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Sunday, September 29, 2019

Thornton P. Knowles On Handling Hecklers

A famous criminal defense attorney of the 1970s represented a lot of very bad clients, and as a result was regularly heckled on the streets of New York City. Passing motorists would roll down their windows and yell things like: "You asshole!" The tall, lanky lawyer, without looking up or breaking stride, would wave an arm and yell back, "Thanks! Have a nice day!" That's how to do it.

Thornton P. Knowles

Saturday, September 28, 2019

New York's Speech Police: Identity Law Enforcement In A Lawless City

     On September 26, 2019, New York City's City Hall Commission on Human Rights (all rights except free speech) in a 29-page directive, made it unlawful to threaten a noncitizen illegally in the country with a call to the immigration authorities, or refer to this person, hatefully, as an "illegal" or "illegal alien." In the exercise of what would be free speech anywhere else in America, violators of the city ban could be fined up to $250,000.

     The framers of this fascist-like ordinance said it is a rebuke of the federal government's so-called "crackdown" on illegal immigration. So what is next in New York: a law making it a crime to refer to the city's homeless as "vagrants" if the police ever start arresting people for camping, crapping, and shooting heroin on the city's sidewalks. In other words, "cracking down" on people making the city less healthy and livable.

     It is beyond absurd when municipal officials, while encouraging lawlessness, make it unlawful to exercise something as sacred as free speech.

     According to the Commission of Human Rights directive, "The use of certain language, including 'illegal alien,' and 'illegals' with the intent to demean, humiliate, or offend a person or persons constitutes discrimination." So, it is okay in New York City to demean, humiliate, or offend a U.S. citizen, but not people here illegally.

     Let's say a television commentator in New York City, in discussing this speech ban, says something like this: "Making it a crime to call a person in the country illegally an 'illegal alien', and threatening to report this illegal to ICE, is in itself a human rights violation.  I am extremely angry at the fascist idiots who promulgated this unconstitutional ordinance." Would that commentator, just having demeaned, offended and humiliated illegal aliens in the city, be charged with violating the city's new hate speech law? How much would this violator be fined? Would the network also be fined for airing these forbidden words?

     How will New York City's hate speech suspects be processed? Will there be some kind of hearing or criminal trial? And what if the convicted hate speech defendant refuses to pay the fine? Will he or she go to jail? And finally, does the ordinance apply to visitors to the city? If so, tourists better watch their mouths. With 500,000 illegals in the city, the walls have ears.

     In the 1970s, some comedian, I believe Larry David, asked the following hypothetical question: Who is freer, a single man in China or a married man in the U.S.? Now the question could be: Who is freer, a resident of New York City, or an American who lives anywhere in the country but New York City?

     The U.S. Constitution was written to restrain the government's natural inclination toward fascism. We can only hope that justices on the U.S. Supreme Court keep this in mind when cases like this come before them.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Arsonist Torches Sleeping Homeless Man's Cardboard Shelter

     During the early morning hours of September 12, 2019, in Glendale, California, a suburban community ten miles north of downtown Los Angeles, 32-year-old Richard Smallets was recorded on a business' surveillance video camera setting fire to cardboard boxes providing shelter to a sleeping homeless man. After igniting the fire, Smallets hung around taking photographs of the blaze. The street shelter fire was set not far from Glendale's Museum of Neon Art.

     The unnamed homeless man woke up before being burned, and with Smallets taking pictures of him, tried putting out the fire with bottled water. The Glendale Fire Department quickly responded to the scene and put out the dwindling blaze.

     Glendale police officers took Smallets into custody later that day and booked him into the Los Angeles County Jail on the charge of arson. The next day, a prosecutor with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office charged Smallet with attempted murder. A magistrate set his bail at $1 million.

     At his arraignment, Richard Smallets pleaded not guilty to arson and attempted murder.

Thornton P. Knowles On Living In The Moment

A psychologist colleague once told me I'd be happier if I lived in the moment. I'm never in the moment. I don't know where I live, but it's not there. I'm not even sure what living in the moment means. I'd ask the psychologist, but at the moment, he's dead. I'd finish this thought, but at the moment, my mind is elsewhere.

Thornton P. Knowles

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Shane M. Piche: The Bus Driver From Hell And The Judge Who Gave Him A Break

     In 2018, Shane M. Piche drove a school bus for the Watertown City School District in upstate New York. For a year, the 25-year-old driver had his eye on one of his passengers, a 14-year-girl he had been communicating with on social media. In June 2018, Piche invited the girl and her friends to his house outside of Watertown. It was there he provided his bus riders with alcohol, and it was there he and the 14-year-old engaged in sex. In New York, a girl under 17 is incapable, by law, of consenting to sexual intercourse. In the eyes of the law, and anyone with a sense of decency, Shane M. Piche had raped that 14-year-old girl.

     In September 2018, Watertown police officers took Shane Piche into custody and booked him into the Jefferson County Jail on charges of second-degree rape. He also faced the charge of endangering the welfare of a child. Second-degree rape in New York carried a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. The school district also fired him.

     In February 2019, pursuant to a plea agreement between Jefferson County Chief Assistant District Attorney Patricia Dzuiba and defense attorney Eric Swartz, Shane Piche was allowed to plead guilty to third-degree rape, an offense that could result in a sentence of four years in prison. The prosecutor, in justifying her decision to let Piche plea bargain down to the lesser felony, said she wanted to spare the victim the ordeal of testifying before a grand jury and a rape trial.

     Two months after Piche's guilty plea, Judge James P. McClusky sentenced the former school bus driver to ten years probation. In addition, the judge fined him $1,375. As a Level One sex offender, Piche would not be added to the Department of Criminal Justice Service's online sex offender registry. That meant when someone looked him up on the computer, his name wouldn't show up on the site. Had Piche been convicted of second-degree rape as initially charged, his name would have been included on the sex offender registry.

     The 14-year-old rape victim's mother, in a victim impact statement she did not read in court, wrote: "I hope Shane Piche spends time in prison for the harm he caused my child. He took everything from my daughter... and has caused her to struggle with depression and anxiety."

     In responding to public outrage over the light sentence, Judge McClusky said that because Shane Piche had no other known rape victims, he did not believe there was a high risk that this rapist would re-offend. The judge, elected to a 14-year-term on the bench in 2011, insisted that his sentence was well within the guidelines for third-degree rape.

     Amid the public outrage over the outcome of this case, Assistant District Attorney Patricia Dziuba came to judge McClusky's defense with this statement: "The sexual contact occurred between the defendant and the victim was away from school property and a good point in time after they met on the school bus..." (How does any of that mitigate Piche's crime?)

