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Saturday, February 29, 2020

Earl K. Shumway: The John Dillinger of Archaeological Looting

The Archaeological Resource Protection Act  

      The lobbying efforts of the Society for American Archaeology, an international organization dedicated to the research, interpretation, and protection of the archaeological heritage of the Americas, led to the passage of the Archaeological Resource Protection Act (ARPA), federal legislation signed into law in October 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. Under Title 16 of the United States Code, Sections 470 aa to 470 mm, ARPA preserves archaeological resources on federal and Indian lands with the aim to prevent the loss of irreplaceable artifacts that are part of the nation's cultural heritage.

     At its core, ARPA makes it a federal crime to excavate, remove, damage, alter, and/or deface (without a government permit) archaeological resources from protected areas. It is also a federal offense, under this law, to traffic interstate in artifacts acquired in violation of the act or in breach of local or state law. Under ARPA, an "archaeological resource" is an item of past human existence or archaeological interest more than a hundred years old.

     First-time ARPA offenders, in cases where the value of the artifacts and the cost of restoration and repair of the damaged archaeological site is less than $500, can be fined no more than $10,000 or imprisoned for more than a year. However, if the value or restoration costs exceed $500, the offender can be fined up to $20,000 and imprisoned for two years on each count. Repeat ARPA offenders can be fined $100,000 and sent to prison for five years on each count. Under ARPA, federal authorities can pursue violators civilly or in criminal court, imposing fines and confiscating vehicles and equipment used in the commission of the prohibited activity.

Looting Anasazi Artifacts

     Earl K. Shumway, the central figure in the country's first major ARPA case, came from a family of archaeological looters. Earl grew up in Moab, Utah, a Mormon town seventy miles north of the four corners village of Blanding, where, in June 2009, FBI and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agents raided the homes of eleven ARPA defendants. DeLoy Shumway, Earl's father, spent years plundering Anasazi ruins for pottery and other artifacts in the Puebloan region of the Colorado Plateau in southeastern Utah. In the early 1980s, Earl's distant cousin, Casey Shumway, had the distinction of being the nation's first ARPA defendant convicted of the offense.

     From 700 to 1300, the Peublo (also referred to as the Anasazi) people grew beans and corn and built masonry structures--so-called cliff dwellings--into canyon alcoves that still show rock petroglyphs depicting animals, human figures, and prehistoric tools. Just before the turn of the fourteenth century, social upheaval and prolonged drought caused these people to migrate south. They never returned, but left in Utah's San Juan County alone, a place the size of Connecticut, 28,000 known archaeological sites.

     In 1850, Mormon settlers to southwestern Utah found, scattered virtually everywhere, prehistoric tools, flint projectile points, and shards of Anasazi pottery. The collecting of prehistoric pottery began in the late 1800s after Richard Wetherill and his brother, Colorado ranchers, discovered Anasazi ruins in Mesa Verdi. In the canyon cliff dwellings they found decorated pottery, jewelry, tools, sandals, and woven blankets. The brothers also discovered thousands of grave sites containing human skeletons wrapped in blankets.

     The Wetherill discoveries launched a lucrative trade in Native American artifacts fueled by competition between the Smithsonian and other U. S. museums, and a growing interest among the general pubic in Indian relic collecting.

     Up until 1930, archaeologists and curators at the University of Utah paid artifact hunters two dollars for every piece of pottery (called "pots" by collectors) they brought to the school. Earl Shumway's grandfather, in the 1920s, sold 370 pieces of Anasazi pottery to the university. In those days he could acquire up to seventeen pots in a single day, and in a productive month, dig up two hundred, many of which ended up in a local museum.

     Craig Childs, in his book Finders Keepers, chronicles the early relationship between the region's pot hunters and the university: "In the 1920s an archaeologist named Andrew Kerr from the University of Utah in Salt Lake appeared [showed up in the area] after he heard that an entire quarter of the state was filthy with archaeology right near the surface, graves practically springing from the ground. Kerr hired local residents to dig; his head diggers were members of the Shumway family who had already done a good deal of private excavation. The Shumways did most of the work while Kerr sat back. They showed him how to locate the best caches of artifacts, how to dig without breaking pots. Meanwhile, Kerr encouraged them and paid them to become even better at it. Showing little regard for scientific method, he wanted only the most visually stunning artifacts which he shipped back to the university museum."

     According to William Hurst, an archaeologist and lifelong resident of Blanding, Utah, Anasazi projectile points, tools, and pottery, during the 1950s and 1960s, were everywhere and easy to find. Most of the local collectors were surface hunters who picked up pieces from cultivated fields. In those days, collecting arrowheads in and around Blanding was like picking up seashells from a beach.

     A Blanding resident and artifact collector, speaking about what it was like in the 1950s and 1960s, said this to a journalist writing about the plundering of Anasazi sites: "This was our way of life. You could find artifacts just everywhere. You can go in any direction from Blanding and they'll be mounds and dwellings and arrowheads and artifacts." In the same article, Toni Turk, the then mayor of Blanding, also described how it was for collectors in those days: "The pottery was so commonplace that kids would use them for target practice, they would throw rocks at them. There was nothing particularly special about them. Some people started seeing in them some art value for themselves and they'd start collecting."

     Blanding mayor Turk also spoke of archaeological looters like Earl Shumway and his father. "Some people went in with heavy machinery. It took a lot of labor off the effort to dig up graves. They dug down to get the treasures. These are people who stepped across the lines of propriety. They got into looting graves and grave goods."

     According to Wayne Dance, the Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) for the Utah District from 1990 to 2007, the prosecutor who targeted Earl Shumway and ended up prosecuting more ARPA subjects than any AUSA in the country, the bulk of Anasazi looting took place within a hundred mile, north-south corridor stretching from Moab to the town of Bluff on the edge of the Navajo Reservation near the Arizona state line.

The Earl K. Shumway Case

     In 1985, a federal grand jury sitting in Salt Lake City, indicted Earl K. Shumway, then twenty-five, on four felony counts in violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. The fierce and flamboyant looter with the wild shock of red hair and matching mustache, had openly bragged about how much money he made selling Anasazi pottery, baskets, human remains, and other artifacts from hundreds of archaeological sites which he left littered with empty Mountain Dew cans.

     Because Shumway also boasted of carrying a .44 magnum revolver he'd use on anyone who'd confront him while digging for artifacts, federal agents despised and feared him. The AUSA charged Shumway with the removal and sale of thirty-four prehistoric baskets excavated from Horse Rock Ruin on federal land near Allen Canyon, Manti-La Sal National Forest in southeastern Utah. Shumway and his crew had been digging on this site since 1981. Tried and convicted in 1986, Shumway, to avoid serving time in prison, identified, for the FBI, a long list of artifact collectors living in Blanding. In turning snitch, he avoided prison and settled scores with collectors he didn't like. His information also led to a series of ARPA SWAT raids that year. All of those cases were eventually dropped.

     After informing on collectors, Earl Shumway returned to looting archaeological sites on federal land. In November 1994, a former Shumway business partner told the FBI that Shumway had been plundering artifacts at Horse Rock Ruin. The snitch said that Shumway had cheated him out of his share of the loot. Shortly after his arrest, Shumway pleaded guilty to three ARPA counts and a federal firearms charge. In return for his guilty plea, the judge sentenced the serial looter to probation.

     In June 1995, just seven months after Shumway's guilty plea, AUSA Wayne Dance, having successfully prosecuted forty ARPA defendants, convinced members of a federal grand jury in Utah to indict Shumway on a pair of four-year-old ARPA cases.

     In 1991, Shumway met helicopter pilot Michael Miller at a pool hall in Moab. After regaling Miller with stories of his archaeological adventures and the big money he made selling Anasazi pottery, baskets, and human remains, Miller contacted a helicopter pilot named John Ruhl and asked him to fly the pair around in search of potential sites. Shumway's father had taught Earl how to use aircraft in search for ruins. With diggers on the ground and a lookout in the sky, looters could easily avoid detection. Shumway, with Ruhl's knowledge, rented a  helicopter by telling Ruhl's employer he was a film scout.

     Ruhl flew Miller and Shumway to Dop-Ki Cave in Utah's Canyonlands National Park, a 350,000-acre tract where they dug up the skeleton of an infant wrapped in a blanket inside a burial basket. Shumway took the blanket and all of the bones except the skull. A few days later, Ruhl flew Shumway and Miller to Horse Rock Ruin where they spent the night. The next morning, Shumway dug up a pair of ancient sandals and a sleeping mat.

     At Shumway's November 1995 trial, AUSA Dance, through DNA analysis, connected the defendant to a cigarette butt found at the Dop-Ki Cave site. The jurors, based upon the first use of DNA evidence in an ARPA case, found Shumway guilty.

     Convicted of seven felony counts, Judge David K. Winder, appalled at Shumway's callous handling of the infant's remains, exceeded ARPA's punishment guidelines by sentencing the looter to six and a half years in prison. The judge also fined him $3,500. Shumway appealed his sentence to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals which reduced it to five years, three months.

     While being transported to prison, a group of Native American prisoners gave Shumway a severe beating. In 2003, three years after getting out of prison, Earl K. Shumway died of cancer. He was forty-six-years-old.

P. J. O'Rourke On Public Education

The problem with public school is not overcrowding in the classroom. The problem is not teacher unions. The problem is not underfunding or lack of computer equipment. The problem is your damn kids. Which, of course, means the problem is you….

