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Monday, September 23, 2019

The Khaseen Morris Murder Case: Bleeding To Death On Social Media

     In 2019, Tyler Flach, a graduate of Long Beach High School on the south shore of Long Island, New York, attended Nassau County Community College where he majored in business and music sound engineering. He lived with his mother in Lido Beach, Long Island. She and Flach's father had divorced.

     An aspiring hip-hop artist, Tyler Flach had caught the attention of a notable music producer who considered taking the 18-year-old on as a client.

     In May 2019, Nassau County police officers arrested Flach for assault in connection with a road-rage incident, and on September 8, 2019, for  possession of a controlled substance. He had recently split up with his girlfriend, a 10th grader at Long Island's Oceanside High School.

     In the summer of 2019, Khaseen Morris and his family moved to Oceanside, Long Island from the neighboring town of Freeport. The 16-year-old skateboarder wore his hair in dreadlocks and had dyed half of it orange. He planned to study photography.

     On Sunday, September 15, 2019, the 10th grade girl who had dated Tyler Flach asked Khaseen Morris to walk her home from an event. He obliged, apparently unaware that she wanted to make her ex-boyfriend jealous.

     When Tyler Flach learned that Khaseen Morris had been with the 10th grader, he made threats against him on social media. At some point, the two young men agreed to fight in the parking lot of a Pizzeria on Brower Avenue in Oceanside. The spot they picked was a popular hangout for local high school students.

     Word quickly spread on social media that the fight would take place on Tuesday afternoon, September 17. Each combatant would show up with a half dozen friends who would participate in the brawl.

     At three in the afternoon that Tuesday, the rival groups faced off in the pizzeria parking lot. They were surrounded by 50 to 70 high school kids who had gathered to watch the fight.

     Shortly into the fray, Tyler Flach allegedly pulled a knife and stabbed Khaseen Morris in the chest. The young man collapsed to the pavement, and while he lay bleeding, everyone in the crowd continued filming the scene with their cellphones, uploading the videos onto social media sites. The spectators were so busy recording the assault and its aftermath, no one bothered to call for an ambulance.

     Finally, after the passage of ten to fifteen minutes, perhaps more, someone called 911 to report a young man bleeding to death in the parking lot of the Brower Avenue strip mall.

     Paramedics rushed Khaseen Morris to the South Nassau Communities Hospital where later that night, he died. Another participant in the fight was treated for a broken arm and swollen head.

     A Nassau County prosecutor charged Tyler Flach with second-degree murder. On Thursday, September 19, 2019, at the suspect's arraignment at the First District Court in Hempstead, he pleaded not guilty to the charge. Flach, accompanied by his attorney, had turned himself in earlier that day.

Without Shame: The Disgraced Celebrity Sociopath

A sociopath who gets a taste of fame is like a vampire getting its first taste of blood. Disgraced celebrity sociopaths are pathetic but interesting. These pathological narcissists almost always find some way to get back into the limelight. Following the obligatory apology tour, the disgraced celebrity often resurfaces as the promoter of a ghost-written memoir. Normal people who publicly embarrass themselves feel too ashamed to leave the house. Not so for sociopaths who are born without a sense of shame. When it comes to embarrassment, these people are bullet-proof. For obvious reasons, the field of politics tends to attract the shameless, narcissistic sociopath. Politics and sociopathy: a marriage made in heaven.

The Appetite For Fictional Murder

It's strange when you think about it. There are hundreds and hundreds of murders in books and television. [For example, the cable TV network Oxygen produces nothing but true crime.] It would be hard for narrative fiction to survive without them. And yet there are almost none in real life, unless you live in the wrong area. Why is it we have such a need for murder mystery? And what is it that attracts us? Is it the crime or the solution? Do we have some primal need of bloodshed because our own lives are so safe, so comfortable?

Anthony Horowitz, Magpie Murders

The Writer's Brain

Neurologists have found that changes in a specific area of the brain can produce hypergraphia--the medical term for an overpowering desire to write. Thinking in a counterintuitive, neurological way about what drives and frustrates literary creation can suggest new treatments for hypergraphia's more common and tormenting opposite, writer's block. Both conditions arise from complicated abnormalities of the basic biological drive to communicate.

Dr. Alice W. Flaherty, The Midnight Disease, 2004 

The Ethical Dilemma of Journalism

There's an ethical dilemma in almost all journalism. In taking someone else's story and making it your own, in describing them on your terms, in ways they may not agree with.

Ted Conover in The New Journalism (2005) by Robert S. Boynton 

How to Structure a Book

There's no formal school, so far as I know, where you can learn how to structure long forms of prose. Writing programs typically work with short forms, for the obvious reason that short forms can be examined productively within the brief compass of a course program. But the difference between long forms and short forms is precisely their structure, which means that you can't learn how to structure the one by studying the other. Fortunately, you can teach yourself long-form structure by reading books and analyzing how their authors assembled them.

Richard Rhodes, How to Write, 1995 

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Infamous Boston Strangler Case

     Born in Chelsea, Massachusetts in 1931, Albert Henry DeSalvo grew up in a family defined by his alcoholic father's abuse. Mr. DeSalvo, who had knocked out all of his wife's teeth, forced young Albert and his siblings to watch him engage in sex with prostitutes in their home.

     As a child, Albert tortured animals and stole from local merchants. In 1943, the twelve-year-old was sent to the Lyman School for Boys after being arrested for battery and robbery. Shortly after his release from reform school, DeSalvo stole a car which put him back into the institution. When he turned eighteen, DeSalvo joined the Army. Two years later, he was honorably discharged from the service.

     In June 1962, when Albert DeSalvo was thirty-one, women in Boston began turning up dead in their apartments. Because there were no signs of forced entry at the murder scenes, investigators theorized that the victims either knew the rapist/killer or he had gained entry by posing as a salesman or perhaps as a detective. The serial killer's last known victim, nineteen-year-old Mary Sullivan, had been raped and strangled to death on January 4, 1964. Like all but two of the other twelve murder victims, Mary Sullivan had been strangled with a piece of her own clothing. The unidentified serial killer had stabbed two of his victims to death. All of the murder victims had been raped, and eight out of his thirteen victims were women over the age of fifty-five.

     In October 1964, ten months following Mary Sullivan's murder, a young woman in Cambridge, Massachusetts allowed a man into her apartment who identified himself as a police detective. That man tied the victim to her bed and began raping her. Suddenly, in the middle of the assault, the assailant stopped, said he was sorry, and walked out of the apartment. The victim gave a detailed description of her attacker to detectives who, independent of the ongoing serial murder investigation, were trying to identify the Boston serial rapist.

     The rape victim's description of her assailant led to Albert DeSalvo's arrest. In the course of his confession to a series of rapes, DeSalvo identified himself as the so-called Boston Strangler.

     In 1967, pursuant to a plea bargain negotiated by his attorney F. Lee Bailey, Albert DeSalvo pleaded guilty to the Boston murders. In return for his guilty plea, the 36-year-old avoided the death sentence.

     Not long after being sent to the state prison in Walpole, Massachusetts, DeSalvo took back his murder confessions. In 1973, six years after he had confessed to being the notorious Boston Strangler, one of DeSalvo's fellow inmates at Walpole stabbed him to death.

     Because of the guilty pleas, prosecutors in Boston had not been put to the test of proving the murder cases against Albert DeSalvo. This fact encouraged true crime revisionists to question whether DeSalvo was really the Boston Strangler. Perhaps he was simply a false confessor drawn to the limelight of a celebrated serial murder case. These doubts over DeSalvo's guilt made recent developments pertaining to the old case all the more newsworthy.

     In July 2013, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley announced that forensic scientists, using advanced, cutting edge technology, had linked Albert DeSalvo to the January 4, 1964 rape and murder of Mary Sullivan. The district attorney told reporters that he planned to ask a superior court judge for an order to exhume DeSalvo's remains for further forensic testing.

     Gerard Frank's The Boston Strangler (New American Library, 1966) is considered the definitive book on the Albert DeSalvo serial murder case. The author leaves no doubt in the reader's mind that Albert DeSalvo was in fact the Boston Strangler. 

The Psychological Effects of Having Been Stalked

Even after [stalking] victims feel assured that the stalking has ended, many find themselves having trouble learning to trust again--both others and themselves. A phase of overcompensating can take place, in which survivors of stalking tend to mistrust their own judgment in meeting people, or feel intensely suspicious of others, resulting in potential difficulties forming new relationships, whether personal or professional, intimate or casual. Existing relationships may also be affected; survivors may find themselves reacting with far greater caution and vigilance around others than is normal for them.

Melita Schaum and Karen Parrish, Stalked, 1995

The Restaurant Tip Forger

     A former waitress has been charged with forgery and other crimes for allegedly adding $10 or $20 to tips that customers of a western Pennsylvania restaurant left when they paid with credit cards. Police in Penn Township say 30-year-old Gina Haney of North Huntingdon put the number "1" or "2" in front of single digit tips customers had scrawled on receipts. As a result, she received $10 or $20 more than those customers intended.

     Haney allegedly fudged tips on 20 one-dollar tickets at Lucci's Pizza and Pasta between September and December 2014. The restaurant's manager alerted authorities after two customers called to complain about the overcharges on the same day. He pulled other receipts from her customers that revealed more overcharges.

     Haney denied knowing anything about the inflated tips.

