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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Dawn DaLuise Murder-For-Hire Case

     Dawn Melody DaLuise moved to Los Angeles in the 1980s to become a model. Ten years later she enrolled in beauty school and eventually opened her Skin Refinery salon in West Hollywood. On her company website DaLuise advertises waxing and what she calls Electrical Muscle Stimulation facials that supposedly eliminates dry skin, wrinkles, and damage from chemical peels.

     At the Skin Refinery an electrical stimulation treatment costs $125 a pop, a regular facial $80, and a wax job $90. Billing herself as "the skin specialist to the stars," DaLuise claims to have worked on celebrities Jennifer Aniston, Christian Slater, Alicia Siverstone, Christina Ricci, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. (Because I don't read People Magazine, I'm not familiar with the last three Hollywood stars.)

     On March 4, 2014, detectives with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's fraud and cyber stalking bureau were investigating a cyber stalking complaint when they stumbled upon a murder-for-hire plot that allegedly involved the skin specialist.

     The murder scheme in question allegedly unfolded between January 22 and February 12, 2014. It centers around three text messages DaLuise sent to a friend named Edward Feinstein. In those messages DaLuise bragged that she had hired a hit man to rub out a young business competitor, Gabriel Suarez.

     In August 2013, Suarez opened a skin salon next door to the Skin Refinery. He calls his shop Smooth Cheeks. In one of her text messages to Feinstein, DaLuise wrote: "I found someone who is going to take Gabriel out. His name is Chris Geile and he's an ex-Detroit Lion quarterback. He's six-foot-seven and 315 pounds. He's on my Facebook page. (In the contract killing business, the size of the hit man really doesn't matter. It's the size of his gun that counts. Also, DaLuise didn't have her football facts quite straight. In reality, Geile had been an offensive guard whose NFL career involved playing three games with the Detroit Lions in 1987.)

     When the suspected murder-for-hire mastermind learned that detectives had questioned Feinstein, she allegedly sent him text messages coaching him on how to mislead investigators.

     On March 5, 2014, Los Angeles County detectives booked Dawn DaLuise into the county jail on the charge of conspiracy to commit murder. She was held on $1 million bond. If convicted as charged, the 56-year-old would spend up to nine years in prison.

     In January 2015, a jury sitting in a Los Angeles Superior Court, after deliberating one hour, found DaLuise not guilty as charged. She walked out of the courtroom a free woman.

Governor George Wallace Predicted Being Shot

Somebody's going to get me one of these days. I can just see a little guy out there that nobody's paying any attention to. He reaches into his pocket and out comes the little gun, like that Shirhan guy that got [Robert] Kennedy.

George Wallace [The governor of Alabama who was shot by Arthur Herman Bremer on May 15, 1972.] Detroit News, 1972 

Dennis McCauley's Six-Month Cohabitation With a Corpse

     In November 2012, 72-year-old Ann Marquis died of natural causes in the trailer house she rented in Long's Mobile Home Court in Redford Township just west of Detroit. At the time of her death Marquis resided with Dennis McCauley. The 64-year-old had been living with Marquis for two and a half years.

     Mr. McCauley, instead of notifying the appropriate authorities of Ann Marquis' death, told her friends and neighbors that she had moved out of the trailer park. In reality, the dead woman, laid out on a living room sofa bed, hadn't gone anywhere.

     Over the next six months, as Dennis McCauley cashed Marquis' social security checks and used her credit cards, she decomposed on the sofa bed. (That's one piece of used furniture that will not end up in a Salvation Army store.)

     Mr. McCauley should have used some of his dead roommate's money to pay the monthly trailer rent. On April 22, 2013, Redford Township police officers, accompanied by the landlord, showed up at the trailer with an eviction notice. When the landlord opened the front door, she and the officers were assaulted by the smell of death. The gruesome discovery terminated McCauley's six-month postmortem relationship with Ann Marquis.

     A Wayne County prosecutor charged Dennis McCauley with nine felony offenses related to his macabre relationship with a dead woman. These crimes include larceny, social security fraud, illegal possession of a credit card, failure to report a death, and mutilation of corpse. The latter charge related to the discovery that the dead woman's right arm was separated from her body. (The arm may have come off when McCauley, months after Marquis' death, moved the corpse.)

     Dennis McCauley was incarcerated in the Wayne County Jail under $250,000 bond. If a judge threw the book at him, he could spend the rest of his life behind bars. Had he ripped-off a woman who was alive, he'd be looking at probation. Theft and fraud were crimes against property. Living six months with a dead woman was a crime against nature.

     In December 2014, Dennis McCauley pleaded no contest to mutilation of a corpse in return for probation and community service. Under the circumstances, he got off light.

The Biographic Hatchet Job

Almost every eminent person leaves behind an abundance of personal data which skillfully manipulated can prove him to have been a fool or a knave. Innocuous personal details and casual episodes, if sufficiently emphasized, described with archness and placed in misleading context, can be as damaging in their effect as plain evidence of dim intellect or villainy.

Richard D. Aftick

Monday, November 19, 2018

James Wells and the Kodiak Island Coast Guard Double Murder Case

     There are locations in the country where murder, while still shocking, is commonplace and therefore predictable. This is true in cities like Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. In the sparsely populated regions of the United States, criminal homicide is usually an uncommon event, and double-murder is unheard of. But wherever there are people, even if just a few of them, murder can raise its ugly head. That's what happened in Alaska at the Coast Guard Base on Kodiak Island, 250 miles southwest of Anchorage.

     Home to Coast Guard cutters, helicopters, and rescue swimmers who come to the aid of mariners on the Bering Sea and Pacific Ocean, the base is populated by 1,300 Coast Guard and civilian employees. The Base is located near Kodiak, a town of 6,300. The Base's Communications Station, the Coast Guard's "ears in the sky", monitors radio traffic from ships and planes.

     At eight in the morning of April 12, 2012, a civilian employee of the Communications Station, upon entering the rigger building where radio antennas are repaired, found the bodies of two fellow employees. Both men had been shot to death. The victims were identified as 51-year-old Richard Belisle and James Hopkins, 41. Belisle, a former Petty Officer, had stayed on at the station as a civilian employee after his retirement. Petty Officer 1st Class Hopkins was an Electrician's Mate.

     Because the men had been murdered on U.S. Government property, the FBI has investigative jurisdiction in the case. Agents are working on the double-murder with Alaska State Troopers. Investigators believe that the victims had been shot to death as they arrived for work sometime between seven and eight that morning. The obvious suspects were employees of the base who had access to the secured rigger building.

     One of the Communication Station employees who came under suspicion was 61-year-old James Michael Wells. Wells lived with his wife Nancy in the community of Bells Flats on Kodiak Island located six miles from the base. Wells' blue 2001 Honda SUV was seen near the murder scene on the morning of the crime. He also owns a white Dodge Ram pickup truck. A week after the murders, FBI agents searched Wells' house. They did not, at that time, take him into custody.

     On May 17, 2012, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, feeling the heat over the still unsolved double murder, issued one of those meaningless press statements to the effect that her department has put its full weight and resources behind the investigation.

     FBI agents, on February 2013, arrested James Wells on two charges of federal murder. The U.S. Magistrate denied the suspect bail. Two weeks later, Wells' wife Nancy, in speaking to an Associated Press reporter, said, "I have faith in my husband's innocence. I have faith in the quality of the investigation."

     In April 2014, a jury found James Wells guilty of double murder and related crimes. The judge sentenced him to four life prison terms. Wells appealed the conviction on grounds that the prosecution testimony of a forensic psychologist describing the personality characteristics of workplace killers should not have been admitted into evidence.

     In December 2017, a three judge panel on the 9th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed James Well's conviction on grounds the forensic psychologist's testimony was unconstitutionally prejudicial.

     As of November 2018, James Wells has not been retried for the murders. 

The Thomas J. Lee Mass Murder Case

     Thomas Jesse Lee, 26, resided with his 33-year-old wife Christie, her 16-year-old daughter Bailey, Christie's parents, and an 18-year-old friend of the family, Liaona Green. The clan lived in a suburban home outside of La Grange, Georgia, a town 80 miles southwest of Atlanta.

     On Saturday January 31, 2015, after 69-year-old William Burton, Thomas Lee's father-in-law, didn't show up for work for three days, and didn't answer his phone, his employer asked the Troup County Sheriff's Office to check on the family.

    Deputies went to the Burton home but didn't get a response when they knocked on the door. Because the dwelling was locked, the officers obtained a warrant to enter the dwelling. Once inside, the deputies encountered a murder scene comprised of five bodies.

     Deputies found Mr. Burton in the kitchen. He had been severely beaten then shot to death. Shelia Burton, his 67-year-old wife, lay dead in the master bedroom. She had been shot in the head. Thomas J. Lee's wife Christie had been shot to death to death in their bedroom. The teenage girls, Bailey and Liaona, had been murdered in their room. Liaona had been shot, Bailey strangled to death.

     The authorities immediately suspected that Thomas J. Lee had committed the mass murder. A local judge issued a warrant for the arrest of the six-foot-three, 190 pound fugitive. He had been last seen driving an olive green Mazda Tribute.

     On Monday afternoon February 2, 2015, Thomas J. Lee walked into a church in Corinth, Mississippi 250 miles from the scene of the murders. He told the pastor he had car trouble and needed a lift to Opelika, Alabama. The minister gave Lee money for a bus ticket and a member of the church drove him to the bus station in Tupelo, Mississippi.

