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Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Red Sash Murder Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Wallin: The Meth Dealing Priest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Locked Up Abroad

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abusing Hugo Chavez's Corpse

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

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

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

Thornton P. Knowles On Criminal Investigation

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

Thornton P. Knowles

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Nutty Professors: Crime and Craziness Inside the Academic Bubble

Publish or Perish

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

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

Suffering for his Art

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

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

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

The Meth Professor

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

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

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

Puppy Love

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

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

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

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

     The professor pleaded guilty and paid a fine.

Bad Santa

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

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

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

Monday, January 28, 2019

Who Shot Blake Wardell To Death And Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

Get-A-Way Skateboard

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

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

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

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Very Young Killer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 25, 2019

The Leanne Bearden Missing Person Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Ronnie Towns Murder Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Caleb "Kai" McGillvary and the Hatchet Hitchhiker Murder Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      In April 2019, a jury sitting in Union County, New Jersey, found McGillvary guilty of murder. A month later the judge sentenced him to 57 years in prison.

The Burglar

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

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deputy Sheriff Killed in Murder-Suicide

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Nigerian Child Bride Poison Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Kristopher Gartrell Murder Case

     On November 25, 2018, when the cleaning lady arrived at the home of 87-year-old Virginia Barbour outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, she found the house in disarray. When the cleaning lady couldn't locate the homeowner, she called the police.

     When officers with the Pennsylvania State Police rolled up to the scene, they found Virginia Barbour's body wrapped in a sheet and stuffed beneath her bed. The killer responsible for strangling her to death had stolen her 2012 Chevrolet Impala, and what was later determined to be $1,200 worth of coins. The killer had also tried to burn down the house in an apparent attempt to destroy evidence. The fire did not take and went out by itself.

     The day following the murder, detectives developed 48-year-old Kristopher Gartrell as a suspect in the case. According to Gartrell's girlfriend, he had murdered the elderly victim. If the girlfriend contacted the police with this information, Gartrell allegedly threatened to kill her as well.

     Police officers took Kristopher Gartrell into custody at the Presidential Inn in Gettysburg. At the time of his arrest, Gartrell was in possession of the dead woman's car and coin collection.

     When interrogated by detectives, Gartrell confessed to entering the victim's unlocked house for the purpose of robbing her. After he forced Virginia Barbour to show him where she kept the coins, he tied her up and raped her twice. Following the sexual attacks, Gartrell strangled the victim, stuffed her body under the bed, then set fire to the room. He left the seen in the victim's car.

     Officers booked Gartreel into the Adams County Jail on charges of murder, rape, kidnapping, arson, and robbery. Given the number and seriousness of the charges, the magistrate denied Gartrell bond.

     Further investigation revealed that Kristopher Gartrell was registered in South Carolina as a sex offender. In 1997, he had been convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He had also been convicted of kidnapping. A parole board in South Carolina released Gartrell from prion in March 2018. In August of that year, the authorities placed Gartrell on South Carolina's "19 Most Wanted" list after he failed to report to his probation agent.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Where Is Relisha Rudd?

     In 2014, eight-year-old Relisha Tanau Rudd resided in the D.C. General homeless shelter in Washington with her 27-year old mother, Shamika Young, her stepfather, and her three brothers. The family had lived in the shelter a year when Relisha's mother, on March 1, 2014, arranged to have 51-year-old Kahlil Malik Tatum and his wife Andrea take the girl in and care for her. Kahlil Tatum worked at the homeless shelter as a janitor where he had a reputation of paying a lot of attention to the young girls who lived there.

     On March 19, 2014, after Relisha missed several days of school, the authorities launched a missing persons investigation. Mr. Tatum had also vanished. The janitor and the girl were caught on a D. C. area Holiday Inn Express surveillance camera walking down a hallway on February 26, 2014, a few days before the girl's mother gave her  up.

     Detectives learned that Tatum, on March 2, 2014, had purchased a carton of black, 42 gallon, self-tie contractor trash bags.

     Police officers, on March 20, 2014, found Andrea Denise Tatum's body in a motel room at an Oxon Hill, Maryland Red Roof Inn. She had been killed by a gunshot to the head. Her husband and Relisha Rudd were nowhere to be found. Homicide detectives uncovered evidence linking the dead woman's husband, Kahlil Tatum, to the homicide.