"Ex-Waitress Charged With Padding Customers' Tips," Associated Press, February 15, 2015 

The Pretentious Writer: Style Over Substance

     As a reader, I'm put off when I suspect that a writer is too aware of his own style, or is more concerned with style than communication. It's a lot like a politician who takes on a speaker's voice when talking publicly. I consider this, in writers and politicians, pretentious and phony. I prefer to read authors who don't recognize their own literary voices, or if they do, are clever enough to make their writing style appear naturally interesting and unique.

     There is a dreadful style of writing, prose intended to sound lofty and important, found in the promotional literature put out by colleges and universities. The thoughts and messages conveyed in this form are usually quite simple. An example of this style can be found in many college mission statements. In straightforward prose, a university public relations person might write: "The goal of our institution involves providing our students with a quality education at a reasonable price." Because this is so obvious, to say it directly and plainly makes it sound kind of stupid. But when a mission statement is puffed up with carefully selected words and high-minded phrases, the simplicity of the message is replaced by syntax intended to make it sound profound. This style is pompous and false, and represents writing at its worst. Here is an example of highly pretentious writing taken from a pamphlet published by a relatively prestigious liberal arts college:

     "The mission of ________College is to help young men and women develop competencies, commitments and characteristics that have distinguished human beings at their best. All of us who are affiliated with the College are working toward that end each day in as many different ways as their are students on this campus. (Wow, 1,400 different ways.) Our students have unique talents and new insights that are being developed during each interaction with faculty, staff, alumni and other students. (I taught at the college level for 32 years. Where I worked, very few students had unique talent and new insights. In fact, some of them were uniquely untalented and completely without insight. So in my opinion, the talent/insight stuff is a load of stylistic crap.) For each student, those interactions become building blocks in their foundation for living." (Yeah, sure.)

     Ignore, if you can, the lack of substance, unadulterated puffing, and pandering in this mission statement and look at the style. Note the lofty and, to my mind, cheesy alliteration that starts off with the words--competencies, commitments and characteristics--and the use of the buzz words distinguished, affiliated, insights, interaction, and foundation, typical university-speak wordage comparable to university-speak favorites such as outcomes, challenges, and impact (instead of affect) not used in this passage.

     If I were a creative writing teacher, I would use passages like the above to show writing students how not to write. It's a bit ironic that so much heavy-handed, dead prose is produced by colleges and universities. Professors, notorious for being writers of unreadable fiction and highly pompous and dense nonfiction, also contribute to the style over substance problem. If you don't believe me, look through any university press book catalogue. The book titles themselves are beyond comprehension, and the catalogue descriptions of these works are so badly written it's no wonder no one buys this stuff.

Thornton P. Knowles On Comedian Dick Shawn

Appearing on the Johnny Carson show in the 1980s, comedian Dick Shawn joked that life doesn't begin with inception. Life begins, he said, when the kids leave home and the dog dies. Carson laughed so hard he almost fell out of his chair. The joke, as they say, brought down the house. If a comedian cracked a joke like that today, he'd be attacked by the church, thousands of enraged 25-year-olds blogging their brains out in their parents' basements, and the animal rights people. I miss the time when comedians were actually funny.

Thornton P. Knowles

Saturday, September 21, 2019

The Ed Buck Scandal: The Fall Of A Wealthy, Politically Connected Sexual Predator

     In the mid-1970s, 21-year-old Ed Buck left his home state of Arizona for Europe where he began his career as a fashion model. After returning to the U.S. in 1980, he bought a courier company that turned him into a millionaire.

     In 2007, Ed Buck, while residing in West Hollywood, California, became a prominent donor to democrat politicians like Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama. About this time, the high profile political activist in the LGBTQ community ran for city council and lost. He continued, however, to line the pockets of his favorite democrat politicians.

     On July 27, 2017, police were called to Ed Buck's West Hollywood apartment in the 1200 block of Laurel Avenue. The officers found, lying dead on a mattress in the 63-year-old's living room, a 26-year-old black escort named Gemmel Moore. The apartment was littered with 24 hypodermic needles, five meth pipes, and a variety of sex toys. A porn video was playing on the television.

     The forensic pathologist who conducted Mr. Moore's autopsy found that he had died from a crystal methamphetamine overdose. The Los Angeles County Coroner ruled that Gemmel Moore's death had been an accident caused by a self-administered overdose. As a result, Ed Buck was not investigated to determine what role he may have played in Mr. Moore's death, or if he was operating some kind of drug den for gay, homeless men.

     Gemmel Moore's mother, LaTisha Nixon, as well as others, voiced their outrage over the Los Angeles coroner's accidental death finding. The district attorney's office, aware of writings in Gemmel Moore's journal detailing how Ed Buck had injected him and other gay men with methamphetamine in order to facilitate his sexual fetishes, apparently ignored this evidence in deciding not to authorize an investigation. One of Buck's sexual fetishes involved photographing men wearing tight underwear.

     LaTisha Nixon accused the Los Angeles District Attorneys Office and the coroner of protecting the wealthy political donor. By some accounts, Ed Buck had given the Hillary Clinton campaign $500,000. He had also given money to Barak Obama.

     On January 12, 2019, the police were again summoned to Ed Buck's West Hollywood apartment. This time they found 55-year-old Timothy Dean dead from a methamphetamine overdose.

     Mr. Dean, a six-foot-five black man, had worked at Bloomingdale's and SAKS Fifth Avenue in Los Angeles as a fashion consultant. He had also worked on and off as an actor in gay adult films. As a younger man, Timothy Dean had been active in the Lambada (gay) Basketball League. He had once participated in the Gay Games in Paris, France. At age 52, Mr. Dean earned an associates degree from Santa Monica Community College.

     According to Mr. Dean's family and friends, it had been years since he had used drugs. Nevertheless, as in the Gemmel Moore case, the Los Angeles Coroner ruled his death accidental due to a self-administered methamphetamine overdose. Once again, in the face of evidence to the contrary, the Los Angeles District Attorney's office decided not to file criminal charges against Ed Buck. This decision outraged Timothy Dean's family and friends who considered him a victim of sexual foul play.

     In February 2019, LaTisha Nixon, emboldened by the second overdose fatality in Ed Buck's apartment, filed a wrongful death suit against the wealthy political donor. The plaintiff alleged that Mr. Buck was a drug dealer who had injected her son with a fatal dose of crystal meth. According to Jasmyne Cannick, a political consultant and spokesperson for the Nixon family, Ed Buck had received special treatment from the prosecutor's office because of his political connections and wealth. This was a view shared by many in Los Angeles's gay community.

     In June 2019, Ed Buck met a black, 37-year-old homeless man later referred to in court documents as "Joe Doe." Following a brief exchange on Adam4Adam, a web site designed for men to meet other men "for friendship, romance, or a hot hookup," Buck drove to LA's skid row, picked up the homeless man, and brought him back to his apartment in West Hollywood.

     In Buck's apartment, before he had sex with Joe Doe, Buck injected him with crystal methamphetamine, something he did every day up to September 4, 2019. On that day, when Joe Doe left the apartment, he sought medical help on the belief Ed Buck had overdosed him.

     A week after receiving medical treatment for an overdose, Joe Doe returned to Ed Buck's apartment. On that occasion, Buck injected him with a double dose of the drug. Thinking that he might die from that shot, the homeless man asked Buck to call an ambulance. When Buck refused, Doe asked for a Klonopin pill, medication for seizure disorders and panic attacks. Ed Buck refused that request, and when the heavily drugged man tried to leave the apartment, Mr. Buck stopped him.

     Notwithstanding Ed Buck's efforts to restrain him, Joe Doe managed to escape from the apartment that day. At a nearby gas station, Doe asked a passerby to call 911 on his behalf. As he was being treated at a local hospital, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputies responded to Ed Buck's apartment. It was there officers discovered, in addition to drug paraphernalia, hundreds of photographs of men in tight underwear in various sexual poses.

     On September 17, 2019, officers booked Ed Buck into the Los Angeles County Jail on one count each of battery causing serious injury, the administering of methamphetamine, and maintaining a drug house. If convicted of all three counts, the suspect faced no more than five years, eight months in state prison. The prosecutor in charge of the case asked the judge to set Ed Buck's bail at $4 million.

     At a press conference, the Los Angeles District Attorney told reporters that Ed Buck used drugs to lure gay men to his apartment where he manipulated them into participating in his sexual fetishes. The D.A. painted Mr. Buck as a depraved, hedonistic sexual predator.

     Two days after Ed Buck's arrest on the Joe Doe related charges, the United States Attorney in Los Angeles, in connection with the July 27, 2017 death of Gemmel Moore, charged the suspect with the federal offense of drug distribution resulting in death. This offense carried a maximum sentence of life in prison.

     The United States Attorney, in speaking to reporters, said FBI agents had identified nine more gay men Ed Buck had lured to his apartment for the purpose of injecting them with methamphetamine.

     Gemmel Moore's mother, LaTisha Nixon, praised  the United States Attorney who, unlike the Los Angeles Coroner, didn't believe that Mr. Moore had injected himself with the deadly dose of methamphetamine. Others who had been seeking justice for Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean were also pleased with the federal charge against Ed Buck.

The Gas Chamber

     If the hangman's scaffold concentrates the mind, the gas chamber has a way of bewitching it. It's smaller than one would think, roughly four feet square and ten feet high. Almost beautiful, if one is mechanically inclined, it's also extremely alien looking, like an antique, six-sided diving bell someone painted gray....

