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Thursday, May 26, 2022

Murder She Wrote: The Nancy Crampton Brophy Murder Case

     Sixty-three-year-old Daniel Brophy, a master gardener and expert on marine biology who also knew a lot about the growing of mushrooms, was the chief instructor at the Oregon Culinary Institute located in the Portland, Oregon neighborhood of Goose Hollow. Brophy and his 68-year-old wife of 27 years, Nancy Crampton Brophy, resided in nearby Beaverton, Oregon.

     Nancy Brophy was a self-published author of nine "romance suspense" novels featuring, according to the author's website, "pretty men and strong women." She promoted her fiction which was available on Kindle on her website. All of her male protagonists were Navy SEALS.

     At eight-thirty on Saturday, June 2, 2018, officers with the Portland Police Bureau responded to a 911 call regarding a man who had been found shot to death in the culinary school's kitchen area. The authorities identified the victim as Danial Brophy. He had been shot with a 9mm pistol.

     Other than perhaps a disgruntled culinary student detectives didn't have a clue as to who had shot the instructor. Without an eyewitness they didn't have much to go on.

     On Sunday, June 3, 2018, the day following Chef Brophy's homicide, Nancy Brophy wrote the following on her Facebook page: "For my Facebook friends and family, I have sad news to relate. My husband and best friend, Chef Dan Brophy was killed yesterday morning...I am struggling to make sense of this right now."

     The next day, Nancy Brophy attended a candlelight vigil for her dead husband that was held outside the Oregon Culinary Institute.

     By July 2018 detectives had started thinking about the possibility that Mr. Brophy had been killed by his wife. In November 2011, on her blog "See Jane Publish," Nancy Brophy had posted a 700-word essay entitled, "How to Murder Your Husband." Regarding her marriage to Daniel Brophy, she wrote: "My husband and I are both on our second (and final--trust me!) marriage. We vowed, prior to saying 'I do,' that we would not end in divorce. We did not, I should note, rule out a tragic drive-by shooting or a suspicious accident."

      In her murder essay Brophy wrote that she and her husband had their "ups and downs but more good times than bad." The romance novelist also had plenty to say on the subject of murder: "I find it easier to wish people dead than to actually kill them...But the thing I know about murder is that every one of us have it in him/her when pushed far enough."

     In her treatise on how to get away with murder Nancy Brophy advised against hiring a hit man who are almost always caught and spill their guts. Do the job yourself, she wrote. 

     In Brophy's 2015 novel, The Wrong Cop, the female protagonist fantasizes about murdering her husband. In The Wrong Husband, also published in 2015, Brophy's female hero tries to flee an abusive marriage by faking her own death.

     On September 5, 2018, detectives with the Portland Police Bureau took Nancy Crampton Brophy into custody for killing her husband Daniel. At her arraignment hearing, the prosecutor charged her with murder and the unlawful use of a weapon. (Presumably the 9mm pistol.) The defendant pleaded not guilty and the judge denied her bail. Officers booked the homicide widow into the Multnomah County Jail where she would await her trial.

     In April 2020, Brophy's lawyer petitioned the court to have her released on bail due to the threat of being infected with the COVID-19 virus. The judge denied the request. 
     Nancy Brophy went on trial in early April 2022. The prosecution's key witness, the defendant's cellmate at the Multomah County Jail, testified that Brophy had described to her in detail how she had murdered her husband. Brophy did not take the stand on her own behalf.
     On May 25, 2022, the Multomah County jury found Nancy Brophy guilty of second-degree murder. The judge set her sentencing hearing for June 13, 2022.

The Lois Riess Double Murder Case

     On March 23, 2018, in Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, Dodge County sheriff deputies went to the home of 59-year-old David Riess after his business partner reported that he hadn't seen him for two weeks. Riess's wife Lois had texted friends that Mr. Riess was not well and should not be bothered at home. At the Riess house police officers discovered David Riess's body. He had been shot to death with a .22-caliber gun that was not at the murder scene. Lois Riess was not in the house and no one knew where she was.

     A few days after the discovery of Mr. Riess' body Lois Riess began forging checks drawn on his bank account. The checks were cashed in south Florida.

     A few days after the discovery of Mr. Riess's body Dodge County, Minnesota prosecutor charged Mrs. Riess with the murder of her husband. At this point the missing 56-year-old murder suspect became known in the local media as "The Grandma Fugitive."