P. J. O'Rourke, The Baby Boom, 2014 

The Era Before The Criminalization of Marijuana

     The first American law concerning marijuana, passed in the Virginia assembly in 1619, required every household to grow it. Hemp was deemed not only a valuable commodity, but also a strategic necessity. Its fibers were used to make sails and riggings, and its byproducts were turned into oakum for the caulking of wooden ships. Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and other colonies eventually allowed hemp to be used as legal tender to boost its production and relieve colonial shortages of currency. Although a number of the Founding Fathers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, later grew hemp on their estates, there is no evidence they were aware of its psychoactive properties. The domestic production of hemp flourished, especially in Kentucky, until the Civil War, when it was replaced by imports from Russia and by other domestic materials.

     In the latter half of the nineteenth century marijuana became a popular ingredient in patent medicines and was sold openly at pharmacies in one-ounce herbal packages and alcohol-based tinctures, as a cure for migraines, rheumatism, and insomnia. Dr. Brown's Sedative Tablets contained marijuana, as did Eli Lilly's One Day Cough Cure.

Eric Schlosser, Reefer Madness, 2003 

Suspension of Disbelief in Reading Fiction

In any piece of fiction, the writer's first job is to convince the reader that the events he recounts really happened, or to persuade the reader that they might have happened (given small changes in the laws of the universe), or else to engage the reader's interest in the patent absurdity of the lie. The realistic writer's way of making events convincing is verisimilitude. The tale writer, telling stories of ghosts, or shape-shifter, or some character who never sleeps, uses a different approach: By the quality of his voice, and by means of various devices that distract the critical intelligence, he gets what Coleridge called--in one of the most clumsy famous sentences in all literature--"the willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith."

John Gardner, The Art of Fiction, 1983 

Literary Awards

Goodreads.com lists over 6,000 [literary] prizes on its web site. The oldest, the Nobel Prize in Literature, was founded in 1901; the youngest was established yesterday. Ten more will certainly be announced tomorrow.

Amanda Foreman, author, 2013 interview

For Writers, The Lure of Hollywood

They give you a thousand dollars a week [1960s] until that's what you need to live on. And then every day you live after that, you're afraid they'll take it away from you. It's all very scientific. It's based on the psychological fact that a man is a grubbing, hungry little sleaze...In twenty-four hours you can develop a taste for caviar. In forty-eight hours fish eggs are no longer a luxury, they're a necessity.

Character in Rod Serling's play, Velvet Alley

Writing in First Person

First person, past tense is a good way for beginning writers to tell a story. As voices go, it's straightforward, its boundaries reasonably clear. It's a familiar voice; we normally frame the ongoing narrative of our lives in the first person, past tense. "Where were you?" "I was out walking the dog and I stopped to buy an ice cream cone." But a first person narrator must be a participant in the story he's telling, and his involvement limits his information. He can report only what his senses reveal, what others tell him, what he knows, and what he speculates.

Richard Rhodes, How to Write, 1995

Friday, February 28, 2020

Police Sexual Misconduct: The Adam Skweres Case

     Let's say two women, in separate cases, accused a police officer of sexual misconduct. Should that cop, while these allegations are being investigated, remain on duty, or be placed on administrative leave? According to Ocean City (Maryland) Police Chief Bernadette Di Pino, a member of the executive committee of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), there are no national guidelines or policies dealing with this question. In Maryland, an uncharged officer can be taken off the street if the allegations seem credible. In most jurisdictions, however, accused officers stay on the job until they are charged with a crime. That's how cases like this are handled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

     Adam Skweres, after graduating from Pittsburgh Allderdice High School, joined the U.S. Army Reserves and served a tour of duty in Iraq. In 2005, after taking a few college courses, the 29-year-old applied for a job with the Pittsburgh Police Department. As part of the hiring process, city psychologist Dr. Irvin P. R. Guyett, in determining if Skweres was psychologically fit for police duty, reviewed the results of the candidate's background investigation. Based on polygraph test results, what neighbors and others said about the applicant, his financial history, and the psychologist's interview of the candidate, Dr. Guyett concluded that Skweres was "not psychologically fit for police work." (Dr. Guyett had been evaluating police candidates for 20 years.)

     Unwilling to take no for an answer, Skweres appealed Dr. Guyett's findings and the rejection of his application to the civil service commission. In 2006, the city appointed another psychologist, Dr. Alexander Levy, to re-evaluate the candidate. Dr. Levy, after presumably looking at the same data available to Dr. Guyett, found Skweres "psychologically suited for police work." Based on this second expert opinion, the city allowed Skweres to join the next available police academy class. Upon graduation from the police academy the new officer was assigned to the Zone 3 station on Pittsburgh's south side.

     In June 2008, a woman filed a sexual misconduct complaint against Officer Skweres. After this woman had testified as a victim in one of his cases, Skweres, as he escorted her out of the courtroom, asked to speak to her privately. Skweres said he knew that this woman and her husband were dealing with the county office of Children, Youth and Families (CYF). If she agreed to give him oral sex, Skweres would write the CYF a positive letter on their behalf. If she refused, he would write the agency a negative letter. He allegedly said that he just needed 30 minutes of her time. The woman refused, and filed a complaint with the Pittsburgh Police Department.

     Two weeks later, Officer Skweres told a woman who had been in a minor traffic accident that he was writing her up, but the ticket would disappear if she gave him oral sex. According to this woman's complaint, Skweres looked at his sidearm and told her that if she told anyone about his proposal, he'd make sure she never spoke to anyone again.

     Although presented with two credible citizen complaints of coercion and sexual misconduct against one of its officers, supervisors at the Pittsburgh Police Department, because they didn't have sufficient cause, did not remove Officer Skweres from active duty. Pursuant to regulations enforced by the local Fraternal Order of the Police, this officer, until charged with a crime, would stay on the job.

     In December 2011, Officer Skweres entered a home in the Belthoover section of the city where the girlfriend of a man he had recently arrested lived. After asking her how much she loved the arrestee, Skweres allegedly offered to help the boyfriend if she stripped and performed oral sex on him. In making the proposal, which was more of a demand, he unclipped his holster to intimidate her. This woman filed a complaint with the Pittsburgh Police Department. Officer Skweres remained on duty.

     Officer Skweres, on February 11, 2012, showed up at the home of a girlfriend of another man he had arrested. Indicating that he knew he was being surveilled, and didn't want to be recorded, Skweres communicated with the woman by writing messages on a notepad. He instructed her not to talk, and told her to lift her skirt to show she wasn't wearing a wire. (He was not being watched.) When Skweres did speak, he did so in the kitchen where he had water running in the sink to cover his voice.

     After offering to help this woman's incarcerated boyfriend, Skweres allegedly forced the victim to give him oral sex. He cleaned himself off with a towel, put it into his pocket, and left the house. This victim reported the crime to the FBI.

     Five days later, at 5:15 P.M., officers with the Pittsburgh Police Department arrested Officer Skweres at his home. Charged with official oppression, indecent assault, rape, and criminal coercion, Skweres was placed into the Allegheny County Jail where for his protection he was isolated from the other inmates. A judge set his bond at $300,000. The department suspended Skweres without pay.

     On February 21, 2012, detectives searching Officer Adam Skweres's house and SUV found marijuana and crack cocaine. His lawyer told reporters that his client would be pleading not guilty to the sexual misconduct and criminal coercion charges.

     In defending the police department's decision not to remove Officer Skweres from active duty after the 2008 complaints, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl told a reporter with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that it wasn't until the fourth alleged victim filed her complaint with the FBI that the department had the "hard evidence" they needed to make the arrest and take this officer off the street. The head of the police union told the same reporter that officers can't be taken off duty simply because a civilian makes a complaint. "If we remove someone every time an accusation was thrown at an officer, we wouldn't have any officers on the street who are hardworking and aggressive." (Really? Are there that many citizen complaints?)

     Samuel Walker, professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska, a nationally known author and scholar on the subject of policing, said the following to a reporter with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "Common sense would say if you have suspicions about this person's conduct, you take [him] off the street, period. If there were two [complaints] back in 2008, that raises the significance of it even further. There should have been something done."

     On March 11, 2013, Adam Skeweres pleaded guilty to 26 counts of sexually assaulting five women he encountered while on duty. The judge sentenced him to three to eight years in prison followed by ten years of probation. The judge also ordered the former police officer to register as a sex offender.

The California Teachers Association: Pedophile Protection in California's Schools

     On January 30, 2012, Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies arrested 61-year-old elementary teacher Mark Berndt on 23 counts of lewd acts against minors. The third grade teacher at the Miramonte Elementary School in Florence Firestone, an unincorporated community in Los Angeles County, stood accused of photographing 6 to 10-year olds in bondage positions, some with live bugs crawling on their faces. A few of the girls were shown holding spoons containing a white liquid up to their mouths. Children were also pictured about to eat cookies topped with the teacher's semen.

     Because of the influence of the California Teachers Association (CTA) and other education unions in the state, school administrators couldn't fire anyone, including teachers like Mark Berndt. In the Miramonte school, because parents were so outraged, and held protests, school administrators managed to get Berndt out of the classroom by paying him $40,000 to retire. That's how bad it was in the Golden State where it was truly golden for pedophiles working in the state's education system. (You can see why in California the firing of a merely incompetent teacher was unheard of. The unions simply did not allow the firing of crappy teachers. Teachers so rotten they managed to get dismissed from their jobs in other states could always find a home in the California system. The pay was outstanding, benefits were out of this world, and it didn't matter if the teacher was no good. And for pedophiles, California's classrooms were heaven on earth.)

