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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Sheriff Larry Dever: A Sudden, Violent and Unexplained Death

     In 2008, the citizens of Cochise County elected Larry A. Dever to his fourth term as Sheriff of this southeastern region of Arizona adjacent the Mexican border. (Cochise County, with a population of 132,000, shares an 83.5 mile border with Mexico. Bisbee is the county seat.) Larry Dever resided in St. David with his wife, a retired special education administrator. He had grown up in the town of 1,700, and had helped raise a family there. Three of the sheriff's six sons worked in Arizona law enforcement. Sheriff Dever began his law enforcement career in 1976 as a Cochise County deputy sheriff. In Cochise County, Sheriff Dever was well-liked and respected as a law enforcement officer and member of the community.

     Because Cochise County had experienced crime and other social problems associated with the wave of illegal immigration from Mexico, Sheriff Dever, an authority of border enforcement, had testified before Congress, and had appeared numerous times on national television.  In 2011 and 2012, Sheriff Dever spoke out as a strong proponent of Arizona's new immigration law (SB 1070), and publicly criticized the Obama administration for under-enforcing current immigration laws. Dever believed that the federal government had intentionally lost control of the U.S./Mexican border.

     On September 18, 2012, less than two months before he would have been elected to his fifth term in office, Sheriff Dever was driving alone in his 2008 Chevrolet Silverado on a graveled U.S. Forest Service Road in the north central part of the state just west of Flagstaff. He was en route to White Horse Lake to participate in a two-day hunting and camping trip with his six sons.

     On that day, at 6:30 in the evening, a motorist called 911 to report a single vehicle accident on U.S. Forest Road 109 in Coconino County two miles north of White Horse Lake. The witness said he had been following the extended-cab Silverado, but lost sight of the pickup when it rounded a curve. When the witness rounded the bend, he saw a cloud of dust, and the truck off the road sitting in an upright position. The caller told the 911 dispatcher that the man in the vehicle showed no signs of life.

     Coconino County Sheriff's detective Jerome Moran, in his six-page accident report dated September 19, 2012, wrote: "The initial investigation indicates that [the] driver was traveling southbound on the dirt road when it lost control, veering off the lefthand side of the road then rolling over and crashing into the righthand (west) side. [The] driver was pronounced dead at the scene and later removed by the county medical examiner to the M.E. Office."

     In his accident report, Detective Moran indicated that the Siverado's airbags had not deployed. The detective also noted that Sheriff Dever had not been wearing his shoulder and lap belts. The report contained no information regarding the presence of alcohol in the vehicle, or the odor of beer or liquor in the cab of the truck.

     On October 1, 2012, a spokesperson for the Coconino Sheriff's Office reported that according to the Siverado's "black box," Sheriff Dever, at the time of the accident, had been traveling 62 MPH. Moreover, there had been containers of beer and liquor in the vehicle.

     The Cochise County Sheriff's Office, on October 5, 2012, issued a statement that Sheriff Dever, at the time of his death, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.291 percent, three times the legal limit (0.08) in Arizona. (A company in Indianapolis, Indiana called AIT Laboratories, performed the toxicological urine analysis in this case.) In the prepared press release, the sheriff's office informed the public that Sheriff Dever had been under "stress and pressure" due to the recent death of his 86-year-old mother, and the upcoming deployment of one of his sons to Afghanistan.

     Three days after the shocking revelation that Sheriff Larry Dever had been extremely intoxicated behind the wheel of his vehicle, the Coconino County Medical Examiner, Dr. A. L. Mosley, announced that the sheriff had died of "multiple injuries due to a pickup truck crash." Regarding the sheriff's manner of death, Dr. Mosley classified it as "accidental."

     A review of Dr. Mosley's six-page autopsy report revealed that Sheriff Dever had a dislocated shoulder, a rib fracture, a puncture lung, and abrasions, contusions, and lacerations on his face, hand, arm, and neck. There was no indication in the report of severe bleeding, or major trauma to Dever's head, neck or torso. In summarizing Sheriff Dever's cause and manner of death, Dr. Mosley, in my view, was quite vague: "Based on the autopsy findings and investigative history, as available to me, it is my opinion that Larry Albert Dever, a 60-year-old Caucasian male, died as a result of multiple injuries due to a pickup truck crash. [His] manner of death is accidental." (From this I presume that Dr. Mosley was not the pathologist who actually performed the autopsy.)

     "Multiple injuries?" Did Sheriff Dever die of a dislocated shoulder, a rib fracture, or a punctured lung? Surely the sheriff didn't die from his cuts, scrapes and bruises. He didn't bleed to death, or sustain brain damage, and he suffered no injury to his heart. How exactly, did this man die. Exactly what had killed him?

     On October 10, 2012, a freelance writer named Dave Gibson wrote an online article for the Immigration Reform Examiner called, "Sheriff Larry Dever's Autopsy Results in More Questions than Answers." In his piece, Gibson wrote that a man of the sheriff's size--175 pounds--to achieve a blood-alcohol percentage of 0.291, would have, during a short period, consumed 12 beers or 12 shots of 80 proof liquor. According to a longtime friend of the sheriff's who was interviewed by Gibson, Dever was a light drinker. Gibson also pointed out that the sheriff's 4-wheel drive truck had light damage from the accident.

     It seemed odd that a law enforcement officer who had been to the sites of dozens of fatal traffic accidents involving alcohol, would be speeding on a graveled road while extremely drunk and not wearing his seatbelt. It also didn't make much sense that Dever would be driven to such recklessness over the cancer death of his 86-year-old mother. If he had been so distraught over her death, why was he going on a camping/hunting trip with his sons?

     Suicide in this case even made less sense. Had Sheriff Dever wanted to kill himself in a way that looked like a traffic accident why did he get drunk and unfasten his seatbelt?

     Every year in the United States there are hundreds of sudden, violent deaths that, for one reason or another, are mislabeled in terms of their cause and manner of death. Perhaps Sheriff Dever's death was one of these cases. In any case, I think the circumstances surrounding this prominent law enforcement officer's sudden and poorly explained death deserved a closer look. 

Writing Quote: Charles Bukowski On Being A Professional Writer

I have to drink and gamble to get away from this typewriter. Not that I don't love this old machine when it's working right. But knowing when to go to it and knowing to stay away from it, that's the trick. I really don't want to be a professional writer, I wanna write what I wanna write. Else, it's all been wasted…So did Hemingway, until he started talking about "discipline"; Pound also talked about doing one's "work".  But I've been luckier than both of them because I've worked the factories and slaughterhouses and I know that work and discipline are dirty words. I know what they meant, but for me, it has to be a different game.

Charles Bukowski in Charles Bukowski: Selected Letters 1965-1970, edited by Seamus Cooney, 2004 

The Journalistic Legacy of Watergate

     Investigative reporting has taken on every aspect of American society--from government, politics, business and finance to education, social welfare, culture and sports--and has won the lion's share of each year's journalism prizes. No matter how unpopular the news media may sometimes be, there has been, ever since Watergate, an expectation that the press would hold accountable those with power and influence over the rest of us. As Jon Marshal wrote in 2011, Watergate "shaped the way investigative reporting is perceived and practiced and how political leaders and the public respond to journalists."

     Woodward and Bernstein's techniques were hardly original. But they became central to the ethos of investigative reporting: Become an expert on your subject. Knock on doors and talk to sources in person. Protect the confidentiality of sources when necessary. Never rely on a single source. Find documents. Follow the money. Pile one hard-won detail on top of another until a pattern becomes discernible.

Leonard Downie Jr., Washington Post, June 7, 2012 

Prison Health Care: Providing the Best For The Worst

     There is something profoundly wrong with a government that provides convicted felons with better health care than it does to many sick people who haven't committed crimes against their fellow citizens. Perhaps this is what happens when a criminal justice system is organized around the idea of protecting the defendant. In Massachusetts, for example, a judge ordered the state to finance the sex change of a man who had murdered his wife. If Robert Kosilek hadn't strangled his wife to death, taxpayers would not have been forced to pay the cost of changing him into a female.

     In 2005, a judge in California, after determining that prison health in that state was unconstitutionally substandard, granted a so-called "receiver" the power to hire state medical personnel and set their pay levels. In 2004, the prison health care bill cost California taxpayers $1.1 billion. In 2012, the cost of providing California inmates quality health care cost the state $2.3 billion. Between 2005 and 2012, the number of California prison system health care workers--doctors, nurses, dentists, physical therapists, and psychiatrists--jumped from 5,100 to 12,000. The system also employed 1,400 health care paper shufflers.

     In 2011, 44 of California's highest paid employees worked in the prison health care system. A psychiatrist who worked at the Salinas Valley State Prison, made $803,271 in 2012. (This shrink must  have been good.) A prison doctor in northern California made, in 2011, a base salary of $239,572 plus $169,548 in overtime for working nights and weekends. A registered nurse at the High Desert State Prison pulled down $246,000 that year. In bankrupt California, when it comes to health care, nothing is too good for the state's 124,700 state prison inmates. (These prison health care expenses don't cover the tens of thousands of county jail prisoners throughout the state.)

     Since 2006, heroin addicted inmates at Albuquerque's Metropolitan Detention Center, New Mexico's largest jail, have been treated with methadone to ease the trauma of withdrawal. Warden Ramon Rustin, in November 2012, announced that the $10,000-a-month program was too expensive, that the taxpayers of his county simply couldn't afford this in-jail drug treatment measure. Rustin, the former warden of the Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with 32 years experience in the corrections field, said he didn't believe the costly program helped drug-addicted inmates stay out of jail once they were released.