     Not long after Shane Piche's sentencing, offended residents of Jefferson County circulated a petition calling for Judge McClusky's removal from the bench.

     Advocates for harsher sentences in rape cases make the argument that rapists should not be given one "free" rape before they become serial offenders. The Piche case is an example of how practitioners in our criminal justice are more concerned about the welfare of the criminal than the victim. Most people would agree that a 25-year-old school bus driver who takes sexual advantage of a 14-year-old student deserves a stretch in prison. This is a crime that should not go essentially unpunished.

Novelist John Fante

I went to the library, I looked at magazines, at the pictures in them. One day I went to the bookshelves, and pulled out a book. It was Winesburg, Ohio [by Sherwood Anderson]. I sat at a long mahogany table and began to read. All at once my world turned over. The sky fell in. The book held me. The tears came. My heart beat fast. I read until my eyes burned. I took the book home. I read another Anderson. I read and I read, and I was heartsick and lonely and in love with a book, many books, until it came naturally, and I sat there with a pencil and a long tablet, and tried to write, until I felt I could not go on because the words would not come as they had in Anderson, they only came like drops of blood from my heart.

John Fante, Bunker Hill

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The David Pichosky/Rochelle Wise Murder Case

     In 2008, a year after his wife died of breast cancer, David "Donny" Pichosky, on a blind date arranged by his children, met Rochelle Wise. Donny, an active member of Toronto, Canada's Shaarei Shomayin Synagogue, a modern Jewish Orthodox congregation, retired after selling his office-carpet business in the North York section of the city. Rochelle, a divorcee, had retired in 2005 as a teacher and vice principal of the Bialik Hebrew Day School just outside of Toronto. She was also the founding director of the Crestwood Valley Day Camp. Shortly after their blind date, the couple were married.

     In 2013, the 71-year-old Pichosky and his 66-year-old wife were wintering in Venetian Park, an affluent island neighborhood in Hallandale Beach, Florida, a town of 38,000 located between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Surrounded by canals and waterways, the snowbirds resided in a stucco townhouse amid palm trees and the other pastel-colored dwellings. Donny and Rochelle must have felt safe living in this gated, security guard patrolled retirement enclave. (In 2012, there had been four criminal homicides in Hallandale Beach.)

     On Wednesday, January 9, 2013, Danny and Rochelle failed to show-up for a lunch date with a neighbor. The friend made several calls to the couple that were not returned. The next day, at six-thirty in the evening, a friend with a spare key entered the townhouse to check on the couple. The neighbor found Donny and Rochelle dead. Shortly after the discovery, a spokesperson with the Hallandale Beach Police Department announced that the Canadian retirees had been murdered.

     According to the Broward County Medical Examiner's Office, the Canadian Couple had been murdered in their home. The cause of their deaths: asphyxiation either by hand or by ligature.

     In April 2013, Hallandale Chief of Police Dwayne Flourney told a reporter with the Miami Herald that detectives were looking for an intruder or intruders who had been motivated by robbery. Rochelle Wise's wedding band--valued at $16,000--was missing from the dwelling. Investigators asked local pawn shop operators to report anyone coming to their places of business with the platinum, five half-carat white diamond ring. (I presume the ring and it's description has been entered into the National Crime Information Center database.)

     A month before publicizing the missing ring, the police released a video taken from a neighbor's surveillance camera that showed a woman walking toward the rear of the murdered couple's home. That person remained unidentified. Detectives believed the murders were committed by two people.

     Cases involving home invasion criminal homicides in places once considered relatively safe from crime make residents of that community fearful. The double-murder in Venetian Park put a lot of pressure on the local police to identify and catch the perpetrators.

     On January 8, 2014, a spokesperson for the Hallandale Beach Department held a press conference on the Pichosky murder case. It had been almost a year since the double murder. According to the spokesperson, crime scene investigators recovered DNA profiles of two women from the murder site. This DNA evidence did not match anyone who had access to the Pichosky home.

     In addition to the DNA, a partial shoe print left at the murder scene was identified as an Adidas model shoe that had been out of production since 2000. Over the past year, detectives had questioned more than fifty people in the investigation of the case. A $57,000 reward had been posted for information leading to the identify of the killer or killers.

     This is one of those frustrating cases where the police  have physical evidence but no suspects to match it to. Eventually someone will identify a suspect. Once that happens, the resolution of the case will be in the hands of the forensic scientists. It's just a matter of time.

     In January 2015, Jamie Wise, Rochell's son, wrote a letter to Florida Governor Rick Scott requesting the appointment of another law enforcement agency to take over the unsolved murder case. "What is desperately needed," he wrote, "is a fresh set of eyes, an independent investigation by an experienced entity capable of cultivating new leads through diligence, openness and the willingness to collaborate more purposely with agencies throughout the state."

     The Hallandale Beach Police Department remained in charge of the still unsolved double-murder.

     In April 2016, Police Chief Dwayne Flournoy told reporters that the best lead in the case involved crime scene DNA phenotyping that pointed to a pair of unidentified females. Flourney said that the constant running the DNA profile through CODUS, the U.S. DNA database, had to date failed to identify the killers. (As of September 2019, the Wise/Pichosky murder case remained unsolved.)

Sherlock Holmes on Vigilantism

I think that there are certain crimes which the law cannot touch, and which therefore, to some extent, justify private revenge.

Sherlock Holmes in Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Criminalization Of Classroom Misbehavior

     In 2018, officer Dennis Turner retired from the Orlando Police Department. Upon retirement, as part of the Reserve Officer Program, Mr. Turner took a job as a School Resource Officer (SRO) at the Lucious and Emma Nixon Charter School in Orlando, Florida.

     On September 19. 2019, SRO Turner responded to a first grade classroom where a 6-year-old girl, in the course of throwing a tantrum, either kicked the teacher, a student, or the officer. When the girl wouldn't calm down, officer Turner arrested the kid for battery, placed her into handcuffs (unless they make handcuffs for kids, now, I imagine she was restrained by plastic ties), and drove off with the tiny suspect in the backseat of his patrol car.

     At the Orange County Regional Juvenile Center in Orlando, officials fingerprinted and photographed the tiny arrestee. After being so processed into the criminal justice system, the 6-year-old battery suspect was released to her family.

     SRO Turner had arrested, earlier that day, an unruly 8-year-old boy at the same school. This kid had also been hauled off to the juvenile detention center and processed into the system before being picked up by family members.

     As one might expect, when these kiddy-busts were publicized, the public reacted in disbelief and outrage. What in the hell was going on in that charter school, some kind of miniature crime wave? Orlando Police Chief, Orlando (that's right) Rolon immediately suspended SRO Turner pending the results of an internal inquiry.

