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Saturday, November 30, 2019

The David Tarloff Murder Case

     Psychiatrists diagnosed David Tarloff with schizophrenia in 1991 when the 23-year-old was in college. Over the next seventeen years, the Queens, New York resident, on twelve occasions, ended up in a hospital mental ward. There was no question that the man was mentally ill.

     Tarloff lived with his mother in a Queens apartment until 2004 when she moved into a nursing home. By 2008, the 40-year-old schizophrenic had convinced himself that his mother was being abused by nursing home personnel. That's when he concocted a plan to rob Dr. Kent Shinbach, the psychiatrist who had initially treated him in 1991. With the money he hoped to acquire by using the doctor's ATM code, Tarloff planned to pull his mother out of the nursing home and take her away to Hawaii.

     In February 2008, after making several phone inquiries, Tarloff learned that Dr. Shinbach had offices on Manhattan's Upper East Side. In preparation for the robbery, Tarloff purchased a rubber meat mallet and a cleaver that he packed into a suitcase filled with adult diapers and clothing for his mother.

     On February 8, 2008, Tarloff showed up at  Dr. Shinbach's office armed with the meat cleaver and the mallet. But instead of encountering his robbery target, he was confronted by Dr. Kathryn Faughey, the 56-year-old psychotherapist who shared office space with Dr. Shinbach.

    In the Manhattan doctor's office, Tarloff smashed Faughey's skull with the mallet, then hacked her to death with the meat cleaver. He also attacked Dr. Shinbach when the psychiatrist tried to rescue his colleague. Tarloff fled the bloody scene on foot and was taken into custody shortly thereafter. Dr. Shinbach survived his wounds.

     The Manhattan District Attorneys Office charged Tarloff with first-degree murder. The defendant's attorney acknowledged what his client had done, but pleaded him not guilty by reason of insanity. If a jury found that at the moment Tarloff killed Dr. Faughey, he was so mentally ill he couldn't appreciate the nature and quality of his act, they could return a verdict of not guilty. Instead of serving a fixed prison term, Tarloff would be placed into an institution for the criminally insane. The length of his incarceration would be determined by the doctors who treated him. If at some point the psychiatrists considered him sane enough for society, he could be discharged from the mental institution. (It is for this reason that most jurors are uncomfortable with the insanity defense, particularly in cases of extreme violence.)

     Under American law, criminal defendants are presumed innocent and sane. That means the prosecution has to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense, in insanity cases, has the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence (a less rigorous standard of proof) that the defendant was out of touch with reality when he committed the homicide. Since even seriously psychotic murder defendants are aware they are killing their victims, not guilty by reason of insanity verdicts are rare. This is particularly true in rural communities where jurors prefer to send mentally ill murderers to prison.

     After years of procedural delays, David Tarloff's murder trial got underway in March 2013. A month later, following the testimony of a set of dueling psychiatrists, the case went to the jury. After ten days of deliberation, the jury foreman informed the judge that the panel had not been able to reach an unanimous verdict of guilt. The trial judge had no choice but to declare a mistrial.

     The Manhattan prosecutor in charge of the case announced his intention to try David Tarloff again.

     In May 2014, at his second trial, the jury rejected the insanity defense in this case and found David Tarloff guilty of first-degree murder. The judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.     

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Problems in American Criminal Justice

     POLICING: Modern law enforcement has become too militarized. There are too many SWAT teams and pre-dawn, no-knock drug raids into private dwellings occupied by children and other innocent people. Offices see themselves as crime warriors instead of public servants. Another unrelated problem involves powerful police unions that keep bad cops on the job.

     FORENSIC SCIENCE: The nation's crime laboratories are in a state of crisis. Due to budget restraints and a shortage of qualified personnel, these facilities are overwhelmed with evidence submissions which has created serious backlogs, sloppy work, contaminated evidence, and identification mistakes. Crime labs and crime lab units all over the country are being shut down due to inferior work. With criminal investigation being a low law enforcement priority, the crime lab problem is not about to be fixed any time soon. (There is also a critical shortage of forensic pathologists in the country.)

     CORRECTIONS: Because judges won't allow prison overcrowding, and there is no money to expand our prison infrastructure, we have more criminals than places to put them. In California and other states, pedophiles, rapists, and other violent criminals who should be locked-up are walking free to make room for the drug offenders. In Massachusetts, instead of new prison space, taxpayers are funding an inmate's sex-change operation. Our prison system has become a national disgrace. (In New Orleans recently, a prisoner-produced video shows inmates doing drugs and walking around with handguns.)

     CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION: Because of the government's preoccupation with heavily armed street patrol, the never-ending drug war, and anti-terrorism, criminal investigation in this country is becoming a lost art. While national crime rates have steadily decreased, more and more homicide and sexual offense cases are being bungled or ignored. The combination of poor crime lab services and the fact detective bureaus across the country are being cut has led to a significant decline in crime solution rates.

     CRIMINAL LAW: Virtually every form of criminal behavior is now a federal offense. The central government has become too involved in criminal justice matters that should be left to the states. We are creating a national police force which is contrary to the principles of freedom and limited government. Moreover, state crime codes have become cluttered with unnecessary, politically-motivated window-dressing laws that pander to various minority groups. The entire hate-crime movement is an example of this form of over-legislation.

     CRIMINAL COURTS: The nation's prosecutors, state and federal, are overwhelmed with drug cases that clog the dockets and force the government into plea-bargain deals that do not always serve the public interest. More than 90 percent of convictions in this country are the result of bargained guilty pleas. 

Crime in England

Only one Western country can say today that it doesn't have organized crime and that's England. They have crime there, spectacular crimes like bank holdups, train robberies, stuff like that. Gambling has been knocked off by being legalized, prostitution has been knocked-off--it's not legal but they don't bother you--and the government's narcotics program has taken most of the profit out of that. England has a very tough legal system to beat. They have uniformity of laws. There is no such thing as a law in London and another law in Manchester--each law is for the entire country. And finally, over there, from the time you are arrested to the day you go to trial, it's never more than three or four weeks.

Joey (with Dave Fisher), Joey The Hitman

Public Education in America: Not The Envy of the World

Everybody around the world wants to send their kids to our universities. But nobody wants to send their kids here to public school.

Walter Annenberg (1908-2002), publisher

The Ideal Government

I would have government defend the life and property of all citizens equally; protect all willing exchange; suppress and penalize all fraud; all misrepresentation; all violence; all predatory practices; involve a common justice under law; and keep records incidental to these functions. Even this is a bigger assignment that governments, generally, have proven capable of. Let governments do these things and do them well. Leave all else to men in free and creative effort.

Leonard Read (1898-1983)

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Stanwood Elkus Murder Case

     As a young man who grew up in southern California's Orange County, Ronald Franklin Gilbert, the son of a physician, played in a rock band and worked as a stockbroker. In the late 1980s he followed in his father's footsteps by becoming a doctor. In 1993, Dr. Gilbert joined the Orange County Urology Group housed at the Hoag Health Center in Newport Beach. The Huntington Beach resident, as a urologist, treated patients with prostrate cancer and bladder conditions as well as with a variety of sexual dysfunctions. He performed vasectomies, prostate surgery, and other urology related medical procedures. Dr. Gilbert's colleagues considered him one of the best in his field.

     Stanwood F. Elkus, a 75-year-old retired barber from Elsinore, California, told a friend on January 27, 2013 that Dr. Gilbert had botched his prostate surgery 21 years earlier at a Veteran's Administration hospital. (While Dr. Gilbert had worked at that VA facility then, there was no record of him operating on Mr. Elkus.) To his friend, Elkus said, "I had surgery and now I am worse than before the surgery." According to Elkus, Dr. Gilbert's operation had aggravated his incontinence problem rather than fix it.

     The following afternoon at 2:30, Stanwood Elkus showed up at the Hoag Health Center for his appointment with Dr. Gilbert. He had made the appointment using a fake name. Fifteen minutes later, when Dr. Gilbert walked into the examination room, the patient shot him several times in the upper body, killing him instantly.

     After the shooting, Elkus emerged from the examination room holding a .45-caliber handgun. "Call the police," he said. "I'm insane."

     In response to the 911 call, Newport Beach police officers arrived at the doctor's office eight minutes after the murder. They disarmed and arrested Elkus in the examination room. A few hours later, police officers searched the shooter's home in Lake Elsinore.

     On Wednesday, January 30, 2013, Stanwood Elkus stood before an Orange County arraignment judge who officially charged him with murder. The judge set Elkus' bail at $1 million. The prisoner was booked into the Orange County Jail.

     On May 9, 2014, Elkus settled a wrongful death suit brought by members of Dr. Gilbert's family. To shield his assets from the civil suit plaintiffs, Elkus tried to transfer his ownership of eight houses and condominiums in Lake Forest, Huntington Beach, and Lake Elsinore to his sister. A judge granted the plaintiff's injunction that stopped the real estate transactions. The accused murder's assets were valued at $2 million.

     In August 2014, the murder suspect's attorney, Colleen O'Hara, entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. Orange County Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy told reporters that he planned to prove that Mr. Elkus, at the moment he killed Dr. Gilbert, was sane. "We are very confident in our evidence," he said.

