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Sunday, August 18, 2019

"Evil Evan" Ebel: The Violent Death Of A Dangerous Parolee

     In February 2011, the governor of Colorado appointed Tom Clements to the position of Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections. Clements left his job as Director of Operations for Adult Correctional Facilities in Missouri to head up the 6,000-employee department. The 58-year-old corrections administrator, his wife, and two daughters resided in Monument, Colorado, a rural, upscale community in El Paso County 45 miles south of Denver.

     At 8:37 in the evening of Tuesday, March 19, 2013, a member of the Clements family called 911 to report a shooting at the Monument Colorado home. Deputies with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office found Tom Clements lying dead in his front doorway. According to the family member, he had been shot when he answered the doorbell.

     Sheriff's lieutenant Jeff Kramer told reporters that the Clements murder didn't appear to be the result of an attempted robbery. Moreover, it didn't have the markings of a random act of violence.

     On Thursday night, March 21, 2013, a Montague County Sheriff's deputy in northeast Texas near the Oklahoma line, pulled over a black Cadillac with Colorado plates. It was a routine traffic that turned into a violent crime. The driver of the vehicle, a 28-year-old paroled Colorado gang member and white supremacist named Evan Spencer Ebel, shot the deputy twice in the chest, and with a third bullet,  grazed the officer's head. The downed deputy had been wearing a bullet-proof vest therefore was able to call for help and describe Ebel's car.

     Following a high-speed police chase, Ebel slammed his Cadillac into an eighteen-wheeler in Decatur, Texas thirty miles south of the traffic stop and shooting. The Colorado parolee bearing the tattoos "hopeless," and "Evil Evan," climbed out of his damaged car firing at the police. The officers gunned him down on the spot. He died at a hospital in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

     Homicide detectives in Colorado believed that Evan Ebel had murdered Tom Clements. Inside the wrecked Cadillac, police found a Domino's Pizza uniform jacket and a cardboard pizza box. This discovery suggested that Ebel had murdered a 27-year-old pizza delivery man named Nathan Leon in Denver on March 17, 2013.

     Evan Ebel, a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, was scheduled for parole on April 13, 2013 but was released early to the custody of his father, Jack Ebel, a Denver area lawyer. The parolee's violent crime history dated back to 2003 when he was convicted of robbery. In 2008, he was found guilty of assaulting a prison guard. 

The Execution Of Walter Storey

     Missouri carried out its first execution of 2015. The state executed 47-year-old Walter Storey who was sentenced to death for the murder of 36-year-old Jill Frey, a neighbor. Storey murdered the victim with a knife on February 2, 1990. He received a lethal dose of pentobarbital just after midnight on February 11, 2015 in the execution chamber of the Eastern Reception Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre.

     As the lethal injection took place, Storey turned his head toward family members and began to sing or chant until his breathing stopped.

     Storey, on February 2, 1990 had received a divorce petition from his estranged wife. At the time he was living with his mother in a St. Charles, Missouri apartment complex. After a heavy night of drinking, Storey ran out of alcohol and decided to rob his across-the-hall neighbor, Jill Frey, a special education teacher.

     Storey grabbed a knife from his kitchen and climbed up to Frey's balcony and entered her apartment through an unlocked sliding glass door. He brutally beat Frey to death, inflicting no fewer than twenty blunt force blows. He broke the victim's ribs, stabbed her in the abdomen, and slashed her neck. After the murder, he stole the victim's purse and car.

     The next day, Storey returned to Frey's apartment and attempted to wipe down the scene to cover up evidence. He cleaned under the victim's fingernails using her own toothbrush. Storey tossed physical evidence of the murder in a dumpster and threw Frey's car keys in the lake behind the complex.

     The day after the crime scene clean-up, co-workers discovered Frey's body after she failed to show up for work….

"Missouri Carries Out Execution of Walter Storey," missourinet.com, February 11, 2015

Thornton P. Knowles On Exploratory Surgery

I asked my doctor if he could recommend a good surgeon. "For what?" he asked. "I want him to open me up to see if I have any more books in me." Without cracking a smile he replied, "If you do, do you want them removed?"

Thornton P. Knowles

Are Manic-Depressives Better Novelists?

     A surprising proportion of novelists are manic-depressive. The psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison, one of the foremost experts on manic-depression, has explored this phenomenon in depth…The work of Jamison and others shows that novelists are ten times more likely to be manic-depressive than the rest of the population, and poets are a remarkably forty times more likely to suffer from this condition...

     Although most writers who have been successfully treated for depression find that their work begins to flow again as their mood improves, paradoxically, a few writers have linked their desire to write to their depression…

     One justification for such a position is that an artist must suffer to create, and what more effective way to suffer than through mental illness?..

     Other writers argue that depression is not necessary for creativity directly, but is an inevitable side effect of the mechanism that produces elated creative states…Several more writers have described how their desire to write disappeared as their depressions lifted, but blame the antidepressant--not the loss of their depression--for their decreased creativity.

Alice W. Flaherty, The Midnight Disease, 2004 

The Reluctant Novelist

The anxiety involved in writing is intolerable. And the financial rewards just don't make up for the expenditure of energy, the damage to health caused by stimulants and narcotics, the fear that one's work isn't good enough. I think, if I had enough money, I'd give up writing tomorrow.

Anthony Burgess, The New Yorker, June 14, 2004 

The Short Story Is Not A Slice of Life Piece

A basic distinction between an episode in real life and a short story is that the story does have an author, who creates his characters, selects his actions, and directs them in the exploration of some meaningful idea. Any episode in life is filled with irrelevancies of many kinds which confuse our understanding; in the story only those elements are included which serve to focus the overall effect, which is the story. The helpful author is present, then, in the creating selecting, and focusing of the materials of his story.

Jarvis A. Thurston in Reading Modern Short Stories, edited by Jarvis A. Thurston, 1955

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Jessica Hernandez Police-Involved Shooting Case

     In Denver, Colorado at six-thirty in the morning of Monday January 26, 2015, two police officers responded to a call about a suspicious vehicle. The officers knew that the parked car, occupied by five people, had been reported stolen. According to the police version of the story, as the officers approached the vehicle, it lurched toward them. Both officers opened fire, hitting and killing the driver who turned out to be 17-year-old Jessica Hernandez. The car struck one of the officers in the leg.

     Bobbie Diaz, the mother of a 16-year-old girl who was in the stolen car at the time of the shooting was in bed when she heard four gunshots followed by a man yelling, "Freeze! Get out of the car! Get down!"

     When Diaz went outside to investigate, she saw police officers pulling young people from the car. They yanked Jessica Hernandez out from behind the steering wheel and handcuffed the unresponsive girl. One of the teens in the group screamed, "She's dead! She's dead!"

     Another witness to the police shooting, neighborhood resident Arellia Hammock, told a reporter she heard three gunshots that morning. In referring to the teenagers involved, she said, "They shouldn't have stolen a car. But the cops are too fast on the gun. You've got stun guns. You've got rubber bullets. Why do they have to shoot all the time?"

     One of the occupants of the stolen car offered a version of the incident different in a very important way from the official police account. According to this witness, the vehicle didn't move toward the officers until after they killed the driver.

     The Denver chief of police, pursuant to departmental policy in such matters, placed both officers on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation into Hernandez's death. The inquiry was . conducted by three separate agencies: the Denver Police Department, the district attorney's office, and a civilian oversight organization called the Office of Independent Monitor.

     At a vigil held that night for Jessica Hernandez, residents of the neighborhood critical of the police  held signs protesting the shooting. One of the signs read: "Your Badge Is Not a License to Kill."

     Two days after the fatal shooting, 200 angry protestors gathered outside Denver's District 2 police station. An official with the independent civilian oversight organization reported to the media that in the past seven months Denver police officers had fired four times at vehicles they perceived as threats.

     According to the Denver Police Department's use of deadly force guidelines, officers in cases like this are urged to step out of the way of approaching vehicles rather than to open fire. Moreover, if the driver of the vehicle is hit, the car or truck could become an unguided missile.

     Because Denver police cars were not equipped with dashboard cameras, shooting investigators would have to rely on witness accounts of the incident. It would have been helpful to detectives if the incident had been caught on a neighborhood surveillance camera.

     Not long after the fatal shooting, Jessica Hernandez's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city.

     In June 2016, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey decided there was not enough evidence to file criminal charges against the police officers involved in Jessica Hernandez's death. The officers were returned to duty.
   
     In April 2017, the city of Denver and Jessica Hernandez's family settled the wrongful death lawsuit for $1 million. 

The Animal Cruelty Case That Sparked Public Outrage

     In April 2019, a man rummaging through a dumpster in Coachella, California made a startling discovery. Inside a white plastic bag he found seven live, three-day old Terrier mix puppies. The dogs, having been exposed to 90 degree heat, were rushed to an animal hospital where they were found to be in remarkably good health. From there the puppies were taken to an Animal shelter.

     Surveillance video footage showed that prior to the discovery of the hapless puppies that day, a car had pulled up to the dumpster and a woman had gotten out carrying the bag of dogs. She dropped the package into the dumpster and drove off.

     Investigation revealed that the woman in the video was 54-year-old Deborah Sue Culwell.

     A Riverside County prosecutor charged Deborah Sue Culwell with 14 counts of animal cruelty. She pleaded not guilty to the charges.