     A Prince George's County prosecutor charged Kahlil Tatum with first-degree murder. On March 26, 2014, the FBI added the fugitive homicide suspect to its "Most Wanted List" and offered a $70,000 reward for information regarding his whereabouts. The Prince George's County Police Department posted a $25,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

     On March 27, 2014, shortly after a witness reported having seen a man meeting Tatum's description with a girl in Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in northeast D.C., a party of more than 100 officers searched the 700-acre park. Four days later, a searcher came across Mr. Tatum's body. He had committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with the gun used in the murder his wife. Searchers found no signs of Relisha Rudd. On April 3, 2014, the park search was called off.

     The D.C. City Council Committee of Human Services, in the course of reviewing the hiring policy at D.C. General, found that Kahlil Tatum possessed an extensive criminal record. He had been convicted in 1983, 1986, 1987, 1991, and 1993 of various crimes including breaking and entering and grand larceny. He was last convicted of a crime in 2004. In those days he went under his birth name, Karl Lee Tatum.

     According to the administrator in charge of hiring at the D.C. homeless shelter, Tatum, because his last conviction was ten years old, was eligible for employment at the facility. Had any of his offenses involved children, he would have been automatically excluded regardless of the date of the conviction.

     Social service authorities, following Relisha Rudd's disappearance, took away Shamika Young's three boys and placed them into foster care. The mother, who herself had grown up in the Virginia foster care system, had been shuttled between foster homes, group homes and mental health facilities. Diagnosed in middle school as "mildly retarded," Shamika reported hearing voices telling her to kill her foster family and herself. She also suffered from depression and a variety of other emotional problems.

     After Shamika Young signed herself out of foster care at age 18, she gave birth to four children from two men. She had no training on how to be a good mother and no way to make a living. Prosecutors over the past few years, on three occasions, have charged Young with child abuse and neglect. The cases were all dismissed.

     Since Relisha's disappearance, Shamika Young fought to get her three sons out of foster care. This created a heated debate among child protection advocates and Young's extended family, some of whom blamed her for Relisha's disappearance.

    In January 2018, the police received a tip that led to a six hour search for Rudd's body in parts of the Anacostia River. The effort failed to locate the missing girl's remains.
     

Police Chief Accidentally Shoots His Wife

     William McCollom lived with his wife Margaret in a modest house in Peachtree, Georgia, a upscale town of 35,000 southwest of Atlanta. In October 2014, the major appointed the 58-year-old law enforcement officer to the position of chief of police.

     On Thursday January 1, 2015, at four-fifteen in the morning, Chief McCollom called 911 to report the shooting of his wife at their home. "Gunshot wound," he said. "Accidental, need medical ASAP!"

     The 911 dispatcher asked, "Who shot her?"

     "Me," he replied.

     "How did you shoot her?"

     "The gun (a 9mm Glock) was in the bed, I went to move it, put it to the side. It went off."

     "Is she awake?"

     "No, everybody was sleeping."

     "No," the dispatcher said, "is she awake now?" (A woman could be heard moaning in the background.)

     "Yes," the chief said. Then to his wife he asked, "Are you having trouble breathing, dear?" To the dispatcher he said, "Come on guys, get here. Oh my God, how did this happen?"

     "Is that her crying?" asked the dispatcher.

     "Yes, she's having trouble breathing."

     "Were you asleep also when this happened?"

     "Yes." At this point, about two minutes into the 911 call, Chief McCollom identified himself. "I'm the chief of police," he said.

     "Where is the gun?"

     "The gun is on the dresser."

     "You're the chief of police in Peachtree?"

     "Yeah, unfortunately, yes," he replied.

     Emergency medical personnel flew the 57-year-old shooting victim to the Atlanta Medical Center. According to doctors there, Margaret McCollom was in critical condition. The mayor of Peachtree placed the chief on administrative leave and asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) to take over the case.

     The district attorney of Fayette County told reporters that he would decide if criminal charges were appropriate after the GBI completed its investigation of the shooting. Friends and neighbors questioned by reporters all insisted that the chief and his wife were not experiencing marital problems or any form of domestic discord.

