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Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Andres Ordonez Murder Case: Sudden Death in Gangland LA

     Because of heavy gang activity, no place was safe in the neighborhood surrounding the Iglesia Principe de Paz (Prince of Peace) Church on Beverly Boulevard and Reno Street in Los Angeles' Westlake District. Members of the Pentecostal storefront church were immigrants from Guatemala and other Central American countries. When these congregants settled in this part of Los Angeles, they probably had no idea they would be living in such a dangerous, lawless place.

    On November 4, 2012, during a Sunday evening service, a male parishioner, while checking on the food being set up in the church parking lot, saw a teenage girl spray-painting gang graffiti on one of the church's walls. The churchgoer approached the girl and asked her to stop defacing the place of worship. She responded by shoving the man to the ground.

     After assaulting the churchgoer, the teen continued tagging the wall. Two other worshippers came out of the church and saw their fellow parishioner lying on the pavement. As the men ran to help, a male gang member who was with the young church-tagger, climbed out of a parked car and began shooting.

     One of the gunman's bullets struck and killed 25-year-old Andres Ordonez. Another member of the church, a man in his 40s, was seriously wounded. The girl with the spray-paint and her murderous companion drove off as stunned members of the congregation knelt over the victims sprawled out and bleeding on the church parking lot.

     Andres Ordonez and his pregnant wife Ana were parents of a one-year-old son. Andres had come to the United States from Guatemala as a young boy. He had worked long hours as a cook in a local restaurant and had attended this church since he was ten. His widow was the pastor's granddaughter.

     Police believed the gunman and the girl were members of a  gang who were tagging in enemy gang territory. As a result, when the church member approached the girl, the gunman, on edge, exhibited a hair-trigger response. Investigators familiar with gang-related crime knew that witnesses in these neighborhoods, out of fear of reprisals, were reluctant to cooperate with the police. LAPD homicide detective Jeff Cortina told a reporter with the Los Angeles Times that "we need the public's assistance. This wasn't gangster-on-gangster. It [the murder of an innocent citizen] could happen to anybody..."

     At a press conference on November 8, 2012, Ordonez's young widow asked witnesses to come forward and help the authorities. The city of Los Angeles posted a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the gunman, his female companion, and a third subject who had been in the car with the killer. The vehicle in question was described as a red, four-door compact. The gunman was a Latino man in his early twenties with a muscular build and short hair.

     The senseless murder of a family man attending church on a Sunday evening by a trigger-happy gang member sparked public outrage and demands for more aggressive anti-gang policing. This came at a time when the LAPD was stretched thin and out of money. Because this case received a lot of local media coverage, there was a good chance these gang members would be identified and brought to justice.

     In November 2012, Los Angeles detectives arrested 24-year-old Janeth Lopez, the woman suspected of spray-painting graffiti on the church wall. Officers booked Lopez into the county jail of charges of murder, attempted murder, vandalism and gang related offenses.

     Police officers, in February 2013, took 25-year-old gang member Pedro Martinez into custody on charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder and gang and gun related offenses. Officers also arrested the suspected get-away driver, 33-year-old Ivy Navarrete on the same criminal charges. If convicted, all three defendants in the Ordonez murder case faced up to life in prison.

     Martinez, Navarrete, and Lopez went to trial in Los Angeles Superior Court in November 2014. On December 19, 2014, the jury found Pedro Martinez guilty of first-degree murder, attempted murder and several gun and gang related charges. The jurors, however, deadlocked on the murder and attempted murder charges against the woman in the car and the spray painter who assaulted the church goer. They were found guilty of the lesser charges

     On January 30, 2015, the judge sentenced Pedro Martinez to life in prison without parole.

     A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge, in April 2016, sentenced the spray painter, Janeth Lopez, to 40 years to life in prison. The judge sentenced Ivy Navarrette to 60 years to life behind bars for her role in the murder, attempted murder, and assault. 

The Internet: One-Stop Shopping For Sickos

From anonymous bullying to anonymous murder for hire, the Internet has something for every sick taste.

Kenneth Eade, Attorney, Author of legal thrillers

The Unlikeable Expert Witness

In a medical malpractice case, our expert was a Harvard-educated, well-credentialed expert who literally "wrote the book" on his topic. However, he was also an arrogant jerk--rude, demanding, and a total pain in the ass. As we approached the trial, I truly dreaded my interactions with him and could not wait to get the case over with so that I would never have to speak to him again. He did what we asked of him--he came and testified for our side and I thought, based on his credentials, that he was an impressive witness. However, his personality was still the same at trial and we lost the case. The judge allowed us to talk to the jury after the verdict and it was pretty clear the jury hated him too--he might have had prestigious credentials, but they didn't like his arrogance and felt that he was condescending toward the defendant doctor. Instead of persuading the jury, he ended up generating sympathy for the defendant. The take-away from this experience? If I don't like the witness, I should not expect the jury to like him either.

Bruce James, Trial Attorney

The Novelist's Detachment From Life

Novelists when they're writing live in a spooky, clamorous silence, a state somewhat like the advanced stages of prayer but without prayer's calming benefits. A writer turns his back on the day and the night and its large and little beauties, and tries to fashion other days and nights with words. It's absurd. Oh, it's silly, dangerous work indeed.

Joy Williams in Why I Write, edited by William Blythe, 1998 

Dystopian Science Fiction

Dystopia has appeared in science fiction from the genre's inception, but the past decade has observed an unprecedented rise in its authorship. Once a literary niche within a niche, mankind is now destroyed with clockwork regularity by nuclear weapons, computers gone rogue, nanotechnology, and man-made viruses…We have plagues and we have zombies and we have zombie plagues.

Michael Solana, wired.com, August 24, 2014 

Friday, October 30, 2020

The John Raymond Sterner Suicide-Murder Case

     Ocean City is a resort town on the southern tip of Fenwick Island off the coast of Maryland. In the summer the population swells to 300,000. In 2003, Reverend David Dingwell, his wife Brenda, and their three sons moved to Ocean City from the Canadian Province of British Columbia where he grew up. Father Dingwell came to Maryland to become the priest and rector of St. Paul's By-The-Sea Episcopal Church. He soon became known to his parishioners as Father David.

     Just before ten in the morning of Tuesday, November 26, 2013, a man engulfed in flames stormed into St Paul's Shepherd's Crook Building where volunteers were in the pantry preparing to open that day's food distribution service. The man on fire, John Raymond Sterner, a 56-year-old resident of Ocean City who had been a regular beneficiary of the food service and the church's used clothing outlet, bear-hugged church volunteer Jessica Waters.

     From the pantry Sterner ran into one of the ground floor church offices where the flaming man encountered parishioner Bruce Young who tried in vain to knock him to the floor where he could smother the fire. As John Sterner lay dead in the Church's ground floor office, his burning body started a fire that produced a lot of smoke in the building.

     Ocean City firefighters doused the church fire before it destroyed much of the structure. In the second-floor rectory office, they found the 51-year-old priest. Paramedics rushed Reverend Dingwell to Atlantic General Hospital where he died from smoke inhalation.

     Jessica Waters, the pantry volunteer who had been embraced by the burning Sterner, received treatment at John Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore. Bruce Young, the parishioner who tried to help the human torch, received minor burns.

     Twenty-five minutes before he ran into the church in flames, Sterner, at a Shell station a quarter mile from the church, was recorded on a surveillance camera pouring gasoline into a red container. Detectives presumed that just before running into the church building, Sterner doused himself with the accelerant and lit himself up.

     The autopsies of Father Dingwell and John Raymond Sterner were performed by the Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland.

     The man who started the fire that killed Reverend Dingwell had a history of crime dating back to June 1994. Over the years, Sterner had been convicted of breaking and entering, malicious destruction of property, disturbing the peace, and numerous offenses related to alcohol intoxication. The police had arrested Sterner in July 2013 on the charge of second-degree assault. Police officers had taken Sterner to the Peninsula Regional Medical Center for psychiatric evaluation after two of his arrests. According to police reports, the suspect showed signs of "emotional and mental crisis."

     Sterner was just the kind of person Reverend Dingwell and his parishioner volunteers helped every day.

     The fact Sterner bear-hugged the pantry volunteer suggested this was a case of suicide by fire followed by the intent to kill others. Unlike most murder-suicide cases, this killer died before his murder victim.

"Crooks" Versus "Criminals"

There's a difference between criminals and crooks. Crooks steal. Criminal blow some guy's brains out. I'm a crook.

Ronald Biggs (1929-2013) The man behind England's Great Train Robbery of 1963

Studying The Effects Of Violent Imagery

One of the problems with studies that examine the effects of violent imagery is that they typically use mentally healthy psychology students. If you want to do a meaningful study show movies like "Body Double" and "Copycat" to a group of sexual psychopaths the day before you release them. [That might be great for science, but not great for the future victims of these psychopaths. Here's a better idea: don't release them.]

Dr. Park Dietz, Forensic Pathologist

Horror Fiction Can Transcend Genre

It seems to me that horror, as I'm trying to write it, actually encompasses everything I want to write. But on the other hand, if a theme comes along and takes the book in a different direction that turns out not to be horror, then that's fine. Horror fiction, particularly supernatural horror fiction, came out of the mainstream. There's hardly a major writer of short fiction who hasn't written a ghost story at some stage, and often that may be what they are mostly remembered for…What has happened is that books have been packaged by publishers into genres and it is this which has caused the split between mainstream and horror fiction. Obviously there is some fiction which is pure horror, and there's nothing wrong with a story that sets out to do nothing but frighten the reader any more than there's nothing wrong with a comedy which sets out to be nothing but funny or a romance that sets out to do nothing but make you take out your box of tissue. At the same time, I think that horror fiction is often much more than that, and that's certainly the kind I've always tried to write.

