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Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Red Sash Murder Case

     In September 1995, the daughter-in-law of Josephine Galbraith, found the 76-year-old dead in the guest bedroom of her Palo Alto, California home. The dead woman's husband, 79-year-old Nelson Galbraith, a retired music school owner and insurance salesman, said he was watching TV in another room when she passed away. A detective from the Palo Alto Police Department and an investigator from the Santa Clara Coroner's Office arrived at the scene to find Josephine lying face-up on the bed with three superficial cuts on her left wrist, and a red bathrobe sash tied around her neck. Next to her body, investigators found a bloody eight-inch knife, a razor blade with some blood on it, and a white, 5-gallon bucket containing a small quantity of blood.

     The bathrobe sash, 62 inches in length, had been tightly wrapped around Josephine Galbraith's neck three times. After each wrap, the sash had been tied with a double-knot. The three cuts on her wrist, referred to as "hesitation marks," were typical of the half-hearted attempt of a suicidal person who couldn't bring herself to make the deeper, more painful slashes necessary to cause death by bleeding. There was no suicide note. The coroner's investigator, a man who had been on the job 28 years, recognized the scene as a suicide. The Palo Alto detective, based on the evidence at the scene, agreed with this assessment.

     The investigators figured that if Josephine Galbraith had been murdered, the killer would not have made the hesitation cuts. Moreover, the pattern of blood spatter did not suggest a struggle. And the presence of the bucket intended to make the scene less messy, was not consistent with a murder scene. Both investigators also knew that while people cannot manually strangle themselves (they pass out before they die), people can strangle themselves to death by ligature--the use of a rope, electrical wire, necktie, or other length of cloth such as a bathrobe sash. They also knew that Josephine Galbraith's death would have been slow enough to allow her to wrap and tie the sash three times. Given the nature of the people involved, and the physical evidence at the scene, the investigators had no doubt that this woman had taken her own life.

     Two days after the death, Dr. Angelo Ozoa, the Santa Clara County Coroner, performed the autopsy, a procedure that took him only 45 minutes. Dr. Ozoa found the cause of death to be "asphyxiation by ligature." This did not surprise anyone. What did shock a lot of people, including the investigators, was his manner of death ruling: "strangled by assailant." Dr. Ozoa had based this finding on two assumptions: Josephine Galbraith was too old and frail to have tied the three knots so tightly; and even if she did have the strength, she wouldn't have remained conscious long enough to complete the task. Since Nelson Galbraith was the only other person in the house at the time of his wife's death, if she had been murdered, he must have been the assailant.

     Just days before her death Josephine Galbraith had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, an illness that five years earlier had caused the slow and painful death of her sister. Even before the diagnosis, she had told friends and relatives that she wanted to kill herself. She had informed one of her sons that she would like to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, and asked another son, a physician, to provide her with the drugs to end her life. He had refused.

     Nelson Galbraith, the man implicitly incriminated by Dr. Ozoa's manner of death ruling, had severe arthritis of the hands, which would have made it difficult, in not impossible, for him to have tied the knots around his wife's neck. Moreover, there was nothing in Galbraith's background, or in his relationship with his wife, that made him a likely murderer. Investigators, urged on by the county prosecutor's office, nevertheless pushed forward with the case against him, albeit at a snail's pace. In the meantime, Mr. Galbraith's life became a living hell. He complained to a journalist about being referred to in the media as the "Red Sash Murderer," and was spending thousands of dollars on his defense. (Ultimately, his defense costs would reach more than $300,000.)

     Palo Alto Police, guns drawn, stormed Mr. Galbraith's house in January 1997, and hauled the 81-year-old suspect away on the charge of first degree murder. In August 1998, almost three years after his wife's death, Nelson Galbraith, who had been allowed to make bail, went on trial for murder. The prosecution's key witness, Dr. Ozoa, told the jury that in all his years as a forensic pathologist, he had never heard of a woman killing herself by ligature. Suicide by ligature, however, is a well-recognized method of death that is well documented in textbooks and scientific journals.

     The defense called to the stand forensic pathologists who disagreed with Dr. Ozoa, and argued that the defendant could not have physically committed the crime. Following two and a half weeks of testimony, the jury deliberated for one day and returned a verdict of not guilty. Following the acquittal, the prosecutor's office sought the opinion of a forensic pathologist in the Santa Clara County Coroner's Office regarding the manner of Josephine Galbraith's death. The pathologist agreed with the defense experts: the poor woman had killed herself.

     Nelson Galbraith, convinced he had been maliciously prosecuted, sued Dr. Ozoa for $10 million. To bolster his case, Mr Galbraith spent $10,000 to have his wife's body exhumed and sent to Salt Lake City to be examined by Dr. Todd Grey, the medical examiner for the state of Utah. According to Dr. Grey, Dr. Ozoa's incorrect finding of homicide was predicated on an incomplete autopsy. Ozoa had, among other things, neglected to dissect the dead woman's neck, a procedure that could have helped determine how long it had taken her to die. He had also failed to interpret the swelling in her brain, and the broken blood vessels in her face and eyes, as evidence of a slow death. Dr. Ozoa, when confronted with Dr Grey's opinion of his work in the Galbraith case, insisted he had performed a complete autopsy, and that the woman had been murdered.

     In 2002, almost seven years after Dr. Ozoa's autopsy in the Galbraith case, the Medical Board of California, citing Dr Ozoa's work in that case, voted to suspend the 77-year-old's license to practice medicine in the state. Two months later, Nelson Galbraith died. Two of his sons kept the civil case alive, and in 2008, Santa Clara County settled the matter for $400,000. 

Kevin Wallin: The Meth Dealing Priest

     In 1996, Father Kevin Wallin became pastor of the St. Peter's Catholic Church in Danbury, Connecticut. Six years later, the 50-year-old priest was transferred to the St. Augustine Parish in Bridgeport. Citing health and personal problems, Father Wallin asked for and was granted a sabbatical in July 2011. A year later, the Diocese of Bridgeport suspended Wallin from public ministry.

     While performing his duties as a Catholic priest, Father Wallin was buying and selling crystal methamphetamine out of his apartment in Waterbury.

     From September 20, 2012 to January 3, 2013, a state narcotics undercover agent purchased 23 grams of crystal meth from Wallin in six transactions. Because the priest was part of an interstate drug operation, the state turned the case over to the FBI.

     On January 3, 2013, FBI agents who had been working with the state drug task force, arrested Father Wallin at his Waterbury apartment where searchers recovered a quantity of meth, drug paraphernalia, and drug packaging materials.

     Based on the state undercover buys, federal wiretaps, and informant drug purchases, Father Wallin was charged with the federal offense of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams of crystal meth. Four co-conspirators in California, between June and December 2012, had mailed the priest $300,000 worth of meth.

     Dubbed by the local media as "Monsignor Meth," Father Wallin also owned an adult video and sex toy shop in North Haven, Connecticut. (I guess that made him the "Porno Priest" as well.)

     On April 2, 2013, the defrocked Wallin pleaded guilty before a federal judge in Hartford, Connecticut. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the judge, on June 25, 2013 sentenced the 61-year-old drug dealer to 11 to 14 years in prison.

     In 2017, Kevin Wallin was let out of prison and placed on supervised release. In April 2018, Wallin failed a drug test, but instead of being sent back to prison, was placed on home confinement and ordered to enter a drug treatment program. Five months later, after failing another drug test, the federal judge send Wallin back to prison for another nine months.

Locked Up Abroad

     On September 5, 2014, Stacey Addison, an American veterinarian from Oregon who had been traveling solo around the world since January 2013, traveled from Indonesia into Timor-Leste (also known as East Timor) and shared a cab from the border crossing at Batugade to the capital city of Dili. Along the way, another passenger asked to pick up a package at a DHL office…Police, acting on a tip from Indonesian authorities, were watching and found methamphetamine in the parcel.

     Addison and everyone in the cab were arrested. She was held in the Dili Detention Center for four nights then released after an initial hearing…The judge ordered that her passport be held by the authorities until the investigation was completed. Addison was released on September 9, 2014 but wasn't allowed to leave the country…The prosecutor told her that she was needed as a witness for an investigation that could take a year.

     After an October 29, 2014 court appearance, Addison was jailed again without explanation or warning, and spent five days in solitary confinement. It's unclear when she will be released….[In March 2015, after being locked up for six months, Stacey Addison was released from jail and returned home.]

"Woman Takes Wrong Cab, Winds Up in Prison," CNN, November 4, 2014 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Too Fat To Execute? America's Biggest and Baddest Losers

     America's weight problem has changed the way we live (and die), and has affected how we punish, or can't punish, some of our worst criminals. The issue of a condemned man's weight arose in 1994 when a death row inmate argued that he was too fat to be humanely executed. In 1981, Mitchell Rupe shot two bank tellers to death in a Olympia, Washington robbery. In 1994, federal judge Thomas S. Zilly ruled that the 425-pound convicted double murderer was too heavy to be hanged.

     Judge Zilly was afraid that when Mr. Rupe ran out of rope, his body would keep going without his head. Although not as clean as having one's head severed by a guillotine, this form of decapitation is no less effective. Since the whole point of executing someone is to kill them quickly, it's not clear to me why Judge Zilly considered hanging Rupe as cruel and unusual punishment. Okay, it would comprise an unusual way of dispatching a condemned prisoner, but how can one method of state-run sudden death be crueler than another equally effective technique? From the perspective of the death row inmate, the cruelty lies in watching the clock tick down to the big moment. In Mitchell Rupe's case, Judge Zilly was apparently more concerned with execution aesthetics than effectiveness.