     On Monday January 12, 2015, doctors released Margaret McCollom from the  hospital. The shooting had left her paralyzed from the waist down. She told GBI detectives that she was asleep when shot and that she believed it was an accident. Before submitting a report to the district attorney's office, investigators were awaiting the results of crime lab tests on the gun as well as the chief's blood-alcohol analysis.

     On March 11, 2015, McCollom resigned from the police department. On the city's website he wrote the following: "I have had two families in Peachtree--my police family and my personal family. I need to continue to focus my time and efforts there."

     According to District Attorney Scott Ballard, McCollom had accidentally shot his sleeping wife after he had consumed alcohol and sleep medication. The prosecutor planned to ask a grand jury to indict the former chief of police on the misdemeanor charge of reckless conduct.

     In August 2015, William pleaded guilty to the above charge and was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation.

    

The Peek-A-Boo Child Pornography Case

     In 2011, after passing a background check, 27-year-old Elliot Gornall began teaching second and third grade at the R. F. McMullen Elementary school in the central Ohio town of Loudonville. In the fall of 2014, Gornall, well-liked by his students, their parents, and his fellow teachers, bean teaching a class of 25 kindergarten kids.

     Gornall's reputation and teaching career took a major hit on November 18, 2014 when local drug officers raided his home in Loudonville. The drug cops found a quantity of marijuana, illicit prescription drugs, and several pairs of children's underwear. The searchers left Gornall's dwelling that day in possession of his personal computer.

     Not long after the drug raid, an Ashland County grand jury indicted the kindergarten teacher on several counts of prescription drug abuse, marijuana possession, and theft related to the underwear. He pleaded not guilty to all charges, posted bail, and was released from custody.

     Following the indictments that shocked everyone in the community, school district officials placed the 32-year-old teacher on administrative leave. On December 8, 2014, Gornall tendered his resignation from the R. F. McMullen Elementary School. He moved out of his place in Loudonville and took up residence in Lorain, Ohio.

     The big shock in the case came on March 6, 2015 when police officers arrested Gornall and booked him into the Ashland County Jail on 23 counts of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material. If convicted as charged, he faced up to 184 years in prison.

     A couple of months after the drug and theft indictments, detectives with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation discovered child pornography and videotaped images of R. F. McMullen Elementary school kids using the kindergarten bathroom. Investigators searched the restroom and found, hidden in a white plastic hook stuck to the wall, a pinhole video camera. Detectives believed Gornall had installed the secret camera in August 2014.

     At his March 9, 2015 arraignment, Gornall pleaded not guilty to the charges related to the spy camera in the kids' restroom. Ashland County prosecutor Chris Turnell informed the judge that detectives had found 63 videos of 25 kindergarten students plus more than 100 downloaded images of child pornography on the ex-teacher's computer. Judge Ronald Forsthoefel set Gornall's bail at $500,000.

     In October 2015, Elliot Gornall pleaded no contest to 181 charges related to his videotaping activities and other charges. Judge Ronald Forsthoefel sentenced him to 99 years in prison.

Thornton P. Knowles on Lobbyists

If politicians are America's waste product, then lobbyists who bribe them are rats who live and thrive in the sewer. Washington, D.C. is not a swamp to be drained, swamps are good. It's an open sewer in need of major plumbing.

Thornton P. Knowles

Friday, January 18, 2019

Thornton P. Knowles On The Politician's DNA Study

A new DNA study has revealed that genetically, people drawn into politics tend to possess large heads, undersized brains, tiny hearts, big mouths, and forked tongues. They also lack genes associated with shame, remorse, and embarrassment.

Thornton P. Knowles

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Thornton P. Knowles On How to Spot a "Polidiopath"

     What do you get when you cross a sociopath with a superficial, dishonest, humorless, thin-skinned idiot? You get an idiot-politician, or, if I may coin a term, a "polidiopath." When I imagine such a person dozens of well-known politicians leap to mind. And I imagine, unless you are a "polidiopathophile," it's the same with you.

     I suspect that most polidiopaths are in high office because in politics, polidiopathy rises to the top. These are people who never admit they are wrong, go to extreme lengths to cover-up their mistakes, scandals and crimes, and when confronted with their blunders and follies, blame others. They are extremely sure of themselves as leaders, and almost always lead us in the wrong direction.