     A month after Warden Rustin's effort to save the county serious money, the  county ccommissioners ordered him to extend the program two months during which time a study of its effectiveness would be conducted. (This is typical government. In the private sector, studies of cost-effectiveness are ongoing, and if a measure wastes money, it's immediately cut.) The county also received $200,000 a year from the state to help fund its methadone program.

     When a person commits a crime that is serious enough to land him in prison, any health care he or she receives while in custody should be treated as a privilege rather than a constitutional right. The rule should be this: If you want good health care, don't murder anyone, rob a store, break into a home, beat your wife and children, or commit a sexual assault. If good health is your priority, exercise, quit smoking, eat right, and stay off drugs and booze. Also, get a job. If you feel the need to switch genders while in prison, fine, but you don't deserve to have law obeying taxpayers foot the bill.

     In the United States, when it comes to health care, crime pays, and at the huge expense of the law obeying tax payer. (Here's an idea, if you get sick and need an expensive operation you can't afford, but don't want to rob a bank or kill someone, stop paying your taxes.)  

Executioners Got No Respect

Accounts of criminal trials published in old books and documents generally go into much deatil of the court proceedings. The judge's name, the lawyers' speeches, evidence given by the witnesses, even the prisoners' protestations, are covered in full. And when executions were held in public, news sheets described each one minutely, dwelling avidly on the victims's behavior, the crowd's reactions. Yet little if anything was said about the official presiding over the dreaded finale. He was referred to only as the "executioner," thereby implying that he was unworthy of further identification, except as an object of scorn.

Geoffrey Abbott, Lords of the Scaffold, 1991

Thornton P. Knowles On Political Movements

In politics and public policy, so-called "movements" start out with good intentions and noble ideas, are eventually taken over by radicals and zealots, then devolve into totally corrupt organizations that end up doing more harm than good. Beware of the movement.

Thornton P. Knowles

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Root Of All Evil: The Cynthia Hoffman Murder Case

     Just when you think that nothing new can roll down the true crime pike, a case comes along that breaks new ground in depravity, evil, and mind blowing stupidity. Once again you are reminded of how dangerous people can be, so-called ordinary folks you might rub shoulders with in your community. The bizarre murder scheme cooked up by a 21-year-old child pornographer from New Salisbury, Indiana exemplifies how an evil and depraved person can use a computer to connect with like minded people willing to help him victimize innocent, unsuspecting victims.

     In May 2019, Darin Schilmiller, using the name "Tyler" and the photograph of another man, hooked up online with Denali Dakota Skye Brehmer, an 18-year-old girl from Anchorage, Alaska. Schilmiller, claiming to be a multi-millionaire, offered Brehmer $9 million to "rape and murder someone in Alaska" and to "send him proof of the crimes in the form of "videos and photographs." Brehmer accepted his offer, and over a three week period, the two hatched a plan, via text messaging, that involved the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Brehmer's acquaintance, 19-year-old Cynthia "Cee Cee" Hoffman, a girl with a learning disability that put her mentally at the seventh-grade level. According to the plan, Brehmer and her accomplices would lure Hoffman into a wooded area where the victim would be raped and killed. Denali Brehmer had selected Hoffman because she was trusting and could be easily manipulated. Brehmer also promised to record the heinous crime on her cellphone and transmit the images to Schilmiller.

     To help her commit this atrocious act, and earn the $9 million reward, Denali Brehmer recruited 18-year-old Kayden Bryan McIntosh and Caleb Allen Russell Leyland who was only sixteen.

     On Sunday, June 2, 2019, Brehmer, McIntosh, Leyland, and the intended victim Cynthia Hoffman were in Caleb Leyland's car en route to a park in Chugiak, Alaska not far from Anchorage. After luring Hoffman to a remote spot off the Thunderbird Trail alongside the Eklutna River, Brehmer's accomplices subdued the victim and bound her hands and feet with duct tape. They also placed a strip of tape over Hoffman's mouth. While the victim was being bound, Brehmer, armed with a handgun, looked on.

     Just before the intended rape, Brehmer removed the tape from the victim's mouth at which time Hoffman threatened to go the police if her captors didn't immediately release her, unharmed. That is when Kayden McIntosh took the 9mm pistol out of Brehmer's hand and shot the victim in the head, killing her on the spot.

     Following the senseless and unimaginably cruel murder, Brehmer and the others dumped the dead girl's corpse into the Eklutna River. Caleb Leyland, the 16-year-old, later helped Brehmer destroy the victim's clothing cellphone, and purse.

     Denali Brehmer, as promised, sent Darin Schilmiller a videoed account of the brutal, cold-blooded slaying. And in a move that defied rational thought, Brehmer texted the victim's parents, informing them that their daughter had been murdered. Brehmer then took steps to what she wrongfully thought would delete the text to the victim's parents as well as all of her online communications with the perverted mastermind, "Tyler."

     On Tuesday, June 4, 2019, after police officers recovered Hoffman's body, detectives with the Anchorage Police Department questioned Brehmer and McIntosh. McIntosh immediately confessed to shooting Cynthia Hoffman to death. He said Brehmer had promised him $500,000 of "Tyler's" $9 million reward.

     Brehmer did not deny being at the murder scene, but said she had no idea that McIntosh would shoot the victim.

     On June 6, 2019, detectives executed a search warrant for the contends of Denali Brehmer's cellphone and recovered all of the incriminating material she thought she had deleted.

     The next day, detectives interrogated Brehmer for the second time and on this occasion she confessed fully to the murderous scheme for money. She still didn't realize that "Tyler" was Darin Schilmiller, and that she had been duped into committing a senseless murder.

     On June 9, 2019, FBI agents and officers with the Indiana State Police arrested Schilmiller who provided his captors with a full confession.

     Six suspects, Schilmiller, Brehmer, McIntosh, Leyland and two unidentified juveniles were federally charged. Although he was a juvenile, the prosecutor charged Leyland as an adult. On June 14, the four named suspects were indicted on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and numerous lesser charges. Brehmer and Schilmiller were also charged with offenses related to child pornography. According to court records, Brehmer was also accused of raping a 15-year-old girl.

The Role of Popular Music in Mass Shooting/Suicides

School shootings, like other mass murders and suicide clusters, reflects the culture of the times. The role of the media takes many forms in such events, but perhaps nothing rules and mirrors the culture of adolescents the way music does. Yesterday's swing and jazz, as remembered in bebop, the Lindy, the shimmy, and the Charleston, have evolved into the music that fills our world today: Rock and roll. New wave. Punk. Heavy mental. Grunge rock. Hip-Hop. Gangsta rock. Death rock. The beat, lyrics, groups and individual artists are held in high regard. Rock-star lookalikes are everywhere. And the fashion follows the music in more than clothing. Attitudes and beliefs systems are born from the messages communicated or reinforced through teen music. [In the U.S., since 1966, there have been 163 mass shootings. All but three were committed by men.]

Loren Coleman, The Copycat Effect, 2004 

Science Fiction Fans

I think science fiction, along with jazz, is America's great contribution to world culture. It's as great as jazz, as profligate, and wonderful. What disappoints me about it is that most of its practitioners have not been as good as they should have been, and the fact that science fiction emerged as a genre of commercial literature, forced to make adjustments and compromises to accommodate a mass audience, which was not its aesthetic interest. I don't segregate myself from those who do so. The readership has contributed to this debasement, I suppose, but any readership does. Norman Spinrod said the worst thing about science fiction is fandom. I don't disagree with that at all. Fandom has destroyed some authors. The need to be a hero.

Barry N. Malzberg, The Man Who Loved the Midnight Lady, 1980 

Biography As The Unwanted Genre

Between history and the novel stands biography, their unwanted offspring, which has brought a great embarrassment to them both. In the historian's view it takes ten thousand biographies to make one small history. To the novelist biographers are simply what Nabokov called, "psycho-plagiarists."

Michael Holroyd, Works on Paper, 2002

Drug Raid Adrenaline

One of the biggest adrenaline rushes on this job [law enforcement officer] is being the first one through the door on a drug raid. You wait on deck, knowing that because you are about to enter a place where the occupants can be both armed and high...You have your gun drawn, sweat salting the corners of your mouth, ready to rumble with a pit bull, ready to shoot, punch, duck, shout commands. You don't know what's on the other side of that door. One suspect? Two? A baker's dozen? That great unknown generates a specific electric charge, one that starts in your stomach and ends up somewhere in your chest, a kind of queasy excitement born of both expectation and resolve. There is nothing like it. [The same is true for the people being raided.]

Adam Plantinga, 400 Things Cops Know, 2014 

Having An Idea For A Book Is Easy, Writing One Is Hard

Most anyone can have a great idea. A smaller group might get it onto paper in some form. A fair number of those will be able to revise parts of it until it is very good. Yet to take all the elements such as character and themes and place, and to think about voice, style and language, just doesn't happen in one fell swoop. Only a few writers can take what first comes out on the page and work it until every bit of it is right, until all of its parts become a beautiful whole. True talent--perhaps even genius--lies not in coming up with the idea but in being able to do the hard, dogged work that brings that idea to fruition.

Carole Burns, Off The Page, 2000

Thornton P. Knowles On The Amish

I like the Amish because they realize that in the scheme of things we are all pretty small, and not that important.

Thornton P. Knowles

Monday, June 24, 2019

The Kareem Andre Williams Murder Case

     On January 11, 2013, Lauren Kanoff from New York City was in Boynton Beach, a Palm Beach County town north of Hallandale Beach, visiting her 80-year-old father, Albert Honigman. Mr. Honigman lived in the Aberdeen Development, a gated retirement community considered safe from crime. Mr. Honigman had grown up on Long Island, New York, and after retirement, had moved to Florida's southeast coast with his wife Phyllis. In 2011 Phyllis passed away.