     In August 2019, following Culwell's guilty plea, the judge sentenced her to one year in which she would have to spend 275 days behind bars. Culwell would serve her remaining time pursuant to a work release arrangement followed by seven years of probation during which time she could not own an animal.

     Although a misdemeanor, the cruelty of Culwell's crime and the vulnerability of its victims sparked outrage in the southern California community. The judge obviously shared this view of Culwell's behavior.

     Perhaps there should be a registry for animal abusers.

Thornton P. Knowles On Cruelty To Animals

I am soft on animals, particularly pets. Defendants convicted of animal cruelty should be punished as though they have committed their crimes against children. There is no moral or legal justification for animal cruelty. A person who intentionally hurts an innocent and helpless animal is capable of physically abusing a child. While these sadists belong in Hell, very few of them even go to prison. As one of the few people from West Virginia who could never shoot a deer, the sentencing of animal abusers is a criminal justice reality that brings out the vigilante in me.

Thornton P. Knowles

The Mystery of Evil

The concept of the psychopath is, in fact, an admission of failure to solve the mystery of evil--it is merely a restatement of the mystery--and only offers an escape valve for the frustration felt by psychiatrists, social workers, and police officers, who daily encounter its force.

Janet Malcolm, The Journalist and the Murderer, 1990

Charles Bukowski On Not Selling Out

Writing can trap you. Some writers tend to write what has pleased their readers in the past. Then they are finished. Most writers' creative span is short. They hear the accolades and believe them. There is only one final judge of writing and that is the writer. When he is swayed by the critics, the editors, the publishers, the readers, then he's finished.

Charles Bukowski, The Captain Is Out To Lunch And The Sailors Have Taken Over The Ship

What is Literary Narrative?

Narrative is the representation of an event or series of events. "Event" is the key word here, though some people prefer the word "action." Without an event or an action you may have a "description," an "exposition," an "argument," a "lyric," some combination of these or something else altogether, but you won't have a narrative. "My dog has fleas" is a description of my dog, but it is not a narrative because nothing happens. "My dog was bitten by a flea" is a narrative. It tells of an event. The event is very small one--the bite of a flea--but that is enough to make it a narrative.

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

Keep Common Experiences Out Of Your Memoir

If you write about your father hitting you on the head, you're up against a lot of competition with people who are writing about exactly the same experience. I used to tell students not to use certain subjects they seemed to gravitate to almost automatically at their age, such as the death of their grandparents--grandparents tend to die when you're in high school or college. I at least want to read about something I don't already know about. [How about: "Why my father hit my dead grandfather in the head." Just kidding.]

John Ashbery in Ian Jackman's The Writer's Mentor, 2004

Friday, August 16, 2019

The High-Profile Sanford Rubenstein Rape Allegation

     On October 1, 2014, prominent Manhattan, New York defense attorney Sanford A. Rubenstein attended civil rights activist Al Sharpton's 60th birthday party at the Four Seasons restaurant. Following the gala affair, two female party attendees accompanied Rubenstein back to his penthouse apartment. One of these women, Iasha Rivers, sat on the board of Sharpton's civil rights organization, The National Action Network.

     The 43-year-old board member's companion left the Rubenstein apartment sometime after midnight. Iasha Rivers, however, decided to spend the night with the rich lawyer. The next morning, Mr. Rubenstein's driver took her home.

     Iasha Rivers, 36-hours after being driven home from Rubenstein's penthouse, went to a hospital with bruises on her arms and vaginal bleeding. To hospital personnel, and later the police, she claimed that Sanford Rubenstein had drugged and raped her that night.

     In her police complaint, Iasha Rivers said that after her party companion left the penthouse, she began to feel "foggy" then lost consciousness. According to her account of that night, when she awoke, Mr. Rubenstein had her arms pinned and was raping her.

     The rape allegation against Mr. Rubenstein led to a three-month investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. On January 5, 2015, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance announced that after his investigators questioned dozens of witnesses, reviewed medical records, looked at surveillance camera footage, and considered toxicology results, he didn't have enough evidence to support a criminal charge against Mr. Rubenstein.

     In justifying his decision not proceed with this case, prosecutor Vance said that a toxicology test of the alleged victim's blood failed to show the presence of anything other than traces of alcohol and marijuana.

     Benjamin Brafman, Mr. Rubenstein's attorney, said this following the district attorney's announcement: "What happened in this case was consensual sex between two adults who were fully alert and fully awake throughout."

     Kenneth J. Montgomery, Iasha River's attorney, in calling the district attorney's office investigation "incredibly inept," accused investigators of ignoring evidence such as his client's bruised arms and a bloody condom that had been recovered from Rubenstein's apartment. The attorney criticized the district attorney for not presenting the case to a grand jury.

     In questioning the results of the toxicology test, Mr. Montgomery pointed out that his client did not use marijuana. "I think," he said, "they never wanted to pursue this case from the very beginning." The lawyer also announced that he had just filed a civil lawsuit against Mr. Rubenstein on behalf of his client.

     Mr. Brafman, speaking for his client, Mr. Rubenstein, said, "Rape is undoubtedly a serious offense; to falsely accuse someone of rape, however, is equally offensive."

     On January 6, 2015, the day following District Attorney Vance's announcement, The New York Daily News, citing a source within the NYPD, reported that officers had found, in Rubenstein's penthouse, a prescription for Viagra issued in Al Sharpton's name.

     Al Sharpton responded quickly to the tabloid's Viagra story. "I don't know anything about that," he said. "No, I don't know anything about that." According to the civil rights leader, this Daily News reportage was nothing more than a New York City police conspiracy to embarrass him. "If the motive of the cop was to embarrass me, at sixty years old, I am unembarassable."

     Rank and file New York City police officers had been offended by what they considered Al Sharpton's anti-cop rhetoric in the wake of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases. Sharpton was considered by many to be an unrepentant race-baiter who used his clout in the black community to extort money from corporations afraid of being labeled as racist. It was not a stretch of the imagination to believe that New York City police officers would want nothing better than to embarrass this man. Al Sharpton's claim that he could not be embarrassed, based upon the history of his career, had the ring of truth.

     In March 2016, the attorney for Iasha Rivers and the attorney for Rubenstein quietly agreed to drop their clients' lawsuits against each other.

Police Officer Suicide

In 2017, there were 47,000 suicides in the United States, the highest rate in 50 years. In 2018, 159 police officers took their own lives. On August 14, 2019, in New York City, the 9th officer in 2019 committed suicide at his home in Queens, New York. The day before, a NYPD officer shot himself to death in Yonkers, New York.

Thornton P. Knowles On Reality

Humans will never comprehend reality. What the hell is it, and why do so many people want to escape it?

Thornton P. Knowles

Charles Bukowski's Dislike Of His Fellow Writers

There is something about writing that draws the fakes. What is it? Writers are the most difficult to take, on the page or in person. And they are worse in person than on the page and that's pretty bad.

Charles Bukowski

The Great American Novel Myth

The Great American Novel is as elusive as the Lock Ness monster…Mythical beasts, the both of them, but that won't stop us from setting up our telescopes and yardsticks, or from speculating: where will it surface?

Peter S. Prescott, Never in Doubt, 1986 

Finding Your Fiction Voice

The thing you are trying to find is the voice. This is the single most important thing in any novel. The voice. How it will sound. Who is telling the story? Why is he telling it? If you're sixty years old and writing in the first person singular about a sixteen-year-old high school student, beware of the voice. It may be your own, and that is wrong.

Evan Hunter in The Writer's Handbook, Sylvia K. Burack, editor, 1986 

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Gary George Ritualistic Murder Case

     On August 30, 2012, police in Chester, England found 53-year-old Andrew Nall lying dead in a pool of blood on his bedroom floor. He had been beaten and stabbed 49 times. The killer, in an act of torture, had carved a hole in Nall's chest then filled the gaping wound with salt. The sadistic killer had also poured cleaning fluid into the victim's eyes.

     The ritualistic torture and killing in Mr. Nall's flat was witnessed by Christine Holleran. According to the victim's 50-year-old friend, Nall, an alcoholic, had been intoxicated at the time of his murder. He was set upon, tortured, mutilated, and killed by a homeless alcoholic named Gary George. After being taken into custody by the police, Holleran informed detectives that the 41-year-old killer had growled like a dog when he stabbed the victim. "He was like the Devil," she said.

     Ten hours after Andrew Hall's murder, the Chester Police arrested Gary George in connection with the assault of another man. Initially, George said he had killed the victim because he was a pedophile. Later, the truth came out. George admitted that the killing was a real-life re-enactment of a scene in the 2009 Australian horror film, "The Loved Ones." George said he was a horror film fanatic, and this was his favorite movie in the genre.

     On March 25, 2013, Chester Crown Court Judge Elgan Edwards, following a three-week trial that resulted in a guilty verdict, sentenced Gary George to thirty years in prison. (The same jury had found Georges' co-defendant, Christine Hollerman, not guilty.)

Gary Dotson Exonerated By DNA Thirty Years Ago

     Gary Dotson was convicted in May 1979 of raping 16-year-old Cathleen Crowell. The jury found him guilty on the basis of her testimony. He denied having any sexual relations with her. In 1985, after Crowell became a born-again Christian, she recanted. She said she had made up the accusation as a cover story for her parents in the event her boyfriend impregnated her. Prosecutors claimed that the recantation was the product of Crowell's mental derangement. As a result, Dotson stood convicted until 1989 when he was exonerated by DNA analysis. He became the first person in the United States to be so exonerated.

