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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.     

Friday, November 29, 2019

Appalachia Noir: The Larry Paul McClure Murder Case

     Larry Paul McClure Sr., a registered sex offender served 17 years in prison for sexually molesting a young female relative. On February 14, 2019, the 55-year-old registered sex offender and his two daughters, 31-year-old Amanda McClure and 32-year-old Ann Choudhray, were together in their father's house in Skygusty, West Virginia. Amanda McClure's boyfriend, 38-year-old John Thomas McGuire, was also in the dwelling that day. Skygusty, West Virginia is a small town in McDowell County in the southern part of the state near the Kentucky and Virginia state lines.

     John McGuire resided in Owatonna, Minnesota, a town of 25,000 located in the southern part of the state. His girlfriend, Amanda McClure, lived in Chisago, Minnesota, a small community 35 miles northeast of Minneapolis. Amanda had come to Skygusty, West Virginia with her boyfriend with the purpose of helping her father and her sister murder him.

     On Valentine's Day 2019, in the Skygusty house, Larry McClure Sr. hit John McGuire in the head with a wine bottle. The daughters tied up the unconscious victim, injected him with two vials of methamphetamine, then looked on as their father strangled him to death.

     After killing John McGuire, Larry McClure Sr. and his daughters removed the dead man's clothing and buried him in the backyard. After disposing of the corpse, Mr. McClure and his daughter Amanda returned to the house where they had sex.

    A few days after burying John McGuire behind the Skygusty house, Larry McClure and his daughters dug up his body and moved it to a more remote area in the county. The trio deposited the corpse in another shallow grave, stupidly confident that if found, the decomposing body would not be connected to them.

     On March 11, 2019, Amanda McClure and her father drove to nearby Tazewell County, Virginia where they obtained a marriage license. A few days later, they were married in a small United Methodist church. Amanda, in applying for the marriage license, had listed the name of another man in place of her father's.

     More than seven months after John McGuire's cold-blooded murder, detectives in Minnesota, in the course of their missing persons investigation into the disappearance of Mr. McGuire, received a tip that the missing man had been murdered and was buried in McDowell county, West Virginia. The caller implicated Larry McClure and his daughters. The Minnesota detectives called the authorities in West Virginia to inform them of the possible murder.

     On September 24, 2019, police officers in West Virginia, operating on the Minnesota tip, questioned Larry McClure Sr. on the pretext they were investigating his failure to comply with the terms of his sex offender registry. During that interview, McClure informed his questioners how he and his two daughters had murdered John McGuire. McClure said he didn't know exactly why his daughter Amanda wanted John McGuire dead, but did say she had planned his murder and had been spending Mr. McGuire's monthly social security checks. McClure led the police officers to the spot in McDowell County where he and his accomplices had buried the victim's body.

     A McDowell County prosecutor charged Larry Paul McClure Sr., Amanda McClure, and Ann Marie Choudhray with first-degree murder. Police arrested Choudhray at her home in Boone, North Carolina. Amanda McClure was taken into custody at her residence in Chisago City, Minnesota.

     On November 4, 2019, while incarcerated at the McDowell County Jail, Larry McClure Sr. wrote a letter in hand that read: "I just want it over. No trial. No taxpayer's money spent for a trial. It is hard for the state of West Virginia to fight against itself because I plead guilty! No contest. Thank you for your time in this matter."

     No trial date has been set for the three murder suspects.
    

Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Douglas Prade Murder Case

     At ten-thirty in the morning of Thanksgiving Day 1997, a medical assistant found 41-year-old Dr. Margo Prade slumped behind the wheel of her van in the doctor's office parking lot. The Akron, Ohio physician, shot six times with a handgun at close range, had fought with her murderer. Physical evidence of this struggle included buttons ripped from Dr. Prade's lab coat, a bite mark on her left inner arm, and traces of blood and tissue under her fingernails.

     A few months after the murder, Akron police arrested the victim's husband, Douglas Evans Prade. Captain Prade, a 29 year veteran of the Akron Police Department, denied shooting his wife to death. He insisted that at the time of the killing he was in the workout room of the couple's Copley Township condominium complex.

     In 1997, DNA science, compared to today, was quite primitive. As a result, DNA tests of trace evidence from the bite mark and the blood and tissue under the victim's fingernails were inconclusive. DNA analysts were unable to include or exclude Captain Prade as the source of this crime scene evidence.

     Video footage from a security camera at a car dealership next to the murder scene revealed the shadowy figure of a man climbing into Dr. Prade's van at 9:10 in the morning of her death. A hour and a half later, the man exited the murder vehicle and was seen driving out of the parking lot in a light-colored car. Homicide detectives never identified this man who could not have been taller than five-nine. The suspect, Captain Prade, a black man, stood over six-foot-three. Had investigators focused their efforts on identifying the man in the surveillance video, they may have resolved the case. But detectives had their minds set on the victim's husband, and ignored all evidence and leads that pointed in a different direction.

