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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Kaylene Bowen-Wright Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy Case: Putting A Child Through Hell

Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

     In 1977, a pediatrician from England published the results of an investigation he had conducted into the cases of 81 infants whose deaths had been classified as either Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or natural death. The study, by Dr. Roy Meadow of St. James University Hospital in Leeds, covered a period of 18 years. His article, "Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy: The Hinterlands of Child Abuse," which appeared in the journal Lancet, was shocking in its implications. Dr. Meadow claimed that these 81 babies had, in fact, been murdered, and that the forensic pathologists who had performed the autopsies had ignored obvious signs of physical abuse in the form of broken bones, scars, objects lodged in air passages, and toxic substances in their blood and urine. He came close to accusing some of these pathologists of helping parents, mostly mothers, of getting away with murder.

     The Munchausen Syndrome, a psychological disorder identified in 1951 by Richard Asher, described patients who injured themselves, or made themselves sick, to attract sympathy and attention. Asher named the syndrome after Baron von Munchausen, a man known for telling tall tales. Dr. Meadow added "by proxy" because the people gaining sympathy were not hurting themselves. They were getting sympathy and attention by injuring and sickening their infants and children.

     In his landmark article in Lancet, Dr. Meadow profiled some of the pediatric cases that had puzzled him in the early 1970s. For example, he was treating a young boy who had extremely high salt levels in his blood that adversely affected his kidneys. Because there was no way the boy could have eaten this much salt, Dr. Meadow came to suspect that the mother, a nurse, was force-feeding salt into the child through a nasal tube. When Dr. Meadow voiced his hypothesis to his colleagues at the hospital, they ridiculed him. In this case, however, the boy's mother confessed to exactly what Dr. Meadow had suspected. Her intent had not been to kill her child, but to use him as a way to make herself a center of attraction at the hospital, an environment she found exciting and romantic.

     After the publication of Mr. Meadow's shocking article, physicians all over the west sent him accounts of cases similar to the ones he had described in his Lancet piece. Even Dr. Meadow was shocked by some of the stories--cases that involved punctured eardrums, and induced blindness, as well as inflicted respiratory problems, stomach ailments, and allergy attacks. Years later, Dr. Meadow would design a controversial experiment involving hidden cameras in hospital rooms where suspected Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy victims were being treated. Of the 39 children under surveillance, the cameras caught 33 parents creating breathing problems by putting their hands, bodies or pillows over the victim's faces. Staff members monitoring nearby television screens quickly entered the hospital rooms, causing the abusers to discontinue their assaults.

     In the years that followed Dr. Meadow's initial research into these child abuse and infant death cases, he came to believe that the mast majority of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy perpetrators were women, and that one-third of them were either nurses or women who worked in some other capacity in the health care industry. His research also suggested that many of these mothers were married to men who were cold and indifferent, and that at least part of the motive behind making their children ill was an attempt to emotionally energize their spouses. According to Dr. Meadow, many Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy women also enjoyed the attention and sympathy they received from physicians and nurses.

 Kaylene Bowen-Wright

     In 2008, Ryan Crawford and Kaylene Bowen-Wright decided to have a baby together even though they were not in a romantic relationship or even lived under the same roof. Kaylene, a resident of Dallas, Texas, had two children from another man.

     Shortly after Christopher Bowen's birth, Kaylene claimed the infant, because he had been premature, couldn't digest milk. This was untrue, and marked the start of an eight-year litany of false illnesses attributed to the boy by a sociopathic, attention-seeking Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy mother who, to feed her own personality disorder, tortured her son and put his life at risk.

     Kaylene Bowen-Wright, over the years somehow managed to convince hospital staffs and doctors that Christopher suffered from muscular dystrophy, cancer, heart problems, and seizures that resulted in unnecessary medical procedures, radiation treatments, and medicine. All of this unnecessary medical attention and exposure to hospitals led to serious infections in the young patient. There were also horrible side effects from the medication that included blood clots. (I find it hard to believe that this mother did not induce symptoms in her son by intentionally making him sick.)

     Early on in Christopher Bowen's ongoing nightmare, his father, Ryan Crawford, although he didn't know why, suspected that the boy's mother was fabricating the boy's medical problems. He tried to intercede on his son's behalf, but the boy's mother did everything she could to keep him out of their lives. In 2011, when the boy was three, his father went to court to gain custody of Christopher. The judge not only denied him custody, he prohibited the father from visiting his son.

     Kaylene Bowen-Wright received the attention and sympathy she craved through her Facebook postings that claimed her son was dying of cancer and would not live to see the age of five. She also started several GoFundMe campaigns, and took advantage of the Make-A-Wish foundation. At this point in the child's ordeal, he was being fed through a tube and was confined to a wheelchair.

     In 2014, Ryan Crawford came across an article about Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy and suddenly understood what Kaylene Bowen-Wright was doing to their son. He began reaching out to the authorities in an effort to save his son before she killed him.

     Between 2009 and 2015, Kaylene Bowen-Wright took Christopher to 323 medical facilities in Dallas and Houston. The boy underwent thirteen major surgeries for his nonexistent illnesses. It was a miracle he survived all of this medical treatment at the hands of clueless physicians and surgeons.

     Finally, in 2015, the staff at a Dallas hospital suspected that Christopher Bowen was the victim of child abuse. Someone from the hospital notified a child services agency. The investigation that followed led to Kaylene Bowen-Wright's arrest in November 2017 for the prolonged abuse of her son. The authorities took custody of Christopher Bowen and Kaylene's two other children.

     In August 2019, Kaylene Bowen-Wright pleaded guilty to causing serious bodily injury to her son by subjecting him to unnecessary medical treatment, medication and surgery. She faced a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison.

     On October 1, 2019, Dallas County Judge Ernest White, after hearing testimony from Christopher Bowen's father, medical personnel, and a Munchasusen Syndrome by Proxy expert, sentenced 36-year-old Kaylene Bowen-Wright to six years in prison.

     Six years in prison for what this woman did to her son during his young life is beyond outrageous. Twenty years behind bars would have been a lenient sentence. No thanks to this child's mother, he could have died from her insatiable need for attention. As it turned out, the boy has recovered from his ordeal and is healthy. However, the psychological effects from his mother's prolonged abuse might haunt him for the rest of his life.

The Law Is Not Blind

I say the law should be blind to race, gender, and sexual orientation, just as it claims to be blind to wealth and power. There should be no protected groups of any kind, except for children, the severely disabled, and the elderly whose physical frailty demands society's care.

Camille Paglia, Author, Social Critic 

Florence King On Solitary Confinement

If you ever meet someone who cannot understand why solitary confinement is considered punishment, you have met a misanthrope.

Florence King (1936-2016) Novelist, Essayist 

Knives Versus Guns

I am not anti-gun. I'm pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife. In the first place, you have to catch up with someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We'd turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don't ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives.

Molly Ivins (1944-2007) Columnist 

Writing Is More Than Thinking

Many novice writers, students in particular, think that writing is little more than copying down their self-talk, the palaver of the voices they hear in their heads. Of course, self-talking is thinking, and writing begins with thinking.

Richard Rhodes, Author

Are Some Novelists Nuts?

Early in his career, John Cheever put on his business suit, then went from his apartment to a room in the basement where he hung his suit on a hanger and wrote in his underwear. Victor Hugo's servant took away his clothes for the duration of the author's writing day. James Whitcomb Riley had a friend lock him in a hotel room without clothes so that he couldn't go out for a drink until he had finished writing. [How do you lock someone in a hotel room?] Jessamyn West wrote in bed without getting dressed for what she thought were two compelling reasons: "One, you have on your nightgown or pajamas and can't go running to the door at the knock of strangers. Also, once you're up and dressed, you see ten thousand things that need doing."

Ralph Keyes, The Courage to Write, 1995

Your Favorite Author

There are writers you admire, for the skill or the art, for the inventiveness or for the professionalism of a career well spent. And there are writers--sometimes the same ones, sometimes not--to whom you are powerfully attracted, for reasons that may or may not have to do with literary values. They speak to you, or speak for you, sometimes with a voice that could almost be your own. Often there is one writer in particular who awakens you, who is the teacher they say you will meet when you are ready for the lesson.

James D. Houston in The Writer's Life (1997) edited by Carol Edgarian and Tom Jenks

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Heath Bumpous: The Bungling Love Bandit

      Heath Bumpous had a problem. The 30-year-old resident of Crockett, Texas, a town 120 miles north of Houston, was getting married, but didn't have enough money to pay for the wedding venue or a ring for his fiancee.

     On Friday, October 4, 2019, the day before the wedding, Heath Bumpous decided to raise some money by robbing a bank. Why not? John Dillinger had done it, Willie Sutton had done it, and now Heath Bumpous would do it. How hard was it to rob a bank? (Someone should have told Mr. Bumpous that robbing the bank was the easy part, not getting caught was another matter.)

     Heath Bumpous decided to rob the Citizens State Bank in nearby Groveton, Texas. When John Dillinger and Willie Sutton robbed a bank, they approached the place in a stolen car with a get-away driver behind the wheel. Mr. Bumpous didn't have an accomplice, and he drove to the bank in his own car. Moreover, he didn't bother to conceal his identify with a ski-mask or even a fake mustache. Heath Bumpous was keeping it simple.

     At the service counter, Mr. Bumpous didn't make a dramatic statement like "This is a stickup!" He simply told the teller he had a gun and wanted the money in cash. (Did he think they'd give him a check?)