     As it turned out, Judge Zilly, by saving Mitchell Rupe from a quick and painless end, sentenced him to a slow, painful death caused by liver disease, advanced cirrhosis, and hepatitis C. Rupe died on February 8, 2006 at age 51. At the time of his death his weight had fallen to 260 pounds. As a result of the Rupe case, the Washington legislature, in 1996, changed the state's method of execution from hanging to lethal injection.

     In 1981, the year Mitchell Rupe gunned down the two bank tellers in Olympia, Allen "Tiny" Davis murdered a pregnant woman and her two children during a home invasion robbery in Jacksonville, Florida. A year later, a jury found him guilty of three counts of first degree murder. The judge sentenced Davis to death. In 1998, as Davis' execution date approached, the 54-year-old death row inmate's attorney argued that his 355-pound client was too heavy for the state's 76-year-old electric chair. (In the old days, when the prison diet consisted of bread and water, weight wasn't a problem. Just kidding.)

     Since it was built in 1923, Florida's "Old Sparky," having dispatched 200 occupants, had done it's job quite effectively. However, in 1997, during the execution of a prisoner, the chair sort of malfunctioned. When the executioner applied the juice, flames shot a foot in the air from the top of the condemned man's head. The following year, following this gruesome tableau, the prison, with Allen "Tiny" Davis in mind, oversaw the construction of a new, heavy-duty electric chair that could accommodate a 350-pount guest. On July 8, 1999, the Florida state execution ran 2,300 volts through the metal cap on Davis' head for two minutes. It wasn't pretty, but Old Sparky II did its job.

     Executing overweight prisoners through lethal injection has also presented problems for condemned men and their executioners. On May 24, 2007, an executioner in Ohio ran into difficulty killing 38-year-old Christopher Newton. Six years earlier, while serving time for burglary, Newton had murdered his cellmate. Now it was his time to go. Because of his weight--Newton tipped the scales at 265--it took the executioner two hours and ten attempts to find a proper vein for the inmate's lethal dose of pentobarbital. During the prolonged execution, Newton was actually granted a bathroom break. Once again, the death room aesthetics were not good. While obese people are generally unhealthy, and die relatively young, they are apparently difficult to execute. I guess you'd call that a paradox.

     Nineteen-year-old Richard Cooey, in 1986, threw chunks of concrete off a bridge over Interstate 77 near Akron, Ohio, causing the deaths of two University of Akron students. As his execution date approached, the five-foot-seven, 267-pound inmate claimed that prison food and the lack of exercise had made him too fat to execute. According to Cooey, because of his excess weight, the executioner would have a difficult time locating a vein for the lethal dose. The 41-year-old killer did not prevail in his effort to escape his date with the deadly needle. On October 14, 2008, the Ohio executioner had no difficulty finding a way in for the pentobarbital.

     Ronald Ray Post was on death row at Ohio's Mansfield Correctional Institution for murdering a woman in 1983. According to his attorney, Post was so heavy at 480 pounds the execution gurney may not be strong enough to roll him to his death. Moreover, because of his morbid obesity (pun intended), Post's executioner may have a hard time locating a good vein for the killing agent. In support of his petition to escape his death sentence, Post submitted evidence that medical personnel at the institution had in the past struggled to insert an IV into the 53-year-old's left arm.

     In 2013, not long after Ohio Governor John Kasich commuted Post's death sentence to life, the murderer died of natural causes while being treated at the Franklin Medical Center in Columbus.

     If candidates for the death penalty are becoming too fat to electrocute, hang, or inject, maybe we should consider bringing back the firing-squad. Since there are rifles that can bring down elephants, I see no reason to spare the lives of fat murderers who's crimes were so atrocious they qualified for the death sentence. I don't think it's right to allow prisoners to eat themselves out of death row. Since people who have not murdered anyone pay the consequences for overeating, so should inmates scheduled for execution. 

What Causes Schizophrenia?

There is no question that psychiatric problems can be inherited--we know this from studies comparing identical twins with fraternal twins. Identical twins are genetically the same, meaning that they share 100 percent of their DNA, whereas nonidentical (fraternal) twins share only 50 percent of their genes. Studies looking at the concordance rate of schizophrenia--that is, how commonly both siblings develop the same disorder--have found a concordance rate of 10 percent in nonidentical twins, versus 40 percent in identical twins. This implies that genetics plays a significant role in schizophrenia. But what is that role? Answering that question has been devilishly hard, and the latest landmark study found that we are much further away from identifying such genes than we ever thought.

Dr. Daniel J. Carlat, Unhinged: The Trouble With Psychiatry, 2010

The Humiliating Life Of The Writer

Humiliation is not, of course, unique to writers. However, the world of letters does seem to offer a near-perfect microclimate for embarrassment and shame. There is something about the conjunction of high-mindedness and low income that is inherently comic; something about the presentation of deeply private thoughts--carefully worked and honed into art over the years--to a public audience of strangers, that strays perilously close to tragedy. It is entirely possible, I believe, to reverse Auden's dictum that "art is born out of humiliation."

Robin Robertson, editor, Mortification: Writers' Stories of Their Public Shame, 2004

Abusing Hugo Chavez's Corpse

     Shortly after Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela, died of cancer, officials of that country made a startling announcement. The dead president's embalmed corpse would be on permanent display in a glass casket in the Museum of the Revolution not far from the Presidential Palace where Chavez ruled for fourteen years.

     While Americans Sean Penn and Jesse Jackson mourned the death of the dictator, my thoughts about Chavez's death concerned what they did to his corpse. In Venezuela, abuse of corpse is a crime. In the United States it is, and putting a dead person on permanent display would violate the law.

     I like living in a country where you're not allowed to abuse dead bodies. However, I imagine that Mr. Penn and Mr. Jackson both approved of the display. It would allow them to continue visiting the dictator. Roy Rogers, the singing cowboy, had his horse Trigger stuffed. That must have made Trigger's fans so happy. I found it disgusting. 

Thornton P. Knowles On Criminal Investigation

Criminal investigation is a thinking person's game. That's why so many criminal investigations are bungled.

Thornton P. Knowles

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Robert Kosilek Murder Case: Abusing the Eighth Amendment

     On the afternoon of Sunday, May 20, 1990, Robert Kosilek hailed a cab from a shopping mall parking lot in North Attleborough, Massachusetts. The taxi driver drove him to a store located a half mile from his home in Mansfield where he lived with his wife Cheryl and their 15-year-old son Timothy. Later that evening, Kosilek called the North Attleborough Police Department to inquire if his wife had been in an automobile accident. She hadn't returned home from work that day and he was worried. The officer he spoke to said, yes, they had found his wife's car. Would he please come to the police station so they could discuss the matter.

     A hour or so before the 41-year-old husband's police call, his wife's body had been discovered in the back seat of her car that was parked in the same shopping mall lot. She had been murdered by someone who had used a length of wire to strangle her.

     At the police station, after being informed of his wife's violent death, Robert Kosilek said Cheryl had left the house that morning for work, and before coming home, had planned to shop at the mall. As for his activities that day, he had stayed home working around the house. The next day, when questioned again, this time as a suspect in his wife's murder, detectives informed Kosilek that they had spoken to his son Timothy who told them that when he (Timothy) called the house that day at five in the afternoon, no one answered the phone. This contradicted the suspect's story that he had been in the house all day. Kosilek asked to be excused from the interrogation room so he could go downstairs to buy cigarettes. From the first floor of the police station, Kosilek called the detective squad and informed the officer that he had terminated the interview and would be hiring an attorney.

     Late that night, Kosilek ran his car into a stop sign in Bedford, Massachusetts. The police officer who responded to the minor accident found Kosilek sitting in the car dressed as a woman.

     On May 24, 1990, police in New Rochelle, New York stopped Kosilek for speeding, then arrested him for driving while intoxicated. At the police department, Kosilek said, "You would be drunk too if the police thought you killed your wife. Look, I had a 15-year-old son and a wife....I murdered my wife. Now I need to call a psychiatrist." The police in New Rochelle called the authorities in North Attleborough, Massachusetts.

     In October 1992, Robert Kosilek went on trial for the murder of his wife. The prosecutor played an audio-taped interview the defendant had given to a local TV reporter. According to Kosilek, on the day of the killing, he and his wife had gotten into a violent argument. She threw boiling water into his face which caused him to punch her to the ground. Cheryl got to her feet, grabbed a kitchen knife and chased him into the living room, threatening to kill him. According to this self-serving account of the fight, Kosilek picked up a length of wire from a table. That's the last thing he remembered. To the TV interviewer he said, "Apparently, I did take her life. It was probably self-defense." During the trial the defendant was dressed up like a woman, painted fingernails and all.

     The jury didn't buy the self-defense theory of Cheryl Kosilek's death. They found the defendant guilty of first-degree murder, and in January 1993, the trial judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

     Shortly after entering the Massachusetts state prison in Norfolk, Kosilek changed his name to Michelle Kosilek. He was allowed to dress like a female and let his hair grow down to his waist. A prison psychiatrist diagnosed Kosilek with having a gender identification disorder. (He also had a wife killing disorder.) In 2000, Michelle sued the state in federal court for denying him/her a sex change operation, claiming this denial violated his/her Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. Two years later, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf ruled that Kosilek was entitled to be treated for his gender identification disorder, but stopped short of ordering the state to pay for a full sex change operation.

      Although Kosilek didn't get what he wanted from the federal court, the state did provide the prisoner with female hormone therapy, laser hair removal services, and psychotherapy to deal with the disorder.