     To make their case against Captain Douglas Prade, detectives asked a retired Akron dentist named Dr. Thomas Marshall to compare a photograph of the death scene bite mark to a dental impression  of the suspect's lower front teeth. According to Dr. Marshall, the only person who could have bitten Dr. Prade was her husband. The suspect's known dental impressions, according to the dentist, matched the crime scene evidence perfectly. At the time, before advanced DNA technology exposed bite mark identification analysis as junk science, Dr. Marshall's identification carried great weight.

     In September 1998, following a two-week trial in a Summit county court, the jury, after deliberating only four hours, found Douglas Prade guilty of murdering his wife. The only evidence the prosecution had pointing to the defendant's guilt was Dr. Thomas Marshall's bite mark identification. Without the dentist's testimony, there wouldn't have been enough evidence against Douglas Prade to justify his arrest.

     Following the guilty verdict, the defendant stood up, turned to face the courtroom spectators, and said, "I didn't do this. I am an innocent convicted person. God, myself, Margo, and the person who killed Margo all know I'm innocent." Common Pleas Judge Mary Spicer sentenced Douglas Prade to life without the chance of parole until he served 26 years. Shortly thereafter, the prisoner began serving his sentence at the state prison in Madison, Ohio. At that point he expected to die behind bars.

     In 2004, attorneys with the Jones Day law firm in Akron, and the Ohio Innocence Project, took up Douglas Prade's case. After years of motions, petitions, reports, and hearings, an Ohio judge ordered DNA tests of the saliva traces from the bite wound, scrapings from the victim's lab coat, and scrapings from under Dr. Prade's fingernails.

     In August 2012, DNA analysis of the crime scene trace evidence revealed that none of the associative evidence came from Douglas Prade. (The DNA work was performed by the DNA Lab Diagnostic Center in Fairfield, Ohio.) Summit County Judge Judy Hunter, on January 29, 2013, ordered the release of the 65-year-old prisoner.

     On March 19, 2014, an Ohio appeals court decided that the new DNA evidence did not prove that Prade didn't murder his wife. The appellate judge said that Prade's release from prison was a mistake, and that he should be taken back into custody. The morning after that decision, Mr. Prade found himself back behind bars.

      In March 2018, the Ohio Supreme Court refused to hear his case.

     Douglas Prade's attorneys began appealing his conviction through the federal appellate court system. After the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Prade's motion for a new trial, the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. On November 6, 2019, America's highest court refused to hear the appellant's case. This essentially exhausted Douglas Prade's legal remedies.

    Douglas Prade is serving his time at the Lorain Correctional Institution in Lorain, Ohio. The 72-year-old will be eligible for parole in 2025.

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)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Paul Tarver and The Unknown Hitman

     In September 2001, when Keisha Lewis of Canton, Ohio informed her former boyfriend, Paul Tarver, that she was three months pregnant with his baby, he was not happy. He made it clear that he did not want to be a father. Tarver told Keisha to get an abortion, and if she didn't, he would not support the kid. Keisha said she had no intention of aborting the pregnancy, and would have the child with or without his support.

     Two months later, Keisha and Paul were still fighting over whether she should get an abortion. When Tarver realized she was not going to changer her mind, he threatened to kill her if she didn't end the pregnancy. Keisha said she was reporting him to the police, but didn't follow through on her threat. Perhaps he was just bluffing. After the arguing and threats, Paul Tarver suddenly stopped coming around. Keisha figured he had moved out of her life for good.

     On March 7, 2002, a week before the baby was due, Paul Tarver popped back into Keisha's life, and seemed to be a different man. He apologized for the fighting and the threats, and offered to make amends. He said he wanted to remain friends--for the baby's sake--and in the spirit of good will, he offered to take her out to dinner. Relieved that her baby's father was no longer an enemy, she accepted his invitation.

     A few days later, Paul and Keisha, in the cab of his Ford Ranger pickup, pulled into the spacious parking lot surrounding Canton's Country Kitchen restaurant. Although Keisha was nine months pregnant and had trouble walking, Paul parked the truck in a remote section of the lot far from the restaurant. Keisha had just opened the passenger's door and was about to alight from the vehicle when a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt and gloves stuck a gun in her face and ordered her to slide across the seat so he could squeeze into the truck.

     The armed kidnapper ordered Tarver to drive to a chicken hatchery a few miles from the restaurant where the gunman ordered him to hand over his ring, watch, and wallet. The kidnapper shot Keisha in the abdomen, Tarver in the foot, then jumped out of the truck and ran into the nearby woods. Using his cellphone, Tarver called 911.

     Surgeons, although able to save Keisha's life, could not save the fetus. Doctors treated Tarver's wound which was minor. Keisha suffered major nerve damage that would leave her with a permanent limp.