     A few hours later, the pastor saw a news report about the Georgia murders on television. The reportage included a photograph of Lee. Realizing he had just helped a fugitive in a mass murder case, the pastor called the police.

     At five that Monday afternoon, police officers took Thomas J. Lee into custody at the Tupelo bus station where he was still waiting for his bus. The next day he was back in Georgia where he was booked into the Troup County Jail on five counts of malice murder. The judge denied him bond.

    On August 12, 2015, Thomas J. Lee pleaded guilty in Troup County Superior Court to five counts of first-degree murder. The judge sentenced the mass murderer to life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

Flying Drones into Prison

     On January 20, 2015 a judge in South Carolina sentenced Brandon Lee Doyle to fifteen years for trying  to fly contraband over the fence at the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville. In April 2014, officials found a crashed drone in the bushes outside the prison fence. Officers also discovered items inmates are not allowed to have such as phones, tobacco products, marijuana and synthetic marijuana.

     The drone never made it over the 12-foot-high razor-ribbon fence. Corrections officials believe this was the first known attempt to use a drone to smuggle contraband into a South Carolina prison.

"15 Years For The Man Who Tried to Fly a Drone Into Prison," Associated Press, January 20, 2015 

Death By Gaming

     A 32-year-old man was found dead in an Internet cafe in Taiwan after a marathon three-day gaming binge. This was the island's second death of an online gamer this year. The man, surnamed Hsieh, entered the cafe in Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second largest city, on January 6, 2015…An employee found him motionless and sprawled on a table at ten in the morning of January 8. He was rushed to a nearby hospital where doctors pronounced him dead from cardiac arrest…

     Hsieh had been unemployed for some time and Internet cafes were the only places he could go. According to his family, he would disappear for two to three days on end…

     It was not known exactly how long Hsieh lay dead in the Internet cafe but police said his body had begun to stiffen so he must have been dead for several hours before the police arrived...Gamers in the cafe continued playing as if nothing had happened…

     Surveillance camera footage showed that before he collapsed Hsieh was involved in a minor struggle. Cold temperatures and over-exhaustion from the long hours spent playing games likely contributed to his death…

     According to the Taipei Times, Hsieh had been a regular customer who often played online games for consecutive days. When tired, he would sleep face down on the table or doze off slumped in his chair…That is why employees were not immediately aware of his condition.

     Taiwan is no stranger to deaths from marathon sessions of online gaming. Hsieh's death came after a 38-year-old man was found dead at an Internet cafe in Taipei on January 1, 2015 after playing video games for five days straight. And in 2012, the corpse of a man who died playing online games went unnoticed for ten hours by other gamers and staff.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Roger Bowling Murder Case

     Around the first of July 2012, Danielle Greenway's 39-year-old ex-boyfriend, Roger K. Bowling, asked if he could stay with her and her fiancee until he got back on his feet after a run of bad luck. The 32-year-old Greenway and Chris Hall, ten years her senior, lived on a well-kept, tree-shaded neighborhood in Allen Park, Michigan, a suburban working class community south of Detroit. She was employed by a cleaning service and Hall was an electrician. Although Greenway and Bowling had broken up five years ago (he was the jealous, controlling type), she agreed to let the beefy, bald ex-boyfriend move into their basement.

     On Thursday, July 17, 2012, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer on routine patrol saw a body, missing its head, hands, and feet, floating in the Detroit River. A U.S. Coast Guard boat crew discovered a second nude body floating in the river on the east side of Detroit. The hands, feet, and head were missing from this corpse as well. Later in the day, a fisherman saw four hands, four feet, and two heads lying in the sand beneath two feet of water along the shore of an abandoned park. The fisherman also discovered a suitcase lying in the water near the body parts.

     The next day, Chris Hall's sister, who hadn't had contact with him and Greenway since July 14, went to their house in Allen Park and pounded on the front door. When she didn't get any response, she reported the couple missing.

     Later that day, officers with the Allen Park Police Department entered the house. Inside, detectives found evidence that someone had tried to clean-up large amounts of blood. In the garage, the police discovered two spent bullets and a bullet fragment that had been fired from a .40-caliber pistol. They also recovered a .40-caliber Glock semi-automatic handgun registered to Roger Bowling.

     The dismembered remains were those of Danielle Greenway and Chris Hall. The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsies estimated they had been shot to death sometime between the 14th and 16th of July, 2012.

     The Wayne County District Attorney's office charged Roger Bowling with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of mutilation of a body. On Tuesday night, July 24, 2012, officers arrested Bowling at the Greenway/Hall residence. Two days later, detectives recovered the couple's missing 2005 GMC Safari van found parked a few blocks from the house. The vehicle contained physical evidence linking Bowling to the double murder.

     As officers escorted Bowling out of the Wayne County courtroom following his arraignment, Danielle Greenway's mother yelled, "burn in hell."
     At the defendant's preliminary hearing on August 20, 2012, Assistant Wayne County medical examiner Jeffrey Jentzen testified that Hall was shot six times, including twice in the head. Greenway had been shot once, through the mouth.

     Roger Slick, a 35-year-old who has known Roger Bowling since first grade, testified that Bowling was angry because Greenway was dating someone else. "We would talk about how we could get rid of our problems--get rid of our women," the witness said. "I talked about taking my wife to the swamp. We'd drink beer and talk about it. I didn't do it. I had the thoughts. I was very upset at that time in my life." This witness testified that when he heard about the deaths of Greenway and Hall, after thinking about it for a few days, he decided to tell the police about these conversations with Bowling. Slick said he believed Bowling used his father's boat to dispose of the bodies. "That was the boat we used to go on. We talked about dropping bodies off in Lake Huron."

     Bowling's attorney, Mark L. Brown, pointed out that there are no eyewitnesses linking his client to the murders. He said that without a confession or an eyewitness the case against his client was entirely circumstantial.

     On September 17, 2014, following a five-week trial, the Wayne County Circuit Court jury found Roger Bowling guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of corpse mutilation. The judge, on October 10, 2014, sentenced Bowling to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The Presumption of Innocence Myth

     Probably the least questioned and most believed government lie is also the most famous maxim of the American judicial system: that all persons are presumed "innocent until proven guilty" beyond a reasonable doubt. This presumption of innocence is a standard taught to the youngest of school children and which the government hails as a founding principle of justice because it presumes that, like the oft-repeated Lord Justice William Blackstone ratio, "Better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer."

     Of course, "innocent until proven guilty" has been at the core of Western judicial systems since biblical times. We are indoctrinated so thoroughly that the average person rarely considers whether the phrase is true or not. Yet when we carefully examine the system, we find that it does not function as the government would like us to believe. Beneath the surface of various platitudes, the falsity of the presumption of innocence becomes readily apparent.

Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, Lies The Government Tells You, 2010

No Presumption of Innocence For John and Patsy Ramsey

     I've [John Ramsey] concluded that three primary factors led to the quick presumption of our guilt when, in fact, the police have never officially labeled either of us as suspects. First, of course, is the police themselves. The difficulties created by an inexperienced police force operating on hunches rather than evidence--and talking freely about those hunches with the media--started the avalanche. Second, the infotainment media were eager for a juicy soap opera-style story, since the O.J. Simpson trial had just ended, and they had lots of talking heads sitting idly by and lots of tabloid talk shows to fill with gossip. I was even less prepared for the third factor resulting in the loss of our presumption of innocence, and that was the new world-class gossip machine: the internet. 

John and Patsy Ramsey, The Death of Innocence. 2000

The Ugly Truth About the Nature of Journalism

Intrusiveness is the nature of journalism; it is its sharpest and most necessary instrument and it is also its most agonizing responsibility for journalists who choose to accept any responsibility at all. Intrusiveness is journalism's power and its curse. Only taste and a sincere respect for accuracy can govern the power and remove the curse. Journalism is as complicated and as difficult as that.

St. Clair McKelway

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Christopher Deedy: The Federal Agent Tried for Murder

     On November 4, 2011, 27-year-old Christopher Deedy, a U. S. State Department Special Agent from Arlington, Virginia, was in Hawaii as a member of the State Department's Diplomatic Security unit. Deedy and the other federal agents were in Honolulu to protect Hilary Clinton and President Obama at the upcoming Asian Pacific Economic Conference scheduled for November 7 through November 13.

     On the night of November 4, Deedy and a couple of his friends were bar-hopping in the city. At 2:30 the following morning, the off-duty agent, dressed in shorts, flip-flops, and a dress shirt that covered the 9 mm Glock on his hip, were having coffee at a McDonalds. Kollin K. Elderts, a 23-year-old Hawaiian man who had been arrested in 2008 for disorderly conduct, and in 2010 for driving under the influence, was giving a white McDonalds customer he didn't know a hard time. Elderts called this man, Michael Perrine, a "haole," a Hawaiian word used by the locals as a racial slur against Caucasians of European decent. Perrine, who had been minding his own business, said he didn't understand why Elderts was singling him out for this verbal abuse. "I'm a local, too," he said. "I live here."

     Agent Deedy walked over to Elderts' table and asked him why he was picking on Mr. Perrine. Mr. Elderts did not appreciate the interference. Angry words escalated into a physical confrontation. What happened next depends upon who is telling the story. The only facts not in dispute are these: Agent Deedy and the Hawaiian man fought. At some point in the confrontation the agent pulled his gun and fired three shots. One of the bullets hit and killed Mr. Elderts.