     In 2012, in the wake of the Miramonte school scandal (Berndt wasn't the only pedophile working there), a group called Democrats for Educational Reform, introduced legislation in the state senate (S.B. 1530), that made it easier to dismiss teachers accused of sex, violence, or drug offenses against children. That bill, with vast public support, passed the Senate on a 33-4 bipartisan vote.

     In the California Assembly, when the Senate-passed legislation came before the Assembly Education Committee, committee members, by refusing to vote on the bill, killed the proposed law in committee. (These politicians didn't have the courage to vote "no.") That meant the bill did not reach the Assembly floor for a vote. If it had, it would have passed by a wide majority.)

     The committee members who killed this child protection legislation had bowed to the state's powerful teachers' unions, including the CTA. All of the state politicians who killed the bill through their abstentions, had been beneficiaries of large CTA political contributions. The fact that the CTA could stop legislation favored by a vast majority of California voters showed who was really running the show in that state. Democracy be damned. Moreover, the undermining of this needed legislation revealed what most citizens of the state already knew--that in California it was unions first, teachers second, and students, parents, and education third--and a bad third at that. It was no wonder the state had one of the worst public education systems in the country. For a sexually perverted school teacher, except perhaps for West Virginia, there was no friendlier place to work and abuse children than California.

     In California, the CTA, backed by an army of 325,000 teachers, and plenty of money to bribe and control state politicians, was in reality the fourth branch of government. As the biggest political spender in the state, its influence dwarfed other special interest groups. From 2000 through 2009, the CTA alone shelled out more than $211 million in political contributions and lobbying expenses. That was twice the amount given to politicians by the second largest bribery machine, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Since 2009, the CTA had pumped another $40 million into the state's political community. The union also played a major role in putting Governor Jerry Brown into office. So the teacher's unions owned him as well.)

     The fact that teacher's unions in California and other states were destroying the quality of public education in the country was bad enough. Even worse, they were enabling and protecting classroom child abusers. If school administrators couldn't protect students from the likes of Mark Berndt, California classrooms were not safe for children. This was as good a reason as any for home schooling or moving to a state where educating  students had a higher priority than protecting teachers from being fired for cause.

      As for Mark Berndt himself, he pleaded no contest in November 2013 to 23 counts of lewd acts on children. The judge sentenced him to 25 years in prison. A year later, the Los Angeles United School District agreed to pay out $170 million in court settlements related to the Berndt pedophilia case. The settlement involved more than a hundred students.

     If all the zookeepers in the state of California belonged to the CTA, the animals would be starving in their cages while their custodians sat around gorging themselves, complaining about their jobs, and threatening to strike.          

Easy Money: Three Quick and Simple Con Games

Case l

     A man and a woman, both well-dressed and in their mid-forties, approached an 86-year-old woman at a busy intersection in the Forest Hills section of Queens. The man showed the elderly woman a wallet fat with cash. "We just found it," the man said. "Look at all the money that's in it. Hundred dollar bills."

     Having interested the victim in the money, the man proposed they take the lost wallet to the local police precinct house. If the wallet was not claimed in 30 days, the three of them could divide up the cash. They could deposit the lost wallet with the police in the old woman's name. At the end of the waiting period, the police would release the wallet and its contents to her.

     But wait. How could the couple trust that a complete stranger will give them their share of the money? How about this? The woman could withdraw $10,000 from her bank account, money the couple could hold until the police release the wallet. If the wallet is claimed within the 30 day period, the couple will return the woman's good faith money.

     After the victim took $10,000 out of her bank account and handed it to the con artists, they asked her to wait on the street until they returned with the receipt from the police station. They of course disappeared with the scam victim's cash.

Case 2

     An 82-year-old man received a disturbing phone call regarding one of his grandsons. According to the caller, who identified himself as an officer with the New Jersey State Police, the young man had been arrested and needed $3,500 to get out of jail.

     To spare his grandson the horrors of criminal incarceration, the old man, from a Western Union Office, sent $3,500 to the con man. The good news, of course, was that the kid was not in jail. The bad news: the victim ended up $3,500 poorer and was left feeling like a sucker.

Case 3

     A con man impersonating an IRS agent informed a 35-year-old woman by telephone that she owed the government $2,000 in taxes. According to the faker, her problem was this: if she didn't pay up immediately, agents would come to her home and haul her off to prison.

     The terrified victim (the three most feared letters in America are IRS) rushed to a 7-Eleven convenience store where she purchased four $500 prepaid debit cards. The con man withdrew the $2,000 after the victim, using her cellphone at the store, read him the card numbers. With one phone call this scam artist stole $2,000. Easy money. 

Detective Fiction as Literature

It may well be that when the historians of literature come to discourse upon the fiction produced by the English-speaking peoples in the first half of the twentieth century, they will pass somewhat lightly over the compositions of the "serious" novelists and turn their attention to the immense and varied achievement of the detective writers.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English playwright, novelist and short story writer

Mystery Writer Agatha Christie

During her lifetime, Agatha Christie (1890-1976) sold more than two billion books, topped only by Shakespeare and the Bible. Hercule Poirot, her principal detective, appeared in 33 novels.

Reader's Digest, December, 2014 

Creative Nonfiction Should Not Be About the Writer

Nonfiction writers write too much about themselves and what they think without seeking a universal focus so that readers are properly and firmly engaged. Essays that are so personal that they omit the reader are essays that will never see the light of print. The overall objective of a writer should be to make the reader tune in, not out....The uninspired writer will tell the reader about a subject, place, or personality, but the creative nonfiction writer will show that subject, place, or personality in action.

Lee Gutkind, Keep it Real, 2009

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Sierra "CeCe" Sims Kidnapping Hoax

     High school basketball standout Sierra "CeCe" Sims, in August 2008, arrived at Alabama's Auburn University with a full athletic scholarship. As a high school player in Brentwood, Tennessee, CeCe had led her team to three regional titles. The five-foot-seven inch point guard, a former teen pageant contestant, also played the guitar. (Her father, Tommy Sims co-wrote the Grammy-winning Eric Clapton hit, "Change the World.")

     The 18-year-old college freshman, as a member of the Auburn Tiger's women's basketball team, a powerhouse in the Southeastern Conference, had to deal with being away from home, academic life on the university level, and living up to expectations on the basketball court.

     Shortly after arriving at the university, CeCe began drinking heavily every night. In late September 2008, she called her mother Kathie and said she wanted to come home. Kathie told her distraught daughter to talk to coach Nell Fortner. Taking her mother's advice, CeCe called the coach. When CeCe hung up the phone after their chat, the coach felt that everything would be fine for the freshman prospect.

     The next morning, when CeCe failed to show up for the six o'clock practice, Fortner became concerned. When the coach made inquiries regarding CeCe's whereabouts he learned that at 2:30 that morning CeCe had stormed out of the dormitory and rode off on her bicycle. None of her acquaintances had seen her since.

     Not long after campus searchers couldn't find CeCe, university officials asked the authorities to issue an Amber Alert. Eighteen hours later, a parol officer looking for the missing student almost hit CeCe with his patrol car. When the officer approached the girl, she said, "I'm CeCe Sims."

     Questioned at the local police department, CeCe told detectives she had been kidnapped by a man and a woman who pulled up alongside her in a pickup truck. After being dragged into the vehicle, the abductors forced her to drink alcohol and take pills. As a result of being drugged, she couldn't recall in detail what had happened to her.

     Under close questioning by detectives, CeCe's story didn't hold up. In an effort to get the student to reveal where she had been since leaving the dorm at 2:30 the previous morning, officers threatened her with the possibility of being charged with a crime. Notwithstanding that threat, she stuck to her highly implausible story.    

     The police did not open a kidnapping investigation, and CeCe was not charged with false reporting. She dropped out of school and returned home to Brentwood, Tennessee.

     In 2014, CeCe Sims posted a video on the Internet acknowledging that she had indeed made up the kidnapping story in September of 2008. When she left the dormitory that night she had ridden her bike to a nearby Walmart where she hid for almost eighteen hours.

     According to CeCe Sims, the pressure at Auburn had been too much for her. "I didn't want to disappoint my parents," she said, "so I thought, what better way to say I was kidnapped? That way I wouldn't have to quit and be known as a quitter."

     When the story broke regarding CeCe and the kidnapping hoax, former Auburn coach Nell Fortner described to an ABC reporter the pressure student/athletes are under at schools like Auburn. "Your schedule might take you to the Bahamas or to Hawaii. They are going to get a great education. But they pay heavily for that because working out is tough. They are up at five in the morning, and they don't get to bed until eleven at night."

     Following the scandal, Sierra CeCe Sims moved in with her parents while she pursued a career in the music business. 

The Annybelkis Terrero Murder-For-Hire Case

     Neil Logan, a 57-year-old aircraft mechanic from Boynton Beach, Florida made the mistake of his life when in June 2013, following a brief courtship and a spur of the moment decision, he married Annybelkis Terrero in Las Vegas.

     Not long after Mr. Logan and the 38-year-old Terrero took up residence in his Boynton Beach home, she regularly got drunk, used illegal drugs, and entertained strange men in the house. She also disappeared for days at a time.

     On August 31, 2013, just three months after marrying this woman, Neil Logan filed for divorce. The next day, Annybelkis called the Boynton Police Department with the accusation that her husband had committed domestic abuse. Police officers came to the house and hauled Mr. Logan off to jail. Pursuant to a protective order filed against him, the owner of the house could not return to his home.

     In the fall of 2013, Terrero's Boynton Beach neighbors began complaining about suspected drug activity and prostitution occurring in Mr. Logan's former residence. After narcotics officers investigated the complaints and threatened to arrest Terrero on drug and prostitution charges, she agreed to stay out of jail by working as a drug informant.