     Detectives with the Canton Police Department trying to identify the kidnapper didn't have much to go on. Keisha could only provide a general description of the assailant, and Tarver wasn't much help either. Investigators did recover the three shell cases from the shooting scene. A forensic firearms identification expert matched the crime scene firing pin impressions to a .380 Carpati pistol recovered from the site of another Canton shooting. In tracing the history of the gun, police learned that one of the owners was a man who had once worked with Paul Tarver. Detectives also questioned a man from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Tarver had called several times just prior to the assault. During the interrogation, the Pittsburgh man broke down and cried, then terminated the questioning.

     In October 2002, a Stark County prosecutor at Paul Tarver's murder-for-hire trial presented a weak, circumstantial case against him. The police had still not identified the triggerman. The defendant's attorney did not put his client on the stand in own defense. If he had done so, the jury would have learned about Tarver's long history of drug trafficking and robbery. Perhaps because the defendant did not take the stand to deny that he had paid someone to end his girlfriend's pregnancy, the jury found him guilty.

     The judge sentenced Paul Tarver to 31 years to life. Paul Tarver continued to maintain his innocence, and the triggerman was never identified. This was one of a handful of murder-for-hire cases in which the mastermind was convicted without the testimony or even the identity of the hitman.

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 Dozier School For Boys: A History of Hell

     The Arthur G. Dozier School For Boys opened in the Florida panhandle town of Marianna in 1900. The reform school housed boys from the ages 8 to 20. Most of the school's residents were run-a-ways, truants, and kids who had committed minor crimes. A few were orphans who had nowhere else to live, and children classified by their parents or guardians as "incorrigible."

     The Dozier School was established to take wayward boys off the street and to mold them into decent youngsters who would grow up to be law abiding, productive citizens. Instead, the institution became, from the beginning, a house of horrors where boys would suffer unspeakable abuse, and in many cases, violent death at the hands of sadistic, sex offending staff members. And this would go on, under the noses of the authorities, for decades.

     In 1903, state inspectors visited the Dozier School and found children restrained in leg irons. No one was held accountable so the abuse continued. Eleven years later, a dormitory fire of suspicious origin killed six children and two members of the staff. The dead boys were buried in the school cemetery, a section of the 1,400-acre campus the boys called "Boot Hill". The graves were marked with simple crosses made of steel pipe. In 1918, another dormitory fire killed eleven more boys.

     By 1973, the Dozier School cemetery--Boot Hill- contained 31 graves. According to the school's highly unreliable records, most of these institutional deaths had involved illness and drowning. None of the deaths of these young, incarcerated boys sparked a cause and manner of death investigation.

     A century after the creation of the Dozier School, more than a hundred men who had lived at the school in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, members of a support group called the White House Boys (named after a white cottage where some of the worst abuse took place) started petitioning the state of Florida to investigate the school, hold some of the sadistic staff members and administrators accountable, and shut the place down. These Dozier School alumni chronicled their experiences at the institution. The abuse included psychological torture, neglect, flogging, and sexual assault. The former residents even spoke of murder.

     In 2008, Florida Governor Charlie Crist, pressured by lobbying from the White House Boys and other Dozier alumni support groups, ordered an investigations into these criminal accusations. The case was taken up by the Florida State Department of Law Enforcement (the state police) and came to nothing. According to investigators, they could not uncover enough evidence to justify criminal charges.

     Frustrated by the failure of the state to expose decades of abuse, and to hold the Dozier School abusers accountable, the White House Boys, in 2010, launched their own investigation. The results of this inquiry, documented in a thick report, were so convincing and shocking, the state, in 2011, closed the school for good.

     In 2013, a team of forensic pathologists, using radar equipment that can penetrate the soil, depicted  55 unmarked graves. All of these suspicious sites were located outside the school cemetery. Exhumations and DNA analysis resulted in the identification of 21 Dozier children. The skeletal remains revealed that some of these boys had died from shotgun wounds, others from blunt force trauma, and the rest from malnutrition and infection.

     Investigators with the University of South Florida, in 2014, found that between 1903 and 1913, children at the Dozier School were denied food and clothing, shackled, whipped, raped, and hired out to work for other people. From 1900 to 1973, more than 100 boys died at the school.

     Following Hurricane Michael in 2016, an engineering firm hired by the Florida State Environmental Protection Agency to help clean up the mess, discovered 27 "anomalies" in the soil on the grounds of the old Dozier School. These anomalies were consistent with unmarked graves.

     By April 2019, forensic anthropologists with South Florida University confirmed the existence of the 27 graves. The remains at these sites revealed more evidence of child abuse and violent death.

     Investigations into the horrors of this terrible place are ongoing, and will no doubt produce more evidence of child abuse and murder.

     Cases like this remind us of the unlimited human capacity for cruelty, and that institutions housing the young and the old cannot be trusted, and must be closely monitored. 

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

Robert Van Handel: The Profile Of A Pedophile

     In 1994, Robert Van Handel, a 48-year-old Franciscan priest and former rector at St. Anthony's Seminary School in Santa Barbara, California, pleaded guilty to sexually molesting an 8-year-old student. He had been accused of molesting fifteen other boys between the ages 8 to 11, but those cases were too old to prosecute. In preparation for his sentencing hearing, the psychiatrist who evaluated Van Handel at the Pacific Treatment Associates in Santa Cruz, asked him to write a history of his sexual life. Van Handel complied, producing a detailed, 27-page memoir of a life devoted to sexually abusing boys.