     The Honolulu coroner retrieved a single bullet from Elderts' body. Detectives dug two slugs out of a McDonald's wall. The autopsy report revealed that Elderts had consumed marijuana and cocaine that night. He also had a blood-alcohol level of 0.12, a percentage well above the state's legal limit for driving.

     Not long after Mr. Elderts' death, a state grand jury in Honolulu indicted agent Deedy for second-degree murder. Assistant deputy prosecutor Janice Futa choose not to include, as a backup charge, the lesser offense of manslaughter. That meant it was second-degree murder or nothing. Deedy posted his $250,000 bail and returned to Virginia to await his trial.

     The Elderts shooting death exacerbated racial tensions in Hawaii. The local media compared the killing of an unarmed man of color by a white man with the Treyvon Martin case that was unfolding at the time in Florida. According to narrative created by reporters and correspondents in the print and television media, Treyvon Martin had been killed by a wannabe cop; Elderts had been shot to death by a federal law enforcement officer. For Christopher Deedy, the timing was not helpful.

     The Deedy murder trial got underway in a Honolulu courtroom in mid-July 2013. Circuit Court Judge Karen Ahn oversaw the selection of seven men and five women for the jury. Six of the jurors were of Hawaiian decent. The other members of the jury were Caucasian. Prosecutor Futa, with the defendant's wife and parents looking on, delivered her opening statement to the jurors. In the prosecution's version of the facts, Deedy's first shot missed Mr. Elderts. The second shot, fired before the two men fell to the floor and fought, killed the victim. The defendant's third shot missed.

     In describing her theory of the case, Prosecutor Futa said, "The defendant...draws from his right hip area the gun. Kollin [Elderts] turns around and sees him and the defendant is within three feet of Kollin Elderts and fires his gun. He misses Kollin. Now having been shot at by the defendant, Elderts lunges toward him reaching for the gun. They grapple in front of the [McDonalds] counter and [another] shot rang out. After the shots, Kollin falls on top of the defendant onto the floor. The third bullet was fired. After the third bullet was fired, the gun jams."

     In her opening statement, the prosecutor portrayed Deedy as an inexperienced agent (George Zimmerman was a wannabe cop) who had consumed alcohol against State Department policy while carrying a firearm. Deedy had "stuck his nose" in the situation at McDonalds "that was not his business." Futa informed the jurors that the McDonald surveillance videotape of the incident was "frustratingly fuzzy."

     The defense version of the shooting differed from the prosecution's theory. According to the defense, it was the third shot, fired when the two men were fighting on the floor, that killed Mr. Elderts.

     Defense attorney Brook Hart, in addressing the jury, said, "The evidence will show that the defendant used a number of measured steps to try to sway Mr. Edlerts...from his violent assault. Referring to Elderts' racial slur, Hart said, "These are now fighting words. This is a threat of violence. This is what Deedy is trained to respond to, although he wasn't here to respond to the laws of harassment or bullying. He's a federal agent and his job is to serve the community." (His job was to protect Clinton and Obama.)

     According to the defense attorney, when the defendant showed Elderts his State Department badge and credentials, Elderts said, "What, you gonna shoot me? You got a gun? Shoot me. I'm gonna gut you."

     Attorney Hart informed the jurors that the State Department authorizes its agents to carry weapons when they are off-duity. She said that her client, on the night of the shooting, was not intoxicated.

     As in the Treyvon Martin case where George Zimmerman's head injuries proved valuable to the defense, Attorney Hart pointed out that Agent Deedy's nose had been broken and his face badly pummeled. In summing up, the defense attorney said, "Special Agent Deedy was compelled to discharge his gun resulting in the death of Elderts. Agent Deedy acted responsibly and in self-defense."

     On August 6, 2013, following 18 days of prosecution testimony, attorney Hart put the defendant on the stand. Agent Deedy testified that on the night in question, Mr. Elderts had drawn his attention with his "hysterical laughing" and taunting of Mr. Perrine. When Elderts ignored the McDonalds cashier's request to leave Mr. Perrine alone, Deedy walked over to Elderts' table and asked him what was going on. Sounding a bit self-important, the witness said, "From my trained perspective I believed it was appropriate for me to intervene, to further assess the situation because this was not a mutual interaction going on."

     When Agent Deedy interceded on Mr. Perrine's behalf, Elderts called him a "haole." According to the witness, "I needed to portray a stronger command presence." This is when he identified himself as a federal law enforcement officer. (The surveillance footage shows Deedy displaying his badge and credentials.) Not impressed, Mr. Elderts continued to taunt the agent. When Elderts slid out from behind his table, the agent knew there would be trouble. In describing this moment to the jury, Deedy said, "I think I was in actual shock. This was very quick, there was a lot going through my head. My brain was going in a thousand directions."

     Attorney Hart asked her witness, "Why didn't you just leave the restaurant?"

     Deedy answered that because he was a trained law enforcement office, he couldn't responsibly back down. "I injected myself into the situation because I sensed the propensity for violence. For me at this point to run would be irresponsible."

     Agent Deedy described to the jury how he had tried to disable Elderts with a kick to his left shin. He missed and hit the meaty part of his opponent's thigh. At that moment the agent knew he was in for a fight. When his attacker tried to grab his gun, the defendant said he had no choice but to utilize deadly force in defense of his life.

     The defense rested after three days of the defendant's testimony. The case went to the jury on August 15, 2013. On Monday, August 19, the jury foreman advised Judge Ahn that the panel could not reach an unanimous verdict. Judge Ahn declared a mistrial. The defendant was free to accompany his wife and his parents back to Virginia. His second trial was set for the spring of 2014.

     Following the verdict, prosecutor Futa told reporters that she was "very disappointed." She said she didn't regret not giving the jury the manslaughter option. Defense attorney Hart, in speaking to the press, said that her client "pleaded not guilty and is not guilty. "The jury," she said, "did not find him guilty."

     Because the jury did not acquit agent Deedy, he was not home free. Not only that, Kollin Elderts' family sued him for wrongful death. Even if Christopher Deedy was eventually acquitted, he would have been better off calling the police and walking out of McDonalds that night.

     At his second trial in 2014, jurors found Deedy not guilty of murder but deadlocked seven to five in the defendant's favor on the manslaughter charge.

     When the prosecutor ordered a third trial, Deedy appealed on the grounds of double jeopardy. In December 2017, the Hawaii Supreme Court rejected the defendant's double jeopardy claim. Deedy's attorneys appealed that decision to the (federal) 9th Court of Appeals. This case could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court and could drag on for years.


Forensic Pathologists: Who Are They?

There is a stereotype of the forensic pathologist as a foreigner, relegated to this area of medicine because he or she did not attend medical school in the United States. In fact, in recent decades a third to a half of all pathology residents in the United States have been graduates of foreign medical schools, which are generally considered inferior to those in the Unties States. Too few American medical school students view the field as attractive, in part because of the lack of patient contact.

John Temple, Death House, 2005 

Police Involved Shootings: Context and perspective

Those who claim there's an epidemic of police involved shootings would be wise to look at the actual statistics. For instance, a five year study of San Francisco officer involved shootings culminating in 2010 found that about one in ten thousand arrests resulted in a police-related shooting. One in ten thousand. It's important to emphasize that we're talking actual arrests here, not mere citizen contacts or even detentions that don't lead to arrest. When you arrest someone, when you're trying to take their liberty away, it always brings with it the prospect of violence. And ask any street cop with some time in and he'll tell you about a host of times he could have justifiably used deadly force but elected not to. That's why cops bristle when they see some protestor screaming that cops are indiscriminately murdering people as he holds up a sign that says It Could be My Son Next. Sir, if your son comes at the police officer with a knife or a gun, then yes, God help him, he could be next. Otherwise, your boy has about as much chance of being murdered by the police as he has of dying while canoeing. The police are to uphold the sanctity of life whenever possible and must justify every bullet we fire. But when the public grossly overstates the problem, we all lose.

Adam Plantinga, Police Craft: What Cops Know About Crime, Community and Violence, 2018. This book comes highly recommended. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Vincent Viafore Murder Case

     In 2011, Vincent Viafore, a 1986 graduate of Roy C. Ketcham High School in Wappinger, New York, met 31-year-old Angelika Graswald at the Pickwick Pub in Poughkeepsie. At the time, Viafore was going through a divorce. Graswald, a native of Lativa (maiden name Lipska), had been previously married.

     In 2015, the engaged couple planned to get married in Europe on the Baltic Sea.

     At four in the afternoon of Sunday April 19, 2015, Vincent and Angelika entered the choppy waters of the Hudson River in Kayaks. They were en route from Plum Point in the Cornwall-on-Hudson area to Bannerman's Island.

     Three hours and forty minutes after they set out on the Hudson River in Kayaks, Angelika Graswald called 911 to report that, forty minutes earlier, her fiancee had fallen out of his kayak into the river. She capsized as well and had been rescued by a boater. Mr. Viafore was still missing.

     As Graswald received treatment for hypothermia at a local hospital, police and rescue crews launched a search for Vincent Viafore. According to Graswald, Mr. Viafore had not been wearing a life jacket.

     The next day, while searchers continued to look for Vincent Viafore's body, Graswald went on Facebook to thank everyone for reaching out to her with sympathy. "Please keep your prayers for Vince," she wrote. "Miracles ARE possible. The authorities are doing everything they can." Graswald also posted a number of photographs of herself and Viafore captioned: "I miss you my love."