     Polidiopaths give themselves away by what they do in the name of public service. The following is a short list of behaviorial patterns that makes it easy to spot one. Polidiopaths:

1.  Make compaign promises they know, and we know, they won't keep.

2. Pass feel-good, window-dressing laws that do more harm than good.

3. Create terrible economic problems then take credit for useless or harmful corrective legislation.

4. Lie boldly and badly to cover-up their blunders, crimes, and embarrassing behavior.

5. Never admit, in the face of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, that they are wrong.

6. Blame others for the effects of their over-governance.

7. Do whatever it takes to destroy their political enemies.

8. Use insider information to make killings in the stock market.

9. Sell their votes to special interests.

10. Pander to voters' lowest instincts.

     Spotting polidiopaths in Washington and in our state capitals is as easy as spotting stars on a clear night. Getting them replaced by decent people is obviously not so easy. Low congressional approval ratings will not do the trick. In a republic, politicians reflect the citizens they represent. Before we get better leaders, we need to be better ourselves.

Thornton P. Knowles

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Assassination of Gianni Versace

     Andrew Cunanan stalked Gianni Versace [renowned fashion designer] before he killed him, often walking the same routes, sometimes following him.

     The morning of the shooting [July 15, 1997], Versace left his house to walk to the News Cafe on Ocean Drive [Miami Beach] where he had his favorite gourmet coffee and picked up several newspapers and magazines. When he arrived back at his home on 11th Street, Cunanan walked up behind him and fired two shots into the back of Versace's head, killing him instantly.

     The assassin then fled, and the case wasn't closed until Cunanan's dead body was found eight days later on a houseboat owned by a friend of Cunanan's who was in Germany at the time....

     One FBI theory is that Versace once turned town Cunanan for a modeling job. Cunanan was a bar-hopper, drug-user (possibly including steroids and rage-inducing testosterone), and he often sold himself to older, wealthy men. It is now known that Cunanan and Versace were never involved sexually, but it is known that the two men had met at least once.

Stephen J. Spignesi, In the Crosshairs, 2003

Strip Clubs And Their Lonely, Depressed Men

     On April 17, 2013, police in the southern California city of Rialto were called to the Spearmint Rhino Gentleman's Club regarding shots fired. When the officers arrived at the strip club, they found a 23-year-old exotic dancer named Jacqueline Marquez-Figueroa bleeding from a gunshot wound to her neck.

     Paramedics rushed the strip club dancer to the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton where she underwent emergency surgery. The bullet had entered the back of her neck and was lodged in her jaw. (She is expected to survive the wound.)

     Police officers had found the wounded dancer, a resident of Moreno Valley, lying just outside a private lap dance room. On the other side of the door officers discovered Gerald Paxton Davis. The 46-year-old was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot.

     According to the police, the San Bernardino strip club regular had been paying Marquez-Figueroa, who worked under the name "Egypt," for lap dances since January 2013. Investigators believe he shot the dancer and them himself after she rejected his sexual advances.

     At the time of the shootings, there were ten employees and ten customers in the club.

     A week earlier, in the same establishment, a California correctional officer attempted suicide by cutting his wrists following a lap dance.

     These two cases suggest that among those drawn to gentlemen's clubs are lonely, depressed men who are losing touch with reality. 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Thornton P. Knowles On Undergoing Writing Surgery

Dr. Grammar tells me that to improve the health of my writing I need major surgery to have my split infinitives, adjectives, and dangling participles removed. Ouch.

Thornton P. Knowles

Friday, January 11, 2019

Heather Carpenter: The Felonious Party Pooper

     On December 1, 2018, 42-year-old Heather Carpenter had been teaching, as a substitute, less than two months at the Phillippi Shores Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. The school principal's 6-year-old daughter, one of Carpenter's first grade students, was being thrown a birthday party that day at Urfer Park in Sarasota County. Heather Carpenter had announced the party to the other kids in her class. What the teacher didn't announce was the fact, due to a dispute she was having with the principal, she planned to sabotage the girl's party.

     At six-thirty on the morning of December 1, 2018, a man in Urfer Park saw a woman wearing blue rubber gloves and a blue surgical mask dumping human feces on several wooden tables and two grills. When the vandal realized she had been seen, she drove off in a gray mini-van.

     As a result of the contamination of seven park tables and two grills, the birthday party was canceled. It would cost the park $2,300 to replace the vandalized items.

