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Sunday, August 7, 2022

Police Impersonators

     Naftali Berrill, the director of a private consulting firm called New York Forensics believes that police impersonators come in two flavors and that both types pose a danger to themselves and to others. One group consists of criminal predators who employ the ruse to gain entry into a house or a car with the intent of robbery, rape or murder. (Serial killer Ted Bundy lured some of his victims into his Volkswagen by impersonating a police detective.) Many of these predator impersonators are violent sociopaths.

     According to Mr. Berrill the second group of impersonators are men who are mentally or emotionally disturbed. Many of these people deal with feelings of inadequacy by using the indicia of law enforcement to expert power over others. Many of them are also depressed and lonely. Some are suicidal while a few might be capable of much worse. Police impersonators, as the cases below reveal, come from all walks of life. And not all of them are losers in their real lives.

Rabbi Alfredo Borodowski

     Raised in Argentina, Alfredo Borodowski earned his degree in law in 1996 at the University of Buenos Aires. After immigrating to the U.S. he became an ordained rabbi. In 2013 Borodowski lived in the Westchester County community of Larchmont New York where he presided as rabbi of the Sulam Yaakov Congregation.

     In 2013, in the Westchester towns of White Plains Yonkers, Greenburgh and Mamaroneck, Rabbi Borodowski began impersonating a police officer by flashing a fake badge at motorists who annoyed him by either driving too slowly or erratically. In one case a 26-year-old driver told police officers that a man (Borodowski) chased him down and as a police officer scolded him for swerving in front of him.  

     Borodowski yelled at a 24-year-old woman for driving too slowly in a school zone. In White Plains, the rabbi tailgated a man then ordered him off the road by flashing a badge. The motorist's offense: Driving too slowly. The rabbi cop impersonator, on the Sprain Brook Parkway, chased a 30-year-old woman three miles then banged on her widow as she waited at a traffic light. According to this motorist, "He pulled out a badge and told me that he's going to have me arrested. First he said it was for slow driving. Then he said, 'no, I'm going to lock you up for erratic driving.' When the light turned green he jumped into his car and peeled off."

     When real police officers took Rabbi Borodowski into custody he denied impersonating a police officer. "What happened," he said, "was that the girl was driving too slow, and I hate it when people do this because it causes traffic backups. She must have been going 15 miles per hour so I told her, 'police! I am calling the police.'"

     In February 2014 Rabbi Borodowski, the self-appointed crusader against slow driving, pleaded guilty in exchange for a fine instead of time in jail. The police impersonator also promised to seek psychiatric counseling.

Bruce W. Browne

     On August 9, 2013 a police officer in Old Lyme Connecticut, in response to a call from a citizen who spotted a man walking along a beach road with a handgun holstered at his side, came upon a blue 2004 Ford Crown Victoria that looked like a police car. The officer took note of the two-way radio and police-style emergency lights. The Ford's license plate revealed that the vehicle was registered to Bruce W. Browne, a resident of Wolcott Connecticut. The officer learned that the owner of the police-style car was the estranged, half-brother of Scott Brown, a former U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. (Senator Brown does not spell his last name with the silent e.)

     Earlier that day, Mr. Browne had approached three boaters as a law enforcement officer. (Browne had served a stint with the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves.)

     Inside Bruce Browne's Ford Crown Victoria police officers discovered a cache of police related equipment that included three loaded 9 mm pistols, a black nylon duty belt with two sets of handcuffs, an expandable baton and twelve loaded pistol magazines. Mr. Browne also possessed a bulletproof vest with "POLICE" embroidered on the front and back. A silver TSA (Transportation Security Administration) badge was attached to the police vest.

     A local Connecticut prosecutor charged Bruce Browne with impersonating a police officer, breach of peace, interfering with a police officer and possession of a dangerous weapon in a vehicle. The suspect posted his $50,000 bail.

     In February 2014 the 49-year-old Browne pleaded guilty to impersonating a police officer and falsifying a military discharge certificate. Two months later, in Bridgeport Connecticut, the judge sentenced Browne to a prison term of one year and a day. (Without the extra day the crime would have been a misdemeanor offense served in a local jail. By adding the day the case became a felony that involved a stretch in prison.)