Ramsey Campbell in How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction, edited by J. N. Williamson, 1991 

Literary Success Can be Fleeting

The novelist's life is inherently an insecure one. Each project is a new start and may be a failure. The fact that a previous item has been successful is not a guard against failure this time. It's no wonder fiction writers so often turn misanthropic or are driven to drink to dull the agony.

Isaac Asimov, I Asimov, 1995 

The Portal Fantasy Story

The "portal fantasy" is a mainstay in the fantasy genre. In this type of novel, someone from our world discovers a pathway to another world where he or she is our relatable explorer. We discover this new world through this narrator's eyes. It's a tried and true fantasy plot.

Charlie Jane Anders, i09.com, January 26, 2012 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Jacob Limberio's Death: A Bungled Investigation

     Deputies with the Sandusky County Sheriff's Office, in response to a shooting call, arrived at a house near Castalia, Ohio at nine-forty-five on the night of March 2, 2012. Officers with this northern Ohio sheriff's department found 19-year-old Jacob Limberio lying in a pool of blood on the living room floor. According to the three young men in the house with the body, Limberio had been dead about fifteen minutes.

     A superficial examination of the corpse revealed an entrance bullet wound on the left side of Limberio's head, and on the opposite side of his skull, the gaping exit wound made by the slug and pieces of the victim's skull. Lying not far from his feet, the officers found a .367-Magnum revolver, the presumed source of the fatal head wounds. On the living room floor deputies discovered several spent shell casings (in a revolver, the shell casings are not automatically ejected which means these casings had been manually removed from the gun). The death scene was also littered with empty beer bottles.

     According to the three witnesses, they had each fired the .357-Magnum that night in the backyard. After firing the revolver, they returned to the house where, at nine-thirty, Limberio, while talking to someone on his cellphone, pressed the gun's muzzle to his left temple and pulled the trigger. (Since he was right-handed, that would have been awkward.)

     The Sandusky County deputies left the shooting site that night without taking measurements and making sketches of the death scene. The officers also failed to recover the presumed fatal bullet lodged in the ceiling, or test the three witnesses for the presence of gunshot residue. The .357-Magnum was not processed for latent fingerprints, no one was asked to take a polygraph test, and the slug in the ceiling was not matched with bullets test-fired from the death scene revolver. In other words, there was no investigation into this young man's sudden, violent death.

     Just three hours after the fatal shooting, Sandusky County coroner Dr. John Wukie, without the benefit of an autopsy, wrote the following in his report: "Reason for death: Gunshot wound to head. Deceased shot self in head, may not have realized gun was loaded." Dr. Wukie ruled Jacob Limberio's death a suicide. (If Limberio didn't know the gun was loaded, the manner of his death would have been accidental.)

     In the early morning hours of March 3, 2012, Limberio's body was released to a local funeral home where the next day it was embalmed.

     That summer, Sandusky County detective William Kaiser, in his report closing the Limberio "investigation," wrote that he had found nothing in the case to indicate that this young man's death was nothing more than a "horrible accident." This deputy's conclusion did not square with the coroner's ruling that the death was a suicide. At this point, it became obvious that these law enforcement officials didn't know what they were doing.

     On September 25, 2012, Jacob's parents, Mike and Shannon Limberio, paid to have their son's body exhumed and sent to the renowned forensic pathologist in Pittsburgh, Dr. Cyril Wecht. The former medical examiner of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, over his long career, had performed thousands of autopsies and testified in hundreds of high-profile murder cases.

     Dr. Wecht's autopsy led him to conclude that Jacob Limberio had been shot from two feet away. In his December 12, 2012 report, Dr. Wecht wrote: "I find it extremely difficult to envision a scenario in which Jacob Limberio could have shot himself accidentally or with suicidal intent. Accordingly, it is my professional opinion, based upon a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the manner of death in this case should be considered as homicide."

     In January 2013, a Sandusky County judge appointed Lucas County prosecutor Dean Henry to head up a new inquiry into Jacob Limberio's death. No arrests have been made, and Dr. John Wukie has not changed his manner of death ruling from suicide to homicide.

     In speaking to a local newspaper reporter in October 2012 about Limberio's death, Dr. Wecht said, "Even in the most remote county in America, this is a case that would require an autopsy. It's a no-brainer, not even a close call. It's a case that requires extensive investigation by homicide detectives. It requires the collection of all evidence, including the bullet that's still lodged in the ceiling."

     In July, 2013, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine took control of the criminal investigation into Limberiso's sudden and violent death.

     In August 2015, Jacob's parents, Mike and Shannon Limberio, appeared on the "Dr. Phil" television show along with Dr. Wecht who opined that the young man's death had been a criminal homicide. The show also featured two of the witnesses to the shooting who said they had grown tired of being considered, by many, as homicide suspects. As a result, they wanted to take polygraph tests to clear their names.

     On November 20, 2015, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that a Sandusky County grand jury had concluded that the Limberio shooting had been an accident. This finding closed the case as a criminal matter. 

Government's Solution For Everything: Give Us Your Money

Of all the vulgar arts of government, that of solving every difficulty that might arise by thrusting the hand into the public purse is the most illusory and contemptible.

Robert Peel (1788-1856) Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

The Pro-Knife Advocate

I am not anti-gun. I'm pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife. In the first place, you have to catch up with someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We'd turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don't ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives.

Molly Ivins (1944-2007) columnist, humorist  

Novelists Are Born Liars

You might want to become a nonfiction writer, and yet at every turn you distort things, exaggerate and embellish them, and even introduce characters, places and events that had nothing to do with the original material. In that case, you are a born fiction writer, which is much nicer than saying you are a born liar.

Josip Novakovich in Fiction Writer's Workshop, edited by Josip Novakovich, 1995 

Put a Prologue in Your Memoir

I advocate prologue in a memoir. I feel that it helps everyone involved--the writer, the reader--if certain early declarations are made. The thrill of literary memoir isn't bound up in plot, per se, and it shouldn't be bound up in gossip. The thrill of the genre--or at least one of its chief pleasures--is all about how well the author manages to answer all the questions or explore the themes or concerns that lie at the story's heart. Coy doesn't work--or at least I don't think it does. The questions, themes, and concerns that fuel a memoir are often best enunciated at the start. And prologues are such fine, flexible containers. You can make them do whatever you want them to do.

Beth Kephart, Handling the Truth, 2013 

Humiliations of a Published Writer

     Writers can only moan to each other about all this, really: the humiliating reading to an audience of two, the book signing where nobody turns up, the talk where the only question is "Where did you buy your nail varnish?" Nobody is really going to care, are they, if we sit alone and unloved beside our pile of books, approached only once in the two hours by a woman who tried to flog her manuscript…

     Humiliation, though one of a writer's specialties, is not an entirely unknown sensation to everybody else. We do expose ourselves, of course, by offering up our work to the world's critical stare, or, worse, its indifference. It's what we sign up for: that people give up their money and  their precious time to read about characters who have never existed. And there's a price to pay for this chutzpah.

Deborah Moggach in Mortification edited by Robin Robertson, 2004 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Did Jeffrey Pyne Murder His Mother?

     On the surface, it looked like 22-year-old Jeffrey Pyne had a great life with a promising future. He had graduated from the West Highland Christian Academy in Milford, Michigan as class valedictorian. After high school, he attended the University of Michigan-Flint where he majored in biology. But at home, in Highland Township, Jeffery had serious problems with his 51-year-old mother, Ruth.

     In 1998, when Jeffrey was 8-years-old, Ruth Pyne was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Over the next decade, she became increasingly difficult to live with, and violent. For some reason, Jeffery had become the prime target of his mother's wrath which had subjected him to physical and verbal abuse. In July 2010, after the police arrested Ruth for trying to manually strangle her son, Jeffrey's father, Bernie Pyne, filed a petition with the court to have his wife institutionalized. In the commitment petition, Mr. Pyne wrote: "She has invented a religion that deems all medication a form of sorcery and will not take her medication for that reason."

     Ruth Pyne's refusal to take her bipolar medicine, the cause of her bellicose behavior, created most of the friction between mother and son, and led to many heated arguments. Following in-patient treatment at a Michigan mental health facility in 2010, Ruth Pyne returned home. But nothing changed. She refused to take her medication, and continued to torment her son.

     On May 27, 2011, at 2:30 in the afternoon, Bernie Pyne and his ten-year-old daughter Julia came home to find Ruth dead in the garage. She had been bludgeoned and stabbed. Because nothing had been stolen from the garage or the house, and the victim had not been sexually assaulted, it didn't seem likely that this woman had been murdered by a stranger.

     According the the medical examiner who performed the autopsy, Ruth Pyne had received at least 12 vicious blows to the head from a two-by-four. Her attacker then stabbed her in the neck 16 times. It was possible that the stab wounds were postmortem. The overkill nature of the assault led investigators to believe the victim had been murdered by someone who knew her well, and hated her guts.