     On December 7, 2018, deputies with the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office questioned Heather Carpenter at her home. The suspect said she had sabotaged her student's birthday party as revenge against the girl's father.

     On January 5, 2019, at Carpenter's  arraignment hearing, the prosecutor charged the teacher with felony criminal mischief. The magistrate set her bond at $2,500. The substitute teacher also lost her job at the Phillippi Shores Elementary School.

     Presumably there will be an investigation into this teacher's employment background and the extend to which it had been vetted prior to her hiring at the Phillippi school. From her actions in the park, it is not unreasonable to infer that this woman was mentally imbalanced. Whether or not this could have been revealed in a pre-employment investigation remains to be seen.

Should Parents Search Their Kids' Rooms?

     A few years ago, in Tempe, Arizona, a cleaning lady discovered what looked like an improvised explosive device (IED) in an 18-year-old boy's bedroom. She took the suspicious-looking object to the local fire station where it was x-rayed and determined to be a live bomb capable of detonation. Members of a bomb squad disabled the device. While not a big IED, the bomb was powerful enough to  destroy property and even kill people.

     The cleaning lady, when questioned by detectives, showed them photographs she had taken of other items in Joshua Prater's room that included bomb-making materials. Police officers, after searching Prater's room, took him into custody. He was charged with possession of an explosive device. Bomb making is dangerous business. This kid was lucky he didn't blow up his room and himself.

     According to media reports, the bomb-marker's parents told detectives that friends of their son's taught him how to make IEDs. (The old bad-influence defense.) While it was hard to imagine parents who would allow their child to build bombs in his room, it was not clear if these parents knew what their son was up to before the cleaning lady took action.

     Several months after Prater's arrest, he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct. The judge sentenced him to one year probation. Again, this kid got lucky,.

     This story makes you wonder if today's parents know what their children are doing. It also raises the touchy issue of whether or not parents should regularly search their kids' rooms. I think they should. While invading their child's privacy may make many parents feel guilty, they should do it anyway.

     Recent studies have shown that kids today have extremely high opinions of themselves. They also feel entitled to things they are unwilling to work for. Parents should remind themselves that children are notorious liars, and profoundly ignorant of how things work in real life. Kids think they know everything because they know so little.

     In a parent's home, a child has no legal right to privacy. In the domestic environment, parents are the cops, prosecutors, and judges They have a right to know, and the duty to find out, if their kids have drugs, pornography, guns, or bombs in their rooms. And the only way to be absolutely certain that they do not possess these things involves periodic searches. Children should not be allowed to lock their doors. If they do have locks, parents should have the keys. Kids need to know that privacy is for adults. When they live in their own homes and clean their own rooms, mom and dad can be locked out.

    

When No One Is Wrong

When facts no longer matter, everyone can be right and no one is ever wrong. This makes a dangerous, very dangerous world.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Dangerous Places

     In a perfect world, there would be no crime. That will never happen. (This is good news for cops, security practitioners, lawyers, parole agents, and prison guards.) In a better world, 90 percent of the criminal population would be in prison, victimizing each other instead of us. In the real world, however, only a tiny fraction of them are behind bars. Given that reality, it's helpful to know where at least most of the dangerous criminals are. (Crime can't be prevented, it can just be moved from one place to another.) If you can figure out where most of the dangerous people are likely to be, you can reduce the risk of becoming a victim by avoiding these places. This, of course, doesn't apply to people forced to live or work in high crime areas, and certain types of criminals such as pedophiles, who are everywhere. Elementary kids can't force their parents to home school them. But many of us can avoid places where we are more likely to be mugged, raped, assaulted, and murdered.

Dangerous Cities

     Every year, the FBI announces the five most dangerous cities in the United States. By dangerous, they mean municipalities with the highest per capita crime rates. (Even in these places, over the past ten years, rates of violent crime have declined.) 

     So, in terms of avoiding criminals, what does the most dangerous city list mean? Not much. Almost all cities and towns have relatively safe neighborhoods as well as high-crime districts. A person who lives in a good neighborhood in Chicago is probably safer than someone who lives in a bad section in say, Erie, Pennsylvania. Moreover, people who live and work in the safer parts of town increase their chances of victimization if they enter crime-hot sections of the city for drugs or prostitutes. Lifestyle, as much as place of residence, determines one's vulnerability to crime. And, there is always bad luck, being at the wrong place at the wrong time. People are mugged in broad daylight in Walmart parking lots.