     On April 21, 2015, with the search for Viafore still underway, Graswald spoke to a local television reporter about how she and her fiancee had fallen out  of their kayaks into the cold, choppy waters of the Hudson River. According to Graswald, he had said, "I don't think I'm gonna make it." She had responded, "What are you talking about? Of course you will."

     Detectives questioned Grawald on April 28, 2015, nine days after the still missing Viafore capsized on the Hudson. Investigators came away from the interview doubting Graswald's account of the incident.

     On Tuesday April 30, 2015, New York State Police Major Patrick Regan announced at a press conference that Angelika Graswald had been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of the still missing Vincent Viafore. "Initially," he said, "we believed Graswald to be a survivor of a tragic accident."

     Without elaborating, Major Regan said, "Graswald made statements to us that implicated herself in the crime. We believe we know what happened."

     Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler, regarding the absence of a corpse, told reporters that "It's not unheard of presenting a murder case without a body." (True, but with an autopsy providing a cause of death, the case against the accused would have to be otherwise very strong. With no eyewitness, confession, a strong motive, or physical evidence linking Graswald to the murder, the prosecutor will have an uphill battle.)

     Angelika Graswald was held in the Orange County Jail without bond on the charge of second-degree murder.

     On May 3, 2015, Graswald gave another television interview, this time from the Orange County Jail. She said the police arrested her after reading entries in her diary in which she had written that at times she wished her fiancee dead. She explained that these passages had been written "during tough times under stress." The murder suspect insisted that she loved Viafore and would never have caused him any harm.

     Graswald, on July 24, 2017, pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in connection with her fiancee's kayak death. Under the plea agreement, she will receive a sentence of 15 months to four years in prison. Since she spent 27 months in jail awaiting her trial, she was released from custody late in 2017. 

The Brian Browning Sleeping Pill Murder Case

     Brian Browning, 51, lived with his 47-year-old wife Catherine and their two daughters, aged 18 and 20, in Skye, Australia, a suburb of Melbourne on the country's southeastern coast. Catherine worked for the Family Life Community Agency, an organization dedicated to fighting violence against women.

     After the couple agreed to an amicable separation on December 10, 2013, Brian, worried about his financial future, became distraught and couldn't sleep. His 20-year-old daughter Amy suggested that he see a physician. Instead, Brian purchased an over-the-counter packet of 20 Restavit brand sleeping pills.

     At six in the morning of December 19, 2013, Amy Browning heard her mother scream. At the bedroom door, she encountered her father who stood in the doorway holding a bloody knife. Brian Browning, knife in hand, called his wife a bitch then let the weapon fall to his feet.

     Responding police officers discovered Catherine Browning lying in one of her daughter's beds. A forensic pathologist determined that the victim had been stabbed 15 times. Brian Browning had greeted the police that morning in his garden outside of his house. "I've killed my wife," he said.

     Paramedics transported Mr. Browning to the Frankston Hospital for observation. The emergency crew noticed that he was wide-eyed and staring straight ahead. He did, however, respond to their questions.

     At the hospital, Mr. Browning claimed to see ants and spiders crawling on the walls. With a rapid heart rate and elevated blood pressure, hospital personnel turned him over to the custody of the police.

     The next day, while being questioned at the police station, Brian Browning said, "About six o'clock I talked myself into killing her. I went and got the kitchen knife. She was in my daughter's bed. I stabbed her. She woke up, screamed, then I just kept stabbing, stabbing, stabbing. I just spun out."

     According to the suspect, before he went to bed on the night before the killing, he had taken four to ten of the Restavit sleeping pills. After the murder, Mr. Browning said he was so disgusted with himself over what he had done he took the remaining pills in an effort to kill himself. (Detectives had recovered the empty pill packet.)

     On December 20, 2013, in the Melbourne Magistrates Court, Brian Browning pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder. The magistrate denied him bail and ordered a mental evaluation.

     In early April 2015, the Browning murder trial got underway in the Supreme Crown Court of Victoria with Justice Lex Lasry presiding. The defendant's barrister, George Georgiou, in his opening remarks to the jury, argued that the sleeping pills had rendered his client incapable of possessing the criminal intent to commit murder. The barrister characterized Mr. Browning's stabbing frenzy as involuntary behavior.

     Crown prosecutor Daryl Brown, after bringing police officers, detectives, and the defendant's oldest daughter to the stand, put a medical expert into the witness box. According to the physician, four to ten sleeping pills should not have been enough to cause hallucinations or the other effects alleged by the defendant.

     On April 20, 2015, a witness for the prosecution took the stand and testified that at the time of the killing the defendant was about to collect a $200,000 settlement regarding a workplace injury, money he did not want to share in the divorce arrangement. Moreover, he did not like the idea of sharing the money from the sale of the house with his ex-wife.

     When it came time to put on his defense, Barrister Georgiou put Dr. Lester Walton on the stand. According to the psychiatrist, the Resavit pills contained the sedative doxylamine which can make a person feel agitated. "In broad terms," the doctor said, "the more the person takes the more likely it is he might expect some form of adverse reaction." On cross-examination the psychiatrist admitted that he had never come across a case of doxylamine induced psychosis.

     In his April 28, 2015 closing argument, Crown Prosecutor Daryl Brown told the jury that "whatever the defendant's thought processes were at the time of the killing, it was clear that he knew who he was stabbing. That shows awareness." According to the prosecutor, Mr. Browning had killed his wife because "she was the person who was causing his world to be turned upside down."

     Defense barrister Georigiou, in his closing statement, pointed out that Restavit tablet overdoses have been known to cause psychotic episodes.

     On May 5, 2015, the jury found Brian Browning guilty of murder. That October, Judge Lex Lasry sentenced Browning to 18 years with a non parole period of 14. The prosecution, on the grounds this sentence was too lenient under the circumstances, appealed. In 2016, the appeals court agreed. Browning was re-sentenced to 21 years with a 16 year non parole period.


The Con Artist

     Ever since the Snake first talked Eve into tasting the apple, the con artist has been practicing his art; the art of confidence. Confidence is the key, because once you gain people's confidence you can manipulated them. In con artists' parlance, that person becomes a mark--also known as a sucker, dupe, john, green, and rube…ready to be played in a confidence game, big or small. In Genesis, the Snake was practicing what is known as a short con--a confidence game where the con artist only comes into contact with the mark once. A con game that requires the con artist and mark to come into contact more than once is known as the long con.

     In the modern era, traditional distinctions like these are increasingly out of date, because most scams and cons take place without any contact with the mark whatsoever. Email, telemarketing, and even text-messaging are the media though which con artists mainly practice today, but many of the con games they employ are simply variations of themes established long ago.

Joel Levy, The Scam Handbook, 2004 

F. Scott Fitzgerald in Knowing Thy Self

First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Clark Bedsole Murder-For-Hire Case

      Helen Bedsole filed for divorce, for the first time, in 1985. The working mother of two teenage children felt she had suffered enough. Clark Bedole, the owner of an electrical contracting company in Deep Creek, Virginia, had been a lousy husband. He abused Helen physically, spent a lot of money on cocaine, ran around with other women, and tried to control every aspect of his wife's life. Concerned about the financial cost of a divorce, Clark talked Helen out of it, and promised to be a better husband.

     Six years later, Helen tried once again to get out of the marriage, this time with determination, and a more aggressive attorney who demanded 50 percent of the marital estate. Infuriated by what he considered his wife's attempt to ruin him financially, Clark Bedsole hired an equally aggressive attorney. The battle had begun.

     On November 9, 1993, one week before getting her divorce, and the settlement she had fought for over the past 18 months, someone broke into Helen Bedsole's house in Geneva Shores, Virginia and shot her to death.

     Helen had been living her in Geneva Shores home just a few days when her new housemate, Gerry Jones, arrived at the dwelling with a truck load of furniture. She found the front door broken open, and Helen dead on the kitchen floor. Dead about three hours, Helen had been shot in the head, at close range, with a .380-caliber handgun. The motive hadn't been theft because the killer didn't take anything from the house.

     Detectives, once they learned of the marital discord, and the pending divorce, considered Clark Bedole their prime suspect. His gain from Helen's death, besides saving the cost of a divorce settlement, included a $132,000 life insurance benefit. Since Clark had an airtight alibi, detectives investigated the case as a contract murder, and began looking for the hitman.

     Homicide investigators caught a break in 1994 when an anonymous caller reported that during a night of sex and cocaine with Clark Bedsole, he told her that he had paid his drug supplier, DeWayne Williams, $4,000 to murder his wife. Williams, a construction worker, was already a suspect in the case. Bedole's son had seen the 21-year-old conferring with his father just before, and after, his mother's murder.

     A police informant wearing a hidden audio recorder got Williams to talk about the murder. In their conversation, Williams revealed how he had ridden a bicycle to Helen's new house in Geneva Shores. He ditched the bike in the woods, broke off the door knob, and entered the dwelling. The intruder found Helen in the kitchen where he shot her twice with a .380-caliber Colt revolver. After the murder, Williams fled the scene on foot. Later that evening, Mr Bedsole paid him $4,000 for the job.

     Detectives took DeWayne Williams into custody in November 1994 when he showed up for work at a construction site in Norfolk. The following day, the police arrested Clark Bedsole. Both men were charged with capital murder, and held in lieu of $1 million bail. Williams and Bedsole claimed they were innocent.

     In May 1995, Clark Bedsole went on trial for masterminding his wife's murder. He took the stand on his own behalf, and while admitting that he had used cocaine, and had abused his wife, denied any involvement in her death. The jury, after deliberating less than three hours, found him guilty. Two months later, the hitman, DeWayne Williams, pleaded guilty to murdering Helen Bedsole for the money.