     At ten o'clock Friday night, January 11, 2013, Lauren and her father were unloading packages from their car in their open garage after an evening of shopping. A man walked up behind Lauren, and when she turned around, he punched her in the eye and side of the face. The blow knocked her down, and for a few seconds rendered her unconscious. When Lauren came to, she saw the assailant over her downed father punching him in the face. "You stay down old man," he said, "I have a friend in the car with a gun."

     Lauren did not see the car, but she got a good look at the attacker, describing him to the police as a 6-foot, athletically built black man in his 20s and 30s. Before the assailant left the scene, he stole several pieces of jewelry and Mr. Honigman's $26,000 Rolex watch.

     Paramedics rushed Albert Honigman to the Bethesda West Hospital where he was given a brain CAT scan. The next morning, the patient went home, but later in the day, was called back to the hospital after the CAT scan revealed blood on his brain. The following day, January 13, Mr. Honigman returned to his retirement condo. He went to bed where, a few hours later, his daughter found him dead.

     The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy determined that Mr. Honigman had been killed by blunt force trauma to the head. The Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's office classified the manner of this 80-year-old's death as criminal homicide.

     In speaking to a reporter after her father's murder, his daughter said, "I don't know if he [the assailant/robber] followed us in, I have no idea. All we know is we turned around...and suddenly I'm down, my father's down."

     In the wake of the robbery and homicide, residents of the Aberdeen Development in Boynton Beach were apprehensive. Mr. Honigman's murder destroyed the sense of security in this retirement community. One of the Boynton Beach retirees said this to a reporter: "It's a very frustrating experience to have someone who lives in [your] gated community get murdered. It's terrifying."

     Homicide detectives, by reviewing surveillance camera tapes,  determined that Lauren Kanoff and her father had been followed home from the Boca Raton Town Center Mall by two young men in a silver Camaro. On February 6, 2013, officers in West Palm Beach arrested 25-year-old Kareem Andre Williams. The murder suspect, a personal trainer with L. A. Fitness, resided in Loxachatche, Florida. In Palm Beach County, Williams had been arrested for grand theft, and carrying a concealed weapon. In 2011, Williams was released from a Florida prison after serving time for armed burglary and several firearms offenses.

     Kareem Williams, the owner of a car that matched the Camero seen following the victims home from their shopping trip, was placed, through cellphone records, at the mall at the same time the victims were there. A mall surveillance camera tape also showed Williams and Albert Honigman in the same proximity near one of the shopping mall's exits.

     On February 15, 2013, a Palm Beach County prosecutor charged Kareem Williams with first-degree murder and other offenses. The magistrate denied bail for the suspect of this brutal home invasion homicide.

     On February 9, 2016, a jury found Williams guilty of first-degree murder, burglary with assault, and robbery. Two days after the verdict, the judge sentenced Williams to two consecutive life sentences.

Prison Escape In The Computer Era

     Inmates have been known to tunnel, climb, sneak, saw, assault, and bribe their way out of prisons and jails. But in central Florida, a pair of convicted murderers managed to escape by forging court documents.

     On September 27, 2013, an official with the Florida Department of Corrections ordered convicted killer Joseph Jenkins released from the Franklin Correctional Institution where he had been serving a life sentence. In 1997, Jenkins murdered Roscoe Pugh in an Orlando robbery that went bad. The 34-year-old's ticket to freedom was a phony court document that reduced his life sentence to fifteen years. The release order bore the signature of Chief Circuit Judge Belvin Perry. The forged corrections paperwork included a motion filed by a local prosecutor in support of the new sentence. The phony documents had been processed by the Orange County Clerk of Courts Office.

     On October 8, 2013, another convicted murderer serving a life sentence at the Franklin County prison near Tallahassee walked out of the joint a free man. Charles Walker had killed Cedric Slater in 1998. At his trial, Walker claimed that because the victim bullied him, he fired three shots to scare him off. Instead of scaring Slater, Walker shot him dead. The Orlando jury found Walker guilty of second-degree murder.

     Corrections authorities released the 34-year-old Walker after receiving the same set of forged documents that had freed Joseph Jenkins. It is extremely rare for a trial judge, in cases involving convictions affirmed on appeal, to order reduced sentences. Moreover, prosecutors rarely support shortened sentences. To say that someone at the Florida Department of Corrections was asleep at the switch would be an understatement. After their releases, both men went to the Orange County Jail where they registered as felons as required by law.

     According to investigators with the Florida Department of Corrections, the forging lifers had been helped by a jailhouse lawyer with computer skills, or by an outside person with paralegal experience.

     Judge Belvin Perry told an Associated Press reporter that "Someone with the aid of a computer lifted my signature off previously signed documents, which are public record." [Judge Perry, in 2011, presided over the Casey Anthony trial. As a result, his signature is available on public documents, and accessible online.]

     According to judge Perry, "In my 35 years in the judicial system, I have never seen the state of Florida file a motion to correct an illegal sentence. One of the things we have never taken a close look at is the verification of a particular document to make sure it is the real McCoy." [One can't help wondering if there are Florida inmates currently enjoying freedom on the strength of bogus court documents.]

     In speaking to reporters, the niece of the man Joseph Jenkins murdered, said, "I just don't believe it. I know for a fact it [the forgery] was an inside job."

     At 6:40 PM on October 19, 2013, U. S. Marshals and officers with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, arrested Charles Walker and Joseph Jenkins at the Coconut Grove Motor Inn in Panama City. A tip from a person who knew both men led to their arrests. When taken into custody, Walker and Jenkins were unarmed. 

Math Teacher Joyce Quiller: Hero or Victim?

     In January 2014, students and parents filed complaints against a veteran math teacher at Ribault High School in Jacksonville, Florida. The teacher, 51-year-old Joyce Quiller, taught tenth and eleventh graders enrolled in Bridge to Success, a program created to help students two or more years older than normal for their class levels. In other words, most of Quiller's students were not the best nor the brightest. The 21-year classroom veteran had the difficult and unrewarding job of trying to teach math to mostly unmotivated and undisciplined teenagers.

     In the context of today's lax public school education standards, Joyce Quiller had the reputation of being a strict, demanding teacher who didn't dumb-down and didn't suffer fools. She expected her students to show up for class with pen, paper, and completed homework assignments. When students didn't live up to her academic expectations, they failed the course. In fact, she gave 77 percent of her students Fs with all but a few of the rest receiving Ds. It seemed this teacher had imposed a toll on the so-called Bridge to Success, and most of her students didn't want to pay it. It's easy to see why this woman was not a popular teacher among students, their parents, and school administrators.

     The six or so complainants accused Quiller of being foul-mouthed and insulting in the classroom. In speaking to a student who showed up for class without pen or paper, she allegedly said, "What's the point of coming to this motherf--ing class if you don't bring materials?" Moreover, according to her accusers, she told another kid to "shut the f---up."

     Joyce Qullier also faced the allegation that she called her students "stupid" and "ignorant," and once used the n-word. (The complainants in this case are black and so is the accused.)

     This was not the first time Joyce Quiller had been called on the carpet for using inappropriate classroom language. In 2001 and again in 2013 the school superintendent reprimanded her for telling a student to "get out of my f--ing class." She also supposedly instructed a kid to pull up his pants. (Wow, the kid must have been devastated.)

     In response to the accusations of unprofessional (but hardly abusive) classroom demeanor, Quiller submitted a written statement that she was "appalled and disturbed" at the allegations against her. She denied using profanity in class and accused the complainants of having a vendetta against her.

     In March 2014, following an internal inquiry and a hearing, the superintendent of the Duval County School District sent Joyce Quiller a letter of termination. She appealed her firing to an administrative law judge.

     Administrative law judge Bruce McKibben, in August 2014, ruled that the school district had violated the terms of Quiller's employment contract by skipping step three of a three-step system of punishment. According to the judge's interpretation of the case, the school superintendent should have suspended Quiller without pay. The judge ordered the school system to reinstate Joyce Quiller.

     In his 21-page decision, Judge McKibben found that a preponderance of the evidence (a standard of proof less demanding than proof beyond a reasonable doubt) supported the claims she used profanity in class. He did note, however, that one of Quiller's B students testified that she had never heard the teacher swear.

      Regarding Quller's work environment at Ribault High School, Judge McKibben wrote: "Quiller was placed in an almost untenable situation. She did not have all the tools needed to work with students, and her classes were too large. Nevertheless, she was expected to maintain her composure and professionalism."

     The judge, perhaps out of political correctness, did not point out the obvious fact that many of Quiller's students were probably idiots. More school supplies would not have solved that problem.

     On September 8, 2014, after Joyce Quiller answered questions and pleaded her case before the Duval County School Board, board members ignored the administrative judge's reinstatement ruling by voting again to fire the former math teacher.

     Three Florida appellate court judges, in July 2015, ruled that teacher Quiller should have been suspended, not fired, and ordered the school board to rehire her.

Charles Bukowski On Not Selling Out

     I think that over-ambition kills. I think that trying to be a writer kills. Writing simply has to be a sickness, a drug. It doesn't have to be, it just is. When one thing or another cures your sickness, that's it. And, of course, there are no guidelines.

     I've been lucky. For decades now I haven't had to force myself to write anything in any particular way…If you slant your writing it means you want to make money, you want to get famous, you want to get published for the sake of getting published. I think that only works for a while. The gods are watching us. And they extract their toll. Without fail.

Charles Bukowski in Charles Bukowski: Selected Letters 1987-1994, edited by Seamus Cooney, 2004 

Thornton P. Knowles On Schools Of Journalism

For an old school journalist, teaching journalism to college students must be one of the worst jobs in academia. What could the professor say to students about to enter a profession that no longer embraces journalistic objectivity, professional integrity, or freedom of the press? How could such a teacher encourage a student to work in a profession that is no longer trusted by a large percentage of the American public? Perhaps the true question should be: Why do universities still support schools of journalism, and where do they find the teachers to staff these programs? Is that the problem? Should we blame the university for the dismal state of journalism in this country? The decline of honest, objective reporting is more than just disgraceful, it poses a threat to our freedom.