     Perhaps the FBI should publish a list of five things (other than shopping) people do that turns them into victims of crime. This is my list of dangerous behaviors: aggressive driving, public intoxication, buying dope, picking up street walkers, and looking wealthy in the wrong places. And, for good measure, I'll add: cutting in line at McDonalds.

Indian Reservations

     According to figures released by the U.S. Department of Justice, the rates of crime on the nation's 310 Indian reservations are more than two and a half times higher than the national average. The rates of violent criminal offenses--murder, assault, rape, and robbery--are as high or higher than the corresponding crime rates in America's most dangerous cities. Women who live on reservations are ten times more likely to be murdered than their counterparts who live elsewhere. They are sexually assaulted at a rate four times the national average.

     Indian reservations are plagued by poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, broken families, and higher than average school drop-out rates, problems also found in America's inner cities. Under federal law, tribal courts have the authority to prosecute tribal members for crimes committed on Indian land, but cannot sentence defendants to more than three years in prison. As a result, tribes rely on federal authorities to investigate and prosecute serious offenses.

      Because Indian reservations are located in remote areas of the country, there are not enough FBI agents to handle the investigative caseloads. For this reason, only half, and in some cases less than half, of serious reservation crimes result in criminal prosecution. In 2010, only 35 percent of reported rapes led to federal prosecution. Regarding child sexual abuse, 39 percent of these cases find their way into federal court. By comparison, nationwide, 80 percent of federal drug related crimes are prosecuted. (Cops love drug cases, that's where all the law enforcement money is spent--gadgets, cool weapons, overtime, etc.--and drug users and sellers are easy to catch and prosecute. The other crimes require time and investigative know-how.)

     For women and children, an Indian reservation is a dangerous place.

           

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Daughter Secretly Films Father's Sexual Abuse

     A lack of so-called hard evidence has been known to unravel even a strong sexual assault case, but that shouldn't be a problem for a 14-year-old French girl who thought to secretly film one of her allegedly abusive father's attacks with a bedroom webcam.

     Even after the victim  had initially come forward, spilling details of the relationship with her father to a counselor at school in Flornsac, a small town in the southern Herault region, police could not arrest him until she delivered video proof of her allegations. Now she's in a woman's shelter, and he's awaiting trial in Beziers Prison. Investigators are still trying to gauge the mother's complicity, though she appears to have been a victim as well.

     Given that there's little disputing the veracity or import of the webcam footage, the father's attorney, Mathieu Montfort, has instead tried to downplay the frequency of such attacks: "There was a period when he was unemployed and in the middle of a divorce," the lawyer was quoted as saying. "He [the defendant] insists that these acts did not stretch back further than three or four months. His daughter says longer. But everyone should be very careful in what they say." [Except defense attorneys, of course.]

     Attorney Montfort also noted that his client said he "took no pleasure" in abusing his daughter and was just "messing around." [Well then, no harm done. What a load of defense attorney crap.] If the alleged rapist's daughter hadn't been able to bank on his ignorance of web technology to outsmart him, odds are he'd still be "messing around" today.

Miles Klee, "14-Year-Old Girl Films Father's Sexual Abuse With Webcam," The Daily Dot, November 6, 2013 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Thornton P. Knowles On Truth Telling As a Lost Virtue

Unless under oath, lying is not a crime. But is it still a sin? You know, Thou Shall Not Lie. In a culture of materialism and self-love, the narcissistic right to personal happiness provides a moral justification, indeed a duty, to lie. Without respect for the truth, science can't flourish, business turns into crime, history is distorted, journalism is dead, and government can't be trusted. Without honesty there is no reality, and without reality there can be no justice. So-called political correctness is an insidious form of deception and reality denial. A society without a shared sense of reality is doomed. If Americans lose their respect for facts and the truth, they will end up being ruled by an elite class of humorless charlatans, fascists, who have no respect for them, the so-called American Dream, or democracy as we know it.