     Crime scene technicians found traces of the dead woman's blood on faucet handles in the laundry room where they believed the killer had washed his or her hands. The crime scene investigators found no blood on the inside knob of the garage man-door which was standing partially open. Had the killer left the garage through this doorway, the door operating knob would have contained traces of the victim's blood. Inside the dwelling, crime scene technicians found no signs of blood or other physical evidence of the killing. Detectives speculated that the killer felt he or she had enough time after the murder to clean up the house before Mr. Pyne and his daughter returned home and discovered the body.

     Since Ruth Pyne's murder appeared to be an inside job, suspicion immediately fell on Jeffery Pyne who had been, as far as anyone could tell, the last person to see his mother alive. On the day of the murder, detectives with the Oakland County Sheriff's Office questioned Jeffery at police headquarters. The suspect, when asked to account for himself that afternoon, said, "She got home from grocery shopping. I helped her bring the groceries in." According to Jeffery, his mother was alive when he left the house at one-thirty that afternoon to plant lilac bushes at the home of one of his former high school teachers. After working at the teacher's house, he drove to his part time job at Spicer Orchards.

     Crime scene investigators, on the day of the murder, combed Jeffrey Pyne's car for physical traces of the murder. They found nothing. A forensic analysis of Jeffrey's clothing also produced negative results.

     When officers questioned Jeffrey at the sheriff's office that afternoon, detectives noticed fresh blisters on both of his hands. When asked about the blisters, Jeffrey said he had gotten them earlier in the day planting lilacs at the teacher's house.  In response to a question about his relationship with his mother, Jeffrey said, "I've never had a problem with her. The only issue I had is I wanted her to take her medicine." At the conclusion of the interview, detectives were certain Jeffrey Pyne had fatally bludgeoned and stabbed his mother.

     In October 2011, five months after the murder, Oakland County District Attorney John Skrzynski charged Jeffrey Pyne with first-degree murder.

     The Pyne murder trial got underway in Pontiac, Michigan on November 16, 2012. In his opening statement to the jury, prosecutor Skrzynski said, "This was an angry killing that was the result of years of living with a difficult person who was bipolar." The defendant's attorney, James Champion, pointed out that the state could not link his client to the murder through physical evidence, and that all of the prosecution's proof was circumstantial, and weak.

     The strongest witness for the prosecution turned out to be the school teacher who had hired Jeffrey to do odd jobs around her house. According to her testimony, Jeffrey had planted the lilacs four days before his mother's murder. This was a credible witness who broke the defendant's alibi.

     The testimony phase of the Pyne murder trial came to a sudden close on December 14, 2012 when defense attorney Champion announced that he did not have any witnesses to present. In Champion's mind, he didn't need any witnesses because the prosecution had failed to carry its burden of proof.

     On December 18, 2012, the jury found the defendant guilty of the lesser charge of second-degree murder. Judge Leo Bowan had the option of sentencing  Jeffery Pyne to up to 60 years behind bars. He could also hand down the minimum sentence of seven years in prison.

     Jeffrey Pyne  maintained his innocence. The bloody clothes he would have worn when he killed his mother were not recovered. Those who believed Jeffrey Pyne innocent argued there were no bloody clothes to recover.

     On Saturday January 12, 2013, the CBS crime series "48 Hours," in an episode called "The Perfect Family," aired an account of the Pyne case. The segment featured interviews of Ruth Pyne's sister and Jeffrey's father.

     Judge Bowan, on January 29, 2013, sentenced Jeffrey Pyne to a minimum of twenty years in prison.

Penal Codes

The penal code can be read as a kind of Sears Roebuck catalogue of norms; it lists things considered reprehensible, and tells us, by the degree of punishment, roughly--very roughly--how reprehensible they are. Groups that dominate society display their power most brutally and nakedly in the police patrols, riot squads, and prisons; but power expresses itself also in the penal codes and in the process of labeling some values and behaviors as deviant, abnormal, dangerous--criminal, in other words.

Lawrence M. Friedman, Crime and Punishment in American History, 1993

The Immigrant as a Literary Protagonist

During the late 1990s, we saw the rise of a new literary subject: the postcolonial immigrant. In the metropoles of the North Atlantic--in London and New York, Paris and Toronto--the protagonist emerged: a parvenu, an outsider with a sturdy work ethic, a grocer or taxi driver seeking to make it in his or her new home. There were geographical variations, but central to these narratives was the direction of movement. The postcolonial subject moved from the outside in, from the former colony to the metropole, from beyond to the imperial center. Gatsby-like, he or she often tested the outer limits of the American dream--that still regnant myth about capitalist self-making. The narrative arc was that of the arriviste: a story not only of assimilation and the arduous passage toward citizenship but also of accumulation and the trials of "making it."

David Marcus, "Dangling Man," Bookforum, Dec/Jan, 2015 

Camille Paglia On Television

Television is actually closer to reality than anything in books. The madness of television is the madness of human life.

Camille Paglia, Author, Social Critic

Florence King On Misanthropes

Misanthropes have some admirable if paradoxical virtues. It is no exaggeration to say that we are among the nicest people you are likely to meet. Because good manners build sturdy walls, our distaste for intimacy makes us exceedingly cordial "ships that pass in the night." As long as you remain a stranger, we will be your friend forever.

Florence King (1936-2016) Novelist, Essayist

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Jason Hendrix "Good Boy" Murder Case

     Kevin Hendrix and his wife Sarah lived in a middle class neighborhood in Corbin, Kentucky with their 16-year-old son Jason and 12-year-old daughter Grace. Mr. Hendrix, a beekeeper, sold honey at a farmer's market in the small, southeastern Kentucky town. His wife, Dr. Sarah Hendrix, worked as a professor at Union College in nearby Barbourville.

     In December 2014, Jason was baptized at the Forward Community Church where he and his family were active members. The church, founded in 2012, held its services in a local movie theater. Besides being involved in church activities, Jason Hendrix participated in his high school ROTC program.

     Late Wednesday afternoon February 11, 2015, two days after Jason's parents disciplined their son by taking away his computer privileges, the boy, in a most cold-blooded way, murdered his family.

     The 16-year-old shot his father twice in the head the moment he came home from work. The young killer ambushed his mother with two bullets to the face when she entered the kitchen after parking her car in the garage following her day at work. His 12-year-old sister Grace lay dead in the house from two shots to her head. She had also been shot in the arm. In the close-range shootings, Jason fired through pillows to muffle the sound and shield himself from the victim's blood spatter.

     A few hours after executing his parents and his sister, Jason met up with some friends at his church. There was nothing in his demeanor that suggested he had just massacred his family.

     The day after the triple murder, Jason, armed with four handguns and a backpack full of ammunition, drove out of town in one of the family cars, a green Honda Pilot.

     Late Saturday morning, February 14, 2015, a Maryland state trooper tried to pull Jason Hendrix over for speeding in Harford County 500 miles from the still undiscovered bodies in his house back in Kentucky. Jason, having no intention of being pulled over by a cop, led the officer and others on a car chase that took them into Baltimore County where police officers in that jurisdiction joined in the pursuit.

     The high-speed chase came to an abrupt end when the teenager crashed his SUV into another vehicle. When six officers with the Baltimore County Police Department approached the green Honda, Jason Hendrix shot at the officers, striking one of them. All six of the officers returned his fire, killing the boy at the scene.

     The wounded officer received treatment at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center and was discharged the next morning. All of the officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

     That Saturday, a Baltimore County detective called the authorities in Corbin, Kentucky and requested a check of the address to which the green Honda was registered. If the occupants of the house were related to the boy, they needed to be informed of his death.

     At five o'clock that afternoon, officers with the Corbin Police Department entered the Hendrix house on Forest Circle. Inside they found the bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Hendrix and their daughter. Following a cursory investigation, the authorities in Corbin concluded that the boy killed by the police in Maryland had murdered his family.

     Friends and relatives of the family as well as residents of the community were stunned by the news of these violent deaths. As is often the case in "good boy" murder cases, no one saw the bloodshed coming.

Albert Camus on Lying Politicians

Every time I hear a political speech...I am horrified at having, for years, heard nothing which sounded human. It is always the same words telling the same lies. And the fact that men accept this, that the people's anger has not destroyed these hollow clowns, strikes me as proof that men attribute no importance to the way they are governed; that they gamble--yes gamble--with a whole part of their life and their so-called "vital interests."

Albert Camus, novelist and philosopher (1913-1960) in The Writer's Life (1997) edited by Carol Edgarian and Tom Jenks

[It seems that nothing has changed since Camus' death.] 

What Is Justifiable Homicide?

     There is no crime called "homicide." It is simply an umbrella term that includes various types of lawful homicide [executions, valid police involved shootings, and self defense as well as unlawful homicide that includes involuntary manslaughter, voluntary manslaughter, felony-murder, second-degree murder, and first-degree murder]. The categories of lawful homicide are awfully narrow. One of them is justifiable homicide, which applies mainly to self-defense but can also apply to the defense of one's home from intruders. The latter is known as the castle defense…In such cases, the killing is intentional but "justified" by the circumstances.

     When the act of killing is truly unintentional [as opposed to reckless] the law calls this excusable homicide. Despite the name, it is not enough to say "excuse me" to the victim in order to fit into this category. Rather, the defendant must show that the killing was accidental; for example, when a driver hits a pedestrian who ran into the street without warning. [If a drunken driver accidentally runs over someone, that might constitute involuntary manslaughter.]