     On August 21, 2017, an Orange County Superior Court jury found Elkus guilty of first-degree murder. In so doing, jurors found that the defendant was sane at the time of the killing. A month after the guilty verdict, the judge sentenced Elkus to life in prison plus ten years.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Police Involved Killing of David Hooks

     David Hooks, a respected and successful businessman lived with Teresa, his wife of 25 years, in an upper-middle class neighborhood in East Dublin, Georgia. Hooks' construction company did a lot of work on area military bases such as Hunter Army Airfield and Fort Stewart. This meant that Hooks had passed background investigations conducted by the Department of Homeland Security and the ATF.

     On September 22, 2014, a meth-addled burglar named Rodney Garrett broke into Mr. Hooks' pickup truck then stole the family's Lincoln Aviator SUV. The next day, Garrett surrendered to deputies with the Laurens County Sheriff's Office.

     Perhaps to curry favor with the police, Garrett told deputies that in Mr. Hooks' pickup he came across a bag that he opened hoping to find cash. Instead, he found 20 grams of methamphetamine and a digital scale. Before searching Mr. Hooks' house, officers knew they would need more than the word of a meth-addicted burglar and car thief to get a judge to sign off on a warrant. In an effort to bolster this  unreliable evidence, a deputy sheriff told the issuing magistrate that in 2009 another snitch said he had supplied Mr. Hooks with meth and that the businessman had resold it.

     The local magistrate, based on the word of a meth-using thief in trouble with the law and the six-year-old word of another snitch in another case that had gone nowhere, issued a warrant to search the Hooks residence for methamphetamine. By no stretch of the imagination was this warrant based upon sufficient probable cause.

     To execute the Hooks drug warrant, the sheriff, in typical drug enforcement overkill, deployed eight members of a SRT (Special Response Team) to raid the target dwelling with officers armed with assault weapons and dressed in SWAT-like combat boots, helmets, and flack-jackets.

     At eleven in the morning of September 24, 2014, just two days after Rodney Garrett broke into the Hooks pickup truck and stole their SUV, Teresa Hooks, while on the second-floor of her house, heard vehicles coming up the driveway. She looked out the window and saw several masked men with rifles advancing on the residence.

     Teresa Hooks ran downstairs into a first-floor bedroom where her husband was sleeping. She shook him up and screamed, "the burglars are back!" Mr. Hooks jumped out of bed, grabbed his shotgun, and walked out of the bedroom as members of the raiding party broke down his back door and stormed into the house. In the course of the home intrusion, officers fired eighteen shots. Mr. Hooks did not discharge his weapon. At some point in the drug raid he was shot twice and died on the spot.

     According to the official police version of the fatal shooting of a man in his own home, Mr. Hooks came to the door armed with a shotgun. Officers reported that they had broken into the dwelling after knocking and announcing their presence. When Mr. Hooks refused to lower his weapon, the officers had no choice but to shoot him dead. That was the story.

     A 44-hour search of the Hooks residence by deputy sheriffs and officers with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation failed to produce drugs or any other evidence of crime.

     On October 2, 2014, the Hooks family attorney, Mitch Shook, told reporters that the police had forced their way into the house without knocking or announcing themselves to execute a search warrant based upon bogus informant information. The attorney said Mr. David Hooks had been a respected businessman who had never used or sold drugs. The police, according to Mr. Shook, had no business raiding this house and killing this decent man.

     Attorney Shook, on December 11, 2014, made a startling announcement: When the police shot Mr. Hooks in the back and in the back of the head, he was lying face-down on the floor. The attorney said he had asked the FBI to launch an investigation into the case.

     In July 2015, a Laurens County grand jury declined to indict any officers in the David Hooks killing. According to a crime lab toxicology report, Mr. Hooks, at the time of his death, had methamphetamine in his system.

     The FBI decided not to launch an investigation into this SWAT related shooting death.  

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Downside To Marijuana Legalization

A new study [published in the JMA Psychiatry] suggests that marijuana legalization leads to more cannabis use and perhaps addiction, particularly among adults 26 and older--highlighting a public health downside to a policy change that now 11 states and Washington, D.C. have adopted and several other states are considering.

German Lopez, Vox, November 12, 2019

Friday, November 22, 2019

No Easy Solution For School Shootings

After every massacre in a school, Americans grasp at quick cures. "Let's install metal detectors and give guns to teachers. Let's crack down on troublemakers, weeding out kids who fit the profile of a gunman. Let's buy bulletproof whiteboards for the students to scurry behind, or train kids to throw erasers or cans of soup at an attacker."

Bill Dedman, investigative journalist

Fiction Should Be About People, Not Words

     I've had this conversation with many fiction writing students…Basically what's happening is this: The student is telling you that he has given up trying to write stories about people because he can't find anything to say about them, and wants your blessing as he launches a new student career of writing words about words.

     Give him nothing. This is a crucial moment in his life. If you let him go he's likely to end up with a doctoral degree in rhetoric and will spend the rest of his life teaching undergrads how to write words about words. The best thing to do is to put him up against the wall and threaten to shoot him if he doesn't shut up with that silly stuff.

Martin Russ, Showdown Semester, 1980 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

"Breaking Bad" at Henderson State University

     Henderson State University is a public liberal arts school with about 3,500 students in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, a town located 70 miles southwest of Little Rock. On October 8, 2019, a powerful odor that came from the university's Reynolds Science Center forced the closing of the chemistry laboratory. The inquiry that followed revealed the elevated presence of benzyl chloride, a chemical commonly used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. The identity of this chemical prompted an investigation by the university police department.

     Two days after the closure of the university chem lab, the president of the school placed 45-year-old Terry David Bateman, an associate professor and director of the undergraduate research department, on administrative leave. Bateman had been with Henderson State University since 2009.

  The university president also placed 40-year-old Bradley Allen Rowland on administrative leave. Rowland was an associate professor in the chemistry department.

     On October 29, 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency okayed the re-opening of the chemistry lab. The investigation into the potentially criminal activities of the two professors by the campus police department produced enough evidence to bring in narcotics specialists with the Clark County Sheriff's Office.

     On November 15, 2019, a Clark County prosecutor charged professors Terry Bateman and Bradley Rowland with the manufacture of methamphetamine. The suspects were booked into the Clark County Jail.

     For many, the arrests of the college professors suspected of cooking meth brought to mind the popular television series "Breaking Bad" that was broadcast on the AMC channel from 2008 to 2015. The drama followed the life of Walter White, a high school chemistry professor from Albuquerque, New Mexico who became a major underworld figure as world-class meth cook. 

Thornton P. Knowles On Congress

I've heard people say that Congress is useless. My response: Wouldn't that be nice. I say that because useless is a lot better than harmful. For example, whenever Congress tackles a problem, they make it worse, and create a new problem. They then tackle the new problem they created, and make it worse--and create another problem. And so it goes. We'd be better off if these hacks just stuck to passing resolutions and holding meaningless hearings to promote themselves on television. Yet the more we see these parasites on TV, the more we are reminded of why we hate politicians. Term limits and making it a felony for a politician to lie on television would be nice, but even these measures wouldn't drain the swamp. Let's face it, politics is just a lousy occupation that draws self-serving, grandstanding narcissists.

Thornton P. Knowles

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Shankar Nagappa Hangud Mass Murder Case

     In 2019, Shankar Nagappa Hungud lived with his wife, daughter and one of his two sons at Carmel at Wood Creek West, an apartment complex in Roseville, California, a Placer County community of 132,000 not far from San Francisco. The 53-year-old of East Indian descent had worked as a data specialist for a consulting firm in Sacramento before becoming unemployed in 2018. His two children living at home attended the Dry Creek Middle School in Roseville,

     Mr. Hangud's financial problems had placed him under considerable stress. As of May 2019, he owed $178,000 to the IRS in taxes.

     On Monday, October 7, 2019, Shankar Hangud murdered his wife and his middle school daughter in their apartment. The day after he killed his wife and daughter, Hangud returned to the apartment and murdered his son.

     On Sunday, October 13, 2019, with the bodies of his wife, son, and daughter still undiscovered in the Roseville apartment, Hangud, with his 20-year-old son as a passenger in his red Mazda, drove 200 miles north to a remote area in Siskiyou County near the Oregon state line where Hangud strangled his son to death.

     The next day, with his oldest son's body in the trunk of his car, Hangud drove to Mount Shasta, California, a town of 3,000 in Siskiyou County. There, he turned himself over to officers with the Mount Shasta Police Department. To these officers, Shankar Hangud confessed to murdering his wife and their two younger children in the Roseville apartment. He said the body of his 20-year-old son was in trunk of his Mazda.

     Upon hearing from the police in Mount Shasta, officers with the Roseville department traveled to the Carmel at Wood Creek West apartment complex where they discovered the week-old corpses of a woman and two children.

     Later on the day of the discovery of Shankar Hangud's murder victims, Roseville police detectives drove to Mount Shasta to question him and return him to Placer County. That evening, the suspect was booked into the South Placer County Jail.

     On Wednesday, October 16, 2019, Shankar Hangud appeared before Judge Jeffrey S. Penny who informed him he had been charged with four counts of first-degree murder. The defendant said he didn't want an attorney, but the judge appointed him a public defender anyway. Judge Penny denied Hangud bail.

     As of this writing, about six weeks after the discovery of Hangud's wife and two children in the Roseville apartment, the authorities have not released information regarding how the victims were murdered, exactly when, or why. They haven't even released the names of the victims. For some reason, there has been a news blackout on this case. Nothing has been published about it since October 25, 2019.