Ninh Nguyen

     In September 2013 an officer with the Indianapolis Indiana Police Department spotted, along a funeral procession route for a police officer killed in the line of duty, 38-year-old Ninh Nguyen. Mr. Nguyen wore a police uniform that included a duty belt with a holstered gun, two sets of handcuffs and a Taser. The Indianapolis officer, from past experience with Ninh Nguyen, knew he was a police impersonator. The officers saw the fake cop taking photographs of the funeral procession from his black 2012 Dodge Charger. Nguyen had equipped the vehicle with a siren, flashing lights and a two-way radio.

     Following Mr. Nguyen's arrest a Marion County prosecutor charged him with impersonating a public servant, a felony that carried a sentence in Indiana of six months to three years in prison. The prosecutor also charged Nguyen with theft of city property. The suspect pleaded not guilty to all charges, posted his bond and was released from jail.

     In the trunk of Nguyen's phony police car officers found an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and police equipment that had been stolen from the Indianapolis Police Department. A search of his house produced a 37-millimeter grenade launcher, more assault rifles, shotguns, handguns and several thousand rounds of ammunition.

     This was not the first time Mr. Nguyen had been in trouble with the law for this type of behavior. In 2004, while driving a white Ford Crown Victoria with strobe lights, Ninh Nguyen pulled over a motorist for speeding. The cop impersonator wore a security officer's uniform. Two years later the authorities charged Nguyen with the unlawful use of a police radio, a misdemeanor offense. A local prosecutor dismissed that offense. In 2012 police were investigating Nguyen in connection with a peeping Tom accusation. That case did not lead to an arrest.
   
Matthew Michael Lee McMahon

     On Monday evening June 2, 2014, in St. Augustine, Florida, a St. Johns County detective behind the wheel of an unmarked police car on the International Golf Parkway passed a 1999 Ford Crown Victoria. Matthew Michael Lee McMahon, the driver of the car, turned on his red and blue emergency lights, pulled up alongside the police officer, and with a stern look on his face, gave him the slow-down hand gesture. The real officer pulled out of traffic and came to a stop on the shoulder of the highway. When McMahon didn't take the bait the St. Johns County officer pursued McMahon and pulled him over.

     That night McMahon found himself sitting in the county jail. The next morning a local prosecutor charged him with the improper display of blue lights. The accused impersonator paid his $5,500 bond and walked out of the St. Johns County Detention Facility. Mr. McMahon later pleaded guilty, was fined and given a short period of probation. 

     Note to police impersonators: It's never a good idea to enforce the law on a cop. If you do, the real cop will return the favor.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Rebecca Hardy's Strange Suicide

     In 2015, 22-year-old Rebecca Hardy resided in a modest home in Port Huron Michigan with her boyfriend Matthew Grattan and their 18-month-old daughter Molly. Port Huron is a small Canadian border town located 60 miles northeast of Detroit.

     On Thursday afternoon, December 3, 2015, Rebecca Hardy stormed out of her house following an argument with her boyfriend. In the backyard of another house in the neighborhood she took off her shoes and climbed over a fence that kept the owner's two dogs confined to his property. The dogs, a pit bull and a pit bull-husky mix, immediately set upon the intruder.

     The dogs knocked Rebecca Hardy to the ground and attacked her neck and face. A local resident witnessed the mauling and tried but failed to call the dogs off. Eventually the dogs' owner responded to the attack and subdued his pets. By then the dogs had severely injured the woman who had climbed into their yard.

     Paramedics rushed the severely bitten Hardy to the Lake Huron Medical Center from where she was airlifted to the Beaumont Hospital for emergency surgery. That evening Rebecca Hardy died from her injuries.

     The dogs who attacked Hardy were gathered up by animal control personnel and euthanized the next day. The local prosecutor, following a police investigation, declined to file criminal charges against the dogs' owner.

     On Wednesday, December 9, 2015, Dr. Ljubisa Dragovic, the Chief Medical Examiner of Oakland County, ruled the manner of Rebecca Hardy's death as suicide. In his report, Dr. Dragovic wrote: "These were attack dogs. They were vicious dogs in an enclosed space. She [Hardy] obviously was aware of that because she climbed over the fence to subject herself to this threat." According to the medical examiner Rebecca Hardy recently attempted suicide after being thrown out of her house.

     Following Rebecca Hardy's gruesome and fatal mauling, Matthew Grattan, her boyfriend and the father of her child, told a local reporter that he disputed the medical examiner's suicide ruling. "I, in no way, shape or form believe that she was looking to hurt herself on that day. She had a little girl. She wanted us to be a family."