     The judge sentenced Clark Bedsole to a prison term that included the possibility of parole after 2016. (A relatively light sentence for a murder for hire mastermind.) DeWayne Williams, on the other hand, was sentenced to death. On August 18, 1999, Williams received his lethal injection. Shortly before his passing, a reporter asked Williams if he had given much thought to the woman he had murdered in cold blood. "I thought about  how I could have gotten away with it," he said. DeWayne Williams, a true sociopath to the very end.  

Mafia Violence

The history of the Mafia is a history of bloodshed and murder. Consider the poor bastard who ran afoul of some members of the Gambino crime family. They cut some holes in him, hung him over a bathtub, and drained all the blood out of his body. These are not rare occurrences or unusual crimes. Wiseguys routinely commit acts of nauseating grisliness. Forget about when someone is already dead and they cut up his body with chain saws and butcher knives like they were carving up a side of beef. We're talking about what they do to people when they are still alive. All sorts of body parts are cut off....Eyes have been gouged out, heads caved in, bones sledge-hammered, and bodies crushed. Weapons include golf clubs, steel bars, brass knuckles, baseball bats. Blood literally runs in little rivers when wiseguys decide to use knives and even swords. Guns, of course, are the most common weapon, and the most humane. A couple of quick ones to the back of the head makes you one of the lucky ones.

Joseph D. Pistone, The Way of the Wiseguy, 2004

Writers Who Seek Fame

I never cease to be amazed why some of my writer friends became famous and others, just as talented, didn't. I've come to suspect it's a matter of wanting fame or not, and those who don't want it, don't get it.

Malcom Cowley

Norwegian Kindergarten Students Taste Their Teacher's Blood

     In March 2013, in Sola, Norway on the country's western coast, kindergarten teacher Inger Lise Soemme Anderson pulled off a show-and-tell stunt that in its degree of stupidity matches what we have come to expect in U. S. education. Anderson came to class one day with a vial of her own blood which she poured onto a plate. The teacher invited her students, kids between the age three and six, to dip their fingers into the red liquid. At least twelve kids touched their teacher's bodily fluid. When the students asked how to clean their bloody fingers, Anderson illustrated the solution by inserting one of her fingers into her mouth. Her students, as one might expect, followed suit.

     While putting someone else's blood into your mouth is on its face disgusting, it's also a good way to contract a dangerous blood transmitted disease. If an American teacher did what the Norwegian teacher is accused of, she would probably be charged with child endangerment.

     The head of the Norwegian school fired the teacher who was a temporary employee. A judge ordered Anderson to undergo tests for Hepatitis B and AIDS. If the results of these tests came back, this information was not published.

      Mind boggling cases like this are particularly disturbing because they reveal how difficult it is to shield vulnerable children from teachers who are either incredibly stupid or perverted.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Amish Shake Down Case

     Just when we think that elected officials have come up with every possible method of swindling the people who put them into office, some corrupt politician comes along and proves us wrong. Petty public corruption cases involving local officials--embezzlements, payroll padding, feather-bedding, unauthorized use of government credit cards, per diem fraud, and bribery--are such common occurrences they have become events that get little attention in the media. Most citizens, while disgusted by politicians in general, are no longer shocked by this kind of behavior. Maybe that's why so few of these bums are ever voted out of office. But every once in awhile, one of these government crooks get caught doing something so outrageous it catches, for the blink of an eye, the public's attention.

     Recently, a constable in western Pennsylvania named Glenn Young, Jr. allegedly pulled a stunt that qualifies as a new low in public service. Even so, the story was picked up in a handful of area newspapers, and got mentioned on a couple of local TV stations. Although a news item like this cries out for some in-depth reporting, and perhaps some editorializing, the story appeared for a day, then was gone. What follows is my tribute to this elected official's unique form of pubic service depravity.

     In Pennsylvania, in addition to law enforcement officers who work for police departments, sheriff's offices, and the state police, there is the little known, county-wide office of constable. These uniformed peace officers, elected to six-year terms, usually work directly for judges and district magistrates on minor civil matters. While they carry guns and have badges, and possess full arrest powers, most constables serve court papers and collect court-ordered fines. In a few jurisdictions, they provide courtroom security, and transport local prisoners. In Pennsylvania, constables are on the bottom of the law enforcement hierarchy.

     In October 2011, John Young, Jr., a 63-year-old constable from Beaver County, less than an hour north of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, was up in Springfield Township, Mercer County investigating vandalism to an Amish school house. (Why Constable Young was working in Mercer County, some 60 miles north of his home in New Brighton, is a mystery. Mercer County doesn't even border Beaver County, and lies outside the constable's normal geographical jurisdiction. Also mystifying is why Young had taken it upon himself to investigate minor vandalism at the Indian Run school house. This is where some professional news reporting would have been helpful.)

     The eager constable (Barney Fife on steroids), after pulling over several Amish buggies to search for whoever knows what, met with a group of local Amish leaders. According to Constable Young, he had identified the 21 Amish lads who had vandalized the school house. Although it had only cost the Amish $92 to replace the broken windows, and fix the broken desks, the constable informed the Amish elders that the youngsters had inflicted $4,000 damage to the school. This meant, according to Young, that the kids had committed a serious crime that could lead to big fines, and possible jail time. This of course, was a load of crap.

     Because he was a nice guy, and had the best interests of the Amish people in mind, Constable Young would save the vandals a lot of money by simply collecting smaller fines from the family of each perpetrator. And this is what he allegedly did, collecting a total of $2,450 in fines that had not been levied by a court or any other governmental body. At some point in what can only be described as a shakedown, someone in the Amish community suspected a swindle, and notified the state police.

     Charged with theft by deception, official oppression, and impersonating a public servant (not to mention a decent person), Constable Glenn Young was taken into custody by state troopers on August 29, 2012. At his arraignment, he pleaded not guilty to all charges. (Young later pleaded guilty in return for a sentence of probation.)

     Compared to the average public corruption case, Constable Young's breach of public trust didn't amount to much. But why would a man risk his reputation and livelihood by committing such a petty crime against decent Amish people? (Maybe to take advantage of their trust and good nature.) The shear stupidity of this boneheaded swindle was jaw-dropping. The fact Constable Young possessed a badge and a gun, and had been invested with full arrest powers, was more than a little disturbing. Cases like this should remind us of the kinds of people who run for office, and manage to get themselves elected into positions of public trust. What this little case represents, to me, is something important, and worthy of exposure.


Constables Shoot Unarmed Man Over Parking Tickets

     Things turned ugly on July 17, 2014 when two Pennsylvania state constables attempted to serve a man with a warrant because he had accumulated 31 unpaid parking tickets. The two officers approached Kevin McCullers in the garage at his residence in a suburb of Allentown at 7:30 in the morning. McCuller's girlfriend, Hafeezah Muhammad said McCullers was in the car about to leave for Dunkin' Donuts.

     The constables positioned themselves on both sides of McCullers' car. One of them told him to turn off the car, and he did. There was a short conversation. Then, according to Lehigh County district attorney James Martin, one of the constables opened the driver's side door of the vehicle.

     McCullers responded by restarting the car. He began backing out of his garage with the car door ajar. That's when the constables drew their guns and fired. One constable shot the 38-year-old in the back. The other officer shot out the vehicle's left front tire.

     One of the constables told the district attorney he and his partner pulled their guns and fired because they felt threatened while standing in the garage as McCullers tried to back out. McCullers was unarmed.

     McCullers' girlfriend said the constables could have walked up to the front door of their house to serve the warrant. "They never knocked on the door! No nothing," she told a local TV reporter. "I just heard the gunshots. He pulled the car out of the garage and all I heard were gunshots."…

     Muhammad said McCullers may never walk again. "For parking tickets," she said. "It's insane."

     The district attorney expressed concern about the fact a constable--an elected state official--shot a man and possibly left him paralyzed over unpaid parking tickets…The prosecutor said the office of constable--a Pennsylvania oddity--is troubling because people who hold the job are poorly prepared and largely unaccountable. "Although they receive training, they really operate under no one's direct supervision," he said. The district attorney said the shooting would have been avoided had McCullers entered into a payment plan to pay the money he owed.

     [For years law enforcement leaders and lawmakers in Pennsylvania have tried to abolish the position of constable. This is not the first incident of excessive force on the part of one of these officers. And it won't be the last.] 

The Kwanda Carpenter Student Sex Case

     On January 11, 2013, a married, 33-year-old Bessemer City, North Carolina high school bus driver contacted school authorities with an unusual complaint. Kwanda Carpenter reported that a pair of high school boys who claimed to have had sex with her were trying to blackmail her for $60.

     According to Facebook messages sent to the bus driver by Malik Ty Mel Moore and Donja Phillips, the high school students threatened to "call the police and report that she had raped them" if she didn't cough-up the sixty bucks.

     Moore and Phillips, when questioned by detectives with the Gaston County Sheriff's Office, accused Carpenter of picking them up in her car at ten o'clock on the night of October 3, 2012. According to the boys, Carpenter drove them to a secluded spot on a dead-end street where she had "sexual contact" with them in the vehicle. After that, she drove the boys home.

     Following Carpenter's complaint to school officials, they suspended her with pay. (She made $12.91 an hour.)

     On January 16,  five days after she reported the extortion to the school, police arrested Carpenter at her home on two counts of sexual activity with a student by school personnel other than a teacher. The magistrate set the bus driver's bail at $5,000.