     In 2005, Kosilek filed a second lawsuit in the same federal court against the Massachusetts Department of Corrections in which he alleged cruel and unusual punishment. In the August 2006 trial, his attorney put several psychiatrists on the stand who testified that for this inmate a sex change was "medically necessary." Kosilek's attorney said, "We ask that gender identification disorder be treated like any other medical condition." One of the shrinks testified that if the state denied Kosilek this "medical" treatment, the prisoner would kill himself.

     At this absurd trial, Kosilek took the stand and testified that the gender identification condition was equivalent to "biological claustrophobia," and said that the standard treatment for this malady included "surgical correction of the offending genitalia." Holding back tears, the witness said, "The greatest loss is the dying I do inside a little bit every day."(This is a person who can live with killing his wife, but will kill himself if he doesn't get a vagina? Give me a break.)

     The attorney representing the state, in summing up his case before the jury, said, "He's doing life without parole for murder....He was 41 when he killed Cheryl Kosilek. He didn't try to get a sex change operation at that time. Now he's 53 years of age, and he wants the state to pay for that?"

     On September 4, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf, in his 126-page first-of-a-kind decision, held that the state of Massachusetts must pay for Kosilek's $20,000 sex change operation. In justifying his ruling, the judge wrote that the operation was the "only adequate treatment" for the now 57-year-old prisoner, and that "there is no less intrusive means to correct the prolonged violation of Kosilek's Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care."

     I guess Judge Wolf was not bothered by the fact there are millions of Americans who have not murdered anyone who do not even receive basic medical care, let alone free sex change operations. What need does a man who will spend the rest of his life in prison have for a vagina? If this is the level of health care taxpayers will have to pay for our vast population of men serving life terms behind bars, then it's time to reverse the trend toward fewer executions. Otherwise, if there is cruel and unusual punishment going on, it involves law abiding citizens who pay the bills.

     On September 17, 2012, Judge Wolf ruled that Kosilek was also eligible to have his legal fees--expected to top $500,000-- paid by the government.

     On December 16, 2014, the First Circuit Court of Appeals overturned U.S. District Court Mark Wolf's ruling. The federal appeals justices found that denying the sex change did not violate Kosilek's Eight Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. Six months later, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Kosilek's appeal of the appellate court's denial.
     

Nutty Professors: Crime and Craziness Inside the Academic Bubble

Publish or Perish

     In April 2011, Diederik A. Stapel, a professor of social psychology at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, published a study based on questionnaires and human experiments that showed, among other things, that advertising works by making "women feel worse about themselves," and that conservative politics creates hypocrisy. Stapel's findings attracted a lot of positive media attention which included articles in the New York and Los Angeles Times. As it turned out, Professor Stapel and his study were frauds. In September, following revelations that Stapel had invented data and lied in more than thirty experiments, Tilburg University fired him.

     Professor Stapel's response to his problem wouldn't surprise anyone familar with academia. He claimed that under pressure from the university to publish, he gave in to temptation and produced a bogus paper. He also blamed the lack of scholarly checks and balances that would have prevented him from being a fraud. "I want to emphasize," he said, "that the mistakes that I made were not born out of selfish needs." (No one admits to actual wrongdoing anymore, it's always "mistakes." But how does someone "mistakenly" commit fraud?)  Professor Stapel managed, in his case, to both publish and perish.

Suffering for his Art

     Michigan State University art professor Danny Guthrie was photographing himself with former and current students--male and female--who were typically forty years younger than him. His critics at the university asserted that these sexually suggestive photographs were "obcene" and "oppressive to women." An outraged student (we are now living in the Outrage Era), writing in the school newspaper, objected to the fact that Guthrie, in the photographs, appeared to be dominating his female subjects who were often sitting or reclining. According to this critic, the professor was "virile, powerful, and masculine" while the female subjects were "disempowered, silenced, and feminine."

     On the university's web site, Professor Guthrie responded to his critics' handwringing this way: "Certainly subject matter such as this is politically charged....My interest is to acknowledge these various traditions and debates, twisting and blurring the codes of classical aesthetics, contemporary rhetorically motivated art, and even erotica." The beauty of this response was that nobody had any idea what it meant. Professor Guthrie had more: "As one ages, it is with no small sense of remorse and regret, that one comes to experience the realm of desire, remorse, and carnality as existing more in the past than the future." (Forget art, this BS artist belonged in the English Department.)

     On November 29, 2011, Michigan State's interim president of university relations told USA Today that Guthrie's behavior and his photographs were not inappropriate. As a result, he was not reprimanded by the university. With that, the nation breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The Meth Professor

     On November 7, 2011, investigators from several law enforcement agencies searched the Somerville, Massachusets residence of Professor Irena Kristy and her 29-year-old son Grigory Genkin. Narcotics officers had surveilled the couple for almost a year. In the home, the searchers found a large amount of materials used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Chareged with crimes related to the making and distribution of meth, Genkin turned himself in a few days after the search. On December 4,   2011, police took 74-year-old Professor Kristy into custody for allegedly helping her son operate a meth lab in their home.

     After emigrating to the United States from Russia in 1985, Kristy was hired as an adjunct professor of calculus at Suffolk University. (Adjunct faculty are appointed semester by semester.) Two years later, Kristy accepted a tenure-track professorship at Boston University while holding her position at Suffolk University. Reporters compared the Kristy case to the then popular TV series Breaking Bad starring Bryan Cranston. The show featured a former high school chemistry teacher named Mr. White who was a master meth cook in a high-tech, underground lab.

     The prosecutor's office, in February 2012, dropped the charges against the professor. Boston University, however, did not renew her teaching contract.

Puppy Love

     If you can't handle the stress of law school, how can you deal with the stress of the legal profession? Students at George Mason University Law School, in 2012, were given access to homeless puppy dogs as a means of coping with the stress of academic life.

     One of the George Mason University law students soothed by a puppy told a reporter that as a result of her dog therapy "I got to be human again." These law students, when they enter their dog-eat-dog profession, are in for a shock. It's going to take a lot of puppies.
 
Professor Solicits Prostitution

     In August 2007, Miami Police arrested Donald Marvin Jones for "soliciting to commit prostitution." Jones, a well-known, TV friendly constitutional law professor at the University of Miami, had allegedly offered an undercover cop $20 for oral sex. On September 26, 2011, the 63-year-old law professor was busted again for the same offense.

     The citizens of Miami could take comfort in knowing that as murderers, rapists, muggers, burglars, and drug dealers roamed the streets of their great city, high-paid cops were out there posing as prostitutes to bring down criminals like Professor Jones.

     The professor pleaded guilty and paid a fine.

Bad Santa

     There is nothing more goofy than a professor who has inflated a nonexistent problem into a real problem that can be solved with the professor's easy but ridiculous solution. Say hello to Nutty Professor George Giuliani, the Director of the Graduate School Program in Special Education at Hofstra University. Giuliani, a New York State licensed psychologist and author of books with engaging titles like: "Creating Confident Children in the Classroom: The Use of Positive Restructuring, and What Every Teacher Should Know About Students with Special Needs," appeared on the morning TV show "Fox and Friends" in December 2011 to discuss the evils inherent in the animated film classic, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

     Professor Giuliani told the TV audience that because of Rudolph's disability--his flashing red nose--the deer was bullied by Santa and his other reindeer. According to the professor: "Comet is saying to children, don't play with this reindeer again. And he [Comet] tells him [Rudolph] to go home and he bullies him and mocks him, and the other kids [what kids?] start mocking him. Can you imagine if your child's teacher said to the class, 'don't ever play with this child again'?" Professor Giuliani obviously didn't like Comet, but he was also tough on Santa as well: "Santa Claus is saying, 'you [Rudolph] cannot be on my team because you have a disability....' "

     Okay, so that's the problem. The solution? Keep "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" off TV! (Perhaps they could rate it for mature audiences.) That won't happen of course, and Professor Giuliani knew that. But hell, what's wrong with dreaming of a perfect world and a chance to appear on national television?     

A Shoplifter in Need of a Getaway Driver

     After reports of ongoing shoplifting on Thanksgiving 2014, police officers in Nampa, Idaho responded to a busy parking lot full of holiday shoppers. When they tried to arrest Camilla Hunt, the Oregon woman fled in a car. Given the potential thereat to public safety, the police did not pursue her in the busy parking lot.

     But Hunt didn't make an escape. Instead, she drove around in circles. Police laid down a spike strip and Hunt drove her car over it, deflating two of her tires.

"Police Stop Woman Driving in Circles," Associated Press, November 28, 2014 

Chain of Custody and Documentation Of Physical Evidence And Its Analysis

     One of the cornerstones of professional scientific practice is the documentation and recording of experimental results in order that they can be subject to both reproduction and scrutiny by peers. The concept of reproducibility ensures that the given hypothesis carries weight and is not just a random finding, while at the same time allowing others to attempt to replicate findings, further adding to the credibility of the theory….Forensic science…has a burden to ensure the reliability and validity of its results, not just in theory, but also in practice.

     Documentation of the location of material evidence itself is usually required in the form of tracking its whereabouts at any given time in order to satisfy that the chain of custody has not been broken and that the evidence has been legitimately transferred between parties without alteration or amendment in such a way that the opportunity for alteration or tampering, whether intentional or not, has been minimized. A large part of the successful defense argument during the O. J. Simpson trial rested on the fact that there was extremely poor handling and documentation of the physical evidence that raised serious doubts as to its integrity.

     However, chain of custody requirements, which detail the physical location of evidence during its progression through all phases of collection, analysis, and storage, are still insufficient by themselves in documenting the results of forensic inquires. Like any good scientist, forensic examiners are required to detail, in addition to the physical condition of evidence given to them, exactly what they did with the evidence, and why the results of such inquiries have led to the conclusions they did. Documentation of the analysis of forensic samples allows the expert's data and method to be subject to, and subsequently withstand, rigorous examination,.