     Pursuant to departmental regulations, a SRO cannot arrest a student under the age of 12 without the approval of a watch commander. It appeared that SRO Turner had not complied with that policy.

     According to the the 6-year-old battery suspect's grandmother, Meralyn Kirkland, the girl suffered from sleep apnea. It was lack of sleep that caused her to melt down. (Perhaps this will be her defense at trial.)

     Handcuffing misbehaving elementary school children and hauling them off in police cars, over the past ten years or so, has been taking place all over the country. (I've written about dozens of these cases on this blog.) In the past, teachers had the authority to maintain order in their classrooms. Kids that could not be controlled by teachers were much easier to expel. But with the increased militarization of American policing as well as institutional restrictions on teachers' abilities to physically restrain disruptive kids, educators have lost control of their classrooms. As a last resort, they have no choice but to call a cop.

     In the Orlando case, and cases like it, the officers involved did not use good judgment in handcuffing and frogmarching kids out of class like adult criminals. It might be a good idea to allow teachers more authority to maintain order in their classrooms. It is only fair to the other students.

     On September 23, 2019, Chief Rolon fired Dennis Turner.

When An Editor Murders Your Manuscript

Authors always take rejection badly. They equate it with infanticide.

P. D. James

Monday, September 23, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Restaurant Tip Forger

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

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

     Haney denied knowing anything about the inflated tips.

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

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Is Abolishing Academic Freedom The Future Of Academia?

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Krystal Marie Barrows Police-Involved-Shooting Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Writer's Fear of Criticism

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

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

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

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, Pen on Fire, 2004 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Nalani Johnson Kidnap-Murder Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The News Media In The Era Of The Hate Crime Hoax

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

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

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

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

Not Everyone Is a Fan of Russian Literature

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

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

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Abortion Doctor Ulrich Klopfer And His Dead Fetuses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Criminal's Fate

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

Allan Pinkerton

A Prison Memoir

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

Mark Brandon Read, From the Inside

The Un-compromised Novelist

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

John Fante, Ask the Dust

Cop Humor

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

Suzie Ivy, Bad Luck Officer

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Realities Of Police Work

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

Rebecca McNutt

The Stupid House Burglar

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

James Lee Burke, Heaven's Prisoners

Thornton P. Knowles On The Life Of A Writer

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

Thornton P. Knowles

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Dominance Of Celebrity Journalism Over Hard News

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

Carl Hiaasen, crime novelist

A Libertarian's View Of American Jurisprudence

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

Ayn Rand

Poverty And Crime

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

H. L. Mencken

Good Interview Subjects

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

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

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Bail Bond Industry Fights Criminal Justice Reform

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

Crime and Justice News, August 30, 2019

Television And The Death Of Journalism

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

     While there are still a few credible investigative journalists on television and in print, they are being be phased out. Real investigative journalism is too expensive as is the coverage of foreign affairs or government corruption. Even the weather news is so hyped a lot of people no longer pay attention to it. Local TV news is mainly weather, sports, car accidents, and crime with little time for investigative reporting. But even before television, what was called "yellow journalism" or tabloid journalism flourished. 

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

Friday, September 13, 2019

Did Robert Anthony Camou Murder Amanda Custer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who's Running The Asylum?

The world was getting dangerously crowded with crazy people.

John Dunning, The Bookman's Wake

A Cynical Take On Policing

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

Larken Rose

The Many Faces Of Evil

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

Ted Bundy, serial killer

City Crime Versus Crime In The Suburbs

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

Barbara Ehreneich

Thursday, September 12, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fighting Crime Is Fighting Time

What you lack in any criminal investigation is time. With every passing hour, evidence slips away. Crime scenes are compromised by people and the elements. Things are moved, smeared, shifted. Organisms rot. Wind blows dust and contaminants. Memories change or fade. As you move away from the event, you move away from the solution.

Maureen Johnson, Truly Devious

The Social Value Of The Lock And Key

Many a man is saved from being a thief by finding everything locked up.

Edgar Watson Howe

Ill Gotten Wealth

Behind every successful fortune there is a crime.

Mario Puzo, The Godfather

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

In England, Criminalizing Insults Isn't Free Speech

     Forty-six-year-old Peter Nelson, an IT consultant with GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceutical company in the United Kingdom, lived with his wife and three children in a $1.8 million five-bedroom home in Ascot, Berkshire. On June 2, 2018, the 20-year employee of the drug company was traveling from London to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil aboard an 11-hour British Airways flight. Having had more than a few drinks, Mr. Nelson was asleep when awoken by flight attendant Sima Patel-Pryke who asked him for his food order.

     Enraged over being so disturbed, Nelson lashed out at the attendant. "You Asians," he yelled, "think you are better than us. I don't want to be served by your lot. I've paid your wages for the last 20 years." The out-of-control passenger demanded to be served by a "white girl."

     Peter Nelson's verbal outburst reduced the flight attendant to tears and caused the pilot to authorize the cabin crew to break out a "restraining kit" and inform the unruly passenger that if he continued disrupting the flight he would be "arrested."

     Upon his return to England, Peter Nelson was charged with one count of racially aggravated abuse. The criminal charge and the publicity that followed resulted in Nelson's discharge from the pharmaceutical company.

     The Peter Nelson racially aggravated abuse trial got underway in August 2019 before a jury sitting in Iselworth Crown Court. In his opening remarks to the jury, Crown Prosecutor Michael Tanney said, "It's no mere mischief to say he bullied and ranted and shouted. At one point, after a sustained targeting of Ms. Pryke, she began to back away in fright and became tearful."

     Representing the defendant, Lauren Sales informed the jurors that Mr. Nelson's wife, as a result of the publicity regarding her husband, had broken down under stress and had to be hospitalized. "He has lost his job. He was the breadwinner of the family. It is life changing for Mr. Nelson. He and his wife have taken their children out of school because it's an international school. The children feel they cannot go to the gates of the school and stand in the playground." According the Barrister Sales, the family might be forced to return to New Zealand.

     The Crown Court jury found Mr. Nelson guilty as charged. Before sentencing the defendant, Judge Edward Connell said, "You plainly displayed a contemptuous attitude towards the staff from the onset. When Ms. Pryke, simply doing her job, came to wake you up to take your food order you took immediate offense at her having the audacity to wake you up. It seems that was the beginnings of what turned out to be an opportunity for you to get upset without any justification at all. That manifested itself in the most unpleasant of ways. It was thoroughly unpleasant conduct by you....