     Waist-high windows, tinted green and reinforced internally with thin wire, are embedded with large rivets in five of the chamber's six sides. At first sight, these windows make it seem harmless. Windows are hard to associate with death. Then the mind makes the obvious leap: this place is not only for killing but for offering death as a spectacle. Three windows look out from the rear half of the chamber onto the witnesses' room, where media people, state officials, lawyers, and families of the victims sit on long wooden benches that resemble church pews. A fourth window, on the right side of the chamber's front half, is for two doctors who monitor the condemned's heartbeat on an EKG machine and a stethoscope. The fifth, to the left of the chamber's 300-pound door, is for the executioner.

Ivan Solotaroff, The Last Face You'll Ever See, 2001

Is Abolishing Academic Freedom The Future Of Academia?

     A Harvard University feminist student writing in the campus newspaper The Crimson posited this: "If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with [italics mine] research that counters our goals simply in the name of "academic freedom"?…

     Senior Sandra Y.L. Korn, a studies of women, gender and sexuality major, called for the end of academic freedom and in its place "a more rigorous standard: one of 'academic justice.'"

     "When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue….The power to enforce academic justice comes from students, faculty, and workers organizing together to make our universities look as we want them to."…

"Harvard Feminist Says Academic Freedom Should Be Abolished," The College Fix, February 21, 2014

How Crime Threatens Freedom

When physical safety becomes a major problem even for the middle classes, we must of necessity become a heavily policed, authoritarian society, a society in which the middle classes live in gated and walled communities and make their places of work hardened targets....Both the fear of crime and the escalating harshness of the response to it will sharply reduce Americans' freedom of movement and peace of mind. Ours will become a most unpleasant society in which to live.

Robert H. Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah, 1996

The Rebel Literature Professor

I don't love women writers enough to teach them. If you want women writers go down the hall. What I teach is guys. [Elmore Leonard, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Anton Chekhov, Marcel Proust, Leo Tolstoy, Henry Miller, and Philip Roth.]

 David Gilmour, novelist and professor at the University of Toronto., September 26, 2013 

Does Perfectionism Cause Writer's Block?

     Much of the self-help literature on writer's block falls into the category of creativity enhancement. One popular approach tries to decrease the writer's perfectionism, or to silence his or her inner critics. This theme implicitly draws on the psychoanalytic concept of the superego, that internalized, harshly judgmental representation of parental and societal values. Yet lofty values alone are not sufficient to cause writer's block. Writer's block requires not just the inability to write as well as you want, but the inability to write anything less than you want. What drives that inability is the belief--usually unconscious--that it is better to write nothing than to write poorly…

     Perfectionism certainly causes some block. But it is invoked as a cause a little too often; it is such a comfortable explanation of your block. It is easier to tell people that you haven't published much because you have such high standards, than that you are disorganized or inhibited or love to play tennis.

Alice W. Flaherty, The Midnight Disease, 2004  

Using a Pen Name

Pseudonyms are especially attractive to fiction writers, whose work (inventing people and seeing the world through their eyes) requires an impersonation, of sorts. Writing under a pen name is like doing an impersonation of someone doing an impersonation. I've fantasized about using an alias, but my fantasy mostly entails making a lot of money writing a quick horror novel. [Unless you write in that genre, good luck with that.]

Francine Prose, "Bookends," The New York Times Book Review, November 17, 2013

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Infamous "The Dingo Ate My Baby" Case

     According to Lindy Chamberlain, on August 17, 1980, while she, her husband Michael, and their three children were camping near Ayer's Rock in Australia's outback, she saw a dingo (a wild dog) come out of the family's tent with her 9-week-old baby in it's mouth. "The dingo's got my baby!" she screamed. The infant, named Azaria, was never found. The incident grabbed headlines around the world. In Australia, the media portrayed Lindy Chamberlain as a remorseless killer.

     In Darwin, at the Magistrates Court, a coroner's inquest jury found no cause to charge the parents with criminal homicide. This was not a popular verdict, and in 1981, a second coroner's jury heard evidence in the case. This time, Lindy and Michael Chamberlain were ordered to stand trial for the murder of Azaria.

     Although the prosecutor lacked evidence of a crime--he didn't even have a body--the trial jury found Lindy guilty of first-degree murder. The media applauded the verdict, and the judge, bending to public opinion, sentenced her to life in prison. Michael Chamberlain, found guilty of accessory after the fact, received a suspended sentence.

     In 1985, a hiker found a piece of the baby's clothing in a dingo's den near Ayer's Rock. Presented with this new, exonerating evidence, an appellate court, in 1987, overturned the convictions. Lindy Chamberlain was released from prison. Many Australians were not happy with this decision. The following year, a movie came out about the case called "A Cry in the Dark" starring Meryl Streep as Lindy Chamberlain.

     Because many people in Australia believed that Lindy Chamberlain had murdered her baby, the authorities, in anticipation of a retrial, convened a third coroner's inquest in Darwin's Magistrates Court. The jury in the 1995 inquiry returned an open verdict, declaring the cause and manner of the baby's death unknown.

     On February 24, 2012, the Magistrates Court in Darwin was, for the fourth time, the site of a coroner's inquest into the death of the Chamberlain baby. Lindy Chamberlain had asked for the hearing to clear her name. Specifically, she wanted the coroner's jurors to change Azaria's manner of death from "unknown" to "accidental death by animal attack." Both parents, now divorced, were in the courtroom to hear testimony bearing on the case.

     According to an expert on such matters, from 1990 to 2011, there have been 239 dingo attacks in Queensland, Australia. Since 1982, at least three children have been killed by these wild dogs. These statistics were presented to make Lindy Chamberlain's account of her baby's death seem less farfetched. While public opinion had already shifted in her favor, she wanted to make it official.

     The coroner's verdict exonerated the Chamberlains of any wrongdoing in the death of their child. While there has never been any evidence of foul play in this case, there will always be, notwithstanding the coroner's verdict, doubters. And a lot of this doubt can be traced back to the irresponsible journalism in this case. In this regard, the case is not unlike the JonBenet Ramsey case in the United States.

     As late as 2016, Lindy Chamberlain was still speaking publicly about her ordeal. Surprisingly, she held no grudge against those responsible for her wrongful imprisonment.

The Krystal Marie Barrows Police-Involved-Shooting Case

     Eleven people were inside a mobile home near Chillicothe, Ohio when, at 10:30 PM on December 11, 2013, a dozen or so members of a local drug task force unit rolled up to the dwelling with a no-knock warrant to search for guns and drugs. One of the occupants of the trailer house was a teenage girl.

     Just before breaking into the home, one of the heavily armed U.S. 23 Task Force officers tossed a flash bang grenade through a window. At the moment the device detonated officers forced their way into the house.

     Following the initial chaos created by the SWAT-like raid, officers found Krystal Marie Barrows slumped on the living room couch. The 35-year-old mother of three had been shot in the head. She died shortly after being flown by helicopter to the Wexner Medical Center in Columblus.

     The raiding police officers arrested two women and four men for illegally possessing pistols, assault rifles, and heroin. The task force cops also recovered stolen goods and a significant amount of cash. During the raid, none of the mobile home occupants pulled a gun or fired a shot. This meant that Krystal Barrows had been shot by one of the task force officers.

     According to the results of a preliminary police inquiry into Barrows' death, she had been shot by Ross County sergeant Brett McKnight. The eleven-year veteran of the Ross County Sheriff's Office had accidentally discharged his sidearm outside the trailer when the flash bang grenade went off. The bullet pierced the trailer home's exterior wall and hit Barrows in the head.

      Other than a misdemeanor drunk and disorderly conviction, Krystal Barrows did not have a criminal record. Her sons were aged 19, 14, and 9. Detectives with the Ohio Bureau of Investigation looked into the case to determine if Sergeant McKnight had fired his gun recklessly.

     In March 2015, after a Ross County grand jury declined to indict Office McKnight for criminal homicide or lesser charges, the officer returned to work without any disciplinary action.

     Two years after the grand jury refused to indict the officer, the Ross County Sheriff's Office and other wrongful death defendants settled a lawsuit filed by Krystal Barrows' family for $156,000.

The Historic Execution of Gary Gilmore

     The execution of Gary Gilmore, carried out in 1977, marked the resurrection of the modern death penalty. The event was big news and was commemorated by a book by Norman Mailer, The Executioner's Song, later made into a movie. The title is deceptive. Like others who have explored the death penalty, Mailer tells much about the condemned man but very little about the executioners. Indeed, if we examine Mailer's account more closely, the executioner's story is not only unsung, it is also distorted.

     Gilmore's execution was quite atypical, even if his crime was not. He was sentenced to death for killing two men in cold blood, for no apparent reason. Viewed from the outside, his own death had a similar ring of nihilism. Gilmore, unrepentant and unafraid, refused to appeal his conviction--under a then untested capital statue. There is no doubt he could have contested his case for years, as many condemned prisoners have done since his death. But Gilmore, who had already served some twenty-two years of his young life behind bars, would have none of that. To him, prison was death; life in prison was a kind of living death in its own right. Death by firing squad gave him a chance to offer blood atonement for his awful crimes (a notion that resonated with his dark Mormon obsessions), as well as a kind of immortality as the man who put the executioner back to work.