C. Michael Bowers, Forensic Testimony, 2013

Monday, January 28, 2019

Who Shot Blake Wardell To Death And Why?

     Blake Randell Wardell resided in Honea Path, South Carolina, a town in the northeast part of the state. In the early morning hours of Wednesday, May 14, 2014, the 26-year-old Wardell, a man his age named Timothy Fisher, Taylor Ann Kelly, and eight or nine others, were hanging out at a house in Honea Path. (The reporting on this case has been so weak there is no information regarding who owns or lives in this house.)

     At 2:45 that morning, someone in the group (presumably) called 911 to report a shooting. Deputies with the Anderson County Sheriff's office, upon arrival at the house, found Wardell unresponsive and bleeding from the chest as he lay in a pool of blood on the garage floor. Paramedics arrived but were unable to revive Wardell who they pronounced dead at the scene.

     According to those questioned at the death site, Wardell had found, in the house, an old bullet-proof Kevlar flak-jacket. He put on the vest and asked someone to test it out by shooting him. (That is such a stupid thing to do, it's hard to believe.)

     Taylor Ann Kelly, a recent graduate of Belton-Honea Path High School, took responsibility for the shooting death. She told the police that she had fired the small-caliber bullet that passed through the lining on the edge of the bullet-proof vest into Wardell's heart. (This doesn't make any sense. I presume detectives questioned the others at the scene who confirmed that Kelly was the one who had fired the fatal bullet.)

     Officers took the 18-year-girl into custody and booked her into the Anderson County Detention Center on the charge of involuntary manslaughter.

     In South Carolina, as in most states, the homicide offense of involuntary manslaughter involves, as criminal intent, the reckless disregard for human life. The fact the victim in this case had supposedly consented to being recklessly shot, would not comprise a legal defense to this charge. According to the law, there are certain things people cannot legally consent to. Being shot is one of them. In this state, involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The judge set the 18-year-old suspect's bail at $10,000.

     On May 16, 2014, an Anderson County prosecutor reduced the charge against Taylor Kelly to accessory after the fact of a felony. According to investigators, she had lied to police officers about shooting the victim. She had apparently confessed to protect the real shooter in the case--25-year-old Timothy Fisher.

     The Anderson County prosecutor charged Fisher with involuntary manslaughter. Officers booked him into the county detention center. The authorities have not revealed exactly why the girl had lied for this man. Did she do it voluntarily? Are Kelly and Fisher in some kind of relationship? Does Fisher have a criminal record? What was his relationship to Blake Wardell? The police did say that neither alcohol nor drugs played a role in the shooting. (That's a surprise.)

     This is a case that calls for a careful and professional investigation to uncover possible motives for murder. The criminal investigation should also include a thorough forensic ballistics analysis which would include determining if the fatal bullet had actually passed through a bullet-proof vest. And finally, all witnesses to the shooting should be asked to take polygraph tests.

     As of January 2019, no one has been tried in connection with this case.

     

A Strange If Not Suspicious Death

     Brooke Baures, a 21-year-old social work major at Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota, worked part time across the Mississippi River at WingDam Saloon & Grill in Fountain City, Wisconsin.  From 2011 to 2014, the native of Chetek, Wisconsin excelled as a member of the university's gymnastics team. As a bar and beam gymnast, the senior competed three times at national gymnastic events and was named an All-American gymnastics three years in a row.

     At the restaurant and bar in Fountain City, one of Baures' jobs involving taking food and drinks from the dumbwaiter that ran between the first floor kitchen and the second floor eating and drinking area. The opening to the food elevator measured three feet wide and three feet tall. This opening was not designed for human access.

     At eight in the evening of Monday December 1, 2014, the Buffalo County Sheriff's Office received a 911 call regarding a young woman stuck or trapped in the shaft of a restaurant food elevator. The victim turned out to be Brooke Baures. Paramedics pronounced her dead at the scene.

     Law enforcement authorities quickly ruled out foul play in the strange death case. (Since 2003, only two people in the U.S. have died in food elevator accidents.) The no-foul-play announcement, before autopsy and toxicological results, seemed premature.

     After questioning half of the customers and all of the restaurant employees, investigators did not find an eyewitness to the incident. Apparently nobody saw Baures enter the food elevator shaft. Fountain City Police Chief Jason Mark told reporters that, "I highly doubt that Baures was using the dumbwaiter to move herself." He said she was probably using the elevator to shuttle food and drink.

     Eliminating the possibility of foul play before a thorough death investigation is self-defeating and amateurish. Moreover, it produces a lot of questions and raises suspicion of a cover-up. For example, who discovered Baures and how long had she been dead? What was the position of her body and exactly how did she die? How could this have happened? Are dumbwaiters that dangerous?

     On December 6, 2014, Buffalo County Sheriff Mike Schmidtknecht told reporters that Baures' death was probably a freak accident. He said investigators believe she possibly pushed the down button then noticed something and reached in and got caught and dragged down into the shaft by the elevator. 

Get-A-Way Skateboard

     A suspect wanted for stealing a BMW sedan led police on a chase in Van Nuys, California, bailed out on foot and attempted to get away on a skateboard before he was blocked by a Good Samaritan in a pickup truck. The suspect exited the 405 Freeway at Victory Boulevard at three-forty in the afternoon of December 1, 2014 and drove the stolen vehicle on the surface streets in Van Nuys at high speeds, at times reaching 90 mph.

     On eastbound Sherman Way, the suspect crashed into the back of another vehicle in stopped traffic. The suspect then jumped out of the BMW and ran into oncoming traffic with a skateboard under his arm. He ran north on Valjean Avenue, jumped on his skateboard and rode the sidewalk for less than half a block before running into traffic again. A pickup truck driver blocked him in traffic, then accelerated and turned right on Cantlay Street where he blocked the suspect at a gate. Police officers took the car thief into custody.

"Car Theft Suspect Jumps on Skateboard to Evade Cops," ABC News, December 1, 2014 

Norman Mailer On Prisons: Beware Of The Bleeding Heart

"The fundamental premise of incarceration…demonstrates to us, over and over, is that prison is equipped to grind down criminals who are cowards into social submission, but can only break the spirit of brave men who are criminals, or anneal them until they are harder that the steel that encloses them. [Brave men? Brave men do not mug old people, rape women or murder their girlfriends and wives. Only a hopeless romantic would associate criminality with courage.] If you can conceive of a society…that is more concerned with the threat they pose to the suburbs, then a few solutions for future prisons may be there….No system of punishment that asks a brave human being to surrender his or her bravery can ever work for the common good. It violates the universal stuff of the soul out of which great civilizations are built."

Norman Mailer, Introduction to Jack Abbott's In The Belly of the Beast, 1981 [Not long after Mailer and other bleeding-heart types lobbied corrections authorities to release Jack Abbott from prison, this career violent criminal, without provocation, stabbed a New York City waiter to death. The victim was a total stranger to him. How brave was that?] 

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Yiqiang Wu Hate Crime Case

     Army Captain Andrew McClure, during his 14 years in military service that included a combat tour in Iraq, had escaped physical injury. On April 11, 2013, as he stood in the Walmart checkout line dressed in his camouflage fatigues, Captain McClure didn't expect to become the target of an anti-American assault. The incident took place at six o'clock in the evening in Albany, New York.

     In response to something mumbled by the man standing behind him in the Walmart line, Captain McClure turned around to determine if the man was speaking to him.  Forty-seven--year-old Yiqiang Wu responded by giving the man in uniform the finger.

     "Is that for me?" the Captain asked.

     "F---you, American scum," said Wu. "F---you, F---your nation!"

     "If you don't like it here, you can always go home," McClure replied. Before the Captain could turn from the man who had insulted him, the uniform, and the country, Wu punched the Captain several times in the face. Bystanders rushed to McClure's aid. The Walmart customers subdued the attacker until the police entered the store and hauled him away in handcuffs.

     The next day, the Walmart assailant from the Schenectady, New York area stood before a magistrate in an Albany criminal courtroom. Wu was charged with third-degree assault as a hate crime. Following his arraignment, the suspect posted his $5,000 bail and was released. The judge ordered a mental illness evaluation.

     Captain McClure, in explaining to a local reporter why he hadn't used his black belt skills to protect himself, said: "I had the presence of mind to know that we're on camera. I'm in uniform and I have to conduct myself as a professional and not do anything that would tarnish or embarrass the unit or the uniform."

     Yiqiang Wu, in speaking to a reporter, said that he heard voices and suffered from headaches. According to him, whenever he plugged his ears to block out the voices, his middle finger shot up. (I'm hearing a voice in my head right now and it says, "load of crap.") Wu assured the reporter that he has no ill-will toward the U.S. military.

     Almost six years have passed since this hate crime assault and there has not been one update in the media about this crime. As a result, we are left with questions regarding the disposition of the case. Was Yiqiang Wu found guilty? Was he a Chinese citizen who faced deportation? Was he institutionalized as a mental patient? And more importantly, why did the media ignored this outrageous hate crime against an American soldier?


Creating Killers

Children raised with a modicum of respect and with some appreciation of who they are as individuals will grow into adults possessing some sense of personal power. Unfortunately, not a few children are brought up in homes where they are regarded as invisible or little more than biological extensions of their parents. Accordingly, they may reach maturity uncertain of their value as people, and suffer grave doubts about the degree to which they can influence the course of their own lives. Swept along helplessly by events, they lack the psychological means to move toward that which might make life worthwhile or away from people or circumstances regularly bringing them grief. Feeling utterly without power of their own, they can become totally submissive to the pernicious will of others. Yet, paradoxically, when nothing else works, they may finally be moved to the use of lethal force. Even an emotional cipher--a virtual nonperson--if sufficiently desperate, may find the strength to fire a gun.