     Van Handel's revealing description of his perverted thoughts and behavior provided a rare look into the twisted mind and life of a sexual predator. The document didn't come to light until 2006, the year the Franciscans, in a civil court settlement, paid twenty-five clergy abuse victims $28 million in damages. The church, in an attempt to keep Van Handel's revelations from the public, fought several newspaper organizations all the way to the California Supreme Court. The church lost. What follows is Van Handel's account of his life as a priest, teacher, and pedophile.

     In 1956, at age 10, Van Handel and his family of seven settled in Orange County, California. Three years later, the 13-year-old, to escape his strict, demanding father who forced him to read a sex education manual that scared the hell out of  him, enrolled in the Franciscan run St. Anthony's Seminary School in Santa Barbara. Two years later, while in the infirmary with a fever, a priest sexually molested him. According to the seminarian pedophile who attacked him, this activity would, by making the sick boy sweat, draw the fever out of him.

     Over the next nine years, while at St Anthony's, Van Handel collected magazines featuring child pornography, and used a telephoto lens to take clandestine photographs of children. While he fantasized about having sex with young boys, Van Handel did not actually molest anyone during this period.

     In 1970, at age 24, Van Handel moved to Berkeley, California to pursue his master's degree at the University of California. While there, he formed a neighborhood boy's choir and molested a 7-year-old choir member. He also, during this period, raped his 5-year-old nephew.

     Robert Van Handel, as an ordained Franciscan priest, returned to St. Anthony's in 1975 where he taught English. He also became the director of the school choir. In his sexual memoir, the priest acknowledged that the school choir provided him with a steady supply of victims. An 11-year-old boy, a student he had been abusing since the child was 7, resisted for the first time after four years of molestation. In his memoir, Van Handel said that he was shocked by the rejection. He wrote, "He started to cry and that snapped something in my head. For the first time, I was seeing signs that he really did not like this." In another passage, the priest wrote: "There is something about me that is happier when accompanied by a small boy. Perhaps besides the sexual element, the child in me wants a playmate."

     Van Handel's relationships with his students and choir boys exemplified typical pedophile behavior. The priest rubbed their backs, photographed them tied-up in ropes, wrestled with them, and invented tickling games. (The Penn State pedophile, coach Jerry Sandusky, called himself the "tickle monster.") In his memoir of perversion, Van Handel, noted that the fact the boys couldn't stop him from doing what he wanted, turned him on. He wrote, "It was though I could do anything with them that I wanted."

     In 1983, Robert Van Handel became rector of St. Anthony's. As head of this enclave of pedophilia, he was asked to investigate another priest who had been accused of molesting two boys who were brothers. As it turned out, Van Handel had also sexually assaulted these students.

     Van Handel's tenure at St. Anthony's came to an end in 1992 when the parents of one of his victims wrote a letter to the head of the Franciscan order. Within months of this letter, Van Handel was removed from the ministry.

     After the defrocked pedophile's guilty plea in 1994, the judge sentenced him to eight years in prison.  (Eight years? This serial sex offender should have been sentenced to life without parole.)

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

The Phil Spector Murder Case

     In the morning of February 3, 2003, Los Angeles County Sheriff deputies responded to a call from the Alhambra mansion owned by Phil Spector, the 67-year-old music producer who became famous in the 1960s for his "wall of sound." In the foyer, the deputies found 40-year-old actress Lana Clarkson slumped in a chair. She had been shot once in the mouth by the .38-caliber Cobra revolver lying on the floor under her right hand. When the fatal shot had been fired, Clarkson and Spector were the only people in the house.

     Spector's chauffeur told the police that at five in the morning, he heard a noise that sounded like a gunshot. Shortly after that, he said Spector came out of the mansion carrying a handgun. According to the driver, Spector had said, "I think I killed somebody."

     The music producer had met the victim the previous night at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip where the struggling actress worked as a hostess for $9 per hour. When the nightclub closed for the night, she accompanied Spector back to his house for a drink. According to Spector's account of the death, Lana Clarkson committed suicide.

     The crime scene investigation and the analysis of the physical evidence featured forensic pathology, the location of the gunshot residue, and the interpretation of the blood spatter patterns. Los Angeles Deputy Coroner Dr. Louis Pena visited the death scene, and conducted the autopsy. The forensic pathologist, at the autopsy, found bruises on the victim's right arm and wrist that suggested a struggle. A missing fingernail on Clarkson's right hand also indicated some kind of violence just prior to the shooting. Her bruised tongue led Dr. Pena to conclude that the gun had been forced into the victim's mouth. Its recoil had shattered her front teeth. Clarkson's purse was found slung over her right shoulder. Since she was right-handed, and would have used that hand tho hold the gun, the deputy coroner questioned suicide as the manner of death. Based on his crime scene examination and autopsy, Dr. Pena ruled Lana Clarkson's death a criminal homicide. The police arrested Spector who retained his freedom by posting the $1 million bail.