     While hiding in Fort Myers, Florida Lois Riess met Pamela Hutchinson, a woman who looked a lot like her. The 54-year-old Hutchinson lived in Bradenton, Florida but was staying in a hotel in Fort Myers where she had traveled to visit a friend.

     On April 5, 2018 Lois Riess shot Pamela Hutchinson to death in the victim's hotel room. Her body was discovered four days after the murder. Police officers recovered the murder weapon, a .22-caliber handgun from the scene. This weapon was determined to be the gun used to kill David Riess in Minnesota. Lois Riess had killed Mrs. Hutchinson, her lookalike, in order to use her identification. From Florida Riess drove to Texas in the murder victim's car.

     On April 10, 2018, a Lee County, Florida prosecutor charged Lois Riess with the first-degree murder of Pamela Hutchinson.

     On April 19, 2018, U.S. Marshals took "The Fugitive Grandma" into custody in South Padre Island, Texas. Riess was having a cocktail at a waterfront restaurant.

     Lois Riess, in December 2019, pleaded guilty to murdering Pamela Hutchinson in Fort Myers, Florida. The Lee County judge sentenced her to life in prison.

     Following Riess' guilty plea, the Dodge County authorities in Minnesota began the process of extraditing her back to that state to stand trial for the March 2018 murder of her husband.
     In April 2020 Lois Riess pleaded guilty to murdering David Riess. The judge sentenced her to life in prison without parole.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

The Mitchelle Blair Murder Case

     On Tuesday morning March 24, 2014, Wayne County court bailiff Lee Gordon and her crew entered an apartment in Detroit to evict the family and clear the property. The subjects of the eviction, 35-year-old Mitchelle Blair and her four children by two men, resided in the Martin Luther King Apartments, a low-income housing complex on the city's east side. Neither of the children's fathers lived in the dwelling and both owed thousands of dollars in child support.

     Shortly after 36th District Court bailiff Gordon and her crew entered the vacant apartment someone lifted the lid to a freezer that sat just inside the dwelling. In the freezer the eviction crew member discovered the frozen body of a girl inside a black plastic bag. Court bailiff Gordon called 911.

     Responding police officers and emergency personnel found, beneath the girl's frozen corpse, the body of a boy, also inside a black plastic container. The girl had on a pink jacket and the boy had been wrapped in a white sheet.

     A neighbor of Mitchelle Blair's told police officers that the mother of the dead children was babysitting a friend's baby in a nearby apartment. When taken into custody Mitchelle Blair said, "They're both dead. I did it." At the police station she confessed fully to killing her 13-year-old daughter Stoni Blair on May 25, 2013. The suspect said she later murdered her 9-year-old son, Stephen Berry. The mother said she made her 17-year-old daughter place the bodies into the home freezer.

     When asked by a detective why she had murdered her two children the suspect said she had killed them because they had sexually molested their 8-year-old brother.

     Officers booked Mitchelle Blair into the Wayne County Jail on suspicion of child abuse and murder.

     Social workers took the other two Blair children, the 17-year-old and her 8-year-old brother, into protective custody. Neighbors told investigators that they rarely saw the home schooled children outside of the housing unit.

     A spokesperson for the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office said the bodies would have to thaw before autopsies could be performed. The process would have to occur slowly to preserve potential evidence.

      A few days after the shocking discovery in the freezer detectives learned that over the years all four of Mitchelle Blair's children had been repeatedly beaten with a two-by-four board, burned with an ironing rod, whipped and choked with a belt. The bodies all bore scars of prolonged physical abuse.

     Autopsies determined that the two children in the freezer had died from multiple blunt force trauma and burns. The medical examiner ruled their deaths as homicide. The forensic pathologist found physical evidence of prior physical abuse.

     On March 29, 2015, Alex Dorsey, the father of the murdered 13-year-old girl told a reporter that he hadn't seen his child in two years. Every time he showed up at the housing complex to visit his daughter, Mitchelle Blair told him the girl wasn't home. Efforts by Dorsey to gain custody of his other child were contested by the county's child protection agency.

     On March 30, 2015, Mitchelle Blair's attorney, Wyatt G. Harris, told reporters that his client was being held in isolation at the Wayne County Jail. In a statement that was outlandish even for a defense attorney, Mr. Harris said, "She realizes she has some challenges to work through. I met with her and she's doing okay, but there are things she needs to get through and she'll get through them."

     Challenges? Doing okay?  How could this child abuser and double murderer be doing "okay"? Moreover, who cared how she was doing?

     At Blair's arraignment on April 2, 2015 the defendant entered a plea of not guilty to the charges of murder. The judge ordered a team of state and private psychiatrists to evaluate her to determine if she was mentally competent to understand the criminal charges against her.