     Rebecca Hardy's mother, Terressa Engel, was reported as saying this about her daughter's bizarre death: "I just don't understand how being mauled to death is suicide. They must have a new term for suicide."

     Absent suicide, Rebecca Hardy's fate would have been classified as either an accident or a homicide. Her boyfriend, Matthew Grattan, did not offer an alternative theory as to the manner of her death.

     In January 2016 Dr. Dragovic released the toxicology report that revealed that Rebecca Hardy had alcohol, marijuana and cocaine in her system at the time of her death. 

Violent Male Stalkers in Japan

     In the United States, the act of stalking constitutes a crime in every state, and if committed interstate, can also be prosecuted as a federal offense. Criminal stalking is generally defined as a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact or any course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause fear in a reasonable person. America, with about three million reported cases a year, is the stalking capital of the world. Two-thirds of these cases involve female victims stalked by ex-boyfriends, former spouses, co-workers or social acquaintances. While men are stalked, this is primarily a crime against women.

     A high percentage of stalkers are compulsive, paranoid types motivated by anger and revenge. While the FBI doesn't keep track of how many women are murdered by these sociopaths, it's safe to estimate that every year stalkers kill more than 100 women. Because all stalkers are potentially dangerous, this is an extremely serious crime.

     As a pattern of deviant behavior, stalking in Japan first attracted national attention in 1998 when a famous kabuki actor named Ennosuke Ichikawa won a restraining order against an overzealous fan. The stalker, however, was not charged with a crime. (In America, stalking is a fact of celebrity life.)

     In the spring of 1999, Shiori Ino, after breaking up with her boyfriend, filed a harassment case against him with the Saitama police in Ageo. Kazuhito Komatsu, the subject of the complaint, his brother,and two of their friends had been following and heckling Ino. They had also been distributing lewd and defamatory flyers about her. After the police refused to investigate Ino's allegations she filed a formal internal affairs complain charging these officers with police negligence. (Later, through the use of falsified documents, the Saitama police tried to deny that Ino had filed a complaint against her ex-boyfriend.)

     On October 6, 1999, Kazuhito Komatsu, in broad daylight, stabbed Shiori Ino to death outside a train station in Saitama Prefecture. The police, under intense public criticism for ignoring Ino's case, argued that since stalking was not a crime in Japan there was nothing they could have done to prevent the murder. (Stalking, at the time, was a crime in just one of Japan's 47 prefectural governments.) Komatsu took his own life several months after the murder. Shiori Ino's parents filed a civil lawsuit charging the Saitama officers with police negligence and intentional wrongdoing. (In 2003, the court awarded the family 5.5 million yen.)

     In 2000, 17-year-old Maki Otake broke up with her boyfriend who refused to leave her alone. In April of that year, after a week of stalking Otake, the ex-boyfriend stabbed her 34 times as she parked her bicycle outside her school. The case drew the attention of the national media and put pressure on Japan's politicians and law enforcement agencies to recognize stalking as a serious crime against women. Otake's stalker was later convicted of murder. By 2000, five of Japan's prefectural governments had enacted anti-stalking laws.

     In November 2000, in reaction to the Shiori Ino and Maki Otake murder cases, legislators in Japan's central government passed a law making stalking a national crime. Notwithstanding this new law, the police in the country were reluctant to treat stalking as a serious criminal offense. In many jurisdictions, officers, unwilling to get involved in what they considered trivial personal disputes, refused to investigate stalking complaints.

     In 2010, 38-year-old Eto Ozutsumi began sending 30-year-old Rie Miyoski threatening emails. He repeatedly sent her messages that read: "I am definitely going to kill you." Over a period of months, Ozutsumi sent Miyoski more than a thousand unwanted emails. The Tokyo couple hadn't dated since 2006. Miyoshi filed a complaint with the police, and in early 2011, married another man and moved with him to Zushi in the Kanagawa Prefecture. Her stalker did not know her married name, or where she lived. She changed her email address and the stalking finally stopped.

     In June 2011, when the police arrested Ozutsumi on charges of stalking, an officer, in reading out loud from the arrest warrant, revealed the victim's married name and her new address. After Ozutsumi pleaded guilty to the stalking charge, the judge sentenced him to probation. About a year later, this man showed up at his former stalking victim's apartment in Zushi and stabbed her to death.