Thornton P. Knowles

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Thornton P. Knowles On Americans Above The Law

One of the unfortunate hallmarks of American jurisprudence involves the longstanding fact that the law is applied unevenly to the disadvantage of citizens who are not members of the ruling elite.

Thornton P. Knowles

Friday, January 4, 2019

Gunplay at the Safe And Sound Senior Citizen Social Club

     In October 2011, officers with a state law enforcement agency in Indiana called the Excise Police, stormed a private club in downtown Gary. The officers forced their way into the Safe And Sound Senior Citizen Social Club where they seized a craps table, cases of beer, and a stash of liquor. (There must not be much crime in Gary, Indiana.)

     At the time of the raid, thirteen members, ages 50 to 87, were in the club. A local prosecutor, in fulfilling his duty to preserve the peace and dignity of the city, charged the club owner with serving alcohol without a license (oh my) and promoting professional gambling. (We certainly don't want the good folks of Indiana gambling. Oh wait, that would mean shutting down the state lottery.) The club owner pleaded guilty and paid a fine.

     At 11:30 on the night of February 12, 2014, the Safe And Sound Senior Citizen Social Club was raided again, this time by an armed robber. A 23-year-old Chicago man named Kendell Reed slipped into the private club through an exit door seconds after a patron left the building through the same doorway. Because the exit door locked behind him, and the front entrance was secure, Reed's accomplice was locked out of the building and missed out on the mayhem.

     Inside the club, Reed announced the robbery and ordered everyone at gunpoint to get down on the floor. For some reason, instead of collecting the loot, Reed opened fire on the patrons. He wounded four club members between the ages 43 and 76. As the robber reloaded his gun, one of the patrons, himself armed, returned fire. The club member's bullet entered but did not kill the robber. It did, however, bring an end to the gunfire.

     Responding officers with the Gary Police Department had to gain entry to the club by blasting the front door lock with a shotgun. Officers found Kendell Reed hiding and bleeding in the restroom.

     Reed and three of the people he shot were treated at Gary Methodist Hospital. The fourth man Reed shot had to be airlifted to Loyola University Medical Center. All of the people wounded that night are expected to survive their injuries. Following his medical treatment, the authorities put Mr. Reed behind bars.
   
     In May 2015, Kendell Reed pleaded guilty to aggravated battery. The judge sentenced him to 10 to 14 years in prison.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Youthful Prank Causes Death And Murder Charge

On January 2, 2019, a 14-year-old boy and two other juveniles in a GMC SUV were tossing eggs at passing motorists from their vehicle on a Houston, Texas street. A driver of one of the egged vehicles responded by flashing a handgun and chasing the SUV. The 14-year-old behind the wheel of the GMC sped through a red light and crashed into a Ford pickup, killing its driver, 45-year-old Silvia Zavala. The 14-year-old suffered a broken ankle. The authorities charged him with murder and booked him into a juvenile detention center. The pursuing motorist with the handgun did not stop at the scene of the fatal crash. Detectives identified this man and wanted him for questioning. This was a tragic case of unintended consequences. 

Car Theft

 Car theft accounts for one of the most significant and least-discussed crimes in America. While narcotics and hit men and gang shoot-outs monopolize the headlines of the nation's press, the car thief is quietly stealing your beautiful new car. Then he sells that car to a higher-up in the crime world, who in turn puts it into a professionally organized car face-lifter. When it comes out, it is a car of different color, perhaps with different accessories, and almost certainly with altered serial numbers. [Over the past decade, car theft, due to anti-theft technology, has been in significant decline.]

Thomas Plate, Crime Pays! 1975 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The McDonald's "Happy Meal" Case

     A McDonald's employee in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was arrested on January 29, 2014 after undercover police officers said they discovered her selling heroin in Happy Meal Boxes….Shantia Dennis, 26, was arrested after undercover law enforcement officials conducted a drug buy….

     Customers looking for heroin were instructed to go through the drive-through and say, "I'd like to order a toy." The customer would then be told to proceed to the first window, where they would be handed a Happy Meal Box containing heroin. [I imagine the drug buyer would pay someone else for the heroin at another location.]

     During the drug buy, the undercover officers recovered 10 stamp bags of heroin, as well as a small amount of marijuana….

Allie Malloy, "McDonald's Worker's Happy Meals Had a Bit Extra: Heroin," CNN, January 30, 2014