Thornton P. Knowles

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Mary O'Callaghan Police Brutality Case

     The vast majority of police brutality complaints are filed against male officers. While this is not surprising since most officers are men, when it comes to the use of physical force, male officers tend to be more physically aggressive than their female counterparts. Out of the thousands of excessive force complaints filed against male officers, only a handful result in civil court settlements. Even fewer of these cases lead to criminal prosecutions.

     Female police officers are rarely sued for excessive force, and almost never prosecuted for police brutality. But in Los Angeles, a female cop was charged with felony assault in connection with the beating of an arrestee named Alesia Thomas.

     On July 22, 2012, 35-year-old Alesia Thomas left her two children outside the Southeast Police Station in South Los Angeles. Suffering from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and drug addiction, Thomas knew she couldn't take care of her kids who were age three and twelve. She felt she had no choice but to leave her children at the police station.

     Police officers arrested Thomas that day at her home on charges of child abandonment. As officer Mary O'Callaghan struggled to put the arrestee--wearing handcuffs and leg restraints--into the patrol car, she was caught on another cruiser's dashboard camera kicking Thomas in the stomach and groin area. The police officer, a former Marine and 19 year veteran of the force, was also recorded punching Thomas in the neck.

     The arresting officers at Thomas' house called for medical assistance after she lost consciousness in the back of the patrol car. Notwithstanding the efforts of the responding paramedics, Thomas died a short time later at the hospital.

     A police administrator, pending an internal departmental investigation, placed O'Callaghan on unpaid leave.

     The forensic pathologist with the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office who performed Thomas' autopsy listed cocaine intoxication as a "major factor" in her death. Because the pathologist was unable to assess what role, if any, being kicked and punched by officer O'Callaghan played in the arrestee's death, Thomas' official cause of death went into the books as "undetermined."

     In the course of the internal affairs investigation, detectives learned that two of the arresting officers that day had disregarded Thomas' request for medical help. Moreover, a third officer at the scene may have lied to investigators looking into the incident. According to the internal affairs inquiry, a police sergeant involved with the case had failed to provide supervisory leadership. In other words, there may have been a cover-up.

     On October 9, 2013, a Los Angeles County assistant district attorney charged officer Mary O'Callaghan with felony assault. The ambivalence regarding Thomas' cause of death ruled out the charge of involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, O'Callaghan faced a maximum prison sentence of three years. Following her arrest she was released on $35,000 bail.

     In speaking to a reporter with the Los Angeles Times, the dead woman's mother, Sandra Thomas, lamented the time it took to charge O'Callaghan with a crime. "I am sure," Thomas said, "that Charlie Beck [the chief of police] saw this [dashboard] video long ago. I would like to see that video. They're charging that officer, but what about all of the other officers involved? They did nothing to stop this."

    On June 5, 2015, a jury of eleven women and one man found the former police officer guilty of felony assault by a police officer. Following her conviction, O'Callaghan asked the judge to send her directly to jail where she would start serving her sentence.

     The trial judge, on July 25, 2015, sentenced O'Callaghan to three years behind bars. The judge then suspended twenty months of the sentence. That meant the former police officer would spend about 16 months in the Los Angeles County lockup.

     Had the forensic pathologist in the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office determined the manner of death in this case to be homicide, O'Callahan might have been convicted of criminal homicide and sentenced to a lot more time.
     

Actor Lillo Brancato's Role In A Police Officer's Murder

     In 1993 a 17-year-old actor from the Borough of Yonkers in New York City named Lillo Brancato Jr. starred with Robert DeNiro in the movie "A Bronx Tale." Brancato, in 2000, appeared as a minor character in the HBO series "The Sopranos."

     On December 10, 2005, Brancato and an accomplice, Steven Armento, broke a window at an unoccupied home in Pelham Bay, Queens. The 29-year-old actor and Armento were looking for drugs.

     Daniel Enchautegui lived next door to the house Brancato and Armento were breaking into. The 28-year-old New York City patrolman with three years on the force had just arrived home following his 8  PM to 4 AM shift. When the officer heard the sound of breaking glass he called 911 and went outside to investigate. It was 5:15 in the morning.

     Steven Armento, when confronted by Enchautegui, shot the officer in the chest. Enchautegui returned fire, wounding both of the intruders. Physicians at the Jacobi Medical Center pronounced the police officer dead.

     Brancato and Armento went to trial in 2008. A jury found Armento guilty of first-degree murder. A judge, in 2009, sentenced him to life without the possibility of parole.

     At Brancato's trial, the defendant admitted being in Queens that morning with Steven Armento. The two men broke into the unoccupied house to score drugs. Brancato testified that he was going through heroin withdrawal that day.

     Pursuant to the felony-murder doctrine, if a person is killed during the commission of a felony all of the participants of the crime can be held culpable for the death. Under the law, the fact Brancato wasn't the one who pulled the trigger did not exempt him from legal responsibility for the officer's killing.

     The jury acquitted Brancato of burglary and felony-murder. They did find him guilty of attempted burglary. The judge sentenced Brancato to ten years in prison. (The judge gave him credit for the three years he spent in jail prior to his trial.)

     Lillo Brancato, on December 31, 2013, after agreeing to a five-year period of parole that included a 10 PM curfew, walked out of the Hudson Correctional Facility six months early. Had he served his full term, the 37-year-old would have been freed without parole conditions.

     Brancato's early release angered members of the New York City Police Department as well as relatives of the slain police officer. In speaking to reporters a spokesperson for the New York Patrolman's Benevolent Association said: "It is our firm belief that Lillo Brancato is guilty of the murder of police officer Daniel Enchautegui even though he was only convicted of attempted burglary."

     Enchautegui's sister, Yolanda Rosa, said, "I'm still upset that Brancato was not convicted of murder and that he did not serve enough time."

    In 2018, Brancato starred in a Netflix documentary, "Wasted Talent," that chronicles his time in prison, his decision to get off heroin, and his struggle to redeem himself.

Keep Guns Out Of The Reach Of Children

     Veronica Jean Rutledge lived in Blackfoot, Idaho in the southeastern corner of the state. On December 30, 2014, the 29-year-old mother was visiting relatives in Hayden, Idaho, a town of 13,000 380 miles north of Blackfoot not far from the resort city of Coeur d' Arlene.

     At ten-twenty on that Monday morning, Rutledge, her two-year-old son, and three of her nieces--all under the age of eleven--were shopping at the Walmart store in Hayden. The toddler sat in the shopping cart near his mother's zipped-up purse. What happened next was recorded on a store surveillance camera.

     The boy unzipped the handbag, reached in and pulled out a handgun. The weapon discharged, killing Veronica Rutledge on the spot. She lay dead on a clothing aisle floor near the back of the store.

     The shooting caused an immediate Walmart shutdown. (The store reopened the next day.)

     According to a spokesperson for the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office, "a lot of people around here carry loaded guns." This sheriff's official as well as others have told reporters that guns are an important aspect of the local culture. As a result, no one in the community was shocked by the fact Veronica Rutledge carried a loaded gun in her purse. Some people did express concern that the gun was in such close proximity to the child.

    The police did not released details regarding the make and model of the firearm and did not indicate if Rutledge had a permit to carry it. According to news reports, the gun had been a Christmas gift from her husband. In speaking to reporters, the husband expressed anger that his wife's tragic death was being exploited by anti-gun activists.

     In all probability, no one that young has ever shot and killed another person. 

Thornton P. Knowles On Paying People Not To Commit Crimes

Over the years the one thing you can count on is that politicians will come up with some incredibly stupid ideas. Not only that, sometimes these outlandish proposals become law. One idea that belongs in the Stupid Hall of Fame involves paying people not to commit crimes. I guess the idea is to reward good behavior rather than punish bad behavior. So much for the concept that the reward for obeying the law is not being punished for violating it. And how would these payments work? Would one get less for not committing shoplifting and more for not committing murder? Moreover, if a person received say a year's worth of good behavior money, then committed a crime, would the taxpayers get a refund? And the final, bigger question: Can a country survive so much political stupidity and corruption?

Thornton P. Knowles

Charles Bukowski On Style

     I've always been a sucker for the simple, bare line because I've always had this feeling that Literature, that of now and the centuries, was largely a put-on, you know, like pro wrestling matches. Even those who have lasted the centuries (with few exceptions) gave me the odd feeling that they were screwing me over. Basically, I feel that with the bare line it could be harder to get the lie across; besides it reads easier, and what's easy is good and what's hard to read is a pain in the ass.

     So John Fante gave me the bare line with feeling; Hemingway the line that did not beg; Thurber the line that laughed at what the mind did and couldn't help doing; Saroyan the line that loved itself; Celine the line that cut the page like a knife; Sherwood Anderson the line that said beyond the line. I think I have borrowed from all of these writers and I am not ashamed to admit it. I only hope that I have added, what? If I knew what I were doing I could no longer do it.

Charles Bukowski in Charles Bukowski: Selected Letters 1987-1994, edited by Seamus Cooney, 2004 

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Steven Brooks: A Troubled Politician

     Even in Nevada where hardball politics and corruption often go hand-in-hand, state assemblyman Steven Brooks embarrassed and frightened his fellow politicians. In November 2012, the former Las Vegas city councilman and second-term state legislator, along with a few other democrats in the lower house, tried to unseat the democratic assembly speaker, Marilyn Kirkpatrick. The speaker fought-off the challenge to her throne, and Brooks, as the leader of the failed insurrection, was relegated to legislative oblivion. As long as Marilyn Kirkpatrick ran the Nevada assembly, Steven Brooks had no future in politics.