Adam Freedman, The Party of the First Part, 2007

Sportswriter Red Smith

The best sportswriters know this. They avoid the exhausted synonyms and strive for freshness elsewhere in their sentences. You can search the columns of Red Smith and never find a batsman bouncing into a twin killing. Smith wasn't afraid to let a batsman hit into a double play. But you will find hundreds of unusual words--good English words--chosen with precision and fitted into situations where no other sportswriter would put them. They please us because the writer cared about using fresh imagery in a journalistic form where his competitors settled for the same old stuff. That's why Red Smith was still king of his field after half a century of writing, and why his competitors had long since been sent--as they would be the first to say--to the showers.

William Zinsser, On Writing Well, first published in 1975

Novelist Truman Capote's Exposure Of His Elite Friends

One of the most public and wholesale rejections of a writer occurred in 1975, when Esquire published "La Cote Basque," an early chapter from Truman Capote's novel-in-progress Answered Prayers. Capote's women friends from New York's cafe society were horrified by the exposure of their secrets and promptly banished him from their inner circle. According to his editor, Joe Fox at Random House, "Virtually every friend he had in this world ostracized him for telling thinly disguised tales out of school, and many of them never spoke to him again." Their little writer friend, the elfin troublemaker, had taken things just a little too far. Capote crossed a line he claimed he hadn't known existed, though he confessed to a certain amount of delicious anticipation before the piece ran, and he agreed to be photographed for the magazine's cover with a fedora wickedly tilted atop his head while he pared his fingernails with a very long blade.

Betsy Lerner, The Forest For the Trees, 2000

Hunter S. Thompson On Writing For A Living

When you write for a living and you can't do anything else, you know that sooner or later that the deadline is going to come screaming down on you like a banshee. There's no avoiding it. So one day you just don't appear at the El Adobe bar anymore; you shut the door, paint the windows black, rent an electric typewriter and become the monster you always were--the writer.

Hunter S. Thompson  

Monday, October 26, 2020

The Airline Passenger Who Slapped a Baby

     On February 8, 2013, Jessica Bennett, a passenger on a Delta Air Line flight from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Atlanta, sat in row 28, seat B, next to Joe Rickey Hundley. Jonah, her black 19-month-old adopted son (she is white) sat on her lap. Hundley, the 60-year-old president of an aircraft parts manufacturing company in Hayden, Idaho had been drinking double vodkas and made the passengers seated around him uncomfortable with his belligerent remarks and attitude. At one point, Hundley, in an obnoxious fashion, told Jessica Bennett that the kid was too big to be sitting on her lap.

     As the plane descended into Atlanta, the change in cabin pressure caused Jonah to cry. Aware that Hundley was becoming increasingly annoyed with the boy, Bennett did her best to calm her son. But the child was in pain and continued to bawl. Mr. Hundley, unable to control his anger, turned to Bennett and said, "shut that [N-word] kid up!"

     Stunned by what she had just heard, Bennett asked, "What did you say?"

     Hundley pushed his lips next to Bennett's ear and repeated the racial slur. He then did something even more outrageous and unexpected; he slapped Jonah in the face with an open hand, cutting the child below his right eye. This did not, obviously, stop the crying.

     Passengers and crew, aware of the intoxicated, loud and bellicose passenger, rushed to Bennett's aid to make sure the angry drunk didn't hit the boy again. When the executive from Idaho walked off the plane in Atlanta, he was met by FBI agents.

     Later that day, Hundley was charged in federal court with assaulting a child younger than 16. If convicted, Hundley faced a maximum sentence of one year in prison. According to court records, Hundley, in 2007, had pleaded guilty in Virginia to the misdemeanor assault of his girlfriend.

      When questioned by FBI agents, Joe Hundley denied slapping the boy on the plane. His attorney, Marcia Shein, told reporters that she planned to plead him not guilty. Pointing out that her client was on a personal flight to visit a sick relative, Shein wanted the public to know that Mr. Hundley was under a lot of stress and was distraught. "He's not a racist. I'm going to make that clear because that's what people are suggesting. There's background information people don't know about, and in time it will come out."

     Attorney Shein, in her public relations effort on Hundley's behalf, mentioned that her client had been getting hate mail. "Hopefully," she said, "this situation can be resolved. Both people are probably very nice. No one should rush to judgment."

     Joe Hundley lost his job over the slap heard around the world. On February 17, 2013, the head of Hundley's parent company, AGC Aerospace and Composites Group, a corporation headquartered in Decatur, Georgia, issued a statement which read: "Reports of the recent behavior of one of our business unit executives while on personal travel are offensive and disturbing. We have taken this matter very seriously and worked diligently to examine it since learning of the matter. As of Sunday [February 17] the executive is no longer employed with the company."

     The slapped boy's father, Josh Bennett, told a reporter that, "We want to see this guy do some time."

     In October 2013, Mr. Hundley pleaded guilty to assault after the Assistant United States Attorney indicated that he would be satisfied with a six-month prison sentence. When it came time for sentencing, however, the federal judge ignored the prosecutor's suggestion. On January 6, 2014, the judge sentenced Hundley to eight months in federal prison. In justifying the stiffer sentence, the judge cited the defendant's prior assault conviction.

Saving the World

Any politician who truly believes that he or she is needed by his or her country is by definition mentally and emotionally unbalanced, and unfit for public office. 

The Ideal FBI

We [the FBI] are a fact-gathering organization. We don't clear anybody. We don't condemn anybody. [If this were only true.]

J. Edgar Hoover, FBI Director 1924-1972

The Power of the State

 Even a competent lawyer may not be able to mount an adequate defense against the state, with all its resources, if he has next to nothing for investigation and works for starvation wages.

Anthony Lewis (1927-2013) legal journalist 

H.L. Mencken On The Politics of Fear

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) Journalist, Satirist

Political Transparency

Like NASCAR race drivers or PGA golfers, why not require presidential candidates to cover their clothing with the logo patches of their corporate sponsors?

Jim Hightower, Columnist, Humorist, 2015 

Science Fiction Novelist Philip K. Dick

As a result of our media's obsession with the alleged connection between artistic genius and madness, Phil Dick was introduced to mainstream America as a caricature: a disheveled prophet, a hack churning out boilerplate genre fiction, a speed-freak. None of these impressions of Phil, taken without awareness of the sensationalism that generated them, advances our understanding of his life and work. Today the myth of Philip K. Dick threatens to drown out what evidence remains of his turbulent life.

David Gill in Anne R. Dick's The Search for Philip K. Dick, 1995

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Mary Whitaker Murder Case

     In the summer months for the 35 years, 61-year-old Mary Whitaker played violin for the Chautauqua Institution Symphony Orchestra in western New York. She lived in a one-story home outside of Westfield. During the rest of the year, the New York City resident played for the Westchester Philharmonic.

     On Tuesday night, August 19, 2014, someone drove 43-year-old Jonathan Conklin and Charles Sanford, 30, from Erie, Pennsylvania to Westfield, New York. Both men, with long histories of crime, had met a few months earlier at an Erie homeless shelter. After their driver dropped them off, Conklin broke into an apartment near a bar and stole several guns that included a .22-caliber rifle.

     From the site of the burglary, the two criminals walked to Mary Whitaker's rural home on Titus Road. With Conklin hiding nearby, Sanford rapped on her door. When Whitaker responded to his knock, he said he had run out of gas and needed to use her phone. After she handed him her cellphone, Conklin came out of hiding with the rifle in hand and said, "This is a robbery." A moment later, Conklin shot Whitaker in the chest. The victim screamed, and when she grabbed Conklin's rifle, the gun went off again. The second bullet entered her leg.

     Following the shooting, the robbers dragged the bleeding woman into her garage where they left her to die while they ransacked her house for items to steal. Upon returning to the garage, Conklin ordered his accomplice to kill the victim. Sanford complied by stabbing the wounded Whitaker in the throat.

     As Mary Whitaker bled to death in her garage, the two cold-blooded killers drove back to Erie in her Chevrolet HHR. They had also stolen her checkbook and credit cards.

     Upon the discovery of Whitaker's body, police in Chautauqua County, aware that Jonathan Conklin had been in the area, immediately suspected him of burglarizing the apartment and murdering the violinist.

     On Friday morning, August 22, 2014, after using Whitaker's credit cards to buy a flat screen television and some clothing at a Walmart store, Erie detectives took Conklin and Sanford into custody.

     On the day of their arrest, the suspects appeared before a federal magistrate on charges of interstate transportation of a stolen motor vehicle, carjacking, and federal firearms violations. In Chautauqua County, New York, Conklin and Sanford faced state charges of first-degree murder, burglary, and robbery.

     A Chautauqua County grand jury in January 2015 indicted Conklin and Sanford on charges of second-degree murder, burglary, robbery, and criminal use of a firearm. Four months later, the Chautauqua County district attorney announced that the suspects would be tried together in January 2016. Conklin was represented by an attorney with the local public defender's office while Sanford had a defense lawyer from Fredonia, New York.

     In September 2015, Charles Sanford pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and agreed to testify against Jonathan Conklin. Conklin, facing a sure-fire conviction, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder a month later.

     In May 2016, the judge sentenced Charles Sanford to fifteen years to life. Jonathan Conklin received a sentence of twenty-five years to life.

     Cases like this remind us that we live among predatory, cold-blooded killers who should be behind bars but are not.

Identifying Yourself to the Police

Asking questions is an essential part of police investigation. In the ordinary sense, a police officer is free to ask a person for identification without implicating the Fourth Amendment [right of privacy].

Anthony Kennedy, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, 1996

The Warren Commision

In my opinion, the Warren Commission's investigation [into the 1963 John F. Kennedy Assassination] has to be considered the most comprehensive investigation of a crime in history.