Anti-Drug Public Service Ads: Telling People Things They Already Know

     In November 2019, the governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem, launched a $1.4 million anti-methamphetamine ad campaign. The idea was to bring awareness to the growing problem of meth addiction in the state. The ads can be seen on television, billboards, posters, and on the Internet. They feature images of people of different ages and races who say, "I'm on meth." The governor then intones: "This is our problem and we need to get on it." She goes on to explain how the meth problem has crowded the jails, overwhelmed the courts, and has destroyed lives.

     The public service motto is, "Meth. We're on it."

     The ad campaign will continue until May 2020. The advertising agency that came up with the catch phrase, "Meth. We're on it," was paid $445,000 for that.

     Everyone knows that people don't eat too much, abuse alcohol, smoke, and take drugs because they were not aware that these behaviors are bad for them. No one is that stupid. But politicians, when confronted with a problem, feel that they have to do something. And what they do, what they do best, is spend taxpayer money.

     The anti-meth motto, "Meth. We're on it." is not only useless and a waste of taxpayer money, it's a mockery of the problem and the government. It has become a cultural joke. When it comes to wasting taxpayer money on useless, window dressing measures, politicians should take Nancy Reagan's famously puerile anti-drug advice: "Just say no."

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Hybritophilia: Moths to the Flame

Hybritophiles are women sexually attracted to men who have committed murder. These women are especially attracted to high profile murderers and famous serial killers. They send these depraved men love letters, learn everything they can about their private lives, try to call or visit them in prison, and in rare cases, even marry them. The syndrome is an extreme form of the teenage girl's attraction to the forbidden bad boy. According to psychologists, hybritophiles are usually submissive, narcissist enablers who are attracted to power. Serial killers Jeffrey Dahmer, Richard Ramirez, and Ted Bundy were pursued by such women.

Samuel Byck's Attempted Assassination of President Richard Nixon

     Early on the morning of Friday, February 22, 1974, Samuel Byck drove to the Baltimore-Washington International Airport carrying a .22-caliber pistol and a gasoline bomb that was designed to explode on impact. His plan was to hijack a plane and force the pilot to fly it into the White House where the plane's fuel and the gasoline bomb would detonate and kill President Richard Nixon and destroy the building.

     Upon his arrival at the airport, Byck shot and killed an airport security guard. He then stormed his way onto Delta Flight 523 which was scheduled to take off for Atlanta, burst into the cockpit, and shot and killed the co-pilot. He then ordered the pilot to take off, but the pilot refused. Byck then grabbed a female passenger and forced her into the cockpit at gunpoint, telling her to help the pilot fly the plane.

     By this time, security personnel had been alerted to the hijacking, and armed agents surrounded the plane. They immediately began firing furiously into the cockpit.  Byck was hit in the chest and the stomach. Unable to stand, he fell to the cockpit floor and committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

     Byck was deranged and, after his death, it was learned that he had sent a tape to the Washington Post columnist Jack Anderson before the hijacking on which he detailed his plans to use a plane as a guided missile to kill President Nixon.

Stephen J. Spignesi, In The Crosshairs, 2003

Oral Biographies

Oral biography's biggest problem, of course, is the lack of any controlling intelligence. Recorded interviewees exaggerate and ramble on, often ludicrously.

Thomas Mallon, In Fact, 2001 

Monday, November 18, 2019

Ayn Rand On The Power Of Crime Legislation

There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is in 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 [Like making it a crime to use the word "bitch."] that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.

Ayn Rand, political philosopher and novelist (1905-1982)


Lawyer Bashing

Since time immemorial Americans have reveled in the sport of lawyer bashing. While people generally appreciate lawyers who help them personally and professionally, they routinely rail against the profession. Many share tales of terrible greedy lawyers to whom they refer as "shysters" or describe as "crooked."

Blake Morant, huffingtonpost.com

Eccentric Characters

If you were to examine the surviving novels of this century, you would find that a majority of the most memorable characters in fiction are to some degree eccentric. Eccentricity has frequently been at the heart of strong characterization for good reason. Ordinariness is what readers have enough of in real life.

Sol Stein, Stein on Writing, 1995 

A Good Writing Day

I know perfectly well how to have a good writing day: get up around six, get a quick breakfast, at my desk before seven for an uninterrupted three hours of solid work (invariably the most productive segment of the day); a break at ten to fetch the mail, then back to work--resisting, by sheer strength of character, the seductions of the mail--until noon. Break again to [take a walk], get lunch, read the paper. Back to the desk for another productive couple of hours, until concentration fades; sag away from the desk about four, get a nap, feed and exercise the dogs, and begin, cocktail in hand, to read whatever it is I'm reading at the time. Piece of cake. I get a writing day like that, oh, at least once a month.

John Jerome, The Writing Trade, 1992 

Getting Into a Writing Program

     When I went to writing school, I craved rules. I craved a mentor, and the revelation of secrets, and the permission to write scads, and most of all I craved the confirmation that I could write. In other words, I was like practically everyone else.

    What a mystique writing programs have! A sense of promise emanates from their doors, wafts up from the embossed paper bearing their letterheads. I felt that being accepted to one, and especially to that bizarrely exotic one nestled in the middle of America, Iowa, was like being chosen for an initiation into mysteries. After all, what could be more mysterious than learning how to write?

Bonnie Friedman, Writing Past Dark, 1994 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Con Game Victim

I think good cons are all based on the victim's need, and the successful con artist is the one who can exploit that. I remember reading something about this, that one of the greatest traits of confidence tricksters is the level they flatter their victims.

Alfred Molina, actor

Playing A Cop On TV

I did more research than I ever wanted to and saw some things I wish I didn't. I went on [police] ride-alongs, spent time with homicide, cold case, and SVU [surveillance unit] detectives, hung out in subways learning how to spot pervs and pick-pockets, viewed an autopsy, went to a police firing range, and witnessed court cases and I read, read, read.

Mariska Hargitay, actress on the drama series "Law & Order."

People Have Secrets From Each Other, But Not From The Government

You know something is wrong when the government declares opening someone else's mail a felony but your Internet activity is fair game for data collecting.

E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly, 2011

Fictional Dialogue

     Among the things I remember hearing when I was beginning to write was: You shouldn't make fictional dialogue--conversation on the page--sound like actual speech. The repetitions, meaningless expressions, stammers, and nonsensical monosyllables with which we express hesitation, along with the cliches and banalities that constitute so much of everyday conversation, cannot and should not be used when our characters are talking. Rather, they should speak more fluently than we do, with greater economy and certitude. Unlike us, they should say what they mean, get to the point, avoid circumlocution and digression. The idea, presumably, is that fictional dialogue should be an improved, cleaned-up, smoothed-out version of the the way people talk.

     Then why is so much written dialogue less colorful and interesting than what we can overhear daily. Many writers have a gift for language that flows when they are talking and dries up when they are confronted with the blank page, or when they are trying to make characters speak?

     When we speak, we are not merely communicating information but attempting to make an impression and achieve a goal. And sometimes we are hoping to prevent the listener from noticing what  we are not saying, which is often not merely distracting but, we fear, as audible as what we are saying. As a result, dialogue usually contains as much or even more subtext than it does text. More is going on under the surface than on it. One mark of badly written dialogue is that it is only doing one thing at once.

Francine Prose, Reading Like a Writer, 2006

A Writer's "Voice"

     Style is the relationship between writer and reader, and it is the vehicle through which you say whatever you have to say. It is the way you get your story told, and therefore consists of all your language and the whole manner you bring to its use. Style is always much more than decor or ornament, and it is always more than the way you dress up your story. It is the complete sound of what you write.

     Writers often talk about "finding their voice," and that is indeed just what it feels like. In fact, most writers have to "find their voice" many times over, since each new project, with its changed subject and set of demands, will call for some change in manner and inflection.

Stephen Koch, Writer's Workshop, 2003

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Ingrid Lederhaas-Okum: The Thieving Employee From Hell

     On July 1, 2013, at 8:45 PM, three men walked into the jewelry store inside the Borgata Hotel in Atlantic City, smashed a glass jewelry display case, scooped up $200,000 in Rolex watches, then ran out of the hotel.

     While the Atlantic City smash-and-grab theft was considered a fairly big haul, it was nothing compared to what a jewelry thief working from the inside can steal.

     On Tuesday, July 2, 2013, the day after the Borgata Hotel smash-and-grab, FBI agents arrested Ingrid Lederhaas-Okum at her fancy home in Darien, Connecticut. A federal prosecutor charged the 46-year-old vice president in charge of product development at the Tiffany flagship location on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue with stealing $12 million worth of jewelry from the famed store.

     FBI agents working the case believe that between November 2012 and February 2013, the executive had checked out more than 165 pieces of jewelry that were not returned to the store. The missing merchandise included diamond bracelets, platinum and gold diamond drop and loop earrings, platinum and diamond rings, and platinum and diamond pendants. Lederhaas-Okum stood accused of selling the checked-out pieces of jewelry to another company. Federal investigators believed the suspect used her husband and a friend as sales intermediaries.

     After Tiffany & Company auditors couldn't find the 165-plus pieces of merchandise in the store's inventory, the firm fired Lederhaas-Okum. She had held the position of vice president since January of 2011. Lederhaas-Okum began working for the company in 1991 following her graduation from Georgetown University.

     Igrid Lederhaas-Okum pleaded not guilty to the jewelry theft charge.