Marin Binder, M. D., Lovers, Killers, Husbands and Wives, 1985

Norman Mailer Versus Truman Capote As True Crime Writers

I think Capote's book and mine are formally similar, but vastly different. Obviously, I'd be the first to state that if he hadn't done In Cold Blood, it's conceivable that I wouldn't have thought of taking on The Executioner's Song. Nonetheless, it's also possible that something about The Executioner's Son [about the execution of a Utah killer named Gary Gillmore] called for doing it in the way I chose. In any event, its flavor is different from In Cold Blood [about the murder of a Kansas farm family in 1959]. Truman retained his style. Not the pure style--he simplified it--but it was still very much a book written by Truman Capote. You felt it every step of the way. The difference is that he tweaked it more, where I was determined to keep the factual narrative. [Capote created composite characters and invented events. In recreating the murder trial, he had the defense put on its case first.] I wanted my book to read like a novel, and it does, but I didn't want to sacrifice what literally happened in a scene for what I wanted to see happen. Of course, I could afford to feel that way. I had advantages Truman didn't. His killers were not the most interesting guys in the world, so it took Truman's exquisite skills to make his work a classic. I was in the more promising position of dealing with a man who was quintessentially American yet worthy of Dostoyevsky. If this were not enough, he [Gillmore] was also in love with a girl who--I'll go so far as to say--is a bona fide American heroine. I didn't want, therefore, to improve anything. Dedicated accuracy is not usually the first claim a novelist wishes to make, but here it became a matter of literary value. What I had was gold, if I had enough sense not to gild it.

Norman Mailer, The Spooky Art, 2003

William M. Kunstler On Using The Courtroom As a Forum

The courtroom is an ideal forum in which to radicalize people, to expose the government and so on. It's a battlefield. And it's a good battlefield. And it's one in which we have a forum. My people can't get on the floor of Congress. They can't get on the Supreme Court. They can't get in the oval office. But, by God, they have a spokesperson in that courtroom.

William M. Kunstler (1919-1995). A self-described "radical lawyer." 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Very Young Killer

     On February 5, 2015, Trina Whitehead, a mother of four, left her 2-month-old daughter Zuri overnight with a friend in Wickliffe, Ohio, a suburban community within the Cleveland metropolitan area. Trina had known the woman she left Zuri with for six years. The 39-year-old babysitter, the mother of an eleven-year-old girl, had watched her friend's children before when she needed a night off. (The babysitter and her daughter were not identified by the media.)

     At three the next morning, February 6, the babysitter fell asleep on her living room couch. Her daughter, who had also been on the sofa with the baby, took the infant to the second floor while her mother slept. She returned to the couch forty-five minutes later with the baby in her arms.

     The adult babysitter, awakened by her daughter, was shocked by the sight of Zuri. The infant's head was bleeding and terribly swollen.

     The eleven-year-old girl's mother dialed 911, and to the dispatcher, reported that the 2-month-old baby in her care had trouble breathing and wouldn't open her eyes.

     Paramedics and police officers arrived at the house a few minutes later. An ambulance crew rushed the severely injured infant to nearby Lake West Hospital. From that medical facility the baby was flown to the Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland where she died on the operating table.

     Police officers took the eleven-year-old girl to the Lake County Juvenile Detention Center for questioning.

     A forensic pathologist with the Cuyahoga County Coroner's Office in Cleveland determined the infant's cause of death to be "multiple blunt force trauma to the head and torso." The tiny victim had suffered "massive brain injuries, severe damage to the liver, and external bleeding." The coroner ruled the baby's death a homicide.

     On Monday February 9, 2015, Juvenile Court Judge Karen Lawson, at the eleven-year-old's detention hearing, formally charged the girl with murder. In Ohio, persons under the age of 14 cannot be charged as adults. As a result, this case proceeded through the juvenile criminal justice system. If convicted, the accused pre-teen could be held at a State Department of Youth Services Facility until she reached the age of 21.

     The young murder suspect, represented by a public defender at her detention hearing, sat quietly at the defense table with her head resting on her folded arms. According to a detective who had questioned her, the girl showed no remorse for what investigators believed she had done to the baby. (The authorities did not identify the murder weapon or exactly how the crime had been committed.)

     Every year around 20 children under the age of 12 intentionally kill someone. Criminologists believe that the number of pre-teen murder defendants has been on the rise. No one is quite sure why. 

Should 9th Graders Study Serial Killers?

     Students in an Australian high school didn't have to wait until college to enroll in stupid, useless courses. A 9th grade teacher in Corio, a suburb of Greelong, Victoria on Australia's southeastern coast, offered a forensic psychology course devoted to the study of serial killers. This begs the question: what educational goal is being met here? Is studying a tiny subculture of deviants with homicidal personality disorders a good way to give 14-years-olds a realistic perception of human behavior? Are these murderous degenerates worthy of this kind of academic attention? Man, where was this teacher when I was in school flunking English, math, and science?

     This 9th grade professor of prolific, pathological homicide gave his (or her) students two weeks to complete a "Serial Killer Investigation Assignment." (I am not kidding, this is not a put on.) The twenty students taking the class were asked to complete ten out of a possible twenty "activities" related to the study of serial killers, their lives, and their victims. This reminds me of Boy Scouts having to do certain things to earn merit badges. Instead of studying the boring stuff, these kids learned all about American serial killers like David Berkowitz (Son of Sam), Ted Bundy, and the man who killed and ate young men, Jeffery Dahmer. (After completing this course, most of these kids would be afraid to visit the U.S.) The Australian students also studied Hannibal Lector, the fictitious, erudite consumer of human flesh. Finally, a course they could sink their teeth into.

     What follows are some of the"Serial Killer Investigation Assignment" activities students could choose from:

     Draw a cartoon panel about how your serial killer murdered someone. This is a good one for a kid with artistic ability who has selected a serial killer like John Wayne Gacy. Gacy, an amateur clown, tricked his young male victims into handcuffing themselves before he slowly strangled them to death. Mr. Gacy buried the dead boys' bodies under his house in Chicago. The visuals here could be great. These students of sadistic, multiple murder could identify with Mr. Gacy who was himself an artist! Maybe they could copy his style and technique. In art, that is. Or maybe they could do a cartoon of him dying in the execution chamber. That would be my choice.

     Choose two serial killers, compare them and decide which of them is worse and why. This is a good exercise for  students who want to be  criminal defense attorneys when they grows up. A student might select Donald Harvey, the Ohio angel of death who murdered hundreds of terminally ill hospital patients by poisoning them to death. Mr. Harvey could be compared to Ted Bundy who raped and murdered dozens of young women. In choosing Harvey over Bundy, the student could argue that all of Bundy's victims were young pretty women, while Donald Harvey just killed old people who were going to die soon anyway. Yes, Donald Harvey was much worse than Ted Bundy. Encouraging a 14-year-old see the good side of a serial killer is, educationally speaking, a splendid idea. Bravo.

     Write a poem about a serial killer. My first question for the teacher would be, does it have to rhyme? Mixing poetry and sudden, violent death will surely get kids interested in writing on a higher level. Let's see, what rhymes with autopsy. That's a tough one.

     Create a serial killer board game with full instructions. Oh my, this one is ambitious. But it's a good exercise because it forces the student to spend hours and hours thinking about sadistic, pathological murder. I would suggest adapting "Chutes and Ladders" to "Tunnels and Dungeons," or "Whips and Chains." Maybe the student could convert a Monopoly board. Instead of real estate, the player lands on potential murder victims. In this game, however, there is no get-out-of jail card.

     Make a children's book which teaches them about serial killers. The goal here, I guess, is to get toddlers interested in multiple homicide. Full color illustrations depicting the various ways serial killers go about their business would be quite instructive. Teaching kids at a young age how to commit serial murder would be, I imagine, an excellent anti-bullying measure.

     Draw a floor plan of a serial killer's "dream house." This is a good assignment for students who want to grow up to be sadistic architects. It goes without saying that the dwelling would feature a torture chamber, a dissecting room, a library of snuff videos, and a large but private back yard. I would also suggest a good ventilation system and a large incinerator.

     Ken Massari, the principal of the Australian high school that employed the 9th grade teacher, didn't know about the serial killer course until he read about it in the local press. Apparently a parent had complained to the media. The principal pulled the plug on the course which including killing the teacher's homework assignments. To a reporter, Massari said that "Upon review, I made the decision to withdraw the assignment immediately and permanently, and our trained staff contacted each family to determine if any support was required." 

Should Stalkers Be Released On Bail?

Most first-time stalking offenses are charged as misdemeanors, and it is not infrequent that perpetrators are released after the arraignment "on their own recognizance"--also known as "personal bond"--without financial bail, that is, the posting of cash or a secured (monetary) bond. In the cases where financial bond is set, often the amounts seem extraordinarily high, yet perpetrators seem able to come up with the money and obtain release. An option in many jurisdictions is that the arrestee is allowed to post just 10 percent of the bond set by the magistrate.

Melita Schaum and Karen Parrish, Stalked, 1995

The Female Serial Killer

One in nearly every six serial killers in the U. S. is a woman, acting as a solo perpetrator or an accomplice. Of a total of about 400 serial killers identified between 1800 and 1995, nearly 16 percent were females--a total of 62 killers. While that might not be an overwhelming majority, it is not an insignificant number either--these 62 women collectively killed between 400 and 600 victims--men, women, an children. Three female serial killers alone--Genene Jones, Belle Gunness, and Jane Toppan--might account collectively for as many as 200 suspected murders.

