6,020,000 pageviews


Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Nicholas Bennallack Police Shooting Cases

     Just before eleven o'clock on the night of January 2, 2012 in Anaheim, California, police officers responded to several 911 calls regarding a man with a shotgun at an apartment complex. SWAT officers at the scene ran down a 200-foot alleyway, and as they rounded a corner, saw Bernie Villegas holding a rifle. Anaheim police officer Nicholas Bennallack shot Villegas who was pronounced dead at the scene. The 36-year-old immigrant from the Philippines had been holding his son's BB gun. Villegas, an alleged drug dealer, had a 14-year-old daughter, and a son who was twelve.

     The Orange County District Attorney's office, following an investigation of the shooting, cleared Officer Bennallack of criminal wrongdoing. Villegas' family filed a wrongful death suit against the city.

     On July 21, 2012, about six months after the Villegas shooting, Officer Bennallack and his partner Brett Heitmann were patrolling an Anaheim neighborhood considered a hotbed of gang activity. The officers spotted a car parked in an alley surrounded by several men. Officer Heitmann recognized the man standing on the vehicle's passenger side as 25-year-old Manuel Diaz. Diaz, a known gang member, had prior gun possession convictions.

     When officers Heitmann and Bennallack got out of the unmarked police car, Diaz ran down an alley leading to an apartment complex. As he fled, Diaz used both hands to hold up his trousers. The fleeing suspect ignored the officers' orders to stop. The officers caught up to Diaz at a wrought-iron fence. As they approached the suspect Diaz had his back to them. When he started to turn toward the officers, Bennallack, thinking that Diaz might have a gun, fired twice. One bullet hit Diaz in the buttocks, the other in the head. He died shortly after the shooting. Diaz was not armed.

     A toxicology report revealed that Diaz, at the time of the shooting, had in his system methamphetamine, amphetamine, and a prescription medicine to prevent seizures.

     Following the Diaz shooting, Dana Douglas, the attorney who represented Bernie Villegas' relatives, filed a $50 million suit against the city on behalf of the Diaz family. Following Diaz's death, the Orange County District Attorney's Office opened an investigation of Officer Nicholas Bennallock. The officer had been an Anaheim police officer for five years.

     On March 20, 2013, Assistant District Attorney Dan Wagner announced that Officer Bennallack had been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in the Diaz shooting. According to the Orange County prosecutor, at the time of the fatal incident, the officer "believed he was in imminent danger. In such a scenario, one can have only a split-second to decide how to proceed."

     The Diaz family attorney, Dana Douglas, had a different take on the shooting. "This is like a rape case," she said. "Let's blame the victim." (In my view, that was not an appropriate analogy.)

     In May 2016, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court decision to dismiss the Villegas lawsuit. The suit against the city of Anaheim went forward.

    When a police officer, within a period of five years, shoots and kills two people, both of them unarmed, some might call him trigger-happy. Given the circumstances of these two police-involved shootings, the term does not apply to Officer Bennallack.

     Both lawsuits were settled out of court.

Shivinder Singh Grover's Triple Murder And Suicide

     A Sikh is a follower of Sikism, a religion that originated in the Punjab region of India in the 1500s. There are about 500,000 Sikhs residing in the United States.

     Shivinder Singh Grover and his family were active members of suburban Atlanta's Sikh community of a thousand worshipers. The 52-year-old father of two had graduated from the University of Michigan, and was an executive with one of the technology companies headquartered in the city's northern suburbs. His 47-year-old wife, Damanjit Kaur Grover, worked for Emory Healthcare in Atlanta. The Grover family resided in a gated apartment community in Johns Creek, Georgia, a town 25 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta.

     One of Mrs. Grover's co-workers, at eleven o'clock in the morning of Monday, February 4, 2013, became concerned when Damanjit, a reliable employee, didn't show up at the office. After her phone calls to the Grover home went unanswered, the co-worker called the Johns Creek Police Department and requested a welfare check at the Grover apartment.

     Later that morning, after breaking into the apartment, Johns Creek officers made a gruesome discovery. Officers found Damanjit dead from head wounds caused by a blunt object. The Grover children, Gurtej, aged 5, and Sartaj, 12, had fatal knife wounds in their necks. Shivinder, the presumed murderer of his family, had hanged himself.

     The Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office labeled these deaths a case of murder-suicide. Investigators looked at computer files for a suicide note or something that suggested a reason behind the killings. They found nothing instructive.

     A friend of Mr. Grover's, in speaking to a reporter with a church-related publication, said, "Shivinder was a very respectful person. He talked respectfully to everybody. He was not a person who had any animosity, anxiety, or depression."

     Shivinder Singh Grover's murder of his family and himself shocked his friends, colleagues, and family. No one saw this coming, and no one had a clue as to what drove this man of quiet intelligence and apparent stability to commit such a violent, unspeakable act. (Some of Mr. Grover's friends wondered if the family had been murdered by an outsider. There was, however, no official investigation into that possibility.) 

Friday, May 29, 2020

Joseph L. Miller: The Deacon's Secret

     In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on June 12, 1959, 23-year-old Joseph Lewis Miller blasted John and Donna Lumpkins with a 12-gauge shotgun. Mr. Lumpkins died of his injuries on July 4 of that year. Donna Lumpkins, his wife, survived her wounds.

     On January 22, 1960, Joseph Miller pleaded guilty to the John Lumpkins murder and the attempted murder of the victim's wife. The judge sentenced him to life in prison. Throughout the late 1960s, Miller made several requests to have his life sentence commuted. On February 9, 1971, Miller got his wish when Governor Raymond P. Shaffer granted his motion. After serving 11 years and 6 months behind bars, Miller began his life as an ex-con on lifetime parole.

     Governor Shaffer's decision in this case would end up costing another man his life. (Whenever a politician commutes a sentence in a case that did not involve injustice, the politician is saying that he knows better than the judge who issued the original sentence. Politicians are not that smart, or wise.)

     On January 15, 1981, Miller, at age 45, shot Thomas Walker to death in the parking lot outside a Harrisburg bar. After being charged with murder and several firearms violations a month later, Miller was nowhere to be found. He became a fugitive from justice.

     In 2010, in the northeastern Texas town of Mineola, Miller, a deacon in the New Life Family Baptist Church, married a 58-year-old member of the congregation named Gennell. He was 74-years-old and living under the name Eugene Eubanks. Miller, a wanted killer, had established himself as a pillar of the community. But he was a man with a secret.

     In the early morning hours of April 21, 2014, a team of U.S. Marshals showed up in Mineola with a warrant for the longtime fugitive's arrest. The marshals took Joseph Miller, aka Eugene Eubanks, into custody and booked him into the Wood County Jail where he awaited his extradition back to Pennsylvania. According to Miller's wife Gennell Eubanks, Eugene suffered from early stage Alzheimer's Disease and arthritis. He also had been having problems with his heart.

     After the marshals hauled her 78-year-old husband off to jail, Gennell Eubanks told a reporter from Pennsylvania that she had not known her husband's real name. Regarding the shooting death of Thomas Walker in 1981, she said, "Eugene said it was an accident. He was trying to protect his brother, because a man was trying to kill him. I believe my husband. He wasn't trying to kill that man; it just happened. He isn't going to lie to me," she said, "because he is a deacon. He was trying to do what's right." As Miller was being taken out of his house in handcuffs, he said this to his 62-year-old wife: "Take care of yourself, and trust in the Lord. He will see you through."

     Miller had not told Gennell Eubanks about his 1959 murder of John Lumpkins and the shooting of the victim's wife. Gennell had no idea her husband of four years had spent more than eleven years in a Pennsylvania prison.
 
     This deacon knew how to keep a secret. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Robert H. Richards IV: The Case of the Rich Pedophile

     In 2005, 38-year-old Robert H. Richards IV resided with his wife Tracy and their two children, a 3-year-old girl and a boy aged 19 months. The heir to a pair of family fortunes lived in a 5,800-square-foot mansion in Greenville, Delaware. Richards, a member of the du Pont family, the people who built a worldwide chemical empire, and the son of a prominent Delaware attorney, also owned a luxury home in the exclusive North Shores neighborhood near Rehoboth Beach.

     In October 2007, Richards' daughter, now almost six, told her grandmother, Donna Burg, that her father had sexually assaulted her several times in 2005. According to the girl, her father had penetrated her with his finger at night in her bedroom. He told his daughter to keep what he had done to her a secret. The grandmother passed this information on to the victim's mother, Tracy Richards. The mother took her daughter to a pediatrician who confirmed that she had been sexually assaulted.

     In December 2007, a grand jury sitting in New Castle County indicted Robert Richards on two counts of second-degree rape. If convicted of these felonies, Richards faced a mandatory prison sentence. Following his arrest, Richards retained the services of a high-powered Delaware defense attorney named Eugene J. Maurer, Jr.

     Having denied his daughter's accusations, Richards agreed to take a polygraph test. When advised by the lie detection examiner that he had failed the test, Richards confessed to sexually assaulting his daughter. He said he was mentally ill and in need of psychiatric treatment.

     In June 2008, attorney Maurer and New Castle County prosecutor Renee Hrivnak agreed on a plea arrangement. According to the deal, Richards would plead guilty to one count of fourth-degree rape. This was not an offense that called for an automatic stretch in prison.

     Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden, in January 2009, sentenced Richards to Level 2 probation. Under the terms of his sentence, Richards would visit a case officer once a month. He also paid a $4,395 fine to the Delaware Violent Crimes Compensation Board.

     Judge Jurden, in justifying the probated sentence, wrote that prison life would be especially difficult for Mr. Richards, and that he would not fare well behind bars. In her mind, prison was for drug dealers, robbers, and murderers, not for child molesters in need of psychiatric treatment.