     Blood spatter analysts from sheriff's office criminalists concluded that after the shooting, Spector had pressed the victim's right hand around the gun handle, placed the revolver temporarily into his pants pocket, later wiped it clean of his fingerprints, then laid it near her body. From the bloodstains on his jacket, the government experts concluded he had been standing within two feet of the victim when the gun went off. The absence of her blood spray on a nearby wall led the spatter analysts to believe that Spector had been standing between the victim and the unstained surface when he fired the bullet into her mouth. Gunshot residue experts found traces of gunpowder on Spector's hands.

     The forensic work performed by the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office and the sheriff's department had not been flawless. A dental evidence technician had lost one of the victim's teeth; a criminalist had used lift-off tape to retrieve trace evidence from the victim's dress which had interfered with the serology analysis; and the corpse had been moved at the scene, causing unnatural, postmortem blood flow from her mouth which compromised that aspect of the blood spatter analysis

     The Phil Spector murder trial got underway in May 2007. On June 26, the government rested its case. The defense led off with Dr. Vincent Di Maio, the former chief medical examiner of Bexar County, Texas. Dr. Di Maio, considered one of the leading experts on the subject of gunshot wounds, testified that he disagreed with the prosecution's experts who had asserted that blood spatter can travel only three feet from a person struck by a bullet. Dr. Di Maio said blood can travel more than six feet if a gun is fired into a person's mouth, the pressure from the muzzle gas that is trapped in the oral cavity creates a violent explosion. "The gas," he said, "is like a whirlwind, it ejects out of the mouth, out of the nose."  Because 99 percent of intra-oral gunshot deaths are suicides, Dr. Di Maio opined that Lana Clarkson had killed herself. In Di Maio's 35 years as a medical examiner, he had seen only "three homicides that were intra-oral."

     In an aggressive cross-examination by the deputy district attorney, Dr. Di Maio was asked how much he had been paid for his work on the case. The former medical examiner said that his bill was $46,000, which did not include his trial testimony. Courtroom spectators laughed when Dr. Di Maio told his cross-examiner that the longer he kept him on the stand, the more it would cost the defendant.

     On September 18, 2007, the Spector jury, following a week of deliberation, announced they were deadlocked seven to five. Two days later, the judge sent them back to the jury room with a new set of instructions on how to determine reasonable doubt. In the Spector trial, the celebrity experts for the defense (including Dr. Henry Lee) did more than just muddy the water by pointing out mistakes and erroneous conclusions by the government's experts. They had offered a conflicting scenario backed by their interpretations of the physical evidence. In circumstantial cases like this, deadlocked juries are to be expected. The hung jury is what Phil Spector paid for, and it's what he got. The jury remained split, and the judge had to declare a mistrial.

     The second trial, this one not televised, got underway on October 20, 2008. The case went to the jury on March 26, 2009, and 19 days later, the jury found the defendant guilty of first-degree murder. Two months later, the judge sentenced Phil Spector to 19 years to life. In May 2011, the California Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction. The California Supreme Court, when it declined to review the case, guaranteed that Mr. Spector will die in prison. Because so many high-profile forensic scientists disagreed on the interpretation of the physical evidence in this case, it will not be a positive landmark in the history of forensic science.

Phil Spector Post Conviction

     In 2006, while awaiting his first murder trial, Spector married Rachelle Short. In 2016, he filed for divorce, claiming she was blowing through his $35 million estate. While he sat in prison, she had purchased a $350,000 airplane, an Aston Martin and a Ferrari, expensive plastic surgery, expensive jewelry, and two houses for her mother. Spector also claimed that Short had failed to pay $700,000 in taxes, and was sending him only $300 a month in prison spending money. When the divorce came through, the judge awarded Short $37,000 a month in spousal support plus $14,000 a month for housing costs.
     On January 17, 2021, Phil Spector died at the age of 81.

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

The History of Murder by Poison

     Poisoning is a method of murdering a person without leaving any inconvenient and incriminating clues like bloodstains, knife-wounds, marks of strangulation or crude bludgeoning. With luck, the murder might even be put down to death from natural causes. That, quite simply, is the reason why poisoning was the favorite method of murder for thousands of years: because it was virtually undetectable, its effects indistinguishable from hear attack or a stroke....

     Ancient Rome is the first society on record where poison was used on a large scale, almost indiscriminately, as a matter of policy by the rulers. But we know that the Greeks used poison much earlier, referring to aconite [a toxin derived from the Aconitum plant] as the "queen of poisons", for example. And certainly poison was known and widely used in the East, the Arabs and the Indians in particular being great practitioners in the deadly uses of venom.