     In terms of stolen merchandise and cash, retailers are hit the hardest by employee thieves who steal three times more than shoplifters and robbers combined. Quite often the most trusted and longtime employees are the thieves who do the most damage. Most of them are eventually caught. A few of these so-called internal thieves avoid prosecution by agreeing to pay restitution. Occasionally, a retailer will decline to prosecute a dishonest employee because such an action would create unwanted publicity. Most of the time, however, inside retail thieves who have stolen large amounts of cash or merchandise end up in prison.

     It's hard to understand why a trusted, high-paid executive would risk everything by stealing from his or her employer. Some prominent, high-end thieves steal because they are living beyond their means, have large medical expenses, are compulsive gamblers, or addicted to drugs. Some employees simply enjoy the thrill of enriching themselves at the expense of their employers. Forget the Robin Hood Syndrome, rich people often steal from other rich people so they can remain rich.

     On December 23, 2013, following her guilty plea to one count of Interstate Transportation of Stolen Property, U.S. District Court Judge Paul G. Gardephe sentenced Lederhaas-Okum to one year and one day in federal prison. By any standard, this big time employee thief got off extremely light.

Norman Mailer On Journalism

If a person is not talented enough to be a novelist, not smart enough to be a lawyer, and his hands are too shaky to perform operations, he becomes a journalist.

Norman Mailer (1923-2007), novelist/journalist 

Body Snatching

     The dark practice of body snatching is directly tied to the advancements in the study of anatomy and medicine. The term was coined to describe the act of secretly removing corpses from graves for sale, primarily to medical schools where they were used for dissection and anatomy lessons.

     The first known case of body snatching was committed by four medical students in Bologna in 1319. In the 17th and 18th centuries body snatching reached epic proportions around the world. There was a reduction in executions, the traditional source of cadavers. There was also, simultaneously, a proliferation of medical schools and the study of anatomy. Poor refrigeration methods meant a deficit of fresh bodies for medical study. Furthermore, the punishment was minimal--the convicted were either fined or given light prison sentences.

     Body snatching was condoned by many medical practitioners and institutions who believed it was a necessary evil, one that was offset by the benefits anatomical study of the bodies would produce.

     The increasing demand for fresh cadavers gave rise to "ressurectionists," men paid to dig up and deliver bodies. Ressurectionists would work in teams, mainly targeting new graves because it was easier to dig the unsettled earth. They would send spies to funerals--mostly women--to scout the grave and plan for the removal of the body.

     A particular target for ressurectionists were the mass graves that the poor were often buried in. These graves were left uncovered until they were full of coffins. Single graves were far more troublesome to break into--a tunnel would have to be dug, sometimes four feet down, the coffin broken into and the body carried to the surface.

Oregon Public Broadcasting, 2003

Contemporary American Fiction

If I am to be honest, I must admit that most books disappoint me. Contemporary American fiction in particular. What so many writers seem to have forgotten, or never to have learned in the first place, is that reading should not be a torture. I will also admit that I find whimsy fatiguing.

David Leavitt, The New York Times Book Review, June 29, 2014 

Dominick Dunne on Book Tours

These days, publicity tours are very important. If you are asked to go one one, go. Not everyone is asked. I always feel honored when my publisher asks me to go on the road or appear on television chat shows. I've become very good at it. I know how to sell my book. If the conversation veers away to another topic, I have learned how to bring it back to the book. Nothing annoys me more than to hear writers in the various television green rooms around the country bitch and moan about how boring the book tours are, or how exhausting. Get into it. Have fun. Most of the people you meet are great. You're selling your books, and you're building your reputation. what's so bad about that?

Dominick Dunne (1925-2009), true crime writer and TV personality in Jon Winokur's book, Advice to Writers, 1999

Designing Dust Jackets

     The great book designer George Salter once said that a good dust jacket "must be in perfect accord with the literary quality of the book. It must be even more if it is to function as an important sales factor, if it is to 'stop' the eye of the person passing by."

     According to many book designers, it is becoming increasingly difficult to put together a good dust jacket. Each one needs to be approved by sales representatives, editors, art buyers and authors before it wins approval. "It is getting tougher and tougher to do good work these days," said Oliver Munday, a designer for Knopf. And Matt Dorfman, freelance book designer, admitted, "It was a pretty abysmal year for me approval-wise."

Nicholas Blechman, "The Best Book Covers of 2013," The New York Times Book Review, December 15, 1013

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Adam R. Crespo Murder Case

     In October 2017, 30-year-old Silvia Galva was living with 41-year-old Adam Reechard Crespo in his condominium in Hallandale Beach, a coastal town twenty miles north of Miami, Florida. On October 17, 2017, at four-thirty in the morning after a night of drinking with her boyfriend at a Hallandale Beach nightclub, Silvia Galva called 911 and reported that she had been physically assaulted by Crespo.

     When officers from the Hallandale Police Department arrived at Crespo's condominium, they found Galva with blood on her face and in her hair and bruises and scratches on her arms and legs. Adam Crespo literally had blood on his hands.

     Police officers arrested Adam Crespo and booked him into the Broward County Jail on the charge of misdemeanor battery.

     Silvia Galva, after filing the domestic abuse complaint, continued to live with the man who had assaulted her. In November 2017, Galva signed a petition requesting that the county prosecutor drop the misdemeanor battery charge against the man she had accused of abuse just a month earlier. The Broward County State's Attorneys Office denied Galva's dismissal request and set Crespo's trail date for January 23, 2018.

     As Crespo's day in court appoached, Silvia Galva ignored preliminary hearing subpoenas, and on the day of the trial, failed to show up for court. The prosecutor, without the cooperation of the prosecution witness, had no choice but to drop the case against Adam Crespo.

     At midnight on Friday, July 12, 2019, Hallandale police officers responded to a 911 call from Adam Crespo's condominium. The officers who answered the call found Silvia Galva lying on the bedroom floor with a puncture wound in her chest. A woman who identified herself as Galva's friend, the one who had called 911, was trying to revive the unconscious Galva with CPR.

     Medics rushed Silvia Galva to nearby Aventura Hospital where medical personnel pronounced her dead on arrival.

     Back at the death scene, Adam Crespo described to officers what he and his girlfriend had been doing that night, and exactly how she had died, a death he admitted was quite bizarre.

    Crespo, Salva and her female friend had been out drinking at the Diplomat Beach Resort bar in nearby Hollywood, Florida. Shortly after returning to the condo, Crespo and Salva were in the bedroom arguing. Her friend was in the living room. Crespo asked Salva to leave the bedroom, but she refused. He grabbed her by the ankles as she lay facedown on the bed. Across the foot of the bed lay a five-foot wooden shaft tipped with a 12-inch, metal spear point. With his back to Salva as he tried to pull her off the bed by her feet, Crespo heard the spear shaft, apparently caught on something, break with a snap. He turned and saw Salva with the spear point penetrating her chest. He took hold of the broken shaft and pulled the point out of her body, hoping that her wound "wasn't too bad." While Crespo applied pressure to Salva's bleeding wound, her female friend called 911.

     Hallandale police officers, skeptical of Crespo's account of Salva's death, took him into custody at the scene and booked him into the Broward County Jail. A local prosecutor charged Adam Crespo with second-degree murder (murder without premeditation).

     On July 15, 2019, at his arraignment before Broward County Judge Jackie Powell, Crespo pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder. At the hearing, Silvia Galva's sister Veronica testified that the victim had "always been a caring and loving person, but when she began sharing her life with Crespo, everything changed." According to the sister, Crespo had isolated Galva from her closest friends and family. Silvia wanted to get away from this man but he always found a way to get back into her life. "He was always dominant with her, didn't let her have friends, go out, have a job, or even hang a painting she had made." According to the victim's sister, "Silvia was being manipulated by him and ended up being the victim in this scenario."

     Judge Powell set Adam Crespo's bail at $65,000 and ordered him not to contact any members of the Galva family. Once he posted his bond, the defendant would have to wear a GPS monitor, submit to random alcohol and drug testing, and surrender his passport.

     On November 1, 2019, news outlets reported that Hallandale detectives had seized, from Crespo's condominium, a pair of Alexa personal assistant systems. Investigators hoped these voice-activated devices had recorded conversations that would shed some light on how Silvia Galva had died that night.

     Defense attorney Christopher O'Toole, in speaking to reporters, characterized Silvia Galva's death as an accident. O'Toole said, "He [Crespo] tried to save Silvia's life, this was the woman he loved." Regarding the police seizure of the Alexa devices, the attorney said, "Ordinarily, I'd be jumping up and down objecting, but we believe the recordings could help us."
     

The Sociopathic Criminal

     The criminal values people only insofar as they bend to his will or can be coerced or manipulated into doing what he wants. He has been this way since childhood, and by the time he is an adult he has a self-centered view of the world in which he believes that he is entitled to whatever he wants. Constantly he is sizing up his prospects for exploiting people and situations. To him the world is a chessboard, with other people serving as pawns to gratify his desires. This view of life is not only expressed in his actions but also pervades his fantasies.

     The criminal conjures up visions of himself as a super-criminal, dramatically pulling off big scores that outdo the exploits of the most legendary figures. Typical of his fantasies are masterminding a worldwide diamond smuggling operation, working for a syndicate as a hit man, and living lavishly from the proceeds of multimillion-dollar holdups. By no means limiting his fantasies to crime, the criminal fancies himself at the top of the heap in any undertaking. He is the medal of honor combat hero, the secret agent, or the sleuth who cracks a murder case that has stymied an entire police department. He also envisions himself as the self-made millionaire luxuriating in a palatial seaside home, with his Rolls Royce, harem of women, retinue of servants, private jet, and yacht.