     In March 2014, Robert Richards' ex-wife Tracy filed a lawsuit against him on behalf of their children. The plaintiff was seeking compensatory and punitive damages for assault, negligence, and the intentional infliction of emotional stress on his daughter and her younger brother.

     According to the affidavit in support of the lawsuit, Richards, in anticipation of a second polygraph test in April 2010, expressed concern about something he had done to his son in December 2005. Richards was worried that he had sexually assaulted the then 19-month-old boy. Richards promised that whatever he had done to that child, it would not happen again.

     Richards' incriminating remarks, sparked by the lie detector test in 2010 following his probated sentence for sexually assaulting his daughter, were not make public until Tracy Richards filed her lawsuit. The new information inflamed a public already angry over what seemed to be Richards' preferential treatment by the prosecutor and Judge Jurden.

    On June 28, 2014, Robert Richards' attorney negotiated a settlement agreement with his client's former wife. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed. No charges were filed against Richards in connection with the possible molestation of his son.

     Had Robert Richards not been rich, he would be serving his sentence in prison. 

Reinventing Al Capone

     Except for books about writers and the writing life, the memoir has become my least favorite literary genre. I'm sick of manufactured sob stories; celebrity drivel you can get from People Magazine; fiction passed off as fact; revisionist, self-serving history; autobiographical narcissism; and memoirists trying to create something out of nothing. While there are very few of us worthy of a memoir, everybody seems to be writing one, including people with relatives who were once famous, or better yet, infamous. A memoir published in 2010 by Deirdre Marie Capone, the grandniece of the prohibition gangster Al Capone, represents this form of literary exploitation.

     When Al Capone died on January 25, 1947, the author of Uncle Al Capone: The Untold Story From Inside His Family," was 7-years-old. During the first six years of her life, uncle Al was doing time at Alcatraz for the least of his crimes, tax evasion. When they released him in November 1939, Capone's brain was partially destroyed by untreated syphilis. He spent his last months on earth in a bath robe fishing in his swimming pool on Palm Island in Biscayne Bay, Florida.

     It's safe to say that the author of this memoir had no direct contact with her great uncle. And even if she had, she was 7-years-old. This book was obviously not written from her journal entries. Nevertheless, Deirdre Capone wants us to believe that Al Capone was the victim of heavy-handed law enforcers who exaggerated the extent of his criminality. The author is telling us that Capone was nothing more than a successful businessman giving the American public what it wanted--illegal booze. Moreover, the man loved his family and liked to cook. If half of what has been written and said about Al Capone is false, he is still one of the most violent and evil criminals in American history.

       As a "businessman," Capone killed his competitors, and anyone who refused to buy his alcohol. Sure, people wanted their prohibition era booze, but they didn't bargain for the extortion, arson, kidnapping, aggravated assault, and first-degree murder that went with doing business with a man who employed more than 600 thugs and gangsters. Having paid-off most of the cops and federal prohibition agents in Chicago, Capone had a license to kill, and he used it. Calling Al Capone a "businessman" is like calling Adolph Hitler a statesman who loved his dog

     Like most mob leaders, Capone moved up the gangster career ladder by murdering people who stood in his way. He killed several men over petty arguments and barroom insults. Those he didn't murder ended up with broken arms, legs, and skulls. At an organized crime banquet he once hosted, Capone beat an associate to death with a baseball bat as he sat over his pasta. And on February 14, 1929, he masterminded the execution style mass murder of seven members of a rival gang in the so-called St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Some businessman.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Marybeth Tinning: America's Worst Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy Case

     In January 1972, Marybeth Tinning's 8-day-old daughter Jennifer died of acute meningitis. The death brought Marybeth a wave of sympathy from her friends and neighbors. The nurse's aide, married to a cold and indifferent man who worked at the Local General Electric plant in Schenectady, New York, welcomed the attention she did not get from her husband. Three weeks after Jennifer's death, Marybeth rushed her 2-year-old son, Joseph, to Schenectady's Ellis Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Without the benefit of an autopsy, doctors diagnosed the boy's cause of death as a viral infection accompanied by a "seizure disorder."

     The tragic loss of two children within a span of three weeks brought Marybeth Tinning an intense amount of sympathy and attention. This once ignored and lonely woman fit the criminal profile of a person with the so-called  Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy personality disorder. Mothers with MSBP hurt or kill their children for the sympathy and attention they receive from friends, family, and hospital personnel. However, it wasn't until 1977 that members of law enforcement and the medical community became aware of this homicidal motive.

     Tragedy hit the Tinning family six weeks after Joseph's death when 4-year-old Barbara Tinning died. Following the third death of a Tinning child, hospital personnel, suspicious of foul play, notified the police. The pathologist, however, by identifying the cause of death as cardiac arrest, killed any chance of a criminal investigation.

     A year and a half after Barbara Tinning's sudden death, 2-week-old Timothy Tinning died at Ellis Hospital while being treated for a mysterious illness. The pathologist, unable to identify the cause of death, recorded it as a Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) case. ( SIDS is not a cause a death but merely a description of the death. However, it sounds more scientific than "unknown death.")

     In September 1975, Nathan Tinning, five months old, died of "pulmonary edema." While hospital personnel were growing increasingly suspicious, the police didn't get involved because all of the deaths except one had been classified as natural, and the one exception had gone into the books as SIDS.

     Three and a half years after Nathan Tinning died, Marybeth lost another child to sudden death. Mary Tinning, age two and a half, had been a healthy child who, for reasons that baffled physicians, simply died. Although she was not by definition an infant, her death was recorded as another SIDS fatality.

     In 1980, after the sixth Tinning child had died of undetermined causes, sympathy for Marybeth was hardening into suspicion of murder. At the Ellis Hospital, among a dwindling group of Marybeth sympathizers, there was speculation that perhaps the Tinning family had been cursed with a "death gene." On August 2, 1981, emergency personnel rushed 3-year-old Michael Tinning, suffering from breathing difficulties, to the hospital where he died shortly thereafter. The official cause of death--bronchial pneumonia--didn't stem the tide of suspicion. The fact that Michael had been adopted laid waste to the death-gene theory.

     In less than ten years, seven children from the same family had died mysteriously, and no one in the health care or law enforcement communities had asked the person most closely associated with each fatality, Marybeth Tinning, if she had anything to do with these deaths. While a few of her friends and neighbors still considered Marybeth a tragic, cursed figure deserving of their sympathy, her husband Joe seemed unfazed by it all.

     On the night of December 19, 1985, four years and three months after Michael Tinning's death, Marybeth telephoned her neighbor, also a nurse's aide, and said, "Get over her now!" The neighbor arrived at the Tinning house and found 3-month-old Tami Lynne, born when Marybeth was forty-two, lying on a changing table. The infant had turned purple and was not breathing. According to Marybeth, the baby had been fusing all evening, and when she (Tinning) couldn't stand it anymore, she got up from watching television to ascertain why the baby was crying. She said she found her child tangled in blankets and not breathing. Unable to revive her, she had gotten Joe out of bed, called her neighbor, and then telephoned for an ambulance. The emergency personnel reached the house shortly after the neighbor arrived. At St. Clare's Hospital, doctors pronounced Tami Lynne dead.

     The forensic pathologist who performed the infant's autopsy knew the Tinning family history of sudden death. Notwithstanding this knowledge, and the purple coloration that suggested death by suffocation, the pathologist classified this fatality as a case of SIDS. Hospital personnel, however, suspected criminal homicide. They believed that Marybeth Tinning was a serial killer.

     The local police had been suspicious of Marybeth for years, but because none of the autopsies had resulted in a finding of homicidal death, they could not justify a criminal investigation. All they had to go on was the statistical unlikelihood of so many mysterious deaths occurring under the same roof, to the same mother. After Tami Lynne's death, a detective from the Schenectady Police Department went to the Tinning residence to ask Marybeth about the circumstances of the infant's passing. When he entered the house, Marybeth was reported to have said, "I know what you're here for. You're going to arrest me and take me to jail." The detective did not take her into custody, but the investigation had begun.

     Detectives from the Schenectady Police Department and investigators with the New York State Police met in Albany to review the eight Tinning autopsy reports, hospital records, and statements that had been made by ambulance and emergency room personnel. After the meeting, the officers agreed that without physical evidence of child abuse, an eyewitness, or a cooperating spouse, they would need a confession. If Marybeth did not confess to killing her children, they had no case. A little help from the forensic medicine community would have gone a long way in aiding the police, but it wasn't there. Marybeth Tinning would have to confess.

     Seven weeks after Tami Lynne's death, a Schenectady detective and a state police investigator came to the Tinning house and asked Marybeth to accompany them to the state police station in Louderville for questioning. Although she knew she was not under arrest, Marybeth agreed to be questioned. In the interrogation room, the suspect said she understood her Miranda rights, and agreed to waive them. Initially, according to the police account of the interrogation (which was not recorded) Marybeth denied doing anything to her children that would have caused their deaths. The detectives made it clear that they did not believe this, and not long into the interrogation, they were joined by another officer, a state trooper who had known Marybeth from childhood. "I didn't do it!" she kept saying. The interrogators, convinced she was lying, pressed on.

     Eventually breaking down under the pressure of the station house interrogation, Marybeth admitted that she had killed three of her children. She said she had used a pillow to smother 3-month-old Tami Lynne, 5-month-old Nathan, and 2-week-old Timothy. She denied foul play in the other five unexplained sudden deaths. Detectives brought her husband Joe into the interrogation room and she repeated her admission to him. Joe Tinning seemed unmoved by the news that his wife had murdered three of their children.