Vincent Bugliosi, Parkland, 2008 

John Gardner on Becoming a Writer

Books on writing tend to make much of how difficult it is to become a successful writer, but the truth is that, though the ability to write well is partly a gift--like the ability to play basketball well, or to outguess the stock market--writing ability is mainly a product of good teaching supported by a deep-down love of writing. Though learning to write takes time and a great deal of practice, writing up to the world's ordinary standards is fairly easy. As a matter of fact, most of the books one finds in drugstores, supermarkets, and even small-town libraries are not well written at all; a smart chimp with a good creative-writing teacher and a real love of sitting around banging a typewriter could have written books vastly more interesting and elegant. [This is like saying a human with a love for bananas could leap from tree to tree.] Most grown-up behavior, when you come right down to it, is decidedly second-class. People don't drive their cars as well, or wash their ears as well, or eat as well, or even play the harmonica well...This is not to say people are terrible and should be replaced by machines; people are excellent and admirable creatures; efficiency isn't everything. But for the serious young writer who wants to get published, it is encouraging to know that most of the professional writers out there are push-overs.

John Gardner's The Art of Fiction was originally published in 1983. Gardner (1933-1982) was a literary novelist, critic, and English professor. What he wrote about publishing and published writers when The Art of Fiction  came out may have been true. Today, it is a lot less true. Published writers are very good, and it is not easy becoming a successful, published writer. Gardner's book on writing, however, is still a classic, and should be read by anyone who aspires to the literary life. 

Florence King On Solitary Confinement

If you ever meet someone who cannot understand why solitary confinement is considered punishment, you have met a misanthrope.

Florence King (1936-2016) Novelist, Humorist, Essayist 

There's More to Writing Than Talking to Yourself

Many novice writers, students in particular, think that writing is little more than copying down their self-talk, the palaver of the voices they hear in their heads. Of course, self-talking is thinking, and writing begins with thinking.

Richard Rhodes, Author

Saturday, October 24, 2020

The Kleber Cordova Bathtub Murder Case

     On May 9, 2008, at 7:30 in the morning, 29-year-old Kleber Cordova called 911 and reported that his wife had accidentally hit her head on their bathtub faucet and slipped, unconscious, under the water. He said he had tried but failed to lift his 4 foot 10 inch, 125 pound wife out of the tub.

     First responders to the Morristown, New Jersey home found a nude Eliana Torres submerged on her back with her face directly under the spout. Given cardiopulmonary resuscitation and rushed to the Morristown Memorial Hospital, the 26-year-old woman died five days later without regaining consciousness.

     Kleber Cordova and Eliana Torres had a one-year-old son and an eight-year-old daughter. The girl attended second grade at the Normandy Elementary School. Cordova, his wife, and their eight-year-old daughter had been born in Ecuador and were in the United States illegally. The victim's mother, Rita Valverde, on the day of the bathtub "accident," rushed to the Morristown hospital from her home in Danbury, Connecticut.

     Cordova, when questioned by the police at the hospital a few hours after his 911 call, said he had arrived home from his night job to find his wife lying face-up in the bathtub with water from the spout pouring directly into her mouth. After failing to remove her from the tub, Cordova  called for help. The next day, aware that his wife was still alive and could possibly regain consciousness, Cordova asked to speak with detectives.

     In a video-taped statement given in Spanish through an interpreter, Cordova changed his story. During the week prior to the bathtub incident, he and Eliana had been arguing. She had informed Kleber that she had a boyfriend and planned to leave him. That morning, after she asked him for a divorce, he want "crazy" and held his wife's head under the water for about three minutes. To make the drowning look like an accident, Cordova removed her wet clothing and hid the garments in his car. 
      The interrogators did not warn Cordova of his Miranda rights prior to his confession, but since he had initiated contact with them, the judge, in the preliminary hearing, ruled the confession admissible. The confession was later ruled inadmissible. With his confession thrown out, the defendant decided to plead not guilty.
     Charged with the murder of his wife, Cordova was placed in the Morris County Jail in lieu of $1 million bond.

     On March 23, 2009, Morris County prosecutor John McNamera offered Cordova a deal. If he pleaded guilty to murder, the judge would sentence him to 30 years in prison. If tried and found guilty, he could receive up to 75 years in prison. Cordova rejected the offer. He would take his chances with a jury.

     The Cordova murder trial began in early March, 2012 at the Morris County Superior Court in Morristown, New Jersey. Assistant prosecutor Brian DiGiamaco did not show the jury Cordova's video-taped confession because this evidence had been ruled it inadmissible. The prosecutor put the defendant's daughter, now twelve years old, on the stand. On the morning in question, the eight-year-old girl awoke to the sound of her mother's cries for help. From the bathroom Eliana had screamed, "God help me!" in Spanish. The young witness said she walked into the bathroom where she saw water splashing out of the bathtub. Her father was leaning over her mother who was clawing at his face. (When the police spoke to Cordova at the hospital, they noticed fresh scratches on his face.) Cordova, when he realized that his daughter was standing nearby, said, "Everything is all right, go to your room." Fearing that her father would get angry if she disobeyed, the girl returned to her bedroom, closed the door, and sat on her bed.

     From her room, the witness heard someone turn off the bathtub water. Her father then walked out of the bathroom and into the kitchen. She heard his wet sneakers on the kitchen floor. The witness said she took this opportunity to re-enter the bathroom and check on her mother. That's when she saw "the thigh part of her body" in the tub and a lot of water on the floor. Frightened, the victim's daughter ran back to her bedroom.

     Later that morning, in the hospital waiting room, the defendant told his daughter not to say anything about what she had seen. The victim's mother, Rita Valverde, was sitting nearby and overheard Cordova say this to his daughter.

     On cross-examination by Cordova's attorney, public defender Jessica Moses, the defendant's daughter acknowledged that the first time she accused her father of killing her mother was in December 2008, several months after the incident. The defense attorney, in this line of questioning, hoped to convince the jurors that detectives had wrangled this story out of the eight-year-old. (Since the incident, the witness had been living with her grandmother, Rita Valverde, who had moved from Connecticut to Florida.)

     On March 28, 2012, the victim's sister, Zaida Solis, took the stand and testified that three days after Cordova's arrest, he had said this to her: "How could I do that to the love of my life?" The defendant also told his sister-in-law that the drowning had "happened fast," and that he was sorry about it. According to Cordova, on the night before the bathtub attack, Eliana had phoned her boyfriend in front of her husband. The next morning she demanded a divorce.

     After the state rested its case, Jessica Moses asked Judge David Ironson for a judgment of acquittal on the grounds the prosecution had not made a prima facie case against her client. If she did not prevail on that request, the public defender asked for a reduction of the charge from murder to passion/provocation manslaughter. "There is no evidence to support a murder conviction," she argued.

     In opposition to the public defender's reduced charge motion, assistant prosecutor Maggie Calderwood asserted that the defendant had killed his wife "knowingly," and "on purpose." Judge Ironson denied the public defender's motions. The murder charge would stand.

     Jessica Moses didn't have much of a defense beyond a character witness who said Mr. Cordova worked hard as an overnight cleaner at a Morristown restaurant and as a hospital security officer. According to this witness, the defendant had fainted after visiting his unconscious wife in the hospital. Cordova did not take the stand on his own behalf.

     In her closing argument to the jury,  the public defender said that the defendant's daughter had changed her story when questioned by the police months after her father called 911. The defense attorney, in explaining why Cordova had taken off his wife's clothing and hid them in his car, said he "panicked" after the 911 dispatcher asked him a series of questions regarding what had happened in the bathroom. He staged the scene as an accidental drowning because he was sure the authorities would accuse him of murder. As evidence that the killing was not premeditated, the public defender pointed out that two days before the struggle in the bathtub, Cordova bought his wife a new computer and paid an extra $99 for a one-year warranty.

     On April 5, 2012, after deliberating two hours, the jury found Kleber Cordova guilty of murdering his wife. The defendant showed no emotion as the foreman read the verdict.

     The judge, on July 24, 2012, sentenced Kleber Cordova to fifty years in prison. 

The Mind of the Terrorist

Religion allows people to feel qualified in acting out their primal instincts, that is, to assault, destroy, rape, and murder others who they judge as being different and inferior to themselves.

Robert Black

Criminology: Who Needs It?

     Criminology professors don't agree on anything except this: There is no such thing as a good criminology textbook. Some texts focus too much on the criminal justice system, others criminal law, and others on crime typology. Criminalists also criticize criminology texts for being too theoretical. (They are also too expensive.)

     Perhaps the problem is not the textbooks, but the subject itself. It's possible that criminology is an unnecessary discipline, a redundant mix of criminal law, political science, sociology, and abnormal psychology. Criminology was mostly taught as a sub-topic in sociology courses until the explosion of criminal justice degree programs in the early 1970s. 

"Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?": A Lot of Readers

      In his 1945 New Yorker article called "Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd," (the title of a mystery novel by Agatha Christie), the American literary critic Edmund Wilson wrote: "The reading of detective stories is simply a kind of vice that, for silliness and minor harmfulness, ranks somewhere between crossword puzzles and smoking."
      Mr. Wilson (1895-1972) was not an Agatha Christie fan, nor a lover of crime fiction. He was, in that regard, a literary snob. Today, 48 years after his death, only a few literary professors know his name. However, millions of people around the world still read Agatha Christie.