     Before casually walking out of the bank with the undisclosed amount of money, the bank surveillance camera captured a good likeness of the robber.

     Because the sheriff's office was just 500 feet from the Citizens State Bank, it didn't take police officers very long to respond to the scene where they looked at the banks's surveillance camera footage.

     Shortly after the holdup, a picture of the robber showed up on Facebook. The future Mrs. Bumpous just happened to be checking her Facebook page when she saw the bank surveillance photograph of her fiancee. It's hard to imagine what went through her mind when she saw the man she was about to marry robbing a bank.

     Heath Bumpous' fiancee contacted him by cellphone, and what followed must have been one of the strangest pre-wedding bride/groom conversations in history. Two hours after his fiancee solved the bank robbery case, Heath Bumpous surrendered to the authorities. (She was not, obviously, Bonnie to his Clyde.)

     Instead of a festive wedding and a nice ring, the would-be bride ended up with a fiancee behind bars, a guy who will go down in crime history as the Bungling Love Bandit. In place of an album full of wedding pictures, she got a bank surveillance photograph and a mugshot.

     Sometimes things don't go as planned.
     

Graphology: Junk Science

     Graphologists claim to be able to identify criminal traits through handwriting analysis. For example, graphologists tell us that people who write cursive with a backward-looking stroke--called the "Felon's Claw"--harbor feelings of guilt for things they have done. These handwriting analysts claim that 75 percent of the felons incarcerated in our prisons write this way.

     Another handwriting tell--the so-called "Upside-Down Oval" (when letters such as "o" are drawn clockwise rather than counter-clockwise)--reveals that the writer is a thief. According to graphologists, studies show that a vast majority of convicted embezzlers write this way.

     Graphology is not a forensic science recognized by the courts. Graphologists, therefore, cannot testify as expert witnesses. That is a good thing.

The Relationship Between Mental Illness And Violent Behavior

It is possible to argue that some people are violent and mentally ill, but it is no longer defensible to argue that people are violent because they are mentally ill.

Richard Rhodes, Why They Kill

The Imbalance Of Power Between The Prosecutor And The Prosecuted

 Even a competent lawyer may not be able to mount an adequate defense against the state, with all its resources, if he has next to nothing for investigation and works for starvation wages.

Anthony Lewis (1927-2013) legal journalist  

Forensic Ballistics In The John F. Kennedy Assassination

I'm not an expert or trained [in forensic ballistics]. But it is a subject I've studied intently for 50 years, so I may know a thing or two. In my opinion, the JFK investigation was poorly handled.

Stephen Hunter, Novelist

The Slow Death of the Mainstream Novel

     In our time, the only type of fiction that shows definite signs of fading from our culture is the traditional, unclassifiable story variously identified as literary, academic, and mainstream. If your writing cannot conveniently be defined as suspense, romance, western, or science fiction, your chances of publishing under a major imprint are about as likely as being struck by lightening while being kidnapped by terrorists on your way to claim your million-dollar lottery check.

     As with all trends, this one is governed by the laws of commerce. General fiction is a hard sell.

Loren D. Estleman, Writing the Popular Novel, 2004
      

Discussing Journalistic Works-in-Progress

I find it helps a lot to talk to friends or editors immediately after I return from a reporting trip. It puts me in a storytelling mode. Even though I'm less preoccupied with producing a seamless narrative than I used to be, I do feel that narrative energy is crucial to distinguishing a story from a research report. When you are telling a story to a live human being [as apposed to a reader] you get a sense, immediately, of what people respond to. It gets you outside of your own head. And often people ask questions that I haven't thought of--questions that force me to look at the reporting in a new way.

Ron Rosenbaum, in Robert S. Boynton's The New Journalism, 2005 [Most writers of fiction do not discuss works-in-progress.] 

Monday, October 14, 2019

An Eye For An Eye: The New England Pentecostal Ministries Murder And Shooting Cases

     On Tuesday, October 1, 2019, Luis Garcia, the 60-year-old minister at the New England Pentecostal Ministries Church in Pelham, New Hampshire, a town of 13,000 near the Massachusetts state line, was helping a member of his congregation paint his house in nearby Londonderry, New Hampshire. The owner of the house, 60-year-old Mark Castiglione, was getting married to Claire McMullen on Saturday, October 12, 2019. The ceremony was scheduled to take place at the Pelham Pentecostal Church with Minister Garcia presiding.

     Minister Garcia had been trying to help Mark Castiglione's troubled 24-year-old son, Brandon. A resident of Manchester, New Hampshire, Brandon Castiglione had grown up in Londonderry. Since he turned 18 in 2012, Brandon Castiglione had been arrested on dozens of occasions, and had been convicted seven times for drug related offenses.

     At two in the afternoon of Tuesday, October 1, 2019, Mark Castiglione's son Brandon Castiglione came to the house in Londonderry and shot Minister Garcia in the neck with a handgun. (The authorities have not released details of the shooting.) When Londonderry police officers entered the Castiglione house, they found Minister Garcia dead.  Officers at the scene took Brandon Castiglione into custody.

     The following day, at his arraignment, Brandon Castiglione was charged with second-degree murder. The magistrate denied him bail.

     Minister Garcia's funeral service was scheduled for noon on Saturday, October 12, 2019. That morning, Mark Castiglione, the man whose son was in jail for shooting Minister Garcia to death, was getting married in Pelham's New England Pentecostal Church. The ministries' 75-year-old bishop, Stanley Choate, would preside over the wedding ceremony in place of his dead colleague.

     At this point it would be hard to imagine this story becoming more bizarre. But it did.

     In the midst of the Castiglione/ McMullen wedding ceremony that preceded Lous Garcia's funeral service, Garcia's 37-year-old stepson entered the Pelham Pentecostal Church with a handgun and started shooting. Mark Castiglione was struck in the head with an unidentified object, his bride was shot in the arm, and Bishop Stanley Choate took a bullet in the chest.

     Several of the forty wedding guests charged the shooter, tackled him, and pinned him to the floor. Pelham police officers arrived at the church and took Dale Holloway into custody. Bishop Choate was rushed to the Tufts Medical Center in Boston where he was listed in serious condition but expected to survive his gunshot wound.

     The Hillsborough County District Attorney charged Dale Holloway with two counts of first-degree assault.

Criminologist Marvin E. Wolfgang (1924-1998)

In Marvin E. Wolfgang's 1958 classic text, Patterns in Homicide, the criminologist, after studying 600 murder cases in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, concluded that the vast majority of criminal homicides in the city involved people of low socio-economic status. He found that residents of these neighborhoods were murdered over trivial conflicts and insults, and that in 25 percent of the cases, the person who initiated the conflict ended up dead.

Police Identification Requests

Asking questions is an essential part of police investigation. In the ordinary sense, a police officer is free to ask a person for identification without implicating the Fourth Amendment [right of privacy].

Anthony Kennedy, U.S. Supreme Court Justice

The Warren Commision

In my opinion, the Warren Commission's investigation [into the 1963 John F. Kennedy Assassination] has to be considered the most comprehensive investigation of a crime in history.

Vincent Bugliosi, Parkland, 2008 

Horror Fiction Since the 1980s

New technology brought new possibilities for horror film makers of the 1980s. Soon the emphasis shifted to gore for gore's sake, and the film genre fell out of favor with mainstream audiences. But the horror novel was enjoying an excellent reputation for quality writing, despite the growth in formulaic shocker stories. In 1981, Thomas Harris published the first novel in his Hannibal Lecter series. This novel remains one of the most commercially successful portraits of a serial killer, and it heralded the start of the serial-killer craze of the ensuing decades…In recent years, the archetypes of vampires, werewolves, and zombies have come to dominate the horror genre.

Kristin Masters, blog.bookstellingyouwhy.com, October 24, 2013 

The Problem With Young Writers

     Though everybody is talented and original, often it does not break through for a long time. People are too scared, too self-conscious, too proud, too shy. They have been taught too many things about construction, plot, unity, mass and coherence….

     Another trouble with writers in the first twenty years is an anxiety to be effective, to impress people. They write pretentiously. It is so hard not to do this. That was my trouble.

     For many years it puzzled me why so many things I wrote were pretentious, high-sounding, and in consequence utterly dull and uninteresting. It was a regular horror to read them again. Of course they did not sell either, not one of them.

Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write, originally published in 1938 

Stephen King on Creating Fear

How many things are we afraid of? We're afraid to turn off the lights when our hands are wet. We're afraid to stick a knife into the toaster to get the stuck English muffin without unplugging it first. We're afraid of what the doctor may tell us when the physical exam is over; when the airplane suddenly takes a great unearthly lurch in midair. We're afraid that the oil may run out, that the good air will run out, the good water, the good life. When the daughter promised to be in by eleven and it's now quarter past twelve and sleet is spatting against the window like dry sand, we sit and pretend to watch Johnny Carson and look occasionally at the mute telephone and we feel the emotion...that makes a stealthy ruin of the thinking process.

Stephen King, Secret Windows: Essays and Fiction on the Craft of Writing, 2000

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Is A Fatal Fire Intentionally Set By A 9-Year-Old A Criminal Act?

     At fifteen minutes after eleven on the night of April 6, 2019, firefighters responded to a mobile home fully engulfed in flames at the Timberline Mobile Home Park near Goodfield, a small town in central Illinois. Five occupants of the dwelling, three children and two adults, were killed by smoke inhalation.