     On October 16, 2013, Terrero and two narcotics cops wearing bulletproof vests were en route in a police vehicle to a suspected drug dealer's house. Along the way the snitch mentioned that she hated her husband and wanted him dead. Could the officers put her in touch with a hit man?

     The narcotics officers said they knew a men who could do the job. At that point Terrero handed one of the officers two stolen credit cards with instructions to use them soon because they were "hot." She said the cards were meant as compensation for the officers' role in her murder-for-hire plan.

     The next day in the Sunshine Square Shopping Center parking lot, Terrero met with a Boynton Beach undercover officer posing as a professional hit man. As is standard operating procedure in such cases, the murder-for-hire conversation was recorded.

     Terrero informed the undercover officer that she would pay him $30,000 from her husband's life insurance payout after the assassin did his job. She said she also wanted the hit man to murder another 57-year-old person named William Straub. The Lake Worth, Florida resident was a friend who had tried to help Terrero beat her alcohol and drug addictions. (Why she wanted this man dead is a mystery. Perhaps she had confided in him regarding her plans to have her husband killed and she wanted to eliminate a potential incriminating witness. But if she were worried about that kind of exposure, why did she reach out to a pair of narcotic cops?)

     Shortly after the murder-for-hire mastermind handed the undercover officer a loaded Remington shotgun as a downpayment for the double-hit, the officer arrested Terrero. A Palm Beach county prosecutor charged Terrero  with two counts of murder solicitation and two counts of bribery. The judge denied the suspect bail.

     This was not the first time Terrero had seen the inside of a jailhouse. Police arrested her in 1998 for burglary and aggravated battery and in 2011 for assaulting a police officer .

     In speaking to a reporter following Terrero's arrest, William Straub, one of the murder-for-hire targets, described her as "brilliant" when she was sober and not so bright when drunk. (Terrero must have been very intoxicated when she proposed murder-for-hire to a pair of men she knew to be cops. That has to be one of the stupidest moves in the history of crime.)

     According to Terrero's 61-year-old mother Seneida Holden, her daughter has struggled with alcohol and drug abuse since her teenage years. At one time she claimed to have kidnapped the Lindbergh baby. (Since Bruno Richard Hauptmann kidnapped and murdered the 20-month-old son of Charles and Anne Lindbergh in March 1932, Terrero was not involved in that crime.)

     On November 14, 2013, the Palm Beach County Prosecutor's Office announced that the charges against Annybelkis Terrero had been dropped. The spokesperson said the case was dismissed due to "significant legal issues."

     A spokesperson for the State Attorney's Office, when confronted by reporters wanting to know why this case, notwithstanding all of the incriminating evidence, was dropped, refused to elaborate.

Anti-Stalking Laws

     Most anti-stalking laws around the country discuss threats or threatening behavior. Most anti-stalking laws require, at minimum, that the victim feel threatened by the stalker's actions. In these states, the stalker may explicitly threaten the victim, but the law does not require that such a threat take place. As long as the stalker's other actions create a threatening climate for the victim, the law can be applied.

     In other states, however, repeated harassment or following must be accompanied by an explicit threat. Most states that require a threat also require that it be "credible." In many states that require a credible threat, the defendant must have the "intent and/or apparent ability" to carry out the threat. Someone who clearly could not carry out the threat would not fit this requirement.

Melita Schaum and Karen Parrish, Stalked, 1995 

Margaret Atwood on Unlikable Characters in Fiction

I have been idiotically told that I write "awful" books [novels] because the people in them are unpleasant. Intelligent readers do not confuse the quality of the book with the moral rectitude of the characters. For those who want goodigoodness, there are the Victorian good-girl religious novels that would suit them fine.

Margaret Atwood, novelist,  2013

Joseph Wambaugh on Writing Narrative Nonfiction

When I write nonfiction, obviously I was not there when the events occurred. I write in a dramatic style--that is, I employ lots of dialogue. I describe feelings. I describe how the events must have taken place. I invent probable dialogue or a least possible dialogue based upon all of the research that I do.

Joseph Wambaugh in Janet Malcolm's The Journalist and the Murderer, 1990

The "Mainstream" Novel

Authors often believe that if a novel can only be categorized "mainstream" that it will automatically ship to stores in large quantities and sell to customers in big numbers. That belief is naive. So-called mainstream novels can sell in tiny numbers. That is even more true in the category of literary fiction. Authors with such labels face a double struggle in building their audience. For one thing, they cannot tap into the popularity of an existing genre. They must build from the ground up, creating a category where none existed before--their own. It can be a tough job.

Donald Maass, The Career Novelist, 2001 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Levi Norwood Murder Case

     In 2020, 37-year-old Joshua Norwood lived in a home on Elk Road in Midland, Virginia with his 34-year-old wife Jennifer and their two sons, Wyatt, 6 and and 17-year-old Levi. The family had moved to Virginia from Maine in 2010. Mr. Norwood, until recently, had been a sales representative. His wife Jennifer was a licensed nurses's assistant.

     At six o'clock in the evening of February 14, 2020, Joshua Norwood called 911 and reported that he had just arrived home and found that his wife and his 6-year-old son had been shot to death. Shortly after entering the house, someone in the house shot and wounded him in the head. Armed with his own gun, Mr. Norwood fired back. He didn't see the shooter, but believed the bullet that struck him had been fired from the doorway leading into his basement. Mr. Norwood ran out of the house.
     The 911 operator dispatched an ambulance and officers with the Fauquier County Sheriff's Office to the scene.
     As Joshua Norwood was transported to a nearby hospital in stable condition, deputies, thinking that the other son, 17-year-old Levi Norwood may have been the shooter and was barricaded in the dwelling, surrounded the house.
     At ten-fifteen that night, police officers forcibly entered the Norwood house. Inside they found the bodies of Jennifer and Wyatt Norwood but not Levi. They searched the house and did not find the murder weapon. 
     Officers placed the immediate neighborhood on lockdown, and instituted a search for the five-foot-nine, 125 pound suspect with hair recently dyed purple. Since the teen did not have access to a vehicle, officers assumed he was on foot. 
     The next day, Saturday, February 15, a teenager meeting Levi Norwood's description was seen driving a 2007 red Toyota Camry that had been stolen that morning from a home about ten miles from the murder scene.
     At four o'clock that day, a security guard at a Target store on Chapel Hill Boulevard in Durham, North Carolina caught a teenage boy with purple hair stealing hair dye, items of clothing, and a backpack. The shoplifter was identified as Levi Norwood. The stolen Toyota was parked outside the store.
     Officers with the Durham Police Department ran Levi's name through a national fugitive database and learned that the teen was wanted in connection with a double homicide in Midland, Virginia. Police officers booked Livi Norwood into a local jail where he was held for extradition back to Fauquier County, Virginia.
     On Sunday, February 16, 2020, a television reporter questioned a Norwood family member named Victoria Eaton who said the violence at the Norwood house was not something she thought Levi Norwood was capable of, describing the act as "totally out of his character." She also said, " It doesn't make any sense" and noted that Levi had a difficult home life.
     Levi Norwood was a junior at Liberty High School in Bealton, Virginia. Local reporters spoke to several of his classmates who identified Levi's parents as racists who didn't like black people. Moreover, his father had been extremely upset over the fact Levi had been dating a black girl.

Human Road Kill: The Paul Joseph Garcia Jr. Fatal Hit and Run Case

     In Austin, Texas at ten-thirty at night on February 15, 2020, a motorist driving erratically at high speed without headlights plowed into a man on the side of the road pushing a shopping cart. The pedestrian, 55-year-old Martin Cagle, crashed through the speeding car's windshield and landed in the vehicle's front passenger seat. He was killed instantly.

     Following the violent impact, 24-year-old Paul Joseph Garcia Jr. continued driving his damaged 2014 white Ford Focus with the mangled dead man in the seat next to him. Garcia drove a half-mile, leaving a trail of Mr. Gagle's body parts on the road, then parked his vehicle in front of the South Austin Beer Garden.

     Mr. Garcia, covered in his victim's blood, climbed out of his car, and in his bare feet, walked calmly into the beer garden for a drink.

     Shortly after he entered the bar, officers with the Austin Police Department took the highly intoxicated suspect into custody.

     A Travis County prosecutor charged Paul Joseph Garcia with intoxication manslaughter and with another felony called accident involving injury while driving without regard for the safety of others. The magistrate set his bail at $110,000.

John Gardner on the Novelist and Higher Education

     It is true that some writers have kept themselves more or less innocent of education, that some, like Jack London, were more or less self-made men; that is, people who scratched out an education by reading books between work-shifts on boats, in logging camps or gold camps, on farms or in factories. It is true that university education is in many ways inimical to the work of the artist: Rarely do painters have much good to say of aetheticians or history-of-art professors, and it's equally uncommon for even the most serious, "academic" writers to look with fond admiration at "the profession of English." And it's true, moreover, that life in the university has almost never produced subject matter for really good fiction. The life has too much trivia, too much mediocrity, too much soap opera, but consider:

     No ignoramus--no writer who has kept himself innocent of education--has ever produced great art.

John Gardner, The Art of Fiction, originally published in 1983. Gardner (1933-1982) was a literary novelist, critic, and English professor at the University of Southern Illinois. He died young riding his motorcycle. 