Theodore Dreiser on American Literary Criticism

To sit up and criticize me for saying "vest" instead of "waistcoat"; to talk about my splitting the infinitive and using vulgar commonplaces here and there, when the tragedy of a man's life is being displayed, is silly. More, it is ridiculous. It makes me feel that American criticism is the joke that English authorities maintain it to be.

Theodore Dreiser in Theodore Dreiser, by Phillip L. Gerber, 1964 

Turning Your Journal Into a Novel

No matter how messy or incomplete, journals are the missing links in creative life. For centuries, they've helped beginning and seasoned writers alike trigger new work and sustain inspiration. Anne Frank used hers for the basis of a book she wanted to write after the war. She mined it for details and later rewrote entries and composed scenes. Novelist Virginia Wolf invented herself as a writer in her journal. From age 17 until four days before her death [suicide] at 60, she used journals to move from family sketches to memoir to novels.

Alexandra Johnson, The Hidden Writer, 1998 

Friday, October 23, 2020

A Raped Woman's Revenge

     Nevin Yildirim lived with her husband and two children, ages two and six, in a village in southwestern Turkey. In January 2012, her husband left home to work at a seasonal job in another town. Shortly after Mr. Yildirim began working at the other place, a 35-year-old member of the village named Nurettin came to Nevin's house and raped her. This married father of two threatened to shoot Nevin's children if she reported the crime to anyone.

     By August 2012, after months of being raped on a regular basis by Nurettin, Nevin was five months pregnant with his child. When she visited a clinic regarding an abortion, a health care worker informed her that her pregnancy was too far along for that option. In Turkey, abortions are illegal after the first ten weeks of pregnancy.

     On August 28, 2012, when Nurettin came to Nevin's house to rape her again, she pulled her father-in-law's rifle off a wall rack and shot him. As the wounded Nurettin reached for his handgun to return fire, Nevin shot him again. Hit with her second slug, he tired to run, but stumbled and fell. As he lay on the ground cursing her, Nevin fired a third bullet, this one into his genitals. The rapist went silent, and a few seconds later, died where he lay in a pool of his own blood.

     The woman who had just killed the man who for months had been raping her, laid down her rifle and picked up a kitchen knife that she then used to decapitate him. She picked up the detached head by the hair and carried it triumphantly to the village square. To a group of men sitting around a coffee house, Nevin, still gripping her rapist's head as it continued to drip blood from the base of the severed neck, said, "Here is the head of the man who played with my honor."

     As the coffee house drinkers looked on in horror, Nevin Yildirim tossed her blood trophy. The severed head rolled along the ground and came to rest in the public square. A short time later, a local police officer took the blood-splattered woman into custody.

     A few days after the killing, in speaking to her court-appointed lawyer who came to the local lock-up, Nevin reportedly said, "I thought of reporting [Nurettin] to the military police and to the district attorney, but this was going to make me a scorned woman. Since I was going to get a bad reputation, I decided to clean my honor, and acted on killing him. I thought of suicide a lot, but couldn't do it. Now no one can call my children bastards....Everyone will call them the children of the woman who cleaned her honor."

     On August 30, 2012, at the preliminary hearing on the charge of murder, Yildirim told the magistrate she didn't want to keep her rapist's baby and that she wished to die. The public prosecutor advised the court he had ordered psychiatric evaluations of the defendant.

    Nevin Yildirim gave birth to her rapist's child on November 17, 2012.

     On March 25, 2013, the district judge found Yildirim guilty of murder. Before he handed down the sentence, the judge ordered police officers to remove feminist protesters from the courtroom.

     After clearing the courtroom of protesters, the Turkish judge imposed the maximum punishment of life in prison. Among women in Turkey and others around the world, the verdict and sentence created an uproar. Had Nevin Yildirim committed the exact crime in the United States, she would have been charged with second or third-degree murder. Her attorney would have had the option of putting on either an insanity or battered woman defense. If found guilty, her punishment would not have been anything close to life behind bars. In the U.S., a case like this would likely be resolved through the plea bargaining process that would lead to much lighter sentence.

Crimes Against Women: Up Close and Personal

Crimes against women are often committed by people close to them: around two-thirds of murdered women are killed by family members or intimate partners, while roughly 10 percent are killed by strangers. (For comparison's sake, about a third of male homicide victims are killed by people they don't know.)

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

Execution by Rope

For centuries, disposing of criminals by hanging them was the standard method in England and indeed in many other countries, for lengths of rope were cheap and although the gallows had to be built high, those were the only overheads. In the early days all that was needed was a hurdle [A portable frame made of interlaced twigs used as a sled on which prisoners in England were drawn through the streets to execution.], a rope over a beam and a ladder; and of course, the dominating personality, the Lord of the Scaffold, with an assistant. After being dragged on the hurdle from prison to execution site, the victim climbed the ladder for the noose to be secured, and then the ladder was twisted, "turning off" the felon and leaving his feet kicking in the empty air.

Geoffrey Abbott, Lords of the Scaffold, 1991

The First Creative Nonfiction Writing Course

     When I started teaching in the English Department at the University of Pittsburgh in the early 1970s, the concept of an "artful" or "literary" nonfiction was considered, to say the least, unlikely. My colleagues snickered when I proposed teaching a "creative" nonfiction course, while the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences proclaimed that nonfiction in general--forget the use of the word creative--was at its best a craft, not too different from plumbing. [Actually, it's probably just as difficult to be a good plumber as it is a good writer. Moreover, we have enough writers.]

     As the chairman of our department put it one day in a faculty meeting while we were debating the legitimacy of the course: "After all, gentlemen…we're interested in literature here--not writing." That remark and the subsequent debate had been precipitated by a contingent of students from the school newspaper who marched on the chairman's office and politely requested more nonfiction writing courses--"the creative kind."

     One English colleague, aghast at this prospect, carried a dozen of his favorite books to the meeting--poetry, fiction, and nonfiction--gave a belabored mini-review of each, and then, pointing a finger at the editor of the paper and pounding a fist, stated: "After you read all these books and understand what they mean, I will consider voting for a course called Creative Nonfiction. Otherwise, I don't want to be bothered."

     Luckily, most of my colleagues didn't want to be bothered fighting the school newspaper, so the course was approved--and I became one of the first people to teach creative nonfiction on a university level. This was 1973.

Lee Gutkind in Writing Creative Nonfiction, Carolyn Forche and Philip Gerard, editors, 2001 

Novels Are Not Pure Fiction

Novelists are and always have been split between, on the one hand, a desire to claim an imaginative and representative truth for their stories, and on the other hand, a conviction that the best way to secure and guarantee that truthfulness is by a scrupulous respect for empirical fact…Novels burn facts as engines burn fuel, and the facts can come only from the novelist's own experience or acquired knowledge.

David Lodge, The Practice of Writing, 1996 

The Master Plot

There are stories that we tell over and over in myriad forms and that connect vitally with our deepest values, wishes, and fears. Cinderella is one of them. Its variants can be found frequently in European and American cultures. Its constituent events elaborate a thread of neglect, injustice, rebirth, and reward that responds to deeply held anxieties and desires. As such, the Cinderella master plot has an enormous emotional capital that can be drawn on in constructing a narrative. But it is only one of many master plots. We seem to connect our thinking about life, and particularly our own lives, to a number of master plots that we may or may not be fully aware of. To the extent that our values and identity are linked to a master plot, that master plot can have strong rhetorical impact. We tend to give credibility to narratives that are structured by it. [True crime narratives often incorporate master plots.]

H. Porter Abbott, The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative, 2002

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The John Paul Quintero Police-Involved Shooting Case

     On Saturday January 3, 2015, 23-year-old John Paul Quintero and his father were visiting the home of a 21-year-old women in Wichita, Kansas. An argument broke out between Paul Quintero and the homeowner that turned violent when Paul Quintero grabbed the victim and placed a knife at her throat. The knife-wielding man's father, who had also been threatened by him, left the house, climbed into his SUV and called 911.

     Two police officers rolled up to the scene a few minutes before seven that evening. The officers parked the patrol car down the block and walked toward the dwelling. When they arrived at the house they found the father and his son Paul sitting in the SUV parked in the residence's driveway.

     The officers ordered the two men out of the vehicle and told them to keep their hands where they could see them. The father complied immediately, but his son, when he exited the passenger's side, became belligerent and threatening. As the uncooperative suspect moved toward one of the officers, he was again ordered to show his hands. Instead, the younger Quintero threatened the police officer who attempted to subdue him with a Taser. The device had no effect on the advancing suspect.

     When Paul Quintero reached for his waistband, the threatened female officer shot him twice.

     EMS personnel rendered first aid at the scene then placed Quintero into an ambulance. After undergoing emergency surgery at Wichita's Wesley Medical Center, Quintero died from his bullet wounds.

     At the time he was shot, Quintero was not in possession of the knife. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation, along with the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office, took charge of the investigation. The officer who shot the unarmed man was placed on administrative leave pending the results of the police  inquiry into the shooting.

     In April 2016, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett announced that no criminal charges would be filed against the Wichita police officer. According to the prosecutor, the officer reasonably believed she was in danger of serious bodily injury or death.

Safecracking

     The first and easiest way to gain entry into a safe is, if the safe is small enough, to remove it from the premises where it can be worked on without worry of detection. [A "safe" is designed to protect its contents from heat. A "money chest" is designed to protect its contents from theft.]