     Katrina Atwood resided in the mobile home with her three children, ages 1, 2, and 9, her fiancee, her 2-year-old niece, and her 69-year-old grandmother. The 28-year-old managed to escape the burning dwelling with her 9-year-old son.

     Fire scene investigators determined that the fire had been intentionally set. As a result of that determination, the Woodford County Coroner's Office ruled the five deaths homicide.

     On October 8, 2019, Greg Minger, the Woodford County State's Attorney, charged Katrina Atwood's 9-year-old son with five counts of first-degree murder for intentionally starting the fatal mobile home fire. The prosecutor did not reveal why the boy had set the fire.

     Not everyone thought bringing criminal charges against the youngster was appropriate. Betsy Clark, the president of Juvenile Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization based in Evanston, Illinois, told reporters that she thought the charges against the boy were "completely out of line given everything we have learned about the brain development of children."

     In most states, children under the age of 14 are presumed incapable of forming criminal intent. In the Goodfield arson-murder case, before the fire setter can be found guilty of first-degree murder, the prosecutor will have to prove the boy intended to kill the occupants of the house. Without a murder confession, this will be difficult.

     If found culpable as a juvenile murderer, the most the 9-year-old can receive by way of punishment is five years of probation. Under Illinois law, children under 10 cannot be incarcerated.

     On October 11, 2019, the boy's mother, Katrina Atwood, told reporters that her son had been diagnosed with a form of schizophrenia, ADHD, and bipolar disorder. "He made a mistake," she said. "He's a child. Everyone is looking at him like he's some kind of monster. Yes, it's a horrible tragedy, but it's still not something to throw his life away."

The Ideal FBI

We [the FBI] are a fact-gathering organization. We don't clear anybody. We don't condemn anybody. [If this were only true.]

J. Edgar Hoover, FBI Director 1924-1972

Two Words TV's Talking Heads Never Say

The two words you never hear on cable news are "many" and "affect." TV people say "multiple," and "impacted." I guess they think these words make them sound smart. Good luck with that.

As Real Journalism Dies On The Vine, Celebrity Journalism Flourishes

I get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the celebrity culture in America. My background is as a news journalist, and newsrooms in the U.S. are shrinking--investigative teams are being terminated or shrunk on newspapers all around the country. The one aspect that's expanded is coverage of the celebrity culture.

Carl Hiaasen, Novelist

Mystery Novels Tell A Story

Crime novels have a clear beginning, middle, and end; a mystery, its investigation, and its resolution. The reader expects events to play out logically and efficiently, and these expectations force the writer to spend a good deal of time working on macrostructure rather than prettifying individual sentences.

Jesse Kellerman

Isaac Asimov on Writing Science Fiction

I can write nonfiction science without thinking because it requires no thought. I already know it. Science fiction, however, is far more delicate a job and requires the deeper and most prolonged thought.

Isaac Asimov, I Asimov, 1996 

English Majors Can't Write About Science, and Science Majors Can't Write.

     Take a class of writing students in a liberal arts college and assign them to write about some aspect of science, and a pitiful moan will go around the room. "No! Not science!" the moan says. The students have a common affliction: fear of science. They were told at an early age by a chemistry or a physics teacher that they don't have "a head for science."

     Take an adult chemist or physicist or engineer and ask him or her to write a report, and you'll see something close to panic. "No! Don't make us write!" they say. They also have a common affliction: fear of writing. They were told at an early age by an English teacher that they don't have "a gift or words."

William Zinsser, On Writing Well, originally published in 1976  

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Congress' New "Prison Reform Law" Put Violent Criminals Back On The Street

     Congress is an institution made up of pathological liars. If there are still a few members of the public who think otherwise, perhaps the political lies that went into selling Congress' new "prison reform law" will change the minds of those who believed in Congressional integrity.

     In December 2018, Congress passed, and the President signed, the First Step Act into law. First Step stands for: The Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act. (Who comes up with this stuff?)  According to the bill's sponsors, the goal of the First Step Act is to give deserving (italics mine) prisoners the opportunity to get a shortened sentence in return for "positive" behavior and job training. The federal statute also provides judges ways to override mandatory sentences.

     The political hacks who appeared on national television to sell the proposed law assured viewers that the only candidates eligible for early release were inmates convicted of nonviolent offenses, prisoners incarcerated for crimes like theft, check forgery, bank embezzlement, stock fraud, minor drug offenses, and insider trading.

     In less than a year following the passage of the First Step Act, 6,000 federal prisoners were released early. Contrary to what the politicians had promised, a large number of inmates who had been convicted of criminal homicide, major drug trafficking, aggravated assault, and sexual offenses were let out of prison with the others. Once again, members of Congress were caught lying through their teeth.

     In 2005, a big time cocaine dealer from Providence, Rhode Island named Joel Francisco was convicted and sentenced to federal prison for life. The onetime leader of the violent street gang Latin Kings, had two previous convictions in state courts which qualified him for the mandatory life sentence.

     In February 2019, a few weeks after his attorney petitioned a federal judge for early release under the First Step Act, Joel Francisco was back on the street.

     In July 2019, while on federal probation, Francisco did what most violent ex-convicts do, he went back to a life of crime. In Providence, Francisco tried to break into his ex-girlfriend's house. Not long after that, he was charged with breaking and entering into a dwelling in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Although he had violated the terms of his federal probation, and should have been returned to prison, the federal authorities looked the other way.

     On October 2, 2019, Joel Francisco stabbed 46-year-old Troy Pine at the Narra hookah lounge in Providence. (A hookah lounge is a commercial establishment where people gather to smoke flavored tobacco from large, glass bowl communal pipes with many stems.) Following a brief altercation with Mr. Pine, a man Francisco didn't know, he pulled a knife and stabbed him. The victim died later that night at a nearby hospital.

     As of October 12, 2019, Francisco, charged with criminal homicide, was still at large. Had it not been for the First Step Act and all the political lying behind it, Troy Pine would be alive today.

Thornton P. Knowles On Political Delusion

Any politician who truly believes that he or she is needed by the country is by definition mentally ill and unfit for public office.

Thornton P. Knowles

James Franco's Crime Spree

I got arrested for graffiti. I got arrested for--a lot of, like, underage drinking, drunk in public, shoplifting, you know, your various, like, suburban arrests, I guess.

James Franco, actor 

The I-Was-A-Victim-Too Defense

You cannot continue to victimize someone else because you yourself were a victim once--there has to be a limit.

Edward Said (1935-2003), Professor, Columbia University

Editing Jacqueline Susann

     [There was a time when editors like Maxwell Perkins of Scribner's and Sons played a hands-on role in getting a book ready for publication. Those days are long gone. In the 1960s, editor Don Preston had the almost impossible job of getting a glitzy, gossipy novel by an amateurish writer named Jacqueline Susann into publishable form. The manuscript, entitled Valley of the Dolls, became a national bestseller thanks in large part to Don Preston's editorial skills. This is Preston's evaluation of Susann's manuscript]:

     "...she is a painfully dull, inept, clumsy, undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish writer whose every sentence, paragraph and scene cries for the hand of a pro. She wastes endless pages on utter trivia, writes wide-eyed romantic scenes that would not make the back pages of True Confessions, hauls out every terrible show biz cliche...lets every good scene fall apart in endless talk and allows her book to ramble aimlessly....I really don't think there is a page of this manuscript that can stand in present form. And after it is done, we will be left with a faster, slicker, more readable mediocrity." [Ouch.]

Don Preston as cited in Barbara Seaman's Lovely Me: The Life of Jacqueline Susann, 1987

Writing Well is an Acquired Craft

     For some reason everyone thinks, "I should know how to write." No one thinks, "I should know how to play the piano." But when it comes to writing, "I should know how to do it."

     What if I told you a story about a man who buys a piano, sits down to play for the very first time and is shocked when he doesn't sound like Arthur Rubinstein?

     "I don't understand," he complains. "I've listened to lots of music, I should know how to play the piano."

     Ridiculous, you say? Yet there you are. You're mortified when your work isn't as good as Ernest Hemingway's.

Joel Saltzman, If You Can Talk, You Can Write, 1993 

First Novel Expectations

     I wrote my first novel when I was nineteen. It was bad, the kind of mystery they call "cozy" these days, but with added pretensions to high literary values. I had never taken a creative writing class and knew nothing of plot, character, or pace except for what I had gleaned from my random reading habits. It took me about a year to finish it, and the moment it was done I set about mailing it out to whatever big, famous publishers seemed most likely to back a dump truck full of money up to my parents' front door. It was, I figured, no more than I deserved.

     No one bought it. No one so much as nibbled. I'd be astonished to learn that anyone read more than a few pages of the thing before mailing out the obligatory polite rejection. Over the years I accumulated quite a stack of polite rejections.

A. J. Hartley in How I Got Published, edited by Ray White and Duane Lindsay, 2007 

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Brian Steven Smith Memory Card Murder Case

     On Monday, September 30, 2019, a woman in Anchorage, Alaska called the police about a digital camera memory card she had found on a busy street in the Fairbanks neighborhood. The caller said the memory card was labeled "Homicide at Midtown Marriott."

     Following a cursory police review of the memory card's 39 photographs and 12 videos of a man beating, raping, and murdering a women in a hotel room, a police administrator turned the case over to Anchorage Police homicide investigators. The images had been shot over a three-day period from September 4 though September 6, 2019.