B. R. Myers on The "Literary" Novelist

The joy of being a [literary] writer today is that you can claim your work's flaws are all there by design. Plot doesn't add up? It was never meant to; you were playfully reworking the conventions of traditional narrative. Your philosophizing makes no sense? Well, we live in an incoherent age after all. The dialogue is implausible? Comedy often is. But half the jokes fall flat?  Ah! Those were the serious bits. Make sure then, that your readers can never put a finger on what you are trying to say at any point in the book. Let them create their own text--you're just the one who gets paid for it.

B. R. Myers, A Reader's Manifesto, 2002
[This is an outstanding, groundbreaking book.]

Erle Stanley Gardner: A Writing Machine

Erle Stanley Gardner is credited by the Guinness Book of World Records as being the fastest author of this century. It was his habit to tape 3-by-5 inch index cards around his study. Each index card explained where and when certain key incidents would occur in each detective novel. He then dictated to a crew of secretaries some ten thousand words a day, on up to seven different [mystery] novels at a time.

The Writer's Home Companion (1987) edited by James Charlton and Lisbeth Mark

Impressing Al Capone

You know, sometimes I lose my temper, and I say, "Gee I wish somebody would bump that guy off," and then one of these young punks who wants to make a name for himself goes ahead and does it. And then I have to pick up the pieces.

Al Capone in Jerry Capeci, Wiseguy's Say the Darndest Things, 2004

Ann Rule on True Crime Writing

True crime writing is a very delicate and difficult genre and not to be taken lightly. Done well, the books can be near classic. Done sloppily or carelessly, they serve only to hurt the innocent even more than they have already been hurt.

Ann Rule, writersreview.com, 2000

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Mark Latunski Mutilation Murder Case

     On Christmas Eve, 2019, Kevin Bacon, a 25-year-old hairstylist from Swartz Creek, Michigan, a suburb of Flint, left his house to meet a man he had met on the LGBTQ app Grindr. That man was 50-year-old Mark Latunski.

     The next morning, when Keven Bacon didn't show up for a family Christmas breakfast, his mother reported him missing to the local sheriff's office.
     Later that Christmas day, police officers located Bacon's car parked not far from his home. Inside, they found his wallet, cellphone, and other personal belongings. Mr. Bacon's roommate, Michelle Myers, told investigators that Bacon had left the house on Christmas Eve to visit a man he had recently met on Grindr named Mark Latunski.
     Mark Latunski, a resident of Morrice, Michigan, a rural town 23 miles from Bacon's home in Swartz Creek, was known to officers with the Shiawassee County Sheriff's Office. 
     On November 25, 2019, one month before Kenvin Bacon left his house to meet Latunski, deputies with the sheriff's office, when responding to a disturbance call at Latunski's home, encountered a man running out of the house screaming at the top of his lungs with Mr. Latunski in hot pursuit.The 29-year-old man had blood on his face and wore nothing but a leather kilt.
     When questioned by officers, Latunski explained that he was chasisng the man because the guy had run off with his expensive kilt. He wanted it back. The bloodied, kilt-wearing man who was running for his life from Latunski, refused to press charges. As a result, the case did not go beyond the filing of a police report.
     On December 28, 2019, police officers entered Latunski's house in search of Mr. Bacon. They found him--naked, mutilated and hanging dead from the ceiling. 
      Officers took Mr. Latunski into custody. The suspect quickly confessed to stabbing the victim in the back then slitting his throat with the knife he used to cut off the dead man's testicles and eat them. 
     A Shiawassee County prosecutor charged Mark Latunski with open murder and mutilation of a human body. At the suspect's arraignment hearing on January 6, 2020, the judge asked the defendant, "Are you Mr. Latunski?"
     "No," he replied. "My name is Edgar Thomas Hill. Mark Latunski is my nephew."
     Police officers and the prosecutor believed that response to the judge was a ploy in anticipation of an insanity plea. The judge ordered that Mark Latunski be held in the county jail without bail. 

The Stephen Cooke Jr Murder-For-Hire Case

     In 2000, Heidi Louise Bernadzikowski, a 24-year-old employee of a health insurance company, lived in a Dundalk, Maryland townhouse with her boyfriend, 29-year-old Stephen Michael Cooke Jr. Baltimore County police officers, on April 20, 2000, responded to a 911 call made from the townhouse by Cooke. Upon arrival, officers found Cooke sitting on the living floor holding his girlfriend in his arms. They were both covered in blood.

     Heidi Bernadzikowski had been murdered. The killer had strangled the victim then slashed her throat. There were no signs of forced entry into the dwelling and no evidence that anything had been stolen. The victim had not been sexually assaulted.

     Detectives in search of a motive for the brutal murder became suspicious of the victim's boyfriend when they learned that a month before her death he had purchased a $700,000 insurance policy on her life. Because Cooke had an alibi that eliminated him as the killer, detectives suspected that he had hired a hit man to do the job. But without proof, they could not arrest him.

     Heidi Bernadzikowski's parents, in 2004, sued Stephen Cooke Jr. under the so-called "slayer's rule" for the $700,000 life insurance payout. The slayer's rule prohibits anyone who intentionally caused the death of the insured to collect life insurance benefits. The civil action was settled out of court when Cooke agreed to pay the plaintiffs $575,000. Detectives working on the murder case considered the settlement a tacit admission of guilt.

     In January 2012, a Baltimore County prosecutor charged Alexander Charles Bennett, a 32-year-old resident of Greeley, Colorado, with the murder of Heidi Bernadzikowski. Three months earlier, Bennett had been connected to the Bernadzikowski murder scene through a DNA match. Moreover, detectives had placed Bennett, a man with a history of burglary and car theft, in Baltimore the month before the murder.

     While homicide detectives theorized that Bennett had been hired by Cooke to kill the victim, the investigators had no evidence linking the hit man to the suspected murder plot's mastermind. In January 2012, police officers booked Bennett into the Baltimore County Detention Center on the charge of first-degree murder. The judge denied the suspected hit man bail.

     Early in March 2014, just hours before the commencement of his murder trial, Bennett, pursuant to a plea deal, confessed to murdering Heidi Bernadzikowski. According to the hit man, he and a friend from Denver, Colorado named Grant A. Lewis had been hired over the Internet by Stephen Cooke Jr. who wanted someone to murder his girlfriend. Bennett said he flew to Baltimore in March 2000 to meet the murder-for-hire mastermind during which time Cooke offered Bennett and his accomplice a piece of the life insurance payout.

     According to the murder-for-hire plan, Grant Lewis would play the role of intermediary between Cooke and the trigger man. That March 2000 meeting would be the last time Bennett and Cooke communicated with each other directly.

     Alexander Bennett's version of the murder went like this: On April 20, 2000, the day of the killing, Bennett let himself into the Dundalk townhouse with a key left for him by Cooke. On that day, Cooke dropped Heidi off at the townhouse knowing that the killer was inside waiting for her. The moment Bernadzikowski walked into the dwelling, Bennett ambushed and choked the victim until she either passed out or died. To make sure she was dead, Bennett slashed her throat with a knife.

     A Baltimore County prosecutor charged Stephen Cooke Jr. with conspiracy to commit murder. On March 20, 2014, fourteen years after Bernadzikowski's violent death, detectives booked the Pasadena, Maryland suspect into the Baltimore County Detention Center. At his arraignment hearing, Cooke's attorney urged the judge to grant his client bail. The judge denied the request.

     On March 20, Baltimore homicide detectives arrested Grant A. Lewis, the 35-year-old murder-for-hire middle-man. Officers booked Lewis into the county jail on the charge of first-degree murder. Although Lewis had not bloodied his hands in the case, the judge denied him bail.

     On October 30, 2014, a jury found Grant A. Lewis guilty as charged. Baltimore County Court Judge Kathleen Gallogly-Cox, on February 2, 2015, sentenced him to life in prison.

     On June 18, 2015, a Baltimore County jury, after hearing the testimony of hit man Alexander Charles Bennett, found Stephen Cooke Jr. guilty of first-degree murder, solicitation of murder, and conspiracy to commit murder. The judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

     In August 2015, the judge sentenced Alexander Charles Bennett to 30 years. Had the hit man not testified for the prosecution against Cooke, he would have been sentenced to life.

The Big Con: No Matter Who You Are, a College Degree Will Improve Your Life

We convinced everyone college was 100 percent necessary, and then we made college unaffordable. It mostly started in 1978 when more loans and subsidies became available to greatly expand the number of students. The cost of college tuition has risen by six times the rate of inflation since the 1970s.

Jake Novak, CNBC Feb 23, 2020

B. Traven's Concept Of Anonymous Authorship

B. Traven, the pen name of the mysterious author of dozens of novels--notably, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre--believed that all books should be published anonymously. He based this belief on the notion that readers, by knowing in advance who the author is, will expect and demand a certain kind of book. Since writing for publication is an ego-driven activity, it's not surprising that authors would be vehemently against the idea. Most readers would be as well. Once a reader finds an author or authors they like, they are usually hesitant to try anyone new.

Stephen King on Being a Successful Writer

The idea that success in itself can hurt a writer is as ridiculous and as elitist as the commonly held belief that a popular book is a bad book--the former belief presumes that writers are even more corruptible than, say, politicians, and the later belief presumes that the level of taste in the world's most literate country is illogically low. I don't--and perhaps can't, as a direct result of what I'm doing--accept either idea.

Stephen King, Adelina Magazine, 1980 

Norman Mailer on Novelists

     One of the cruelest remarks in the language is: Those who can, do; those who can't, teach. The parallel must be: Those who meet experience, learn to live; those who don't, write.