     A bit longwinded, the judge continued his pre-sentence lecture: "It's quite plain, albeit this wasn't the most serious case the court hears, that it had an impact on Ms. Pryke who we heard in evidence was upset and ended up in tears because of your behavior. It was clearly unacceptable and I'm entirely satisfied it was contributed by the fact you drank a significant amount of alcohol during the course of the flight. I accept that this conviction will have profound ramifications for you and your employability so I'm persuaded that this can be dealt with as a financial penalty.

     Judge Connell fined Peter Nelson $2,450. He also had to pay $615 in compensation to the victim and $4,300 in prosecution costs.

     In the United Kingdom, the cradle of democracy, your mouth can now get you into trouble with the law and even into prison. This is no longer a country that values free speech.

Murder At The Senior Center

     On September 8, 2019, at seven-fifteen in the morning, detectives with the Prince George's County Homicide Unit in Maryland responded to a 911 call from a woman who said she had just killed a fellow resident of her senior center by bludgeoning the woman several times in the head with a brick.

     Detectives arrived at the retirement home on the 5900 block of Emerson Street in Bladensburg, Maryland, a town of 9,000 northeast of Washington, D. C.. The officers found, lying dead in the garden behind the building, 82-year-old Hwa Cha Pak. She had been bludgeoned to death.

     Detectives took into custody the 911 caller, 73-year-old Chun Young Oh. The suspect was booked into the Prince George's County Jail on charges of first and second-degree murder. She was held without bail.

     Residents of the senior living facility told detectives that the two women had been longtime friends who had recently been involved in a dispute over a debt.

Telephonic Credit Card Scams

It goes like this: A con man calls a store credit card holder and informs the would-be victim she has been cheated by the store in question by failing to offer her rewards for paying her credit card bills promptly. The con artist, usually a man with a foreign accent, falsely states that the Fair Credit Reporting Act mandates that companies do this. To help the customer get what's coming to her from the store, all the victim needs to do is disclose her credit card numbers. The swindler will take care of the rest.

Regulatory Roadblocks For Ex-Cons

While criminal justice reformers are pushing for the early release of thousands of prisoners, thousands of government regulations make it impossible for them to obtain occupational licenses.

Novelists as Children

I don't think people become novelists for the most part, unless they have experienced a peculiar distancing, which generally occurs in childhood or youth and makes the direct satisfactions of living unsatisfactory, so that they have to seek basic satisfactions indirectly through what we can loosely call art. What makes the verbal artist is some kind of shock or crippling or injury which puts the world once removed from him. He writes about it to take possession of it. We start out thinking we're writing about other people and end up realizing we're writing about ourselves.

Ross McDonald in Shoptalk, edited by Donald M. Murray, 1990 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Robert And Tiffany Williams' Nouveau Riche Nightmare

     Robert and Tiffany Williams of Montoursville, Pennsylvania thought they had $1,121 in their account at the BB&T Bank. Then someone deposited an extra $120,000 into their account. Aware that their bloated bank account had to be some kind of a banking fluke, and that the money was therefore not theirs, they decided to spend it anyway. Perhaps the mistake would go unnoticed. Why rock the boat by calling the bank and pointing out their error?

     And spend it they did. The couple purchased, among other things, a camper, a new SUV and a race car. Being generous with someone else's money, they gave $15,000 to friends in need. During a ten day period, the couple withdrew more than $100,000 from their inflated bank account.

     In June 2019, a call from the bank put an end to the Williams' spending spree. They were informed what they already knew: the large deposit into their account had not been a gift from Heaven but the result of a bank teller's mistake.

     As a result of the banking error, the Robert and Tiffany Williams' account at the BB & T Bank was overdrawn by $107,416. The couple owned the bank that money plus overdraft fees. And the debt had to be paid immediately or the authorities would be notified. Without that kind of money on hand, Tiffany Williams asked the bank if she and her husband could pay back what they owed pursuant to an installment plan.

     Paying back the bank in installments was not an option. Robert and Tiffany Williams had spent money that belonged to someone else and now they had to pay it back in one lump sum or face the possibility of jail.

     In September 2019, Mr. and Mrs. Williams, after confessing they knew at the time they spent the money that it was not theirs, were booked into the county jail on three counts of felony theft. They each posted $25,000 bail and were released.

     The IRS has been known to send large tax refunds to the wrong people. The smart recipients take immediate steps to return the money. The ones that are not so smart treat the mistake as a windfall and end up facing federal charges of theft.

     As they say, if it's too good to be true, it isn't.

Young Sherlock Holmes

     Max Werenka, a 13-year-old from Sherwood Park in Alberta, Canada, thought an object in Lake Griffen fifteen feet beneath the water, and just ten feet from the highway, was an overturned vehicle. To investigate further, he dove into the lake with his GoPro camera.

     Six days after the boy's discovery, on August 21, 2019, Mounties from the Revelstoke Station arrived at the scene with divers who confirmed that the murky object was indeed a vehicle, a 1980s black Honda. The car was registered to 69-year-old Janet Farris, a woman from British Columbia who went missing in 1992 while driving to a wedding in Alberta. Divers recovered her remains from the submerged car.

     Investigators theorize the missing woman lost control of her car swerving to avoid and animal and plunged into the lake. They do not suspect foul play.

     Max Werenka had solved a 27-year-old missing persons case.

The Business Of Selling College Kids Essays And Research Papers

According to an anonymous former professor who decided to make real money by writing and selling papers to college students, the market for his work fell into three categories: English-as-second-language students; students hopelessly unsuited for college; and the lazy rich kids.

Thornton P. Knowles on Getting Into Heaven

What if getting into Heaven was as hard as getting into Harvard? That would be particularly bad news if you are an Asian or not related to a famous politician. It would also mean that all the smart people are in Hell.

Thornton P. Knowles

Living In A Tough Neighborhood

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield: "I came from a real tough neighborhood. Once a guy pulled a knife on me. I knew he wasn't a professional, the knife still had butter on it."

Tracy Kidder On Field Notes For A Nonfiction Book

     The act of nonfiction writing is a zone I occupy, a psychological space. After a while I lose self-consciousness and all sense of time. Before I can get to that zone, though, I have to make the leap from taking field notes to writing the first draft. Imposing order on the chaos in my notebooks is hard.

     When I was younger, I filled my reporting notes with my own thoughts and feelings about things. These notes often didn't contain much information about the source of my thoughts and feelings: what I was actually seeing. They contained few details of clothing and place, smells, sounds, and other sensory impressions. I'm sorry about that, because I could use some of those notes now.

     I learned a few things since then. I try to write down all the visible, tactile, smellable facts as well as what I hear. With that material in front of me, I have complete access to my memories of how I felt about a certain incident or scene; I don't need to know those thoughts recorded on the notebook page.
     I usually take more than ten thousand pages of steno pad notes for a book. These notes include all the perishable material, the fleeting events I watched unfold in front of me. I fill another set of notebooks with library research and standard office interviews. Once I have it all, I have to organize it.