     Since Gary Dotson's historic exoneration, 364 people have been exonerated by DNA science.

How the Fear of Crime Affects Our Lives

Crime affects all of us. There is little we do without thinking, however briefly, that we might be victimized. Nearly every time we turn around it seems we risk being cheated, robbed, attacked, or preyed upon in some other insidious manner. Our cities turn into ghost towns at night because we fear to go out. We are afraid to keep jewelry, silver, and other precious possessions in our homes; so we must resort to safes, locks, deposit boxes, and security systems. Fearing sexual assault, women who live alone bar their windows, severely restrict where they go by themselves, and even fear to have their names on a mailbox or in a telephone book. Municipal parks and swimming pools are no longer oases in the asphalt for they have been taken over by muggers, robbers, and drug traffickers. People are threatened with weapons and even murdered so their assailants can grab a few dollars. When we shop for clothes we are inconvenienced by security precautions that limit how many items we can try on, and we are afraid to leave our own clothes in the changing rooms. We fear for our children because the public schools are beset with disorder, vandalism, drugs, thefts, and violence. [And don't forget the pedophiles.] Fear that our medicine or food will poison us is no longer a paranoid's delusion. Such things have happened from coast to coast.

Dr. Stanton E. Samenow, Inside the Criminal Mind, 1984

Thornton P. Knowles On Never Getting Old

A few months before my father went out to the barn to hang himself, he said, "Son, never get old." I was fifteen and thought he was crazy, and weak. Now I'm beginning to think that maybe he was right.

Thornton P. Knowles

Why Serial Killers Kill

The notion that male serial killers kill only for sexual purposes and that they kill only strangers is long outdated. Serial killers will also kill for power, profit, belief, and politics and some will kill friends, neighbors, and family members. And female serial killers can kill for the same reasons as males do.

Peter Vronsky, Female Serial Killers, 2007

Charles Bukowski The Loner

I never really found a friend. With women, there was hope with each new one but that was in the beginning. Even early on, I got it, I stopped looking for the Dream Girl; I just wanted one that wasn't a nightmare.

Charles Bukowski

Raymond Chandler on Writing

     Raymond Chandler (1888-1959), the British born author of bestselling hard boiled private eye novels The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye, transformed the mystery genre into literature. Chandler lived many years in southern California, and wrote for the movies. The following passages are from The Raymond Chandler Papers: Selected Letters and Nonfiction, 1909-1959, edited by Tom Hiney and Frank MacShane:

...I have never had any great respect for the ability of editors, publishers, play and picture producers to guess what the public will like. The record is all against them.

American [writing style] has no cadence. Without cadence a style has no harmonics. It is like a flute playing solo, an incomplete thing, very dextrous or very stupid as the case may be, but still an incomplete thing.

When a book, any sort of book, reaches a certain intensity of artistic performance, it becomes literature. That intensity may be a matter of style, situation, character, emotional tone, or idea, or half a dozen other things. It may also be a perfection of control over the movement of the story similar to the control a great pitcher has over the ball.

I have a peculiar idea about titles. They should never be obviously provocative, nor say anything about murder. They should be rather indirect and neutral, but the form of words should be a little unusual.

The people whom God or nature intended to be writers find their own answers, and those who have to ask are impossible to help. They are merely people who want to be writers.

...you never quite know where your story is until you have written the first draft of it. So I always regard the first draft as raw material.

I write when I can and don't write when I can't; always in the morning or the early part of the day. You get very gaudy ideas at night but they don't stand up.

The detective story is not and never will be a "novel about a detective." The detective enters it only as a catalyst. And he leaves it exactly the same as he was before. [As opposed to "straight" novels where the protagonist, by the end of the book, has to have undergone some kind of change.]

A classical education saves you from being fooled by pretentiousness, which is what most current fiction is too full of.

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.

...not-quite writers are very tragic people and the more intelligent they are, the more tragic, because the step they can't take seems to them such a very small step, which in fact it is. And every successful or fairly successful writer knows, or should know, by what a narrow margin he himself was able to take that step. But if you can't take it, you can't. That's all there is to it.

The private detective of fiction is a fantastic creation who acts and speaks like a real man. He can be completely realistic in every sense but one, that one sense being that in life as we know it such a man would not be a private detective. The things which happen to him might still happen as a result of a peculiar set of chances. By making him a private detective you skip the necessity for justifying his adventures.

Talking of [literary] agents, when I opened the morning paper one morning last week I saw that it finally happened: somebody shot one. It was probably for the wrong reasons, but a least it was a step in the right direction.

The only private eye I have met personally was brought to the house one night by a lawyer friend of mine....Most of his work consists of digging up information for lawyers, finding witnesses etc. He struck me as a bombastic and not too scrupulous individual. The private eye of fiction is pure fantasy and is meant to be.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Arturo Gatti's Sudden And Violent Death: Suicide Or Murder?

     On July 11, 2009, police in Ipojuca, Brazil discovered the body of 37-year-old Arturo Gatti lying in his underwear on the bloodstained floor of the villa where he was vacationing with his wife Amanda Rodrigues. The blood originated from a blunt-object wound to the back of his head. Gatti's sudden, violent death grabbed headlines due to his prominence in the world of professional boxing. Born in Italy, raised in Canada and relocated to Jersey City, New Jersey, Gatti, with a lightweight/welterweight record of 40 wins and 9 defeats, is best known for this three bouts with Mickey Ward.  Ring Magazine named the rubber match between Gatti and Worcester, Massachusetts' welterweight Mickey Ward, "Fight of the Year."

     The Brazilian authorities quickly charged Gatti's wife with first-degree murder. That she had waited ten hours before reporting his death, the fact the strap of her purse was stained in his blood, and other factors led to her arrest. However, on July 30, 2009, after ruling his death a suicide--he had supposedly hanged himself from a wooden staircase with the strap of the purse--the authorities released Rodrigues from custody.

     Twenty-four days before his death, while living back in Montreal, Gatti had changed his will, leaving his entire estate to his wife. Following the release of his widow from Brazilian custody, the Canadian government promised a thorough investigation of the death. Instead, a team of private investigators took up the case.

     In August, 2009, at a news conference in New Jersey, the private investigators announced that they believed that Arturo had been murdered. Among other evidence that didn't support the suicide finding, the purse strap was incapable of holding his body weight from the staircase. Dr. Cyril Wecht, the prominent forensic pathologist from Pittsburgh, called the Brazilian autopsy "horribly incomplete" to the point of being "deliberately bungled" in an attempt to support suicide as the manner of death.  The press conference coincided with a civil trial underway in Montreal where Gatti's mother and brother were contesting Rodrigues' claim to his $6 million estate.

     In December 2012, Arturo Gatti was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

     As of August 2019, the official manner of Arturo Gatti's death remained suicide.

Creating Crime Myths

In order for the momentum of a crime myth to be prolonged…myths must be accompanied by certain characterizations. Momentum is achieved if the crime problem has traits that either instill fear or threaten the vast majority of society in some appreciable way. Not unlike Greek mythology, modern crime myths must follow certain themes for success. There must be "virtuous' heroes, "innocent" victims, and "evil" villains who pose a clear and certain threat to the audience. Only then can a crime myth reach its potential . [There were two crime myths that dominated the 1980s: hundreds of serial killings running loose and an epidemic of stranger kidnappings of children. More recently there was the myth that a growing army of zombie meth and bath salts addicts were roaming our cities.]

Victor E. Kappeler, Mark Blumberg and Gary W. Potter, The Mythology of Crime and Criminal Justice, Third Edition, 2000

Female Serial Killers in the Annals of Murder

     Can you name the serial killer who struck in the back of a military helicopter flying at 4,000 feet on a mission? Or the one who, at the age of eleven, killed two victims? Or the one who danced and socialized with a California governor? Some would know to name Genene Jones, Mary Bell, and Dorothea Puente--three females. But for the rest of us, we never knew there were female serial killers. That is, except for that lesbian hooker--the one they made the movie about--Aileen Wuornos. While the names of Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Jeffrey Dahmer, or the monikers of the Boston Strangler, Son of Sam, the Green River Killer, and BTK are familiar to all, ask us to name a few female serial killers and we usually stop right after Aileen. Were there others?

     Yes, many actually. About one out of every six serial killers is a woman.

Peter Vronsky, Female Serial Killers, 2007

An Eye For An Eye

The biblical precept, "An eye for any eye and a tooth for a tooth" belongs to an era that predates courts. It enjoins the injured party not to wreak vengeance beyond the injury he has suffered. In this sense it is the beginning of the idea of justice.

Ronald Irving, The Law Is An Ass, 2011 

The Biographer's Fascination with Their Subjects' Sex Lives

One respect in which modern biography resembles fiction is its fascination with its subjects' sexual lives. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the novel was the literary genre above all others to which readers turned for the representation of sexuality. Biography restricted itself to the public lives of its subjects--or, insofar as it dealt with their private lives, did not intrude into the bedroom.

David Lodge, The Practice of Writing, 1996 

Writing About Animals

I write about animals because I really like animals. I'm also interested in the animalistic side of human nature, and when and why humans cross over into doing very violent things. Writing about animals is a way of getting at readers' emotions. People sometimes open up their emotions to animals more easily than they do other people. You see that with the way people get so obsessed with their pets. A big thing you see in New York is a person walking their dog with a diamond-stud collar, right past a homeless person. That interests me as well. My stories are about people, but I use animals as vehicles to get at the people.