     While Steven Brooks never directly threatened speaker Kirkpatrick, in speaking to others, he allegedly indicated his intent to shoot her dead. On January 19, 2013, after word of Brook's threats had reached the speaker, she reported the matter to the Las Vegas police. Visibly upset, Kirkpatrick said she was worried that an armed Brooks would find her and pull the trigger.

     Shortly after talking with speaker Kirkpatrick, officers encountered Brooks in his car at a traffic stop. Brooks informed the police, who asked him to open his trunk, that as a Nevada state assemblyman he could deny them permission to search. When officers lifted the trunk lid they found, in a shoebox, a .357-revolver and 41 rounds of ammunition. In explaining his possession of the firearm and the ammunition, Brooks said he had attended a National Rifle Association seminar for legislators earlier in the day. This turned out to be a lie.

     After seizing the revolver and the ammunition officers arrested assemblyman Brooks on the felony charge of intimidating a public officer with physical force. Released on $100,000 bail, Brooks hired a publicist who set-up a press conference to be held on January 22 in his capitol office in Carson City. Brook's attorney, to the dozen reporters who showed-up for the conference, announced that his client couldn't be present at the press conference because he had been hospitalized with a digestive disorder.

     Three days after the press conference no-show, the Las Vegas police responded to Brook's home on a domestic disturbance call. The officers hauled the assemblyman to a nearby hospital for psychiatric evaluation. The next day, the politician returned home. Insisting that his medical problems were physical and not mental, and proclaiming his innocence to the threat charges, Brooks rejected a suggestion from the assembly leadership that he take a leave of absence.

     On February 10, 2013, the Las Vegas police responded to another domestic disturbance call from the assemblyman's residence. He had allegedly assaulted a member of his family. When officers arrested Brooks outside his house he became combative and before being subdued, grabbed for an officer's gun.

     Charged with domestic battery and obstructing police, officers booked Brooks into the Clark County Detention Center. The judge set his bail at $4,000.

     In March 2013 Brooks became the first lawmaker to be expelled from the Nevada State Legislature.

     In March 2014, ex-Nevada assemblyman Brooks pleaded no contest to evading a police officer and resisting arrest. The judge, pursuant to the plea deal, sentenced him to two years eight months in prison.

     In April 2019, police arrested Brooks again for allegedly starting a fight in a convenience store. He was also charged with threatening to kill Las Vegas police officers. As of this writing, that case is pending.

The Darell Avant Sr. Murder Case

     At eleven in the morning of December 18, 2013, an official at the Pershing Elementary School in Pine Hills, Florida, a community of 60,000 near Orlando, asked Darell Avant Sr. to come to the school and take his son home. The principal had suspended the 5-year-old for kicking a teacher.

     Perhaps the unruly boy had learned his bad behavior from his father. Since 2003, the 26-year-old Avant had been arrested in Orange County 25 times for domestic violence and other crimes including assaulting a pregnant woman, drug possession, aggravated assault, and grand theft.

     At seven in the evening on the day Avant removed his son from the school, he called 911 to report that the boy was unconscious and wouldn't wake up. Twenty-five minutes after the emergency call, a member of the Orange County Fire and Rescue crew pronounced the boy dead at his father's apartment.

     In speaking to Orange County Sheriff's deputies, Avant said that after picking up his son from school, he spanked him and sent him to his room. Later that day, Avant punished the boy by making him do push-ups and squats. According to the father, after twenty minutes of this, the child became dizzy, collapsed and lost consciousness.

     Avant told investigators he tried to awaken his son by shaking and slapping him. When that didn't wake up the boy father called a friend who came to the apartment to resuscitate him. That didn't work either. Finally, Avant called 911. Avant didn't explain why he didn't call for professional help immediately after his son lost consciousness.

     Deputies at the apartment and officers at the morgue noticed fresh contusions and bruises on the boy's back, stomach, chest, and arms. His mother told detectives that when the child left for school that morning he did not have those injuries. It looked to investigators that the boy had been severely beaten.

     Police officers booked Avant into the Orange County Jail on charges of domestic violence and several lesser offenses. A social worker with the Department of Children and Families took the dead child's younger sibling into protective custody.

     On December 20, 2013, the medical examiner, following the autopsy, announced that the 5-year-old had died from multiple blunt-force trauma. The medical examiner ruled the death a criminal homicide. Shortly after the medical examiner's ruling, an Orange County prosecutor upgraded the charges against Darell Avant to first-degree murder. If convicted as charged Avant could be sentenced to death. The judge denied him bail.

     In June 2018, a jury in Pine Hills, Florida found Darell Avant Sr. guilty of first-degree murder. A few days later the judge sentenced him to prison for life without the possibility of parole.

George Orwell and C.S. Lewis

If you want to learn how to write, the best way to start is by imitating C.S. Lewis and George Orwell. These two Englishmen, born five years apart, never used a pompous word if a short and plain one would do. Orwell was a master of the welcoming first sentence. He wrote an essay called "England Your England" while sheltering from German bombs during World War II. Here is his opening: "As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me."

David Brooks, "Really Good Books, Part I," The New York Times, May 22, 2014 

Before The Middle Class Drug Crisis

In the late 1950's and early 1960s, drug use in the United States was thought to be largely confined to the urban poor, criminal elements, and such small nonconformist groups such as jazz musicians and "beatnik" artists and intellectuals. The National Survey on Drug Abuse for 1977 summarizes the retrospective data: "Prior to 1962 lifetime experience with any illicit drug was limited to 2 percent of less of the population in most areas of the country and among most large population subgroups. At that time, the prevalence of marijuana use was slightly above average (about 5 percent) among males and racial minorities and people living in the Western region of the country." Even as late as 1968, heroin use was confined to the major port cities of the Northeast corridor, as well as Miami, New Orleans, San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

David M. Musto, MD and Pamela Korsmeyer, The Quest for Drug Control, 2002  

Creating a Good Villain

     Providing a strong, fully dimensional villain who can give your hero a real run for his money will make the hero's triumph all the more satisfying to readers.

     Max Brand (pen name for the late Frederick Faust) nearly always created truly impressive villains for his western novels. In the series of Silvertip novels, the outlaw Barry Christian was equally as potent and powerful as Brand's hero, and in Brand's Montana Kid series, the Mexican bandit, Meteo Rubriz, was a full match for the quick-shooting protagonist. And when they meet in climactic battle, the reader witnesses a clash of titans.

     The greater the villain, the greater the hero.

William E. Nolan, How to Write Horror Fiction, 1990 

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Botched Cheye Calvo SWAT Raid

     On July 28, 2008, drug traffickers in Los Angeles sent, by Federal Express, a box containing 32 pounds of marijuana to an address in Berwyn Heights, Maryland, a town of 3,000 ten miles north of Washington, D.C. The people who lived at that address had nothing to do with the shipment. The address was a delivery drop site where an accomplice would pick up the package before someone at the site took it inside. Ideal drop locations were homes occupied by childless couples who worked during the day. It also helped if the house had a front porch and at least one of the drug conspirators worked for the package delivery company.

     This particular marijuana delivery operation fell apart when, at a FedEx facility in Arizona, a drug dog made a hit on the parcel. The authorities in Arizona, after notifying the Prince George's County Police Department, resealed the box and sent it on its way. In Maryland, at the FedEx station station in Beltsville, narcotics officers with the county police department took possession of the contraband.

     Instead of conducting a cursory investigation to determine the identities and backgrounds of the people who lived at the point of delivery and conferring with the chief of the Berwyn Heights Police Department to determine if there was suspicious drug activity associated with this house, the officers in charge of the case decided to deliver the package and then raid the place after the resident took the box inside. Had they checked with Patrick Murphy, the Berwyn Heights chief of police, the Prince George's County officers would have learned that 37-year-old Cheye Calvo, his wife Trinity, and her mother, Georgia Porter lived at that address.

     Mr. Calvo worked for a nonprofit organization that ran several public boarding schools for at-risk children. His wife Trinity had a job as a state finance officer. These people were not only law-abiding citizens, but Mr. Calvo was the mayor of Berwyn Heights. Had the Prince George's County police enlisted Mr. Calvo's cooperation, they could have caught the drug movers at the point of destination. Instead, the county officers acquired a search warrant to raid the Calvo house.

     According to the plan, on the day after the package had been intercepted at Beltsville, a county officer, posing as a deliveryman, would bring it to the Calvo house at six-thirty in the evening. The police department's SWAT team, however, wasn't available to lead the raid that day. Melvin High, Prince George's chief of police called the police department in Greenbelt and asked if he could borrow their SWAT unit. The chief in Greenbelt said he couldn't help because his unit was not authorized to operate outside the boundaries of the town. Chief High then turned to Michael Jackson, the sheriff of Prince George's County. Sheriff Jackson agreed to send his SWAT deputies into the Calvo house.

     Every police leader in the county knew of the impending raid but Patrick Murphy, the chief of police of Berwyn Heights. Not only were his colleagues planning a wrong-house intrusion, the SWAT team that police chief High had recruited had been used mainly to intercede in domestic disturbances. The unit had no experience in conducting drug raids.

     At six o'clock on the evening of the raid, Mr. Calvo arrived home from work ahead of his wife, Trinity. He gathered up Payton and Chase, his two black lab retrievers and took them for a walk. While he was away, a police officer approached the residence with the package of marijuana. Georgia, Mr. Calvo's mother-in-law, came to the door and instructed the "deliveryman" to leave the white box, addressed to her daughter, Trinity Tomsic, on the front porch.