     The video and photographic diary of the torture, rape, and murder of what appeared to be an Alaskan Native woman with long, dark hair, took place in one of the Marriott Hotel's TownePlace Suites.

     A man with an accent that sounded British, over the three-day span, punched, stomped and strangled the naked woman. He can be heard laughing and telling her to die. In one of the final photographs taken in the early morning hours of September 6, the rape and murder victim's body can be seen beneath a blanket on a hotel luggage cart near the bed of a pickup truck.

     The last photograph, taken on September 6, showed the dead woman lying face down in the bed of a 1999 Ford Ranger pickup. The photograph also captured a partial view of the vehicle's rear license plate.

     Homicide detectives determined that the pickup in the photographs was registered to 48-year-old Brian Steven Smith, an immigrant from South Africa. Smith resided with his wife on a quiet cul-de-sac in Anchorage.

     On Wednesday, October 2, 2019, police officers were called to a spot off the Seward Highway just south of Anchorage. A passerby had discovered, just off the road, the remains of a woman with long, dark hair. Homicide detectives believed this woman was the murder victim seen on Brian Smith's photographs and videos.

     Detectives, on Monday, October 7, 2019, acquired a warrant to arrest Brian Steven Smith along with a warrant to search his cellphone records, his house, and his pickup truck. That morning, officers with the Anchorage Police Department showed up at Smith's house armed with the warrants. When no one answered the door, officers gained entry by using a battering ram to knock the door off its hinges.

     When the searchers left Brian Smith's house, they left with computers and other evidence from the dwelling as well as his 1999 Ford Ranger pickup, the vehicle believed to have been used to transport the murder victim to the Seward Highway dump site.

     A search of Brian Smith's cellphone activity placed him, on September 6, 2019, in the area where the murder victim's body had been found.

     On October 8, 2019, at three-thirty in the afternoon, Anchorage police officers took Brian Smith into custody soon after he stepped off a plane at the Ted Stevens International Airport. Officers booked the suspect into the Anchorage Jail on the charge of first-degree murder.

     At Brian Steven Smith's arraignment, the district court judge set his bail at $750,000 and appointed him an attorney from the public defender's office. Smith, at this time, did not enter a plea.

     On the possibility that Smith was a serial killer, homicide investigators searched their files for unsolved murder cases involving women whose bodies had been dumped in remote places. Detectives were also trying to identify the body found along the Seward Highway, and tie it to the woman who had been murdered at the Marriott Hotel.

     Detectives on the case would have to wait awhile for the medical examiner's report regarding the victim's cause of death. The fact she had been dead for about 25 days complicated the forensic pathologist's inquiry.
     

Evidence That Doesn't Reach The Jury

     In United States criminal procedure, if law enforcement personnel violate a suspect's constitutional rights in acquiring evidence, that evidence--the results, say, of an illegal arrest or search--cannot be introduced in court. This is called the "exclusionary rule."

     Evidence can also be kept from the jury if a judge deems it hearsay, irrelevant, speculative or prejudicial to the defendant.

     U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samual Alito once wrote that "Exclusion of evidence exacts a heavy toll on both the judicial system and society at large. It almost always requires courts to ignore reliable, trustworthy evidence bearing on guilt or innocence. And the bottom-line effect, in many cases, is to suppress the truth and set the criminal loose in the community without punishment."

The Alford Plea: A Legal Fiction That Makes No Sense

An Alford Plea is a guilty plea of a defendant who proclaims he is innocent of the crime, and admits that the prosecution has enough evidence to prove that he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It is entered when an accused, together with his attorney, has made the calculated decision to plead guilty because the evidence against him is so strong that it will likely lead to conviction. Typically, it results in a guilty plea of a lesser crime (i.e. second-degree murder rather than first). Some states see the Alford Plea invoked frequently, such as Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Ohio--however, the United States Military, along with Indiana and New Jersey forbid its use entirely.

Hykel Law

The Decline Of Newspaper Circulation

In 1984, in a country of 235 million, U.S. daily newspaper circulation reached its peak at 63 million. Daily newspaper circulation in 2018, with a U.S. population of 350 million, dropped to 30 million. Since 2004, 1,810 newspapers have gone out of business. Today, there are only about 40,000 editors and reporters working for daily newspapers. It is an industry that is dying, and dying quickly.

Thornton P. Knowles On His Brush With The Romance Genre

I came across a romance novel in my dentist's waiting room. Leafing through it, I came upon this line: "He barely heard her, his Latin blood boiling and his loins already igniting." This sentence was so wonderfully bad, I committed it to memory.

Thornton P. Knowles

Memorable Movie Dialogue

Some movie quotes become popular because they evoke a great film, or a great scene, or a great actor. Sometimes the words of the quote become proverbial--something like, "The natives are restless," or "If you build it they will come," or "Win one for the Gipper!" They enter into the language.

William Goldman in Leopold Todd, "What Makes a Movie Quote So Quotable?" CNN, August 22, 2014 

Fake Journalism

Whether fabricating sources or inventing scene settings, four journalists made headlines by choosing fiction over fact. It was discovered in 1998 that Stephen Glass had made up nearly half of his New Republic magazine stories. The New York Times reporter Jayson Blair was fired in 2003 for fabricating quotes from people he never met…Janet Cooke, a reporter with the Washington Post had to return her Pulitzer in 1981 after admitting she had created, out of whole cloth, an eight-year-old heroin addict to write about. In 2014, USA Today reporter Jack Kelley resigned after falsely creating stories, including a piece about a drowned woman who later turned up alive.

K. C. Baker, "Under Fire," People, February 23, 2015 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Daniel Carney And The Wedding Party Sexual Assault Case

     On August 30, 2019, 28-year-old Daniel Carney of Stroudsberg, Pennsylvania and his bride-to-be (unnamed in court documents), were hosting a party in celebration of their upcoming wedding scheduled for the following day.The event took place at the Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort in Smithfield Township, Pennsylvania.

     After a day of heavy drinking during rafting and paddle boarding on the Delaware River, one of the bridesmaids, a 29-year-old woman from Oregon, became disoriented and unsteady on her feet from all the vodka. Back at the resort, Daniel Carney's future wife asked him to help the extremely intoxicated bridesmaid to her room.

     Instead of helping the incapacitated woman to her room, Carney pulled her into the men's locker room in the basement of the resort. When the bridesmaid awoke from her drunken stupor, she was in the men's shower without her bikini bottom and Daniel Carney on top of her.

     The sexual assault came to an abrupt end when the bride-to-be entered the locker room and saw her fiancee in the shower stall on top of the half-naked bridesmaid. The screaming fiancee chased Carney to the hotel parking lot where the drunken couple got into a physical altercation.

     The next day, the wedding ceremony went ahead as planned. That's right, they tied the knot. On his big day, Daniel Carney had the nerve to send his alleged sexual assault victim a text which read: "Can we be as happy as possible for the bride?" With that thought in mind, Carney asked the bridesmaid to take a morning-after pill to prevent any chance of pregnancy. "We never did it," he wrote, "but would you consider plan B to make damn certain just in case? There is almost no chance but still. Please tell me yes, I'm begging you."

     The bridesmaid had already reported the crime to the Pennsylvania State Police. That day, when questioned by a trooper, Carney, regarding his sexual encounter with the bridesmaid, said he had been extremely drunk and felt his accuser had "taken advantage of him."

     A Shawnee Inn surveillance camera video showed Danial Carney pulling the unsteady bridesmaid into the basement locker room. In the course of the sexual assault investigation, investigators listened in on a phone call between the suspect and his accuser made the day after the wedding. During that exchange, Carney admitted leading her into the locker room and getting on top of her in the shower. He apologized for that several times, but claimed they did not have penetrative sex.

     On October 3, 2019, the Monroe County District Attorney charged Daniel Carney with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with an unconscious person. Following his arraignment, Carney posted his $100,000 unsecured bail and was released. He was seen leaving the courthouse hand-in-hand with his new wife. As they say, real life is a lot stranger than fiction.

Academic Jibberish: The Nonliterary Genre

     Writing comes in many forms and styles. The most creative authors write novels. The writers of highly readable narrative nonfiction are close behind. Next comes the writers of nonfiction books followed by a handful of newspaper journalists. Most writing, however, consists of everyday exposition in the form of reports, letters, memos, and even tweets. The worst, most unreadable writing is produced by the academics. Even the best academic writing is pretentious, jargon-laced, and hard to read. At worst, it is simply jibberish.

     The following example of academic jibberish was published in a respected scholarly journal:

"Analysts of global integration have been rightly concerned with elucidating global inequalities. But increasingly interconnectivity has also created possibilities for seemingly marginal people to affect larger patterns of interrelation. By concentrating on how economic power is deployed by dominant global actors, analysts of globalizing processes have largely overlooked the ways in which quotidian acts such as consumer demand across the globe influence economic relations, however asymmetrical these relationships might be."

     It would take a team of WW II codebreakers to figure out what in the hell the writer of the above paragraph is saying. Whatever it is, it could probably be stated in one simple sentence, and would be quite banal.

     

The "Lock-'em-Up" Era

     "Wicked people exist. Nothing avails except to set them apart from innocent people." James Q. Wilson's blunt declaration in 1975 captured perfectly the hard-line anticrime mood that was to dominate the country for the next twenty years. Persistent high rates of violent crime, public hysteria over drugs, and worsening race relations fostered a "lock-'em-up attitude toward criminals. The result was a spectacular increase in the number of prisoners, from 240,593 in 1975 to 1 million by January 1996. The incarceration rate of 330 per 100,000 population was eight times higher than that of many western European countries and was rivaled only by the rates in South Africa and the former Soviet Union.