Carole Burns, Off the Page, 2008

Clifton Fadiman on Raymond Chandler

I do not think Raymond Chandler should be judged by conventional literary standards. This is not fiction in the sense that Tolstoy or Balzac or Hemingway wrote fiction. As crime fiction, it belongs to a genre whose kinship is with other kinds of pop art, including the cartoon, the old radio serial, and what is known as science fiction…Of its kind, Farewell, My Lovely is a masterpiece. It belongs to a class of writing for which we have no name.

Clifton Fadiman in Fifty Years, edited by Clifton Fadiman, 1965 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

A Senseless Murder And Double Suicide

     Nickie Ann Circelli and her husband Sal were divorced in 2010. Due to years of drug abuse, the 36-year-old lifelong resident of Suffern, New York, lost custody of her four children. That year, police in the town of 12,000 in the foothills of Ramapo Mountains, arrested Nickie and a man named Michael Chase in connection with the theft of $4,800 worth of power tools from trucks in a Home Depot parking lot. She pleaded guilty and spent a few months in jail.

     Nickie Circelli, a former employee of a local insurance company, moved in with her mother when she got out of jail.  But when her mother died in 2013, Nickie took up residence with her 70-year-old uncle, William Valenti. Mr. Valenti owned a house in Suffern.

     Another local drug addict, 40-year-old Gary Crockett, had also moved in to "Uncle Bill's" house. For 19 years, Gary had worked at the Mahwah Warehouse and Delivery Company in Mahwah, New Jersey. But a year earlier he quit his job after having an argument with the co-owner. Crockett didn't like being criticized for "moving too slowly." At the time, Crockett was living downtown in a apartment above the Suffern Furniture Gallery.

     Circelli and Crockett, while residing under Mr. Valenti's roof, had been passing forged checks to withdraw small sums of money from his bank account. Mr. Valenti gave the couple a deadline to pay back the $1,500 they had stolen. If they didn't return his money, he threatened to report them to the police.

     On Monday morning, April 28, 2014, during an argument over the stolen money, Crockett murdered William Valenti. The Rockland County Medical Examiner determined that the victim had died of suffocation. His body was discovered in his bed.

     Following the murder, the couple took dead man's Chevrolet Malibu and drove it to the Bronx, New York. They parked the vehicle and walked to the George Washington Bridge. Just before noon, about half way across the span, Circelli and Crockett jumped to their deaths.

     At the Suffern murder scene, investigators found two suicide notes signed by Circelli under her maiden name, Hunt. In the note addressed to her family, Circelli wrote: "To the four most amazing kids who the world has ever seen and ever will. I beg you to remember the Nickie that I used to be, before I was introduced to heroin."

     The second suicide note read: "I know that I'm taking the cowardly way out. I just don't want to hurt people anymore. Anything that goes into the paper, please make sure my last name is Hunt; I don't want to hurt my kids anymore than I already have." 

The Emotional Makeup of a Serial Killer

After speaking at length to more than eighty [serial killers], I have found that serial murderers do not relate to others on any level that you would expect one person to relate to another. They can play roles beautifully, create complex, earnest, performances to which no Hollywood Oscar winner could hold a candle. They can mimic anything. They can appear to be complete and whole human beings, and in some cases are seen to be pillars of society. But they're missing a very essential core of human relatedness. For them, killing is nothing, nothing at all. Serial murderers have no emotional connection to their victims. That's probably the most chilling part of it. Not only do they not care, but they also have no ability to care.

Dr. Helen Morrison, My Life Among the Serial Killers, 2004

Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity

     ….How did psychiatry come to play a crucial role in criminal trials? Why do defense and prosecution psychiatrists often disagree drastically in their expert opinions? What good, if any, does psychiatry do in our courts? To begin to answer these questions, we must first look at how the insanity defense operates.
     Once the defense lawyer decides with the client to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, the attorney calls in one or more psychiatrists to examine the defendant. Even though the psychiatrists may question the accused weeks or months after the act was committed, they are expected to determine exactly what the defendant was thinking during the moments surrounding the crime. Most particularly, did the accused know what he or she was doing was against the law or wrong? If so, was a choice made to commit the crime anyway, or was the behavior beyond the defendant's control? Was he or she driven to it by mental disorder? 
     Psychiatrists have no tests to reconstruct a past state of mind, but they nonetheless offer an opinion, because they are convinced that their "clinical skills" allow them to expertly determine questions of legal sanity. If they decide the defendant was legally insane at the moment of the crime, the defense lawyer has reason to go forward with an insanity plea. If they decide differently, the defense attorney may decide to start over by hiring another psychiatrist to examine the defendant. A psychiatrist who will reach the desired conclusions can usually be found. Neither judge nor jury learns of the prior psychiatrists, only of those the defense lawyer calls to testify that the defendant was legally insane at the moment of the crime.

Lee Coleman, "The Insanity Defense," in Criminal Justice?, Robert James Bidinotto, editor, 1994 

The Language Of The Law

The minute you read something you can't understand, you can almost be sure it was drawn up by a lawyer.

Will Rogers in The Law is An Ass, Ronald Irving, editor, 2011

William Noble on Writing Styles

     When I speak of good, clean prose, of grammatically correct phrasing, I'm talking about writing that has no redundancies and no awkward, self-conscious parts. You're carried forward by the lilt of the writer's style where words and phrases have purpose, and where the music of words will create a harmony of word sounds. In simple writer-editor language, writing such as this "works."

     But remember, it's style you're really considering, and you don't want to get bogged down in a maze of rules and procedures. Your individuality makes itself known through your style, and sometimes the techniques that don't work for one writer might work for another.

William Noble, Noble's Book of Writing Blunders, 2006

Writing Humorous Dialogue

Wordplay itself is not usually funny, only clever, unless it is attached to some other psychological force in the narrative…Most of the humor I'm interested in has to do with awkwardness: the makeshift theater that springs up between people at really awkward times…Bad jokes may be an expression of that awkwardness, without being inherently funny themselves. Of course, in including humor in a narrative a writer isn't doing anything especially artificial. Humor is just part of the texture of human conversation and life. In real life people are always funny.

Lorrie Moore, The Paris Review, Spring/Summer 2001 

There's No Such Thing As A Little Funny

Humor is difficult. Other kinds of stories don't have to hit the bull's-eye. The outer rings have their rewards too. A story can be fairly suspenseful, moderately romantic, somewhat terrifying, and so on. This is not the case with humor. A story is either funny or it is not funny. Nothing in between. The humor target contains only a bull's-eye.

Isaac Asimov, I, Asimov, 1996

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Home Invading Ex-Mennonite

     While ordinary crime in America has been on the decline, pathological, irrational offenses against persons seem to be on the rise. Crime has become largely inexplicable. Young men have shot up schools, shopping malls, theaters, and even hospitals. A man in New York City was pushed in front of an oncoming subway train, while in a small town in Pennsylvania, a music teacher shot his ex-wife to death as she played the organ in church. Every week there's a new murder-suicide case in the news. To write about crime today is to write about mental illness, personality disorder, and drug abuse.

     The changing nature of crime and criminal behavior in this country reflects a population of people who are losing the ability to cope with modern life. Politicians, desperate to appear honest, competent, and useful, fall all over themselves with ridiculous, feel-good laws that are irrelevant to the sources of these social problems. Instead of more cops, SWAT teams, and gun restrictions, the country needs more psychiatrists. America is mentally ill.

     At nine in the morning on Friday, December 14, 2012, two elderly Mennonite sisters invited a nice looking young man, who said he was an insurance salesman, into their house. Both in their late eighties, the sisters lived in a brick, ranch-style home on Indiantown Road in rural Lancaster County in the heart of southeastern Pennsylvania's Amish country. (Mennonites, devoted to the plain, simple life, are more modern that their old-order Amish counterparts. Unlike the Amish, they do not practice shunning.)

     Dereck Taylor Holt, the 22-year-old man who entered the Clay Township house that morning, was not an insurance salesman. The former Mennonite, with no fixed address, chided the frightened sisters for being members of the church, and railed angrily against the religion. He then repeatedly shocked the elderly women with a stun gun, and between periods in which he read Bible passages to his victims, slapped, kicked, and punched them. Holt used duct tape to bind his captives' hands and feet, then ransacked the house in search of cash and valuables.

     During the bizarre, sadistic home invasion, an elderly Mennonite friend of the sisters came to the house and knocked on the door. Holt pulled this woman into the home where he shocked and assaulted her before binding the visitor in duct tape. Following the two-hour ordeal, Holt used household cleaning substances he took from the house to remove his latent fingerprints from the scene. Before leaving the ransacked house and the terrified women, Holt destroyed their Bible.

     At 4:20 that afternoon, the three Mennonite victims were discovered by a relative of the sisters who called 911. The women were rushed by ambulance to Ephrata Hospital. One of the victims had an heart attack, the other a broken shoulder, and the third was treated for bleeding on the brain. (The victims would survive their ordeals.)

     The next day, officers with the Northern Lancaster County Regional Police arrested Dereck Taylor Holt. Officers booked him into the Lancaster County Jail on charges of burglary, aggravated assault, unlawful restraint, theft, and a Pennsylvania hate crime called ethnic intimidation. The judge set Holt's bond at $1 million.