     The point of delivery drug trafficking accomplice, realizing that the police had intercepted the package, ran from the scene. Mayor Calvo and his dogs returned from their walk a few minutes before seven. Mr. Calvo picked up the box, set on a small table near the front entrance, and climbed the stairs to charge out of his suit.

     A few minutes later, Georgia, while preparing dinner, looked out the kitchen window and saw a SWAT officer pointing a rifle at her head. A few seconds after she screamed, SWAT officers broke down the front door. From the second floor, Mr. Calvo heard his mother-in-law, the front door cracking apart, loud voices, and gunfire. Several deputies rushed into Calvo's bedroom, grabbed him and dragged the stunned mayor down the stairs in his boxer shorts.

     Payton, the seven-year-old lab, lay dead on the living room floor. The officers ordered Calvo to his knees and told him to remain in that position with his hands cupped on his head. No one would listen as Mr. Calvo tried to tell them he was the mayor of the town and that the raiders had made some kind of mistake.

     One of the SWAT officers, in speaking to another member of the unit, said he thought the subject, who was kneeling in his own living room, was crazy. In the meantime, officers were tearing the house apart looking for evidence of the drug trade. Finally, after an hour of ripping the place apart, an officer told Calvo they had intercepted a box of marijuana that had been sent to his address. The officer assured Mr. Calvo that the police had a search warrant and what they were doing was perfectly legal.

     With his hands bound behind his back, Mr. Calvo was led into the kitchen where he saw Georgia lying face-down on the floor, her hands restrained behind her back and a rifle barrel pointed at her head. Near her body Mr. Calvo saw his other dog, Chase, lying in a pool of blood. An officer had shot the three-year-old lab as the terrified dog fled into the kitchen.

     Ninety minutes after the intrusion, about the time personnel from an animal control agency hauled away the dead pets, a member of the SWAT team removed Mr. Calvo's plastic hand restraints. A narcotics officer informed him that while the white box delivered to his house by the police was enough to arrest him and his wife on drug charges, they would give them both a break as long as they cooperated with the authorities.

     When Trinity came home a little after eight, police questioned her in the front yard. Having found no evidence of drug trafficking in the house, the invading officers departed, leaving Mr. Calvo, his shaken mother-in-law, and his distraught wife with a smashed front door, a ransacked house, a dark cloud of suspicion hanging over their heads, and a home without their beloved pets.

     That night, Cheye Calvo and his wife cleaned up the blood spilled by their dogs and tried to put their house back together. An officer from the Berwyn Heights Police Department came by at midnight to help the mayor secure the front door. The next morning, the couple's friends started calling, offering their support and sympathy. The local and national media took an immediate interest in the story.

     At a news conference held on August 5, 2008, Prince George's County Police Chief Melvin High announced that his officers had arrested two suspects allegedly involved in the interstate scheme to deliver marijuana by shipping packages to unsuspecting homes. The package addressed to the mayor's house in Berwyn Heights was one of six or so parcels intercepted by the authorities in northern Prince George's County. In all, the packages contained 417 pounds of marijuana worth $3.6 million. One of the suspects worked for FedEx.

     Chief High and Sheriff Michael Jackson said they would not apologize for the Berwyn Heights raid which they characterized as legal and responsibly conducted. The sheriff said his SWAT team had been deployed because guns and violence are often associated with drug rings. Chief High, to those assembled at the news conference, said, "In some quarters, this has been viewed as a flawed police operation and an attack on the mayor. It was not. This was about an address, this was about a name on a package. In fact, our people did not know this was the home of the mayor and his family until after the fact." When asked by a reporter if the arrests of the FedEx deliveryman and his alleged accomplice had cleared Mayor Calvo and his wife, Chief High said, "From all indications at the moment, they had an unlikely involvement but we don't want to draw the definite conclusion. Most likely they were innocent victims."

     On August 8, 2008, Chief of Police Melvin High telephoned Mayor Calvo to inform him that Maryland's attorney general had cleared him and his wife of drug trafficking. While the chief didn't apologize for for the SWAT raid, he expressed regret over the killing of the dogs. A month after the Berwyn Heights SWAT raid, Melvin High retired.

     The internal affairs investigators, obviously aware that the killing of the dogs was unwarranted and made the SWAT team look like a squad of armed and vicious law enforcement zombies, did their best to make the killings appear justified. According to a preliminary report issued by the sheriff's office, the officer shot Payton because the dog had "engaged" a deputy. The police killed the other pet because it ran toward an officer.

     A few days after the police made the September 4, 2008 preliminary report public, Mr. Calvo released the results of necropsies (animal autopsies) performed by a veterinarian with the Maryland Department of Agriculture. According to the findings of this expert, the police had shot Peyton four times, twice in the chest/flank region, once in the jaw, and once in the neck. Chase had been shot twice, one on the bullets striking his chest and the other his left rear leg.

     In conducting the internal inquiry into the Calvo raid, the investigators did not interview Mr. Calvo or his mother-in-law. Quoted in the Washington Post, Calvo said, "The fact they've done an internal review without contacting the victims of their raid, the people whose house they stormed through, shows they're not very interested in the facts."

     In January 2011, Prince George's County attorneys settled the lawsuit Cheye Calvo had brought against the county in 2009. The parties to the civil suit did not disclose the amount of the settlement. 

The Camia Gamet Murder Case

     In 2013, 30-year-old Marcel Hill and Camia Gamet, 38, shared an apartment in Jackson, Michigan, a town of 34,000 in the south central part of the state. She had been raised in foster homes and claimed to have been raped by a foster dad. People who knew Gamet were aware of her violent streak and abuse of drugs, a combination that made her unpredictable and dangerous.

     Marcel Hill, a high school graduate and fast food worker, was by contrast friendly and child-like. According to members of his family, he suffered "cognitive limitations" that made it difficult for him to handle simple everyday tasks like paying his bills. Unlike Gamet, he didn't have a violent bone in his body. This odd couple relationship would cost Mr. Hill his life.

     A year or so earlier, Camia Gamet, in a fit of rage, stabbed Marcel Hill with a knife, then stitched up his wound herself. Neither one of them reported the assault to the authorities. On another occasion, she sent Marcel to the hospital with a punctured lung. That assault did not lead to her arrest. But in March 2013, a Jackson County prosecutor charged Gamet with domestic violence and felonious assault after she pounded Marcel on the head with a hammer. Because he was afraid to press the matter, and refused to cooperate with law enforcement personnel, the prosecutor had no choice but to close the case.

     In the early morning hours of Saturday, May 18, 2013, a neighbor called 911 to report domestic violence at the odd couple's dwelling. Responding police officers found a blood-covered Gamet staggering around and slurring her words outside the apartment. Inside, officers found smashed furniture, a broken floor lamp, a bloody filet knife, and a damaged frying pan covered in blood.

     Amid all of the destruction and gore, officers discovered Marcel Hill. He had been repeatedly bludgeoned with hard objects--presumably the broken lamp and the frying pan--stabbed eleven times, and cut wide open in the torso with the knife.

     Police officers arrested Gamet that night. On Wednesday, May 20, 2013, a Jackson County prosecutor charged Camia Camet with open criminal homicide. (This meant a jury or a judge could determine the appropriate degree of murder in the event of a conviction.)

     The Gamet murder trial got underway in late February 2014. In her opening statement to the jury, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Kati Rezmierski portrayed the defendant as a violent person and a proven liar. According to the prosecutor, Gamet had deliberately and knowingly beaten, stabbed and slashed the victim to death.

     Defense attorney Anthony Raduazo told the jury that his client woke up from a drug-induced stupor that night to the sound of shattering glass. Believing that she was being attacked by an intruder, Gamet grabbed the lamp and the knife and used these objects to defend herself. Attorney Raduazo said the defendant had acted out of a "fear-driven rage," noting that in the encounter she had herself received cuts and bruises.

     After six days of prosecution testimony, the defense attorney put Gamet on the stand to testify on her own behalf. In telling her story of self-defense, Gamet did not come off as a very credible or sympathetic witness.

     In his closing remarks to the jury, attorney Raduazo said, "She is a woman and she is asleep and she is full of drugs and she is full of liquor. Did she react in a thoughtful manner? Or did she jump up and try to defend herself?" Raduazo pointed out that Gamet had not tried to dispose of Hill's body or clean up the death scene. "If this was preplanned and premeditated," he said, "it was a heck of a bad plan."

     Prosecutor Rezmierski, when it came her turn to address the jurors for the last time, said, "The victim did not die quickly. He knew his death was coming. The victim tried to protect himself and flee, but he was no match for the defendant. He never was a match." As to Gamet's supposed injuries, the prosecutor said, "She has barely a scratch, and he's eviscerated."

     On March 5, 2014, following a short period of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of first-degree murder.

     At Camia Gamet's sentencing hearing on April 16, 2014, County Circuit Court Judge John McBain saw the convicted murderer roll her eyes and snicker during a court presentation by one of Marcel Hill's aunts. The sight infuriated the judge who, in speaking directly to Gamet said, "You gutted him like a fish in the apartment! You were relentless! You stabbed, you stabbed, you stabbed, you stabbed, you stabbed until he was dead! I agree with the family, I hope you die in prison! You know, if this was a death penalty state, you'd be getting the chair!"

     Judge McBain sentenced Camia Gamet to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Afterward, defense attorney Raduazo told reporters he would appeal his client's verdict and the sentence.

     On February 4, 2016, justices on the Michigan Court of Appeals, in a unanimous decision, upheld Gamet's conviction. 