     Malik Ty Mel Moore and Donja Phillips were charged with blackmail. (These boys were lucky that stupidity wasn't a criminal offense. If it were, blackmailing somebody on Facebook would be stupid in the first-degree.) These charges were later dropped.

     Kwanda Carpenter, when questioned by detectives, denied having had sexual contact with the students.

     On March 7, 2013, Carpenter was indicted on two counts of sexual activity with a student. Five months later, she pleaded guilty to the lesser charges of attempted crimes against nature in return for a suspended sentence.

The Multiple Personality Hoax

     In 1973, the memoir, "Sybil" told the story of Sybil Dorsett (real identify Shirley Mason) who claimed to have had sixteen separate personalities as a result of childhood abuse. The best-selling book (7 million copies) created the multiple personality disorder and planted the notion of the repressed memory syndrome into the American consciousness.

     According to a book by Debbie Nathan called "Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case," the 1973 memoir was a phony book contrived by Munson, her therapist, and a journalist. In a 1958 letter uncovered by Nathan, Mason confessed that she didn't have multiple personalities. Shirley Mason died of breast cancer in 1998. (In the years that followed the publication of the 1973 memoir, several defendants in serial murder cases, pursuant to insanity defenses, claimed--unsuccessfully--multiple personality disorders.)

     Mason's memoir led 40,000 readers to claim they had repressed memories of childhood abuse, an unknown syndrome prior to 1973. Several of these claims led to the sexual abuse convictions of innocent people. In 1976 and 2007 two movies based on Mason's memoir were produced. One of them starred Sally Fields. 

The Celebrity Journalist

Journalists are now celebrities. Part of this has been caused by the ability and willingness of journalists to promote themselves. Part of this has been caused by television, the television reporter is often more famous than anyone he interviews.

Nora Ephron

Monday, November 12, 2018

Carl Ericsson: The Mad-at-the-World Homicidal Loser

     Norman Johnson and Carl Ericsson attended the same high school at the same time in Madison, South Dakota, a farm town of 6,500. That's all they had in common. Johnson, a member of the class of 1958, had been a popular football star while Ericsson, in the class ahead of him, was a loner, and the team's water boy. As high school students, and as adults, these men lived vastly contrasting lives. Norman Johnson married his high school girlfriend and became a pillar of the local community, while Ericsson moved away, married, and lived in comparative obscurity.

     After college, Norman Johnson returned to Madison where, for the next 35-years, he taught high school English and coached the football team. In retirement, he stayed active in the community as a playground supervisor, proofreader for the hometown newspaper, and as a part time employee at the local hardware store. He was still married to his high school girlfriend, had two grown daughters, and lived in a modest two-story house in town. He was surrounded by former students who still called him Mr. Johnson.

     After high school, Carl Ericsson moved to Wyoming where he found a low-level job with the federal government. After retirement, he moved to Watertown, South Dakota 50 miles north of Madison. As an alcoholic who was chronically depressed, Ericsson was a surely, difficult man who loved his dog more than people. He lived in a tiny, one-story house with his long-suffering wife. As is the custom with profoundly unhappy maladjusted people, Ericsson did not get along with his father, a successful attorney in Madison, or his younger brother Dick who had followed their father into the law. He also complained and harassed the children in his neighborhood, gave people who irritated him the finger, and once even threatened to kill his younger brother. He was the type of person psychologists, psychiatrists, and medication can't fix. People avoided this guy like the plague.

     On the evening of January 31, 2011, Ericsson was seen in Madison prowling around backyards, knocking on residents' doors, and shinning his flashlight into homes. As further evidence he was up to no good, Ericsson was in possession of a Glock 45-caliber pistol with a 17-round clip, one of many handguns he owned.

     At 7:30 that evening, Ericsson pulled his brown Ford Taurus up to Norman Johnson's house,  walked up the sidewalk, and knocked on his front door. When Johnson appeared at the entrance, he did not recognize the man standing on his stoop with the shock of white hair and full beard. The men hadn't seen each other since high school. "Are you Norman Johnson?" Ericsson asked. Immediately after Johnson answered yes, the former water boy shot the retired teacher in the face--twice--leaving him to die in the doorway of his home.

     The next day, officers with the Madison Police Department took Carl Ericsson into custody. When a detective asked him why he had murdered a man he hadn't seen for 53 years, Ericsson said he had gotten even for a locker room prank Johnson and other students had played on him back in 1957. According to Ericsson, the football players had forced him to wear a jock-strap on his head, a high school humiliation he had brooded over for decades. He had fantasized about getting revenge, and that's what he did.

     Investigators, of course, had no way of knowing if this prank ever took place, or if it had, if Norman Johnson had anything to do with it. As a matter of law, and criminal homicide, all of that was irrelevant anyway. But some in the sob sister media, when covering this murder, focused on the bullying aspect of the story, suggesting that being forced to don a jock-strap can turn a person into a depressed, alcoholic, mad-at-the-world loser who will someday erupt into a cold-blooded killer.

     Carl Ericsson pleaded guilty to a South Dakota homicide offense called second-degree murder under circumstances of mental illness. (In many states this is called guilty but mentally ill.) This meant that Ericsson would receive mental health treatment at a state prison rather than in an institution for the criminally insane. Because he knew exactly what he was doing, this defendant was not criminally insane. He was a guy with a drinking problem and a lousy personality who couldn't cope with life. The woods are full of people just like him. Fortunately they are not all murderers.

     On June 16, 2012, a judge sentenced Ericsson to life without parole.              

Thornton P. Knowles On The Criminology Of Marriage

Someone once said that marriages start in bed and end up in court. It's also true that one of the spouses can end up in court because the other one is in the morgue. O. J. Simpson wasn't the first, nor the last, to murder his wife. And wives can be just as deadly. There are women who marry rich men in order to kill them for their money. These cold-blooded killers are called Black Widows, and their weapon of choice is usually poison. Spouses have been known to commit murder on their honeymoons, quite often during ocean cruises where the victim, usually the wife, ends up with the fishes. For the husband, the most common motive for hiring a hit man to murder his estranged wife is to avoid the high cost of divorce. Moreover, men who don't want to be fathers have either killed their pregnant wives or hired someone else to do the deed. Jealous wives have been known to kill their their wayward spouses out of rage, and in some cases, merely to save face. Whenever a married person is murdered, and it's not immediately clear who committed the offense, the spouse who doesn't have an airtight alibi usually becomes the first suspect. In the annals of crime, there are thousands of marital murder cases where the spouse has staged the killing to look like a suicide. And in missing persons cases where the wife has disappeared, the experienced homicide detective usually casts his jaundiced eye on the husband. If love birds want to get married, and "live happily ever after," that's fine with me. I have no problem with others tying the knot. The old "Death Do Us Part" ceremony is just not for me. Because I would make such a lousy husband, I don't want to risk taking that premature, oneway journey to the morgue.

Thornton P. Knowles

How Academic Literary Critics Make Their Careers

Academics make careers out of describing who was influenced by whom and how. They collect writers into schools, camps, trends, and tendencies. Novelists of a similar age are also liable to be called a "generation," even if their works have little in common.

Ian Jackman, The Writer's Mentor, 2004

The Illness Autobiography

Dealing with adversity is in some ways the theme of all narrative autobiography, but there is a particularly rich tradition about struggles with a particular medical or physical malady, such as blindness, cancer, or paralysis. Originally, this type nearly always took the form of the Inspirational, a struggle against the odds in which the courage of the subject brings a triumph, at least of spirit, in the end. More recently, a new Literature of Adversity has evolved, which does not depend upon the "final triumph" but which derives its values from the depth and frankness of its discussion.

Tristine Rainer, Your Life as Story, 1998 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Nadia Malik Suspicious Death Case

     In February 2014, 22-year-old Nadia Malik resided with her one-year-old daughter and her parents in Broomall, Pennsylvania, a Delaware County suburb in the Philadelphia area. The one-year-old's father, Nadia's estranged boyfriend, 25-year-old Bhupinder Singh, lived with their four-year-old daughter at his parents' apartment in Solon, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. In 2012, the couple had an infant that, according to court documents, died suddenly under "suspect circumstances."

     Nadia and Bhupinder reportedly had a relationship described as "strained, on/off, and violent." Nadia had recently been fired from her job as a CVS pharmacy assistant in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania for missing too much work. 
     On February 9 and again on February 10, 2014, Nadia Malik sent text messages to her brother Faud Malik and her friend Thomas Singh (no relation to Bhupinder) informing them that Bhupinder was holding her against her will in a car. On February 9, Thomas Singh reported Nadia missing to the Lansdowne, Pennsylvania Police Department. (Shortly thereafter the case was transferred to the Marple Township police.) 
     On February 12, 2014, investigators traced Bhupinder Singh, through Nadia's cellphone, to his parents' apartment in Solon, Ohio. At the arrival of the police that day, Singh tried to escape out the back door but was arrested before he ran very far. Officers took him into the Cuyahoga County Corrections Center on a probation violation warrant issued out of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. 
     Singh, who claimed to have no knowledge regarding Nadia's whereabouts, had scratches on his face and a black eye. He told his interrogators the injuries were sustained in a fight he had with Nadia. The last time he saw her was on February 11, 2014 in Delaware County. He left her in his father's black 2007 Nissan Altima and took a bus to his parents' home in Solon. When arrested, Singh possessed Nadia's cellphone and her driver's license.  
     At ten-thirty on the morning of Thursday, February 20, 2014, an anonymous tipster called the Marple Township Police Department regarding a black 2007 Nissan Altima with heavily tinted windows parked on 30th Street near Market Street in Philadelphia. Police officers found eight parking tickets on the vehicle. 
     In the reclined front passenger seat of the Nissan, officers found Nadia Malik positioned on her side as though she had been sleeping. The dead woman was fully clothed with a duffel bag resting on top of her head. The car also contained a pile of clothing, loose change, and prescription bill bottles issued to Bhupinder Singh.
     The first parking ticket on the car had been issued on February 10, a few blocks away at 23rd and Market Streets. The second citation was issued on February 12 when the Nissan was parked in an emergency zone on Market Street. The first ticket placed on the car where it was found on February 20 had been issued two days earlier. 
     Based on the parking ticket history, Nadia Malik either died between February 18 and February 20, several days after Bhupinder Singh's arrest. If she had died before that, someone had moved the Nissan with her dead body in it.
     A Philadelphia forensic pathologist performed the autopsy on Friday, February 21, 2014. A spokesperson for the medical examiner's office announced there were no signs of physical trauma on Malik's body. The spokesperson did not reveal the time of death in the case, a vital piece of information, or the cause and manner of death.