Brian Marriner, On Death's Bloody Trail, 1991

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 

Wallace Stegner on "Serious Fiction"

     "Serious fiction" is not necessarily great and not even necessarily literature, because the talents of its practitioners may not be as dependable as their intentions. But serious literature will be written in this spirit.

     The difference between the writer of serious fiction and the writer of escape entertainment is the clear difference between the artist and the craftsman. The one has the privilege and the faculty of original design; the other does not. The man who works from blueprints is a thoroughly respectable character, but he is of another order from the man who makes the blueprints in the first place.

Wallace Stegner, On Teaching and Writing Fiction, 2002

Monday, November 18, 2019

The John Adams Wrong House SWAT Raid

     Sixty-four-year-old John Adams and his wife Loraine lived in Lebanon, Tennessee, a town of 20,000, 14 miles east of Nashville. John, suffering from arthritis, had retired after working 37 years for the Precision Rubber Company. With his lump-sum disability payment, John had purchased a new Cadillac and a double-wide trailer on Joseph Street, a short, dead-end road on the eastern side of town. His place and the house next door were the only dwellings on the block.

     At 10 o'clock Wednesday night, October 4, 2000, John and Loraine were watching television in their living room when someone pounded loudly on their front door. Loranine got out of her chair, "Who is it?" she asked. Whoever it was didn't respond. The pounding grew more intense. Realizing that someone was breaking down the door, Loraine, thinking that criminals were invading their house, yelled to John, "Baby, get your gun!"

     John Adams grabbed the cane next to his easy chair and hobbled out of the room. Seconds later, five men, wearing helmets and ski masks and dressed in black combat fatigues, burst into the house. They shoved Loraine against a wall and forced her to her knees. Handcuffed and terrified, she said, "Y'all have got the wrong place! What are you looking for?"

     Officers Greg Day and Kyle Shedron, rookies in their mid-twenties, encountered John standing in the hallway holding a sawed-off shotgun. Mr. Adams fired one shot, and the officers returned fire, hitting him in three places. Mr. Adams crumbled to the floor, and died four hours later on the operating table at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

     At a news conference the following day, Lebanon chief of police Billy Weeks admitted that his officers had raided the wrong house. He acknowledged that because there were only two residences on that block, and one was a house trailer, people had a right to know how this could have happened. Chief Weeks said that the narcotics officer in charge of the case, a person he would not identify, had written the correct address on the search warrant. This address belonged to the drug suspect's house located next door to the Adams dwelling. The narcotics officer, in directing the SWAT team to the place to be entered, relied on the description of the raid target rather than the address written on the warrant. Nobody could figure out what the hell that meant.

     According to Chief Weeks, the narcotics officer who had acquired the search warrant had been watching the drug suspect's house for more than a month. The judge had issued the warrant after this officer had sworn to him that an informant had purchased drugs at this house. The drug suspect's car had been parked in the Adams's driveway, which may have caused the mix-up. Although this explained how the narcotics cop might have incorrectly assigned the drug suspect's address to the Adams trailer, it also suggested that the officer had not actually witnessed the snitch enter the suspect's place to make the buy. If he had, the wrong description would not have ended up on the search warrant. Nevertheless, Chief Weeks said, "We did the best surveillance we could do, and a mistake was made. It's a very sincere mistake (what does that mean?), a costly mistake. They [Mr. and Mrs. Adams] were not the target of our investigation. [Mr. Adams was, unfortunately, the target of the shooters.] It makes us look at our own policies and procedures to make sure this never occurs again." Mr. Adams had been shot, the chief went on to say, because he fired a shotgun at officers Shedron and Day. The incident (the homicide) was being looked into by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI).

     Chief of Police Weeks called a second news conference on October 19, 2000 to update the media on the status of the case. Having earlier assured the public that "We did the best surveillance we could do," he now revealed that "We lost sight of our informant, and that never should occur." It seemed the head of the narcotics unit who had watched the suspect's house, and acquired the search warrant, had not actually witnessed him enter the dwelling for drugs. "What we think happened is that we have a particular [narcotics] supervisor who made a very unwise decision." The "unwise decision" presumably, was to lie to the magistrate who had issued the search warrant.

     Chief Weeks placed the narcotics supervisor on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the TBI investigation. "We are not trying to make excuses for what happened. But I can tell you that we did identify ourselves [before breaking into the wrong house], and maybe they [the occupants] got confused. [Mr. and Mrs. Adams were not confused. They were in the right house.] And I know we were reacting to him [Mr. Adams] shooting at us. But obviously, this wouldn't have happened if we had not been in the man's house.

     John Fox, the mayor of Lebanon, also appearing before reporters that day, made the point that, wrong house or not, Mr. Adams would be alive had the SWAT team not been deployed in the first place. "We're going to back off this knocking down doors," he said. "There's going to have to be some really strong evidence that something life-threatening is actually there. I told him [Chief Weeks] to get rid of those damn black uniforms, get rid of them!" [The Lebanon SWAT team had been trained by DEA agents who recommend that officers dress in the "narco ninja" style which consists of all-black outfits and ski masks.] When we go up to knock on a door, we're going to have our suit and tie, or our [regular] police uniform, and that's it. And when they open the door, a citizen is going to be a citizen until there is actually proof of guilt."