     Nothing better illustrated the "lock-'em-up attitude than the fate of Gary Fannon, sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole at age 18 for possessing 650 grams of cocaine. The draconic Michigan drug law under which he was sentenced was typical of those in many states. There was also the case of Jerry Williams the so-called "pizza thief." One of the first persons convicted under a 1994 California "three strikes and you're out" law, he was sentenced to twenty-five years to life for stealing three slices of pizza.

[We seem to be starting the twenty-first century with the "let-'m out" attitude.]

Samuel Walker, Popular Justice: A History of American Criminal Justice, Second Edition, 1998

The Difficulty of Writing True Crime

Every genre has its own peculiar demands and drawbacks. True crime has more than most. Successful true crime writers have to be self-starters. Many times a week, fledgling authors ask me how they can be crime writers. I tell them as gently as possible that the very nature of the genre requires writers who will find a way themselves. We must not only be writers--but detectives. In researching a crime, we must figure out how to elicit information that seems impossible to get. We have to ask people about pain and horror they would rather forget. We must ask detectives and prosecutors to share their investigations and their findings with us. And it isn't easy.

Ann Rule in Writing Mysteries, Sue Grafton, editor, 2002 

Researching the Regency Period

     The Regency period of British history has fascinated me for a long time. I've read Jane Austen's books many times, as well as a lot of other fiction and nonfiction about the period. When I first decided to write a novel set in London in the early 1800s, I reread several of my general sources on what life was like in the period, mostly books on the social history of England. Then I read biographies and autobiographies, starting with several about Jane Austen and then branching out into books on Lord Wellington and the Prince Regent (later George IV). I asked my friends for recommendations.

     Then I hit the library, looking for specific things, like a street map of London in 1817 and books on period slang. The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue turned out be be invaluable for dialogue. Along the way, I kept running across other fascinating things that I hadn't known to look for.

Patricia C. Wrede in Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, edited by Chuck Sambuchino, 2013 

Categories Within The Fantasy Genre

To name a few sub-fantasy genres: There's Epic Fantasy involving thick books and very long series; High Fantasy, usually very traditional and Tolkienesque; Dark Fantasy that mixes in horror or grim themes; Grimdark Fantasy employing a dystopian element in the world or plot; Steampunk, a mix of fantasy and old Victorian clockwork and steam elements; Arcanepunk, a blend of science fiction and fantasy; Historical Fantasy incorporating magic into historical fiction often mixed with the sword and sorcery sub-genre; and Urban Fantasy which blends the ideas of magic and myth with modern day worlds.

Joanna Penn, thecreativepenn.com, June 27, 2013 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

A Bad Deal: Trading Your Baby In For A Car

     In July 2019, 47-year-old Tina Marie Chavis brought a 2-year-old child (court documents do not reveal the child's gender) to the Wake Forest Baptist Health-High Point Medical Center in High Point, North Carolina, a city located in the Piedmont Triad metropolitan region of the state. Chavis, from nearby Thomasville, North Carolina, said she brought the child to the hospital because she thought the toddler was having an allergic reaction.

     A member of the hospital staff called the Thomasville police when she noticed bruises on the young patient. Questioned by detectives, Tina Chavis identified herself as the child's biological mother, then changed her story by claiming to be the adoptive mother. She could not, however, produce any adoption documents to back up this claim.

     On suspicion that the child had been abused, and perhaps abducted, a child services agency placed the toddler with another family until the matter could be sorted out.

     When detectives learned that Tina Chavis had not adopted the child, they asked her to identify the mother, and to explain exactly how she had come into possession of the toddler. Tina Chavis confessed that she had acquired the baby in 2018. The real mother, 45-year-old Alice Leann Todd, and her husband, 53-year-old Vicenio Mendoza Romero, had given her the child in return for a car. The child's parents also resided in Thomasville, North Carolina.

     On October 4, 2019, a Davidson County Grand Jury indicted Alice Leann Todd, Vicenio Mendoza Romero, and Tina Marie Chavis for the unlawful sale, surrender, or purchase of a minor. The suspects were booked into the Davidson county jail. A magistrate set their bail at $50,000 each.

Criminology: Who Needs It?

     Criminology professors don't agree on anything except this: There is no such thing as a good criminology textbook. Some texts focus too much on the criminal justice system, others criminal law, and others crime typology. Criminalists also criticize criminology texts for being too theoretical. (They are also too expensive.)

     Perhaps the problem is not the textbooks, but the subject itself. It's possible that criminology is an unnecessary discipline, a redundant mix of criminal law, political science, sociology, and abnormal psychology. Criminology was mostly taught as a topic in sociology courses until the explosion of criminal justice degree programs in the early 1970s. 

Crimes Against Women

Crimes against women are often committed by people close to them: around two-thirds of murdered women are killed by family members or intimate partners, while roughly 10 percent are killed by strangers. (For comparison's sake, about a third of male homicide victims are killed by people they don't know.)

Rachel Monroe, Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession (2019)

Killing Sherlock Holmes

Arthur Conan Doyle was naturally gratified by his success but increasingly concerned that Sherlock Homes was damaging his aspirations to be considered a serious writer. As early as November 1891, only four years after Holmes's first appearance in print, he had written to his mother revealing that he was thinking of "slaying" Holmes in the final story of the first series. "He takes my mind from better things," he explained. Mary Doyle was horrified that he should think of eliminating the source of such a handsome income and urgently advised him to reconsider.

Russell Miller, The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle, 2008 

Thoughts Of A Murder Cop

There are things in life that are best unseen. But if you are a murder cop, you have to look. You have to look closely, and again and again. Homicide investigation plays tricks with the mind, toys with the emotions, and drains the spirit. It helps to identify with the killer rather than the victim. You can't get to know or understand a dead person. Try to make acquaintances with the killer. Understand that sorry son-of-a-bitch. The system doesn't care about the victim, it's all about the killer. And that's what you should be about, knowing the killer.

From Rigor Mortis by Thornton P. Knowles


The First Creative Nonfiction Writing Course

     When I started teaching in the English Department at the University of Pittsburgh in the early 1970s, the concept of an "artful" or "literary" nonfiction was considered, to say the least, unlikely. My colleagues snickered when I proposed teaching a "creative" nonfiction course, while the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences proclaimed that nonfiction in general--forget the use of the word creative--was at its best a craft, not too different from plumbing. [Actually, it's probably just as difficult to be a good plumber as it is to be a good writer. Moreover, we have enough writers.]

     As the chairman of our department put it one day in a faculty meeting while we were debating the legitimacy of the course: "After all, gentlemen…we're interested in literature here--not writing." That remark and the subsequent debate had been precipitated by a contingent of students from the school newspaper who marched on the chairman's office and politely requested more nonfiction writing courses--"the creative kind."

     One English colleague, aghast at this prospect, carried a dozen of his favorite books to the meeting--poetry, fiction, and nonfiction--gave a belabored mini-review of each, and then, pointing a finger at the editor of the paper and pounding a fist, stated: "After you read all these books and understand what they mean, I will consider voting for a course called Creative Nonfiction. Otherwise, I don't want to be bothered."

     Luckily, most of my colleagues didn't want to be bothered fighting the school newspaper, so the course was approved--and I became one of the first people to teach creative nonfiction on a university level. This was 1973.

Lee Gutkind in Writing Creative Nonfiction, Carolyn Forche and Philip Gerard, editors, 2001 

The Journal as the Foundation of a Novel

No matter how messy or incomplete, journals are the missing links in creative life. For centuries, they've helped beginning and seasoned writers alike trigger new work and sustain inspiration. Anne Frank used hers for the basis of a book she wanted to write after the war. She mined it for details and later rewrote entries and composed scenes. Novelist Virginia Wolf invented herself as a writer in her journal. From age 17 until four days before her death [suicide] at 60, she used journals to move from family sketches to memoir to novels.

Alexandra Johnson, The Hidden Writer, 1998 

Novels Are Not All Fiction

Novelists are and always have been split between, on the one hand, a desire to claim an imaginative and representative truth for their stories, and on the other hand, a conviction that the best way to secure and guarantee that truthfulness is by a scrupulous respect for empirical fact…Novels burn facts as engines burn fuel, and the facts can come only from the novelist's own experience or acquired knowledge.

David Lodge, The Practice of Writing, 1996 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Order In The Court: Judge John Kastrenakes Lowers The Boom On An AWOL Juror

     Anyone who has observed a civil or criminal trial gavel to gavel, soon realizes that the slow, herky-jerky pace of the proceeding, and the staggering inefficient use of time, is nothing like how people go about their business in the real world. If it were otherwise, nothing would get done, and our economy would grind to a halt. It would take two hours to buy a loaf of bread.

     It also becomes clear to court-watchers that the courtroom is the domain of legal profession insiders--the judges, defense attorneys, and prosecutors. Everyone else--spectators, witnesses, and jurors--are merely tolerated guests.

     People who have been called to testify, or sit on a jury, citizens who have lives outside the courthouse, marvel at how much of their time is wasted by the courtroom insiders. The eight-hour work day does not exist within the walls of a courtroom. Trials often don't get underway until ten in the morning. Lunch breaks can last two hours, and a judge may decide to adjourn for the day at three in the afternoon.