     The safe door is the strongest point of a small safe. By turning a small safe upside down, you can often use a sledgehammer and chisel or a pick and axe and, by brute force, smash a hole into the bottom of the safe.

     If you drill a small hole in one corner of the safe door, thereby missing all of the extra anti-theft protection, you may be able to peel back the layer of steel [covering the safe insulation material] exposing any locking mechanism. This peeling is accomplished with a pry bar, chisel and hammer. [It's a matter of popping the spot welds.]

     To make certain that the safe contains valuable items, you may first want to go on a scouting expedition. This is accomplished by drilling a small hole into one of the four walls of the safe and inserting a small video camera with a light unit to illuminate the contents of the safe.

Mauro J. Corvasce and Joseph R. Paglino, Modus Operandi, 1995 

The M'Naghten Case and the Birth of the Insanity Defense

     On Friday, January 20, 1843, in a shot heard around the world, Scottish woodcutter and conspiracy theorist Daniel M'Naghten fired at and killed Edward Drummond, private secretary of Sir Robert Peel. M'Naghten was under the impression that he was shooting at Sir Robert, then Prime Minister of Great Britain. He was further under the delusion that Sir Robert Peel, the founder of the first London Police force was part of a cabal, along with the Pope and the Society of Jesus, that plotted to abridge the rights of British subjects and that had deliberately set out to spy on and persecute him.

     That M'Naghten was insane there was no doubt; nine medical experts testified for the defense, and none for the prosecution. That insanity was accepted as a defense came as a surprise, and that M'Naghten was acquitted "by reason of insanity" came as a shock. [In many states the insanity defense doctrine is called The M'Naghten Rule.]

Michael Kurland, How To Try a Murder, 1997

Criminals, Not Society, Are Responsible For Crime

Everything in the environment has been blamed for crime. I have a file that lists everything including cholesterol, dungeons and dragons, cycles of the moon, and global warming. The psychological field has promulged this view that forces outside the individual propels them to crime. Crime resides in the mind of the person.

Dr. Stanton Samenow, Inside the Criminal Mind, 2014

The First Novel

     First novels are unpredictable. For one author it's the best thing he will do in his career, something into which he empties so much of his heart and talent and experience that he's left with too little fuel to light much of a fire under future work.

     For another the first novel sets the course for an entire career: He's found the key in which his voice is most comfortable and he sticks to it.

     For some writers that first novel gives no hint as to what is to come. Every new work is a departure from the last.

F. Paul Wilson in How I Got Published, edited by Ray White and Duane Lindsay, 2007 

Read Before You Write

Reading is the one necessary prerequisite for writing. Every published writer of books I know grew up reading…If you're a serious and dedicated reader, then, you already know part of how to write. You know the forms and conventions of writing and how others have used these forms and conventions to shape their work. (If you haven't been a reader, I'd suggest you become one fast if you want to write.) What you may not know is how to begin and continue and finish, and how to publish what you've done.

Richard Rhodes, How to Write, 1995 

John Cheever on Academic Literary Criticism

The vast academic world exists like everything else, on what it can produce that will secure income. So we have papers on fiction, but they come out of what is largely an industry. In no way does it help those who write fiction or those who love to read fiction.

John Cheever in Writers at Work, Fifth Series, edited by George Plimpton, 1981 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Jeffrey Toobin: A Journalist Exposed

      Jeffrey Toobin, a 60-year-old journalist with a bachelor and a law degree from Harvard University, began writing about crime, politics and law for New Yorker magazine in 1993. In 2003, he became the chief legal analyst for CNN. His seven books include one about the O.J. Simpson murder case, and one about the Patty Hearst kidnapping. He also wrote a book favorable to President Obama and one critical of President Trump. In addition to a book on the U.S, Supreme Court, Toobin wrote about the sexual accusations against Michael Jackson. On CNN, he was a regular commentator and panelist. 

     On October 13, 2020, Toobin and three of his colleagues were participating in a ten-minute Zoom call "strategy session" in anticipation of CNN's upcoming election night coverage. During that call, Toobin's colleagues were shocked to see him masturbating. 

     Shortly after the bizarre incident, Mr. Toobin was suspended by New Yorker magazine and placed on leave by CNN. 

     On October 19, 2020, in a statement published on his computer Motherboard, Toobin, in a bit of an understatement, wrote that he had made an "embarrassingly stupid mistake. I believe," he said, "that I was not visible on Zoom, I thought I had muted the Zoom video." Mr. Toobin apologized to his wife, his family and friends, and to his co-workers at New Yorker and CNN.

     Brian Stelter, one of the talking heads at CNN, referred to Mr. Toobin's unintentional exposure of an intentional act as an "accident." In so doing, Mr. Stelter was also exposed--as a journalistic hack.

     There was a time when someone of Mr. Toobin's status and fame would never be able to live something like this down. In modern America, however, with President Bill Clinton as a good example, politicians and media types can shrug off huge embarrassments and move on with their careers. Perhaps this is because the public now realizes that the hypocrites in public life are no better than they are, and in most cases, worse.

     On November 11, 2020, New Yorker fired Mr. Toobin. 

The Fanatic Versus The Martyr

A martyr is someone willing to die for what he believes in. A fanatic is someone willing for you to die for what he believes.

Marsha Hinds, journalist

Violent Crime as Entertainment

American culture as a whole has cultivated a taste for violence that seems to be insatiable. We are a people obsessed with violence, and consequently, our entertainment industry is driven by such violence. The violence of our popular culture reflected in movies, TV programs, magazines, and fact or fiction books in the latter part of the twentieth century has made the shocking realism of this violence a routine task that we all face. Our own sense of humanity is anesthetized to the point of losing consciousness. [The trend has continued into the twenty-first century. A recent study showed that movies rated R in the 1990s are much milder than their modern counterparts. Moreover, the Internet is a venue for people who enjoy the aftermath of criminal deviance and raw violence.]

Steven A. Egger, The Killers Among Us, 1998

Voltaire's Science Fiction Novel

When it became known that the earth was only one of a family of planets circling the sun, the question arose: was there life on other planets? Many later speculated about this. In his Micromegas (1752), the French writer Voltaire brought to earth an eight-mile-high visitor from Sirus and a slightly smaller native of Saturn. Because of their size, these beings found it hard to decide whether there was intelligent life on earth.

L. Sprague de Camp, 3000 Years of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 1972 

Leonard Woolf On Serious Versus Commercial Novels

Novels by serious writers of genius often eventually become bestsellers, but most contemporary bestsellers are written by second-class writers whose psychological brew contains a touch of naivety, a touch of sentimentality, the story-telling gift, and a mysterious sympathy with the day dreams of ordinary people. [What a literary snob.]

Leonard Woolf (1880-1969), husband of Virginia Woolf

Novel Advice

If you want to be remembered as a clever person and even as a benefactor of humanity, don't write a novel, or even talk about it; instead, compile tables of compound interest, assemble weather data running back seventy-five years, or develop in tabular form improved actuarial information. All more useful than anything "creative" most people could come up with, and less likely to subject the author to neglect, if not ridicule and contempt. In addition, it will be found that most people who seek attention and regard by announcing that they're writing a novel are actually so devoid of narrative talent that they can't hold the attention of a dinner table for thirty seconds, even with a dirty joke. [Ouch.]

Paul Fussell in Jon Winokur's Advice to Writers, 1999

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Daniel Sanchez Mass Murder-Suicide Case

     Beatriz "Betty" Silva lived with her sister Maria and Maria's husband Max in a mobile home located among 400 modular dwellings in a subdivision outside of Longmont, a town 35 miles north of Denver, Colorado. The 25-year-old student at Front Range Community College worked at a Chipotle fast-food franchise, and as a sales associate with Marshalls Department Store. On November 22, 2012, Thanksgiving Day, she told her boyfriend, 31-year-old Daniel Sanchez, that she had found someone new. Sanchez, a quick-tempered, violent man, flew into a rage, made threats against the new boyfriend, and began stalking and harassing Silva.

     When they were going together, Betty had loaned Daniel Sanchez $1,000, money he needed to fix up his truck. He had not paid her back as promised, so on Saturday, December 15, 2012, she arranged to meet him in the parking lot of a Best Buy on the outskirts of Denver where they would discuss how he planned to repay the loan. When Betty climbed into his vehicle, Sanchez called her names, punched her in the face, and used her cellphone to text threatening messages to her boyfriend. Against her will, Betty Siva was driven around in Sanchez's truck while he tried to talk her into checking into a hotel where they could resume their relationship. She refused, and after an hour or so, he drove her back to her car and let her out of his truck.

     Betty Silva reported Daniel Sanchez to the Denver police, and on Sunday afternoon, December 16, 2012, officers took him into custody on charges of false imprisonment, second-degree kidnapping, harassment, and domestic violence. He spend the night in the Boulder County Jail, and at ten o'clock Monday night, posted his $10,000 bond and was released.

     Furious over the fact the woman he loved had turned him in to the police, Sanchez drove straight from the jail to Silva's mobile home where he parked on the street in front of her dwelling. Armed with a .45-caliber, 13-round Glock pistol and an extra magazine, Sanchez entered the Silva dwelling by shooting out the glass panel to the rear sliding glass door. Once inside the home, Sanchez took Betty, her 22-year-old sister Maria, and Maria's husband Max Ojeda, hostage.

     At four o'clock the next morning, Betty Silva called 911. The dispatcher overheard her say, "No, no, no." The 911 operator next heard the sounds of a gun being fired. Following the gun shots, Sanchez came on the phone and informed the dispatcher that he was going to kill himself. Again, the sound of gun fire, then silence. No one else came to the phone.