     In May 2013, Holt pleaded guilty to all of the charges except ethnic intimidation. At his August 2013 sentencing hearing before Lancaster County President Judge Joseph Madenspacher, Holt, in a five-minute statement, said: "I'm not a heartless being. I'm not an empty carcass incapable of contributing to society. But I can't defend my actions. This was the culmination of a long, two-year addiction to substances. These actions wouldn't have happened without my alarming abuse of mind-altering prescription medication."

     Judge Madenspacher sentenced Holt to 12 to 40 years in prison where he would receive psychiatric treatment.

Is There A Causal Relationship Between Video Games And Violent Behavior?

When it comes to actual criminal violence, there's virtually no evidence that video games matter...I think we like to point to video games because we don't want to talk about other things we know that are much more likely to be relevant.

James Ivory, research director, Virginia Tech, 2019

Writing Humor Is So Hard It's Not Funny

     Humor is like pornography in that it's easy to recognize, but hard to define. Robin Hemley distinguishes comedy from tragedy this way: "Simply put, tragedy has serious and logical consequences. Cause and effect. Comedy usually doesn't. You throw a person off a tall building in a comedy, he bounces. You throw someone off a building in a tragedy, don't wait for the bounce."

     While I don't read that many books by humorists, I do appreciate humor in novels and works of nonfiction. Memoirs and biographies devoid of humor tend to be tedious and not worth the effort. All really good writers, I think, can write funny stuff. When bad writers try it, the results are disasterous. In the crime fiction genre, my favorite authors--Donald Westlake and Ross H. Spencer--are funny. Here's what some professional writers have said about humor:

Comedy writers have a long-running debate....It is known as the Mickey Mouse Question, and it goes like this: Mickey Mouse is not a funny character. He neither tells jokes nor does anything funny, he has no point of view, no real character, and his girlfriend is an uptight bore. Bugs Bunny, on the other hand, is a brilliantly inventive comic genius, sharp-witted, physically agile, a fearless wise guy who thinks nothing of donning a dress, producing an anvil out of the air, kissing his enemy on the lips, and in the face of death and torture calling out a cheery "What's Up Doc?" Bugs is much funnier than Mickey, no contest. Why, then, is Mickey the billionaire movie star?...Creating a television sitcom means choosing between Mickey and Bugs, between a universe of likable, not-terribly funny people and a universe of vaguely disturbing, very funny people. Networks tend on the whole, not to like funny characters very much. If they had their choice, every sitcom would be a family or group of Mickeys, with maybe a Bugs living next door. Writers, unfortunately, on the whole prefer a big group of Bugs with a Mickey around saying things like, "What's going on here?"
Rob Long

What is the secret of writing funny? If I knew, I would write my own ticket. But I venture this thought: The art begins with a sense of sadness. This is the clown's gift.
James J. Kilpatrick

Humor is the hardest to write, easiest to sell, and best rewarded. There are only a few who are able to do it. If you are able, do it by all means.
Jack London

I don't think a man can deliberately sit down to write a funny story unless he has got a sort of slant on life that leads to funny stories.
P. G. Wodehouse

Analysts have had their go at humor, and I have read some of this interpretative literature, but without being greatly instructed. Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.
E. B. White

With humor you have to look for traps. You're likely to be very gleeful with what you've first put down, and you think it's fine, very funny. One reason you go over and over it is to make the piece sound less as if you were having a lot of fun with it yourself. You try to play it down.
James Thurber

Writing comedy is quite a joy for me. There's an instant reward. If I've written a really funny line, then, for a moment, I become the audience and I laugh. I enjoy it, I know it works.
William Peter Blatty

If you have doubts about whether something's funny, play it straight. Nothing is worse than a lame joke. And if you're not sure humor is appropriate, it probably isn't.
Patricia O'Conner

Writers often have a predilection for humor based on wordplay. Caution is advised, especially when using puns. They can reek of corniness, and they don't alway work on paper.
Roger Bates

You must never make one character laugh at what another says or does....You must never offer the reader anything simply as funny and nothing more. Make it acceptable as information, comment, narrative, etcetera, so that if the joke flops the reader will get something.
Kingsley Amis

Writing humor is more difficult than delivering a punch line to a joke you tell while standing by the office water cooler. For one thing, our society is much more practiced at telling jokes than at writing them. Also, a joke written on paper has no facial expressions, pauses and emphasis to go with it. It's devoid of the most important elements of comedy--timing.
John McCollister

Cooperating With the IRS

We'll try to cooperate fully with the IRS, because as citizens we feel a strong patriotic duty not to go to jail.

Dave Barry 

Charles Bukowski On Living To Write

I never wanted fame or money. I wanted to get the words down the way I wanted it, that's all. And I had to get the words down or be overcome by something worse than death. Words not as precious things but as necessary things.

Charles Bukowski, The Captain Is Out To Lunch And The Sailors Have Taken Over The Ship

Beware Of The Prize-Winning Novel

In later 1999 I wrote a short book called Gorgons in the Pool. Quoting lengthy passages from prize-winning novels, I argued that some of the most acclaimed contemporary prose is the product of mediocre writers availing themselves of trendy stylistic gimmicks. The greater point was that we readers should trust our own taste and perception instead of deferring to received opinion....A thriller must thrill or it is worthless; this is as true now as it ever was. Today's "literary" novel, on the other hand, need only evince a few quotable passages to be guaranteed at least a lukewarm review. It is no surprise, therefore, that the "literary" camp now attracts a type of writer who, under different circumstances would never have strayed from the safest crime-novel formulae, and that so many critically acclaimed novels today are really mediocre "genre" stories told in an amalgam of trendy stylistic tics.

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

[This is a groundbreaking book that exposes the bad writing of, among others, "literary" novelists Don DeLillo, Annie Proulix, Paul Auster, David Guterson, and Cormac McCarthy.] 

Thornton P. Knowles On Becoming a "Literary Figure"

The moment a writer becomes a so-called "literary figure," narcissism and all that goes with it dries up the creative juices that brought this writer to prominence. This is particularly true of novelists who are not known for their mental stability in the first place. In other words, as a fiction writer, you can't win.

Thornton P. Knowles

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Mass Murderers Are Evil, Not Insane

    In the summer of 2012, James Holmes' shooting rampage in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado marked the twenty-first mass murder involving six or more fatalities since Colorado's Columbine shootings in 1999. In the wake of these killing sprees, the worst being the 32 shot to death in 2007 at Virginia Tech, TV talking heads--psychiatrists, psychologists, and defense attorneys--tried to explain why someone would do such a thing. Surely a college kid like James Holmes who murdered twelve and injured 70 people in a movie theater must be insane. No person in his right mind would commit such a cruel, cold-blooded crime.

     People who called James Holmes insane were equating deviant behavior with crazy behavior. Horrible crimes that cannot be rationally explained, or understood by a normal person, are not necessarily committed by individuals who are psychotic, that is, out of touch with reality. The old law school example of psychotic, homicidal behavior is the man, who while strangling his wife, thinks he's squeezing an orange. Indeed, to be legally insane, the killer must be so mentally impaired that he's incapable of appreciating the criminal nature and quality of his actions. The popular term for this legal standard of insanity is called the right-wrong test.

     To avoid criminal culpability for a criminal homicide on the grounds of insanity, the defendant has the burden of proving (people are presumed sane), by a preponderance of the evidence, that he was so mentally ill he didn't know right from wrong. For defendants raising the insanity defense there is a problem: in reality, even in cases where the defendant at the time of his crime was suffering from some form of schizophrenia, the killer was still aware of the consequences of his act, and that it was wrong. In other words, there is no such thing as a mental sickness that produces a state of mind that meets the legal definition of mental illness. The paranoid schizophrenic who strangles his wife not only knows he is not squeezing an orange, he is aware is he killing his wife. And although the devil may have told him to do it, he knows it's wrong because the devil doesn't tell you to do good things.

     In mass murder shooting spree cases involving six or more victims, all of the killers, including James Holmes, carefully planned the attacks. Holmes had prepared for weeks before carrying out his military-style assault. This is not how seriously mentally ill people behave. James Holmes and the other killers, when they committed their mass murders, were sharply in touch with reality. They reveled in their crimes because they knew they were doing something so wrong it would shock the world. In essence, that is the motive for these atrocities, to shock and terrorize.

     James Holmes and his murderous counterparts are known as sociopaths. They are angry, sadistic, narcissists who have no empathy or feelings of guilt. While usually loners, they can be superficially charming, and are often, like James Holmes, extremely intelligent. They possess personality disorders that cannot be fixed through counseling or medication. They are probably born that way, but who knows? Because sociopaths don't walk around in baby-steps looking at the ceiling and talking to themselves, they are hard to spot. The world is full of jerks. How do you know if one is a sociopath? This is what makes these people so dangerous. Moreover, we seem to be developing into a nation of sociopaths.

     Because criminologists, psychiatrists, psychologists and other helpists hate to admit there are people they can't rehabilitate, they don't buy into the notion that some people are just bad. But that's what they are, evil. And that's how the criminal justice system should deal with them. 