Robert Johnson, Death Work, 1998

Patricia Cornwell's Fascination with Forensics

As a child, my dream was to be an archaeologist when I grew up, and in a way, my fascination with forensics makes total sense. It's all about taking a shard or a splinter or bit of bone and reconstructing how someone died and lived, and who they were. An archaeological site is really one big crime scene.

Patricia Cornwell, The New York Times Book Review, November 24, 2013 

Create Your Characters And They'll Give You a Story

     People wonder where writers get their ideas. Must they first experience what they write? Do they really rush wildly around looking for story ideas? Good writers look for "characters," because ideas grow as freely from characters as apples from trees. Every character grows not one but many fresh, unique, writable stories.

     Writers who want to write good stories or plays must know their characters better than they know themselves. Better--because most of the time we are unaware of the motivating forces within us. Strange but true, it is easier to create a living, three-dimensional character than an unreal, one-dimensional character.

Lajos Egri, The Art of Creative Writing, 1990 

The Writer's Fear of Criticism

     Are writers more concerned with others' opinions of them, more given to depression, and more reluctant to share their work, especially work they consider risky, than other creative types? In my experience, yes, yes, and yes. While the painters and other visual artists I know are surely sensitive people, they also seem enviably oblivious to what others think of their work. Musicians and actors, too, have hefty egos and tend to be more obsessed with what they do than what others think about what they do….Regardless of talent, it's almost impossible to get new writers to stand up and read from their work. [Maybe it's because they think this kind of exercise is self-important and boring to others.]

     Yes, writers' temperaments are unique. I have watched the most talented writers compare themselves to their favorite authors--to dead authors, especially--and grow encyclopedia-sized [writer's] blocks because they believe they'll never be as good. [They are probably right.]

     Talent seems to be inverse to confidence. Some of the most talented writers I know are reluctant to send out their work, so convinced are they that no will will ever publish it.

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, Pen on Fire, 2004 

Flat Versus Round Characters

     [The novelist] E. M. Forster introduced the term flat character to refer to characters who have no hidden complexity. In this sense, they have no depth (hence the word "flat"). Frequently found in comedy, satire, and melodrama, flat characters are limited to a narrow range of predictable behaviors….

     Forster's counter term to flat characters was round characters. Round characters have varying degrees of depth and complexity and therefore, in Forster's words, they "cannot be summed up in a single phrase."

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

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Minneapolis Mobs Rob And Beat Citizens While Politicians Look The Other Way

     Minneapolis, Minnesota, a midwestern city of about 425,000, has an overall crime rate higher than 97 percent of other cities in the United States. In 2017, crime in Minneapolis was up 5 percent from the year before. And in 2018, while property crime rates in the city fell slightly, the rates of violent offenses--murder, aggravated assault, armed robbery, and rape--went up.

     Minneapolis Chief of Police Medaria Arradondo, in 2018, asked the 13-member city council to approve funding for an additional 100 officers. The department's 880 sworn officers were unable to maintain an adequate level of order maintenance in the growing city. Council members, preferring to spend taxpayer money on social programs, declined.

     In late 2018 and early 2019, the violent crime problem in Minneapolis continued to get worse, overwhelming the understaffed police department. Still, local politicians did nothing to protect the city's residents and visitors.

     A report by a criminal justice research group regarding the degree to which the Minneapolis Police Department was unable to enforce the law in the city, stunned concerned citizens. In 2018, due to the police manpower shortage, police officers were not available to respond to 6, 776 high priority 911calls that included shots being fired, officer down, sexual assaults, and stabbings.

     In August 2019, the uncontrolled lawlessness in Minneapolis brought national attention to the city following the publication of three videos that depicted, in gruesome detail, mobs of black teenagers and young adults beating and robbing physically impaired young white men. All of the unprovoked attacks took place during the day, in public, and in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

     Brandon O'Brien was out celebrating his birthday not far from the Minneapolis Twins baseball stadium when he was suddenly surrounded by a mob of joyful robbers who punched him to the ground, stripped him of his trousers, beat him with his belt, kicked him in the face, jumped on his body, and rode over him with a bike. His attackers took his cellphone and left the battered and bleeding victim lying unconscious on the pavement.

     The 24-year-old victim of this brutal and gratuitous violence, among other injuries, suffered a serious concussion that left him with memory loss and the inability to sleep. As a result of being viciously assaulted by a mob of strangers in public, Brandon O' Brien now lives in fear. He may never fully recover from his trauma.

     Outside a steakhouse not far from where the robbery mob accosted Brandon O' Brien, a gang of criminals set upon two young men whom they beat by repeatedly punching and kicking them until both victims ended up unconscious on the ground.

     The third incident of mob violence in Minneapolis involved another street robbery and another young man left laid out cold on his back.

     In response to these roving criminal mobs in search of vulnerable victims to viciously assault in broad daylight, Chief of Police Arradonda requested adding 400 sworn officers to the department by 2025.

     Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey responded to his city's lawlessness by proposing 14 additional police officers. A few members of the city council said they would be willing to support an additional 30 officers.

     From their ridiculously weak responses to what most reasonable people would consider a public safety crisis, the city's politicians, not vulnerable themselves to street crime, revealed just how unconcerned they were about the dangers of living in Minneapolis.

     On September 17, 2019, thanks to a team of Hennepin County Sheriff's Office investigators and detectives from the city, officers arrested 20 black males between the ages 15 to 27 believed by investigators to have been involved in the mob-style assaults.

     A spokesperson for the Minneapolis Police Department told reporters that the mob suspects were not charged with hate crimes because they did not target their victims because they were white. These young men were singled out for assault because they were physically impaired.

     If these atrocious assaults were not hate crimes, what in the hell were they?

The Media Coverage of White on Black Crime

A white man shooting a black man is presumed racist. A black man shooting a white man is described as an indictment of society as a whole. A white man shooting a black man is put down to individual racism, but a black man shooting a white man is written off as a response to white racism....These assumptions are part of the unwritten stylebook of modern media coverage....Racism, like any form of xenophobia, is unfortunately indigenous to the human character. To privilege one form of racism over another is to justify and dehumanize its victims as deserving of abuse.

Daniel Greenfield, "The Racist Liberal System," Frontpage Mag. com, August 30, 2013

The Historic Jukes Family

Sociologist Richard Dugdale made a study of a family called the Jukes and wrote a book about them, The Jukes (1877). In attempting to prove that criminal characteristics are inherited, Dugdale studied the entire Jukes clan descended from the original sire in New York in the early nineteenth century. Two of his sons married their illegitimate sisters, and Dugdale traced the entire seven hundred descendants. All were either prostitutes or criminals, save for a half a dozen.

Brian Marriner, On Death's Bloody Trail, 1991

A Writer Buried in Books

     I've decided that books are my enemy, though they used to be my great love. They are taking over. They crowd my dining room, they double up in the bedroom, they make the attic floor sag. We even have a library in the bathroom: shelves and shelves of books where a normal person might have a vanity table or piles of towels….

     I once went through our library and calculated that my husband and I had read about a third of the books that we own, and I think, as we buy more books and read of third of what we buy, that the statistic is more or less holding up. Sometimes we even buy a book and go to put it on one of our few organized shelves only to find that it is already there….

     We have a psychological problem and we recognize it: We never get rid of books….It's a sick relationship we have with these piles of pages between covers. Most people wold be secretly bragging if they said this, but I'm not bragging. I think it's weird and demented. Maybe I'm so involved with my books' fate because I am a writer, and I can all too well imagine a reader taking one of my books and cosigning it to the trash heap.

Amy Wilentz, "…One Book Out," The New York Times Book Review, August 4, 2013

What is Literary Success?

     It is important to establish your own definition of success. Is it one story? A completed manuscript? One appreciative reader? Publication? A bestseller? A number-one bestseller? Ten number-one bestsellers?…

     [According to writer Irvine Walsh]: "I'll just write until I can't write anymore. If my next book was my last book, I wouldn't care at all. If my next book was my two hundredth from last, it wouldn't bother me. You can only write so long as you've got something to say. I don't think there's any particular virtue in being a writer."

In Ian Jackman, editor, The Writer's Mentor, 2004 

Categories Within The Mystery Genre

The term mystery, as in mystery novel, is an umbrella that shelters a variety of subgenres: the traditional whodunit, the private eye, the classic puzzle, the police procedural, action/adventure, thriller, espionage, the novels of psychological and romantic suspense.

Sue Grafton, Writing Mysteries, 1992 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Nalani Johnson Kidnap-Murder Case

     Twenty-one-year old Paul D. Johnson resided in the Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania borough of Delmont located along Route 22 on the eastern edge of suburban Pittsburgh. He was the father of a 23-month-old girl named Nalani. During the summer of 2019, he began an intermittent romantic relationship with 25-year-old Sharena Islam Nancy, a woman he had met through social media.

     On Saturday, August 31, 2019, Paul Johnson and his daughter were in Sharena Nancy's black, 2017 Toyota Yaris. Nalani was in the back of the car strapped into a car seat. At five o'clock that Saturday, an argument broke out between Johnson and Nancy. At the intersection of Bryant Street and Clay Drive in the Pittsburgh suburb of Penn Hills, Mr. Johnson told Sharena Nancy to stop the car so he and his daughter could get out.

    When Mr. Johnson got out of the Toyota, and was about to remove his daughter from the car, Nancy drove off with the child. In a state of panic, Mr. Johnson called Nancy's cellphone several times without getting a response. He then called 911 and reported that his daughter had been kidnapped by Sharena Nancy in a black Toyota Yaris with Lyft and Uber stickers on the front passenger side of the vehicle.