    Mayor Fox also provided information that possibly explained how the narcotics supervisor had confused the suspect's residence with the Adams trailer. According to the mayor, the confidential informant was merely an anonymous tipster. Moreover, the so-called surveillance was nothing more than a "drive-by" scan of the neighborhood. If this were true, it's hard to imagine how the narcotics officer could have acquired the search warrant without fudging the facts.

     The TBI completed its investigation, and on November 3, 2000, a Wison County grand jury indicted Lieutenant Steve Nokes, the head of the Lebanon narcotics unit. Lieutenant Nokes stood accused of criminal responsibility for reckless homicide, tampering or fabricating evidence, and aggravated perjury, all felony offenses. At his trial, Nokes pleaded not guilty, and in June 2001, the jury acquitted him of all charges.

     The city of Lebanon, in May 2002, agreed to pay Loraine Adams the lump sum of $200,000. Pursuant to the court settlement, she would also receive $1,675 a month for the rest of her life. The city also paid Mr. Adams' $45,000 hospital bill, and his $5,804 funeral expenses.
      

Lie Detection Humor

A father buys a lie detector robot that slaps people when they lie. He decides to test it out at dinner one night. The father asks his son what he did that afternoon. The son says, "I did some schoolwork." The robot slaps the son. The son says, "Okay, okay, I was at a friend's house watching movies." Dad asks, "What movie did you watch?" Son says, "Toy Story." The robot slaps the son. Son says, "Okay, okay, we were watching porn." Dad says, "What? At your age I didn't even know what porn was." The robot slaps the father. Mom laughs and says, "Well, he certainly is your son." The robot slaps the mother.

Unknown 

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

Scottye Leon Miller: The Inability of the Police to Prevent the Foreseeable Murder of a Stalking Victim

     Scottye Leon Miller, a violent, sociopathic stalker of ex-girlfriends and other women unfortunate enough to have crossed his path, lived in Burien, Washington, a King County town of 33,000 located south of Seattle. Between 2002 and 2010, Miller had stalked, harassed, threatened, and assaulted several women. His arrest record featured 15 domestic violence related convictions, and six court protection order violations. It was just a matter of time before he killed one of his victims.

     In 2008, the violent ex-con started dating Tricia Patricelli, a 30-year-old mother of two daughters who lived in the nearby city of Auburn. In January of the following year, Miller forced his way into Patricelli's apartment and assaulted her in front of her children. A local prosecutor charged the 30-year-old subject with burglary and third-degree assault. The defendant pleaded guilty and received a short sentence in the King County Jail. (Burglary is a felony, the judge should have sentenced Miller, given his criminal record, to twenty years in prison.)

     Miller served less than a year in jail on the Patricelli burglary/assault conviction. In January 2012, Tricia Patricelli called 911 and reported that he had threatened to kill her, and was chasing her in the parking lot of the apartment complex. "Please hurry, he is going to kill me!" she screamed. The police arrived and took Miller into custody. To the responding officers, Patricelli said, "You don't know who you are dealing with. He is going to kill me."

     Scottye Miller, convicted of fourth-degree assault and harassment, was sentenced to another short stretch in the King County Jail. The fact he was behind bars, however, did not stop this man from continuing to terrorize his victim. While serving his time, Miller wrote Patricelli letters in which he promised to kill her when he got out of jail. Apparently in King County, Washington, victims of stalking and assault did not get relief even when their offenders were in custody. For a victim of this type of crime, this reality must have been frightening as hell.

     Scottye Miller, on October 12, 2012, walked out of jail a free man. This meant serious trouble for Tricia Patricelli, the object of the serial stalker's obsession and pathological wrath. The criminal justice system, at this point, had no solution for Patricelli's life-threatening predicament. It didn't take a psychic detective to predict bad things for this vulnerable woman.

     At eight-thirty in the morning of October 30, 2012, just two weeks after Miller's release from the King County Jail, neighbors heard the screams of a woman coming from Tricia Patricelli's apartment. Moments after the woman went silent, witnesses saw a man meeting Miller's physical description walk out of the building. Someone called 911.

     Responders to Patricelli's apartment found that Miller had stabbed her to death in the bathroom. He had stabbed his ex-girlfriend in the face, neck, torso, and back--22 times in all. Police arrested him shortly thereafter at a nearby bus stop. Miller denied any knowledge of the stabbing, but admitted that he had sent the dead woman text messages in which he had threatened to kill her. Miller told the arresting officers that he had been dating the victim for four years, and had lived with her, on and off, during half of that time.