Dr. Stanton E. Samenow, Inside the Criminal Mind, 1984

The Barry Loukaitis Case: The Media And Mass Murder

     Suicide clusters of the 1980s would be replaced by the school shootings of the 1990s, almost all conducted by suicidal male youth. The Copycat Effect had merely shifted its target as the media had shifted its focus. School violence has been around for a long time, but the media-driven contagion of modern school shootings dates back to February 2, 1996, when Barry Loukaitis, a 14-year-old boy in Moses Lake, Washington, killed two students and a math teacher. He ended his rampage by saying, "This sure beats algebra, doesn't it?"

     Loukaitis had taken that expression directly from the Stephen King novel, Rage, which he had really liked and which was about a school killing. Loukaitis said his murderous loss of control was inspired by Rage, Pearl Jam's music video Jeremy, and the movies Natural Born Killers and The Basketball Diaries. Unfortunately, the explosive media attention to Loukaitis's school shooting triggered a series of similar events. Today, Stephen King says he wishes he had never written Rage. [The Columbine shooting in 1999 created an Internet subculture of disaffected youths who fantasize about becoming mass murder anti-heroes like Harris and Kleber.]

Loren Coleman, The Copycat Effect, 2004 

The History of School Mass Shootings

     Large scale attacks at schools and college campuses may seem to be a recent phenomenon, but this is not the case. In fact, the deadliest school attack in the United States occurred in 1927, when a 55-year-old man named Andrew Kehoe murdered his wife and then used dynamite to blow up a school in Bath, Michigan. In all, Kehoe killed 45 people and wounded 58; most of these were children.

     Nearly 40 years later, in 1966, Charles Whitman, a 25-year-old student at the University of Texas, went on a rampage. First he killed his wife and mother, then he set up a sniper position in a tower on campus and gunned down 45 people, killing 14.

     The 1970s and 1980s were not devoid of school attacks. In 1979, a teenage girl named Brenda Spencer opened fire on an elementary school across the street from her home in San Diego, California. She killed 2 adults and wounded 8 children and a police officer. Ten years later, in 1989, a 26-year-old named Patrick Purdy opened fire on an elementary school playground in Stockton, California. He killed 5 children and wounded 29 children and a teacher.

Dr. Peter Langman, Why Kids Kill, 2009 

The Novelization of Movies

     You've seen the movie, now read the book. The movie came from an original screenplay, but several weeks before the film comes out, there's a book on the stands. Novelizations, they're called…

     The authors of these books are usually paid a bit more up front than the average first novel advance--but their percentage of royalties is far lower, so that a box office hit won't mean that much more money to the novelizer than a complete failure. Also, writing a novelization can be a frustrating experience, since you almost always have to work from the screenplay, turning in your manuscript before the filming has been competed. Often the whole plot of the movie will be changed in filming or editing, and there sits the book, with the old "wrong" version firmly enshrined.

     Novelizations can be fine pieces of work, but in most cases very few readers and no critics will notice or care. There's little joy in the work, it does nothing for your career, and whether the money is worth it to you is for you to answer.

Orson Scott Card, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, 1990 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Extreme Cruelty: The Samilya Brown Murder Case

     On October 30, 2019, police officers and medics responded to a 911 call from a house on the 1700 block of Folsom Street on the north side of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A 4-year-old girl had fallen from a second-story window of the house and landed on some chairs, seriously injuring her face. The child was rushed by ambulance to Jefferson University Hospital then transferred to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia where she was listed in critical condition.

     The injured girl was being cared for by 38-year-old Samilya Brown who had gained custody of her from Zya Singleton, the girl's mother. Singleton gave up custody of her daughter two years earlier because she didn't have the means to support her. She granted custody to Brown, who was married to her stepbrother, because she didn't want the child placed into foster care.

     When questioned by police officers at the scene regarding how the child had gone out the window, Brown said the girl fell while playing with a cat.

     On November 3, 2019, Zya Singleton's daughter died from her injuries and a serious blood infection. Because she had not died from natural causes, the city medical examiner performed an autopsy. What the forensic pathologist discovered was shocking.

     The medical examiner discovered evidence that the girl had been the victim of years of physical abuse. Her body was covered with burns from some kind of acid, human bite marks, and healed-over puncture wounds. The tiny victim had an incised wound that had been stitched up by an amateur, a cut that had become seriously infected. The child was also malnourished. The medical examiner also concluded that the girl's recent head trauma was not consistent with a fall.

     The forensic pathologist, presented with evidence pointing to a history of abuse at the hands of an extremely cruel adult, ruled the child's death a criminal homicide.

     When interrogated by homicide detectives, Samilya Brown admitted that she had been the one who had stitched up the girl's cut. She denied, however, causing any of the other signs of physical trauma found on the victim's body.

     On November 12, 2019, Philadelphia County District Attorney Larry Krasner charged Samilya Brown with murder and several lesser offenses. Child protection agents removed Brown's four biological children from her house. According to reports, these children showed no signs of physical abuse.

Crime Witnesses Should Not Confer With Each Other

One of the worst things is when witnesses start talking to each other. As soon as you start talking to someone else, the story you have in your head changes. Human memory is rewritten like computer memory. You just get the most updated file.

Maureen Johnson, Truly Devious, 2018

The Sciences in Forensic Science

There is no such thing as "forensic science"; instead it is a collection of scientific techniques and principles that are begged and borrowed from "real" sciences such as chemistry, biology, physics, medicine, and mathematics.

Encyclopedia of Forensic Science, Jay A. Siegal, editor, 2000

Sleepwalking As A Criminal Defense

     The murder trial of Albert Tirrell marked the first successful use of sleepwalking as a criminal defense. In 1846, a jury acquitted Tirrell of murder after his lawyer proved that he was a chronic sleepwalker.

     Tirrell's troubles first began after police found the body of Maria Bickford, a prostitute with whom Tirrell had developed a significant relationship, with her throat slit almost to the point of decapitation. Tirrell, who had a wife and a child, was with Bickford in the [Boston, Massachusetts] brothel at the time of the murder.

     The case quickly became sensationalized in the papers: The story went that Tirrell, who treated Bickford as a romantic partner, was jealous that she'd taken another customer. After that customer left Bickford's room, Tirrell took a razor to Bickford's neck and slit her throat and then set multiple fires to destroy the evidence. Perhaps most incriminating of all, Tirrell fled to New Orleans before he was finally arrested.

     The jury bought the sleepwalking defense. and after just two hours of deliberation, found the defendant not guilty.

All That's Interesting,  PBH Network, June 21, 2017

Alfred Hitchcock's Secret Of Success

Luck is everything. My good luck in life was to be a really frightened person. I'm fortunate to be a coward, to have a low threshold of fear, because a hero couldn't make a good suspense film.

Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980)

Hunter S. Thompson On Journalsim

So much for Objective Journalism. Don't bother to look for it here--not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.

Hunter S. Thompson, "Fear and Loathing in The Campaign Trial '72"

True Crime TV

The only television shows that Americans watch in big numbers are shows about lawyers, doctors, or cops. People don't tune in to watch scientists unless they are forensic scientists.

Robert J. Sawyer, science fiction writer

Thornton P. Knowles On Television And The American Way

Television reduced our attention span, lowered our taste, created envy of the rich, made clowns of politicians, writers, and preachers, destroyed community life, promoted illiteracy, made us fat, and replaced real journalists with propagandists and news readers. The old "boob-tube" has made boobs of us all, and eased us into what will lead to the ultimate cultural dystopia: the Internet.

Thornton P. Knowles

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

David Sturdivant: Ripped Off, Shot, Charged With A Crime He Didn't Commit, Looted, And Victimized By Arsonists

     David Sturdivant, a 64-year-old ex-Marine (Purple Heart/Vietnam) was doing okay in Atlanta, Georgia. He lived alone in a two-story house, and worked in his own engine repair shop attached to his dwelling. Mr. Sturdivant had recently been the victim of neighborhood burglars who had broken into his shop and swiped his HAM radio, various electronic items, a couple of riding mowers, and his tools. Things had gotten worse when thieves stole his two antique Thunderbirds.

     After awakening from a nap at one oclock in the afternoon on April 8, 2011, Mr. Sturdivant looked out his second-story window and saw a pickup owned by Dennis Alexander, its tailgate open, parked near a riding mower in the shop for repair. To Mr. Sturdivant, it looked like Mr. Alexander, a man with a criminal history of burglary and theft, was about to steal the mower. David Sturdivant stepped out onto his balcony and yelled, "Get off my property and stop stealing my stuff!" When Alexander mocked the property owner, Sturdivant entered his house and returned with a commercial grade M-14 rifle. From the balcony he fired one bullet into the ground to frighten Alexander off the property.

     Close by, Atlanta police officers working with a television crew filming a segment for the reality TV show "Bait Car," heard the shot. In less than two minutes they were on the scene shouting at Sturdivant to drop his rifle. Without taking the time to fully comprehend the situation, three officers fired fourteen shots at Mr. Sturdivant. One of the bullets tore into his stomach. Mr. Sturdivant had not shot at the officers, and had not pointed his rifle at them.

     A week after the shooting, hospital personnel discharged Mr. Sturdivant. He rolled out of the hospital in a wheelchair less one a kidney and missing several inches of his colon. Police officers immediately took him into custody and hauled him off to the Fulton County Jail in his wheelchair. The district attorney charged Sturdivant with four counts of aggravated assault for pointing his gun at the police officers. He also stood accused of aggravated assault for shooting at the suspected thief, and for possession of a weapon in the commission of a crime. If convicted of all charges, and given the maximum sentence, Mr. Sturdivant faced 105 years in prison.