     The authorities, based upon Mr. Johnson's kidnapping report, put out a regional Amber Alert requesting information regarding the whereabouts of the Toyota driven by Sharena Nancy with Nalani Johnson in the back seat.

     The Amber Alert quickly brought responses from witnessed who had spotted Nancy's car. She was also captured on a surveillance camera at a Sheetz service plaza in Murrysville, a nearby Allegheny County borough. From the service plaza, Nancy, according to witnesses, traveled east on Route 22. About an hour after the abduction, a witness saw Nancy's car in the Indiana County town of Blairsville.

     Just before 7:30 that Saturday evening, back in Allegheny County, an officer with the suburban Penn Hills Police Department spotted the black Toyota Yaris and pulled it over. Sharena Nancy was behind the wheel, but Nalani Johnson and her car seat were not in the vehicle. The officer took Nancy into custody on suspicion of kidnapping.

     Questioned by Allegheny County detectives and FBI agents, Sharena Nancy had quite a story, one that accused Nalani Johnson's father of enlisting her help in selling his daughter to an unidentified woman for $10,000.

     According to the kidnapping suspect, Paul Johnson instructed her that Saturday to drive her car, with Nalani in it, eastward toward a service station on Route 22 in Monroeville, a town located in Westmoreland County. Nancy claimed that Johnson assured her that along the way, about 20 minutes into the trip, a woman standing along the side of the highway would flag her over.

     In telling this outlandish tale, Sharena Nancy said that she came upon a woman along Route 22 standing near a silver colored SUV with out of state plates. The woman waived her to a stop. It was at that time Nancy handed over Nalani along with the child's car seat.

     After passing off Nalani as instructed by her father, Nancy said she continued driving east to Indiana County's Blairsville where she turned around and headed back to Penn Hills where she was stopped by the police officer and taken into custody.

     Officers booked Sharena Nancy into the Allegheny County jail on charges of kidnapping a minor, interference with the custody of a child, and concealing the whereabouts of a child. The magistrate denied her bail.

     On September 3, 2019, law enforcement authorities in Indiana County announced that Nalani Johnson's body had been found by a person or persons they did not identify. The corpse was discovered in Pine Ridge Park near Blairsville, about 37 miles east of Penn Hills where she had been abducted. The body was not far from the Chestnut Ridge Golf Course. Witnesses had reported seeing Sharena Nancy's black Toyota near the course on Saturday, August 31.

     A private forensic pathology group, under the auspices of the Indiana County Coroner's Office, would perform the autopsy and determine Nalani Johnson's manner and cause of death.

     On September 5, 2019, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala told reporters that "there is no evidence that anyone other than Sharena Nancy was responsible for the child's being taken from Penn Hills and ultimately being placed in that field or in the woods in Indiana County." The prosecutor indicated that the autopsy results may not be available for five to six week.

      Regarding the condition of the girl's body, District Attorney Zappala said the child had been fully clothed and had not died from the elements. Because the body showed no signs of physical trauma such as a blunt force blow to the head, a knife or gunshot wound, or a ligature mark from manual strangulation, investigators theorized that her cause of death was suffocation.

The News Media In The Era Of The Hate Crime Hoax

     Jason R. Riley, in a June 25, 2019 article in the Wall Street Journal about fake hate crimes, cites Kentucky State political science professor Wilfred Reilly. Dr. Reilly, who happens to be black, is an expert on hate crime hoaxes.

     Professor Reilly has identified 400 fake hate crimes between 2010 and 2017. In studying hate crime reports, Dr. Reilly determined that less than a third of these cases turned out to be genuine. Statistically, reports of hate crime should therefore be met with a certain degree of skepticism, particularly by journalists. But that is not the case. According to the professor, "In the mainstream media we hear scary new fears of racism: 'white privilege,' 'cultural appropriation,' 'subtle bigotry.' "

     Regarding hate crimes, Wall Street Journal author Jason R. Riley writes: "These alleged incidents are invariably seized upon by politicians and activists looking to feed a sacrosanct belief by liberals that discrimination and oppression are the main drivers of inequality."

     It's no wonder Americans are disgusted with politicians, and don't trust what they read and hear in the news media.

The Media's Role in American Violence

     ….The validity of the copycat effect is undeniable. This human phenomenon, which is hundreds if not thousands of years old, is being accelerated by our brave new world of in-your-face, wall-to-wall news coverage. The media's graphic coverage of rampage shootings, celebrity suicides, bridge jumpers, school shootings, and the like is triggering vulnerable and angry people to take their own lives and that of others.

     This is not a statement the media wants to hear. Instead of facing up to their role in these events, the media, after a shooting rampage, a school shooting, or a famous suicide, engages in the "blame game." Are guns to blame? Is it Satan? Are parents, friends, schools, and drugs to blame? Or is the general public itself, conditioned now on a high protein diet of increasingly violent fare, to blame for wanting more and more? Of course, asking the question Who is responsible? deflects the attention away from the major socially reinforcing element in the mix: the media itself. Denying the clear evidence of the copycat effect is foolhardy.

Loren Coleman, The Copycat Effect, 2004 

Jack Abbott's Prison Cell

     In the cell, there is a barred window with an ancient, heavy mesh-steel screen. It is level with the ground outside. The existing windowpanes are caked with decades of soil, and the screen prevents cleaning them.

     A sheet of thick plywood, on iron legs bolted to the floor, is my bed. An old-fashioned toilet bowl is in the corner, beside a sink with cold running water. A dim light burns in a dull yellow glow behind the thick iron screening attached to the wall.

     The walls are covered with names and dates--some of the dates go back twenty years. They were scratched into the wall. There are ragged hearts pieced with arrows and crosses everywhere. Everywhere are the words: "mom," "love," "god"--the walls sweat and are clammy and cold.

Jack Henry Abbott (1944-2002), In The Belly of the Beast, 1982

Not Everyone Is a Fan of Russian Literature

The one genre I absolutely cannot stand is Russian literature. You need genealogy charts to just figure out the characters, every novel is a thousand pages and pretty much everyone dies.

Jodi Picoult, The New York Times Book Review, October 12, 2014 

The Pompous Writer

     Sometimes it takes courage to drop our pretensions, to choose use instead of utilize, rain instead of precipitation, arithmetic instead of computational skills. An idea expressed in simple English has to stand on its own, naked and unadorned, while ostentatious words sound impressive even when they mean nothing.

     Not all pompous writers are showing off or covering up their ignorance. Some are just timid, imagining that their ideas are flimsy or flawed or silly, even when they aren't. If you've done your homework, you shouldn't have to disguise your ideas with showy language. Be brave. Write plainly.

     The truth about big, ostentatious words is that they don't work as well as simple ones.

Patricia T. O'Conner, Words Fail Me, 1999

Thornton P. Knowles On The Elements Of Literary Style

A writer's literary style consists mainly of the words he uses and the order he puts them in. That's called, respectively, diction and syntax. In terms of word selection, a pompous or insecure writer will use "multiple" instead of "many"; "impacted by" instead of "affected"; and "individual" instead of "person." Such a writer also uses many more words than necessary. Regarding syntax, an academic author might write: "A good time was had by all." A so-called "literary" novelist might say it this way: "By all, a good time was had." An author with readers will write: "We had a blast."

Thornton P. Knowles

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Abortion Doctor Ulrich Klopfer And His Dead Fetuses

     In 1974, Dr. Ulrich Klopfer opened an abortion clinic in South Bend, Indiana. In June 2014, a prosecutor in St. Joseph County, Indiana charged him with the misdemeanor offense of failing to file a timely report with the state regarding an abortion he had performed on a 13-year-old girl in South Bend. (Indiana state law requires doctors to report every abortion within six months of the procedure.) After Dr. Klopfer agreed to complete a re-education program, the prosecution dropped the charge.

     Also in 2014, Dr. Klopfer performed an abortion on a 10-year-old girl who had been raped by her uncle. After the procedure, she went home with her parents who obviously knew she had been sexually assaulted. Neither Dr. Klopfer nor the girl's parents reported the rape to the police.

     The Indiana State Department of Health, in 2015, revoked the abortion clinic's license for violating the state's regulation regarding the registry of patients, and for failing to provide documentation that the clinic provided patients with state-mandated patient counseling at least 18 hours before an abortion.

     In November 2016, the Indiana Medical Licensing Board revoked Dr. Klopfer's medical license for failing to ensure that qualified staff was present when patients received or recovered from medications given before and during abortion procedures. By then, Dr. Klopfer was no longer practicing. He informed the medical licensing panel that during his 43 years of performing abortions, he had terminated 30,000 pregnancies without losing a patient.

     On September 3, 2019, Dr. Ulrich Klopfer died at the age of 75. Members of his family, on September 12, called the local authorities after finding, in his Crete Township, Illinois home, 2,246 medically preserved fetal remains. The dead fetuses were turned over to the Will County, Illinois Coroner's Office for proper handling.  There was no evidence that Dr. Klopfer had performed abortions at his home.

     In May 2016, Indiana enacted a law that required the burial or cremation of fetal remains produced by abortions. Prior to that law, abortion clinics in Indiana turned the dead fetuses over to processors who disposed of human tissues and other medical byproducts.

     The Will County Sheriff's Office, on September 14, 2019, opened an investigation into Dr. Klopfer's possession of the fetal remains. 