     The second remark has as much truth as the first--which is to say, some truth. Of course, many a young man has put himself in danger to pick up material for his writing, but as a matter to make one wistful, not one major American athlete, CEO, politician, engineer, trade-union official, surgeon, airline pilot, chess master, call girl, sea captain, teacher, bureaucrat, Mafioso, pimp, recidivist, physicist, rabbi, movie star, clergyman, or priest or nun has also emerged as a major novelist since the Second World War.

Norman Mailer, The Spooky Art, 2003

Memoirist Hatchet Jobs

Books like Christina Crawford's Mommy, Dearest and Gary Crosby's Going My Own Way, offered sensational, firsthand accounts into the family lives of Joan Crawford and Bing Crosby, proving that even in the film industry's Golden Age, Hollywood idols did not make top-notch parents. Nor most likely do their own children, comfortable performing literary blindsides on their star parents in the pursuit of their own 15 minutes of fame. It's a vicious cycle.

Andrew Breibart and Mark Ebner, Hollywood, Interrupted, 2004 

Monday, February 24, 2020

The Roberto Roman Case: To Kill a Cop

     Just after midnight on January 5, 2010, Deputy Josie Fox of the Millard County Sheriff's Office and her partner were watching, from a distance, a suspicious car and a pickup truck parked along the road near the tiny central Utah town of Delta. There had recently been a series of burglaries which had drawn the officers to the area. When the two suspicious vehicles departed the scene in opposite directions, Deputy Fox followed  the 1995 Cadillac DeVille. The officers knew the identity of the man in the other vehicle, the pickup truck. He was a known drug user named Ryan Greathouse who also happened to be Deputy Fox's brother.

     After Deputy Fox called in the license number of the Cadillac, registered to 38-year-old Roberto Miramontes Roman, the police dispatcher forwarded instructions to have the vehicle pulled over. A few minutes later, Deputy Fox radioed that she had pulled over Roman and was exiting the patrol car.

     Deputy Fox did not transmit further messages and was not responding to calls from the dispatcher. Concerned that the deputy's encounter with the driver of the Cadillac had resulted in her injury or death, Millard County Sergeant Rhett Kimball proceeded to the site of the stop to investigate. When the deputy rolled up to the scene, he saw Fox's patrol car lights flashing and the deputy lying on the road in a pool of blood. The 37-year-old police officer had been killed by two bullets fired at close range into her chest. (I imagine the bullets had pierced her bullet-proof vest.) Roberto Roman and his 1995 Cadillac were gone.

     After fleeing the scene en route to Salt Lake City, Roberto Roman got stuck in a snowbank near Nephi, Utah. He called his friend, 35-year-old Ruben Chavez-Reyes, for help. Chavez-Reyes pulled the Cadillac out of the snowbank, and from there the two men continued on to Salt Lake City. Along the way, Roman tossed the murder weapon, an AK-47 assault rifle, out the car window. When the two men arrived at their destination, Roman switched license plates with Chavez-Reyes. (He did not, however, clean traces of Deputy Fox's blood off his Cadillac.) Later that morning, Roman told his friend that he had "broke a cop," meaning that he had killed a police officer.

     Deputy Fox's partner questioned Ryan Greathouse at his home. The murdered deputy's brother said he had purchased drugs from the man in the Cadillac, a dealer he knew as "Rob." Greathouse gave the deputy Rob's phone number which identified this man as Roberto Roman. The deputy then informed Greathouse that Roman had shot and killed his sister with an AK-47 assault rifle.

     The next day, Millard County deputies arrested Roberto Roman whom they found hiding in a shed in Beaver, Utah. Once in custody, Roman provided the officers with a full confession. The suspect told his interrogators that when the patrol officer pulled him over outside of Delta, he was angry because he was being careful not to speed or cross over the center line. Furious that the cop was pulling him over simply because he was "Mexican," Roman shot her twice with his assault rifle. He did not know he had murdered the sister of the man who had just purchased meth from him.

     The Millard County prosecutor charged Roberto Roman with aggravated first-degree murder as well as with lesser weapons and evidence tampering offenses. If convicted of murdering a police officer, under Utah law, Roberto Roman faced the death penalty.

     In April 2010, more than four months after the shooting death of his sister, Ryan Greathouse was found dead from a meth overdose in the bedroom of a Las Vegas apartment.

     In 2011, Judge Donald Eyre presided over a two-day hearing to determine if Robert Roman would qualify for the death penalty. The judge, after listening to the testimony of psychologists, ruled that the defendant was "mentally retarded," and as such, ineligible under Utah law for execution. This ruling disappointed and mystified a lot of people. (I would imagine that most cop killers are either high on drugs and/or stupid. Since intoxication and mental dullness are not criminal defenses, I don't see why people who are not bright are spared execution. Moreover, courthouse psychologists think all criminals are stupid and should therefore be judged differently from their more intelligent counterparts. Psychologists should not be allowed inside a courthouse unless they have been charged with a crime.)

     The Roberto Roman murder trial got underway on August 13, 2012 in the Fourth District Court in Spanish Fork, Utah. After the prosecution rested its case four days later, the defendant took the stand on his own behalf. Rather than admitting his guilt as he had in his police confession, Roberto Roman offered the jurors a completely different story, one that was both self-serving and implausible.

     On the night of Deputy Fox's death, the defendant and the officer's brother Ryan Greathouse, were riding around in Roman's Cadillac smoking meth. When Deputy Fox pulled the car over outside Delta, Ryan, who was crouched down in the vehicle, grabbed the AK-47 and shot Fox in the chest, unaware he had just murdered his sister. After the shooting, the two men went their separate ways. The beauty of this story involved the fact Ryan Greathouse was not in position to contest the defendant's version of the murder.

     Prosecutor Pat Finlinson, in his closing summation, reminded the jurors of the physical evidence that supported the prosecution's theory of the case. The victim's bullet wounds indicated that the AK-47 had been fired at an angle consistent with being discharged by the driver of the Cadillac. Moreover, the defendant's fingerprints, not Ryan Greathouse's, were on the assault rifle.

     On August 20, 2012, a week after the Roberto Roman trial began, the jury, after deliberating eight hours, found the defendant not guilty of the aggravated first-degree murder of Deputy Josie Fox. The jurors, in defending their unpopular verdict, said that without Roman's confession, they didn't have enough evidence to find him guilty.

     Roberto Roman became the first Utah defendant charged with the murder of a police officer to be acquitted since 1973. The jury did find him guilty of the lesser offenses pertaining to the assault rifle and the evidence tampering. On October 24, 2012, the judge sentenced Roman to the ten year maximum sentence for those crimes.

     The not guilty verdict in the Roberto Roman murder trial shocked and angered the law enforcement community, friends and relatives of the slain police officer, and a majority of citizens familiar with the case. Had Ryan Greathouse not died between the time of the shooting and Roman's trial, this case may have had a different ending. For a stupid person Roberto Roman had done a good job of beating a strong circumstantial case.

     In May 2013, David Barlow, the United States Attorney for the District of Utah, announced that a federal grand jury had returned an 11-count indictment against Roberto Roman for, among other crimes, the murder of Deputy Josie Fox. U.S. Attorney Barlow said, "The fact that Mr Roman had already been tried before a state court had no influence or affect on the federal murder charge [arising out of the same conduct]." In other words, according to this federal prosecutor, the Fifth Amendment protection against double jeopardy didn't apply in this case.

     The new federal charges against Roman, in addition to murder, included, among other offenses, drug trafficking and illegally firing a gun in the death of a police officer. If convicted as charged, Roman faced a maximum sentence of life in prison.

     In May 2014, Roman's attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the federal indictments on grounds their client should not have to stand trial for a federal murder charge related to the same crime. Attorney Jeremy Delicino said, "In layman's terms, the United States seeks a second chance to rectify what it believes the jury got wrong the first time. In blunt colloquial terms, the United States seeks a do-over."

     In response to the defense motion to dismiss the indictments, lawyers for the prosecution asserted that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that federal and state governments can prosecute a person for separate crimes based upon the same conduct.

     On September 30, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge David Nuffen ruled that prosecuting Roberto Roman for federal offenses related to the police officer's murder did not constitute double jeopardy. The federal case could therefore go forward.

     On February 6, 2017, a jury sitting in a Salt Lake City courtroom found Roberto Roman guilty of eight federal charges that included the murder of Deputy Fox. U.S. District Court Judge David Nuffen, in April 2017, sentenced Roman to life in prison plus 80 years. "Criminals must know that killing a law enforcer in the line of duty means that they will never go free," he said.

Katie Stockton's Secret Births, and Deaths

     In 2004, 24-year-old Katie Stockton and her 4-year-old son lived with her parents in a rural home near Rockton, Illinois in the northern part of the state. After becoming pregnant in March of that year, Stockton continued using cocaine, and kept her pregnancy secret. On December 17, 2004, under clandestine circumstances, Stockton gave birth to a living baby.

     Because she didn't want anyone to know about the baby's existence, Stockton stuffed the breathing infant, the placenta, and her bloody garments into an orange shopping sack that she placed into a white, plastic trash bag. Knowing the consequences of her act, the new mother dumped the trash bag and the baby alongside a road 100 feet from her parent's house.

     Days later, the baby was found dead from either exposure or suffocation. A forensic toxicologist determined that the infant--referred to as Baby Crystal--had been infected with hepatitis. The baby also had traces of cocaine in her system.

     Detectives questioned Katie Stockton about the murdered infant. She denied having given birth to the baby. She also refused to provide the authorities with a sample of her DNA. Without enough evidence to support a court order requiring Stockton to supply the DNA evidence, the case fizzled-out.

