an answer, one of the officers dropped into a shooting position, aimed his pistol at the farmer, and said, "Turn around and put your hands on the truck." Another member of the team handcuffed Mr. Nuckols behind his back. As they led him toward the house, Lieutenant Michael Harmony reportedly said, "Had a rough day? It's about to get a whole lot worse."

     Lieutenant Harmony informed Mr. Nuckols that he or someone in his family was suspected of having downloaded child pornography from 150 web sites. The police were there to search the house for evidence of this crime. Later, in a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, Mr. Nuckols expressed how he felt at that moment: "When it finally became clear what they were there for, I was just flat-out mad. They came and assaulted my family for something we had nothing to do with."

     The Nuckols children came home at 2 P.M. from a high school cross-country meet. The police, still in the house, asked them if they had downloaded child pornography. The children were as stunned by the accusation as their parents. Ninety minutes later, the officers departed, taking with them the family computer, DVDs, videotapes, and other personal belongings. Before he left, Lieutenant Harmony told Mr. Nuckols that the child pornography investigation would take between six and nine months to wrap up, noting that the state crime lab was backed up.

     At one point durng the siege, Mr. Nuckols recognized the famous basketball player. "You're Shaquille O'Neal," he said. The big man, dresssed like the others, and armed, replied that his name was Tony. Nine days later, when the Nuckols family learned that the search and seizure had been based on an erroneous IP address identification, O'Neal denied involvement in the raid. However, after the Bedford County Sheriff's Office confirmed his participation, he admitted his role.

     After the raid, before they were aware of the mistake, Lisa Nuckols told neighbors and friends what happened. Worried that she might lose her job, she advised the principal and the school superintendent as well. In his letter to the newspaper editor, Mr. Nuckols wrote: "When you come into someone's home, that's an intrusion. I feel the same about the raid as I would about any assault on our home and family. A robber would be wrong, and these officers were wrong. No matter what the spin the police put on it, the public will always believe it's wrong. People can't believe this happens in this country."

     In response to the criticism following the revelation that the Blue Ridge Thunder team had raided the wrong house, Lieutenant Harmony blamed the Fairpoint Company. According to him, the IP had made the mistake, not the police. Lieutenant Mike Taylor with the Pittsylvania County Sheriff's Office, though not a participant in the raid, apologized to the Nuckols family.

     Shaquille O'Neal, however, took another approach by accusing Mr. Nuckols of exaggerating his account of the raid to make the police look bad. When members of the media questioned him about his role in the operation, the basketball player reportedly said, "We did everything right, went to the judge, got a warrant. You know, they [the Nuckols] made it seem like we beat them up, and that never happened. [Well good for you Shaquille.] We went in, talked to them, took some stuff, returned it--bada bam, bada bing."

     If there is one thing in law enforcement rarer than a slam dunk case, it's an apology for shoddy police work.
    

What Happened To Teleka Patrick?

     Raised in New York City, Teleka Patrick graduated from the Bronx High School of Science before earning her Bachelor of Science Degree at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama. Three months after graduating from medical school at Loma Linda University in southern California, Teleka, in June 2013, began her four-year residency at Western Michigan University. She moved into the Gull Run apartment complex in Kalamazoo.

     At seven o'clock in the evening of December 5, 2013, Teleka was caught on a parking lot surveillance camera at the Borgess Medical Center where she worked. She had just finished her shift. From the hospital, a male co-worker gave Teleka a lift to the Radisson Hotel in downtown Kalamazoo. A hotel surveillance camera recorded Teleka entering the lobby dressed in a black hoodie and dark slacks.

     According to a Radisson emplyee, the woman in the hoodie tried to rent a room using cash. Because she did not show any identification, the person on the front desk refused to register her.

     At eight o'clock, Teleka got a ride back to her car at the Borgess Medical Center in a hotel schuttle van. The shuttle driver later described her behavior as nervous. He said she ducked between cars to avoid being spotted. From the medical center parking lot that night, Taleka Patrick went missing.

     Two hours after Taleka returned to the medical center, an Indiana State Trooper 100 miles from Kalamazoo came across, off Interstate 94 in Portage, an abandoned light-gold 1997 Lexus ES 300. The vehicle, registered to the missing woman, had a flat tire.

     Inside the Lexus, officers found a wallet containing Teleka's driver's license and credit cards. The car also contained pieces of the missing woman's clothing and a small amount of cash. The car keys were gone along with Teleka's cellphone.