     In the wake of the Rie Miyoski murder, women's rights advocates and others in Japan were outraged over this official indifference to the crime of stalking and its victims. In Japan, police attitudes concerning crimes agains women have been slow to change,

     Between the years 2004 and 2014, reports of stalking in Japan increased ten-fold. Notwithstanding Japan's tough anti-stalking legislation passed in 2011 the problem of violent male stalking continued to be a problem. 

Friday, August 5, 2022

The Esteban Manzanares Rape/Suicide Case

     Before becoming a U.S. Border Patrol agent in 2008, Esteban Manzanares, a resident of McAllen, Texas, a town on the Mexican border, worked as a jail guard and served in the Army National Guard. He had been married two years to his wife Susana, a woman he'd met online in 2000.

     In August 2013 Esteban and Susana separated. He moved from their home in Edinburg into an apartment in nearby Mission Texas. The couple's two children, a girl and a boy, one and six-years-old respectively, remained with their mother. The divorce became final in February 2014.

     After the separation the 32-year-old border patrol agent and his 30-year-old ex-wife remained on good terms. As far as she could tell he was mentally sound and remained devoted to his children who both suffered from cystic fibrosis.

      But at work, agent Manzanares had gone rogue. Two women who had crossed the Rio Grande into Texas illegally reported that they had been raped by a border patrol agent. The details of the crime and the victim's description of the rapist led FBI agents and border patrol personnel to suspect Manzanares. They did not, however, have enough evidence to charge him or place him on administrative leave.

     A few hours prior to the end of his daytime patrol shift on March 12, 2014 Manzanares encountered a young woman and two 14-year-old girls in a Hidalgo County park a few miles from Mexico. The woman immediately identified herself and the girls as Honduran nationals who had just entered the county illegally.

     Manzanares handcuffed the females and put them in his patrol truck, but instead of taking them to a border patrol station, he drove them to a remote spot a few miles away. In this scrub-filled no-man's land Manzanares sexually assaulted the women and the girls, one of whom was the older victim's daughter.

     Following the assaults Manazanares put one of the girls back into his truck and drove off leaving the woman and her daughter in the wilderness. The border patrol agent drove to his apartment in Mission where left his victim tied up. Later that night he returned to his apartment and raped her.

     The mother and daughter were later picked up and taken to the McAllen Medical Center. Their description of the man who had assaulted them led to a search of Manazanares' patrol truck. Inside the vehicle searchers found blood stains and pieces of duct tape.

     During the early morning hours of March 13, 2014, two FBI agents showed up at Esteban Manzanares' apartment in Mission. They knocked on the door and heard from inside the dwelling a gunshot. The agents called for backup. Members of the Mission Police Department's SWAT team broke into the apartment. Inside officers found the 14-year-old Honduran girl. She was nude and bound, but alive. Manzanares had committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

The Tamir E. Rice Police-Involved Shooting Case

     On Saturday November 22, 2014, a 911 dispatcher in Cleveland Ohio received a call from a person at the Cudell Recreation Center on the city's west side. According to the emergency caller, a boy on a swing set was scaring people by pulling a handgun out of waistband and pointing it at other people at the playground. The 911 caller added that the gun was probably a fake.

     Two Cleveland police officers responded to the call. When the officers arrived at the playground they saw what looked like a semi-automatic handgun lying on a bench. The boy in question, 12-year-old Tamir E. Rice, walked over to the bench, picked up the gun and stuck it into his waistband.

     The police officers pulled their weapons and ordered the boy to raise his hands. Instead of complying with the command, Tamir Rice reached for the gun. One of the officers fired two shots. A bullet pierced the boy's abdomen.

     Paramedics rushed Tamir Rice to MetroHealth Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery. The next day he died.

     As it turned out, the pistol in the boy's possession was a pellet gun that did not have the orange safety tip attached to the muzzle to distinguish it from its real counterpart. The Airsoft replica gun fired plastic pellets.

     The two police officers, one a first-year rookie named Timothy Loehmann and the other a ten-year veteran, were placed on administrative leave. In advance of a full internal investigation it appeared that the boy had not pointed the gun at the officers and had not threatened them verbally. Investigators gathered surveillance video footage and interviewed witnesses. The detectives who looked into the shooting determined that the rookie officer had fired the fatal shot.

     The results of the internal investigation were submitted to the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office.

     The president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association told reporters that the officers had not been told that the gun was probably a replica.