     A few days after her arrest Wayne County Jail officials took Blair out of isolation and placed her into a cell with another person. Blair, shortly after the transfer, assaulted her cellmate.

     On July 17, 2015, Wayne County Judge Dana Hathaway, following Mitchelle Blair's guilty plea, sentenced her to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The Zakieya Avery Exorcism Murder Case

     Zakieya Latrice Avery resided in a Germantown, Maryland row house with her four children, ages one through eight. Twenty-one-year old Monifa Sanford lived under the same roof with the Avery family. The women had met at a church called Exousia Ministries of Germantown. (It was one of 600 or more non-Catholic churches around the world where exorcism was practiced.) The 28-year-old mother of four and her husband, Martin Luther Harris, Jr., were separated. He lived in Los Angeles. Zakieya had once resided in Gaithersburg, Maryland where she had worked as a pharmacy technician.

     On Thursday night January 16, 2014, one of Zakieya Avery's neighbors in the community north of Washington, D.C. dialed 911 to report an unattended child inside a car outside the Avery house. When officers with the Montgomery County Police Department responded to the 911 call the child was no longer in the vehicle. Officers knocked on Avery's door but no one answered. The officers left the scene but reported the matter to a child protection agency.

     The next morning at 9:30 the concerned neighbor called 911 again. This time the caller reported a car with its doors standing open parked outside the Avery residence. A bloody knife lay on the ground near the vehicle.

     Upon the arrival of the police Zakeiya Avery ran out of the house through her back door but didn't get far. Inside the dwelling officers discovered the dead bodies of one-year-old Norell Harris and his two-year-old sister Zyana. The children had been stabbed several times. It appeared they had been attacked while sleeping. In another bedroom officers found five-year-old Taniya and eight-year-old Martello. These two children had also been stabbed but were alive. The two wounded siblings were rushed to a nearby hospital.

     Avery's adult housemate, Monifa Sanford, was also taken to a hospital where she was treated for cuts.

     Police officers took Zakieya Avery into custody at the scene. The next day detectives arrested Monifa Sanford. Both women were charged with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. Police officers booked the suspects into the Montgomery County Jail where they were held without bond.

     A few days after the murder arrests, Captain Marcus Jones, head of the major crimes unit, told reporters that Zakieya Avery thought her kids were possessed by the Devil which led to a botched exorcism procedure and the deaths. Monifa Sanford was in custody because she had assisted in the deadly ritual. According to the police officer both suspects had confessed.

     Avery's step-grandmother, Sylvia Wade, told a reporter with the Washington Post that Avery was "humble and meek" and said she loved her children. "I don't know what triggered it. She wasn't herself."

     In January 2015, after Monifa Sanford pleaded guilty to the assaults and two murders the judge declared her legally insane and sentenced her to an indeterminate incarceration at a state psychiatric hospital.

     On September 15, 2016 Zakieya Avery also pleaded guilty to the murders and the assaults. A Montgomery County, Maryland judge ruled that she was also legally insane at the time she attacked her children. Instead of prison the judge sent Avery to a maximum security psychiatric hospital where she would stay until her doctors declared her sane enough to leave the mental institution.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The Hemy Neuman Murder Case

     In the late 1980s, Hemy Neuman, a young American engineer living and working in Israel, met his future wife Ariela, an Israeli-born school teacher. In 2010 the 47-year-old engineer and his stay-at-home wife were separated. Hemy had moved out of their lavish home in Cobb County, Georgia in August of that year. While Mr. Neuman had a high-paying job as a project manager with GE Energy, he was in financial trouble. His expensive lifestyle--the big house, luxury cars, expensive restaurants and elaborate vacations--had caught up with him. His three children were also attending college. Now his wife was filing for divorce.

     Ariela Neuman had kicked Hemy out of the house because she believed he was having an affair with a 36-year-old woman he had hired at GE. Neuman and Andrea Schneiderman, his suspected lover, denied the accusation. Andrea's husband, Russell "Rusty" Schneiderman, although he had a MBA from Harvard, was out of work. The couple had two young children.

     On the morning of November 18, 2010, Rusty Schneiderman dropped off his 2-year-old son at the Dunwoody Prep nursery school 15 miles north of Atlanta. As the father returned to his car Hemy Neuman walked up behind him, and with a .40-caliber Bersa handgun, shot him several times. Schneiderman fell dead at the scene. Neuman climbed into a rented Kia minivan and drove off.