     Four years later, Baby Crystal's murder was under investigation by a team of cold-case homicide detectives who considered Stockton the prime suspect. An officer who had the suspect under surveillance recovered a cigarette butt she had discarded. The DNA on the cigarette butt matched the bloody clothing found inside the trash bag with the dead baby.

     Detectives, in August 2009, arrested Stockton on the charge of first-degree murder. Notwithstanding the DNA results, she denied being Baby Crystal's mother. Shortly after the arrest, investigators located Stockton's blue Saturn that had been parked for years in an impound lot. Police officers searched the car, and in the trunk, found the skeletal remains of two other infants. The babies had been stuffed into a pair of bags hidden beneath the spare tire.

     Stockton was not charged with the murders of the two infants in the car because forensic pathologists couldn't establish if the babies had been born alive. Later DNA analysis revealed that the infants in Stockton's vehicle were Baby Crystal's sisters. The three dead babies had been fathered by three different men.

     In February 2013, Stockton, facing life in prison (Illinois abolished its death penalty), pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in hopes the judge would show her mercy. At her April 5, 2013 sentencing hearing before Winnebago County Judge John Truitt, public defender David Doll asked that Stockton be given a prison term of 25 years. The defense attorney described his client as a good person who struggled with drug addiction.

     The defendant, in speaking directly to Judge Truitt, said, "I was in a very dark place for many years. I apologize to those I hurt and ask forgiveness. I'm truly sorry for the pain and hurt they have endured."

     Judge Truitt, apparently unmoved by the murder defendant's apology, sentenced the 32-year-old woman to 50 years behind bars. Without the possibility of parole, Stockton will probably spend the rest of her life in prison. 

The Unhappy Writer

Novel writing is considered a profession and I don't think it is a profession. I think that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else. Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don't think that an artist can ever be happy.

Georges Simenon, Paris Review, Summer 1955 

Home Alone Writing Your Novel

Writing a novel is like poking out your eyes with a flaming stick. A real writer will develop the discipline to do it anyway, instead of just talking about the story to anyone within listening range. Unfortunately, writing the book requires spending time alone with yourself. Locking yourself in a room without distractions is usually the best course. Woody Allen said that he can't write in a room with a window.

Bruce Balfour in The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists, Andrew McLeer, 2008 

True Crime Research

Writing a true crime book requires the writer to dig into angles not covered in the original rush of publicity and to deeply research the stories of victims, survivors, investigators, attorneys, and others; review all court, prison, psychiatric, medical, police and other documents about the perpetrator and interview people close to him.

Gretchen Brinck, authorsontheweb.com, 2002 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Lindsay Lohan Crime-Wave

     The only person more pathetic than an old Hollywood has-been is a young Hollywood has-been. Over the past decade, Lindsay Lohan slipped from successful television actress, theatrical film star, and recording artist to a D-list celebrity whose principal claim to fame is her rap sheet. And even her arrest record is D-list. Most of her crimes involve cocaine, alcohol, driving under the influence, a bellicose personality, and a sociopath's disrespect for the law and the criminal justice system.

     In 2007, other than being rich and infamous, there was nothing about the 26-year-old that distinguished her from the common garden variety substance abuser. Because she had money, Lohan was well-dressed in court, and had better legal representation than the ordinary petty offender. That was one of the reasons why, notwithstanding numerous probation violations, she spent so little time in jail.

     In May 2007 the police arrested Lohan for driving under the influence and possession of cocaine after she lost control of her Mercedes in Beverly Hills. Two months later, in Santa Monica, Lohan got into an argument with a female motorist whom she chased in her SUV. The actress was again under the influence, and in possession of cocaine. She had also been driving with a suspended license. Later that summer, in return for pleading guilty to misdemeanor cocaine use and driving under the influence, the judge sentenced Lohan to one day in jail, ten days of community service, and three years probation during which time she had to enter an alcohol education program.

     On November 15, 2007, when it came time to serve her 24 hours behind bars at the jail in Lynwood, California, the sheriff, due to overcrowding, released her after she had endured 84 minutes in stir. (I'm surprised this experience hasn't led to a ghost-written prison memoir.)

     In October 2009, the judge who had sentenced Lohan following her cocaine and driving under the influence plea, extended her probationary period one year because she'd been too busy (attending Justin Bieber concerts and the like) to complete drunk-driving school. Six months later, after Lohan skipped a court date to attend the Cannes Film Festival, the judge issued a bench warrant for her arrest. After the police took her into custody on the bench warrant, Lohan posted the $100,000 bail and was released. She left the booking center with an alcohol-monitoring device around her ankle. According to the judge, if Lohan didn't stop boozing and snorting cocaine, he'd revoke her bail and she would be incarcerated. Lohan was also ordered to undergo, on a weekly basis, random drug and alcohol testing.

     About two weeks after being fitted with the ankle monitor, Lohan activated the device while attending a MTV Movie Awards party. In response, the judge ruled that she had violated her probation. As a result, the judge raised her bail anther $100,000. Her bail bondsman covered the increase which allowed Lohan to remain free.

     On July 6, 2010, the judge sentenced Lohan to 90 days in jail for failing to attend her court-ordered weekly alcohol education classes. Two weeks later, Lohan showed up at the jail to begin her sentence. After 13 days behind bars, the sheriff released his famous prisoner due to facility overcrowding. In September 2010, Lohan's probation was again revoked after a random drug test revealed cocaine in her system. Instead of being sent back to jail, the authorities shipped Lohan off to the Betty Ford rehabilitation facility.

     A staff worker at the Betty Ford Center, in December 2010, accused Lohan of attacking her after the staff employee asked Lohan to take a drug/alcohol test. The staffer later dropped the charges. (I wonder how much that cost.)

     In February 2011, police arrested Lohan in connection with the felony theft of a $2,500 necklace from a Venice, California jewelry store. She pleaded not guilty and made bail. A month later, the judge in Lohan's 2007 cocaine/DUI case, revoked her probation and sentenced her to 120 days in the Lynwood jail. She was also ordered to complete the 480 hours of community service. In the meantime, she pleaded guilt to the misdemeanor theft of the $2,500 necklace.

     After a few days behind bars, the sheriff, citing overcrowding, kicked Lohan out of jail again. (I don't buy the overcrowding rationale. I think jail personnel simply found housing this pain-in-the-neck celebrity too disruptive, and not worth the effort.) While Lohan served the remainder of her jail sentence under house arrest, she failed to complete the required 480 hours of community service. As a result, the judge revoked her probation again, and kicked up her bail another $100,000. (They put her bail bondsman on suicide-watch. Just kidding.)

     On March 14, 2012, the LAPD investigated Lohan for allegedly bumping a person with her car outside a Hollywood nightclub, then fleeing the scene. The LA prosecutor in charge of the matter, citing lack of evidence, dropped the case. In September of that year, Lohan took her one-woman crime wave to the east coast. While outside a fancy Manhattan hotel, she clipped another person with her car, then sped off. Again, no charges were filed. A month later, Lindsay and her mother Dina allegedly got into a fight at the family home on Long Island. No charges were filed in that case either.

     Police officers in New York City, on November 29, 2012, arrested Lohan on suspicion of misdemeanor battery in connection with the alleged assault of a woman at a Manhattan nightclub. The supposed victim, a psychic named Tiffany Mitchell, claimed that Lohan, after calling her a "f-ing Gypsy," punched her in the face. (You would think a psychic would see the punch coming.)

     Lohan's ongoing trouble with the law might have finally caught up with her. While she was still on probation from the necklace theft, the police in Santa Monica, on the day of the alleged assault of the psychic, filed new charges against Lohan that are related to her June 2007 cocaine/DUI case. Lohan was accused of giving false information to a police officer, obstructing justice, and reckless driving. All of these offenses carried jail sentences.

     On December 3, 2012, the IRS seized Lohan's bank accounts. According to the government, she owes $233,904 in unpaid taxes for the years 2009 and 2010.

     In 2013, Lohan did a series of interviews with Oprah that earned her $2 million. Most of that money, however, was earmarked for taxes, rehab fees, and further IRS debts. She was left with $500,000.

     In October 2017, in a red-carpet interview, Lohan incurred the wrath of almost everyone when she defended the disgraced Hollywood executive, Harvey Weinstein. "I feel bad for Harvey Weinstein right now," she said. "I don't think it's right what's going on." Lohan had supporting roles in two of Weinstein Company productions.

     In January 2019, the 38-year-old Lohan was back on television with a MTV show called "Lindsay Lohan's Book Club." 

Reagan National University: A Visa Mill?

     Over the past several years, dozens of colleges and universities in the United States have been designated so-called "visa mills." A visa mill is defined generally as a substandard educational institution that doles out visas to high-paying foreign "students" who are less interested in acquiring an American education as an American job and place to live. Most of these aliens overstay their visas and end up being in the country illegally.

     In January 2020, reporters with USA Today launched an investigation into Reagan National University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The reporters were unable to find any faculty members, administrators, or the president of the university. Moreover, they could not identify a single student of the school.

     When the investigative journalists visited the address listed for Reagan National University, the building was empty. Also, no one answered phone calls or e-mails to the school.

     In 2017, Reagan National University received accreditation from the Accrediting Council For Independent Colleges and Schools, an organization known for accrediting schools that turned out to be visa mills. 