Thornton P. Knowles On His Grandfather's Last Words

My grandfather was the dirtiest of dirty old men. I'm not kidding. When he lay dying surrounded by nurses, his last words were: "Show me your knockers." He died in a Catholic hospital where all the nurses were nuns. A West Virginia coal miner, black lung disease brought him down. He once told me that he didn't fear death because Hell couldn't be any worse than life.  As per his wishes, his corpse was consumed by flame, he didn't have a funeral service, and he wasn't laid to rest in a cemetery. When asked about his ashes, he laughed and said, "Dump them into a pot hole." Grandpa was my favorite relative.

Thornton P. Knowles

The "Honest" Memoir

     The uncommon memoirist presents actualities honestly and imaginatively. To be honest doesn't require unfailing accuracy, since memory and POV [point of view] intrude upon reminiscing. Honesty avoids deliberate falsehoods. Honest means the writer will not be self-serving, not always at the center, not always the star, though always in the movie. Sometimes she picks herself up off the cutting-room floor.

     Because the imagination is regularly attached to make-believe, these days it is rarely attached to the writing of memoirs, which are expected to be "true," that is, factual. But truth and true are not the same as fact. Historians use facts to support their interpretations of events; they draw conclusions based on evidence that is agreed upon by other historians. A memoir's evidence emerges from memory, the unreliable narrator.

Paula Fox, "Speak, Memories", Bookforum, Dec/Jan, 2015 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Aramazd Andressian Sr.: Cold-Blooded Murderer

     In April 2017, Aramazd Andressian and his estranged wife Ana Estevez were in the midst of a extremely contentious divorce and custody battle over their five-year-old son, Aramazd Andressian Jr., affectionately known as Piqui. (Because the journalists covering this story obviously took pains not to divulge the national origin and background of the five-foot, three inch Andressian other than to occasionally make reference to his ties in Iran and Armenia, he, in this regard, remains a mystery.)

     Estevez and the boy resided in South Pasadena, California. (It is not clear in the reporting of this case if the estranged couple resided in the same house. Moreover, there is no information regarding how they had met, how long they had been married, or how Mr. Andressian made a living.)

     Ana Estevez worked at a south Los Angeles elementary school. She had sought full custody of her son and had requested a restraining order against her husband. A family count judge, notwithstanding the father's gambling problem, his prescription drug addiction, and his threats to take to boy to Iran or Armenia, denied the distraught mother's petitions.

     Andressian, pursuant to the intensely bitter domestic dispute, claimed falsely that he was the boy's stay-at-home dad, the child's primary caregiver. (While Estevez worked, her mother cared for the child.) The father also claimed that Estevez practiced the religion of Santeria, once sacrificing a rooster in the boy's presence. According to Andressian, she also spanked Piqui, used profanity in front of him, and threatened to take him to Cuba.

     On April 17, 2017, Andressian, as part of a scheduled visitation, took the boy to Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Three days later, the father was found passed out in his 2004 gray BMW. The vehicle was parked in Arroyo Seco Park in South Pasadena. The boy was not in the car. When detectives questioned Andressian at the hospital regarding the whereabouts of the boy, the father said he didn't know where Piqui was. (The boy had not been returned to his mother.) Andressian said he had attempted suicide by drug overdose.

     On April 22, 2017, with the boy still missing, police officers arrested Andressian for the murder of his son. Three days later, the authorities released the suspect due to lack of evidence.

     Since Andressian had been recently seen in Santa Barbara County's Lake Cachuma Park, police, employing dogs and divers, searched the lake and park for the toddler. They came up empty handed.

     In May and June 2017, as the search continued for Piqui, Andressian spent 47 days entertaining himself in Las Vegas. During that period, he attended Britney Spear and Celine Dion concerts, took in a boxing match, went skydiving, gambled, drank, and abused prescription drugs. On June 23, 2017, when Andressian applied for a new passport, the police, fearing that he might flee to Armenia where he had ties, re-arrested him on the murder charge. Andressian had changed his appearance by dying his hair a lighter color.

     On June 26, 2017, the authorities in Las Vegas, at a news conference, announced that Andressian had confessed to murdering his son in cold blood to get back at his estranged wife. It had been his plan, after the trip to Disneyland, to murder his son, bury his body, then commit suicide. He said he wanted to make it appear as though the boy had been murdered by his mother. (Prior to the killing, Andressian told people that Estevez had been following him and that he feared for his life.)

     According to Andressian's confession, he had smothered his son with the boy's own clothing. After sitting in the car with the corpse for eight hours, he buried the remains in a wooded area about fifty feet from a parking lot at Vista Point near the Lake Cachuma recreation area.

     On June 30, 2017, the day Aramazd Andressian was extradited from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, searchers found Piqui's skeletal remains where his father said he had buried him.

     On July 3, 2017, following his not guilty plea in a Los Angeles Superior Courtroom, the judge set the murder suspect's bail at $10 million. The deputy district attorney handling the case told the media that the prosecution would seek the death penalty.

    To avoid the death sentence, Andressian, on August 1, 2017, pleaded guilty to the murder of his son. At the sentencing hearing, the convicted man's attorney told the judge that the killing had not been planned and that his client regretted the act. Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum argued that Andressian showed "absolutely no remorse" for the murder. (While in the Los Angeles County Jail, Andressian had shaved his head bald.)

    The victim's mother, speaking directly to Andressian at the sentencing hearing, said, "I hope you relive the image of murdering my baby every day of your insignificant life. May your dark soul burn in eternal hell." The distraught mother, carrying her son's ashes in an urn, also called her husband a failure as a father, a man, and a human being. Referring to how the murder had affected her, Estevez said, "There is no real pain, just an incomprehensible deadness. Like my son, I, too, have died."

     Judge Cathryn Brougham sentenced Aramazd Andressian to 25 years to life in prison. 

The Hello Kitty Soap Bubble Conspiracy

    Picture ten thousand elementary school teachers and administrators being shaken through a massive intelligence strainer with openings just large enough for people with IQs over 80 to fall through. When imagining the three or four public educators who remain in the big sieve, think of the drooling idiots who run the kindergarten program at the Mount Carmel Area School District 88 miles northwest of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The trouble is, you can't picture these people because on the surface they look and act like folks who have average intelligence and common sense. One would assume, that because these educators are in positions of authority over children, they can be trusted not to make mind-bogglingly stupid decisions. In public education, this is an invalid assumption.

     On January 10, 2013, as a five-year-old Mount Carmel kindergarten student and her classmates waited for their school bus, she and another girl her age were having a pre-schooler type conversation. One of the kids said that when she and her friend got home from kindergarten that day, she intended to shoot her playmate with her pink-colored Hello Kitty gun, a toy in the general shape of a firearm that blows soapy bubbles. According to media reports, a "school official" overheard the insidious reference to gun violence and immediately searched the kid's backpack for the bubble-firing weapon. (I'd like to know who this "school official" was. Are we talking about a bus driver, bus monitor, school guard, or some undercover adult operative?) As it turned out, the little girl was unarmed. But she wasn't out of the woods.

     The next day, the owner of the Hello Kitty toy and the would-be target of the bubble assault, were interrogated by "school officials." (I presume the Hello Kitty grilling was conducted by the elementary school principal and other education administrators experienced in interrogating terrorist suspects. I doubt these schoolhouse inquisitors warned the little girl her Miranda rights.)  The interrogators left the confused and frightened kid in tears. One of the poor girl's teachers told the pint-sized suspect that the police might get involved in her case. (It's a good thing the teacher didn't tell the girl the ATF or the FBI could enter the investigation.)

     The five-year-old must have spilled her guts because someone in position of elementary school authority suspended the kindergarten kid ten days for making a "terroristic threat." (I am not kidding.) The Hello Kitty suspect was also ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation. (Had the undercover school bus operative caught this girl in actual possession of the Hello Kitty contraband, who knows what they would have done with her? I can hear her parents breaking the news that because she's on the no-fly list, Disneyland was out of the question.)

     This kindergarten student's stunned family acquired the services of an attorney who managed to get the school suspension reduced from ten days to two days. The psychologist brought in to profile the girl declared the kid perfectly normal. (Of course after this ordeal, who knew how she would turn out.) The lawyer met with these elementary school fascists in hopes of getting the little  girl's record expunged. (Record? What record? Was she going to be on some kind of terrorist registry?)

     The Mount Carmel school officials responsible for this little girl's abuse should have been fired, and banned from public and private education for life. They were the ones who need psychological evaluations. I would also suggest brain scans for  possible physiological explanations for their pathological overreactions. If these school safety zealots were allowed to keep their jobs, (they were) kids who possessed squirt guns, pistols that shoot ping-pong balls, nurf bullets, and rubber-bands, could be targeted next. If any of the people behind this alarming fiasco were teachers, I would recommend removing staple and glue guns from their classrooms. (Can you imagine what a junior-terrorist could do with staples and glue? Moreover, I'd also keep the duct-tape under lock and key.)

     I'm afraid that idiots are now in charge of American higher and lower education. This is not good.

Criminals Play the Insanity Game

     In the 1957 musical West Side Story, Stephen Sondheim parodied what then was the current thinking about juvenile delinquency in the song, "Gee, Officer Krupke." Delinquents were punks because their fathers were drunks. They were misunderstood rather than no good. They were suffering from a "social disease," and society "had played them a terrible trick." They needed an analyst, not a judge, because it was "just their neurosis" acting up. In short, their criminal behavior was regarded as symptomatic of a deep-seated psychological or sociological problem. Little has changed since then in terms of deeply ingrained beliefs about the causes of crime….

     When a person commits a particularly sordid crime, his sanity may be questioned. Three men pick up two girls who are thumbing a lift. A joyride turns into a nightmare when the teenagers are driven to a desolate mountainous area where they are bound and repeatedly raped. Two of their tormentors dig a hole and tell them to say their prayers. However, the men decide to prolong the torture and take the girls to an apartment where they are brutalize them again. The girls are saved by a suspicious neighbor who calls the police. Eventually, the court considers the rapists to be "mentally disordered sex offenders" and sends them to a psychiatric hospital, where they spend less time than one-third of the time they would have spent in prison.