     A week before the murder, Neuman, wearing a fake beard, had crept up to Schneiderman's house with the intent of shooting him there. Hemy's plan fell apart when his intended target came out of the house to check on a gas leak and saw this bearded man lying in his yard. When spotted by his murder target, Mr. Neuman jumped to his feet and ran off.

     When Hemy Neuman's wife Ariela learned of Rusty Schneiderman's murder in front of the Dunwoody nursery school she knew that her husband had killed the victim over Mr. Schneiderman's wife Andrea. Ariela Neuman called the police and filled them in on her estranged husband's affair with the dead man's wife. Ariela described her husband as a risk-taking control freak obsessed with money and his career.

     Several weeks after the police arrested Mr. Neuman on January 4, 2011 he admitted that he had murdered Rusty Schneiderman. He claimed, however, that at the time of the shooting he was so insane he didn't comprehend the nature and quality of his act. In other words, he was so crazy he didn't know right from wrong. After the killing Hemy Neuman regained his sanity, but when he pulled the trigger in front of the nursery school he was so mentally ill he didn't know what he was doing. That was his defense, temporary legal insanity. Investigators didn't buy it and neither did the prosecutor. If Neuman was crazy he was crazy like a fox.

     In February 2012, charged with malice murder (other states call it first-degree murder or capital murder) and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, Hemy Neuman went on trial in a De Kalb County court in Decatur, Georgia.

     The prosecutor played for the jury of nine men and three women a video taped jailhouse interview of the defendant by psychiatrist Dr. Pamela Crawford. During the interview Neuman told Dr. Crawford that he had initially considered stabbing Rusty Schneiderman to death. But he changed his mind because it would be too messy. The defendant thought about poisoning his victim but rejected that idea as too complicated and unreliable. Staging a fatal accident had also crossed Neuman's mind, but in the end he settled on shooting the man to death at close range. He preferred this method because it was simple and sure-fire.

     Following the video of his interview of the defendant, Dr. Crawford testified that a truly delusional, psychotic person would not have gone through the above thought processes. A really crazy person would have acted impulsively without all of that thinking and planning. The defendant, in Dr. Crawford's expert opinion, wasn't crazy. The entire insanity defense was therefore a sham.

     For the defense, forensic psychologist Dr. Andriana Flores testified that Mr. Neuman suffered from an undiagnosed and untreated bipolar disorder accompanied by psychosis. (In other words, he had no history of mental illness.) According to the defense psychologist, Neuman suffered from delusions and a condition called erotomania. As an erotomania sufferer the defendant only thought he was having an affair with the wife of the man he shot to death.  And it got better: Before the killing, Hemy Neuman, according to Dr. Flores, had been visited by an angel who spoke in Oliva Newton-John's voice. This imagined angel had informed the defendant that Mr. Schneiderman's children were actually his. This revelation was reinforced by a message from a second angel who sounded like Barry White!

     On March 14, 2012 after two days of deliberation the jury, presented with three possible verdicts--guilty; not guilty by virtue of insanity; or guilty but mentally ill--found Hemy Neuman guilty but mentally ill. That meant that while he would receive mental health treatment, he'd get it while serving his time in prison. The next day the judge sentenced Hemy Neuman to life behind bars with no chance of parole.

     On Thursday, August 2, 2012, Andrea Sneiderman, the wife of the man Hemy Neuman had murdered, was charged with malice murder, criminal attempt to commit murder, racketeering, two counts of perjury, and two counts of insurance fraud. According the Andrea Schneiderman's indictment she and the convicted killer were having an affair. The couple had conspired to kill Rusty Schneiderman with the intent of "acquiring property, money and life insurance proceeds." The murdered man's wife had received a $2 million life insurance payment as well as $960,000 in various bank accounts.

     In July 2013, following a two-hour hearing, Judge Gregory Adams dropped the murder, racketeering and insurance fraud charges against Andrea Schneiderman. The prosecutor had lost confidence in the reliability of a key prosecution witness. She still faced thirteen other criminal charges related to the murder of her husband.

     Andrea Schneiderman, a month after the above hearing, was convicted of nine felonies in connection with the Neuman case. She did not testify on her own behalf. The jury found her guilty of four counts of perjury, three counts of giving false statements, one count of hindering the apprehension of a criminal and a count of concealing material facts.