     I used to make an index of all my notebooks. Creating the index forced me to review all my notes once, very carefully. I tried not to spend too much time on it; I didn't want to waste energy on something that was just a tool. The index was usually flawed, because I refused to go back and revise once I started. Now, I actually type out my notes. It doesn't seem to take much longer than making the index. Once I've done that, I review my notes several times to find the most interesting parts and to gain a sense of the whole.

Tracy Kidder in Telling True Stories, edited by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call, 2007 

Monday, September 9, 2019

Gun Control Legislation

There is no gun registration, gun ban, or gun confiscation that a U.S. Congress can pass and a president can sign that will be fully complied with or enforced. Not one.

Reason, September 2019

Who Should Wear Body Cameras?

If cops have to wear body cameras, why not politicians? And what about auto mechanics, college admission personnel, surgeons and babysitters? Hell, why not everyone?

If Law Enforcement Leaders Are Above The Law There Is No Justice

If former FBI Director James Come isn't facing punishment for abuse of power seeking to undo an election and unseat a president, can justice ever be done?

Judicial Watch, September 2019

Writing For Television

TV writing is for people who hate being alone more than they hate writing.

Matthew Weiner, The Paris Review, Spring 2014 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Airline Mechanics Are Supposed To Keep Planes In The Air, Not On The Ground

     On July 17, 2019, American Airlines Flight 2834 with 150 passengers aboard was about to depart from Miami en route to Nassau, Bahamas when an error message appeared in the cockpit that caused the Boing 737-800 to taxi back to the gate and be taken out of service. The passengers were taken off the plane and put on another flight.

     Maintenance inspectors found that someone had inserted a piece of foam into a tube that obstructed the aircraft's flight navigation system. Specifically, the foreign object affected the pilot's ability to monitor air speed, pitch, and other flight data.

     Following an investigation into the matter, Miami FBI agents, on September 4, 2019, arrested 60-year-old Abdul-Majeed Marquf Ahmed Alani, an airline mechanic who had worked at American Airlines since 1988.  He was a U.S. citizen who was born in Baghdad, Iraq.

     A local Assistant United States Attorney charged Alani with sabotaging an aircraft.

     Alani told his federal interrogators that he had been upset about the stalled contract negotiations between the airline and the mechanics union. He said the labor dispute had hurt him financially and that he tampered with with the plane's navigation system to cause a flight delay in anticipation of overtime work. Alani insisted that it had not been his intention to harm the aircraft or endanger its passengers.

     Mr. Alani had also worked as an aircraft mechanic for Alaska Airlines. But after working there twenty years, during which time he was also employed at American Airlines, he was fired in 2008. Alaska Airlines let him go because he had made several maintenance mistakes. In 2010, Alani sued Alaska Airlines for wrongful termination due to discrimination based on his national origin. He lost his case. The FAA briefly suspended his airlines mechanic license.

     On September 6, 2019, American Airlines fired the suspected aircraft saboteur. 

America's Understaffed Jails and Prisons

     Because America's jails and prisons are seriously understaffed, correction officers are working longer hours and are exhausted and under stress. Guard turnover rates are also high, and all of this is taking place as jail and prison populations grow.

     The corrections shortage has caused prisons to cancel recreational programs and restrict family visits. Moreover, understaffed prisons are prone to surges in inmate assaults, riots, and escapes.

     Several states are trying to solve the problem by proposing increases in correction officer pay and benefits as well as better job training. 

Thornton P. Knowles On Guns

A high school friend told the career counsellor that as long as he had a gun he could find work. He became a cop.

Thornton P. Knowles

Saturday, September 7, 2019

The Sisk Family Murder Case

     At ten-thirty Monday night, August 2, 2019, a 911 dispatcher in Limestone County, Alabama received an emergency call from 14-year-old Mason Sisk who said he was in his home's basement from where he heard a gun being fired upstairs. The boy said he lived with his family on the 2500 block of Ridge Road in the town of Elkhart.

     When Limestone County sheriff's deputies arrived in Elkhart, a town of 400, Mason Sisk greeted them on the driveway to his house. The officers entered the scene where they found 38-year-old John Sisk and two of his young children shot to death. John Sisk's wife, Mary and a third child were seriously wounded. Mrs. Sisk was airlifted to a hospital in Huntsville where she died shortly after admission. The 35-year-old, originally from New Orleans, had been a special education teacher for Huntsville City Schools. She was not Mason Sisk's biological mother.

    The wounded child died at the Children's Hospital in Birmingham.

     Mr. Sisk had been an automotive and recreational vehicle repairman. He had been granted custody of Mason in 2011 after the death of the boy's mother. Mr. Sisk had been taking care of Mason for two years before that due to his mother's problems with drugs and alcohol.

      After speaking briefly to deputies at the house, the high school freshman admitted he had been the one who had shot his father, his stepmother and his three younger siblings. He said he had used a 9mm handgun.

     With the help of the alleged shooter, police officers found the murder weapon alongside the road where the boy had tossed it after the killings. According to the suspect, he had shot his family members at one-fifteen that morning.

     After being charged with five counts of murder, the boy was taken to a juvenile detention center. Although charged as a juvenile, prosecutors could later request that Mason Sisk be tried as an adult.

     According to the Mason Sisk's cousin, he had been a well-behaved kid until a year earlier when he broke into and vandalized his school. He had also fallen into the habit of burning animals alive.

Jury Nullification

     Jury nullification occurs when a jury returns a verdict of Not Guilty despite its belief that the defendant is guilty of the violation charged. The jury in effect nullifies a law that it believes is either immoral or wrongfully applied to the defendant whose fate they are charged with deciding.

     The most famous nullification is the 1735 trial of John Peter Zenger, charged with printing seditious libels of the Governor of the Colony of New York, William Crosby. Despite the fact that Zenger clearly printed the alleged libels...the jury nonetheless returned a verdict of Not Guilty...

     Recent examples of jury nullification might include acquittals of "mercy killers," including Dr. Jack Kevorkian, and minor drug offenders...

The Era Of Knee-Jerk Politics

Whenever some nutcase shoots a lot of people, it's gun control; whenever a hurricane hits the United States, it's climate change; whenever a prominent person says something politically incorrect, it's hate speech; whenever the stock market dips, it's recession, and whenever a white cop shoots a black person, it's racism.  I guess we will have knee-jerk politics in our lives as long as politicians and their counterparts in the media are jerks--of the flaming variety.