The Tricky Science Of Death House Electrocution

     Divorced from the emotional and ethical aspects of the matter, electrocution can be pictured as a purely physical process. The body--seen as a conductor of electricity--is a leathery bag containing a solution of electrolytes. Though electricity does not move in a perfectly straight line as is passes from entrance to exit, the greatest density of current is along the line connecting the two points of contact. But because the human body is a complex object for the current to pass though--unlike a uniform substance such as copper wire or salt water--the actual resistance of the body may vary greatly during the time the electricity is moving through it. The effects of the shock are often impossible to predict.

     To make electrocution as efficient and expedient a process as possible, certain techniques of preparation have been developed. Like a patient being readied for surgery, the prisoner to be executed goes though an exacting process before the actual procedure occurs. Very important is the maximizing of contact. The prisoner's scalp is shaved down to stubble; a safety razor is used then to clear a spot at the center of the head. This is the place where the soaked sponge of the death cap will make contact. Similarly, an area approximately six inches above the ankle is shaved, to make the optimum connection with the ground pad.

     Everything possible is done to ensure that the mechanism works as desired. The connection at head and leg soaked with conductive Electro-Creme or paste-like brine solution--is the most efficient way of transferring electrical current into the body. Voltages and amperages are finely calibrated. The system itself is checked and rechecked, tested and inspected. Hundreds of previous executions give the prison personnel a good idea of what to expect. A controlled environment, witnesses, accurate analytic tools, the frequent presence of doctors and nurses lend the execution the air of a scientific experiment. But the body is always a variable.

Th. Metzger, Blood & Volts, 1996

Writer's Angst

Writer's angst? Forget it. You want angst? Lose your wallet, or get a bad haircut. If writing causes you angst, quit and do something else.

Journalism's Objectivity Myth

There is no such thing as purely objective journalism, and there never has been. All reporters have opinions and biases, and these feelings seep into their work. It's time to put this ridiculous lie to rest.

Word Abuse

Since when did everything look, taste, and feel "amazing?" What does "amazing" look, taste, and feel like? It's amazing how this poor word has been abused. It's time for a word assassin to put it out of its misery. And how about "literally." National TV commentators and reporters say things like, "On the debate stage, they "literally" ripped him to threads." I glad I didn't witness that. Or how about this: "She is "literally over the hill." What hill? Is she missing?


Talking Versus Writing

Those who tell stories better than they write them are the bane of editors. Editors dread wasting time on captivating talkers whose words lose their fizz on the page. Obviously, writing skills transcend conversational skills. But the drama and flair we bring to telling stories is too often lost once our words are nailed down on paper. Most of us converse better than we write because we feel so much less vulnerable when addressing a limited number of ears. While talking, we can alter material or adjust our delivery in response to cues from others. If things get out of hand, we can change the subject altogether. Even when they bomb, spoken words float off toward Mars. They can always be denied. "That isn't what I said!" is a great court of last resort. But words we've committed to paper [or online] can be held in evidence against us as long as that paper exists. Is it any wonder that we're scared to make this commitment?

Ralph Keyes, The Courage to Write, 1995

Saturday, February 22, 2020

O. J. Simpson and The Revisionist True Crime Genre

     William C. Dear, the owner of a private investigation agency in Dallas, Texas, had over the years published a handful of nonfiction books featuring his adventures as a larger-than-life PI. A master of self-promotion in the mold of Allan Pinkerton, William Burns, and J. J. Arms (remember him?). Mr. Dear was in the news following the release of his 2012 book, O. J. Is Innocent and I Can Prove It. (A bold, if not artistic title.)

     As if exonerating one of America's most hated men is not enough, William Dear was accusing O. J.'s son Jason of the June 1994 murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. When revisionist true crime writers exonerate celebrated criminals by incriminating others, they usually accuse dead people who can't sue them for libel. Jason Simpson, who was 24-years-old when the Los Angeles police arrested his father, was alive at the time of the accusation.

     In the other twentieth century "crime of the century," the state of New Jersey, on April 3, 1936, electrocuted Bruno Richard Hauptmann for the 1932 murder of 20-month-old Charles Lindbergh, Jr. In the 1980s and 90s, a half dozen hack true crime writers produced books that exonerated Hauptmann, and incriminated Charles Lindbergh, Al Capone, John F. Condon, Ellis Parker, and a host of others. At least three of these books make the case that the Lindbergh baby wasn't even murdered, that the authorities had misidentified the corpse (wearing the Lindbergh baby's clothing) found two miles from the Lindbergh estate. In reality, the evidence against Hauptmann had been substantial while the "proof" against the literary suspects turned out to be flimsy, and in many cases, bogus. Readers familiar with the history of the Lindbergh case, including several serious Lindbergh biographers, saw the revisionist books for what they were--fiction passed off as nonfiction. Nevertheless, these "Hauptmann is Innocent and I Can Prove It" books attracted a lot of attention, and drew more than a few dedicated followers.

     Unlike real investigative journalists, the authors of revisionist true crime books start with a theory and point of view, and ignore or try to explain away any facts that do not support, or conflict with, their thesis. In making the case against their suspects, true crime book revisionists frequently present negative evidence as either incriminating or exonerating. For example, in the Lindbergh case, Hauptmann must be innocent because the police didn't recover his latent fingerprints from the crime scene. In this genre of nonfiction crime writing, a revisionist's suspect can be guilty simply because he didn't have an alibi. That's how they do it. When you break these books down, there's nothing there but conjecture, speculation, wishful thinking, and the authors' beliefs. And quite often, evidence is presented that is simply fiction.

     True crime revisionists get away with their literary tricks because we live in an era where facts and knowledge get little respect, and there is no such thing as objective truth. Today, what one believes is true trumps what one knows is true. People who want criminals like Bruno Richard Hauptmann and O. J. Simpson to be innocent eagerly go along with the joke.

    What was written (or not written) on the dust jacket of William Dear's book revealed it was not a work to be taken seriously. For example: "Once Dear established in his own mind that O. J. Simpson was innocent, he focused his attention on six possible suspects." In all probability, Dear began with a single suspect, then cleared away the debris that conflicted with his theory. If O. J. was in fact innocent, and his son was guilty, then the evidence against Jason Simpson should be much stronger, and more convincing than the evidence that was presented against his father. It was not. Here was William Dear's "startling new evidence that is certain to change everyone's perception of O. J.'s guilt:"

     In Jason's abandoned storage locker, Dear found a hunting knife. (This knife, however did not contain a mixture of Jason's and the victims' DNA or any other evidence to establish it as the murder weapon.)

     After the murders, Jason Simpson retained an attorney.

     Jason Simpson did not have an airtight alibi.

     Jason was depicted in a photograph wearing a knit cap similar to the one discovered at the crime scene. (If the crime scene hat contained hair follicles from Jason's head, and bore traces of the victims' blood, that would be incriminating.)

     Two months before the murders, Jason Simpson allegedly assaulted his girlfriend. According to a criminal profiler, Jason's personality was more homicidal than his father's.

     According to William Dear, while O. J. was present at the crime scene, he did not commit the murders. (This was helpful because it explained away the physical evidence connecting O. J. to the victims.) According to Mr. Dear, O. J.'s only crime was that he took steps to cover-up the fact his son had killed Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman. So, why did Jason Simpson kill Nicole? He murdered her because she had decided, at the last moment, not to dine at the restaurant where he worked as a chef. This was, therefore, a double murder motivated by injured pride.

     In reality, William Dear's revisionist version of the O. J. Simpson case didn't offer enough evidence to indict the proverbial ham sandwich. Patterson Smith, the antiquarian bookseller from New Jersey who knows more about the literature of true crime than anyone, wrote the following about the true crime revisionist genre:

     "Of all crime books published, those posing revisionist theories tend to attract the greatest media attention. They are 'news.' Far from merely adding to our knowledge of a past event or re-embellishing a tale previously grown stale in the retelling, they say to us, 'You've been wrong about this case.' And if someone is thought to have been unjustly convicted and executed, the news is all the stronger.

     "It has, after all, been observed that Americans have a greater sense of injustice than of justice. When a revisionist account reaches reviewers, the arguments put forth by its author can seem extraordinarily compelling, for very often the book does not aim for balance but selects only those facts that support its divergent thesis.

     "Moreover--and this is very important--the reviewer of a book on crime written for the general public often has little or no background in the case which could help him weigh the author's novel contentions against countervailing evidence. The reviewer sees only one side of the story, and it usually looks good."

    O. J. Is Innocent and I Can Prove It didn't contained nearly enough evidence to convince many readers that O. J. was innocent, and that his son was the guilty party. 

The Shocking Uses of 19th Century Electricity

In 1878, electric shock was used as a substitute for floggings in the Ohio State Penitentiary, where prisoners were forced to sit naked in three inches of water while currant ran through it. At the same time that electricity was being used to punish, it was also touted as a cure-all. Galvanic belts, electrical corsets, magnetic healing, and dozens of electro-therapeutic devices, were patented and sold as cures for everything from toothache to cancer.

Th. Metzger, Blood & Volts, 1996

George Orwell

George Orwell, one of the finest writers of his generation, while dodging World War II bombs in London, wrote: "As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead trying to kill me."

TV Personalities Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, and Truman Capote

People used to refer to television as the "boob-tube." At first, TV watching was not something a lot of people wanted to admit. "Oh, I don't watch much TV," they'd lie. So, who were the boobs, the people who watched TV, or the people who were on TV? While the folks in the television business were beginning the process of lowering standards of good taste, they were at least getting paid for contaminating American culture. Novelists Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, and Gore Vidal were the first novelists who helped their book sales by becoming television personalities. It apparently didn't bother these writers that they made public fools of themselves, and made it difficult for novelists who were unwilling or unable to become media whores.