Peter Vronsky, Female Serial Killers, 2007

Friday, January 25, 2019

The Leanne Bearden Missing Person Case

     In 1999, Leanne Hecht from Roswell, Georgia graduated from the University of Georgia. With her degree in marketing, she moved to Denver, Colorado after being offered a job there. In 2008, Leanne began dating Josh Bearden, a Denver resident from Garden Ridge, Texas. Bearden had graduated from Texas A & M and possessed a degree in marketing as well. The couple were married in 2009.

     Leanne and Josh, in March 2012, left their home in Denver to embark on a trip around the world. Twenty-two months later, after visiting 56 countries and blogging about their adventures, they returned to the United States.

     In December 2013, following a short stay with Leanne's family in Roswell, Georgia, the pair traveled to Garden Ridge, Texas to visit his folks. They had scheduled a flight back to Denver for January 21, 2014.

     Early Friday afternoon, on January 17, 2014, Leanne left the Garden Ridge house to hike in the rugged west Texas terrain northeast of San Antonio. The five-foot, 100 pound woman with two piercings on her left ear, wore hiking shoes and a pair of jeans. She did not take her cellphone, but was in possession of $60 and a couple of credit cards.

     At 5:30 PM that Friday, when Leanne didn't return home from her outing, Josh reported his wife missing. At eight the next morning, officers withe the Garden Ridge Police Department and the Comal County Sheriff's Office, accompanied by 150 volunteer civilians, a contingent of Texas National Guard members, Texas Rangers and a search and rescue team, launched a massive search for the missing 33-year-old. A pair of helicopters, for three hours, flew over a 23-mile-square patch of landscape that features boulders, cliffs, and caves. The search produced no clues as to what happened to Leanne Bearden.

     Leanne had been missing a week when a group in Denver held a fundraiser to solicit money to hire a private missing persons investigator named Charles Parker.

     Assuming Leanne wasn't abducted or murdered, she either ran off, got lost, or suffered an injury. She could have twisted an ankle or fallen off a cliff. It seems rather odd, however, that given the hostile terrain, and the possibility of getting injured or lost, she did not leave the house with her cellphone.

     On January 29, 2014, a member of the missing woman's family posted the following message on Facebook: "The pressure of transitioning from her two-year trip back into what we consider "normal" life seems to have left Leanne very anxious and stressed. As a result there is evidence that Leanne may have voluntarily left the area….We initially believed that she was somewhere in the local area. However, after much searching…no evidence has been found of her presence. If Leanne has indeed fled this area, she is extremely vulnerable. She left with only a few assets and is traveling very light. Although she is athletic, she is small in stature. Her mental and physical status is uncertain. We fear for her greatly."

     On Thursday, February 13, 2014, a Garden Ridge police spokesperson announced that Leanne Bearden's body was found in a wooded area not far from her in-law's house. Jewelry and identification cards were with the body. An autopsy would determine her cause and manner of death.

     According to media reports, Bearden's body was discovered hanging from a tree. The area where she was found had been searched several times by members of her family. As a result, it was not included in the search conducted by law enforcement agencies, volunteers, and search and rescue crews.

     On Friday, February 14, 2014, Garden Ridge Police Chief Donna O'Conner announced that the autopsy results revealed that Leanne Bearden had committed suicide.


The Ronnie Towns Murder Case

     Elrey "Bud" Runion posted a Craigslist ad in hopes of connecting with someone willing to sell him a 1966 Ford Mustang convertible. On Thursday afternoon January 22, 2015, the 69-year-old Vietnam veteran and AT&T retiree and his wife June, a 66-year-old former elementary school teacher, left their home in Marietta, Georgia en route to McRae, a Telfair County town 180 miles southeast of the Atlanta area. They were on their way to meet a man in McRae who said he had a 1966 Mustang for them to look at.

     The day after Mr. Runion and his wife left Marietta, family members reported them missing after they failed to show up to babysit their grandchildren.

     Investigators in Telfair County, Georgia determined that a 28-year-old man named Ronnie Adrian Towns had called Mr. Runion Thursday afternoon from a disposable cellphone. Deputies with the sheriff's office questioned Towns about the call and his relationship with the missing couple.

     Later, when the authorities realized that Towns had given them information that turned out to be false, a Telfair County prosecutor charged him with giving false statements to the police and criminal attempt to commit theft by deception. At that point, Mr. Towns' whereabouts were unknown.

     On Monday morning January 26, 2015, accompanied by his relatives, Towns surrendered to the local authorities. According to the sheriff, the suspect had no criminal record and came from a good family.

      In the meantime, the search for Mr. and Mrs. Runion, a law enforcement operation that involved helicopters and watercraft, centered around a shallow pond and wooded area not far from land owned by the suspect's parents. On Monday afternoon, searchers found the missing couples' 2003 GMC Envoy partially submerged in the pond. Their bodies were discovered nearby in the woods along Webb Cemetery Road not far from the property owned by the suspect's family.

     The sheriff of Telfair County, at a press conference, made it clear that investigators believed that Ronnie Adrian Towns had lured Mr. and Mrs. Runion to McRae on the pretext of selling them a 1966 Mustang. He did so with the intent to rob them. The sheriff withheld information regarding how the Runions had died pending the completion of their autopsies. When the forensic pathologist completed his work, a local prosecutor would make a decision regarding additional charges in the case.

     On Tuesday January 27, 2015, the Telfair County prosecutor charged Ronnie Towns with malice murder and armed robbery. The judge denied him bond. According to the forensic pathologist, the victims had been shot in the head.

     The murder suspect grew up in the southern Georgia farming community where his father raised pine trees and grew soybeans, corn, and peanuts. Ronnie Towns lived with his wife and young daughter and worked on construction jobs for a local homebuilder. He also helped his uncle install carpets. "He's a good kid and very smart," the uncle said to a reporter. "It just doesn't make any sense why this would ever go down. It's hard for his parents. They're not understanding."

     Mr. Runion had been known in the community for fixing up old bicycles he gave to poor children through a charity run out of the Mount Paran Church of God in Marietta. Over the years he and his wife had participated in other charities throughout the south.

     As of January 2019, with four attorneys representing him in the death penalty double murder case, Ronnie Towns has not been tried. 


Thornton P. Knowles On Janet Malcom

Janet Malcom is my favorite journalist. I like her because she is honest about herself and her profession. Very few journalists are honest about anything. For example, in comparing novelists to journalists, Malcom wrote: "The dominant and most deep-dyed trait of the journalist is his timorousness [timidity]. Where the novelist fearlessly plunges into the water of self-exposure, the journalist stands trembling on the shore in his beach robe. Not for him the strenuous  athleticism--which is the novelist's daily task--of laying out his deepest griefs and shames before the world. The journalist confines himself to the clean, gentlemanly work of exposing the griefs and shames of others." Amen to that!

Thornton P. Knowles

In Cop-Dog Confrontations, Pets Lose

     The Browns say a patrolman wielding a shotgun killed a member of their family. Cali, a gentle and loving pit bull was shot to death after jumping the backyard fence in Ardmore, Oklahoma say her owners, who have started a massive social media drive to get the officer disciplined.

     Sarah Brown says a neighbor witnessed the shooting and heard the cop boasting about how "awesome" it looked when the dog's collar blew off from the blast.

     Ardmore Police Captain Eric Hamblin said the March 2014 shooting was justified because animal control officers were unable to collect the dog after receiving phone complaints that a pit bull was acting aggressively in the neighborhood. According to Hamblin, the policeman who shot Cali has received death threats….

     Brown says the neighbor told her the cop had laughed after shooting her 2-year-old dog….The dog joined the family as a puppy and had no history of bad behavior, family members said….

Deborah Hastings, "Oklahoma Family Says Cop Shot To Death Their Beloved Dog For No Reason," New York Daily News, March 25, 2014 [There are no statistics regarding how many dogs police officers kill every year. The number must be in the thousands.]

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Kai McGillvary and the Hatchet Hitchhiker Murder Case

     On February 1, 2013, a CNN reporter in Fresno, California interviewed a 24-year-old homeless drifter named Caleb "Kai" McGillvary. The long-haired, backpack-carrying, bandana-wearing hitchhiker who went under the names Kai Lawrence and Kai Nicodermus, described, in a rambling, profane-laced TV interview, how he had thwarted an assault on a female Fresno area utility worker.

     On the day in question, McGillvary had hitched a ride with a manifestly insane driver who intentionally tried to run over the female utility employee. The large man behind the wheel jumped out of his car, and as he approached the injured woman said, "I am Jesus and I am here to take you home." (By home the driver was not referring to the victim's place of residence.) When the mentally ill assailant began punching the helpless woman, McGillvary pulled a hatchet out of his backpack and used it to subdue the attacker by whacking him in the head a couple of times.

     According to media reports, the crazy man, a month earlier, had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to a murder charge. (This begs the question: what was this guy doing out in society?) The utility worker underwent surgery for her non-life-threatening injuries. Her mentally ill assailant was charged with attempt murder. (I presume this man has not posted bail in the attempted murder case. But who knows? The crime was committed in California.)

     Kai McGillvary's television interview went viral with more than 4 million YouTube hits. An instant cyber-culture celebrity, the self-named "Hatchet Hitchhiker" appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! where he informed America that he prefers to be thought of as "home-free" rather than homeless. (He is also "car-free", "job-free",  and probably "money-free" as well.) The story of McGillvary's hatchet intervention in the Fresno assault was also featured on The Colbert Report. 