Wrong-Word Corregan

After getting my flew shot, I parked my car along the rode where it wasn't aloud and it got toad. That was not fare. Sad and blew, I couldn't sleep that knight. I'm out of cache and my car is up for sail. Give me a brake.

Writer Humiliations

     Experience has taught me that hardly anyone in or out of a book store will know who I am, or care. I have learned to live fairly comfortably with my writer's humiliation, and have worn it like a second skin over my original thinner one. After all, humiliations are suffered by most writers most of the time. And--to express a thought about life in the real world, for once--a writer's humiliations are chicken feed as compared with those endured by people who work for a living, and are grateful simply to make it home at night. Writers are already home.

     Naturally, some stinging recollections rise out of the past from time to time, such as that evening at a book fair in Providence, Rhode Island, when I stood beneath a golden banner with my name in red lettering, misspelled. It would have bothered me less had the banner not been provided by my publisher. And that evening in Washington, D. C., when I was seated at a table bearing a tall stack of my latest book while a dozen non-buyers ambled past, paused, picked a book from the stack, opened it, read a clause or two, and returned it to the stack. (Truth be told, there have been several such incidents.) And that afternoon in Miami, when I appeared for an interview specifically requested by a local radio station, and the interviewer began, "Who are you?"

Roger Rosenblatt, The New York Times Book Review, May 25, 2014 

Violent Women

A more compelling culprit [for violent behavior in women] than hormones may be the wiring of the human brain, in a way that does not discriminate one sex from the other....Frontal lobe damage, for example, can cause perfectly calm people to lose their impulse control, which is usually governed by the cerebral cortex. They revert to the most primal emotions, zooming from annoyance to homicidal fury in a matter of seconds, with no mood in between. We know this in its less extreme form as "hair-trigger temper." Its more voluble expression is called "episodic aggression," or "rage attacks." But why would it affect only men?...How many women undergo this Jekyll and Hyde transformation? Thousands? The scientific literature is mum. Men are the standard bearers of violence, and masculine violence is the measure.

Patricia Pearson, When She Was Bad, 1997 

Friday, September 6, 2019

The Gregory Randall Murder Case

     In May 2014, 57-year-old Gregory Randall and his 52-year-old girlfriend Angela Marie Cavalero lived in a house on Locus Road in Laughlintown, Pennsylvania in Westmoreland County just east of metropolitan Pittsburgh.  They had lived together for slightly more than a year. Mr. Randall, a short-tempered, violent man, had a history of committing criminal assault and making terroristic threats.

     On May 7, 2014, Angela Cavelero lost her temper when Randall refused to accompany her to her mother's house for a visit. The argument intensified when she threw a TV frozen dinner into his face. Mr. Randall responded by picking up a hammer and beating Cavelero in the head 29 times. She died on the spot.

     After killing his girlfriend, Randall fled the scene. The next day, someone discovered Cavelero's body and called the police.

     On May 13, 2014, police arrested Gregory Randall at his ex-girlfriends house in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, a Pittsburgh area town in Allegheny County. The authorities returned the murder suspect to Westmoreland County where he was booked into the county jail on the charge of first-degree murder. Randall told his interrogators that because of his diminished mental capacity due to a traffic accident when he was 19, he had no memory of beating his girlfriend to death.

     In Pennsylvania, a first-degree murder conviction calls for a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

     Randall's attorneys delayed his case by filing motions asking the court to find him mentally incompetent to stand trial.

     While in the Westmoreland County Jail awaiting his trial, Randall told an inmate exactly how and why he had killed his girlfriend.

     In 2018, judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio declared Randall mentally competent and set his trial date for September 9, 2019.

     On September 3, 2019, Randall, pursuant to an arrangement agreed upon by his attorneys and the Westmoreland County District Attorney, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder. Judge Bilik-DeFazio sentenced the 62-year-old to 40 to 60 years in prison. Given his age, it is unlikely Mr. Randall will ever taste freedom again.

Another Light Sentence For A Child Molester

     In December 2018, an 18-year-old woman from the Western Pennsylvania town of New Castle went to the local police with a terrible complaint. When she was 9-years-old, a 36-year-old man named William Quigley began sexually molesting her. He continued to have indecent sexual contact with her until she was 11 when the molestation escalated to sexual intercourse. The girl was raped by this man for another two years.

     When taken into custody, William Quigley confessed to the almost five-year sexual relationship with the minor. The Lawrence County District Attorney charged him with rape and several lesser sexual offenses.

     In September 2019, pursuant to a plea agreement, a Lawrence County judge sentenced the 45-year-old child rapist to 5 to 12 years in prison followed by three years of probation.

     A man who sexually molests a 9-year-old girl for two years and rapes her for almost another three should not be sentenced to less than 20 years in prison. William Quigley should not have been allowed to plead guilty in return for such a lenient sentence. He's a child molester!

     What's also disturbing about this case is that no one in the New Castle community seemed upset by Quigley's light sentence.

Executions: The Thrill is Gone

     During the late Middle Ages (1000-1500), executions took place in the marketplace or in the village square, but by then they had become more formal, dignified, even ceremonial undertakings. Procedures were more elaborate; rage was blunted by formalities. For the grievous offenders of this time--a category including heretics--executions were elaborate highly planned exhibitions orchestrated by high officials. Rage was absent altogether in these pageants, but other strong emotions reigned. Most notably, there was excitement and awe, especially before the might and majesty of the Inquisition.

     Executions marked by a restrained ceremony were the norm during the early modern period (1500-1800). Crowds of spectators might have lapsed into unseemly behavior, but such behavior was sharply at odds with the formal execution script. These executions featured ritual and etiquette, as in the late Middle Ages, but little pomp or circumstance. Milder feelings, such as those of devotion were given an outlet in ceremony; excitement or awe was deemed inappropriately expressive. Officials and spectators were instead expected to show a quiet reverence, tinged by sadness.

     In the modern period (from 1800 on), ceremony gradually gave way to bureaucratic procedure played out behind prison walls, in isolation from the community. Feelings are absent, or at least suppressed, in bureaucratically administered executions. With bureaucratic procedure, there is a functional routine dominated by hierarchy and task. Officials perform mechanically before a small, silent gathering of authorized witnesses who behave with marked restraint. Executions have come to be seen as "dirty work." Hence, there is no communal involvement of any sort. The proceedings are antiseptically arranged; few of us get our hands soiled.