     A stenographer typed up the confession in a question-and-answer format, a transcript that ran to 36 pages. When describing Tami Lynne's death, Marybeth said, "I got up and went to her crib and tried to do something with her to get her to stop crying. I finally used the pillow from my bed and put it over her head. I held it until she stopped crying."

     A team of forensic pathologists examined the exhumed bodies of three infants. Two were too badly decomposed to render any clues, and the third turned out to a body taken from the wrong grave. On December 16, 1986, at the preliminary hearing, Marybeth rescinded her confession, claiming that her interrogators had forced her into confessing falsely. "They were telling me what to say," she said. "The police made a statement and I just repeated it." Marybeth's attorney asked the judge to exclude the 36-page confession on the grounds it had been acquired in violation of his client's Miranda rights. The judge denied the motion.

     A local prosecutor charged Marybeth Tinning with the murder of Tami Lynne, the last child to die. The case went to trial in 1987. The forensic pathologist who had initially ruled the death a SIDS fatality took the stand and testified that the child had been smothered to death. Five other pathologists for the prosecution agreed with this postmortem diagnosis.

     The defense countered with six forensic pathologists of their own who attributed Tami Lynne's death to a variety of natural causes. One of the defense experts testified that the child had died from Wernig-Hoffman disease, a genetic disorder that attacks the spinal column.

     The jury, confused by the conflicting medical testimony, relied on the defendant's confession to find her guilty. The jurors may also have found it hard to believe that eight children from one family, including an adopted child, could have died of natural causes. (Actually nine if you count the first child's death.)

     At the Tinning trial, forensic science, instead of guiding this jury to a rationale verdict, had cancelled itself out. Apparently unsure if Marybeth had intentionally killed the child for the attention she would get, the jurors found her guilty of murder in the second degree, an offense that carried a maximum sentence of 25 years to life.

     At her sentencing hearing, Marybeth, reading from a prepared statement said, "I just want you to know that I played no part in the death of my daughter, Tami Lynne. I did not commit this crime but will serve the time in prison to the best of my ability. However, I will never stop fighting to prove my innocence." The judge imposed the maximum sentence of 25 years to life.

     Although the Tinning case is an extreme manifestation of the Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy personality disorder, it is not the only case in the history of sudden infant death where an alarming number of babies have died before law enforcement authorities launched criminal investigations. (The Marie Noe case in Philadelphia is another example.) Before England's Dr. Roy Meadow introduced this syndrome into the vocabulary of murder, mothers in multiple death cases were less likely to come under suspicion of murder.

     In March 2007, after living twenty years in prison, Marybeth Tinning had her first parole board hearing. To the board members she said, "I have to be honest, and the only thing I can tell you is that I know that my daughter is dead. I live with it every day. I have no recollection and I can't believe that I harmed her." The board denied her request for parole.

   In late January 2009, at her second parole hearing, Tinning said, "I was going through bad times when I killed my daughter." The board, believing that her remorse was "superficial at best," denied her parole. She was denied early release in 2011 and 2012.

     In June 2016, the parole board, for the fourth time, denied Marybeth Tinning's bid for freedom. After being denied two more times, Tinning was granted parole on August 12, 2018. She had been in prison 30 years.

The Shaken Baby Syndrome: The Shirley Ree Smith Case

     When a presumably healthy baby dies in his or her crib for no apparent reason, and there is no evidence of foul play, rather than classifying the cause of death as "unknown," or "undetermined," a coroner or medical examner will usually call the fatality a "sudden infant death syndrome" (SIDS) case. Although this is the same as ruling the death as "undetermined," it sounds more scientific. At one time, the parents of SIDS babies found themselves under clouds of suspicion. Today, as a result of scientific study of these cases, forensic pathologists are attributing natural death causes in infant deaths that earlier would have been classified as SIDS fatalities.

     The "shaken baby syndrome" (SBS) refers to signs of physical trauma found in children under six who have been violently shaken. When a baby or toddler is shaken too hard, the victim's brain is jarred against the skull, causing it to bleed and swell. Most pediatricians and forensic pathologists believe that to diagnose SBS, they must find, at minimum, evidence of subdural hematoma (brain hemorrhaging), retinal bleeding (broken veins in the eyes), and cerebral edema (liquid on the brain that causes it to swell). The conventional wisdom had been that a child with these injuries who had neither been in a car accident or fallen from a two-story window had been violently shaken. Supportive evidence of SBS might include trauma to the neck and spine, bruises on the arms and torso, and broken ribs.

     In the late 1990s, a handful of pediatric researchers began to question the science behind the standard SBS diagnosis.Could cerebral edema and blood in the eyes and brain have other causes such as vitamin deficiency, disease, or reactions to vaccines and drugs? Diseases thought to cause symptoms of SBS included hypohosphatasia, brittle bone disease; Alagilles's Syndrome, a liver ailment; Bylers Disease (a liver disorder common among the Amish); and glutaric acidura (acid buildup in infants that causes paralysis and retinal bleeding). Some experts believe that a relatively short fall to a hard surface, say from three feet, can cause damage to the brain similar to that found in SBS victims.

     Because there is no agreement among pediatricians and forensic pathologists what physical evidence of SBS consists of, homicide trials involving defendants accused of shaking infants to death often involve dueling expert witnesses testifying against each other.

Shirley Ree Smith Case

     In 1997, a jury in Van Nuys, California convicted Shirley Ree Smith of shaking her seven week old grandson to death. The prosecutor convinced the jury that Smith had shaken the baby to stop him from crying. The medical examiner, in explaining why there wasn't as much cerebral bleeding as one might expect in a SBS case, said the baby had been shaken so violently the blood vessels in the brain stem suffered "shearing," casusing instantaneous death without bleeding due to the fact the baby's heart had stopped beating. The autopsy had failed to produce evidence of brain swelling or retinal bleeding.

     The Smith defense put two forensic pathologists on the stand who classified the death as a SIDS case, noting that the baby had jaundice, a heart murmer, and low birth weight. The jury accepted the prosecution's version of the facts, and found Shirley Ree Smith guilty. She received a sentence of fifteen years to life.

     A state court of appeals upheld the conviction. The Ninth Circuit federal court of appeals, however, in 2006, reversed the conviction and ordered Smith released from prison on the grounds the jury had missclassified the baby's death as a SBS fatality. The state prosecutor appealed the case reversal to the United States Supreme Court.

     On October 31, 2011, the supreme court, in a 6 to 3 decision, reinstated Shirley Ree Smith's homicide conviction. This meant she would have to return to prison. The six justices upheld a longstanding legal principle that an appeals court cannot substitute its judgment for a jury's. The high court, recognizing the jury in the Smith case may have relied on the wrong forensic pathologists, reminded the Ninth Circuit Court that judges in jury trials cannot decide the law and the facts. If Shirley Ree Smith had a remedy in law, it would have to be in the form of executive clemency.

Friday, May 22, 2020

The Jerame Reid Police-Involved Shooting Case

      On the night of December 30, 2014, in Brighton, New Jersey, a Cumberland County town of 25,000 south of Philadelphia, Bridgeton police officers Roger Worley and Braheme Days pulled over a Jaguar for running a stop sign. Officer Worley was behind the wheel of the patrol car.

     Officer Days approached the passenger side of the Jaguar and asked the two men in the car how they were doing. The passenger, 30-year-old Jerame Reid, said, "Good, how you doing, officer?"

     A few months earlier, officer Days had arrested Jerame Reid for possession of drugs. As a teenager, Reid had been convicted of shooting at police officers. The judge sent him to prison for twelve years.

     A few seconds after approaching the Jaguar, officer Days spotted a handgun in the glove compartment. He said, "Don't move! Show me your hands!"

     On the other side of the vehicle, officer Worley pointed his gun at the driver, Leroy Tutt. Mr. Tutt sat in the driver's seat with his hands sticking out of the car door window where they could be seen. Officer Worley called for backup.

     Officer Days reached into the Jaguar and removed a silver handgun from the glove box. To the vehicle's occupants he said, "You reach for something you're going to be (expletive) dead!"

     One of the men in the stopped car said, "I got no reason to reach for nothing." Again officer Days warned, "Hey Jerame, you reach for something you're going to be (expletive) dead!"

     As Jerame Reid opened the front passenger door, he said, "I'm getting out of the car." By now officer Worley had joined officer Days on that side of the vehicle. Both officers had their guns drawn. Reid climbed out of the vehicle, and when he stood up, his hands were raised to the level of his chest in the officers' plain view.

     A few seconds after Jerame Reid exited the Jaguar, officer Days shot him. Officer Worley also fired his gun but missed his target.  The shot man collapsed to the ground and died on the spot. He did not possess a firearm.

     The entire police-involved shooting incident was caught on the officers' dashboard camera. The chief of police placed both officers on administrative leave and turned the case over to the Cumberland County prosecutor's office.

     Shortly after receiving the case, Cumberland County prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae recused herself from the inquiry because she had personal ties to officer Days. First Assistant prosecutor Harold Shapiro took over the investigation.

     Critics of the way the authorities handled the case called for either a special prosecutor or an intervention by the state attorney general's office. Protestors, notwithstanding the fact that Jerame Reid and the officer who shot him were black, claimed racism.

    In February 2015, three months after Reid's death, a local newspaper reported that in 2011, Jerame Reid had filed a $100,000 lawsuit against the Cumberland County Department of Corrections, Warden Robert Balicki, and three corrections officers. Reid claimed the jail guards assaulted him in October 2009. According to Reid, the officers, without provocation or justification, repeatedly punched, kicked and pepper sprayed his face then threw a bucket of water on him as he lay on the cell floor.