     Judges set their own pace and time schedules, attorneys show up late, and prosecutors and defense attorneys frequently ask for delays to prepare their cases as jurors and witnesses wonder if the ordeal will ever end. On the other hand, a witness cannot show up late, or, after having traveled a great distance to testify, is often left hanging when the court is suddenly adjourned just before the witness is scheduled to take the stand on what will turn out to be five minutes of unnecessary testimony.

     As unwilling participants in these exercises of time mismanagement, jurors, people with responsibilities outside the courthouse, are also at the mercy of the legal masters of this bizarre universe. As anyone put through jury service knows, there are a lot of rules to obey, and there will be hell to pay for any juror who violates one of them. In a world of false starts and endless delays, courtroom insiders do not tolerate interruptions caused by people other than themselves.

     When a citizen enters a courtroom, the perceptive visitor experiences an atmosphere heavy with insider arrogance and privilege, a closed environment that conveys a simple message: you have entered our world and must play by our rules. You are barely welcome here, so watch your step.

Judge John Kastrenakes

     Palm Beach, Florida Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes, appointed to the bench in May 2009, ruled as the emperor of his courtroom, and apparently expected to be treated like a king outside of his courtroom. As the enforcer of rules, he did not take well to having them enforced on him.

     At 12:30 in the morning of September 18, 2009, Florida State Trooper Sandra Thompson pulled over a gray Lexus going the wrong way in the parking lot of a Florida Turnpike service plaza. Judge John Kastrenakes was behind the wheel of the vehicle.

     When the judge could not produce proof of insurance, Trooper Thompson issued Kastrenakes a $216 traffic ticket. The judge became quite irate, and argued loudly with the officer. The judge informed the trooper that he would dismiss any case she brought before him in court because he knew she was a liar. He said that if this were the type of tickets state troopers issued, he would always have doubts about these officers' credibility when they testified before him in court. Ouch.

     Assistant State Attorney Ellen Roberts accused Judge Kastrenakes of using the prestige of his judicial position to "influence and gain advantage" over the officer who gave him the ticket. After initially pleading not guilty to the violation, the judge, a few months later, reluctantly paid the fine. He offered no apologies.

The Case of The AWOL Juror

     The dust-up with the Florida State Trooper over the traffic ticket paled in comparison to Judge Kastrenakes' fury over what he considered a juror's disrespect and contempt for the sanctity of his courtroom.

     In 2019, Deandre Sommerville lived with his grandfather in Palm Beach, Florida. In addition to his part time job as a recreation specialist at a nearby park, the 21-year-old took care of his grandfather, who, because of a recent heart attack, relied on a walker and a scooter to get around. Sommerville took his grandfather shopping and to his physical therapy sessions where the two spent hours doing exercises in the rehabilitation pool. Deandre Sommerville had never been in trouble with the law.

     On August 20, 2019, Sommerville was selected as a juror in a civil negligence trial involving a car accident that occurred in Palm Beach County. The case was tried in Judge Kastrenakes' courtroom. The morning after being picked for the jury, Sommerville awoke at nine and realized he had overslept. Because he had missed his ride to the courthouse, he would be late for the trial.

     Instead of calling the bailiff to report his predicament, Sommerville decided to put in a day's work at the park. After that, he compounded his problem by simply ignoring the fact he was a member of a jury in an ongoing trial. He was young, but he should have known better. He made a mistake he would remember the rest of his life.

     Three weeks after Deandre Sommerville went AWOL from Judge Kastrenakes' courtroom, police officers showed up at his grandfather's house with a summons ordering the young man to appear at a hearing on September 20, 2019 before Judge Kastrenakes.

   When Deandre Sommerville appeared before the angry Judge, he realized he was a serious trouble. Judge Kastrenakes informed him that jury service was as important as serving in the military. Sommerville had broken his oath to serve this essential role as an American citizen. "You were," The judge said, "the only African-American on the jury."

     Judge Kastrenakes also pointed out that as a result of the fugitive juror's no-show, the trial had been delayed 45 minutes. "Your intentional, willful failure to follow the orders of the court is a serious matter," he scolded.

     For Deandre Sommerville's disregard for the sanctity of the America's jury system, Judge Kastrenakes found him guilty of direct criminal contempt. While the judge's verdict was not a surprise, his sentence was. Deandre Sommerville received a ten-day stint in the county jail, 150 hours of community service, a $223 fine, and one year of probation. He also was ordered to write Judge Kastrenakes a latter of apology. While on probation, Mr. Sommerville would have to meet once a month with a county probation officer.

     After imposing Sommerville's sentence, the judge warned him that if he didn't perform the community service as ordered, he could end up behind bars for up to six months. "I'm dead serious about this," said the judge. "Dead serious. I'm going to monitor you, make sure you adhere to all the rules and conditions of probation." (How different it would have been for this young man if he lived in California where rapists on probation cut off their ankle bracelets, sexually assault more victims, and repeatedly get away with it.)

     The public defender representing Deandre Sommerville, citing his client's lack of criminal record and his ties to the community, appealed Judge Kastrenakes' sentence as grossly excessive. On October 4, 2019, after Sommerville had served his ten-day stint the county jail, the judge reduced his probation period to three months and his community service hours to thirty. In return for the lighter penalty, Deandre Sommerville, for the duration of the current court session, had to report once a week to the jury office and give a 10-minute speech about the importance of jury duty. Each presentation would count as three hours of community service.

Execution by Rope

For centuries, disposing of criminals by hanging them was the standard method in England and indeed in many other countries, for lengths of rope were cheap and although the gallows had to be built high, those were the only overheads. In the early days all that was needed was a hurdle [A portable frame made of interlaced twigs used as a sled on which prisoners in England were drawn through the streets to execution.], a rope over a beam and a ladder; and of course, the dominating personality, the Lord of the Scaffold, with an assistant. After being dragged on the hurdle from prison to execution site, the victim climbed the ladder for the noose to be secured, and then the ladder was twisted, "turning off" the felon and leaving his feet kicking in the empty air.

Geoffrey Abbott, Lords of the Scaffold, 1991

The Master Plot

There are stories that we tell over and over in myriad forms and that connect vitally with our deepest values, wishes, and fears. Cinderella is one of them. Its variants can be found frequently in European and American cultures. Its constituent events elaborate a thread of neglect, injustice, rebirth, and reward that responds too deeply held anxieties and desires. As such, the Cinderella master plot has an enormous emotional capital that can be drawn on in constructing a narrative. But it is only one of many master plots. We seem to connect our thinking about life, and particularly our own lives, to a number of master plots that we may or may not be fully aware of. To the extent that our values and identity are linked to a master plot, that master plot can have strong rhetorical impact. We tend to give credibility to narratives that are structured by it. [True crime narratives often incorporate master plots.]

H. Porter Abbott, The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative, 2002

John Cheever on Academic Literary Criticism

The vast academic world exists like everything else, on what it can produce that will secure income. So we have papers on fiction, but they come out of what is largely an industry. In no way does it help those who write fiction or those who love to read fiction.

John Cheever in Writers at Work, Fifth Series, edited by George Plimpton, 1981 

Modern Romance Novel Sex Scenes

Years ago we followed the loving couple to the bedroom door, only to have it closed in our face. Now, not only do we go all the way with them in the bedroom, we often find that they don't wait to get there. Sex can take place almost anywhere--in a parked car, in the middle of a field, on the side of a mountain [not a good idea]--just like in real life. Nor does the heroine always have a wedding ring on her finger.

Donna Baker, Writing a Romantic Novel, 1997 

Two of B. R. Myers' Rules for "Serious" Novelists

1. Be Writerly

Read aloud what you have written. If it sounds clear and natural, strike it out.

2. Play the Part

Take yourself seriously. Practice before the mirror until you can say things like this with a straight face:

"It's because I want every little surface to shimmer and gyrate that I haven't patience for those lax transitional devices of plot, setting, character, and so on, that characterize a lot of traditional fiction."
(Mark Leyner)

B. R. Myers, A Reader's Manifesto, 2002

Monday, October 7, 2019

The J. Everett Dutschke Ricin Poison Case

     Ricin is a naturally occurring protein found in the caster oil plant. The pulp from just eight caster beans can kill an adult. As little as 500 micrograms of the poison, an amount that would fit on the head of a pin, can be fatal. Delivered through the air, injected, or swallowed, ricin is 6,000 times more toxic than cyanide. There is no antidote for this poison.

     In 1978, an assassin used ricin to kill Georgi Markov, the Bulgarian writer, dissident and defector. The killer used the tip of an umbrella to deliver the ricin as Markov waited for a bus in London. The victim died four days after being pricked by the deadly umbrella.

     Ricin was used as a warfare agent in Iraq during the 1980s. In 2004, someone sent a ricin-laced letter to U. S. Senator Bill Frists. The letter was intercepted at a mail sorting facility outside of Washington, D. C. The sender has never been identified.

     On April 16, 2013, the day after the Boston Marathon Bombings, postal workers at a mail-handling facility outside of Washington discovered a suspicious letter addressed to U. S. Senator Roger Wicker. The letter to the senator from Mississippi turned out to be laced with ricin. Dated April 8, 2013 and postmarked Memphis, Tennessee, the envelope did not include a return address.

     A second ricin letter, one addressed to President Obama, was also intercepted at an off-site D. C. area mail-handling center. Both letters were signed, "I am K. C. and I approve of this message."