     Shortly after Patricelli's murder, investigators found three bloody knives, a pair of blood-stained gloves, and the victim's cellphone at the foot of a fence near the apartment complex. During a second interrogation, Scottye Miller confessed to the killing. He said that in the midst of a fight in Patricelli's apartment, he just "snapped." After "snapping," Miller slipped on a pair of gloves, and using the three knives he had brought with him to Patricelli's place, started stabbing her. The bloody assault ended up in Patricelli's bathroom where she died.

     On November 15, 2012, a King County judge arraigned Miller on the charge of first-degree murder. The homicidal stalker was back in jail under $1 million bond.

     In December 2013, a jury found Miller guilty of first-degree murder. Two weeks after the verdict, the judge sentenced him to 50 years in prison.

     The Scottye Miller case reminds us of a frightening truth about our criminal justice system. The police cannot arrest dangerous people for what they might do in the future. Law enforcement authorities only spring into action after the harm is done. In this case, it was too late to protect the victim's life. Our system of criminal justice is designed more for the protection of the criminal than it is for the safety of the victim. Women being stalked, threatened with death, and assaulted by pathological criminals like Scottye Miller cannot look to the police or the courts for protection. They either have to flee and hide, hire a contract killer, or buy a gun and do the job themselves. None of these options are good, but neither is being hounded, assaulted, then murdered by some low-life sociopath in your own bathroom.  

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

The Ambulance Chasers

     Years ago, when the legal cannon of ethics prohibited lawyers from advertising their services, a number of unethical attorneys would literally follow ambulances to emergency rooms where they solicited business from accident victims, encouraging them to sue. Today, civil litigators don't have to chase ambulances, they simply solicit personal injury and wrongful death clients through television ads.

     In a New York Times blog posted on May 14, 2010, a Montclair, New Jersey resident wrote about what happened after her husband was involved in a fender-bender car accident. There were no injuries, the car was quickly repaired, and in a week the incident was history. At that point the car owner began getting next-day delivery letters from attorneys with a common pitch: "I just had to get to you before it's too late--call me immediately for a free consultation to possibly receive cash payments for injuries." This potential client, following this minor traffic accident, received seven letters from lawyers and one from a rehabilitation center, plus a phone call from a chiropractor.

     John Grisham, the best-selling author of legal thrillers (The Firm), spoke to a CNN correspondent about his book, The Litigators. The novel features two attorneys in a "boutique law" firm which is nothing more than a third-rate operation run by a couple of ambulance chasers. Asked by the correspondent what inspired the novel, Grisham said, "I think it goes back to what seems to be a deluge of lawyers advertising on television. The airwaves are just flooded these days with what I find to be unseemly appeals for cases by lawyers, all types of cases, tractor-trailer accidents, medical malpractice, mass tort drugs, asbestos and things like that. You've got these lawyers who come on with these high powered, very expensive ads, who just sign up as many cases as possible and if you have time to read the fine print on the TV screen, most of these cases they bundle them up and sell them to other law firms, so these guys are just peddling their names. They're in the big cities by the thousands, hustling around trying to get cases. They're in small towns where there's not quite as much business and they're still hustling around trying to get injury cases or more lucrative cases, but they're everywhere."

     The fact that Grisham practiced law for several years lends credibility and a sense of reality to his novels. While he is not a particularly fine writer, his books are tightly plotted and populated by interesting and realistic characters. The Litigators, an unflattering look at one segment of the legal profession, was a best-seller.   

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.

America's Last Public Hanging

     The United States has a long history of so-called "legal" public executions. The last one was carried out in Owensboro, Kentucky in 1936 when Rainey Bethea was hanged after his conviction for the rape and murder of a 70-year-old woman.

     Hundreds of reporters and photographers--some from as far away as New York and Chicago--were sent to Owensboro to cover what was then the country's first hanging conducted by a woman. At least 20,000 people descended on the town to witness the execution. Bethea walked toward the gallows shortly after sunrise and was pronounced dead at around 5:45 a.m. that day.

     In 1936, reporters blasted what they called the "carnival in Owensboro." Many scholars say Bethea's execution--and the coverage it received--led to a banning of public executions in America.

National Public Radio, May 1, 2001

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

Media and the Presumption of Guilt: The JonBenet Ramsey Case

     Our lives and our hopes for the future both suffered a near-fatal arrow when our daughter, JonBenet, was murdered in our home during the night of December 25, 1996. The overwhelming grief stressed our basic will to live. The suspicions cast on us by an inexperienced police force and the United States media almost crushed our ability to live.

     What happened to us after JonBenet's death should not happen to anyone, but based on what we have seen and experienced through our ordeal, we are certain that the same thing has happened to other people in our society. Innocent people are unjustly suspected, publicly accused, arrested, prosecuted, jailed, and in some cases, executed. Our criminal justice system now operates on the presumption of guilt, and then challenges the defendant to prove his or her innocence. Some police officers are all too eager to have their work on the evening news. We lost our daughter to the worst imaginable monster in our society and then were persecuted by the police and the media because they knew "the parents are always guilty."

John and Patsy Ramsey, The Death of Innocence, 2000

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."