The Criminal's Fate

Vice may triumph for a time, crime may flaunt its victories in the face of honest toilers, but in the end the law will follow the wrongdoer to a bitter fate, and dishonor and punishment will be the portion of those who sin.

Allan Pinkerton

A Prison Memoir

You will notice that I have not written about the horrors of prison life, or the conditions, hardships, treatment and so forth, because men reading this book who have been to jail will be bored to tears and people who haven't been to jail can bloody well come in here and find out for themselves.

Mark Brandon Read, From the Inside

The Un-compromised Novelist

I don't give a damn if my work is commercial or not. I'm the writer. If what I write is good, then people will read it. That's why literature exists. An author puts his heart and guts on the page. For your information, a good novel can change the world. Keep that in mind before you attempt to sit down at a typewriter. Never waste time on something you don't believe in yourself.

John Fante, Ask the Dust

Cop Humor

I received a t-shirt from my best friend at my police academy graduation. It reads: "Throw your donut in the opposite direction and the cops won't get you." I love wearing that t-shirt.

Suzie Ivy, Bad Luck Officer

Bernard Shaw on Literary Critics

I have never been able to see how the duties of a critic, which consists largely in making painful remarks in public about the most sensitive of his fellow creatures, can be reconciled with the manners of a gentleman. But gentleman or no, a critic is most certainly not bound to perjure himself to shield the reputation of the profession he criticizes.

Bernard Shaw in Never in Doubt by Peter S. Prescott, 1986 

The Benefits of Writing

We [women] have come to think that duty should come first. I disagree. Duty should be a by-product. Writing, the creative effort, the use of the imagination, should come first--at least for some part of every day of your life. It is a wonderful blessing if you will use it. You will become happier, more enlightened, alive, impassioned, light-hearted and generous to everybody else. Even your health will improve. Colds will disappear and all the other ailments of discouragement and boredom.

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

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Edawn Coughman Hate Crime Hoax

     In 2012, 23-year-old offensive tackle Edawn Coughman, out of Shaw University, a historically black Baptist liberal arts school in Raleigh, North Carolina, made the Seattle Seahawks practice squad. During the next four years, Coughman was signed by the Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins without making the active rosters of any of these teams.

     In 2016, Edawn Coughman was out of football and living in Buford, Georgia. He started two businesses, Create and Bake Pizza and an ice cream shop called Coughman's Creamery in a shopping plaza on Duluth Highway in unincorporated Lawrenceville, a community 25 miles northeast of Atlanta.

     In 2019, Mr. Coughman, as a businessman, was struggling.

     At nine-thirty on the night of September 11, 2019, a maintenance worker at the Lawrenceville shopping plaza saw someone inside Create and Bake Pizza and Coughman's Creamery destroying the interiors of these establishments. The plaza worker called 911.

     When deputies with the Gwinett County Sheriff's Office arrived at the scene, they saw a black man behind the wheel of a Chevrolet pickup truck without license plates. When officers pulled the truck over, they noticed several flat-screen television sets in the cab and truck bed.

     The driver of the pickup turned out to be Edawn Coughman. The television screens had mounting brackets with pieces of drywall attached. The sets had obviously been recently ripped from their places on walls.

     Inside Mr. Coughman's businesses, officers discovered, besides evidence that several television sets had been pulled off the walls,  graffiti in still tacky black spray paint. The booth cushions in both establishments had also been so defaced. On the walls, the vandal had drawn swastikas and written the words "monkey," and "MAGA" (Make America Great Again) as well as the n-word.

     In Coughman's truck, officers found a crowbar believed to have been used to pry open the back doors to his businesses. Deputies also discovered several recently used black spray cans. The owner of the burglarized businesses was further incriminated by fresh stains of black paint on his hands.

     In the course of their investigation, officers learned that while Mr. Coughman did not report the burglary/hate crime to the police, he had filed a report with his insurance company. This suggested that Coughman had not only created a racial hate crime hoax, he had intended to defraud his insurance company.

     On September 12, 2019, a Gwinett County prosecutor charged Edawn Coughman with falsely reporting a burglary and insurance fraud. Shortly after being booked into the Gwinett County Jail on those charges, the 30-year-old posted his $8,300 bail and was released.

     It's bad enough to defraud an insurance company, but a lot worse to stoke racial tensions by staging a fake hate crime.

The Professional Criminal

While the [amateur crook] sees an opportunity and takes it, the professional criminal through the use of deceit and treachery, is able to create opportunities. This individual not only actively searches for crime to commit, the professional assembles teams of similar people and generates situations in which crime can be safely perpetrated in a controlled environment for maximum profit.

Gary "Gunz" Govich, My Life in The Russian Mob Until the Day I Died

The Realities Of Police Work

I used to want to be a cop for a brief time, a detective, solving crimes and upholding the law, ever since I started watching crime shows in junior high. But being a cop, contrary to what many believe, isn't like the films or television shows that we see every day. If you're a cop who has to have the grim duty of telling a parent that their child was killed, or who loses a friend in a dangerous case, or who has to interview victims of horrible crimes, somehow I imagine you just want to quit forever on some days.

Rebecca McNutt

The Stupid House Burglar

Most criminals are stupid. They creep into $500,000 homes, load up two dozen bottles of gin, whiskey, Vermouth, and Collins mix in a $2,000 Irish linen tablecloth and later drink the booze and throw the tablecloth away.

James Lee Burke, Heaven's Prisoners

Thornton P. Knowles On The Life Of A Writer

I enjoy thinking about what I'm going to write. I like thinking about what I've written. But actually doing it is exhausting, and until I get it right, stressful. And when I fail it's humiliating. Who in their right mind wants to be a writer?

Thornton P. Knowles

The Sins of Book Reviewers

There is the critical sin of covetousness, which may cause the book critic to seek fame at the expense of the author whose work he exploits. The closely associated sin of envy leads to the denigration of the work of others for the hidden purpose of self-aggrandizement. To indulge the sin of gluttony is to bite off more than one is prepared to digest, denying others the right to partake. To be lustful is to indulge an inordinate desire for the gratification of one's sense of power. The deadly sin of anger leads to the loss of one's composure and sense of balance during the inevitable exchanges of differing opinion. The deadly sin of sloth is to repeat accepted lies about an author or body of work because the critic is too lazy to dig out the truth.

Carlos Baker in Opinions and Perspectives From "The New York Times Book Review," edited by Francis Brown, 1964 

Stephen King on Moral Fiction

I've written a lot of stories about desperate people in desperate situations, and it gets to the point where you say to yourself: Here's a guy who's building something in his garage. He's all by himself, and he's hammering a nail into the board and hits his thumb instead, and blood spurts out. Now, does this guy say, "Oh, pickles"? Use your imagination. In other words, what I'm talking about is telling the truth. Frank Norris, who wrote The Pit, McTeague, and other naturalistic novels that were banned said: "I don't fear; I don't apologize because I know in my heart that I never lied. I told the truth." And I think the real truth of fiction is that fiction is the truth; moral fiction is the truth inside the lie. And if you lie in your fiction, you are immoral and have no business writing at all.

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

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Being Labeled A Racist Can Be A Career-Ending Charge

     At one-thirty in the morning of September 24, 2009, a Muskegon (Michigan) Police Department patrol officer on a routine traffic stop, pulled over a car driven by a 23-year-old black man named Julius Allen-Ray Johnson. The driver was on parole after having served two years in prison for drug dealing and resisting arrest.

     The officer who pulled over the car called for backup when Mr. Johnson refused to obey his commands. Muskegon officer Charles Anderson, a 38-year-old who had been on the force since 1997, responded to the call.

     At the arrival of the second officer, Julius Johnson ran from the scene with officer Anderson in pursuit. Shortly thereafter, the officer who had initiated the arrest, heard a single gunshot. When he tried to communicate with officer Anderson by car radio and received no response, he searched for the patrolman and found him and Julius Johnson lying on the ground. Mr. Johnson had been shot to death, and patrolman Anderson had a serious, blunt object head injury. The dead man was not in possession of a firearm.

     Because a white police officer had killed an unarmed black man, members of the black community and others protested the shooting as an act of police racism.

     Following an investigation of the police-involved shooting, investigators determined that officer Charles Anderson had been justified in using deadly force on grounds of self defense. In resisting arrest, Julius Johnson had seriously injured the officer, causing him to have a metal plate implanted in his head.

     Almost ten years after Julius Johnson's death, on August 7, 2009, Robert Mathis and his wife were taking a tour inside a house up for sale in Holton Township, a community twenty miles northeast of Muskegon. The house belonged to officer Charles Anderson and his wife Rachael.

     In one of the bedrooms, Robert Mathis and his wife, a black couple, saw a Confederate flag and a framed Ku Klux Klan document dating back to the 1920s. The displayed memorabilia of America's racist past in the home of a police officer caused Mr. Mathis and his wife to feel "anger, sadness and shame."

     Robert Mathis photographed the flag and the KKK document, and the next day, posted the pictures on his Facebook page. The postings created outrage and demands that this racist cop be removed from law enforcement.

     On September 12, 2019, following a police disciplinary hearing, the panel recommended terminating the employment of the 48-year-old police officer. The next day Charles Anderson was fired.

     The county prosecutor, in light of Charles Anderson's racist memorabilia, announced that his office was considering re-opening the Julius Johnson police-involved shooting case.