     On August 20, 2013 at her sentencing hearing, Schneiderman's friends and family testified on her behalf. When it came her turn to speak to the court Andrea Schneiderman said, "Please let me go home to my kids. Please don't let them live without their mother." The De Kalb County District Attorney asked the judge to sentence Sneiderman to twenty years. Judge Adams sentenced her to five years in prison.

Assisted Suicide: The Willard Skellie Case

     In America, suicide is not a crime, but in all states but one, helping someone take their life is a form of criminal  homicide. In New York state the act of assisted suicide is prosecuted as second-degree manslaughter which carries a sentence of five to fifteen years.

     Willard F. Skellie and his wife Kathy lived in a two-story house in Glens Falls, New York 45 miles north of Albany. In 2012 Kathy Skellie suffered from mental illness and clinical depression. The 59-year-old woman also struggled with the side-effects of her anti-psychotic medication and experienced panic attacks whenever she left the house. As a result she spent days at a time locked into her bedroom. Early in 2012 she tried to kill herself with a knife.

     At the end of her rope, Kathy asked her 69-year-old husband to buy a gun and teach her how to use it. Knowing that she intended to use the weapon to commit suicide, Willard purchased a 12-gauge shotgun and showed his wife how to operate it. As he demonstrated how the shotgun worked Kathy made notes on a sheet of paper. When Willard loaded the gun, he altered the first two rounds so they wouldn't fire, hoping that two misfires would discourage Kathy from killing herself. Kathy took the loaded weapon to her room.

     On Friday, December 14, 2012, Willard Skellie went deer hunting in the morning and didn't return until evening. He went to bed that night without checking on Kathy. Early the next morning he went hunting again and when he returned to the house a few hours later forced his way into his wife's bedroom. He found that Kathy had used the shotgun to shoot herself in the head. He called 911.

     Officers with the Glens Falls Police Department asked Mr. Skellie if he had helped his wife take her own life. After he denied helping her in any way a detective asked if he'd be willing to take a polygraph test at the state police headquarters in Greenwich, New York. Mr. Skellie agreed to take the lie detection exam.

     On Sunday, December 16, 2012, when detectives informed Mr. Skellie that the polygraph examiner believed he had lied when he denied helping his wife kill herself, he confessed to his role in her death. Mr. Skellie also admitted destroying the notes Kathy had taken regarding how to operate the shotgun. In his confession, Mr. Skellie said, "She was in mental pain from everything. She just couldn't take it anymore."

     On the day of Mr. Skellie's confession, Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan charged him with tampering with physical evidence and second-degree manslaughter. Unable to post his $100,000 cash bail Mr. Skellies was incarcerated in the Warren County Jail.

     In May 2013, Willard Skellie pleaded guilty to helping his wife kill herself. Judge John Hall sentenced Mr. Skellie to five years probation and 1,000 hours of community service. 

Monday, May 23, 2022

The Richard Kirk Murder Case

     In 2014, Richard Kirk, 47, resided in Denver's Observatory Park neighborhood not far from the University of Denver. Richard and his wife Kristine purchased the upscale, Tudor style home in 2005. The couple had three soccer-playing grade school boys. Richard's friends described him as a religious, happy-go-lucky man devoted to his family.

     On December 23, 1993, while living in Dallas, Texas, Richard, then single, was charged with felony assault. The prosecutor dropped the charge to a misdemeanor offense then eventually dismissed the case altogether. At the time his future wife Kristine resided five miles away in a Dallas apartment. (Richard Kirk's alleged victim was not identified in the media.)

     In 2000 a police officer in Douglas County, Colorado arrested Richard for driving under the influence. (The disposition of this case is unknown.) These two incidents comprised the extent of Kirk's arrest record.

     At 9:32 on the night of Monday, April 14, 2014, 44-year-old Kristine A. Kirk called a 911 dispatcher in Denver to report a domestic disturbance at her residence. She said her husband had been smoking marijuana and was frightening their three young sons. According to Kristine he had also been hallucinating and talking about the end of the world. Most disturbingly he said he wanted her to shoot him to death.

     The dispatcher asked Kristine if there was a gun in the dwelling. The caller said yes, but it was locked inside a safe. The 911 call suddenly turned ominous when Kristine informed the dispatcher that her husband had gotten the handgun out of the safe and was holding it in his hand.

     About thirteen minutes into the 911 call the dispatcher heard a scream and then a gunshot. At that point the line went dead. The dispatcher immediately upgraded the 911 call from a domestic disturbance case to a "code 10"--a possible shooting.

     That night, two Denver police officers rolled up to the Kirk house on South St. Paul Street. Three minutes later one of the officers called for an ambulance and advised the 911 dispatcher that they "were going to need homicide."