Thornton P. Knowles On Mental Illness

Regardless of your race, religion, gender, or class, mental illness can hunt you down and destroy your life. It can visit God fearing people and nonbelievers; the educated and the unschooled; important people and ordinary folks; Democrats and Republicans; no one is immune. You can't buy your way out of it, talk you way out of it, pray your way out of it, pretend it doesn't exist, or kill it with pills. Mental illness comes in many forms and and strikes down the young, the middle aged, and the old. Mental illness does not respect the human race.

Thornton P. Knowles

Prison as a Lifestyle Choice

Often I meet prisoners who have committed the most terrible crimes, but repentance is rare, except in front of the parole board where it is quite common. Of course, the majority of prisoners have committed only petty offenses, small (but repeated) crimes against property, or rather against the people who own the property. They are often pathetic and inadequate individuals, thoroughly accustomed to prison life; the warmth and three square meals a day provided unconditionally in prison are for them an incitement for further crime. As for the loss of freedom, they welcome it: being told what to do all their waking hours obviates the need for thought and decision, processes which are infinitely painful for them.

Theodore Dalrymple in Crime and Criminals, 1995 edited by David Bender and Bruno Leone

The Failure of Parole

     The huge gap between the nominal sentence given and the real time served is dishonest, and is bad policy. It is dishonest because the public--especially victims of crime--is often under the impression that the sentence will be served in full, when in fact no such thing happens. It is bad policy because it puts the public at risk.

     There are several reasons why states should restrict parole practices. First, parole is based on the mistaken idea that the primary reason for incarceration is rehabilitation (prisoners can be released as soon as they are rehabilitated, so the argument goes), and ignores the deterrent, incapacitative, and retributive reasons for imprisonment. A clear and truthful sentence increases the certainty of punishment, and both its deterrent and incapacitative effects.

     Second, in too many cases parole simply does not work. Studies of the continuing failure of parole obscure the terrible human cost to law-abiding citizens.

Mary Kay Cary, in Crime and Criminals, 1995 edited by David Bender and Bruno Leone [I believe this is true today.] 

Charles Bukowski On 1990s Popular Music

Every day as I drive to the track I keep punching the radio to different stations looking for music, decent music. It's all bad, flat, lifeless, tuneless, listless. Yet some of these compositions sell in the millions and their creators consider themselves as true Artists. It's horrible, horrible drivel entering the minds of young heads. They like it. Christ, hand them shit, they eat it up. Can't they discern? Can't they hear? Can't they feel the dilution, the staleness?

Charles Bukowski, The Captain Is Out To Lunch And The Sailors Have Taken Over The Ship

The Legacy Of The Horror Genre

The horror genre has a great literary history. Hawthorne, Henry James, Edgar Allan Poe, many others found a depth and seriousness in it which made horror more valid, more interesting and more worthy than the general run of mystery fiction. Horror was about the invention of clever puzzles. It dealt with profound emotions and real mysteries, not who had left the footprints under the gorse-bush and how the key to the library had wound up in the colonel's golf bag. Horror could touch people, change them, make them think. While horror fiction was certainly entertaining, there was much more to the genre than mere weightless entertainment.

Peter Straub in How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction, edited by J.N. Williamson, 1991 

James Michener On His Work Habits and Being Prolific

     Between the years 1986 and 1990 I would write ten books, publish seven of them including two very long ones, and have the other three completed in their third revisions and awaiting publication. It was an almost indecent display of frenzied industry, but it was carried out slowly, carefully, each morning at the typewriter, each afternoon at exciting research or quiet reflection....

     Curiously, during this spurt of energy I never thought of myself as either compulsive or driven. Nor am I. Through decades of writing I have acquired certain patterns of behavior and workmanship which have enabled me to write long books. I merely adhere to those solid rules. I rise each day at seven-thirty, wash my face in cold water but do not shave, eat a frugal breakfast of bran sprinkled with banana, raisins, and skim milk--no sugar--and go directly to my desk, where the day's work has been laid out the night before.

     With delight and a feeling of well-being, I leap into whatever task awaits and remain at it until after noon, when I have a light lunch after which I take a nap. I never compose in the afternoon but do research and meet classes at the university. At dusk each day, regardless of the weather, I take a mile walk at a rather brisk clip. Supper, the evening news, a nine o'clock movie if a good one is on television, a half-hour of cleaning up my desk at eleven, and off to bed.

James A. Michener (1907-1997), The Eagle and the Raven, 1990 [Michener, who lived in Austin, Texas, published forty historical novels and a memoir. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1948.]

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Serial Killer And Rapist Joseph Naso

     On April 11, 2011, police officers in Reno, Nevada arrested 77-year-old Joseph Naso on four first-degree murder charges filed against him in Marin County California. The former commercial photographer stood accused of raping and murdering four Bay Area prostitutes between 1977 and 1994. The victims, Roxene Roggasch, Carmen Colen, Pamela Parsons, and Tracy Tafoya ranged in age from 18 to 38, and each had first and last names that began with the same letter.

     Forensic scientists had connected Naso to two of the victims through DNA. A search of his house produced several nude photographs of women who appeared unconscious or dead. Police officers also found a so-called "rape diary" containing narrative accounts of women and girls who had been picked up and raped. The murder suspect's house was also littered with female mannequin parts and women's lingerie. In Naso's safety deposit box, searchers found a passport bearing the name Sara Dylan. (A skull, found years earlier in Nevada, matched Dylan's mother's DNA.) Naso's safety deposit box also contained $152,400 in cash.

     The Joseph Naso serial murder trial got underway in San Rafael California in June 2013. The prosecutor, in her opening statement to the jury, said the state would prove that Naso had drugged, raped, and photographed the four victims. He strangled them to death, then dumped their nude bodies in remote areas in northern California.

     Naso, who represented himself at the trial, told the jury that he was not the monster the prosecution was trying to make him out to be. The defendant said the nude women he had photographed had been willing models. "I don't kill people, and there's no evidence of that in my writings and photography."

     Following two months of evidence that featured the defendant's rape diary, the nude photographs, and the DNA evidence linking Naso to two of the murder victims, the case went to the jury. During the trial, Naso, as his own attorney, made a courtroom fool of himself and tried the patience of the judge. On August 19, 2013, after deliberating seven hours over a period of two days, the jury found the defendant guilty of the four counts of first-degree murder. The verdict also included a finding of special circumstances that made Naso eligible for the death penalty.

     While the jury recommended the death penalty in the Naso case, there was no chance the state would put him to death. In 2006 a federal judge had put California's executions on hold until the state modified its execution protocols. That has not been done. Naso would join 725 inmates on California's death row at the time. While some politicians and judges threw roadblocks in the path of the state's death penalty procedure, juries in California continued to imposed the death sentence.

     Homicide investigators believed that Naso had raped and murdered three 11-year-old girls between 1971 and 1973 in Rochester, New York. Naso had been living in the city when these murders occurred. These victims also had first and last names that began with the same letter. One of the girls, Carmen Colon, had the same name of one of the women Naso killed in California. Detectives also believed that Joseph Naso had murdered at least ten other women. Naso, following the verdict, insisted that he had not raped or killed anyone.

Crime in American Life and Politics

The founders [of our nation] would be astounded and alarmed at the level of serious crime in contemporary society. They could not have imagined that crime, and the fear of it, would so dominate people's daily habits and the political life of the nation. By their standards, they would certainly be gravely worried about the fate of the democracy they had worked so hard to establish.

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


A Criminal Profiler on Mass Murderers and Serial Killers

     There are two kinds of mass murderers. There are the kind who go to a public or semipublic place (like a business or a school) and open fire, for example. These types are making a statement, a statement that is so important to them, has taken on such significance in their lives to get the point across....

     If the crime is committed in private, or away from witnesses, on the other hand, there is more chance the killer is thinking about getting away....

     With a serial killer, we generally don't know the UNSUB's [unknown subject's] identify until or unless he's captured....

John Douglas and Mark Olshaker, The Anatomy of Motive, 1999

Are Murderers Born or Made?

     [Psychologist Adrian Raine] makes a good case that certain genetic, neurological and physiological factors do predict violent behavior. Some of these findings might be obvious. Few will be shocked to hear that being born a man is linked to later bad behavior--indeed, almost all of the horrific crimes Raine describes [in his new book] are committed by men. Anyone familiar with research in behavioral genetics will be unsurprised to learn that the propensity for violent crime is partly heritable. And it makes sense that certain forms of brain damage, particularly to the parts of the brain that govern impulse control, make people more likely to commit violent acts later in life.

     Other [physiological] predictors [of a violent personality] are more surprising. A low resting heart rate correlates with antisocial behavior. Certain insults to the developing brain, like smoking and drinking by pregnant mothers, have pernicious effects on behavior. And there is evidence that eating a lot of fish leads to a decline in violence, possibly because of the positive neurological effects of the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids.

Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology at Yale in reviewing Adrian Raine's 2013 book, The Anatomy of Violence for The New York Times Book Review  

Literary Novelists Switching to Genre Fiction

     The good ship Literary Fiction has run aground and the survivors are frantically paddling toward the islands of genre. Okay, maybe that's a little dramatic, but there does seem to be a definite trend of literary/mainstream writers turning to romance, thrillers, fantasy, mystery, and young adult…

     What is going on? Is it a mass sellout, a belated and half-hearted attempt by writers to chase the market? Are they being pushed into genre by their agents and publishers? Are the literary novelists simply ready for a change, perhaps because even the most exalted among them have a tiny readership compared to genre superstars? Or are the two worlds finally merging?