Robert Johnson, Death Work, Second Edition, 1998 

You Don't Need Large Blocks Of Time to Write

Few beginning writers have the luxury of large blocks of time to write. Jobs, family, and social responsibilities take up most of the day…Writer Thomas Sullivan found that his family obligations and high school teaching position left him only two minutes to write each day, in the school library, before the bell rang announcing his first class. Two minutes is barely time to brush one's teeth, yet Sullivan managed to squeeze at least a paragraph out of those precious moments, day after day. Driving to school, he would be writing in his head, and by the time he sat down with pencil and pad, the words were in order and ready to record. This situation continued for years, during which time he wrote three novels.

Loren D. Estleman, Writing the Popular Novel, 2004 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Boy Scouts of America and New Laws Affecting Sexual Abuse Victims

     Men who as minors were sexually abused by members of powerful institutions like the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts of America have been unable to successfully sue these organizations because of the passage of time and civil procedural laws that prohibit bringing old cases in the same way statutes of limitations prohibit criminal charges after a certain number of years have passed since the alleged crimes. For thousands of men abused years ago by priests and boy scout leaders, things have changed for the better due to state legislatures and court decisions that have legally opened the door to such lawsuits.

     In New York state for example, a new law gives sex abuse plaintiffs a one year window in which to bring cases once barred by the passage of time.

     In Pennsylvania, an appeals court ruled that the state's statute of limitations can be set aside if the sex abuse victim can prove that the sexual assaults were concealed by fraud.

     These changes in civil procedural law are particularly bad news for the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts of America, organizations that for decades used these passage of time restrictions to protect themselves and pedophiles in their midst.

     Civil court settlements related to the well-documented pedophile problem in the Catholic Church have led to several diocese filing for bankruptcy. Now even more Catholic Churches will close.

     Numerous studies show that since 1916, more than a million boys have been sexually abused by Boy Scout Leaders. These victims were without legal remedies because the men who violated them, due to passage of time restrictions, could not be sued or prosecuted. Now the organization is facing a potential financial crisis involving tens of millions of dollars in civil settlements and damages. This could lead to the organization's bankruptcy. And it's about time.

     The Boy Scouts of American is in serious trouble because its leaders, for decades, refused to weed out its pedophiles. Institutions and organizations that protect sexual predators are a huge part of the problem and do not deserve to exist. It's just a shame politicians, spiritual leaders, lawmakers and judges have done so little to protect our children.

Hiding Cardinal Theodore McCarrick

     At the height of his prominence in the Catholic Church, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was the Archbishop of Washington, D. C. . From 2001 to 2006, he hobnobbed with Popes and presidents. Amid rumors in the church community that he was a pedophile, the world famous priest retired from the clergy in 2006 at the age of 75. He remained active, however in Catholic affairs, and as a major fundraiser for the church, maintained his influence and power.

     The full story of Theodore McCarrick's sexual crimes became public in June 2018 when several men came forward and claimed that the priest had sexually assaulted them in the 1960s and 1970s when they were boys. One of the accusers said the priest started molesting him when he was eleven.

      Because the statute of limitations in these cases had expired, Theodore McCarrick was never criminally charged. The church did, however, shell out money to settle some of the accusations against him.

     In September 2018, officials with the Catholic Church moved the former archbishop to the only catholic institution that would house him, a friary (a place where friars live) called St. Fidelis in the small town of Victoria, Kansas. It is there the disgraced 89-year-old will live out his remaining days in seclusion.

    The Catholic Church not only moves  pedophiles from one diocese to another, they actually hide them. They not only "pass the trash," they bury it.

The Wishful Thinking Candidate

Marianne Williams, U.S. presidential candidate, promises that if elected she will create a cabinet level department dedicated to making the world a safer place. Mr. Rogers, all the Popes, and the United Nations couldn't pull this off. But they are not Marianne Williams. Think of it, a world without war, dictators, hurricanes, or crime! Thank you Marianne Williams. 

Criminologists Who Make Excuses For Criminals

     The criminal justice system's failure to provide justice was inevitable, given the deterministic premises of its modern architects. Criminologists Wilson and Herrnstein explained, "The modern liberal position on criminal justice is rehabilitative, not retributive, because the offender is believed to have been driven to his crimes, rather than to have committed them freely and intentionally…."

     Some "reformers" have even made their antipathy toward traditional conceptions of justice explicit. Here, two of them express acute discomfort with the classical symbol, Justitia--the familiar courtroom figure, robed and blindfolded, holding her scales and sword: "Though excellently symbolizing impartial, even-handed, and effective justice generally, Justitia is ill-equipped to meet our current demands from penal sentences…From her left hand she should drop the scales and put in its place the case history, the symbol of the full psychological, sociological, and criminological investigation of the individual criminal. Her right hand will find very little use for a sword in the modern penal system….Around her knees she would be well advised to gather the adolescent social sciences….Finally, it is essential that she removed the anachronistic bandage from her eyes and look at the developments on society generally…."

     A new kind of justice--"social justice" or "distributive justice"--was to replace the "anachronistic," Justitian sort. Since men were helpless playthings of circumstances, and since circumstances impinged upon men unequally, it was the moral duty of government to intervene and redress the resulting "injustices." Government, according to Excuse-Makers such as John Rawls, was not to be society's impartial umpire, but rather its meddling therapist.

     This outlook, largely a legacy of Rousseau's view of human nature, spawned the redistributionist welfare state. "If you are bright, accomplished, famous, well-off, virtuous--you're just lucky, you had nothing to do with it. [Remember Obama's comment: "You didn't build your business, government did."] You didn't deserve any of your success. Likewise, if you are stupid, lazy, corrupt, poor, mediocre, even criminal--you can't help that either. Therefore, 'distributive justice' requires that the government level the playing field."

     It also led logically to "a culture of instinctive 'sympathy for the devil,' " as one historian put it, "a feeling that criminals in this society are as much victims as victimizers, as much sinned against as sinners--if not more so."

Robert James Bidinotto, "Subverting Justice," in Criminal Justice?, Robert James Bidinotto, ed., 1994

The World's Most Stupid Book

Think of what a difficulty it would be if you couldn't use the most common letter in your writing. In 1937, Ernest Vincent Wright took the challenge head on and wrote a book called Gadsby: A Story of Over 50,000 Words Without Using the Letter "E." Wright literally tied down the e  key on his typewriter and spent 165 days writing without e's (the e-filled subtitle was added later by the publisher.) Not that Wright lived a life of ease from his e-less accomplishment. He died the day Gadsby was published. [The plot of this self-published book revolves around the dying fictional city of Hills that is revitalized thanks to the protagonist, John Gadsby and a youth group he organizes. The book, sought after by book collectors, entered the public domain in 1968.]