     While Mr. Sturdivant recovered from his bullet wound in the jail's hospital ward, looters cleaned out his house and business then burned the dwelling and shop to the ground.

     At a preliminary hearing on October 27, 2011, the suspect turned down the district attorney's offer of a probated sentence in return for a misdemeanor plea. Claiming total innocence, Mr. Sturdivant rejected the plea bargain.

     On November 11, 2011, a judge tossed out the prosecutor's case against Mr. Sturdivant. After serving seven months in the county slammer, Mr. Sturdivant was free. But he had nowhere to go except to the local VA hospital. Mr. Sturdivant lost his house, his business, his household belongings, his antique cars, his tools, his kidney, and a piece of his colon.

     Some days it doesn't pay to get out of bed. 

Online Criminal Justice Advocacy

 [By 1996] the world of online criminal justice advocacy would take a number of different forms, with some factions focusing on solving old cases, others on finding new angles on old conspiracies or putting names to unidentified bodies or working to get elusive serial killers arrested. Ultimately, thousands of these crime-centric groups would congregate on Facebook and message boards and Reddit forums. Many posters took on the persona of the righteous defender, the person who did the hard work that institutions couldn't--or wouldn't--do.

Rachael Monroe, Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession, 2019

Jeffrey Dahmer On The Mind Of A Serial Killer

It's a process, it doesn't happen overnight, when you depersonalize another person and view him as just an object, an object for pleasure and not a living breathing human being. It seems to make it easier to do the things you shouldn't do.

Jeffrey Dahmer (1960-1994) "The Milwaukee Cannibal"

Bonnie and Clyde: Armed And Short

Bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde were both short. Bonnie Parker was only 4' 11" and Clyde Barrow 5' 4" at a time [1934] when average heights for women and men were 5' 3" and 5' 8". Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty who played Bonnie and Clyde in the famous 1967 film stood 5' 7" and 6' 2" respectively.

ancestry.com, June 20, 2013 

Does An Author's Looks Affect Sales?

     I remember when looks started to matter in publishing. I began writing in the late 1960s--just as publishing was turning into an industry. The cult of personality had arrived, and writers could no longer be private people as my grandfather, my mother and my uncle, all professional novelists, had been. The notion of having author photographs on book jackets appalled them: They believed they could write freely only if they felt anonymous.

     My generation had no such qualms. We poured out our indignations, our quirky personalities, made ourselves vulnerable. I was young when my first book was published and had quick success; I roared round the world on the Concorde, from one international convention to the next. I like to think it was because I wrote good novels, not because I fluttered my eyelashes, but really, who can say? With age things calm down. Publicity photographs give up trying to make you look sexy and try to make you look intelligent.

Fay Weldon, The New York Times Book Review, January 26, 2014 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Sirgiorgio Clardy: The Sociopath From Hell

     Sirgiorgio Clardy bounced from one foster home to another in Portland, Oregon because even as a kid no adult could handle him. In 2000, when he was thirteen, he attacked his foster dad with a baseball bat. Clardy also threatened and attacked teachers, school administrators, and classmates. He took brass knuckles to school and once tried to sexually assault a female student.

     By 2013, the 26-year-old Clardy had been convicted of twenty felonies that included crimes such as forcing young women to work as prostitutes, assault, and robbery. When police officers arrested him, he'd threaten to rape their wives and children. When he wasn't incarcerated, Clardy made everyone who come into contact with him miserable, including the teenaged girls he forced into prostitution. This brutal pimp had no business living outside of prison walls.

     In the summer of 2012, several 18-year-old prostitutes, against their will, were doing business for Clardy out of the Inn at the Convention Center, a motel on the edge of downtown Portland. During the course of that operation a john tried to leave the motel without paying one of Clardy's prostitutes. Clardy caught the john before he left the motel. The pimp knocked the free-loader down and used his feet to stomp the man's face. As the seriously injured john lay bleeding on the ground, Clardy took all the cash he possessed. It took plastic surgery to repair the damage to the prostitution patron's face.

     Police officers arrested Clardy shortly after the assault. A Multnomah County prosecutor charged the violent pimp with compelling prostitution, first-degree robbery, and second-degree assault. The suspect pleaded not guilty to all charges.

     In the months leading up to Clardy's trial he threatened and spit on several lawyers appointed to represent him. Eventually Judge Kelly Skye, realizing that no lawyer wanted to be near this man, declared that he would have to defend himself with the help of a legal advisor who would not be required to sit next to him in court. After awhile even the legal advisor asked the judge to be relieved from the unsavory assignment.

     In July 2013, not long after Clardy's trial got underway in Portland's Multnomah County Circuit Court, the defendant spit on sheriff's deputies and threatened the judge. The next day, deputies rolled the defendant into court handcuffed to a wheelchair. To keep him from spitting on people, the deputies had covered Clardy's head in a mesh bag. Because Clardy refused to get dressed for trial, officers had wrapped him in a suicide smock.

     A few days into the trial, notwithstanding the presence of nine deputy sheriffs, Judge Skye ordered the defendant into another courtroom where he'd watch the proceedings on a video monitor. The judge considered Clardy too disruptive to be physically present at his own trial.

     The jurors concluded Clardy's two-week trial by finding him guilty of all charges. At the sentencing hearing a few days later, the prosecutor put Dr. Frank Colistro on the stand. The psychologist, in practice for thirty years, said, "I've evaluated serial murderers, serial rapists, and I'm going to tell you very few of those people reached the evaluation scores we're going to talk about here."

     According to the forensic psychologist, Clardy was in the 100th percentile of the narcissistic psychopath scale. "People like Mr. Clardy," the doctor said, "are born bad. It's not something we can fix. That's why we have prisons."

     The prosecutor had put Dr. Colistro on the stand to counter the defendant's claim that he heard voices and wanted to kill himself. Dr. Colistro testified that Clardy exemplified the textbook case of an anti-social psychopath, a man who thought he was smarter, more attractive, and better than anyone else.  According to Dr. Colistro, Sirgiorgio Clardy was not mentally ill. This man was evil.

     Judge Judy Skye, based upon Sirgiorio Claudy's violent past, criminal record, courtroom behavior, and psychological evaluation, declared him a "dangerous offender". People so designated, if given the chance, would offend again. As someone beyond the reach of rehabilitation, Judge Skye sentenced Clardy to 100 years in prison with no chance of parole until he served 36 years. Clardy, upon hearing his sentence, swore at the judge and threatened the deputy sheriffs.

     In January 2014, from his cell at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution, Clardy, through a handwritten, three-page complaint, filed a $100 million civil suit against, among others, Phil Knight, the chairman of the Nike Company. Clardy based his tort claim on the theory that Nike, on each shoe, does not provide a label that warns users that stomping a person's face while wearing this Nike product could cause serious injury to the stomped person. As a result of the defendant's omission, the plaintiff experienced "great mental suffering".

     Clardy's lawsuit, the product of sociopathy in the extreme, was dismissed by a judge on October 2, 2014. 

The Senseless Murder of a Toddler

     In 2016, 31-year-old Veronica Rene Castro lived in a travel trailer in Bellevue, Texas, a remote Clay County community near the Oklahoma border 80 miles northwest of Fort Worth. Castro resided with her three-year-old son, Dominic Tra'Juan Castro and the boy's 18-year-old stepfather, George Coty Wayman. Wayman, a violent dimwit with a facial tattoo, had a criminal record that included a recent stretch in prison.

     Shortly after three in the afternoon on Tuesday, May 17, 2016, someone from the Castro dwelling on Buffalo Springs Road called 911 to report a shooting. When deputies with the Clay County Sheriff's Office arrived at the scene, they found the Castro toddler shot once in the back of the head.

     Emergency personnel airlifted the seriously wounded boy to the United Regional Health Care System in Wichita Falls, Texas. At ten-forty-five the next morning, Dominic Castro died.

     Wayman, when questioned at the scene of the shooting by the police, said the boy had been accidentally shot when he jumped on the bed where a 9mm handgun had been placed. The physical evidence at the scene failed to support this scenario. Moreover, several people in the bedroom who had witnessed the shooting had a different story.

     According to the eyewitnesses, Wayman, angry at the toddler who had refused to stop jumping on the bed, aimed the gun and shot him in the head.

     A Clay County prosecutor, on May 18, 2016, charged George Wayman with capital murder. (In Texas, the intentional killing of a child under six constitutes a death penalty offense.) The accused murderer was booked into the Clay County Jail under $550,000 bond.

      In December 2016, following his guilty plea, a Clay County judge sentenced George Wayman to life in prison.

Is Executing Murderers More Trouble Than It's Worth?

     Legal challenges and a struggle to find lethal drugs have triggered a raging debate in Ohio and other states over the proper way to execute killers. The unavailability of certain drugs has led to changes in many death-penalty states and prompted the talk of executing methods that haven't been used for decades.

     Bringing back firing squads, the electric chair and even gas chambers is being discussed in some parts of the country, while other states--most recently Maryland and Connecticut--are moving away from the death penalty.

     Support for the death penalty has dropped nationally from a high of 80 percent in 1994. [Now it's around 50 percent.]

"Debate Rages Over Proper Way to Execute Criminals," Dayton Daily News, February 2, 2014

Gun Shot Surgeons

Gunshot wounds are now becoming almost a distinct branch of surgery.