     A bloodhound later traced Taleka's steps from the abandoned vehicle to the freeway where her trail went cold. A search of the area surrounding the car failed to produce any clues to her whereabouts.

     According to Carl Clatterbuck, a Kalamazoo private investigator hired to find Patrick, the missing woman's ex-husband and a former on-again off-again boyfriend, were not suspects in the disappearance.

     In late December 2013, several YouTube videos made by Teleka surfaced. Unfortunately, they raised more questions than answers. One of the videos, produced in early November 2013, featured a table in Teleka's apartment containing an elaborate breakfast spread. The narrator, identified as Teleka, says, "I just wanted to show you what I made….If you were here this would be on your plate." In another video, she addressed an unknown person as "baby," and "love."

     On January 1, 2014, Ismael Calderon, married to the missing woman from 2000 to 2011, told a Grand Rapids, Michigan television reporter that his ex-wife suffered from a serious mental problem. The illness led her to believe she was being followed. "This is a tragedy," he said. "I don't think she's hiding somewhere. I think she's being held against her will or the worst. I think that Teleka had this fear of first, being branded with a mental illness. Second, the practical fear of losing her career."

     The next day, a 46-year-old Grammy-nominated gospel singer and Grand Rapids, Michigan pastor named Marvin Sapp said he had filed a protection order against Teleka three months before she disappeared. According to Reverend Sapp, she had sent him 400 love letters, joined his congregation, and contacted his children.

     On April 6, 2014, a man fishing on Lake Charles in the northern part of Indiana saw something floating in the water. It turned out to be a body, and the corpse was Teleka Patrick. The lake had been frozen over during the winter. According to a family member, Patrick had been on her way to Chicago to visit a relative.

     Three days after the body recovery, the Porter County, Indiana Coroner's Office announced that Teleka Patrick had died from asphyxiation from drowning. In Michigan, according to Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller, Patrick's drowning had been accidental. As a result, the criminal investigation of this unexplained death was closed.
     

Stefan Sortland: A College Kid Takes a Walk on the Wild Side

     On Sunday morning, November 2, 2014, paramedics in a Poudre Valley Hospital ambulance responded to an emergency involving an intoxicated student at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. When the paramedics rolled the student out of the building, they found that someone had stolen their ambulance. (The patient had to be transported to another hospital in a backup ambulance.)

     Through GPS technology, the police located the missing ambulance 12 miles away in Loveland, Colorado. Officers found the vehicle, its doors wide open and its front-end badly damages and leaking fluid, sitting in the middle of Highway 34. The officers also encountered the ambulance thief, 18-year-old Stefan Sortland standing thirty yards from the wrecked vehicle. The Colorado State University sophomore, decked out in an EMT safety vest, was holding a blanket, a cellphone, and a box of Wheat Thins.

     According to witnesses, the ambulance hit the raised median, jumped the curb, struck a highway sign, careened the wrong way and crossed back over the median before coming to a stop.

     When the college boy refused to obey the police-issued commands, they stunned him with a Taser. Referring to the police vehicles surrounding him, Sortland asked, "Why are those lights flashing on those cars?" On his way to the Loveland Police Department, Sortland informed the officers that he and the stolen ambulance had been en route to Vail, Colorado. For the most part, however, the college student rambled on incoherently.

     At the police station, Sortland said he had taken the drug molly along with some cocaine at a Halloween concert where security officers had kicked him out of the event. He also said that his friends and roommates, having all committed suicide, were dead and in heaven.

     While awaiting his transportation to the local jail, Sortland kicked a police department bench and a wall then started masturbating. (Apparently he wasn't handcuffed behind his back.)

     At the Larimer County Jail, while in the booking area, Sortland attacked two jail employees who had brought him lunch. He punched one of the deputies in the face. A short time later officers booked Sortland on charges of aggravated vehicle theft, obstructing emergency medical personnel, reckless driving, hit-and-run, criminal mischief, unlawful possession of a controlled substance, and assault.

     Stefan Sortland's father told detectives that his son had no history of mental illness and was not on medication. His father did say that on Halloween his son had sent him some odd text messages.

     On May 17, 2016, Stefan Sortland pleaded guilty to the felony counts of motor vehicle theft and second-degree assault of a police officer. Chief Judge Stephen Schapanski punished Sortland with a four-year deferred sentence. That meant that if Sortland remained law abiding during this period, he would not be sent to prison. According to his defense attorney, the 20-year-old started taking anti-psychotic medication.