Erin Barrett and Jack Mingo, It Takes a Certain Type of Person To Be A Writer, 2003 

Jim Thompson's True Crime Writing Tips

True crime stories must be post-trial, with the perpetrators convicted and sentenced at the conclusion…Use active writing, avoid passive constructions. Remember that detectives probe, dig up, determine, deduce, seek out, ascertain, discover, hunt, root out, delve, uncover, track, trace, and inspect. They also canvass, inquire, question, and quiz.

Jim Thompson in Savage Art by Robert Polito, 1995

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Taub General Hospital Rape Case

     On November 2, 2013, Mary Cruz (not her real name) was admitted to the Ben Taub General Hospital in Houston with complaints of shortness of breath and wheezing. Doctors sedated her and attached her to a machine to help her breathe. Dr. Shafeeq Sheikh, on call at the hospital, visited Cruz's private room three times that night. On his third visit he unplugged the nurse's call button and raped the helpless woman. Mary Cruz reported the sexual assault the following morning and agreed to a rape kit analysis.

     Two years after Mary Cruz's sexual assault, DNA analysis of the evidence proved that Dr. Sheikh had engaged in sexual intercourse with the patient that night.

     A Harris County prosecutor charged the 42-year-old physician with second-degree sexual assault. Dr. Sheikh pleaded not guilty to the charge.

     The Mary Cruz rape case did not go to trial until August 2019, almost six years after the alleged crime. The prosecution's case rested primarily on the strength of the victim's testimony and the DNA evidence.

     Dr. Sheikh's attorneys launched an aggressive defense that amounted to attacking Mary Cruz's credibility and her motives. According to the defense version of the case, the so-called victim had seduced the doctor into having sex with her by grabbing his crotch.

     To show that at the time of the alleged consensual sexual encounter Mary Cruz was not heavily sedated as she claimed, the defense produced phone records that revealed she was texting and calling people during the period in question. Defense attorneys also floated the theory that Mary Cruz had filed a false rape claim in anticipation of a large settlement from the hospital.

     In an effort to discredit Mary Cruz, one of the defense attorneys said, "Here we have this Latina woman with her fake boobs that came on to that little nerdy middle-aged guy, and he lost his mind."

     At the conclusion of the two-week trial, the jury of five women and seven men found Dr. Sheikh guilty of second-degree sexual assault. Prosecutors asked for the maximum sentence of twenty years in prison. (In Texas, juries impose sentences.)

     At the convicted doctor's sentencing hearing, the defendant's friends and relatives came forward to vouch for his good character. The doctor himself showed great remorse for violating his Hippocratic oath and his marriage vows.

     On August 18, 2019, the Harris County jury sentenced Dr. Sheikh to ten years probation. The lenient sentence suggests that at least some of the jurors were not completely convinced that Mary Cruz's account of the incident was true.

     Harris County prosecutors and many others in the community were outraged by what they believed was a horribly light sentence for a terrible crime that not only violated Mary Cruz but patients' trust in doctors.

     Dr. Shafeeq Sheikh lost his license to practice medicine in Texas and was required to register as a sex offender.

Saving Catholic Kids From Harry Potter

     In August 2019, at the St. Edward Catholic school in Nashville, Tennessee, Reverend Dan Reehill ordered the middle school librarian to remove all of the library's Harry Potter books. The priest, in justifying taking books out of the school that students liked, said he had consulted exorcists in the United States and Rome who recommended the literary purge.

     According to Father Reehill, "The curses and spells used in the Harry Potter books are actual curses and spells which risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the persons reading the texts."

Revealing Oneself Through Fiction

Many start writing fiction as a dodge, thinking it will provide a good hideout from themselves. Yet those who write stories and novels to escape themselves invariably discover that this is who they stumble over at every turn. Even though novelists and short story writers ostensibly deal in fantasy, they are the most self-exposed authors of all. Writers of nonfiction can be judged on their ability to marshal facts coherently and gracefully. Poets can hide behind elegant words, powerful metaphors, and seductive rhythms. Fiction writers are judged by the emotional authenticity of their work. To create authentic feelings in their characters, they must first call up their own.

Ralph Keyes, The Courage to Write, 1995

The Screenwriting Workshop

There comes a time in every screenwriter's career when he feels the need to cease a solitary existence and enroll in a class or workshop. Before you jump in, be aware that many of these classes are taught by petty people. Of course not all workshops are evil. [I'm not so sure about that.] In fact, there are many wonderful workshops and teachers across the country. Just make sure the instructor of your workshop promotes constructive, not destructive, feedback, and the other students seem talented, supportive and serious. [My idea of good advice from workshop instructor: If you have real talent, get the hell out of this class. Movies today are crap, written by teams of hacks. Write a genre novel or get into nonfiction. Or better yet, get a real job.]

Richard Krevolin, Screenwriting in the Land of Oz, 2011

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Reshad Riddle Murder Case

     Reverend David Howard had just finished his Easter service on Sunday, March 31, 2013 at the Hiawatha Church of God in Christ in the northeastern Ohio town of Ashtabula. As congregants began to file out of the church, Reshad Riddle entered the building carrying a handgun and yelling something about God and Allah. A couple of church members grabbed the minister and ushered him to safety inside an office in the back of the building. Other congregants hit the floor and dialed 911 on their cellphones.

     The 25-year-old gunman walked up to Richard Riddle, his 52-year-old father, and shot him in the head. The victim died on the spot. Waving the gun in the air, Reshad Riddle screamed that the murder had been "the will of Allah. This is the will of God," he yelled.

     Police officers stormed into the church and took the killer into custody before he shot anyone else.

     In 2006, Reshad, then 18, was charged with felonious assault and kidnapping in connection with his attempt to cut his girlfriend's throat. A year later he was arrested for another felonious assault. Riddle was charged again in 2009 for possession of cocaine and tampering with evidence.

     Ashtabula Chief of Police Robert Stell told an Associated Press reporter that "There was no indication that the father and son had a bad relationship. Everyone thinks this was very surprising," he said. Really? Why wasn't this man in prison? Are they putting anyone away these days?

     After a local prosecutor charged Riddle with aggravated murder, officers booked him into the Ashtabula County Jail. The judge set his bond at $1 million.

     On December 20, 2013, a judge declared Reshad Riddle incompetent to stand trial. In this ruling, the judge relied on the testimony of two psychiatrists who had examined the defendant.

     In December 2014, Ashtabula County Judge Ronald Vettel, based upon the findings of psychologist Thomas Gazely, officially declared Riddle legally insane. On January 15, 2015, the judge sentenced Reshad Riddle to life at the Northeast Behavioral Health Care System in Cleveland, Ohio.

     The lifelong incarceration reflected the belief that Riddle's mental illness was not manageable and that he would remain a danger to society as long as he lived.