     As a result of the beating, Reid said he suffered broken ribs and a fractured left orbital bone that left him without sensation and nerve damage to his lips and cheek area. According to court documents, the encounter began after Reid confronted another inmate over stolen belongings. The accused inmate told correction officers that Reid possessed a sharp object.

     Responding jail guards handcuffed Reid and placed him into another cell. According to the plaintiff, after he made a comment to one of the officers, they gave him the beating. (The officers alleged that Reid threw the first punch.)

     Reid's lawyer, in court documents, said the corrections officers, after an internal investigation, were disciplined for not filing a use of force report. The matter was not referred to the local prosecutor's office for investigation.

     As a result of the plaintiff's death, the lawsuit against the county and the others was dismissed.

     After a federal prosecutor decided not to pursue the shooting incident against the officers, the case, in April 2016, went before a local grand jury. The grand jurors declined to indict either officer. In July 2016, members of Reid's family settled a federal lawsuit against the police department for an undisclosed amount. Case closed.

Meeting a Published Author


When people meet a published author, many of them respond in one of two ways: "I have a terrific idea for a book, we can split the royalty 50-50." Or: "You ought to write a book about my uncle, he's a card!"

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Boy in the Shed

     A witness--perhaps a neighbor or a relative--called the Dallas Police Department at 11:00 PM on Friday, May 9, 2020 to request a welfare check at a home on Coston Drive occupied by 53-year-old Esmeralda Lira and her live-in boyfriend, Jose Balderas, 66. The caller reported that three youngsters living in the house, believed to be Lira's grandchildren, were starving.

     Just before midnight, police officers arrived at Lira's house, and while checking on two children asleep in a bedroom, heard noises coming from a padlocked shed behind the house.

     Inside the outbuilding, officers discovered a 6-year-old boy locked into the shed with his hands bound with shoelaces.

     According to the child, his grandmother, Esmeralda Lira, over the past two weeks, had locked him inside the shed from ten at night to eight in the morning. She gave him a plastic bag in case he needed to relieve himself. The boy also had to contend with insects and rats. When Lira put him into the shed without food or water, she reminded him of what a bad boy he had been. She also had the habit of kicking him and pulling his ears.

     Child protection officers removed all three children from the dwelling. Officers arrested Esmeralda Lira, and took Jose Balderas into custody the next day. When questioned by detectives, the boyfriend admitted that he had been aware of the abuse but had done nothing to stop it.

     Both suspects were charged with felony abandoning or endangering a child with imminent danger of bodily injury. At their arraignment hearing, the judge set each defendant's bail at $100,000.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Donald Eugene Borders and the "Three Women" Murder Case

     In 2003, 85-year-old Lottie Ledford lived by herself in a low-income neighborhood in Shelby, North Carolina, a town of 20,000 fifty miles west of Charlotte. As a younger woman, Lottie had worked in the region's textile mills. On August 23, 2003, a relative discovered Lottie lying dead on her bed. Because of her age, the police didn't suspect foul play. The Cleveland County Coroner ruled that Lottie Ledford had died of an heart attack.

     Bobby Fisher, Ledford's nephew, believed that his aunt had been murdered. Based upon his own observations, and what the funeral director had seen and noted, Fisher knew that Ledford's face and arms had been covered in bruises. (In January 2013, Bobby Fisher's widow, Barbara Ann, in speaking to a reporter, said, "It looked as if someone had taken two fingers and pinched her nose and held her across the mouth.") The fact that someone had cut Ledford's telephone line also suggested homicide. Bobby Fisher pleaded with the Shelby police to launch a murder investigation, but they ignored his request.

     On September 20, 2003, six weeks after Lottie Ledford's death, in the same neighborhood, Margaret Tessneer's daughter and son-in-law went by her (Margaret's) house at ten that morning. The couple had brought Tessneer a biscuit from Hardee's. The visitors found Tessneer's front door ajar, and inside the dwelling, the 79-year-old lying face-up on her rumpled bed. The dead woman had bruises on her face, arms, and legs. Someone had pulled the telephone drop-line away from her house.

     The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy noted the bruises, and concluded that Margaret Tessneer had been raped. While he ruled the manner of death in this case homicide, the pathologist classified Tessneer's cause of death, "undetermined."

     On November 10, 2003, in the same part  of town, a neighbor discovered Lillian Mullinax lying dead in her own bed. The 87-year-old's body was covered in bruises, her front door had been left ajar, and someone had cut her phone line. Following the autopsy, Mullinax's cause of death went into the books as "undetermined."

     One didn't have to be Sherlock Holmes to conclude that these three elderly women had been raped and murdered in their homes by the same man.

     In early 2004, Shelby detectives investigating Margaret Tessneer's September 20, 2003 death, became interested in a 53-year-old man named Donald Eugene Borders. After graduating from high school in 1977, Borders got married, worked in the region's textile mills, and fathered two children. But in the 1990s he turned to crime and was arrested dozens of times for robbery, burglary, and assault. In 2001, Borders was sent to state prison on a conviction for breaking and entering a home. After his release from custody in January 2003, Borders lived as a homeless man on the streets of Shelby.

     On March 20, 2004, detectives, after publicly asking for help in locating Borders, found him living in a homeless shelter in Charlotte. Armed with an arrest warrant pertaining to a matter unrelated to the so-called "three women" murder case, Shelby officer James Brienza took Donald Borders into custody. Before hauiling him to jail, Brienza let the prisoner have a cigarette. When Borders finished his smoke, Brienza saved the butt for DNA analysis.

     A state forensic scientist, in August 2004, found trace evidence from Margaret Tessneer's underwear that revealed she had been raped. Following the passage of more than five years (I have no idea what caused this delay) a DNA analyst matched the Tessneer murder scene evidence with the saliva on Border's cigarette butt.

     A Cleveland County Grand Jury, on December 28, 2009, more that six years after Margaret Tessneer's rape and killing, indicted Donald Eugene Borders for first-degree murder. He was taken into custody and held in the Cleveland County Jail without bond.

     Border's trial got underway in Cleveland on January 5, 2013. On January 28, the jury, after deliberating three hours, found the defendant guilty as charged. The judge sentenced Donald Eugene Borders to life in prison without the chance of parole. 

The Debra Milke Murder-For-Hire Case

     In December 1989, 25-year-old Debra Milke lived in Phoenix, Arizona with her 4-year-old son Christopher and James Styers. Milke rented a room in Styers' house. A few days before Christmas, Milke asked Styers to drive Christopher to the mall so he could visit Santa Claus. Instead of taking the boy to the shopping mall, Styers and a friend drove him to a secluded ravine outside of town where Styers shot the boy three times in the head. Detectives and prosecutors believed that Debra Milke had arranged the murder of her son for a $50,000 insurance payout. (The insurance policy, part of her employment package, amounted to $5,000.)

     Styers confessed to the homicide and was convicted of first degree-murder. At his trial, neither he nor his friend implicated Milke in the alleged murder-for-hire plot. No other witnesses came forward with incriminating evidence against the mother.

     Evidence that Debra Milke had plotted the murder came from a Phoenix detective named Armando Saldate. According to the detective, Milke told him that her role in the conspiracy to murder her son had been "a bad judgment call." Milke's interrogation had not been recorded and Saldate was the only officer involved in her questioning. Milke proclaimed her innocence from the beginning and denied making any kind of confession to Detective Saldate or anyone else. A local prosecutor, relying on the detective's credibility, charged Milke with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, child abuse, and kidnapping.

     Detective Saldate, at Milke's October 1990 murder trial, testified that the mother had confessed to him regarding her role in her son's homicide. The defendant took the stand, professed her innocence, and called the detective a liar. As is often the case, jurors believed the police officer over the defendant. The jury returned a guilty verdict. A few months later, the judge sentenced Debra Milke to death.

     As it turned out, Detective Armando Saldate was in fact a notorious liar. Prior to his interrogation of Milke he had been caught committing perjury in four criminal trials. His credibility was so compromised judges refused to accept into evidence confessions this detective had acquired.

     On March 14, 2013, Chief Federal Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, overturned Milke's conviction and vacated her sentence. The 49-year-old had been on Arizona's death row for 22 years. Based on Detective Saldate's history of perjury and other incidents of police misconduct, Judge Kozinski ruled that Milke's confession should have been excluded from her trial. Without this dishonest detective's tainted testimony, the prosecution had no case. In rationalizing his decision, Judge Kozinski wrote: "No civilized system of justice should have to depend on such flimsy evidence, quite possibly tainted by dishonesty or overzealousness, to decide whether to take someone's life or liberty."

     On September 6, 2013, Judge Rosa Mroz of the Maricopa County Superior Court set the 49-year-old prisoner free on $250,000 bond. County prosecutors said they planned to bring Milke back to trial by the end of that month. Once again, the prosecution would seek the death penalty. The defendant's attorneys petitioned the Arizona Court of Appeals to throw out the first-degree murder charge.

     On December 12, 2014, a three-judge panel on the state appeals court ruled that a retrial in the Milke case would amount to double jeopardy. According to the court, "The failure to disclose evidence calls into question the integrity of the system and was highly prejudicial to this defendant." The appellate court ordered the dismissal of all charges against Debra Milke.

The Paul Johnson/Vance Roberts Kidnap/Sexual Torture Case

     In June 1990, 20-year-old Paul Johnson and his half-brother Vance Roberts, kidnapped 17-year-old Andrea Hood off the street in Portland, Oregon. After the victim climbed into Roberts' pickup truck, the two men drove her to Roberts' house in the city where, over a period of 36 hours, they repeatedly raped her in a bedroom converted into a soundproof torture chamber. They locked Hood in a closet and at times chained her to a bed.