     An officer put Richard Kirk into handcuffs and escorted him to the patrol car. From the backseat of the police vehicle, without prompting, the suspect admitted shooting his wife to death.

     The next day a local prosecutor charged Richard Kirk with first-degree murder. At his arraignment on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 the judge advised the suspect of the charge against him, assigned him a public defender and ordered him held without bail. Kirk showed no emotion as he stood before the magistrate.

     The media, as it often does in high-profile crimes, began assessing blame. In this case reporters were quick to note that since 2008, 911 response time at the Denver Police Department had grown longer. According to a police spokesperson, budget cuts and fewer officers on patrol had adversely affected police response time to domestic calls.

     Notwithstanding the 15 minute lapse between the victim's 911 call and the arrival of the officers, there was no way to know for sure if a faster police response would have saved Kristine Kirk's life.

     Because marijuana was legal in Colorado the media made a big deal over the fact that before allegedly murdering his wife Richard Kirk had smoked pot.

     In February 2017, blaming marijuana for the killing, Richard Kirk pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. On April 8, 2017 the judge sentenced him to 30 years in prison. Kirk had relinquished custody of his three sons to his dead wife's parents.

The Emily Lambert Murder Case

      In September 2013, Emily Lambert, a third grade teacher at the O Henry Elementary School near Plano, Texas, a suburban community just north of Dallas, divorced her husband Donavan. The couple had daughters aged four and five. Emily and Donavan, following the break up, remained on good terms.

     Shortly after the divorce the 33-year-old resident of Lewisville began dating a man from Euless, Texas named Robert Early.

     On Saturday, March 1, 2014, Lambert and Early were booked into the Stevens Best Western Inn in Carlsbad, New Mexico. He was on a work assignment and she had accompanied him for the weekend. The next morning Early called the Carlsbad Police Department and reported Emily missing.

     When questioned by police officers the 33-year-old Early said he and his missing girlfriend had left the motel bar--the Blue Cactus Lounge--at eleven-thirty the previous night. When they got back to their room they argued. Emily became so angry she stormed out of the motel. When she didn't return in the morning he called the police.

     Mr. Early described Emily Lambert as five-foot-six, 175 pounds, with long blond hair and a large tattoo of an owl on her back. He said she had left the room without her wallet and her cell phone.

     At four-thirty in the afternoon of Tuesday, March 4, 2014, police officers discovered the body of a female that matched the description of the woman missing from the Best Western Inn. The corpse was found in a field along State Road 31 near Loving, New Mexico, eight miles southeast of Carlsbad. Officers identified the body as Emily Lambert.

     That night detectives questioned Robert Early at the Carlsbad Police Department. In the course of the interrogation session he confessed to killing his girlfriend.

     After returning to their room after an evening of drinking at the motel bar the couple got into a physical fight that led to her being knocked unconscious. From the room Early carried Emily to his silver 2007 Hyundai Elantra.

     With Emily in the Hyundai, Robert drove to a remote area. When he took Emily out of the car she regained consciousness. They fought again, and this time he knocked her out with an air pump. He tied one end of a rope around her neck and closed the other end in the passenger's side car door. With her tethered to the vehicle he climbed behind the wheel and dragged her body to where it was found.

     At one o'clock that morning Carlsbad police officers booked Robert Early into the Eddy County Detention Center on the charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and tampering with evidence. The judge set his bail at $1 million.

     In May 2015, a jury sitting in Carlsbad, New Mexico found Robert Early guilty as charged. The judge sentenced Early to the mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

The William Simmons Murder Case: An Unlikely Conviction

     Kaelin Rose Glazier, a 15-year-old sophomore at South Medford High School in Rush, Oregon, disappeared on November 6, 1996 after watching a video in a house trailer with 16-year-old William Frank Simmons. The missing girl had skipped church that evening to meet her boyfriend, Clifford Ruhland, at Simmons' trailer. According to Simmons the boyfriend didn't show up, and after he and Glazier watched the video she departed.

     The local police, believing that the missing girl had run away from home, waited 21 days before investigating the case as an abduction and possible murder. Simmons, a big kid who had been in trouble with the law and was the last known person to have seen the girl alive became the first and only suspect in the investigation. Years passed, and without the girl's body, the case ground to a halt. Every once in awhile detectives would question William Simmons at the police station, and every time he would deny having anything to do with the girl's disappearance.