     On Saturday, May 11, 2013, the "Hatchet Hitchhiker" was seen in New York City's Times Square in the company of a 73-year-old lawyer named Joseph Galfy, Jr. That night, Mr. Galfy took McGillvary back to his house in Clark, New Jersey, a town 20 miles west of the city. According to reports, the drifter spend two nights with Galfy who lived in the house by himself.

     On Monday morning, May 13, 2013, when Mr. Galfy failed to show up for work at the law firm, a fellow employee asked local police officers to make a welfare check at his residence. Inside the tidy, brick dwelling, officers found the lawyer lying dead in his bed wearing socks and his underwear. According to the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, Mr. Galfy had been bludgeoned to death. Detectives believed the victim had been murdered sometime on Sunday.

     On Tuesday, the day after the discovery of Mr. Galfy's corpse, Kia McGillvary, on his Facebook page, asked his readers what they would do if they awoke in a stranger's house to the realization they had been drugged and sexually assaulted. One Facebook commentator suggested hitting the rapist with a hatchet. To that McGillvary responded, "I like your idea."

     Late Thursday night, May 16, 2013, police officers arrested the "Hatchet Hitchhiker" at the Greyhound Bus Station in downtown Philadelphia. Officers noticed that McGillvary had cut his hair to change his appearance.Held on $3 million bail, the freedom-free suspect was shipped back to Union County, New Jersey where he faced a charge of murder in connection with Joseph Galfy's violent death.

     Following his arrest, McGillvary gained supporters who followed his case on a special Facebook site. The murder suspect also had a GoFundMe campaign on his behalf and a YouTube page.

     McGillvary's murder trial was scheduled for January 2019, almost six years after his arrest.

The Burglar

The typical burglar is young, amateurish, and motivated by the desire to achieve immediate material gain. And most burglaries, even though they involve forced entry, require few tools, little planning, and almost no skill or dexterity.

Objectivity in Forensic Science

     In order to maintain scientific objectivity, forensic science practitioners have to rise above the adversarial nature of the trial process. They have to be true to their science. This is especially difficult when their conclusions conflict with the law enforcement view of the case. Staying at arm's length from law enforcement is much easier for experts in the private sector. Crime lab employees who get too involved in the overall criminal investigation and outcome of a case are more vulnerable to prosecutorial pressure and influence.

     Keeping a firewall between forensic science and criminal prosecution is extremely difficult. It's easy to understand, for example, how a forensic pathologist in a medical examiner's office might lose scientific objectivity when he is involved in a case of child abuse or suspected infanticide. Forensic scientists should not think of themselves as part of a law enforcement team. They should think of themselves as independent scientists.  

The "You-Should-Write-a-Book-About-My-Uncle" Syndrome

My last biography is no sooner in the stores when the letters start coming suggesting a subject for my next one. The grandmothers of these letter writers are crying from the grave, it seems, for literary recognition. It is bewildering, the number of salty grandfathers, aunts, and uncles that languish unappreciated.

Catherine Drinker Bowen, Adventures of a Biographer, 1959 

Waking Up With a Hand in Your Pants


     On June 10, 2012, Janarol Ali Dickens boarded a Delta flight from Detroit to Amsterdam. The 32-year-old asked the girl next to him if she wanted to watch a movie with him. She declined and went to sleep. When the 19-year-old woke up mid-flight, Dickens' hand was in her pants underneath her underwear. In addition, the victim discovered that Dickens had pulled her arm onto his lap. The alarmed passenger alerted a flight crew member who placed her into another seat.

     Upon arrival in Amsterdam officers with the Dutch Royal Military questioned Dickens who denied any sexual contact between him and the complainant. The authorities in Amsterdam released the accused molester without charging him with a crime. The woman Dickens had sexually assaulted filed a criminal complaint against him when she returned to the U.S. Because the offense took place on an international flight that originated in the U.S., the federal government had jurisdiction in the case.

     On April 22, 2014, Dickens returned to the United States. His flight landed in Miami where FBI agents took him into custody at the airport.

     To the FBI agents Dickens denied fondling the woman on the plane two years earlier. But after further questioning he admitted that he had put his hand inside the victim's pants for about ten seconds. (As though brevity in this case was relevant.) Dickens claimed he had placed the offending hand outside the girl's underwear. (Again, not  relevant.) He admitted that his neighbor on the plane had not given him permission to touch her.

     A federal prosecutor charged Dickens with Abusive Sexual Conduct. Dickens posted his bond and walked out of jail shortly after his arrest.

     In March 2015, following his guilty plea, the federal district judge sentenced Dickens to two years in prison.


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Ka Pasasouk: Quadruple Murder by a Man Who Should Have Been in Prison

     In Los Angeles, Ka Pasasouk began using drugs, assaulting people, and stealing things years before his first criminal conviction as a 23-year-old in 2004. The husky, heavily tattooed street criminal was sent to state prison that year for auto-theft. After serving a few months behind bars, Pasasouk, in 2006, was back in prison after being convicted of robbery and the crime of assault likely to produce great bodily injury. In 2010, after being out of prison for more than a year, a judge sentenced Pasasouk to three years for stealing cars. On January 18, 2012, after being placed under the supervision of the Los Angeles Probation Department, Pasasouk was back on the street living his life of methamphetamine, violence, and theft.

     On September 19, 2012, Ka Pasasouk pleaded no contest to the possession of meth in a Van Nuys Superior Court before Judge Jessica Silvers. Fateema Johnson, a prosecutor in the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office had accepted the plea in return for Pasasouk's promise to enter a county drug rehabilitation program pursuant to a recent voter approved ballot measure called Proposition 36. The goal of this program involved sending nonviolent drug offenders into rehab instead of prison. Since Pasasouk was a violent, habitual criminal, he was not the kind of person California voters had in mind when they approved this measure.

     At the September 2012 hearing in Van Nuys, a member of the Los Angeles County Probation Department  objected strongly to the terms of Pasasouk's plea arrangement. The probation officer pointed out that Pasasouk had not checked in with his probation agent since January. Moreover, according to a report submitted to Judge Silvers by the probation department: "The defendant is an ineligible and unsuitable candidate for continued community supervision. It is recommended that probation be denied, and that the defendant be sentenced to state prison."

     Judge Jessica Silvers, on the recommendation of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, handed down suspended sentence on the meth possession case, placed Ka Pasasouk back under the supervision of the Los Angeles County Probation Department, and ordered him to enter the drug rehabilitation program.

     Pasasouk, who had no intention of entering a drug program, didn't even bother to check in with his probation agent. In November 2012, when Pasasouk failed to appear in her courtroom to show proof that he was making drug rehabilitation progress, Judge Silvers issued a bench warrant for his arrest.

     At four-thirty Sunday morning, December 2, 2012, Ka Pasasouk and three associates--two women and one man--were outside a rundown, unlicensed boarding house in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Northridge in the San Fernando Valley. Pasasouk and his companions were yelling at four people--two men and two women--with whom they had some kind of property dispute. Pasasouk, who was holding these people at gunpoint, suddenly shot and killed all four of them.

     Following the quadruple murder, Pasasouk and his accomplices drove to Las Vegas in a black Audi. That night, the police in Las Vegas spotted the car parked at the Silverton Hotel & Casino. Following an all-night surveillance while the arrest warrants were being prepared in Los Angeles, the police took Pasasouk and the others into custody. They were held in the Clark County Jail.

     A week after the arrests in Las Vegas, a spokesperson with the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office admitted that Ka Pasasouk should not have been placed on probation following his meth arrest. In recommending the drug rehabilitation program instead of prison, the DA's office had made a terrible mistake.

     In November 2015, a jury sitting in Los Angeles found Pasasouk guilty of four counts of first-degree murder. In February 2016, the judge sentenced him to death by lethal injection.

     Had Pasasouk been sentenced to prison in Jaunuary 2012 instead of being placed on probation, he would have served his sentence and been out on the street prior to December 1, the date of the murders. However, had the judge in 2010 given him a stiffer sentence, Pasasouk would not have murdered the four people in Northridge. The problem in California is that the state is broke, and the prisons are overcrowded. As a result, people like Ka Pasasouk are free to walk the streets. 

Deputy Sheriff Killed in Murder-Suicide

     A Georgia sheriff's detective was one of the victims of a murder-suicide that took place Tuesday afternoon January 6, 2015…Deputies responded to the home of detective Sam Driskell in Hiram, Georgia at one-thirty in the afternoon when he failed to show up for court. When they entered the home they found Driskell, 52, his wife Muachin, 36, and their 12-year-old daughter Carolyn dead from gunshot wounds. Investigators believed Driskell's stepson, 21-year-old Felix Almonte, who was also found dead inside the home, was the gunman. The victims were shot during the night with a Glock .45, detective Driskell's service weapon…

     Detective Driskell was a 10-year veteran with the Paulding County Sheriff's Office. He had been the Director for the Sex Offender Registry….

"Georgia Detective Among Victims of Murder-Suicde," Fox News, January 7, 2015  

Innocent Man on Death Row Thirty Years

…..Glenn Ford, Louisiana's longest-serving death row prisoner, walked free on March 11, 2014 after spending nearly 30 years behind bars for a murder he did not commit….According to the Capital Post Conviction Project of Louisiana, a judge ordered that Ford be freed after prosecutors petitioned the court to release him. New information corroborated what Ford had said all along: that he was not present at nor involved in the November 5, 1983 slaying of Isadore Rozeman….Ford had been on death row since 1984, making him one of the longest-serving death row prisoners in the United States….