     Once upon a time, genre was treated as almost a different industry from literary fiction, ignored by critics, sneered at by literary writers, relegated by publishers to imprint ghettos. But the dirty little and not particularly well-kept secret was that, thanks to the loyalty of their fans and the relatively rapid production of their authors, these genre books were the ones who kept the entire operation in business. All those snobbish literary writers had better have hoped like hell that their publishers had enough genre moneymakers in house to finance the advance for their latest beautifully rendered and experimentally structured observations of upper class angst.

     But while genre authors were always the workhorses of publishing, lately they've broken out as stars and are belatedly receiving real recognition. In 2010 there were 358 fantasy titles on the best seller lists, more than double the number in 2006. Publishers, always the last to recognize a literary trend, are pursuing top genre writers who, for the first time, have not only bigger paychecks but genuine clout…

     A lot of literary writers actually support themselves through other jobs, such as teaching, and they may be prepared to wait out the change and hope that literary fiction returns.

Kim Wright, "Why So Many Literary Writers Are Leaving the Genre," themillions.com, September 2, 2011 

Facing the Blank Page

Some people when they sit down to write and nothing special comes, no good ideas, are so frightened that they drink a lot of strong coffee to hurry them up, or smoke packages of cigarettes, or take drugs or get drunk. They do not know that good ideas come slowly, and that the more clear, tranquil and unstimulated you are, the slower the ideas come but the better they are.

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

Charles Bukowski On A Life Of Drinking

Well, I couldn't drink myself to death. I came close but I didn't. Now I deserve to live with what is left.

Charles Bukowski, The Captain Is Out To Lunch And The Sailors Have Taken Over The Ship

Sherlock Holmes on The Power of Observation

The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.

Sherlock Holmes in Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Hounds of the Baskervilles" 

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Cyntoia Brown Murder Case

     In 2004, in Nashville, Tennessee, 43-year-old pimp Johnny Allen turned a 14-year-old runaway named Cyntoia Brown into one of his working girls. (The young prostitute's mother had allegedly consumed alcohol during her pregnancy which resulted in Cyntoia Brown's mental impairment. This made the girl particularly vulnerable to sex trade child abusers like Johnny Allen.)

     One nightmare ended for Cyntoia Brown and another began when, in 2004, she killed her pimp by shooting him in the back of the head at close range. She had intended to rob him.

     The authorities, in 2006, tried Cyntoia Brown for first-degree murder as an adult. The jury rejected the defendant's claim of self-defense and found her guilty as charged. The trial judge sentenced the 16-year-old to 51 years to life in prison.

     In 2012, the United States Supreme Court ruled that states could not impose life sentences for juveniles convicted of murder.

     In January 2019, then Governor Bill Haslam granted Cyntoia Brown clemency. The move to commute her sentence had been supported by a number of Hollywood celebrities who had taken up her cause.

     Cyntoia Brown, in August 2019, was released from prison after serving 15 years behind bars. As part of her release arrangement, she would be subjected to supervised parole. Given the circumstances of this case, the commutation of Cyntoia Brown did not create public outrage.
     

The Teacher Who Lied Her Way Out of the Classroom

     Ashley Barker started teaching first grade at the Laurel Elementary School in central Florida's Polk County in the fall of 2011. In November, just two months into her first year at the school, Barker began asking, through emails to her principal, for days off due to illness. At first Barker reported a problem with kidney stones, then later that month, informed the principal that she was undergoing a medical treatment for a cyst.

     In January 2012, Barker, via email, informed her boss that due to a brain infection, her body was shutting down. After reporting to the school that she was dying, and probably wouldn't make it through the night, Barker made a remarkable recovery.

     The elementary school teacher's next series of emails requesting paid sick leave involved the declining health of her father. According to Barker, her dad suffered from a heart problem that was life threatening. At one point she reported that he didn't have much time to live. By November 2012, Barker had sent 120 illness related emails to the principal who had authorized 35 days of paid sick leave.

     In January 2013, Barker reported to her principal that one of her fellow teachers had threatened to kill her. (The accused teacher strongly denied the charge.) A week after the accusation, Barker claimed that a man wearing a ski mask had threatened her life if she pursued the case against the other teacher. She said the masked man had ambushed her in the school parking lot.

     Detectives with the Polk County Sheriff's Office investigated Barker's accounts of the threat by the teacher and the masked man, and were unable to confirm, through other witnesses and various leads, that the crimes had taken place. In May 2013, when confronted by skeptical detectives, Barker confessed that she had made up the threats against her life. She also admitted that her requests for sick leave had been based on lies. She was never ill, and her father had not been dying of a bad heart. She had made these stories up to get out of work.

     The superintendent of the Polk County School District suspended Ashley Barker without pay. The school administrator also planned to recommend dismissal. Barker acquired an attorney and warned that if they fired her from the Laurel Elementary School, she would fight the dismissal in court.

     Ashley Barker was dismissed from the Laurel Elementary School.

Disagree With A Decision? Get A Lawyer And Sue

     The idea of freedom as personal power has been pushed aside in recent decades by a new idea of freedom--where the focus is on the rights of whoever might disagree with a decision. There were good reasons why we went in this direction, but now the momentum has carried us to a point where we no longer feel free in daily interaction. Almost any encounter carries legal risk. Lawyers are everywhere, both literally--the proportion of lawyers in the workforce almost doubled between 1970 and 2000--and in our minds, sowing doubt into ordinary choices. Americans increasingly go through the day looking over their shoulders instead of where they want to go.

     What's been lost is a coherent legal framework of right and wrong. A free society requires that people generally understand the scope of their freedoms. Without reliable legal boundaries, distrust will infect daily dealings. People start to fear each other, and they start to fear law. That's what happened in America, particularly for teachers, doctors, managers, and others with responsibility.

Philip K. Howard, Life Without Lawyers, 2009 

When a Novelist Throws In The Towel

Nothing more horrible, no failure of nerve more acute, than to be a novelist and not write, to never write, perhaps to stop, to decide to stop, not to hope for writing or want it, to let go of writing, to swear it off like drugs or sex with the wrong person, or some other terrible compulsion that will finally tear one apart. The writer not writing is a wholly guilty party, like someone who through anger or neglect has killed off his own life's mate, counterpart, reason to live.

Jayne Anne Phillips in Eleventh Draft, edited by Frank Conroy, 1999

Thornton P. Knowles On The Village Idiots

They say that every village his its idiot. From what I've seen, most villages have several. Unfortunately, many of these people end up running the town.

Thornton P. Knowles

Charles Bukowski On His Legacy

I was thinking about the world without me. There is the world going on doing what it does. And I'm not there. Very odd. Think of the garbage truck coming by and picking up the garbage and I'm not there. Or the newspaper sits in the drive and I'm not there to pick it up. Impossible. And worse, some time after I'm dead, I'm going to be truly discovered. All those who were afraid of me or hated me when I was alive will suddenly embrace me. My words will be everywhere. Clubs and societies will be formed. It will be sickening. A movie will be made of my life. I will be made a much more courageous and talented man than I am. Much more. It will be enough to make the gods puke. The human race exaggerates everything: its heroes, its enemies, its importance.

Charles Bukowski, The Captain Is Out To Lunch And The Sailors Have Taken Over The Ship

Writing Your Gripping Crime Novel

     You know you're reading a great mystery novel when you're up at three in the morning, unable to put it down. When you finally fall asleep, the characters go romping around in your dreams. When you get to the final page, you smack yourself in the head because the solution seems obvious in retrospect yet came as a complete surprise.

     Page-turning suspense. Rich characterization. A credible surprise ending. Sounds pretty simple, but writing a mystery novel is not for the faint of heart…Be prepared to keep three or four intertwined pots spinning. Get ready to master the art of misdirection so readers will ogle those red herrings you've sprinkled while ignoring the real clues in plain sight. Don't be surprised when you find yourself riding herd on a load of characters who won't go where you want them to.

     On top of that, you'll need dogged determination and intestinal fortitude to stick with it, through the first draft and endless revisions, until your words are polished to lapidary perfection. It wouldn't hurt, either, to have the hide of a rhinoceros to withstand the inevitable rejections. Talent being equal, what separates many a published mystery writer from an unpublished one is sheer stamina. Only gluttons for punishment need apply.

Halle Ephron, Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel, 2005

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Did Frederick Hengl Murder His Wife?

     In 2002, Frederick Joseph Hengl and his wife Ann Faris moved into a two-bedroom bungalow on North Ditmar Street a block from City Hall in Oceanside, California. Ten years later, residents of the neighborhood considered the 68-year-old Hengl, and his 73-year-old spouse, more than a little odd. Bearded, bespectacled, and bone-thin, Hengl regularly appeared in public dressed in women's clothing and wearing make-up. Ann Faris often walked the streets armed with a butcher's knife. Neighbors wondered why she always wore the same outfit, a blue sweater and denim-like pants. The fact people could smell her suggested she didn't bother much with personal hygiene. Occasionally Faris would stand in her front yard and take off her clothes. (Not being residents of San Francisco, many neighbors found this display of public nudity off-putting.)

     On November 11, 2012, the odd couple's neighbors began detecting a foul odor coming from the Hengl house. They also heard, from inside the dwelling, sounds of a power saw. The stench grew unbearable after Hengl, to draw the odor out of the house, installed a window fan. A neighbor called the police.