     People don't vanish into thin air. In 2008, 12 years after Glazier went to Simmons' trailer, a man mowing a field 80 feet from the place she was last seen uncovered skeletal remains. According to a forensic anthropologist the bones were consistent with the remains of a 15-year-old girl.

     At the recovery site investigators discovered a skull wrapped in duct tape, a tennis shoe, part of a bra, and some jewelry that had belonged to the missing girl. While the medical examiner officially identified the remains as Glazier's and ruled her death a homicide, the forensic pathologist could not determine the precise cause of death. The police theorized she had been suffocated or strangled. DNA evidence from the duct tape did not match the victim's boyfriend or William Simmons.

     On April 10, 2010, the local prosecutor charged William Simmons with murder, and as a backup charge, first-degree manslaughter. The motive: he had killed the girl after she had rebuffed his sexual advances. After killing her the suspect had supposedly dragged her body to the nearby field. (It's hard to believe it took 12 years for someone to find, 80 feet from where she was last seen, Glazier's remains. Was anybody really looking for her?)

     The Simmons murder trial got underway on February 14, 2012 in the Jackson County Circuit Court. The prosecutor, without an eyewitness, confession or physical evidence linking the 31-year-old defendant to the murder, had an extremely weak case. The state didn't even have a jailhouse informant or a murder weapon. All the prosecutor had was the defendant's so-called "motive, means, and opportunity," to commit the crime.

     William Simmons' attorney pointed out that motive, means, and opportunity did not comprise evidence. The defense lawyer reminded jurors that the murdered girl's boyfriend may also have had motive, means, and opportunity in the 16 year old case.

     The jury, after deliberating ten hours, voted 10 to 2 to find the defendant guilty of first-degree manslaughter. (The reckless killing of a person as opposed to an intentional murder.) In Oregon a defendant could be convicted of manslaughter on just 10 guilty votes. To find a person guilty of murder 12 votes are needed. The judge sentenced William Simmons to the mandatory 10 years in prison.

     At a hearing in May 2012 the convicted man's attorneys, Andrew Vandergaw and Michael Bertoff, in an effort to secure a new trial for their client, put a witness on the stand named Serena Beach. During the Simmons trial Beach had contacted the defense attorneys and said she had "vital information about the case." The lawyers, busy defending the accused man, didn't have time to investigate her allegations.

     According to Serena Beach, in 2003 or 2004, the murder victim's stepfather, Robert Glazier, told her that he "was there when Kaelin Glazier came into the world and was there when she went out." He allegedly said that he knew she was dead and that her body was "down the road."

     The 65-year-old stepfather, who had been questioned three times by detectives during the early stages of the missing persons investigation, took the stand at the hearing to determine if there was sufficient cause to convene a new trial. Mr. Glazier said he knew that some people considered him a suspect in the murder. He testified that there was a person he suspected in the case.

     Judge Benjamin Bloom denied the defense motion for a new trial. The attorneys for William Simmons appealed the judge's ruling.

     It's surprising that Judge Benjamin Bloom even allowed this case to go to a jury in the first place. Motive, means, and opportunity, while a guideline for identifying criminal suspects does not rise to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. (As evidenced in this case by the two not guilty votes.) The evidence in this case was not even enough to sustain liability in a civil wrongful death suit where the standard of proof is merely a preponderance of the evidence. In any other state the Simmons trial would have resulted in a hung jury.

     By any legal standard the William Simmons case represented an odd and unlikely homicide conviction. While Simmons may have been a good suspect and may have committed the crime, that was not enough evidence to put him behind bars for 10 years. If this were the standard of proof in all murder trials a lot of innocent people would end up in prison.

     In April 2020 the United States Supreme Court, in Ramos v. United States, set aside the un-unanimous jury verdict rules in Oregon and Louisiana on grounds such verdicts violated the Sixth Amendment right to a jury. As a result the William Simmons homicide conviction was vacated. 
     William Simmons was not retried for the murder of Rose Glazier. No further arrests were made in this case.

Vehicles In The History of American Crime

     The invention and popularity of the automobile changed and defined the nature of criminal behavior in America and around the world. The motorized vehicle became the instrument and the fruit of crime. Cars, in the old days referred to as "machines," provided a degree of mobility that changed the nature of law enforcement as well. By 1920 police departments across the country were entirely motorized, and soon after that, they were equipped with two-way radios. In 1926, the U.S. Supreme Court, in U.S. v. Carroll, held that an automobile could be searched without a warrant if there was probable cause to believe the vehicle was being used in the commission of a crime. In those days the offense often involved the transportation of contraband liquor. A motorized America and the resultant mobility of the criminal contributed to the federalization of American law enforcement. By the 1930s, bank robbery, kidnapping, interstate car theft and transporting prostitutes across state lines (White Slave Traffic Act) became federal offenses investigated by the FBI. By 1947 the FBI Crime Lab featured a reference collection of tire treads against which crime scene impression could be compared.