     On the second day of her captivity Hood managed to free herself, smash a bedroom window, and escape.

     Police officers, when they searched Vance Roberts' house, found chains and other items of torture and restraint.

     After Paul Johnson and Vance Roberts pleaded not guilty at their arraignments, a Washington County prosecutor took the case to a grand jury which indicted the half-brothers on charges of kidnapping and rape. Both men maintained their innocence.

     In February 1991, as Johnson and Roberts awaited trial, their mother bailed them out of jail. Both men immediately fled and remained at large until Vance Roberts surrendered to the authorities in 2006.

     In 2007, a jury found Vance Roberts guilty as charged. The key evidence against him involved the testimony of Andrea Hood and Michaelle Dierich, a woman kidnapped and raped by the half-brothers in 1988. The judge sentenced Roberts to 108 years in prison. He continued to insist that he was innocent.

     In September 2015, the Portland kidnap/rape case and its fugitive Paul Johnson were featured on the CNN TV show "The Hunt With John Walsh." Shortly after the episode aired, a tip came in regarding Johnson's whereabouts.

     On Monday September 29, 2015, U. S. Marshals in Guadalajara, Mexico arrested Paul Johnson as he walked to an electronics store. The fugitive of 24 years had been living in that country under the name Paul Bennett Hamilton.

     In May 2016, Paul Johnson pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree kidnapping, six counts of first-degree sodomy, six counts of first-degree rape, and three counts of first-degree sexual abuse. The Washington County judge sentenced the 46-year-old to 18 years in prison.

Media Promotion of Magical Thinking

In an era of magical thinking and stupid beliefs, millions of people buy into a lot of paranormal nonsense. The media, particularly television, with supposedly serious shows about ghosts, Big Foot, fortune tellers, alien abductions, spontaneous human combustion, psychic detectives, and the Lock Ness Monster, lends credibility to this kind of hogwash. Print and TV journalists, people who know better, pretend to take this stuff seriously because they are popular subjects that attract readers and viewers. These media hacks are part of the problem. Americans are losing the ability to think critically and reason clearly. For many, it's no longer what they know that counts, it's all about what they believe. In this world of fantasy, O. J. Simpson can be innocent, and Elvis Presley can be alive. We are losing our ability to think straight and recognize reality. This is dangerous because it opens the door to politicians who can manipulate the gullible into giving up their freedoms in exchange for promises the politicians know they can't keep. The blind trust of elected officials can destroy a country. Democracy requires a population of clear-eyed citizens smart enough to recognize the charlatans and the crypto-fascists. (Lower and higher education is worthless if it can't give students the intellectual tools to do this.) At least most Americans continue to distrust the politician, and are beginning to distrust the news media. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Lori Klausutis: The Sudden and Unexplained Death of a Congressional Aide

     On Friday, July 20, 2001, at 8:10 in the morning, a constituent entered the Fort Walton Beach, Florida office of U.S. Congressman, Joseph Scarborough. Inside, the constituent discovered Lori Klausutis, a 28-year-old congressional aide, lying dead on the floor. No one else was in the office. Klausutis's car was parked outside, the lights in the office were on, and the front door was unlocked. 

     Two hours after Joe Scarborough's aide was found dead near her desk, detectives at the scene told reporters that while they wouldn't know her cause and manner of death until the autopsy, there was no sign of a struggle, or evidence of a break-in or robbery. According to the investigators, they had no reason to suspect foul play. (As it turned out, these officers were either lying or incompetent.)

    On the afternoon of Lori Klausutis' sudden death, Dr. Michael Berkland performed the autopsy. The fact this particular forensic pathologist would be establishing the cause and manner of this woman's death was problematic. Dr. Berkland was not a qualified or credible practitioner.

    Dr. Michael Berkland, without specific training or experience in forensic pathology, entered the field in 1994 when he began working in the Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office in Kansas City, Missouri. To get the position, Dr. Berkland had lied about his experience and training in the field. He had been on the job less than a year when local prosecutors began complaining that Dr. Berkland was not writing up reports on all of his autopsies. There were also reports that the forensic pathologist didn't take notes within a timely period after doing an autopsy. In response to this complaint, Dr. Berkland assured his critics that he had a good memory.
     Dr. Berkland's colleagues at the Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office voiced concerns about his scientific objectivity. In trials where he had testified for the prosecution, he seemed to treat homicide convictions as personal victories. He had become an advocate for law enforcement, a member of the prosecution team. This was not the role of a forensic pathologist.
     In February 1996, the Jackson County Medical Examiner, Dr. Michael Young, fired Dr. Berkland. In reviewing Dr. Berkland's work, Dr. Young and others discovered that 39 percent of Dr. Berkland's autopsies were in one way or another incomplete. In eight autopsies he had incorrectly sectioned the corpses' brains. As a result of his sloppy work and incompetence, nine criminal cases he had worked on were at risk of being overturned on appeal.
     In January 1998, Dr. Berkland was barred from performing autopsies in the state of Missouri on the following grounds: "Dr. Berkland poses a substantial probability of serious danger to the health, safety, and welfare of his patients, clients and/or the residents of Missouri." The judge ordering Dr. Berkland's autopsy injunction characterized Dr. Berkland's work as "fraud, misrepresentation, and unprofessional conduct in the practice of medicine." A year later, the state revoked Michael Berkland's license to practice medicine.
     By the time he lost his medical license in Missouri, Dr. Berkland was in Florida performing autopsies in the Fort Walton Beach area. He had not told the medical examiner who had hired him in Florida that he had lost his medical license in Missouri. Had they known that, they would not have hired him.
     The day after performing the Lori Klausutis autopsy, Dr. Berkland, at a press conference, said, "Based on physical evidence, I feel comfortable moving the time of death back to the previous day." He said the young woman's death was accidental due to natural causes, noting a past medical history that was significant. Because the sudden death of a young aide in a congressman's office was potentially a big news story, reporters were disappointed with the vagueness of Dr. Berkland's presentation.
     Following Dr. Berkland's press conference, the story of the congressional aide's death, as shaped by the police, Dr. Berkland, and perhaps staffers in Congressman Scarborough's office, featured Klausutis' history of bad health. 
     On August 6, 2001, two and a half weeks after Lori Klausutis' sudden death, Dr. Berkland held another press conference to announce his findings. During that press conference he revealed that Klausutis had sustained a "scratch and a bruise" on her head. This new information prompted questions as to why he had initially reported no signs of physical trauma. Dr. Berkland explained that his omission had been "designed to prevent undue speculation about the cause of death." Apparently Dr. Berkland thought it was his duty to prohibit speculative thinking, a role far beyond the scope of forensic pathology. Dr. Berkland told reporters that the last thing he wanted "was 40 questions about a head injury." Once again, this forensic pathologist had abandoned his role as an objective scientist, destroying his credibility in the case.  
    According to Dr. Berkland, Lori Klausutis, due to a valvular condition in her heart, fainted and fell, bumping (italics mine) her head on the corner of her desk. So, pursuant to his analysis, her death had been either natural or accidental, or perhaps a combination of both. When a reporter asked Dr. Berkland if Lori Klausutis had ever been treated for the heart problem, Dr. Berkland responded that to his knowledge she had not.    
     Because Dr. Berkland had misled the media regarding the condition of Lori Kalusutis' body, reporters demanded to see a copy of his autopsy report. On August 29, 2001, bending to pressure from the media, and a lawsuit, Dr. Berkland released his autopsy report to the Northwest Florida Daily News. The paper published the document's shocking contents. 
     Lori Klausutis had not suffered a head scratch and a bruise as initially stated by the forensic pathologist. She had, in fact, suffered a massive (italics mine) head injury that included a seven-and-one-quarter inch fracture across the top of her skull, an "eggshell" fracture inside her skull above her right eye socket, a scalp contusion on the back of her head, and a subdural hematoma on the left side of her brain that caused it to swell and herniate--break out of--the left side of her skull. 
   Dr. Berkland interpreted the subdural hematoma--called a contracoup injury because it was on the opposite side of the head from the point of impact (causing the brain to slam against the other side of the skull)--as evidence that Klausutis' moving head had struck a stationary object. He chose this scenario over one more suggestive of foul play such as the possibility that a moving object, such as a baseball bat or metal pipe, had struck the victim's head.

     According to Dr. Berkland's postmortem analysis, Lori Klausutis had suffered a "cardiac arrhythmia that had halted her heart and stopped her breathing." On the way to the ground, her head hit the desk and that "blow to the head had contributed to the death because blood pooled at the point where the fracture occurred." The victim, however, had continued to breathe after falling to the floor, a fact supported by the presence around her mouth and nose of a "foam cone," a bubble of froth made up of mucus and blood.

     Although Dr. Berkland had ruled Lori Klausutis' death accidental, it was hard to know from his report if the manner of death was accidental or natural. Photographs of the death scene would have depicted blood and hair on the corner of the desk. If such photographs existed, they were never made public. Moreover, no death site sketches were attached to the autopsy report. So, the public, in trying to understand what had happened to Lori Klausutis, had to take Dr. Berkland's word on this. But just how good was his word? If history was a guide, not very good.

     Two years after Lori Klausutis' sudden, un-investigated death, Dr. Berkland was fired for failing to complete more than 100 autopsy reports during the period 2001 to 2002. The Florida Medical Examiner's Commission suspended his license to perform autopsies, and fined him $5,000.