     Robert Mathis, on his Facebook page, wrote: "I feel sick to my stomach knowing that I walk into the home of one of the most racist people in Muskegon hiding behind his uniform and possibly harassing people of color and different nationalities."

The Dominance Of Celebrity Journalism Over Hard News

I'm overwhelmed by the magnitude of the celebrity culture in American. My background is as a news journalist, and newsrooms in the U.S. are being terminated or shrunk on newspapers all around the country. The one aspect that's expanded is coverage of celebrity culture. [For example: The recent cable news over-coverage of a television actress sentenced to 14 days behind bars in a college admissions scandal.]

Carl Hiaasen, crime novelist

A Libertarian's View Of American Jurisprudence

There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.

Ayn Rand

Poverty And Crime

The Common argument that crime is caused by poverty is a kind of slander on the poor.

H. L. Mencken

Writing as a Process of Discovery

Many people think that writers are wise men who can impart to them the truth or some profound philosophy of life. It is not so. A writer is a skilled craftsman who discovers things along with the reader, and what you do with a good writer is you share the search; you are not being imparted wisdom, or if you are being imparted wisdom, it's a wisdom that came to him just as it came to you reading it.

Shelby Foote in Conversations with Shelby Foote (1989) by William C. Carter 

Good Interview Subjects

I hate writing about anyone who is familiar with the press or has a "story." I like to write about people who don't necessarily see what their story is, or what my interest might be. I like subjects who really know how to enjoy life or are immersed in whatever they are doing fully.

Adrian Nicole Leblanc in Robert S. Boynton's The New Journalism, 2005

Spare Versus Thin Fiction

     Fiction writers tend to fall into two broad camps: those who overwrite and those who underwrite. And, while a novelist may be able to get away with writing a spare story, a thin story will never ignite the reader's imagination. A spare story is one in which the writer deliberately chooses to pare down every element, using a small cast of characters, only one or two subplots, and little exposition and description. A well-crafted, yet spare story can work when every word counts and there is enough information to take the reader on a fictional journey. Ernest Hemingway usually wrote spare stories, but readers still feel immersed in his stories and understand the ramifications of the plot on the lives of his characters.

     A thin story, on the other hand, is not based on deliberate choices, but rather on inexperience. In a thin story, the writer does not supply enough sensory data, creating a story line that can't be followed with confidence because of a lack of needed information. Spare stories spark the reader's imagination, but thin stories do not have enough data to do so, leaving the reader confused. In these anemic offerings, the reader is often adrift, longing for detail to place him in the scene, a hint about the themes or deeper meanings, or any doorway into the writer's intentions. 

Jessica Page Morrell, Between the Lines, 2006 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Ronnie Lee Gardner: The Last Man To Die By Firing Squad

     On the night of October 9, 1984, in Salt Lake City, 24-year-old Ronnie Lee Gardner was under the influence of cocaine when he held up a bar and killed the bartender, Melvyn Otterstrom, by shooting him point blank in the face. The twice-convicted robber netted $100 from the deadly hold up.

     Three weeks after shooting the bartender to death, police officers arrested Gardner at his cousin's house in Salt Lake City. Officers booked him into jail on the charge of capital murder. The judge set Gardner's bail at $1.5 million.

     On April 2, 1985, as Gardner was being escorted through the underground garage on his way to an upstairs courtroom, he managed to get his hands on a firearm someone had left hidden in the garage for him. The moment he displayed the gun in the courtroom, a guard shot him in the chest. Although wounded, Gardner shot a bailiff in the stomach.

     As the armed and wounded Gardner tried to flee the building, he encountered two attorneys and shot one of them in the eye. A dozen police officers surrounded the armed prisoner before he left the courthouse. When he dropped the gun, officers took him into custody. The lawyer he shot died a little later in the hospital. The bailiff survived.

     Ronnie Gardner was himself rushed to a local hospital where he recovered from his gunshot wound.

     In October 1985, Gardner pleaded guilty to both murders and was sentenced to death.

     Two years later, inmate Gardner broke a glass partition in the prison's visiting area and had sex with a woman who was visiting him. The other prisoners barricaded the doors and cheered Gardner and his partner on.

     In 1994, while still housed at the state prison in Draper, Utah, Gardner got drunk on alcohol he had fermented in his cell and stabbed a fellow prisoner named Richard "Fats" Thomas. Thomas survived the attack.

     Gardner's death house attorneys, citing their client's troubled upbringing, petitioned to have his death sentence reduced to life in prison. In 2010, the governor of Utah denied the commutation request. Gardner's lawyers appealed that decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. They lost.

     Out of legal remedies, Ronnie Gardner requested that he be executed by firing squad. He said he sought this method of execution because of his Morman background. It had been 14 years since anyone in the country had been executed this way.

     On June 18, 2010, the state of Utah, pursuant to Ronnie Gardner's request, executed the 49-year-old by firing squad. He was the last condemned prisoner in the United States to be executed by bullet.

Letting Nonviolent Criminals Out Of Prison

Recently, some politicians running for president have proposed releasing nonviolent criminals from prison. So, who would get out? The handful of shoplifters who actually go to  prison would get out even though retail thieves have put countless stores out of business. One embezzler can send his or her company into bankruptcy. And what about the check forgers, counterfeiters, credit card swindlers, con artists, car thieves, and smash and grab jewelry thieves? And don't forget witnesses who lie under oath, criminal voyeurs, and drug dealers who bribe cops? Politicians intent on decriminalizing nonviolent crime should be reminded that nonviolent crime is not victimless crime. 

Bail Bond Industry Fights Criminal Justice Reform

The bail bonds industry survives largely off those who don't have the financial resources to post bail. Overwhelmingly, the service of a bail bondsman is the only way out of jail. Reform efforts across the country seek to make the bail system less burdensome on the poor. The majority of states addressing the issue are trying to make money bail the last resort, by mandating that judges apply the "least onerous release conditions possible" and consider the defendant's ability to pay, as well as eliminating money bail for low-level charges. As a result, the $2 billion-a-year bail bonds industry is in a fight for its survival.

Crime and Justice News, August 30, 2019

Television And The Death Of Journalism

     If I were writing the history of television, my first line would be: "Television, in a relatively short period if time, ruined journalism. We are now in the era of so-called fake news. But if it's fake, it's not really news. At best what passes for television news is political commentary, at worst, propaganda. A lot of reporting is nothing more than speculation or the reporting of trivial subjects like the deaths of s long forgotten TV actors and anniversaries of past events. The favorite news source today is "unnamed."

     While there are still a few credible investigative journalists on television and in print, they are being be phased out. Real investigative journalism is too expensive as is the coverage of foreign affairs. Even the weather news is so speculative and hyped a lot of people no longer pay attention to it. Local TV news is mainly weather, sports, car accidents, and crime. There is very little investigative journalism going on in local news. But let's face it, even before television, what was called "yellow journalism" or tabloid journalism flourished. So, what television has destroyed wasn't that great in the first place. But it was a lot better than what we have now.

     Most people know that you can't trust anything you read or hear. Tomorrow the headline in The New York Times could read METEORITE THE SIZE OF TEXAS SPEEDING TOWARD EARTH!! and no one would panic. Okay, that's a bit much, but you get the point. One can only image what's left in journalism school to teach. It really doesn't matter what journalism professors teach because most young people entering television news have degrees in so-called communications, a major that has less to do with writing and news reportage than looking and sounding good. 

Difficulties in True Crime Writing

The tools I have used for my writing career have been my ability to interview people and get them to tell me the truth, and my abilities as an investigative reporter. I might spend weeks verifying some little fact that is just going to be great in my book--it's going to be a little spark. Fiction writers don't need to spend weeks looking for the little spark--they invent it. I write about real people, real Americans getting into trouble, getting out of it, going to the penitentiary, going to the electric chair, being murdered, being saved. And it's all true.

Margaret DiCanio in The 3rd Degree, October 1997 

The First Whodunit

Literary murders are as old as the book of Genesis. But no one before Edgar Allan Poe, as far as we know, ever wrote a story in which the central plot question was "who did it?" and the hero was a detective [C. Auguste Dupin] who correctly deduced the answer to that question.

William G. Tapply, The Elements of Mystery Fiction, 1995

Elmore Leonard on Writing

     On August 20, 2013, the famed crime novelist Elmore Leonard died at his home in Bloomfield Village, Michigan. He was 87. In 200l Leonard wrote an article for New York Times entitled, "Writers on Writing: Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle." In this now classic piece, Leonard set out ten basic rules "that I've picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I'm writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what's taking place in the story..." His ten rules:

1) Never open a book with weather. If it's only to create atmosphere, and not a character's reaction to the weather, you don't want to go on too long....

2) Avoid prologues. They can be annoying, especially following an introduction that comes after a foreword....

3) Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue....

4) Never us an adverb to modify the verb "said"...he admonished gravely....

5) Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words....

6) Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."...

7) Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly....

8) Avoid detailed descriptions of characters....

9) Don't go into great detail describing places and things....

10) Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he's writing, perpetrating hooptdoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character's head, and the reader either knows what the guy's thinking about or doesn't care....

Friday, September 13, 2019

Did Robert Anthony Camou Murder Amanda Custer?

     Robert Anthony Camou lived in the Los Angeles County town of Monrovia with his 31-year-old girlfriend, Amanda Custer. On April 22, 2019, a 911 dispatcher received a call from Amanda Custer. She had gotten into an argument with her 27-year-old boyfriend who had beaten her in the head and tried to strangle her to death. When he threatened to use a Taser on her, she fled the scene.