     On October 11, 2015 the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office released two reports on the Tamir Rice shooting by retired FBI agent Kimberley Crawford and Denver Chief Deputy District Attorney Lamar Sims. The use of force experts commissioned by Cuyahoga County concluded that patrolman Loehmann had exercised a reasonable use of force because the officer had reason to perceive Tamir Rice as a serious threat. The 911 dispatcher had described the boy as a man waving and pointing a gun.

     Member of the Rice family voiced their disapproval of the independent police-involved shooting report.

     A Cuyahoga County grand jury determined that criminal charges against Timothy Loehmann were not appropriate.

     In May 2017, Timothy Loehmann was terminated. He wasn't fired, however, for the shooting. In the course of the investigation into  the Tamir Rice case it came to light that Mr. Loehmann had lied on his 2013 employment application.
     On December 29, 2020 the U.S. Department of justice closed its civil rights investigation into the shooting without bringing federal charges against the officers.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

The Brittany Killgore Sex Dungeon Murder Case

     After two years of marriage to Lance Corporal Cory Killgore, 22-year-old Brittany Killgore, on April 11, 2012, filed for divorce. The Marine was serving in Afghanistan. Brittany lived in Fallbrook California, a San Diego County town of 38,000 not far from Camp Pendleton, the U.S. Marine base.

     At two in the afternoon on Saturday April 14, 2012, one of Brittany Killgore's friends called the San Diego County Sheriff's Office to report her missing. The caller had last seen Killgore at 7 PM the day before when she stopped by her friend's apartment to borrow a dress. Killgore said she was going on a date with a 45-year-old Marine staff sergeant named Louis Ray Perez who was picking her up in less than an hour. They were going into downtown San Diego.

     At 7:45 that Friday evening the friend received a text message from Killgore's cellphone that read, "Help." The friend texted back, "What? R U okay?" When Brittany didn't respond the friend texted, "Brittany are U okay? I am freaking out here." At 8:05 PM the friend received another message from Killgore's cellphone that read, "Yes I love this party." The worried friend considered this text suspicious because Killgore always used the word "yeah" instead of "yes" in her text messaging. That was the last the friend heard from Killgore's phone. (A transient in downtown San Diego later found Killgore's cellphone in the doorway of a Comfort Inn.)

     A detective with the San Diego Sheriff's Office called Marine Sergeant Louis Perez (who didn't have a criminal record) and asked if he'd come in for questioning regarding the Killgore missing persons case. Louis Perez showed up at the sheriff's office shortly after the call.

     According to the 16-year veteran of the Marine Corps, he had gone to Killgore's apartment at four o'clock Friday afternoon to help her pack for her upcoming move to another place. He asked her if she'd like to go out on a dinner-dance boat that evening in downtown San Diego. Killgore declined, saying that she was tired. Soon after Perez left Killgore's apartment at 5:10 PM she sent him a text saying she had changed her mind. Perez returned to her place at 7:30 for the date.

     According to the Marine's statement, he dropped Brittany off in downtown San Diego in front of a club called the Whisky Girl Night while he looked for a place to park. Fifteen minutes later, when he arrived at the club on foot, he couldn't find her. Perez looked around for 30 minutes then headed home to the house he shared in Fallbrook with his girlfriend, 36-year-old Dorothy Grace Marie Maraglino and her friend, Jessica Lynn Lopez, 25.

     The deputy who interviewed Perez that afternoon asked if he could take a look inside the white Ford Explorer the Marine had driven to the sheriff's office. Perez said he had no problem with that.

     The first thing the detective noticed about Perez's car was the fresh mud caked on the underside of the vehicle and in its wheel wells. The Marine's shoes were also muddy. Perez told the officer that the car had gotten that way when he recently collected firewood near Camp Pendleton. The deputy took a plastic bag from inside the car that contained a pair of blue latex gloves which appeared to be blood-stained. (A presumptive luminal test confirmed it was blood and later DNA analysis identified the blood as Brittany Killgore's.) Perez also possessed a stun gun that had a human hair follicle attached to it. At this point in the investigation Sergeant Perez became a suspect in Brittany Killgore's disappearance and possible murder. The deputy, after recovering a stolen AR 15 assault rifle from Perez's Ford Explorer, arrested him on a charge of theft. The "person of interest" in the Killgore case was taken to jail where he was incarcerated under $500,000 bond.