     In August 2012, the 57-year-old former medical examiner was arrested on charges of improper storage of hazardous material in the form of human hearts, brains and other body parts. The organs were discovered by a man who purchased a storage unit once rented by Dr. Berkland. Dr. Berkland was arrested then released on $10,000 bond. He later pleaded guilty and was fined. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

The James Nichols Murder Case

     On December 26, 1985, James L. Nichols, Jr. reported his wife JoAnn missing from their home in Poughkeepsie, New York. According to Mr. Nichols, his 55-year-old spouse, a first grade teacher at Gayhead Elementary School in upstate New York's Hopewell Junction, had left the house three days earlier. Mr. Nichols told investigators that she had called home on Christmas eve, but had refused to reveal her whereabouts.

     In an attempt to explain his wife's mysterious disappearance, the husband told police officers that JoAnn had been depressed over the May 1982 drowning of their only son, 25-year-old James Nichols III. The young man had died in a lake in Mississippi. On the Nichols' home computer, detectives found comments ostensibly written by the missing wife that hinted of her intent to commit suicide.

     Many of JoAnn's friends and co-workers, from the very beginning, suspected the teacher's husband of wrongdoing in the case. Mr. Nichols, a hoarder who had filled the couple's basement to the ceiling with junk, was by all accounts an obsessive man with strange habits.

     As is often the case when people go missing, a handful of psychic "detectives" provided investigators with false leads as to the missing woman's fate and her whereabouts. Eventually, the missing persons investigation fizzled-out, and the matter was forgotten. Mr. Nichols, who did not remarry, remained in the house in Poughkeepsie, and continued to fill it up with garbage.

     On December 21, 2012, Mr. Nichols died at the age of eighty-two. The dwelling was in such a mess, a contractor had to be called in to haul off the junk and trash before the place could be put on the market. At 5 PM on June 28, 2013, one of the workers stumbled upon a container that had been hidden inside a false wall in the Nichols basement. The box contained a human skeleton.

     A few days after the gruesome discovery, Dr. Kari Reiber, the Duchess County Medical Examiner, announced that through dental records, the remains had been identified as JoAnn Nichols. According to the forensic pathologist, the first grade teacher had been murdered by blunt force trauma to the head.

     It's hard to image that JoAnn Nichols had been murdered by anyone other than her oddball husband James. For twenty-seven years her body remained hidden amid the junk and debris in this hoarder's basement. Apparently there was nothing, not even his wife's corpse, that this man didn't save.

     While the motive behind JoAnn Nichols' murder remains a mystery, the following is a good guess: Fed up with her husband's hoarding, JoAnn Nichols expressed her intent to divorce him. That would mean they would have to sell the house, and in so doing, rid the place of all the debris. To keep his stuff, and possibly to benefit from his dead spouse's Social Security benefits, James Nichols murdered his wife and added her remains to his collection of trash and junk. It's just a theory, and will probably remain so. 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Marissa Edmunds Murder Case

     Just before midnight on January 11, 2018 in Ypsilanti, Michigan, a resident of the Ypsilanti University Green Apartments looked out his window and saw two men wearing ski masks walking out of another section of the complex and climb into a car. As the vehicle sped off, someone screamed, "They've killed her!" The apartment resident called 911.

     When Ypsilanti police officers responded to the 911 call, they encountered 26-year-old Maxwell Flynn lying in the hallway near the crime scene. He had been shot in the chest, but was alive. Inside the apartment, officers found a 29-year-old man who had been grazed in the head by a bullet. The shooting victims were rushed to a nearby hospital. (They both survived their wounds.)

     Maxwell Flynn's 25-year-old girlfriend, Marissa Joy Edmunds, was found dead in the apartment from a gunshot wound to the head. None of the victims were students at the nearby Eastern Michigan University.

     The day following the shootings, a spokesperson for the Ypsilanti Police Department informed reporters that detectives were looking for two men in their late twenties. One of the suspects, a black male, had been dressed in black and carrying a black backpack. The intruders had left the murder scene in possession of personal items and drugs they had stolen from the victims.

     In February 2018, Ypsilanti police officers arrested 29-year-old Orlando L. Whitfield of Ypsilanti Township. The second suspect in the case remained unidentified.

     Officers booked Whitfield into the Washtenaw County Jail on one count of open murder, one count of using a firearm in the commission of a felony, and three counts of armed robbery. At his arraignment, Orlando Whitfield pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

     Orlando Whitfield had a criminal record. In 2006, he had been convicted in Wayne County, Michigan of operating a motor vehicle with an invalid driver's license and fleeing from the police. The judge sentenced him to three years probation.

    In 2008, while still on probation from the Wayne County conviction, Orlando Whitfield was convicted in Washtenaw County of sexual conduct and assault with intent to commit sexual penetration. He was sentenced to ten years.

     Whitfield, a registered sex offender, had been out of prison two months when he was arrested for the murder of Marissa Edmunds.

     In July 2018, while incarcerated in the Washtenaw County Jail, Whitfield was charged with possession of a homemade knife, or shank. At that time, he was scheduled to be tried in February 2019 for Marissa Edmunds' murder, but due to motions filed by his attorneys, the trial had been delayed several times. During his stay in the Washtenaw County Jail, Whitfield had been disciplined numerous times for fighting with his fellow jail inmates.

     On May 2, 2020, a Washtenaw County judge, in response to a motion filed by defense attorney Erika Julien, ordered the release of Whitfield from jail. He was placed under house arrest until his trial. According to his attorneys, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the diminished functioning of the local court system, their client, already behind bars for 28 months, was being denied a speedy trial. The defense team also argued that due to the shutdown, they had been unable to acquire information from the prosecution that would help them with their defense.

     Marissa Edmunds' sister, Amanda Edmunds, responded to Whitfield's release this way: "Every [court] delay has been because of him [Whitfield]. He needs to be behind bars where he belongs. It all has to do with COVID-19, open the jail doors and let everyone out."

Saturday, May 16, 2020

The Juan Elias Garcia MS-13 Gang Double Murder Case

     In 2010, 17-year-old Juan Elias Garcia, a resident of the Long Island community of Central Islip, New York, belonged to the street gang MS-13, also known as the Mara Salvatrucha Gang. This violent, criminal organization, with ties to several Mexican drug cartels, had a strong presence on Long Island with more than a dozen chapters. The gang also flourished in other areas of the U.S. with substantial Salvadoran populations such as in southern California, Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia.

     The five-foot-four inch Garcia, nicknamed "Cruzito," dated 19-year-old Vanessa Argueta. A problem developed in their relationship when Garcia learned she had ties to two rival gangs, the Latin Kings and the 18th Street Gang. Pursuant to gang culture, Argueta's association with the rival groups amounted to "disrespecting" MS-13.

     To save face, Juan Garcia acquired permission from a gang leader named Heriberto Martinez to have his girlfriend murdered.

     On February 4, 2010, Garcia, as part of the murder plot, invited Argueta to dinner in Central Islip. She accepted his invitation and arrived with her 2-year-old son. From their meeting place, Garcia forced Argueta and the boy to accompany him to a nearby wooded area where they were met by a pair of gang assassins, Rene Mendez Meja and Adalberto Ariel Guzman.

     Meja shot the mother to death in front of her son, then, as the boy cried in terror, shot him in the head as well. The bodies were discovered the next day. To avoid arrest, Garcia fled to El Salvador.

     In 2012, Heriberto Martinez, the gangster who sanctioned the murder, was convicted for his role in the assassinations. The judge sentenced him to life plus 60 years. A year later, Meja and Guzman were found guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. They each received the same sentence.

     Juan Garcia, the gang member behind the killings, remained at large in Central America.

     In February, 2014, one day after the fugitive turned twenty-one, a federal grand jury sitting in Central Islip indicted the fugitive Garcia for murder and conspiracy to commit murder. The FBI, on March 26, 2014, placed Garcia on its Top Ten Most Wanted List. Two days later, Garcia turned himself in to law enforcement authorities in Nicaragua. After being briefly detained at the U.S. Embassy in Managua, FBI agents took Garcia into custody. He was immediately extradited to America.

     A U.S. District Court judge, on March 31, 2014, ordered Garcia held without bail. Speaking through an interpreter, the suspect entered a not guilty plea.

     In October 2014, Garcia changed his plea to guilty. The judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. (In researching this story, I could find no mention in the press regarding whether or not these cold-blooded killers were in this country illegally.)

     In May 2018, in referring to the growing incidents of MS-13 brutality in the United States, President Donald Trump called these sadistic rapists and murderers "animals." Trump's sob-sister adversaries in politics and the media immediately criticized this characterization as inhuman and cruel. What's inhumane and cruel is the fact that government authorities had allowed these gangs of illegal aliens to flourish in the United States.

     Suffolk County (Long Island) District Attorney Timothy Sini, in December 2019, announced that as a result of a two-year investigation, his office had charged and arrested 96 MS-13 gang members for a variety of crimes including murder, robbery, kidnapping, rape, and aggravated assault.

Sam Mullet: Amish Outlaw

     During a three week period in late September and early October 2011, a dozen Amish men from a breakaway Amish sect located in the village of Bergholz in southeastern Ohio, on Bishop Sam Mullet's orders, invaded Amish dwellings in nearby counties where the intruders forcibly cut the hair and beards off the men, and shaved the heads of the Amish women. These terroristic raids were intended to degrade, intimidate, and humiliate the targets of Sam Mullet's wrath. The bishop had asked his raiders to bring back photographs and clippings of his Amish enemy's hair as proof his orders had been carried out. (According to author Donald B. Kraybill, Amish men's beards and the uncut hair that Amish women roll into buns are treasured symbols of religious identity.)