Dana Ford, "Louisiana's Longest-Serving Death Row Prisoner Walks Free After 30 Years," CNN, March 11, 2014

Norway's Angel of Death

     Arnfinn Nesset managed the Oakdale Valley Nursing Home in Norway, and between 1977 and 1980 he murdered 22 of his elderly patients by the administration of the drug curacit (a derivative of curare, which is used by the natives of South America to tip their arrows). During a preliminary interrogation Nesset confessed to the killings, adding, "I've killed so many I can't remember them all." At various times he gave different reasons for the murders, including euthanasia, pleasure killing, schizophrenia and a morbid need to take life.

     By the time Nesset came to trial, he had retracted his confessions and pleaded not guilty. He was eventually convicted of 22 out of a final 25 counts of murder, plus charges of forgery related to the embezzlement of the deceased patients' money--not for his own use, he was quick to emphasize, but to swell the funds of missionary charities. Nesset was sentenced to 21 years' imprisonment, the maximum permitted under Norwegian law.

Brian Lane, Chronicle of 20th Century Murder, 1995 

What Happened to JFK's Brain?

Not all the evidence from the John F. Kennedy assassination is at the National Archives. One unique, macabre item from the collection is missing--President Kennedy's brain....My conclusion is that Robert Kennedy took his brother's brain--not to conceal evidence of a conspiracy but perhaps to conceal evidence of the true extent of President Kennedy's illnesses, or perhaps to conceal evidence of the number of medications that President Kennedy was taking.

James Swanson, End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Jeff Hall: A Dead Neo-Nazi and His Homicidal Kid

     Jeff Hall, the 32-year-old head of a ragtag southern California chapter of the National Socialist Movement (NSM), a Neo-Nazi organization comprised of malcontents and fools, lived in Riverside, a suburban community east of Los Angeles. Hall resided with his second wife and five children from his first and second marriages. The unemployed plumber's helper associated with a band of losers like himself who regularly gathered at his two-story house to get drunk and stagger around in Nazi uniforms amid swastika banners and other indicia of skin-headed idiocy. To make sure that even the most casual observer could immediately recognize him as a disgruntled failure, Jeff Hall exhibited, on the back of his shaved had, a large tattoo featuring a cross and a skull.

     Instead of taking 10-year-old Joseph, Hall's oldest child and only boy, to baseball games and amusement parks, the father dragged his son to Neo-Nazi rallies and and other fascist gatherings. Hall once took Joseph to the Mexican border where he taught the kid how so spot illegal aliens. (I presume in anticipation of all-out war with the invaders from the south.) Hall occasionally patrolled the border wearing night-vision goggles and carrying an assault rifle.

     To compound his role as a lousy father, Jeff Hall physically and verbally abused his son. The child's teachers couldn't control him. As a result, the boy had been expelled from nine schools in four years.  His first expulsion came when he was only five. He had a habit of stabbing teachers and students with a pencil. Since no school wanted the boy, he had to be home-schooled by his Neo-Nazis parents. (I'd like to see those lesson plans.) Child welfare workers had visited the Hall residence 23 times between 2003 and 2010, but didn't see fit to remove the boy and his younger sisters from this environment. (Assuming these social workers knew who the man was, you would think the massive portrait of Adolph Hitler over the mantle would at least suggest a problem. Why were the child protection people at the house in the first place?)

     Jeff Hall, following the contentious divorce from Joseph's mother, married Krista McCary. (The fact he ended up with custody of some of the children makes you wonder about the first wife.) The second marriage was on the rocks because Jeff had a girlfriend and had informed Krista that he wanted a divorce. (The fact this guy found at least three women who wanted to be with him is more than a little disturbing. I guess it's true that there is a woman--or women--for everyone. I mean, what could be more romantic than an unemployed Neo-Nazi with a massive tattoo on the back of his bald head?)

     Just past midnight on Sunday, May 1, 2011, Jeff Hall, after a night of drinking with his girlfriend, returned home to find that Krista had locked him out of the house. Hall found an open window, climbed into the dwelling, and  fell asleep on the sofa.

     At four in the morning, when young Joseph realized that his father was conked-out on the couch, he sprang into action. The boy retrieved a .357-caliber revolver of his father's closet, crept down the stairs, and from a distance of a foot, shot his father behind his left ear. Instead of being murdered by a black man, a Jew, or an illegal alien, Jeff Hall had been dispatched by his 10-year-old son. Krista McCary called 911.

     Nine days following the fatal shooting of the Neo-Nazi, Riverside County prosecutor Michael Soccio charged Joseph Hall with criminal homicide. The boy would be tried as a juvenile, and if convicted, could be held in state custody until he turned 23.

     The youngster's murder trial got underway on October 30, 2012. In his opening statement, prosecutor Soccio said that the boy had killed his father to stop the abuse. Matthew Hardy, Joseph's defense attorney who had pleaded his client not guilty by reason of insanity, in speaking to the jurors, said, "If you were going to create a monster, if you were going to create a killer, what would you do? You'd put him in a house where there's domestic violence, child abuse, and racism." The defense attorney also floated the theory that his client's stepmother, Krista McCary, had manipulated the boy into killing his father because Mr. Hall was going to throw her out of the house.

     Riverside police officer Michael Foster, one of the first responders to the scene that night, testified that the boy told them what he had done to his father. Foster said, "He [the defendant] was sad about it, he wished he hadn't done it. He asked me about things like, 'do people get more than one life?' things like that. He wanted to know if [his father] was dead or if he just had injuries."

     Officer Robert Nonreal testified that one of the defendant's younger sisters had asked the boy why he hadn't shot his father in the stomach as planned.

     Krista McCary, the defendant's stepmother since the boy was two, took the stand and testified that on the day before the murder, her husband had been at the house drinking with his Neo-Nazi buddies. After driving his guests home, Hall sent her several profanity-laced text messages telling her that he wanted a divorce. Mr. Hall also ordered his wife out of the house. (The prosecutor presented this line of testimony to establish one of the defendant's motives for the murder--to keep the family together.) McCary, who had initially informed the police that she had murdered Hall, explained on the stand that she had done this to protect her stepson.

     On the second day of testimony, the prosecution played the video of Joseph Hall's rambling confession as he sat fidgeting in a chair wearing ankle chains. He explained to his interrogators that after watching a TV episode of "Criminal Minds" featuring a boy who had killed his abusive father and had not arrested, he didn't think he would be punished for shooting his father. One of Joseph's younger sisters followed him to the stand with testimony that the defendant had planned four days to murder his dad.

     On Monday, November 5, the prosecution planed to put a San Bernardino psychologist on the stand to testify that the defendant, at the time he shot his father to death, was legally sane. The judge, because this witness had testified at a preliminary hearing that the boy was competent to stand trial, barred his appearance.

     After the prosecution rested its case, the defense put a psychologist on the stand who testified that the boy had been bashed in the head as an infant. He had also been beaten with a belt, sexually abused, and forced to eat off the floor. At this point in the trial, the prosecution asked for and was granted a postponement until January 7, 2013. The state needed time to find another psychologist to evaluate the boy, and testify that he was sane when he killed his father.

    On January 14, 2013, Riverside County Superior Judge Jean Leonard found the defendant legally responsible for his father's death. The judge, however, opted for the lesser charge of second-degree murder because she did not believe the killing had been premeditated. A few months later, the judge sentenced the boy to ten years in a California juvenile facility. 

The Fence As An Anti-Intrusion Measure

A fence is a structural barrier that defines and limits physical access to an area. It constitutes a psychological as well as physical deterrent to casual trespass and criminal intrusion. Although every fence, regardless of its size or construction, can be penetrated or scaled by a human being, the barrier makes entry more difficult, and thus tends to deter intrusion. Fences also aid in the observation and detection of intruders, since, in scaling the fence, they may activate an alarm or be seen by security or law enforcement personnel. Another function of a fence is to direct and restrict the flow of people and vehicles through designated points; identify and stop those not authorized to enter the premise or area. Moreover, security patrols along a fenced boundary constitute more effective protection than patrols around an unfenced perimeter.

The Nigerian Child Bride Poison Case

     A child bride forced into marriage in Nigeria killed a groom and three of his friends with a poisoned meal on April 7, 2014. Fourteen-year-old Wasila Umaru was married a week earlier to 35-year-old Umaru Sani….Over the weekend, the groom invited a dozen friends to his Ungwar Yansoro village, about 60 miles from the northern city of Majia.

     The teenager told police she bought rat poison at a village market and used it to prepare a dish of rice. According to a police official, "The suspect confessed to committing the crime and said she did it because she was forced to mary a man she did not love….The groom and a friend died the same day, and two other victims died later in the hospital. Umaru is cooperating with police and likely will be charged with culpable homicide….

     Child marriage is common in Nigeria and especially in the mainly Muslim and impoverished north, where the numbers increase in times of drought because a bride price is paid and it means one less mouth to feed. Fifty percent of Nigerian girls living in rural areas are married before they turn 18, according to the U.N. children's agency. That's a lot of child brides in a country of some 170 million….

     Child brides often suffer difficult pregnancies--the leading cause of death worldwide for girls aged 15 to 19--and are much more likely to contract AIDS and be subjected to domestic violence, according to the International Center for Research on Women….

     No one in Nigeria has been prosecuted for marrying a child, including Sen. Sani Ahmed Yerima, infamous for divorcing a 17-year-old that he married when she was 15 so he could marry a 14-year-old Egyptian girl in 2010, when he was 49. He had to divorce one of his child brides because Islamic law allows a maximum of four wives at a time.

     Many child brides are divorced for that reason and because of incontinence and other medical problems caused by difficult pregnancies, according to local child rights advocates who say such girls are put out on the street.

"Child Bride Kills Groom and Three of His Friends by Poisoning Meal," Associated Press, April 10, 2014