     Many crime and police history buffs are fascinated with vehicles owned or used by serial killers, mafia bosses, depression era bank robbers and famous murder victims. People who collect and restore old cars are interested in this aspect of crime history as well. Police and crime museums around the country exhibit old police cars, paddy wagons and vehicles that had been used in historic regional crimes.

Bonnie and Clyde Death Car

     On May 23, 1934, a small army of cops in southern Louisiana ambushed the depression era outlaws Bonnie and Clyde. In a barrage of bullets the police riddled the couple's 1934 gray Ford sedan, killing them both. These folk-hero degenerates had stolen the deluxe sedan in Topeka, Kansas from a woman named Ruth Warren. (For awhile the car was known as the "Warren Death Car.") When the federal government refused to release the blood-soaked Ford, Ruth Warren, realizing its value as crime memorabilia, sued the government and won.

     From 1940 to 1952 the shot-up Ford was on exhibit at an amusement park in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1952 a man with the name Ted Toddy bought the car for $14,500. During the 1980s the Bonnie and Clyde vehicle sat on display at several casino-resorts in Nevada. In 2017 it could be seen at Whiskey Pete's Resort and Casino in Prim, Nevada. (In January 2012 at an auction in Kansas City, Missouri a collector bought two Bonnie and Clyde bank robbery guns. The Thompson submachine gun and the 1897 Winchester 12-gauge shotgun were recovered in 1933 from the couple's hideout in Joplin, Missouri. The collector paid $210,000 for the weapons.)

Al Capone

     The vicious prohibition era gangster from Chicago, during his murderous career as a bootlegger owned several cars. The vehicle most closely associated with Capone is a 1928 green Cadillac limousine. The armor-plated V-8, equipped with bullet-proof windows, sold for $621,500 at a 2010 auction in California. The fact President Franklin D. Roosevelt had used the car after Capone went to prison added to its value.

The Lindbergh Kidnap Car

     Bruno Richard Hauptmann, on the night of March 1, 1932, drove his 1930 blue Dodge sedan from the Bronx, New York to the Charles Lindbergh estate near Hopewell, New Jersey. The 36-year-old unemployed carpenter used a homemade wooden extension ladder, compressed across the back seat of his car, to climb to the Lindbergh baby's second-story nursery window. In West Trenton at the New Jersey State Police Museum and Learning Center the kidnap ladder is on display. But the Museum does not possess the car Hauptmann used to commit the "crime of the century."

     In 1958, after the state of New Jersey sold Hauptmann's Dodge at auction for $800, it disappeared. If you own a 1930 4-door Dodge that was once blue, check the vehicle identification number against the VIN on record at the New Jersey museum. You might own an important piece of American crime history.

Ted Bundy's "Teaching Tool"

     Crime memorabilia collector Arthur Nash, in 2010, sold the 1968 Volkswagen Beetle owned by the executed serial killer Ted Bundy to the privately owned National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington, D.C. (The museum opened in 2008.) In the 1970s Bundy lured many of his female victims into the car where many of them were raped and murdered. Museum speakers at the vehicle's unveiling, aware that critics would accuse them of using Bundy's death car to extract admission fees from true crime sickos, insisted they were using the Volkswagen as a "teaching tool." At the highly publicized unveiling one of the museum owners said, "Specifically, we don't recommend hitchhiking to anyone. This car represents a warning sign that you have to be careful."

JFK Assassination Vehicles

     Early in 2011, at an auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, a bidder paid $120,000 for the ambulance that had carried the slain president, on November 23, 1963, from Andrews Air Force Base to the Bethesda National Hospital in Maryland. There has since been a debate over the authenticity of this purchase. Some believe the ambulance is a fake.

     In 2012, the same auction house offered for sale the 1963 Cadillac hearse used to carry President Kennedy's body from the Dallas hospital to Air Force One at Dallas Love Field.

Other Infamous Vehicles

     A few other collectible crime cars include: John Dillinger's 1933 Essex-Terraplane; the 1931 black Lincoln owned by Dutch Schultz; O. J. Simpson's 1995 white Ford Bronco; and the D.C. Snipers's Chevrolet Caprice.