J.A. Hunter in Treatise on Gunshot Wounds, 1794 (reprinted in 1989)

No Hunches Or "Gut Feelings" In Forensic Science

Forensic scientists are not policemen. We are scientists. We deal with matters objectively. We do not act on our suspicions.

Dr. Cyril Wecht, forensic pathologist 

Drunken School Bus Drivers Shouldn't Get A Second Chance

     A Baltimore bus driver with a criminal record was arrested for DUI on Friday February 27, 2015 as she was headed to pick up a group of students for a field trip. Pamela L. Willie, 52, was pulled over after several motorists notified Maryland State Police that a school bus was moving erratically on Interstate 695 and running vehicles off the road.

     During the stop, police officers observed that Willie was impaired and found four containers of beer and liquor--varying from full to partially full to empty--on the bus.

     A prosecutor charged Willie with 23 criminal charges including driving under the influence, operating a commercial vehicle in possession of alcohol, consuming alcohol in the passenger area of a vehicle, driving a commercial vehicle without an appropriate medical certificate, negligent and reckless driving, and driving off the highway. [If the FBI had a ten most wanted list for traffic offenders, Willie would be on that poster]…

     Records show that in August 2009, Willie was arrested on a string of charges including consumption of an alcoholic beverage while driving on the highway, failure to control a vehicle on the highway to avoid a collision, reckless driving, failure to remain at the scene of an accident, assault in the first-degree, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

     In July 2009, Willie was charged on several accounts, including assault in the first-degree, assault in the second-degree, possession of drug paraphernalia, violation of a protective order, and the malicious destruction of property…In February 2003, Willie was sentenced to one year in jail on charges of assault in the first-degree and resisting arrest. She took a plea deal and avoided jail time.

Chuck Ross, "Bus Driver With Criminal Record Arrested For DUI," The Daily Caller, February 28, 2015

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Leslie Sapp Police-Involved Shooting Case

     In 2014, 47-year-old Leslie Sapp, a resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, found himself on the U.S Marshal's Office Top 20 Wanted List. On July 21, 2014, an Allegheny County prosecutor had charged Sapp with rape, statutory sexual assault, and related lesser offenses.

     Mr. Sapp stood accused of having sex numerous times with an underage girl at his home between April 2011 and May 2014. The victim, just 11-years-old when first assaulted, didn't report Sapp out of fear of him. She also kept quiet because she didn't want to get in trouble with her mother. On many occasions Sapp provided the girl with marijuana.

     At the time the charges were filed, Sapp's whereabouts were unknown. The U.S. Marshal's Western Pennsylvania Fugitive Task Force took charge of the investigation to locate and bring this man to justice.

     Leslie Sapp had a criminal history going back to the 1980s when the authorities in Philadelphia charged him with a series of crimes that included aggravated assault, robbery, and various gun violations. Finally, in 1993, following a conviction in Philadelphia, a judge sent him to prison where he served ten years of a ten to twenty year sentence. After getting out in 2003, Sapp continued to get into trouble by violating the terms of his parole.

     In 2013, Sapp pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited firearm. The judge sentenced him to three years probation.

     At six-forty-five Tuesday morning January 6, 2015, a Pennsylvania State Trooper, a deputy with the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office, and other members of the fugitive task force, showed up at Sapp's house in the Knoxsville section of Pittsburgh. When the officer encountered the fugitive, he displayed a handgun in a threatening manner. One of the officers responded by shooting him to death.

     As it turned out, Mr. Sapp was in possession of an air gun that shoots pellets. Because it was black and didn't have the orange marker, the gun looked real. According to a law enforcement spokesperson, Leslie Sapp  held the gun "in a manner consistent with being used against a police officer."

     In April 2015, the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office ruled the Sapp shooting justified.

     To threaten a police officer with a pellet gun is no different than wielding a firearm that shoots bullets. Mr. Sapp must have known this and was willing to accept the consequences. 

Charles Dickens On Anticipating The Decadence Of America's Rich And Powerful

The American elite is almost beyond redemption. Moral relativism has set in so deeply that the gilded classes have become incapable of discerning right from wrong. Everything can be explained away, especially by journalists. Life is one great moral mush--sophistry washed down with Chardonnay. The ordinary citizens, thank goodness, still adhere to absolutes. It is they who have saved the republic from creeping degradation while their "betters" were derelict.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

Urban Renewal, Deteriorating Neighborhoods, and Crime

     In 1961, Jane Jacobs published a classic book, Death and Life of Great American Cities. Her thesis was that the old urban neighborhoods, despite a bit of crime, were actually good places to live and raise children. She was adamantly opposed to the urban renewal projects that bulldozed these neighborhoods and replaced them with high-rise housing. She felt that the old neighborhoods were built for pedestrians and that life on the street created not only a vibrancy of a living city but also a relatively low crime rate. She anticipated that the new high-rise buildings and streets built for cars but hostile to pedestrians would destroy neighborhood life and ultimately undermine the city as we once knew it.

     In many ways, history has vindicated her ideas. High-rise public housing proved to be a disaster for families with young children, and pedestrian life did indeed die in many central cities. As cities deteriorated, the bulk of people left or tried to leave for the suburbs. Crime rates skyrocketed. The only controversy that remained is whether these changes were the irresistible result of the automotive age or could have been prevented through public policy.

Marcus Felson, Crime & Everyday Life, Second Edition, 1998 

The Literary Novel

A novel is the literary equivalent of a symphony, the big, ambitious form of fiction. Novels aren't just longer than other forms of fiction, they generally have more of everything: more characters, more scenes, more developments, and more heft. They may have a central story, but the story is usually surrounded by a whole swirling world of activity. Someone once told me she could tell if a work was a novel or short story simply by reading the first sentence.

Alexander Steele, Fiction, 2003 

Too Much Dialogue

     Film and television have convinced too many writers that heaps of dialogue make novels more like movies and therefore good. This is an amateur's fantasy, and it has induced some writers to surrender the few advantages they have over cinematic storytelling.

     The movie maker is stuck with what the camera can see and the microphone can hear. You have more freedom. You can summarize situations. You can forthrightly give us people's histories. You can concentrate ten years into ten words. You can move anywhere you like outside real time. You can tell us--just tell us--what people are thinking and feeling.

     Yes, abundant dialogue can lighten a story, make it more readable and sparkle with wonders. But it is pitiably inadequate for what it is not suited to do. Exposition, for example: the "five w's"--the who, what, when, where, and why of a given situation. Forcing this information into a visual background through performance and dialogue is cumbersome stuff.

Stephen Koch, Writer's Workshop, 2003 Book

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Aaron Trejo Murder Case: The Cold-Blooded Killing Of A Pregnant Girl

     In December 2018, 16-year-old Aaron Trejo played high school football in Mishawaka, Indiana, a town of 48,000 in the northern part of the state. His girlfriend, 17-year-old Breana Rouhselang, was a Mishawaka High School cheerleader. She was pregnant with Trejo's child, and at eleven o'clock on the night of Saturday, December 8, 2018, Trejo asked Rouhselang to meet him behind his house to discuss the pregnancy.

     The next morning, Sunday December 9, 2018, Breana Rouhselang's mother, when her daughter didn't return home, went to Trejo's house and asked him if he had information regarding Breana's whereabouts. He told Mrs. Rouhselang that he and Breana had planned to meet that night, but she never showed up.

     Mrs. Rouhselang, on that Sunday, reported her daughter missing to the Mishawaka Police Department. Later that day, police officers found an item belonging to the missing girl near a Mishawka restaurant. In the dumpster behind the restaurant, officers found Breana's body. A black plastic bag covered the girl's head and upper torso, and she had been stabbed in the chest.

     When questioned by detectives, Aaron Trejo confessed to killing Breana Rouhselang. He said he tried to strangle her with her scarf, stabbed her in the chest, covered her upper body with the plastic bag, then tossed her body into the dumpster. He threw his knife and the victim's cellphone into the St. Joseph River. Trejo said he had been angry that Rouhselang, six months pregnant, had waited too long to get an abortion. He said he had planned for a week to murder Breana and their unborn child.

     On Monday, December 10, 2018, a St. Joseph County prosecutor charged Aaron Trejo with murdering Breana Rouhselang. The prosecutor also charged the suspect with the level 3 felony of killing her fetus. If convicted as charged, Trejo faced up to 80 years in prison. He was held in the St. Joseph County Jail without bond.

     On October 30, 2019, Aaron Trejo pleaded guilty to the charges of first-degree murder and feticide.

     A Joseph County Superior Court Judge, on January 9, 2020, sentenced Trejo to 65 years in prison. 

The Assassination

     "Assassin" is an umbrella term for an individual, a group, or a government that uses murder to advance its agenda. This agenda can be blatantly insane (obsession, delusion), sociological (racial, religious, ethnic), or purely political (regime change).

     It has been rumored that almost every government on earth has, at one time or another, conducted clandestine assassinations. These "terminations with great prejudice" (intelligence code for killings) don't usually make the papers. [The Obama administration "terminated with great prejudice" a U.S. citizen by drone.] The assassinations and assassination attempts that do make the news and get wall-to-wall coverage are the highly visible, public attempts in which a celebrity or a political figure is targeted during an event in which he or she is visible and accessible.