     On October 16, 2014, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office announced that toxicological tests on Malik's body had not solved the mystery of what killed her or how she  had died.

     In February 2015, a year after Malik's suspicious death, the authorities released information regarding the February 28, 2012 death of Malik's 3-month-old daughter, Alina Singh. Paramedics had found the child next to her mother in a car parked near a Chinese restaurant in the Delaware County town of Springfield. The unresponsive infant was pronounced dead later that day. The Delaware County Medical Examiner ruled the cause of Alina's death as cachexia--a type of muscle atrophy commonly called "wasting syndrome." The manner of the child's death remained "undetermined."

     Detectives with the Philadelphia Police Department continued to investigate Nadia Malik's death as a possible murder case. When questioned by the police in Ohio, Bhupinder Singh said he had fled to Ohio on a Greyhound bus out of New York City after arguing with Malik on matters "concerning their relationship."

     After being found guilty in April 2014 of violating his probation, Singh spent a month in jail. Upon his release on parole, he took up residence in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. According to a police spokesperson in February 2015, detectives still considered Bhupinder Singh a suspect in what they believed was Malik's homicidal death.

     In July 2015, Nadia's brother, 32-year-old Khaled Malik, offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for his sister's death. As of November 2018, no arrests have been made in this mysterious case. 

Free Speech Versus the Crime of Desecrating a Venerated Object

     Authorities in Bedford County, Pennsylvania must not prosecute a teenager for the criminal offense of desecration of a venerated object even though he simulated a sex act with a statute of Jesus, Americans United for Separation of Church and State says. In a letter sent on September 22, 2014 to Bedford County District Attorney William Higgins, Americans United says that prosecuting a teenager solely because of the message conveyed by his actions violates the rights of free speech and the separation of church and state, both of which are protected by the First Amendment.

     "While I don't condone the sort of behavior in which this teen engaged, he didn't do anything that should be considered illegal," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United's executive director. "Just because a religious group might find a particular action to be offensive is not a justification for jail time."

     The controversy began when a 14-year-old boy in Everett, Pennsylvania posted on Facebook a photograph of himself simulating a sex act with a statue of Jesus. The statue sits on private property in front of an organization called Love in the Name of Christ, and the photo leaves no doubt that the boy climbed on the statue and engaged in behavior many would consider offensive.

     The boy faces up to two years in a juvenile facility under a 1972 state law that makes "desecration, theft, or sale of a venerated object" a second-degree misdemeanor. An act constitutes desecration if it "will outrange the sensibilities of persons likely to observe or discover the action." He does not currently face charges of trespassing or destruction of property.

     Americans United's letter notes that the motivation for prosecution of the teen seems rooted in religious belief with intent to protect Christians who may have been offended by the photograph. Recent news reports quoted District Attorney Higgins as saying: "This troubled young man offended the sensibilities and morals of our community" and that if the prosecution "tends to upset the 'anti-Christian, ban-school-prayer, war-on-Christmas, oppose-the-display-of-Ten Commandments' crowd, I make no apologies."…

"Law Regarding 'Desecration of a Venerated Object' Conflict Conflicts With First Amendment, Church-State Watchdog Says,", September 22, 2014 

Thornton P. Knowles On Murder Rates

The vast majority of Americans do not commit the crime of murder simply because they are afraid of prison, hell, or both. Of those capable of murder, many commit the crime because it suits their needs and they think they are clever enough to get away with it. Other people become murderers because they are either insane, stupid, or incapable of controlling their impulses. The later two groups of killers are not deterred by prison or the death penalty. A nation's murder rate is largely determined by the mentality, morality, and character of its citizens. It is less about poverty, capitalism, the criminal justice system, or guns. There are poor countries with low murder rates. This is true of nations whose economies are based on capitalism. There are places with low murder rates where everyone owns a gun. And finally, law enforcement and crime have lives of their own. Good law enforcement will not prevent crime and bad policing doesn't create it. American's relatively high murder rate comes from the nature of its people.

Thornton P. Knowles

The Gangster's Courtroom Cure

When these organized crime figures go on trial they all show up in wheelchairs or on crutches. Suddenly they have bad hearts or livers and are about to die. Of course after the case they're all very healthy again. They must go to Lourdes and get cured. Even Butchie Miceli walked away, without his crutches. This guy had multiple sclerosis. Found a cure the minute they said "probation!" Great cure.

Joe Delaney, New Jersey police chief in The Book of Criminal Quotations, J.P. Bean, editor, 2003 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Cop Killers Rafael Jones and Chancier McFarland

     In October 2009, a Philadelphia judge sentenced Rafael Jones, a 21-year-old street thug, to four years in prison for a variety of crimes involving firearms. As a juvenile, Jones had a record of drug dealing, auto theft, and gun possession. He lived in a North Philadelphia neighborhood with his grandmother, Ada Banks. After serving two years behind bars, Jones walked out of prison on parole. He returned to his high-crime neighborhood where, early in 2012, he was shot and wounded by another North Philadelphia criminal.

     Early in July 2012, police arrested Jones on a parole violation related to the illegal possession of a gun. While incarcerated in the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, Jones' state parole officer asked his grandmother, Ada Banks, if Jones could live with her, under house arrest, following his release from prison. She said no. Banks didn't want Jones back in his old neighborhood where he had gotten into so much trouble. She suggested that prison authorities send Jones to his aunt's house in a better part of the city. The parole officer, rather than make the arrangements with the aunt, instructed Jones' grandmother to send the parolee to his aunt's house when he got out of jail and showed up at her place.

     On July 25, at Jones' parole hearing, Common Pleas Judge Susan Schuman set August 8, 2012 as Jones' release date. The judge emailed prison officials to instruct Jones to report directly to his grandmother's house where someone from the state board of probation and parole would outfit him with an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet. (The judge wasn't aware that the grandmother was supposed to send Jones on to his aunt's house.) Signals from Jones' electronic device would be monitored in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. If Jones left the dwelling for an unauthorized reason, the parole office in Philadelphia would either receive an email or telephone alert from Harrisburg. Jones, although under house arrest, could leave the premises to look for a job, to complete his GED, or to do community service work.

     On August 8, 2012, the day Jones got out of jail, the state parole officer didn't escort Jones from the prison directly to his aunt's house where he was supposed to be outfitted with the electronic equipment. Instead, the parolee walked out of prison unsupervised. The fact he didn't report to his grandmother's house, or check in to his aunt's place, should not have shocked anyone. As one would expect, he returned to the streets in North Philadelphia where he wasted no time getting his hands on the tool of his trade, a handgun.

     At six in the morning of August 18, just ten days after leaving prison, Rafael Jones and 19-year-old Chancier McFarland, an associate with a long juvenile record of crime and violence who was currently out on bail in connection with a drug case, were prowling the North Philadelphia neighborhood in search of someone to rob. (Job hunting, thug style.) The two robbers in search of a victim came upon Moses Walker, Jr., a 40-year-old Philadelphia police officer. After completing his night shift at the 22nd district police station in North Philadelphia, the 19-year veteran of the force had changed into his street clothes and was walking toward the bus station.

     When confronted by Jones and McFarland who had been stalking him for robbery, Walker reached for his sidearm. Before the off-duty officer could protect himself, the two muggers shot him in the chest, stomach, and arm. Officer Moses Walker died on the street where he was shot.

     Following officer Moses Walker's murder, the city of Philadelphia and the police union posted a reward of $100,000 for information leading to the identification of the cop-killers. Several people came forward with information that led to Jones' arrest on August 24, 2012. Charged with murder and robbery, he was placed in custody without bail. On Sunday August 26, Chancier McFarland was arrested in Alabama.
     In June 2014, Chancier McFarland pleaded guilty to third-degree murder to avoid going to prison for life. He also agreed to cooperate in the prosecution of Rafael Jones. The judge sentenced McFarland to 20 to 40 years.

     On December 13, 2014, after a four-day nonjury trial, Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart found Rafael Jones guilty of first-degree murder, robbery, conspiracy, and three firearm offenses. The first-degree murder conviction carried a mandatory life sentence.

     Several of Jones' relatives were in the courtroom as the judge announced his verdict. "We love you," they said. "This too shall pass."