     From Perez's cellphone, investigators collected messages sent from his phone to Killgore's. The first message, sent at 9:20 PM on Friday, April 13, almost two hours after Killgore's "help" text, said, "Your friends are calling me worried." Later that evening, at a time investigators believe Killgore was dead, Perez had texted, "Now I am worried too."

     When the San Diego detectives questioned the suspect's housemate, Dorothy Maraglino, the 37-year-old said Perez had returned home Friday night sometime between 10 PM and midnight. He remained in the Fallbrook house until he left for San Diego the next day in response to the call from the sheriff's office.

     On April 15, 2012, San Diego deputies searched the Perez/Maraglino/Lopez house in Fallbrook where they suspected Brittany Killgore had been murdered. The searchers discovered that one of the rooms in the dwelling had been set up as a "sex dungeon" equipped with a variety of "sex apparatuses, toys, and tools" such as handcuffs, whips, leather restraints and chain shackles. When asked about this sadomasochistic playroom, Dorothy Maraglino and Jessica Lopez explained that they participated in erotic master-servant and master-slave role-playing. Dorothy identified herself as the dominatrix and said that Louis Perez enjoyed spanking women.

     The Killgore missing persons/murder investigation took an even more bizarre turn on April 16, 2012 when investigators learned that Master Dorothy and her slave Jessica had checked into the Ramada Inn located in the Point Loma section of San Diego. Deputies showed up at room 105 at 9:30 that morning. Lopez, in a drowsy voice, told the officers she was too exhausted to come to the door to let them in. When a deputy cracked the door open as far as the interior door chain would allow, the officer saw blood on the floor. Another officer kicked the door open and the police stormed into the motel room.

     The sheriff's deputies found Jessica Lopez, naked from the waist up and covered in blood from self-inflicted superficial knife wounds on her neck and wrists. (Maraglino had left the motel.) A message in lipstick scrawled on the mirror above the dressing table read: "PIGS READ THIS." Below this message lay a 7-page, handwritten murder confession signed by Jessica Lopez.

     In the confession, Lopez admitted using a ligature, in the sex dungeon in the Fallbrook house, to strangle Brittany Killgore to death. She killed the victim out of fear Louis Perez would be seduced by her. After half-hearted attempts to dismember Killgore's body, Lopez doused the naked body with bleach to destroy physical evidence. She wrote that she "hid the body of that whore in almost plain sight" near Lake Skinner, noting that the police would find handcuff marks on the victim's wrists. Lopez said she had deposited the knife she had used in her attempts to "chop her up" in a beach restroom in Oceanside. The police would also find a pair of handcuffs with the knife. In her statement/suicide note, Lopez said she was taking full responsibility for Brittany Killgore's murder.

     At 2:30 that afternoon, searchers located Killgore's naked remains lying in the brush along the side of a road near Riverside County's Lake Skinner, 23 miles north of Fallbrook. The police arrested Jessica Lopez on April 17, 2012 on the charge of first-degree murder. Louis Perez, already in custody on the gun theft case, was charged with first-degree murder as well. Dorothy Maraglino, also charged with first-degree murder, was taken into custody on May 10, 2012. The three suspects were held on $3 million bond and all pleaded not guilty.

     At a Killgore murder case preliminary hearing that got underway on March 11, 2013 in Vista County Superior Court, the victim's best friend Elizabeth Hernandez testified that she and Killgore became acquainted with Marine Sergeant Louis Perez, Jessica Lopez and Dorothy Maraglino in 2011 after Hernandez responded to an ad selling a fertility monitor on a website used by military families. Hernandez said she befriended Maraglino because the two of them were trying to get pregnant. After that, Brittany Killgore regularly visited the house where Maragalino resided with Lopez.

     Hernandez testified that Sergeant Perez, Lopez, and Maragalino openly discussed their sexual lifestyle that involved Perez as the master, Maragalino as the mistress, and Lopez as the slave. In their sex dungeon they had painted a giant spider web on the wall and bars on the ceiling. According to the preliminary hearing witness, Hernandez and Killgore made it clear they were not going to participate in the sex games.

     In 2012, Elizabeth Hernandez and Britany Killgore had a falling out. At that time, Killgore was preparing to divorce her husband, Lance Corporal Cory Killgore. Hernandez testified that she discussed the souring of their friendship with Louis Perez, Lopez and Maragalino. After that Jessica Lopez and Dorothy Maragalino began referring to Killgore as "the disease" and "herpes." According to Elizabeth Hernandez, Perez and Maragalino said they could get rid of Killgore but they wouldn't because they knew Hernandez would miss her. Hernandez said she thought they were joking.