     Criminals learn to fool the psychiatrists and the courts in order to serve "easy time" in a hospital with the prospect of getting out more quickly than they would from a prison. From other criminals and from their attorneys, even unsophisticated street criminals learn the ploy of insanity. The game is for the criminal to convince others that he is sick, so that he can beat the charge. After he is admitted to the hospital, he plays the psychiatric game of mouthing insights and behaving properly so that he can convince the staff that he is recovering and deserves to be released.

Stanton E. Samenow, "The Basic Myths About Criminals," in Criminal Justice?, Robert James Bidinotto, ed., 1994 

Thornton P. Knowles On Television, Fast-Food And The Coming Dystopia.

Crime novelist Raymond Chandler put his finger on why television in the 1950s put so many movie theaters out of business and changed the way we live: "Television is really what we've been looking for all our lives. It took a certain amount of effort to go to the movies. Somebody had to stay with the kids. You had to get the car out of the garage. That was hard work. And you had to drive and park. Sometimes you had to walk as far as a half a block to get to the theater. Then people with fat heads would sit in front of you." The birth of television, followed by the ability to control the thing without leaving your chair has produced a nation of couch potatoes with dull minds, poor taste, and fat butts. What's next, the ability to buy unhealthy food, make phone calls, and use the Internet without getting out of your car?

Thornton P. Knowles

The Hard-Boiled Detective Novel Protagonist

     "Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean," Raymond Chandler wrote in his article, "The Simple Art of Murder" which could be called the manifesto of the American hard-boiled detective novel. This man, the detective, "is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of and certainly without saying it."

     It's a worthy aesthetic, and Chandler was certainly the master of it, even back in 1944, when he wrote "The Simple Art of Murder." The essay was a repudiation of the English school of murder mystery--best represented by Agatha Christie--or, more specifically, the countless American knockoffs thereof, genteel, stilted puzzles set in "Miami hotels and Cape Code summer colonies," rather than manor houses. Chandler held up Dashiell Hammett as the exemplar of what he referred to as the new "realist" school of crime fiction, yet Chandler was Hammett's equal, if not his superior in the style that would also become known as noir.

Laura Miller, salon.com, September 7, 2014 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Anthony Baye Arson-Murder Case

     Between December 27, 2009 and January 4, 2010, an arsonist in Northhamton, Massachusetts torched more than 40 homes. It was the biggest crime spree in the history of the town. One of the Ward 3 neighborhood fires took the lives of 81-year-old Paul Yeskie and his son Paul, Jr. who was 39. Police officers patrolling Ward 3 during the early morning hours on four of the arson-pleagued nights, pulled over a vehicle driven by 26-year-old Anthony P. Baye. These investigative stops did not result in Baye's arrest.

     Anthony Baye was brought in for questioning on January 4, 2010 by Massachusetts State Police sergeant Paul Zipper and Trooper Michael Mazza. After he was warned of his Miranda rights to remain silent, and have access to an attorney, Baye asked to speak to a lawyer. The officers, instead of terminating the interrogation at that point, informed Baye that he would be better off speaking to them first. They assured him that if he took responsibility for setting the fires, the judge would go easy on him. Utilizing the age-old confession inducing technique (developed by Fred Inbau in the 1930s) of minimizing the seriousness and immorality of the crimes (referring to the arsons as "tomfoolery"), the troopers got Baye to admit setting 15 of the fires.

     While Anthony Baye didn't come out and admit setting fire that killed the Yeskies, he did say he never meant to do them any harm. In soliciting the arson-murder confession, one of the interrogators misrepresented the criminal law when he assured Baye that if he hadn't intended to kill the Yeskies, he could not be charged with felony-murder. (Under Massachusetts law, if Baye had intended to set the fire which inadvertently led to their deaths, he was guilty of criminal homicide under the felony-murder doctrine.)

     Following the ten hour, videotaped interrogation, the state troopers took Baye into custody. The local prosecutor charged him with two counts of first-degree murder and several counts of arson. Given the seriousness of the crimes, Baye was not granted bail.

     Baye's attorneys, Thomas Lesser and David Hoose, on grounds the state interrogators had violated their client's Fifth and Six Amendment rights by not discontinuing the interrogation and providing him with an attorney when he requested one, filed a motion to suppress the confession.

     On September 21, 2011, Hampshire Superior Court Judge Constance B. Sweeney heard arguments on the defendant's motion to suppress. At the conclusion of the pre-trial hearing, Judge Sweeney, while expressing reservations regarding the troopers' interrogation techniques, ruled Baye's confession voluntary and therefore admissible. The defense appealed Judge Sweeney's ruling to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court which agreed to rule on the admissibility of Baye's confession before rather than after his trial.

     On May 21, 2012, the Massachusetts Supreme Court Justices ruled the Baye confession had not been given voluntarily and was therefore inadmissible as evidence against him. Although the justices didn't specifically rule on the issue of whether continuing the interrogation after Baye requested an attorney rendered it inadmissible, the constitutional law on this issue was settled. In the Baye case, the state interrogators had clearly violated Baye's Miranda rights. Under Miranda, a confession can be inadmissible even though it was given voluntarily. Once a suspect exercises his Miranda rights, the interrogation must stop. Anything said by the suspect after this point is not admissible evidence regardless of the fact no coercion was involved.

     One year after the court ruled Baye's confession inadmissible, the defendant, pursuant to an agreed upon plea agreement, pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter. On May 15, 2013, the Hampshire Superior Court judge sentenced Anthony P. Baye to twenty years in prison followed by fifteen years of probation.

Thornton P. Knowles On Retribution

Because our criminal justice system is more civilized than many of the murderers and sex offenders it punishes, our need for retribution is often unfulfilled.

Thornton P. Knowles

The Nonfiction Novel

     Time Magazine's all-time best nonfiction list--a selection so politically correct it's virtually useless as a reading guide--contains just two books about murder. Both works, Norman Mailer's Executioner's Song and Truman Capote's In Cold Blood can be found under the subcategory "Nonfiction Novels."  This begs the question: how can a novel, a work of fiction, be a work of nonfiction? Isn't the term "nonfiction novel" a contradiction?

     Al Dewey, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation detective in charge of the 1959 Clutter family murder, the Holcomb, Kansas mass killing upon which In Cold Blood is based, told my friend and colleague, Dr. John Kelly at the University of Delaware, that Capote's account is more fiction than fact. According to Dewey, Capote altered the story's chronology, created composite characters, and invented scenes and dialogue. While Capote based his book on the Clutter case, he intended it as a novel, and that was how it was published. So what is this book doing on Time Magazine's nonfiction list? Perhaps the list's compilers, unfamiliar with the true crime genre, had to include a couple of crime books by well-known novelists. At any rate, just how much liberty can a nonfiction writer take before his book slips into the fiction genre? This is a debate that has gone on for decades.

     Doris Ricker Marston, in A Guide to Writing History, defines what is alternatively referred to as narrative nonfiction, creative nonfiction, literary journalism and the new journalism as: "...a dramatic presentation of true reporting. There are real characters moving as they actually did in the events that actually took place, and with action dramatically presented."

     Book-length practitioners of this genre include Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, Joseph Wambaugh and Tom Wolfe. While Truman Capote claimed to have invented the "nonfiction novel," as Anthony Arthur points out in his book, Literary Feuds, others before him--Thomas Carlyle, Lytton Stachey, John Hersey, Alan Moorehead, Shelby Foote and Ernest Hemingway--had applied novelistic techniques to nonfiction. In his introductory essay to New Journalism, an anthology of narrative nonfiction work, Tom Wolfe predicted that literary nonfiction would replace "the novel as the number one literary genre, starting the first new direction in American letters in half a century." While the genre has gained respect and now outstrips the literary novel in the marketplace, it has not dethroned its fictional counterpart as a form of literary art.

     The following quotes about literary nonfiction are from professional authors who write in the genre:

Creative nonfiction requires the skills of the storyteller and the research ability of the conscientious reporter. Writers of creative nonfiction must become instant authorities on the subjects of their articles or books. They must not only understand the facts and report them using quotes from authorities, they must also see beyond them to discover their underlying meaning, and they must dramatize that meaning in an interesting, evocative, informative way--just as a good teacher does.
Theodore A. Rees Cheney

Some people criticize nonfiction writers for "appropriating" the techniques and devices of fiction writing. These techniques, except for invention of characters and detail, never belonged to fiction. They belong to storytelling.
Tracy Kidder

Creative nonfiction demands spontaneity and an imaginative approach, while remaining true to the validity and integrity of the information it contains. That is why the creative nonfiction form is so appealing to people with new ideas or fresh interpretations of accepted concepts in history, science, or the arts; people with an intellectual curiosity about the world around us or a fresh viewpoint or approach.
Lee Gutkind

Story-driven nonfiction is extraordinarily successful, and there's a huge market for it now. I think it's partly because when you publish a nonfiction book, especially one that's story driven as opposed to didactic or scholarly, you can target the market in an easier way.
Charlie Conrad

Creative nonfiction is frequently about people. We're all curious about how other people live, what they do, and how they think.
Rita Berman

...for the nonfiction-novel form to be entirely successful, the author should not appear in the work.
Truman Capote

I certainly always use novelistic techniques, but I also felt that the boundaries between fact and fiction should never be blurred.
Tom Wolfe

The line between truth and fiction has become so blurred that the public no longer knows what to expect.
Jack Olsen

I very often will have The Orchid Thief [a nonfiction book] referred to as a novel, and it drives me crazy.
Susan Orlean