     On November 16 at eleven o'clock in the morning, Oceanside police officers pulled up to the Hengl bungalow. An officer knocked on the front door but no one answered. Assuming that the place was at the moment unoccupied, an officers climbed into the dwelling through a window at the rear of the house. As the police officer entered the foul-smelling bungalow, Frederick Hengl slipped out the front door and walked away.

     Inside, amid the stench of rotting flesh, the police discovered three pans of meat cooking on the kitchen stove. In the freezer compartment of the refrigerator, they came upon a plastic bag containing a human head. (Later identified as Anna Faris.) A meat grinder that had been recently used sat nearby. In the bathroom, the police found a power saw, a boning knife, and other cutting instruments. It didn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure out what had taken place under this roof. Scattered throughout the first floor, officers found pieces of freshly cut bone.

     Shortly after the gruesome discovery in the bungalow on North Ditmar Street, police officers found and arrested Frederick Hengl. From his house he had walked to a local bar. Perhaps he was enjoying what he knew would be his last alcoholic beverage.

     According to a forensic pathologist with the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office, Anna Faris had died on or about November 1. Crime scene investigators reported that they found "no evidence of cannibalism." (Then why was Hengl cooking the meat?)

     A San Diego County prosecutor charged Frederick Hengl with murder, willful cruelty to an elder, and committing an unlawful act with human remains. If convicted of murder, he could be sentenced to 25 years to life. On November 21, the day before Thanksgiving, Hengl pleaded not guilty to all charges before a superior court judge who set his bail at $5 million. Hengl's attorney advised the court that his client had a bad heart, and required medical treatment.

     On September 27, 2013, while in the San Diego County Jail's infirmary, Frederick Hengl died of prostate cancer. From the day of his arrest, Hengl denied killing his wife who reportedly suffered from Alzheimer's disease.

     To make a case of criminal homicide against Mr. Hengl, the state would have had to prove she did not die a natural death. Under the circumstances, this would have been difficult. With Hengl's passing, no one will ever know the exact circumstances of Anna Faris' death, or why her husband had butchered and cooked her body. While they were a strange couple, they were not necessarily a killer and a murder victim.            

How Many Serial Killer Victims Are There?

The total maximum number of all known serial killer victims in the United States over a span of 195 years between 1800 and 1995 is estimated at 3,860. Of this total, a maximum of 1,398 victims were murdered between 1975 and 1995, at an average of 70 victims a year. Even if we account for unknown victims, that figure is nowhere near the 3,500 annual number [of serial killer victims] so often bandied about.

Peter Vronsky, Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters, 2004

Wanting To Write Versus Doing It

I believe that the writer who can't figure out what form to write in or what to write is stalling for a reason. Perhaps he is dancing around a subject because he is not ready to handle it psychologically or emotionally. Perhaps he is unable to pursue a project because doing so would upset his world too much, or the people in it. Maybe not writing, maybe being driven crazy by the desire to write and the inability to follow through, is serving some greater goal, keeping some greater fear at bay. Fear of failure is the reason most often cited to explain why so many aspiring writers never realize their dreams.

Betsy Lerner, The Forest For The Trees, 2000

Criminal Intent

The acid test of murder is intention and what the law calls mens rea or guilty mind. Guilty intention is described as malice aforethought and it is this which distinguishes it from manslaughter. The classic definition of murder based on malice aforethought goes back to English Common Law and takes account of the age and mental status of the offender. This was set out by Lord Chief Justice Edward Coke (1552-1634) when he referred to "a man of sound memory and at the age of discretion." In practical terms, this meant an individual who was not insane and aged at least ten years.

Robin Odell, The Mammoth Book of Bizarre Crimes, 2010

Thornton P. Knowles On Childhood Possessions

Growing up in West Virginia I had four prize possessions: a few baseball cards, a harmonica, a pocketknife, and a Duncan yo-yo. I liked the bubblegum more than the cards, couldn't play the harmonica, didn't have a practical use for the knife, and stunk at yo-yoing. Still, I loved those things.

Thornton P. Knowles

Charles Bukowski's Disdain For His Fellow Poets

All the poets I have met have been soft jellyfish, sycophants. They have nothing to write about except their selfish non-endurance. Yes, I stay away from POETS. Do you not blame me....Maybe there's a hell. If there is I'll be there and you know what? All the poets will be there reading their works and I will have to listen. I will be drowned in their preening vanity, their overflowing self-esteem. If there is a hell, that will be my hell: poet after poet reading on and on.

Charles Bukowski, The Captain Is Out To Lunch And The Sailors Have Taken Over The Ship

Literary Hit Jobs: A Moral Dilemma

     "If you want to be a writer, somewhere along the line you're going to have to hurt somebody. And when that time comes, you go ahead and do it," Charles McGrath said when he was an editor at The New Yorker. "If you can't or don't want to tell that truth, you may as well stop now and save yourself a lot of hardship and pain."…

     A novelist wrote a withering account of her recent marriage. Soon after the book came out, the author's ex-husband killed himself. Was she correct to write that novel?

Bonnie Friedman, Writing Past Dark, 1994 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

A Cold-Blooded Poisoner Gets Off Light

     In May 2018, Terese Kozlowski, after being married to Brian Kozlowski for 29 years, filed for divorce. She did not, however, move out of their home in Macomb County, Michigan.

     During the month of July, 2018, after consuming her morning coffee prepared by Mr. Kozlowski, Terese felt tired, nauseous and extremely drowsy. After almost falling asleep at the wheel on a busy highway, Terese, suspecting that her estranged husband had been spiking her coffee, set up a hidden surveillance camera above the counter where Mr. Kozlowski prepared her morning drink.

     When the surveillance footage revealed that Mr. Kozlowski was pouring something into her coffee, a substance he was not adding to his cup, Terese Kozlowski went to the police with the evidence. To save her life, she moved out of the house.

     A toxicological analysis of the suspected substance revealed that Mr. Kozlowski had been adding diphenhydramine, an ingredient found in Benadryl, to his estranged wife's coffee. Each morning's dose of the drug equaled about eight sleeping pills.

     After detectives took Brian Kozlowski into custody, a Macomb County prosecutor charged him with poisoning. The defendant, in June 2019, pleaded no contest to the charge.

     Prior to Kozlowski's sentencing, a pre-sentencing investigator recommended that the defendant serve between three and fifteen years behind bars. As a criminal act, to intentionally and with malice poison someone's food or drink is as cruel as it is cold-blooded. Moreover, it is not a crime motivated by insanity. but by hate, greed, or both. Teresa Kozlowski, under the influence of her husband's poisoning, could have easily killed herself or a fellow motorist.

     In August 2019, at the sentencing hearing, the 46-year-old defendant told Visiting Judge Antonio Vivano that he was in a state of "profound remorse" for what he had done to his wife. He said he had been in a "deep state of depression" over the pending divorce. The defendant also pointed out that he had been receiving psychological counseling.

     Judge Vivano responded to Kozlowski's pre-sentencing statement by remarking that he found it "moving."

     In a ruling that shocked everyone connected to the case, judge Vivano sentenced Brian Kozlowski to spend 60 weekends in the Macomb County Jail followed by five years probation. Apparently the judge didn't want Mr. Kozlowski to lose his job just because he had tried to kill his wife.

     Assistant prosecutor Darra Slanec called the sentence "a slap in the victim's face."

     This judge should be removed from the bench.

History's Obscure Serial Killer

Henry Lee Moore, between 1911 and 1912, was a traveling serial killer who murdered more that twenty-three people--entire families. But little is known about him--he is a mere footnote. In September 1911, using an axe, Moore killed six victims in Colorado Springs--a man, two women, and four children. In October [of that year] he killed three people in Monmouth, Illinois, and then slaughtered a family of five in Ellsworth, Kansas, the same month. In June 2012, he killed a couple in Paola, Kansas, and several days later he killed seven people, including four children, in Villisca, Iowa. Moore then returned home to Columbia, Missouri, where he murdered his mother and grandmother. At this point he was arrested and prosecuted in December 1912. [I presume he was hanged.]

Peter Vronsky, Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters, 2004

Deadly Police Car Chases

     It took 137 bullets, 62 police, 22 minutes, 13 shooting officers and two fatalities to end the police chase of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. Cleveland police officers began pursuing the light blue 1979 Chevy Malibu carrying the pair at about 10:30 PM on November 29, 2012. Authorities suspected the two were involved in drug activity. At some point the car was believed to have backfired, causing several officers to think shots were fired at them. Police did not find a gun in the car and those close to the pair say they don't know why Russell didn't stop the car. In the end police shot 43-year-old Russell 23 times and passenger Malissa Williams, 30, 24 times.

     Two years later, a debate ignited by the deaths of Russell and Williams was spreading across the country as violent deaths and injuries caused authorities to rethink chase strategies. In Cleveland and in cities nationwide many experts, police departments and everyday citizens were questioning how and when police officers should conduct such pursuits.

     While chases have gone on for decades, mounting concerns about public safety and excessive force claims were fueling police changes in states like Florida, Kansas, and California. In 2014, the Cleveland Police Department adopted a restrictive police chase policy: officers could only chase those suspected of a violent felony or driving while intoxicated. The move was part of a growing national trend among departments to limit chases…

Yamiche Alcindor, "After Cleveland Shooting, Cities Restrict Police Chases," USA Today, June 28, 2014