     Weld County Sheriff's deputies and a SWAT team rolled up to the modular home at 4:18 that morning. Officers weren't sure how many people were in the dwelling, or if any of them were alive. At 5:30 AM, after getting no response from inside the hostage site, members of the SWAT unit stormed into the mobile home. Officers found Sanchez dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. They discovered 29-year-old Max Ojeda and his wife Maria dead in their bedroom. Betty Silva had been shot to death in another part of the house. Officers found 16 spent shell-casings scattered about the murder site.

     In reporting Daniel Sanchez to the Denver police, Betty Silva had indicated a reluctance to go forward with the more serious kidnapping related charges. By minimizing the seriousness of Sanchez's crimes against her, Silva may have contributed to her own death, and the fate of the other two victims. Had the magistrate been convinced that Sanchez posed a serious threat of life-threatening violence, Sanchez's bail may not have been set so low. There is also the possibility that regardless of the amount of Sanchez's bail, this young woman's fate was sealed once she became this violent, unstable man's girlfriend. 

The Ancient Origins of the Catholic Pedophile Problem

 In the early fourth century, the Council of Elvira, in Spain, became the first provincial body to require priests to renounce sex. But it wasn't until 1123 that priestly celibacy became church-wide law. Pope Callistus II called hundreds of church leaders to Rome for the First Lateran Council. "We absolutely forbid priests, deacons or sub-deacons to live with concubines and wives," the council declared in its canons that year. "Marriage contracts between such persons should be made void and the persons ought to undergo penance." The new laws, which incited strenuous protest from clergy, did less to eliminate sex than to drive it underground. Many male clergy continued to have secret wives, concubines, gay lovers, illegitimate children and, in at least one London parish, a special brothel where "only men with a tonsure, the shaven circle representing Christ's crown of thorns, were admitted." The abuse of children by priests, which mushroomed into a global scandal in the twenty-first century, is seen by many critics as the gravest unintended consequence of mandatory celibacy.

Ariel Sabar, Veritas: A Harvard Professor, A Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus's Wife, 2020

Social Media: A Window Into Deviant Behavior

     In July 2019 in Jacksonville, Florida, 30-year-old Cori E. Ward and her 17-year-old daughter were in a physician's office during which time the mother allegedly videoed her daughter lick a tongue dispenser then return the tainted diagnostic tool to the medical supply cabinet. The mother, in an act representing a degree of stupidity difficult to imagine, posted the disgusting incident on social media. While such anti-social behavior cannot be understood within the realm of rational or intelligent thought, it was perhaps inspired by a Lufkin, Texas girl who, a week earlier, had been recorded opening a tub of ice cream and licking its contents before returning the product to its Walmart cooler.

     Not long after Cori Ward posted her daughter's contamination of the tongue dispenser, a local prosecutor charged her with felony tampering with a consumer product without regard to possible death or bodily injury. Because the actual source of the contamination was a minor, she was deal with pursuant to the juvenile court system.

     Social media has created a platform for new genres of deviant and stupid behavior committed by what appears to be a growing number of misfits, malcontents, and profoundly unhappy people. 

A Biographer's Quest for Truth

While I am aware that there is no Truth, no objective truth, no single truth, no truth simple or unsimple, either; no verity, eternal or otherwise; no Truth about anything, there are Facts, objective facts, discernible and verifiable. And the more facts you accumulate, the closer you come to whatever truth there is. And finding facts--through reading documents or through interviewing and re-interviewing--can't be rushed; it takes time. Truth takes time.

Robert A. Caro, Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing, 2019

The Speculative Fiction Writer

     As a writer of science fiction and fantasy, and on behalf of all the variations and sub-genres such as urban fantasy, alternate history and steampunk which collectively make up "speculative fiction," I'd argue that genre fiction is different from literary fiction.
     Whether it's dealing with  ray guns and rocket ships, swords, or sorcery, speculative fiction's unifying, identifying characteristic is that it doesn't attempt to mimic real life in the way that literary fiction does. It stands apart from the world we know. It takes us away to an entirely secondary realm, be that Middle Earth or Westeros, or to an alternate present where vampires and werewolves really do exist and you ring 666 to report a supernatural crime…
     Speculative fiction can be considerably harder to write than literary fiction…When readers are paying close attention to every hint and clue, the writer needs to have internal logic, consistency of character and scene-setting absolutely nailed down. Readers have to be convinced that this unfamiliar world is solidly real if they're ever going to suspend disbelief and accept the unreal, whether that's magic and dragons or faster-than-light travel.
Juliet McKenna, The Guardian, April 18, 2014 

A Writer's Vocabulary

A huge vocabulary is not always an advantage. Simple language, for some kinds of fiction at least, can be more effective than complex language which can lead to stiltedness or suggest dishonesty or faulty education.

John Gardner, The Art of Fiction, 1984

Monday, October 19, 2020

The Jorelys Rivera Murder Case: The Polygraph as an Interrogation Tool

     Several years ago, a story went around about an ingenious small town cop who hooked a young thief up to a copy machine the kid thought was a lie detector. When the suspect gave an answer the interrogator didn't like, he hit the print button causing a sheet of paper to come out of the copier that read, "Not True." The suspect, convinced he had been caught by a sophisticated lie detection instrument, confessed.

     The copy machine-as-polygraph story illustrates an important point about scientific lie detection, and how the polygraph technique can be used by examiners to coax confessions out of guilty suspects. The debate over polygraph accuracy, in this context, is not relevant. What does matter is this: most criminal suspects who happen to be guilty, believe the polygraph works. In the right hands it can be an effective interrogation tool. Years ago, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation made public a video-tape of a murder suspect's polygraph examination and follow-up interrogation. The transcript of this session reveals how a professional polygraph examiner/interrogator can use the instrument to acquire a confession.


The Jorelys Rivera Murder Case

     On Friday, December 2, 2010, 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera, a resident of the River Ridge Apartment complex in Canton, Georgia outside of Atlanta, went missing. Three days later, police officers found her body in a dumpster not far from where she had been abducted. Ryan Brunn, a 20-year-old newly hired maintenance man had lured the girl into a vacant apartment where he had raped and murdered her.

     On the day following the discovery of the murdered girl's body, Keith Sitton, a special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, gave the suspect a polygraph test. What follows is the word-for-word account of that session:

SITTON: Regarding that girl, do you intend to answer the [polygraph] questions truthfully?

BRUNN: Yes.

SITTON: Did you participate in any way in causing the death of that girl?

BRUNN: No.

SITTON: Do you know for sure who caused the death of that girl?

BRUNN: No.

     In discussing the results of the polygraph test with Brunn after the examination,  Sitton said this to the suspect: "I can see you're not doing good on this test. Those [last two] questions are really bothering me."

     "I promise you. I'll take the test again," Brunn replied. His voice was weak, and he was obviously nervous.

     "There's something on this that you're not telling us. Something that you're keeping to yourself. What is it you're holding back? Because we're going to solve this thing. It's just written all over you. Something's bothering you."

     "I'm not bothered at all."

     "You haven't told the complete truth about everything."

     "I have," Brunn replied.

     The GBI agent asked Brunn about having been accused of sexually fondling a young girl in Virginia: "You know what I'm talking about," he said.

     "I don't."

     "Remember, I said you had to be 100 percent truthful. I asked you [on the polygraph] if anyone made accusations. So what you have done is told me a lie."

     "They put things in that child's head. I'm a good person. I didn't do nothing to that little Spanish girl, and I didn't do nothing to the other girl [the one in Virginia].

     The next day, Sutton questioned Brunn again. He informed the suspect that according to the polygraph he had lied. To this, Brunn said, "I should have told the truth straight up. But I didn't. I was scared." At this point, Brunn made a full confession. He said he had raped the girl, cut her throat, wrapped her in a garbage bag, and dumped her body in the trash compactor.

     On January 17, 2011, Ryan Brunn pleaded guilty to murdering Jorelys Rivera. The judge sentenced him to life without parole. A year later, while serving his time at the Georgia State Prison, Brunn used his sweatshirt to hang himself.

The Scheduling of Lisa Montgomery's Execution

      On December 16, 2004, 36-year-old Lisa M. Montgomery strangled 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett to death in her Skidmore, Missouri home. Following the murder, Montgomery cut open the eight month pregnant victim and removed her unborn child, a baby she intended to pass off as her own.. The two women had met on an Internet chatroom called "Ratter Chatter."

     On December 17, the day after the murder, FBI agents arrested Montgomery at her farmhouse in Melvern, Kansas. The baby, rushed to a hospital, survived the traumatic event. A federal prosecutor charged Montgomery with the crime of kidnapping resulting in death, a capital offense.  

     Tried in October 2007, the jury found the defendant guilty as charged, and recommended the death penalty. On April 4, 2008, the federal judge sentenced Montgomery to death. Incarcerated at the federal prison complex at Terre Haute, Indiana, Montgomery was the only women in the federal system on death row. If executed, Montgomery would be the fourth woman his U.S. history to be executed by the federal government. 

     Montgomery's execution by lethal injection is scheduled for December 8, 2020. Her appeals attorneys allege that their client's trial attorneys were incompetent in that they had failed to reveal to jurors the extent of the defendant's mental illness. On this and other procedural issues, appeals courts have ruled in favor of the government.

     Lisa Montgomery was executed on January 13, 2021.