     On October 8, 1011, Jefferson County Sheriff Frank Abdulia's deputies arrested Sam Mullet's sons, 38-year-old Johnny and 53-year-old Lester. The deputies also arrested Levi and Lester Miller. Johnny and Lester Mullet were charged with burglary and kidnapping in connection with the hair and beard cutting invasions in Holmes, Carroll, and Trumbull Counties. Shortly after the arrests, the Amish men were released after making bail.

     FBI agents and Jefferson County deputies, on November 22, 2011 arrested Sam Mullet, three of his sons, and three other men from the Bergholz group on federal civil rights charges as well as a number of state violations related to the hate crime home invasions. The United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio said, "While people are free to disagree about religion in this country, we don't settle those disagreements with late night visits, dangerous weapons, and violent attacks."

     Four of the home invasion defendants were released on bond. The United States Attorney successfully kept the bishop behind bars by arguing that he had a "penchant for violence," and was a danger to society. (Mullet had allegedly threatened to kill Jefferson County Sheriff Frank Abdulia.)

    Sam Mullet's Attorney suggested that his client be placed on electronic monitoring like many other defendants awaiting trial in federal court. The problem was, being old-order Amish, the bishop's house wasn't connected to the power grid. In one of his release requests, Mr. Mullet asserted that he was needed at home to tend to his household and farm related chores. The prosecution argued that because Mullet had 16 children, and many more grandchildren, that was a lie to get him out of jail.

     Found guilty in September 2012 of several federal hate crimes and related offenses, the judge sentenced Mullet to 15 years in prison.

     In March 2015, a U.S. appeals court overturned the hate crime convictions on procedural grounds. As a result, the federal judge re-sentenced Mullet to ten years behind bars.

    Mullet underwent triple bypass heart surgery in 2017 to repair blockages in his arteries.

     On March 4, 2020, Sam Mullet was transferred from a federal prison near Cleveland to a halfway house in Youngstown, Ohio. He was scheduled to complete his prison sentence on January 18, 2021.

    The 74-year-old prisoner, on March 17, 2020,  asked United States District Court Judge Dan Polster to reduce his 10-year-sentence to time served due to his underlying health problems that made him vulnerable to the coronavirus. Three days after the request, Judge Polster ruled that Sam Mullet could finish out his prison sentence at home in Bergholz.

The COVID-19 Expanded Surveillance State

     The response by governments and the tech industry to the coronavirus outbreak has already raised many concerns about privacy from contact tracing apps, mobile location data tracking and police surveillance drones. The outbreak has also brought new privacy issues, as companies beef up surveillance with technologies like thermal cameras and facial recognition in preparation for when people return to their everyday lives.

     Surveillance technology has slowly integrated into our daily lives, with facial recognition getting added as a "convenience" feature for casinos and ordering food. The coronavirus has sped up that process, in the name of public health. Shopping centers have long used Bluetooth trackers to determine crowd sizes and whereabouts, and the pandemic his shifted its use to enable contact tracing.

Alfred Ng, "COVID-19 Could Set a New Norm For Surveillance and Privacy," May 11, 2020, CNET

Thursday, May 14, 2020

The Sharon Voit Murder-For-Hire Case: Until Death Do Us Part

     Years ago, the person who said that marriages start in bed and end up in court wasn't thinking of murder. Those were the good old days. Today, a few marriages end up with one of the parties in court, and the other in the morgue. Wives engineer the deaths of their estranged husbands out of fear they will be left penniless following the divorce. For women trapped in bad marriages, murder, compared to divorce, is quicker and a lot more satisfying. Homicidal husbands want their wives dead to avoid legal fees, the divvying up of the marital estate, alimony, and the expense of child support. Familiarity can breed contempt. Marriage, familiarity, and divorce can breed criminal homicide. In the world of murder-for-hire, the contentious divorce is perhaps the number one motive.

The Sharon Voit Case

     On July 13, 1995, Dr. Kerry Voit, his wife Sharon and their three daughters were watching television in the den of their home in the tranquil village of Golf on the northern outskirts of Chicago. At a quarter to ten, Dr. Voit, stating that he was tired and wanted to retire for the night in that room, switched off the TV. This enraged his wife, and in the scuffle that ensured, Sharon took a punch in the eye. Dr. Voit suffered scratches on his arm, and came away from the fight with a bruised leg. Sharon ordered her husband out of the house. When he refused to leave, she phoned the Cook County Sheriff's Office.

     The deputies who responded to the domestic disturbance received conflicting stories from the Voit daughters. Two of the girls sided with their father, the third with Mrs. Voit. The officers decided not to arrest anyone, but ordered Dr. Voit, a successful downtown Chicago dentist, to leave the house for 72 hours. He spent the next few nights in Harwood Heights at his mother's house.

     Not long after the police call, a family court judge ordered the Voits into marriage counseling, but it was too late for that. The couple continued to fight, and for the next year or so, Dr. Voit moved back and forth between his mother's place and the family home. In the summer of 1997, he moved out permanently.

     The Voit marriage had been an unhappy one from the start. As a 22-year-old dental hygienist, Sharon had helped put Kerry through dental school, then worked in his office until their first child. They had talked about divorce many times, but he didn't want to split up because he thought the divorce would ruin him financially. As a result, the couple found themselves trapped in a marriage that brought them both misery. Finally, Sharon decided that she couldn't take it anymore. That's when she began thinking of murder.

     In the spring of 1999, while talking with Carl Poe, the husband of the ice skating coach working with their youngest daughter, Sharon said she wished she could find someone to have Dr. Voit "taken care of." Mr. Poe passed the comment on to his wife Robyn who dismissed it as a joke. Although Sharon didn't sound like she was joking, Carl agreed with his wife's assessment of black humor bubbling up out of frustration and stress.

     Two months after the "taken care of" comment, Sharon shocked Dr. Voit's friend, Matt Georgopolous, when she said, quite specifically, that the only way she could achieve happiness was to find someone who would kill her husband. Mr. Georgopolous didn't think she was joking, and warned his friend that his life might be in danger. Dr. Voit laughed it off, explaining that Sharon was a mentally unstable person who was just letting off steam.

     On March 8, 2000, while conferring with Robyn Poe at an ice skating competition in Buffalo, New York, Sharon asked the coach if she knew anyone who could "take Kerry out." Although alarmed by the question, Robyn decided to ignore Sharon's query. Carl had been right; she seemed deadly serious. In a restaurant two days later with Matt Georgopolous and Robyn Poe, Sharon brought up the murder-for-hire subject again. Shortly after that, she asked the family accountant if Dr. Voit had changed the beneficiary of his life insurance policy. The accountant said he had no knowledge of such matters.

     When Dr. Voit learned of his wife's recent life insurance and hit man inquiries, he decided to take the situation a little more seriously. He called a friend in the Cook County State Attorney's office and reported that Sharon might be trying to have him murdered. The prosecutor referred the complaint to the Chicago Police Department where Detective John Duffy took charge of the case. After talking to Dr. Voit and Matt Georgopolous, the detective asked Tim Kaufmann, a deputy with the sheriff's office special operations branch, to enter the case as an undercover hit man.

     A few days after talking with Detective Duffy, Deputy Kaufmann called Sharon Voit and said, "I understand you have a problem you want taken care of." She responded by requesting a meeting the following afternoon in the parking lot of a local grocery store. The next day at one-thirty, Sharon, behind the wheel of her SUV, pulled into the lot. After climbing into the officer's vehicle, Sharon asked Deputy Kaufmann which one of her friends had spoken to him regarding her problem. The undercover cop replied that in his business that kind of information was confidential. Seemingly convinced that this man was in the business of killing people for money, Sharon set up a second meeting.

     On March 17, 2000, a covert police video surveillance team stood by as Sharon Voit pulled her SUV into another local parking lot. Deputy Kaufmann, wearing a body microphone, climbed into her vehicle, and without specific reference to Dr. Voit, asked if she were serious about solving her problem. "Yep," she replied, "it's gotta be done." She then asked how much it would cost. The undercover officer said it depended on how much money she could raise. About seven thousand dollars she replied.

     To establish his bona fides as a paid assassin, Deputy Kaufmann said that after killing people for the United States government as a combat soldier in Viet Nam, he had gone into business for himself. Being in the profession of taking people out didn't bother him at all. Regarding the Voit hit, he said he would do it in a way that would make the murder look like it had been committed by a robber. In discussing possible times and places, Sharon revealed that Dr. Voit had planned a scuba diving trip to the Bahamas the following week. Deputy Kaufmann said he would kill her husband in the Bahamas. To that Sharon replied that she didn't care where or how the job was done. She said she had no interest in details. She just wanted to have her "misery finished."

     Deputy Kaufmann told Sharon that he needed $600 in upfront money to cover the cost of his trip to the Bahamas. She could mail him the balance due after he completed the job. The undercover cop handed her a slip of paper bearing the post office address where she could sent the rest of the money. Sharon next described her husband's daily routine and provided the officer with the address of his mother's house in Harwood Heights. The deputy said he had everything he needed except a photograph of the target and the expense money. They could meet again, or she could get the photograph and the $600 while he waited in the parking lot. She replied that she would have what he wanted in less than an hour. Before he returned to his car to wait for the photograph and the money, Deputy Kaufmann asked Sharon if this was really what she wanted to do. (A real hit man would never ask this question.) She said yes; the man she wanted killed had made her life miserable. This was the only way she knew to relieve that misery. She had made her decision.

     An hour later, Sharon Voit returned to the parking lot. As Deputy Kaufmann walked away from her vehicle with the photograph and the upfront money, police officers swooped in and took her into custody. One moment she thought her problems were over, the next she was sitting in the back of a police car wearing handcuffs. When informed she had been talking to an undercover cop who had recorded the conversation, she admitting trying to hire the officer to kill her husband. Charged with solicitation of murder Sharon Voit landed in the Cook County Jail with her bond set at $10 million.