     FBI agents, on April 17, 2013, arrested a 45-year-old man from Corinth, Mississippi on federal charges related to the two ricin mailings. The suspect, Paul Kevin Curtis, had used the phrase "I am K. C. and I approve of this message" on his Facebook page. Curtis had a history of mental illness and a handful of misdemeanor arrests. When he wasn't posting online political rants, Curtis worked as an impersonator of celebrities such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Bon Jovi, and Prince.

     On April 23, 2013, after searches of the suspect's home, vehicle, and computer failed to provide incriminating evidence, the charges against Curtis were dropped. A federal judge ordered his release from jail. Following his release from custody, the father of four told reporters that he had been framed by J. Everett Dutschke, a long-time personal enemy from Tupelo, Mississippi.

     According to media reports, Mr. Dutschke was awaiting trial on a child molestation charge. In 2007 he ran for a seat in the Mississippi state legislature. In that race he lost to the incumbent. FBI agents searched Dutschke's house for evidence linking him to the case.

     A third ricin letter, one that linked Paul Kevin Curtis and Everett Dutschke to the case, actually reached its intended target. The receiver of this piece of mailed poison was an 80-year-old Mississippi judge. In 2004, Judge Sadie Holland presided over an assault case that sent Curtis to jail for six months. Judge Holland was linked to Mr. Dutschke through a long-running political feud between their families.

     After opening the threatening letter, Judge Holland called the Lee County Sheriff's Office. The judge was not poisoned by the letter.

     FBI agents, on April 27, 2013, arrested Everett Dutschke in connection with the ricin poison case. In May 2014, following his guilty plea, U.S. District Court Judge Sharion Aycock in Aberdeen, Mississippi, sentenced J. Everett Dutschke  to 25 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release.

Who Do You Trust?

     An AP-GfK poll conducted [a few years ago] found that Americans are suspicious of each other in everyday encounters. Less than one-third expressed a lot of trust in clerks who swipe their credit cards, drivers on the road, or people they meet when traveling.

     What's known as "social trust" brings good things. A society where it's easier to compromise or make a deal. Where people are willing to work with those who are different from them for the common good. Where trust appears to promote economic growth.

     Distrust, on the other hand, seems to encourage corruption. At the least, it diverts energy to counting change, drawing up 100-page legal contracts and building gated communities….

     People do get a little more trusting as they age. [Perhaps that's why so many old people are victimized by swindlers.] But beginning with the baby boomers, each generation has started off adulthood less trusting that those who came before them.

     There's no single explanation for Americans' loss of trust. The best-known analysis comes from Bowling Alone, author Robert Putnam's nearly two decades of studying the United States' declining "social capital," including trust. Putnam says Americans have abandoned their bowling leagues and Elks lodges to stay home and watch TV. Less socializing and fewer community meetings makes people less trustful than the "civic generation" that came of age during the Depression and World War II.

      Crime rates fell in the 1990s and 2000s, and still Americans grow less trusting. Many social scientists blame 24-hour news coverage of distant violence for skewing people's perceptions of crime.

Connie Cass, "Poll: Americans Don't Trust Each Other," Associated Press, November 30, 2013 

The M'Naghten Case and the Birth of the Insanity Defense

     On Friday, January 20, 1843, in a shot heard around the world, Scottish woodcutter and conspiracy theorist Daniel M'Naghten fired at and killed Edward Drummond, private secretary of Sir Robert Peel. M'Naghten was under the impression that he was shooting at Sir Robert, then Prime Minister of Great Britain. He was further under the delusion that Sir Robert Peel, the founder of the first London Police force was part of a cabal, along with the Pope and the Society of Jesus, that plotted to abridge the rights of British subjects and that had deliberately set out to spy on and persecute him.

     That M'Naghten was insane there was no doubt; nine medical experts testified for the defense, and none for the prosecution. That insanity was accepted as a defense came as a surprise, and that M'Naghten was acquitted "by reason of insanity" came as a shock. [In many states the insanity defense doctrine is called The M'Naghten Rule.]

Michael Kurland, How To Try a Murder, 1997


Edmund Wilson On Detective Fiction

The reading of detective stories is simply a kind of vice that, for silliness and minor harmfulness, ranks somewhere between crossword puzzles and smoking.

Edmund Wilson (1895-1972)  The literary critic who wrote, in 1945, the famous New Yorker article, "Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?" Mr. Wilson was not an Agatha Cristie fan or a lover of genre crime fiction. He was, in that regard, a literary snob. 

Theodore Dreiser on American Literary Criticism

To sit up and criticize me for saying "vest" instead of "waistcoat"; to talk about my splitting the infinitive and using vulgar commonplaces here and there, when the tragedy of a man's life is being displayed, is silly. More, it is ridiculous. It makes me feel that American criticism is the joke that English authorities maintain it to be.

Theodore Dreiser in Theodore Dreiser, by Phillip L. Gerber, 1964 

Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Crime Victim's Plight

     In our criminal justice system, when one commits a crime, it's not against the victim of that offense, but against the state. This legal fiction is derived from English common law where all crime was against the king. The crime-against-the-state concept means that real victims of crime have no say in how or if their cases are prosecuted, or even if they are investigated. The system is completely under the control of police and prosecutors. As a result, many victims of crime are victimized twice, first by the criminal, and then by the legal system.

     The small percentage of crimes that lead to someone's arrest are usually offenses that require little or no investigation. Criminal investigators hate mysteries, and prosecutors avoid complicated, difficult cases that may not result in convictions. At least 90 percent of this country's criminal convictions are the result of plea bargains. Over the years, fewer and fewer criminal cases go to trial. As a result, very few convicted criminals end up in prison for the crimes they have actually committed. For example, criminals who commit aggravated assault plead guilty to simple assault, rapists plead to lesser sexual offenses, and murderers go to prison for voluntary manslaughter.

     Usually the victims of crime, when it comes to their criminal cases, are ignored and kept in the dark. The only time they play a role in determining the fate of the people who victimized them is when they are called to testify on behalf of the prosecution. This, of course, exposes them to grueling cross-examinations by aggressive defense attorneys. In many rape cases, it's the victim who ends up on trial.

     Among the most abused victims of crime are children who satisfy the perverted sexual urges of America's huge pedophile population. The victims of these sexual predators are thrown to the wolves by organizations like the Catholic Church and The Boy Scouts of America who are more interested in self-preservation than child protection and criminal justice. Because their victims are powerless, intimidated children, only a small percentage of pedophiles end up in prison. And when some of these degenerates are eventually identified, the passage of time makes it impossible to prosecute them.

     For people who live in cities where district attorneys no longer prosecute what they consider low-level crime, the likelihood of being harassed in the street by a homeless person begging for drug money, having one's car broken into, or losing a wallet or purse to a mugger, increases dramatically. The crime rates in these decriminalized cities has skyrocketed. In places like Seattle, Washington and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, these "progressive" prosecutors blame society for driving poor, oppressed criminals into lives of crime. In other words, the victims of crimes are not only ignored, they are blamed for their own victimhood.

     Crime victims, particularly in cases of celebrated offenses, are brutalized by the media. This is because in America, true crime sells newspapers and books, and attracts television viewers. The more horrific the crime, the more value it has as entertainment.

     In the late Twentieth Century, attempts to provide victims a larger say in the criminal justice process led to the formation of a variety of victim's rights organizations that lobbied for such reforms as victim impact statements at sentencing hearings, victim compensations funds, and notification rules that require the authorities to notify crime victims of the early release of prisoners.

     The crime victim's plight is not limited to the way our criminal justice system works. Society itself, particularly with regard to murder cases, does not fully know how to deal with, or fully understand, the profound and prolonged suffering of murder victims' families. This reality has led to the formation of victim support groups like Parents of Murdered Children, an organization with chapters across the country.

     While crime victims today have it slightly better than before, most of the attention and concern among politicians, defense attorneys, and academics, is directed at the criminal. One national politician believes that even convicted terrorists should be allowed to vote. Criminal justice reform legislation usually ends up letting more criminals out of prison. When too many Americans break our drug laws, state legislators across the country make more drugs legal. And while it's hard to believe, there are attorneys in the country who devote their entire careers to saving the lives of death row inmates who have committed unspeakable crimes. Meanwhile, the families of the victims tortured, raped and murdered by these criminal sociopaths, are ignored.

The Criminal Is Responsible For Crime

Everything in the environment has been blamed for crime. I have a file that lists everything including cholesterol, dungeons and dragons, cycles of the moon, and global warming. The psychological field has promulged this view that forces outside the individual propels them to crime. Crime resides in the mind of the person.

Dr. Stanton Samenow

The Mind of the Terrorist

Religion allows people to feel qualified in acting out their primal instincts, that is, to assault, destroy, rape, and murder others who they judge as being different and inferior to themselves.

Robert Black

A Reason To Write

I write because, if I don't, my characters will murder me in my sleep.

Astrid Gruz

The Fanatic

A martyr is someone willing to die for what he believes in. A fanatic is someone willing for you to die for what he believes.

Marsha Hinds

Stephen King on His Place in the Pantheon of Novelists

Somebody asked Somerset Maugham about his place in the pantheon of writers, and he said, "I'm in the very front row of the second rate." I'm sort of haunted by that. You do the best you can. The idea of posterity for a writer is poison.