     Assassination is unlike other types of murder, many of which occur in a moment of passion or during the commission of a crime. Assassinations are planned. They are thought through and in many cases, they are successful. This simple fact leads inexorably to the fatalistic view held by American presidents--and explains why the Pope rides with a bulletproof bubble over his vehicle and why no American president has ridden in an open vehicle since 1962.

Stephen J. Spignesi, In The Crosshairs, 2003

    

The Christian Approach To Gun Play

You will acquire a deep understanding of the ancient Christian moral principle, as applied to aimed fire: "It is better to give than receive."

George Prosser in Armed and Dangerous: A Writer's Guide to Weapons by Michael Newton, 1990.

Crime Writers as Romantics

Most crime fiction, no matter how "hard-boiled" or bloodily forensic, is essentially sentimental, for most crime writers are disappointed romantics.

John Banville, crime novelist

Saturday, November 9, 2019

North Korea: The Nightmare Of Living In A Country Without Civil Rights

     What a nightmare it must be to live in a country without a criminal justice system. In North Korea there is no constitution that protects citizens against the power of the state. There is no free press, independent judicial branch, or any form of procedural due process such as the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial. In nations without criminal justice systems, leaders eliminate political opponents by criminalizing dissent, or manufacturing crimes against people they fear or don't like.

     In North Korea, citizens accused of breaking the law have the burden of proving their innocence beyond a reasonable doubt. Guilt is a forgone conclusion for the criminally accused, and punishment is swift, cruel, and often brutal.

     In October 2012, North Korea's young Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un ordered the execution of Kim Chol, the vice minister of the army. Chol was put to death for drinking and carousing around during the official mourning period following the death of the boy leader's father, Kim Jong-il. The once high-ranking military leader who allegedly disrespected Kim Jong-il's death, was not hanged, electrocuted, beheaded, or gunned down by a firing squad. Kim Chol's executioners forced him to stand at a marked spot, aimed a zeroed-in mortor round, then fired a shot that blew him to bits. One second he was there, the next he was not.

     In North Korea, capital punishment prisoners do not linger on death row up to fifteen years while their appellate attorneys and anti-capital punishment advocates try to save their lives. When the time comes to execute them, they are not eased into eternity with a carefully prepared cocktail of drugs. In North Korea there are no last meals, last words or last anything except the condemned person's last breath.

     In 2003, when the Supreme Leader's son Kim Jong-un returned from boarding school in Switzerland, he met and established a relationship with a famous North Korean singer named Hyon-Song-wol. Hyon was a member of the Unhasu Orchestra, the Wangjaesan Light Band, and the Morganbong Band. She had recorded a string of hits that had propagandistic titles like "Footsteps of Soldiers," "I love Pyongyang" (who doesn't?) and "We Are Troops of the Party." (When North Koreans say "party," they're not talking about a fun gathering with friends.)

     The Supreme Leader, who did not approve of Hyon Song-wol, ordered Kim Jong-un to break off the relationship. After Kim Jong-il died in December 2011, his son, the new Supreme Leader, married Ri Sol-ju, also a singer with the Unhasu Orchestra. Hyon, his ex-girlfriend, married an officer in the North Korean military and had a baby. There were rumors, however, that Kim Jong-un continued to see Hyon. The young Supreme Leader's wife reportedly resented her husband's former girlfriend, and wanted her out of Kim Jong-un's life. Permanently.

     On August 17, 2013, North Korean authorities arrested Hyon Song-wol and eleven other entertainers--singers, dancers, and musicians--with the Unhasu Orchestra. Hyon and the others were charged with breaking the nation's laws against pornography. Specifically, they were accused of making and selling videos of themselves performing sex acts. (These charges were patently false and absurd.)

     Just three days after being falsely charged with pornography, Hyon Song-wol and the others were lined up against a wall and machine-gunned to death. After family members were forced to watch the state slaughter their loved ones, they were hauled off to labor camps.

     Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyo's Waseda University, an expert on North Korean affairs, told a reporter with England's The Daily Telegraph that Hyon Song-wol and the other entertainers had been executed for "political reasons" related to Kim Jong-un's wife.

The Halloween Party Mass Murder

     In late October 2019, a woman (unidentified at this writing) booked a short-term rental of a mansion on a hill southwest of downtown Orinda, a town of 19,000 located in Contra Costa County just east of San Francisco. The renter said she was leasing the old house for a family reunion. The 3,972-square-foot home, known for the site of rowdy parties that upset and disturbed residents of this quiet, hillside neighborhood, had been booked though an online company called Airbnb.

     Unbeknownst to the owner of the mansion and Airbnb, the place had been rented as a place to host a Halloween party scheduled for Thursday, October 31, 2019. The party organizer advertised the event on Instagram with a poster featuring the faces of several young black men under the headline: AIRBNB MANSION PARTY. Attendees were told to bring their own booze.

     On Halloween night 2019, more than a hundred young party goers showed up at the mansion on Lucille Way. At nine-twenty, a neighbor called the Orinda Police Department to complain about the noise. Another disturbance complaint brought the police to the house about an hour later.

     Shortly after Orinda police officers responded to the second noise complaint, someone at the party called 911 to report shots fired.

     Upon arrival at the scene, officers saw dozens of young people running out of the house yelling and screaming. More than a hundred party goers were still in the mansion. Inside the house, officers found three victims who had been shot to death. Four others had been wounded.

     Later that night, one of the wounded party goers died at the John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, California. The next day, a fifth victim died from a gunshot wound.

     The young people murdered at the Orinda Halloween party were: Tiyon Farley, 22; Omar Taylor, 24; Ramon Hill Jr., 23; Javin County, 29; and Oshiana Tompkins, 19.

Writing A Narrative Nonfiction Book

I love to read nonfiction that's built around a story. Very often, as a literary agent, I get wonderful writing by someone who's got either an interesting point of view or some great anecdote but they haven't yet figured out a way to craft a full, book-length narrative. That's especially a challenge for journalists, who may have what is essentially ten magazine pieces with a loose theme around them all, but they haven't figured out a way to bring the reader through the entire 300 pages.

Ted Weinstein, twliterary.com, 2004 

Sylvia Plath on Not Writing

I was getting worried about becoming too happily stodgily practical: instead of studying [John] Locke, for instance, or writing--I go make an apple pie, or study The Joy of Cooking, reading it like a rare novel. Whoa, I said to myself. You will escape into domesticity and stifle yourself by falling headfirst into a bowl of cookie batter. And just now I pick up the blessed diary of Virginia Woolf...and she works off her depression over rejections from Harper's (no less!--and I can hardly believe that the Big Ones got rejected, too!) by cleaning out the kitchen.

 The Writer's Life (1997) edited by Carol Edgarian and Tom Jenks. Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) was an American poet who committed suicide in England. Before her death she was relatively unknown.

Determining Gender From the Skeletons of the Young

     Determining sex in children can be elusive. Most of the skeletal differences, even in the pelvis, that distinguish the sexes don't fully define until early adulthood, and the differences that do exist in children are often not of the magnitude that permit a confident estimate.

     One of the best indicators of sex in a child is the teeth. In determining gender, the indicator is not in how dissimilar they are but in how alike. It is well known that in general males tend to be a year or two slower than females in their overall body development. But although girls' long bones grow earlier and faster than boys' do, for some reason that same advantage is not as extensive in the development of the teeth. Accordingly, it is possible to estimate the sex of a child's skeleton by comparing the extent of skeletal development with the level of dental maturation. The older the child, the more accurate the technique. However, we usually do not attempt to estimate the sex of immature skeletons because the accuracy reaches only about 80 percent even in older children. In a forensic case, 80 percent is not good enough; we can estimate with 50 percent reliability just by guessing.

Dr. Douglas Ubelaker and Henry Scammell, Bones, 1992

Friday, November 8, 2019

Prison Escape By Bureaucratic Foul-Up

     In 2010, Tony Maycon Munoz-Mendez, an illegal alien from Guatemala with at least two arrests for driving while intoxicated in Georgia, resided with his girlfriend in a town outside of Atlanta.

     In the spring of 2014,  Gwinnett County prosecutor John Warr charged Munoz-Mendez with raping his girlfriend's daughter during a two-year period beginning in 2010 when the girl was ten. Munoz-Mendez maintained his innocence, and was supported in his claim by the victim's mother. (The child was removed from the home and placed with a foster family. Her mother was later charged with second-degree child cruelty.)

     While awaiting his trial in the Gwinnett County Jail, the accused child rapist wrote a letter to the judge in which he said: "I have no family here in the United States to help me out and I have to rely on myself on everything, and it's hard. I know I am innocent."

     In April 2015, a Gwinnett County jury found the defendant guilty of several counts of rape and aggravated child molestation. The judge sentenced Munoz-Mendez to three life sentences.

     The convicted rapist began serving his time at the Rogers State Prison in nearby Reidsville, Georgia.

     At 11:30 on Friday morning, October 25, 2019, officials at Rogers State Prison mistakenly released the 31-year-old child rapist back into society. The people responsible for this stupendous foul-up didn't get around to notifying law enforcement that Munoz-Mendez was on the loose until the following Monday, October 28, 2019. (They either didn't catch the error until then or deliberately delayed notification.)

     Prison spokesperson Lori Benot released a press statement that didn't explain exactly how this corrections fiasco had unfolded. The escape had been, according to the release, a bureaucratic error. That was it.

     On Wednesday, October 30, 2019, U.S. Marshals and ICE agents arrested the prison escapee in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, a town across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. The apprehension took place about 500 miles north of Rogers State Prison in Reidsville, Georgia.