     After conferring with her attorney, Sharon Voit decided to take back her confession and plead not guilty. The defense lawyer would argue entrapment, that the undercover officer had essentially talked his 51-year-old client into soliciting the murder of her husband. In support of this hard-to-establish defense, the attorney would parse the recorded conversation, noting at one point that Voit had said, "Part of me wants him to get help so it would be better." The defense attorney also planned to highlight the absence of key words such as "hit man," "kill," "murder," and "dead." The attorney must have known that his defense, given the context of the case, would be a hard sell.

     Sharon Voit's trial, held in Skokie, Illinois, got underway in January 2003. As evidence of her guilt, the prosecutor presented the testimony of the Poes, Matt Georgopolous, and Detective John Duffy. Jurors also heard the taped conversation featuring undercover officer,Tim Kaufmann and the defendant. The jury also learned that the defendant had given the officer $600 and the photograph of her husband.

     In anticipation of the insanity defense, the prosecutor arranged, shortly after Sharon's arrest, to have her examined by a pair of state psychiatrists. The doctors took the stand and testified that in their expert opinions, the defendant, at the time of her conversation with the undercover officer, was not legally insane, suffering from the battered woman syndrome, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

     Sharon Voit's attorney had asked Dr. Susan M. Nowak, a Chicago psychiatrist, to examine his client to determine if the effects of her marriage had made her especially vulnerable to being entrapped by an undercover cop. The trial judge accepted Dr. Nowak as an expert witness, but decided to hear her testimony outside the presence of the jury. If Dr. Nowak convinced the judge that the undercover officer had entrapped the defendant, he would direct a verdict of not guilty. Otherwise, the case would go to the jury without Dr. Nowak's testimony.

     Dr. Nowak had investigated Sharon Voit's medical history that included reviewing court documents and psychiatric reports. The psychiatrist had also interviewed Sharon as well as two of her friends. The story of the defendant's life, as related to the court by the psychiatrist, portrayed Dr. Voit as a cruel and abusive husband. According to the doctor, Sharon met Kerry when they were high school sophomores. Five years later they married, and shortly after that, he started hitting her. While working in the office as his dental hygienist, Sharon caught him in the closet using cocaine with a female employee. Over the years the successful dentist had taken other women on lavish trips, showering them with expensive gifts.

     The defense psychiatrist testified that Dr. Voit had forced Sharon to have video-taped, three-way, cocaine-laced sex with him and his friend, Matt Georgopolous. The defendant also told Dr. Nowak that her husband, during "violent" sexual intercourse, would hold a pillow over her face against her will. She had threatened to divorce him several times, but he and his attorney always talked her out of going through with the legal proceeding.

     Dr. Nowak, to a degree of reasonable medical certainty, said that it was her expert opinion that the defendant, while not legally insane, possessed a "dependent personality disorder" that had rendered her vulnerable to police entrapment. The judge ruled that the doctor's testimony did not establish a legal case for entrapment. It wasn't that the judge didn't believe the defendant's characterization of her husband, he just didn't see how it related to the legal defense of entrapment. If anything, the defendant's marital history provided a strong motive for the murder solicitation.

    The Voit trial went forward without Dr Nowak's open court testimony. On January 10, 2003, following a five-hour deliberation, the jury found the defendant guilty as charged. A few weeks later the judge sentenced Sharon Voit to 23 years in prison. Voit's next door neighbor told a reporter she was shocked by the verdict. "They were such a loving couple," she said. "They were just so proud of each other. He talked about what a good cook and golfer she was. She was proud of what a good dentist he was. As time goes by I guess you can't maintain that forever." 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Coronavirus Crisis: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

     A national crisis, like the one right now, exposes the good among us and those who are not so good. Some of the good people rise to the occasion and do what they can to make things better for their communities. Most try to do no harm. The worst among us look for ways to exploit the crisis for personal benefit.

     Examples of this are everywhere. Unscrupulous retailers gouge their customers; con artists use the crisis to swindle the gullible out of their savings; politicians use the crisis to fund their special interests, and some cases, line their pockets; bureaucrats take the opportunity to expand their influence and power; and race-baiters try to use the crisis to inflame division among racial and ethnic groups.

     A handful of fanatical "social justice" advocates and their bureaucratic handmaidens in several states, counties, and cities, have successfully used the coronavirus pandemic to prematurely release jail inmates. For example, in Los Angeles County, since February 2020, 5,000 inmates have been released from the county's jails. Some of these former inmates were violent criminals.

     In April 2020, Los Angeles County corrections officials noticed a one-week spike in coronavirus cases within a single module at the North County Correctional Facility in Castaic, California. Out of 50 inmates in that module, 21 had tested positive for the virus.

     The sudden jump in coronavirus cases in that one jail unit prompted jail officials to review surveillance video footage of that cluster of inmates. What these corrections officials uncovered caused Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva to call what he saw "disturbing."

     The North County Facility surveillance footage, released on Monday, May 11, 2020, showed inmates drinking from the same bottle of hot water and taking turns breathing through the same face mask. The inmates were obviously trying to catch the infection in order to get themselves out of jail.

     Under the current circumstances, it should not be surprising that Los Angeles County jail inmates would try to game the system by making themselves and others sick. Like politicians, power-hungry bureaucrats, unscrupulous retailers, and scam artists, these inmates were simply taking advantage of a crisis for personal gain. Policy makers responsible for the COVID-19 early release program should have predicted that inmates would pull stunts like this.

     Instead of making things better, these criminal justice sob-sisters, for their own ideological interests, have made things worse for everyone else.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Anthony Taglianetti Love Triangle Murder Case

     In 2010, Anthony Taglianetti and his wife Mary resided with their four children in Woodbridge, Virginia. Anthony, a former Marine, worked at the Marine Museum.  Later that year, the couple separated. Mary and the children moved out of the house in Virginia and relocated in Saratoga Springs, New York.

     Shortly after taking up residence in Saratoga Springs, Mary signed up with the online dating site Match.com where she met Keith Reed Jr. She did not tell the 51-year-old superintendent of the Clymer, New York school district that she was married. After Mr. Reed and the 40-year-old woman exchanged a few emails, they met for dinner. After that they became romantically involved. Keith Reed still did not know that he was dating a married woman.

     Keith Reed, the father of three college age daughters, lived alone in the farming community of 1,500 70 miles southwest of Buffalo, New York. The school superintendent had been divorced for several years.

     In 2011, Mary Taglianetti, after reconciling with her husband, moved back to Woodbridge, Virginia. But in 2012, while still living with him and their children, she began exchanging sexually explicit emails and telephone calls with Keith Reed who still wasn't aware that she was married. The online relationship came to an end when Anthony Taglianetti discovered one of the lurid email messages Mary had forgotten to erase from her computer.

     A furious Anthony Taglianetti sent several angry emails to Keith Reed who insisted he had no idea the woman he had been swapping erotic emails with was married. Mr. Reed made it clear he wanted nothing more to do with Mr. Taglianetti or his dishonest wife.

     On September 23, 2012, Edward Bailey, the principal of Clymer Central High School, reported Keith Reed missing after the superintendent didn't show up for a conference in Saratoga Springs. Mr. Bailey went to Reed's house where he found his dog locked in the garage. Mr. Reed was not in the dwelling.

     Deputies with the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office questioned the missing man's neighbors who reported hearing gunshots coming from the vicinity of Reed's house around 9:30 PM two days before. On September 24, 2012, a deputy sheriff found Mr. Reed's body amid a row of thick shrubs about 150 feet from his house. He had been shot three times.

     Detectives working the case caught their first break when Mary Taglianetti, on September 26, 2012, told them she suspected that Keith Reed had been murdered by her angry and jealous husband.

     Investigators learned that on September 21, 2012, Anthony Taglianetti drove 350 miles to Clymer, New York where the detectives believed he shot and killed Keith Reed. According to these homicide investigators, Taglianetti, after murdering the victim, drove straight back to Woodbridge, Virginia. The next day he took one of his children to a local museum.

     A Chautauqua County prosecutor charged Anthony Taglianetti with second-degree murder. On September 30, 2012, U.S. Marshals and local police officers pulled the murder suspect over as he drove along a rural road in the Shenandoah Valley National Forest in Virginia. Inside Taglianetti's vehicle officers found a .367-Magnum revolver wrapped in one of his wife's offending emails.

     Through DNA analysis, a forensic scientist identified Keith Reed's blood on the suspect's handgun. Ballistics tests revealed that this .357-Magnum had fired the death scene bullets.

     The Taglianetti murder trial got underway on October 31, 2013 in Chautauqua County, New York. District Attorney David W. Foley, in his opening statement to the jury, emphasized the physical evidence pointing to the defendant's guilt.

     Public defender Nathaniel L. Barone, in his opening remarks, said, "This is not a story of an affair gone wrong or a crazed husband seeking justice. It's not as simple as Mr. Taglianetti driving up and killing Keith Reed because of an email. That's not what happened. The defendant is innocent. Mr. Taglianetti did not murder Keith Reed Jr."

     The defense attorney, after declaring his client innocent, attacked Mary Taglianetti, one of the prosecution's star witnesses. He characterized her as a "master manipulator" and urged jurors to weigh her testimony carefully. "Mary Taglianetti is a liar," he said.

     On November 9, 2013, following the testimony of 46 witnesses over a nine day period, the jury of five women and seven men, after three hours of deliberation, found the 45-year-old defendant guilty as charged. On February 24, 2014, the Chautauqua County judge sentenced Anthony Taglianetti to 25 years to life in prison.