The Historic Fingerprint: The Jennings Murder Case

     In Chicago, Illinois, on September 19, 1910, a noise at two in the morning coming from her 15-year-old's bedroom, awoke Mary Hiller. She slipped into her robe and ventured into the hall where she noticed that the gaslight outside her daughter's room had been turned off. Fearing that an intruder had entered the house, Mrs. Hiller returned to the master bedroom and shook her husband awake.

    Clarence Hiller, on the landing en route to his daughter's room, bumped into Thomas Jennings, a 32-year-old paroled burglar in possession of a .38-caliber revolver. The men struggled, then tumbled down the stairway. At the foot of the stairs, Jennings, the bigger man, got to his feet, pulled his gun, and fired two shots. The first bullet entered Hiller's right arm, traveled up through his shoulder, and exited the left side of his neck. The second slug slammed into his chest, piercing his heart and lung before coming out his back. The gunman left the scene through the front door, leaving behind a screaming Mary Hiller, her dead husband, and a terrified 15-year-old girl who had been sexually molested.

     About a mile from the murder house, Jennings, walking with a limp, and bleeding from cuts on his arm, passed four off-duty police officers waiting for a streetcar. When questioned about his injuries, Jennings said he had fallen off a trolley. One of the officers patted him down, and discovered the recently fired handgun. The officers placed Jennings under arrest, and escorted the suspect to the police station.

     A few hours later, detectives at the murder scene found the two .38-caliber bullets that had passed through Clarence Hiller's body. Today, a forensic firearms identification expert would be able to match the crime scene slugs with bullets test-fired through the suspect's gun. But in 1910, this type of forensic identification was 15 year in the future. Investigators also determined that the intruder had entered the Hiller house through a kitchen window. A detective who was ahead of his time, found four fingerprint impressions on a freshly painted porch rail outside the point of entry. (Paint, in those days, dried slowly.) A technician with the police department's two-year-old fingerprint bureau, photographed the the finger marks that had been left in the dark gray paint. (The science of fingerprint identification first came to American from England in 1906 when the St. Louis Police Department started the country's first fingerprint bureau.) Mary Hiller, traumatized by the murder of her husband, failed to pick Thomas Jennings out of a police lineup. While roughed up, and the recipient of a third-degree interrogation, Jennings did not confess.

     At Jennings' May 1911 trial, two Chicago Police Department fingerprint examiners, a fingerprint technician from the police department in Ottawa, Canada, and a private expert who had studied fingerprint science at Scotland Yard, testified that the impressions on the porch rail matched the ridges on four of the defendant's fingers, placing him at the scene of the murder. While the idea that fingerprints were unique had been around for 20 years, this was the first U.S. jury to be presented with this form of impression evidence. The chance of convicting Jennings was not good, because the prosecution's case--the defendant's arrest one mile from the house, his injuries, his possession of a recently fired gun, and his murder scene fingerprints--was based entirely on circumstantial evidence. In those days, and to some extent today, jurors prefer direct evidence in the form of confessions and eyewitness identifications.

     Prior to the testimony of the four fingerprint witnesses, Jennings' attorney had objected to the introduction of this evidence on the grounds that this form of forensic identification had not been scientifically tested, and was therefore unreliable, and inadmissible. The trial judge, in allowing the fingerprint testimony, relied on a 1908 arson case, Carleton v. People, in which the defendant had been linked to the fire scene by impressions left by his shoes.

     The jury, following a short deliberation, found Thomas Jennings guilty of first-degree murder. To arrive at this verdict, the jurors had placed more weight on the physical evidence than on the defendant's claim of innocence. The judge sentenced Jennings to death.

     On appeal, Jennings' lawyer argued that there was no scientific proof that fingerprints were unique. By admitting the testimony of so-called fingerprint experts, the trial court had sentenced a man to the gallows on pseudoscience, and bogus expertise. The Illinois Supreme Court, on December 21, 1911, ruled that the Jennings trial judge had not made a judicial error by admitting the fingerprint testimony. This was good news for forensic science, and bad news for Thomas Jennings who died in 1912 at the end of a rope.

     People v. Jennings laid the groundwork for forensic fingerprint identification in America. By 1925, virtually every court in the United States accepted this form of impression evidence as proof of guilt. In medicine, illness leads to cures, and in law enforcement, murders produce advances in forensic science.  

Thornton P. Knowles On Crime Scene Fingerprint Identification

While I'm not a criminalist, I'm skeptical regarding the reliability of crime scene fingerprint identification. It's true that no two people have the same fingerprints, but no one knows the degree to which the fingerprints from two people can be similar. This could lead to misidentification, particularly when an imperfect crime scene latent is compared to an inked, rolled-on impression. Most police fingerprint ID officers were trained as cops rather than objective scientists. Moreover, these practitioners tend to be biased toward law enforcement and prosecution. The widely made claim that no one has ever gone to prison on a false fingerprint identification is bogus. Proven cases of fingerprint misidentifications represent, in my view, just the tip of the false identification iceberg. Fingerprint identification is subjective by nature, and is not hard science.

Thornton P. Knowles

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Thomas Gilbert High Society Murder Case

     Thirty-year-old Thomas Gilbert Jr. cut the figure of rich kid Dickie Greenleaf in the novel and film of the same name, The Talented Mr. Ripley. In the book and movie the slacker playboy was murdered by a friend who took up his identify. In real life, however, when someone in a wealthy family is murdered, it's usually the man or woman who created the wealth, not an offspring who depended on it.

     In 2015, 70-year-old Thomas Gilbert Sr. resided with his wife in an apartment building on the east side of Manhattan just north of the United Nations headquarters. Besides their two sons, the couple had a 24-year-old daughter who aspired to be a writer.

     A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Business School, Mr. Gilbert, in 2011, started a hedge fund called Wainscott Partners Fund, a firm that specialized in the biotech and healthcare industries. Three years after its inception, the fund handled $200 million in assets. Only people with $500,000 or more to invest were invited to participate in the fund.

     Mr. Gilbert worked hard to get his relatively small investment firm off the ground. A friendly man who enjoyed the upper-crust social life, Mr. Gilbert belonged to exclusive organizations such as the Maidstone Club in East Hampton and the River Club in Manhattan.

     Mr. Gilbert's youngest son, Thomas Jr., grew up benefiting from his father's wealth, hard work, and success. His parents enrolled him in elite boarding schools--the Buckley School ($30,000 a year tuition) and Deerfield Prep ($54,000 annual tuition)--where the six-foot-three student with the thick blond hair excelled at sports. Following boarding school, Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert's quiet, reserved and socially awkward youngest son attended Princeton University. In 2009 Thomas Jr. graduated from the Ivy League school with a degree in economics.

     Notwithstanding his prestigious education, high social status, and all the advantages a young man could ask for, Thomas Jr. didn't enter the world of finance or any other business or profession. He wanted to start his own hedge fund but his father didn't think he had the ability or the drive to succeed in the field. As a result, Thomas assumed the role of a playboy reliant on his father's generosity. It didn't sit well with him.

     To maintain his high society lifestyle, Thomas needed more money than his father was willing to shell out. He existed on a $2,400 a month housing stipend and a $600 a week spending allowance. This was not nearly enough to support his expensive apartment in Chelsea, his gym fees, the party-going circuit, and his love of surfing. Deeply in debt, Thomas wanted a much larger allowance to continue living in the style he had become accustomed to.

     But there was a problem. Thomas and his father didn't get along. His father thought he was lazy and stupid and junior considered his father stingy and mean. Moreover, in September 2014, the family's 17th century mansion on eastern Long Island's East Hampton community burned down. Thomas Jr., an obsessive-compulsive sufferer who didn't always stay on his medication, surfaced quickly as the prime suspect in the arson. (No charges have been filed in the case.) That fire did not endear Mr. Gilbert to his son.

     A little after three in the afternoon on Sunday January 5, 2015, Thomas Jr. showed up at his parents' apartment to discuss his allowance with his father. Thomas Sr. had informed his son that he had decided to cut his weekly spending budget from $600 to $400.

     Upon his arrival at the apartment, the younger Mr. Gilbert sent his mother out of the building to buy him a sandwich. Shortly after she left the premises, the son, while confronting his father in the master bedroom, shot him once in the head with a handgun. In an inept attempt to make the shooting look like a suicide, Thomas laid the murder weapon on his father's chest and positioned the dead man's left hand over it.

     After the shooting, Thomas fled the apartment. When his mother returned with the sandwich, she discovered her husband's corpse and called 911.

     At ten-forty-five on the night of Mr. Gilbert's sudden and violent death, New York City detectives showed up at his son's apartment with an arrest and a search warrant. In the Chelsea dwelling officers found loose bullets and a shell casing that matched the caliber of the murder weapon.

     On Monday January 6, 2015, at his arraignment, the judge informed Thomas Gilbert Jr. that he had been charged with second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon. After the judge denied the suspect bail, officers returned him to Riker's Island, the city's massive jail.

    On February 5, 2014, corrections officers took Gilbert Jr. out of his Rikers Island jail cell and escorted him to a Lower Manhattan courtroom. At the pre-trial hearing before Judge Melissa Jackson, the suspect pleaded not guilty. The defendant was represented by attorneys from the high-profile defense firm of Brafman & Associates.

     According to his attorneys, Thomas Gilbert Jr. had a long history of violent and erratic behavior. On the ground their client was insane, the defense petitioned the court to render Gilbert mentally unfit to stand trial. At the same time, the defense lawyers asserted that their client was innocent of the crime.

     As of November 2018, Thomas Gilbert Jr. has not been brought to trial.