     On March 14, 2013, Deputy Medical Examiner Craig Nelson testified that the victim had been strangled with some kind of ligature and that her body had been moved to where it was found near Lake Skinner. The forensic pathologist said there were two marks on Killgore's neck and tiny hemorrhages in her eyes that indicated strangulation as the cause of death. Dr. Nelson had also discovered cuts on the victim's left wrist and left knee that suggested that someone had attempted to dismember the body. The cut to the left leg was so deep it reached the bone. The bone contained tool marks that indicated a saw had been used in the dismemberment attempt. This had occurred postmortem.

     A woman followed Dr. Nelson to the stand who said she had lived in the Maraglino house for three months in late 2010. According to this witness, she had been Dorothy Maraglino's sex slave for a time and knew that Maraglino and Louis Perez enjoyed choking their sex partners.

     On March 16, 2013, Vista Superior Court Judge K. Michael Kirkman ruled that the prosecution in the Killgore case had presented enough evidence against the defendants to justify a murder trial.

     On April 8, 2014, murder defendant Dorothy Maragalino, represented by the fourth attorney assigned to her since 2012, was back in court filing motions that would delay the progress of the case. Initially, Maragalino had insisted on representing herself then changed her mind. After dismissing her next two lawyers, the judge assigned her a public defender who asked to be removed from the case. Attorney Jane Kinsey, the fourth defense attorney, needed more time to prepare. Judge Kirkman granted the motion.

     That April Jessica Lopez's attorney, Sloan Ostby, asked the judge for more time to study the 7,345 pages of documents he had demanded from the prosecution on discovery. Ostby said he also had to review 165 DVDs that had been supplied by the state. The judge granted this motion.

     Attorney Brad Patton, representing Louis Perez, the accused sex dungeon master, filed a series of pretrial motions in 2014 that slowed progress in the case. On December 12, 2014, perhaps in an attempt to move things along, the district attorney's office announced it would not seek the death penalty against the defendants.

     On June 6, 2015, at a pre-trial hearing, Judge Kirkman denied a motion by defense attorney Sloan Ostby to exclude writings by Jessica Lopez that described, in detail, the victim's torture, murder, and dismemberment. Attorney Ostby, characterizing the writings as the product of his client's fantasies, argued that the material was so gruesome it would unduly prejudice a jury. Judge Kirkman said he would allow the writings into evidence with deletions of the most disturbing parts.

     The handwritten "Pigs Read This" document had been found in the hotel room along with Jessica Lopez's suicide note. In denying the motion to completely suppress this evidence, Judge Kirkman said, "It is a document that very much has relevance."

     In earlier court related statements, prosecutor Patrick Espinoza compared the defendants to the Manson family. Defense attorneys objected to this and asked the judge to forbid such comparisons in the future. Judge Kirkman granted that request.

     On August 14, 2015, the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office released its Brittany Killgore autopsy report. The document confirmed that Killgore had been strangled. Moreover, attempts had been made to dismember her body. The victim was initially identified by a small tattoo on her left wrist. According to notes made by Deputy San Diego Medical Examiner Dr. Craig Nelson, "On the left side of the [victim's] neck and face were two small, paired brown marks that were suggestive of use of an electrical weapon…The victim's left knee had a large, but bloodless, incised wound suggestive of attempted dismemberment."

     On September 8, 2015, in Vista, California, jury selection began in the Dorothy Maraglino, Louis Perez, and Jessica Perez murder trial. Two months later, the defendants were convicted of murder and kidnapping. The judge sentenced all three to life in prison without the chance of parole.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

The Rumain Brisbon Police-Involved Shooting Case

     At six in the evening of Tuesday December 2, 2014 officers with the Phoenix Police Department were investigating a burglary in the city's north side when a resident of an apartment complex nearby reported that men inside a Cadillac SUV were selling drugs near the apartment building.

     When one of the officers approached the suspect vehicle the driver, 34-year-old Rumain Brisbon, jumped out of the SUV and ran toward the apartment complex. (Brisbon had a burglary conviction conviction and was on probation. He was married and had four children.)