     In an effort to escape her attacker, Amanda Custer ran into a nearby house. Camou followed her into the dwelling and assaulted the elderly man who tried to intervene on the terrified woman's behalf.

     Police officers arrived at the scene and took Camou into custody. The officers booked him into the Los Angeles County Jail on charges of burglary, battery, assault, and domestic violence. Camou pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on bail. The judge ordered the domestic violence suspect to live up to the terms of Amanda Custer's previously filed restraining order. The court also instructed probation officers to fit Camou with an ankle monitor.

     On August 29, 2019, Los Angeles County Sheriffs Deputies were dispatched to Camou's house after neighbors reported seeing him that morning putting Amanda Custer's "lifeless body" into the back of his Toyota Prius then driving off. Later that day other witnesses reported seeing Camou in Claremont, California driving in the San Gabriel Mountains. Because Camou's had let his ankle monitor battery die, officers could not pin-point his whereabouts.

     That night, a patron at the King Eddy Saloon in downtown Los Angeles showed police officers a video he had shot an hour earlier showing Robert Camou rapping about his girlfriend. It went like this: "I kill my bitch and bury that bitch in the f-king dirt. The cops trying to look for me and I'm f-king trying to shut my mouth."

     Sheriff's deputies, in the early morning hours of August 30, 2019, encountered Robert Camou sitting his his car in downtown Los Angeles. Following a one-hour standoff, the officers took him into custody for violating the terms of his bail in the April 22, 2019 domestic violence case. Officers booked him into the Los Angeles County Jail where he was held without bail.

     Robert Camou denied having anything to do with Amanda Custer's disappearance.

     A search of Camou's Toyota revealed traces of blood. In the trunk officers found a digging tool. In his house in Monrovia, searchers found more traces of blood and signs of a struggle.

     On September 4, 2019, a Los Angeles County prosecutor charged Robert Camou with special circumstances murder. The aggravating element involved the fact he had allegedly killed a witness while out on bail. If convicted, he faced a possible death sentence.

     As of September 13, 2019, Amanda Custer's body had not been found.

Who's Running The Asylum?

The world was getting dangerously crowded with crazy people.

John Dunning, The Bookman's Wake

A Cynical Take On Policing

A cop's job is to violently enforce upon the rest of us whatever arbitrary bullshit the political parasites declare to be "law." It is, therefore, impossible to be a "law enforcer" and behave morally, for the same reason one can't be a moral carjacker.

Larken Rose

The Many Faces Of Evil

Society wants to believe it can identify evil people, or bad or harmful people, but it's not practical. There are no stereotypes.

Ted Bundy, serial killer

City Crime Versus Crime In The Suburbs

Crime seems to change character when it crosses a bridge or goes through a tunnel. In the city, crime is taken as emblematic of class and race. In the suburbs, though, it's intimate and psychological--resistant to generalization, a mystery of the individual soul.

Barbara Ehreneich

"A Reader's Manifesto": B. R. Myers Exposes Mediocre Writers Posing As Literary Lions

     In his controversial analysis of what passes for modern literary fiction, B. R. Myers, in "A Reader's Manifesto: An Attack on the Growing Pretentiousness in American Literary Prose," uses the works of prize-winning novelists Paul Auster, Cormac McCarthy, Don DeLillo, David Gusteson, and Annie Proulix as good examples of bad writing. Since I find these "great writers" virtually unreadable, I'm a big fan of Myers' 2002 book. In his Preface, Myers lays out his basic intent and theme: "In late 1989 I wrote a short book called 'Gorgons in the Pool.' Quoting lengthy passages from prize winning novels, I argued that some of the most acclaimed contemporary prose is the product of mediocre writers availing themselves of trendy stylistic gimmicks. The greater point was that we readers should treat our own taste and perception instead of deferring to received opinion." Wow, what a refreshing and helpful idea! Finally, someone was saying that the problem isn't you, the reader--but them--the pretentious literary critics who have been for years pushing this rubbish on serious readers of fiction. Here are some passages from this honest and courageous book: way that contemporary writers like to lower our expectations for their work is to claim that something as inadequate as language can never do justice to the complexity of what they're trying to say.

You don't have to read anything published after 1960 to know at once what you're in for: a tale of Life in Consumerland, full of heavy irony, trite musing about advertising and materialism, and long, long lists of consumer artifacts, all dedicated to the proposition that America is a wasteland of stupefied shoppers. (I have to plead guilty to that myself. But I'm just a nonfiction hack, not a great novelist.) Critics like to call this kind of thing "edgy" writing, though how an edge can be decerned on either style or theme after fifty years of blunting is anyone's guess. This will always be foolproof subject matter for a novelist of limited gifts.

Anyone who doubts the declining literacy of book reviews need only consider how the gabbiest of all prose style is invariably praised as "lean," "spare," even "minimalist."

A thriller [genre novel] must thrill or it is worthless; this is as true now as it ever was. Today's "literary" novel, on the other hand, need only evince a few quotable passages to be guaranteed at least a lukewarm review. It is no surprise, therefore, that the "literary" camp now attracts a type of writer who, under different circumstances, would never have strayed from the safest crime-novel formulae, and that so many critically acclaimed novels today are really mediocre "genre" stories told in an analgam of trendy stylistic tics.

At the 1999 National Book Awards Ceremony Oprah Winfrey told of calling Toni Morrison to say she had to puzzle repeatedly over many of the latter's sentences. According to Oprah, Morrison's reply was: "That, my dear, is called reading." Sorry, my dear Toni, but it's actually called bad writing. Great prose isn't always easy but it's always lucid; no one of Oprah's intelligence ever had to puzzle over what Joseph Conrad was trying to say in a particular sentence.

The American literary press is faced with a clear choice. It can continue plugging unreadable new books until the last advertiser jumps ship, and the last of the stand-alone book-review sections is discontinued--as "The Boston Globe" was in 2001--or it can start promoting the kind of novels that will get more Americans reading again. (I'm afraid it's too late for that.)

A Bad Novel is as Hard to Write as a Good One

When it comes to the novel you have to work long and hard even to produce a bad one. This may help explain why there are so many more bad amateur poets around than there are bad amateur novelists. Writing a good poem may be as difficult as writing a good novel. It may even be harder. But any clown with a sharp pencil can write out a dozen lines of verse and call it a poem. Not just any clown can fill 200 pages with prose and call it a novel. Only the more determined clowns can get the job done.

Lawrence Block, Writing the Novel, 1979

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Crime Of The 20th Century Was Committed By An Illegal Alien

     In July 1923, Bruno Richard Hauptmann, when he was 23 and living in Germany, stowed away in the hold of the North German liner Hanover. He fled the country because he was wanted by the German police for armed robbery and burglary. When the ship docked in New York City, he was discovered and handed over to the immigration authorities. Under the false identity of Karl Pellmeir, Hauptmann appeared before a special tribunal and shortly thereafter was shipped back to Germany.

     A month after his first attempt to get into the United States, Hauptmann stowed away on the same ship but was discovered before the vessel left the pier. He escaped arrest by the German authorities by diving overboard.

     Two months after his second attempt, Hauptmann made it to America as a stowaway on the S. S. George Washington. He stepped ashore on his 24th birthday with no passport and two cents in his pocket.

     In New York City, Hauptmann was taken in by an immigrant he met on the street and within a few days found work as a dishwasher. He later obtained a job as a mechanic, then became a dyer's helper before finding work as a carpenter.

     On October 10, 1925, Hauptmann married a German-born waitress named Anna Schoeffler, and eight years later they had a son, Mannfried. They lived on the second floor of a rental house on 222nd Street in the Bronx.

     At nine o'clock on the night of March 1, 1932, Bruno Richard Hauptmann drove from the Bronx, New York to outside Hopewell, New Jersey where the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh lived with his wife Anne and their 20-month-old son, Charles Lindbergh Jr.. Hauptmann placed a three-piece homemade wooden extension ladder against the house, climbed into the second story nursery window and made off with the baby. Hauptmann left behind a ransom note in his own handwriting asking for $50,000.

     Following several more ransom documents, Charles Lindbergh's intermediary, on April 2, 1932, paid the $50,000 ransom to a shadowy figure in a Bronx cemetery. Pursuant to Lindbergh's orders, the police were not there to make an arrest and Hauptmann escaped into the night.

      On May 12, 1932, the Lindbergh baby's remains were found along a road two miles from the Lindbergh estate. He had been bludgeoned to death.

     The Lindbergh kidnapping and murder case went unsolved until September 1934 when police officers arrested Hauptmann in New York City in possession of a ransom bill. A search of his garage in the Bronx turned up $14,000 in ransom money. Handwriting experts identified Hauptmann as the writer of the ransom documents and a wood expert connected the crime scene ladder to the suspect through his carpenter tools and a missing board in the attic to his house.

     Bruno Richard Hauptmann was tried for murder in January 1935 in the Hunterdon County Court House in Flemington, New Jersey. Following the six-week trial, the jury found Hauptmann guilty as charged. Since he had not confessed and there were no eyewitnesses, the case against him, based principally on physical evidence connecting him to the crime, was circumstantial. The trial judge sentenced him to death.

     On April 3, 1936, Hauptmann died on the electric chair at the state prison in Trenton, New Jersey. To the very end he maintained his innocence. This illegal alien from Germany committed one of the most infamous crimes in United States history.