Stephen King, 2013

Voltaire's Science Fiction Novel

When it became known that the earth was only one of a family of planets circling the sun, the question arose: was there life on other planets? Many later speculated about this. In his Micromegas (1752), the French writer Voltaire brought to earth an eight-mile-high visitor from Sirus and a slightly smaller native of Saturn. Because of their size, these beings found it hard to decide whether there was intelligent life on earth.

L. Sprague de Camp, 3000 Years of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 1972 

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Casey Anthony: The Mother From Hell Wants A Baby?

     On July 15, 2008, Cindy Anthony, the grandmother of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony, reported her missing. Cindy had not seen the little girl for 31 days. Caylee lived in her grandparents' Orlando, Florida home with her mother, 22-year-old Casey Anthony. In reporting the child missing, the grandmother said the trunk of her daughter's car smelled like it had contained a dead body. Casey Anthony, during the 31 days her daughter was missing, had been partying with friends. When confronted by the police regarding the missing child, she said her daughter had been abducted by a nanny who, as it turned out, didn't exist.

     In October 2008, the authorities charged Casey Anthony with murdering her daughter in the first degree, and promised to seek the death penalty. Two months later, the child's skeletal remains were found in the woods near the Anthony home. The little girl's nose and mouth had been covered by duct tape. The medical examiner ruled her death homicide.

     Casey Anthony went on trial for murder in May 2011. By now the case had become a media sensation with virtually all of the TV talking heads and their on-screen experts predicting a murder conviction. There hadn't been so much true crime unanimity since the O.J. Simpson trial. The expert commentators ridiculed the defense attorney's theory that the girl had drowned in the family swimming pool on June 16, 2008. Surely the jury would accept the prosecution's version of the death: the defendant had killed the child by administering chloroform, then duct-taping her nose and mouth.

     On July 5, 2011, with millions of TV views sitting on the edges of their seats, the judge announced the jury's verdict: not guilty. For the next two weeks, the talking heads discussed nothing else. How could this murderous mother walk free? What went wrong? Who blew the case. What will become of Casey Anthony?

     In January 2012, a video diary recorded the previous October by Casey Anthony, surfaced on YouTube. In speaking to her computer three months after her acquittal, she said..."things are starting to look up and things are starting to change in a good way..." Casey never mentioned Caylee in the four minute video, but talked about a dog she had adopted and loved.

     Since 2012, the story of Casey Anthony and the murder of her daughter, particularly in the world of true crime television, remained in the public eye. In 2013, a made-for-television movie about the case aired on Fox. Four years later, true crime buffs were treated to a mini-series based on Caylee Anthony's disappearance and the investigation of her murder. The series featured Casey Anthony's trial and controversial acquittal along with her parents' belief in her guilt.

     In 2017, Casey Anthony told an Associated Press reporter that she didn't plan to have any more children. "I would not be dumb enough to bring another kid into this world," she said, "knowing that some little snot-nosed kid would say something mean to my kid. I don't think I could live with that."

     Casey Anthony also said, regarding her unpopularity and the fact so many people believe she had murdered Caylee, "I don't give a shit about what anyone thinks about me, I never will. I'm OK with myself, I sleep pretty good at night."

     In May 2018, Casey Anthony's father, George, said he did not want a relationship with his daughter. As far as he was concerned, he and his wife Cindy "must have raised a bad seed."

     Casey Anthony was back in the news in June 2019 when she announced that she and Fox were working on a "risque" tell-all movie about her life after Caylee. She acknowledged her reputation as one of America's most hated mothers, and that during the 31 days her daughter was missing, she "drank and carried on like nothing happened."

     In September 2019, "sources close to Casey Anthony" told reporters that because her biological clock was ticking, the 33-year-old was thinking about having more children. According to these sources, Casey Anthony was hoping to find some meaning in her life.

     Perhaps the best one can hope for is that Casey Anthony, through these unnamed sources, put out a phony story to generate publicity for her upcoming movie.

Leonard Woolf On Serious Versus Commercial Novels

Novels by serious writers of genius often eventually become bestsellers, but most contemporary bestsellers are written by second-class writers whose psychological brew contains a touch of naivety, a touch of sentimentality, the story-telling gift, and a mysterious sympathy with the day dreams of ordinary people. [What a literary snob.]

Leonard Woolf (1880-1969), husband of Virginia Woolf

Novel Advice

If you want to be remembered as a clever person and even as a benefactor of humanity, don't write a novel, or even talk about it; instead, compile tables of compound interest, assemble weather data running back seventy-five years, or develop in tabular form improved actuarial information. All more useful than anything "creative" most people could come up with, and less likely to subject the author to neglect, if not ridicule and contempt. In addition, it will be found that most people who seek attention and regard by announcing that they're writing a novel are actually so devoid of narrative talent that they can't hold the attention of a dinner table for thirty seconds, even with a dirty joke. [Ouch.]

Paul Fussell in Jon Winokur's Advice to Writers, 1999

Read First, Write Later

Reading is the one necessary prerequisite for writing. Every published writer of books I know grew up reading….If you're a serious and dedicated reader, then, you already know part of how to write. You know the forms and conventions of writing and how others have used these forms and conventions to shape their work. (If you haven't been a reader, I'd suggest you become one fast if you want to write.) What you may not know is how to begin and continue and finish, and how to publish what you're done.

Richard Rhodes, How to Write, 1995 

Violent Crime as Entertainment

American culture as a whole has cultivated a taste for violence that seems to be insatiable. We are a people obsessed with violence, and consequently, our entertainment industry is driven by such violence. The violence of our popular culture reflected in movies, TV programs, magazines, and fact or fiction books in the latter part of the twentieth century has made the shocking realism of this violence a routine task that we all face. Our own sense of humanity is anesthetized to the point of losing consciousness. [The trend has continued into the twenty-first century. A recent study showed that movies rated R in the 1990s are much milder than their modern counterparts. Moreover, the Internet is a venue for people who enjoy the aftermath of criminal deviance and raw violence.]

Steven A. Egger, The Killers Among Us, 1998

Kleptomania

In its condemnation of kleptomania as an euphemism for the shoplifting of the well-to-do, America followed England. More attention was paid to the crime and how to stop it than to the disease and how to cure it. Founded in 1850 as a private security company [and investigative agency], the Pinkerton National Detective Agency established a division to catch shoplifters after the Civil War and most of the major department stores took advantage of it. Pinkerton detectives pursued shoplifters, while socialists, transcendentalists, and humorists lampooned kleptomaniacs as proof of democracy's failure. In his 1888 essay, "A New Crime," Mark Twain writes, "In these days, too, if a person of good family and high social standing steals anything, they call it KLEPTOMANIA, and send him to the lunatic asylum." …A lifelong advocate for free speech, suffragism, and a classless society, the anarchist Emma Goldman derided kleptomania. In a speech she gave in 1896 Pittsburgh, she denounced it as yet another strategy the wealthy enacted to steal from the poor.

Rachel Shteir, The Steal, 2011

Friday, October 4, 2019

The Pablo Martinez Child Exorcism Murder Case

     Pablo Martinez, his wife Romelia and Pablo's 6-year-old son resided in a small, one-story stucco house on the Pascua Yaqui Native American Reservation near Tucson, Arizona. The federally recognized Indian tribe operates its own criminal justice system that includes a police department, a prosecutor's office, a public defender's service, and a courthouse. Native American reservations are subject to federal law, therefore the FBI has joint law enforcement responsibility in these jurisdictions. Pablo Martinez was not a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, but his wife Romelia was.

     On Thursday afternoon, September 26, 2019, 31-year-old Pablo Martinez was supposedly giving his son a bath. The boy was a special needs student at the Lynn/Urquides Elementary School in Tucson. Mrs. Martinez, the 6-year-old's stepmother, heard loud gurgling sounds coming from the bathroom. When she tried to enter the bathroom to investigate, the door was locked. Pablo Martinez refused to let her in so she found the key and unlocked the door.

     What the boy's stepmother witnessed in that bathroom shocked her. Her husband was holding the child's head under the bathtub faucet as steaming hot water poured into his mouth. She yelled for him to stop, but the father said he couldn't, that he had to do what he was doing. At that point, Romelia Martinez called 911. (There are reports that Mrs. Martinez, before calling 911, called, but couldn't get in touch with, a local priest. Her first instinct to call the priest stemmed from the fact she believed, as did her husband, that the child was possessed by demons, and needed to be saved.)

     When members of the Pascua Yaqui Reservation fire and police departments arrived at the Martinez house, they encountered the couple waiting for them in the front yard. A first responder's question to Mrs. Martinez brought this response, "Talk to him," meaning her husband.

     Inside the dwelling, the officers found the boy tucked into his bed. One of the fire department responders propped the naked child on a pillow and tried, without result, to revive him.

     The unresponsive boy was rushed to the Banner University Medical Center in Tucson where doctors pronounced him dead. The drowned boy had burns on his forearms, elbows, and head from scalding water.

     In speaking to officers with the tribal police, Pablo Martinez admitted pouring hot water down his son's throat in an effort to cast out the child's demons. He said his son had been possessed by something evil that had caused what the father described as the boy's demonic behavior.

     In a followup interrogation by FBI agents, Pablo Martinez confessed to running hot water into his son's mouth for up to ten minutes. He thought the hot water would force the demons out of his son's body.

     On October 1, 2019, a federal prosecutor charged Pablo Martinez with first-degree murder. He was held without bail.