     The 30-year-old police officer, Mark Rine, had seven years on the force. He chased Brisbon and caught up to him outside the apartment building. The subject, with a hand stuffed into his waistband, refused to comply with the officer's commands to drop to the ground.

     Brisbon's refusal to obey the officers orders led to a scuffle. During the struggle Mr. Brisbon stuck his left hand into his pant pocket. Officer Rine grabbed for that hand and felt what he thought was a concealed handgun. As the officer and Brisbon fought they banged against a door and tumbled into the apartment building.

     Inside the apartment, when the police officer lost his grip on Brisbon's left hand, he feared that the man he was struggling with would pull a gun and shoot him. It was at that point the officer used his pistol to shoot Brisbon twice in the torso, killing him on the spot.

     As it turned out, Rumain Brisbon had not been armed. The object in his left pocket that concerned officer Rine was a bottle of oxycodone pills. (Brisbon had apparently been selling these pills out of his SUV and did not want to return to prison on a probation violation.)

      Assuming this police account of the confrontation and shooting were accurate, the officer's use of deadly force in this case was justified. On these facts it was doubtful that a local prosecutor would even present this case to a grand jury.

     Marci Kratter, the Phoenix attorney who represented RumainBrisbon in a 2009 DUI case, and was now representing the Brisbon family, told reporters she didn't believe the police version of the shooting was complete. "There are numerous witnesses," she said, "that will challenge the police officer's account of what happened." 

     Phoenix police spokesperson Trent Crump in addressing the media said, "The officer was doing what we expect him to do, which was to investigate crimes that neighbors were telling them are occurring."
   
     In April 2015 the Maricopa County Prosecutor's Office announced that Officer Rine would not be criminally charged in the shooting death of Rumain Brisbon.

     The Phoenix Police Department, in June 2017, decided to pay Brisbon's family $1.5 million pursuant to a court settlement agreement.

The Sandra Layne Murder Case

     Since 2008, when designer drugs first came on the scene, hundreds of violent crimes, overdoses and incidents of bizarre behavior have been linked to users of synthetic marijuana. Called Spice, K2, Yucatan, Skunk and Moon Rocks, the drug consists of dried, shredded plant material sprayed with chemicals that when smoked produces an intense high. Marketed as a "safe" legal alternative to pot, the drug was sold openly in tobacco shops and gas stations.

     Synthetic marijuana can cause bath salts-like euphoria, paranoia and hallucinations. In addition to becoming agitated, aggressive and violent, users have suffered seizures and heart attacks. Several states made this group of mind-altering substances illegal. One of those states was Michigan, the site of a murder case involving a high school student named Jonathan Hoffman. 
    After his divorced parents moved from West Bloomfield, Michigan to Scottsdale, Arizona, 17-year-old Jonathan Hoffman, in the fall of 2011, moved in with his grandparents so he could finish his senior year at Farmington Central High School. He had been accepted to East Michigan University where he planned on majoring in computer science. The boy's father, 56-year-old Michael Hoffman, a prominent divorce lawyer and co-founder of the law firm American Divorce Association for Men (ADAM), had recently retired. He and Jonathan's mother had been divorced six years and were living near each other in Scottsdale so they could spend time with Jonathan's 15-year-old sister. While living at his grandparents' condo at Maple Place Villas in the Detroit suburb, Jonathan had been smoking the synthetic marijuana Spice. He had been arrested for possession of the drug and was on probation. This had caused friction between him and his 74-year-old grandmother, a former school teacher named Sandra Layne. 
     Late in the afternoon of Friday May 18, 2012, neighbors heard Jonathan and his grandmother yelling at each other from inside the condo. They were fighting over Jonathan's schoolwork and his drug abuse. Hearing several gunshots, several neighbors called 911. Jonathan himself phoned for help, screaming that he'd been shot several times and that he was going to die. Three minutes into his 911 call he exclaimed that he had been shot again. 
     Police officers rolled up to the scene at 5:25 PM and ordered Sandra Layne out of the dwelling. She walked out of the condo carrying a .40-caliber Glock semi-automatic pistol and announced that she had just "murdered" her grandson. 
     Emergency personnel rushed Jonathan Hoffman to Botsford Hospital in Farmington Hills where he died less than an hour later. Police officers transported the 74-year-old mother of five to a holding cell in the West Bloomfield police station. 
     The Oakland County Medical Examiner determined that Jonathan Hoffman had been shot 10 times. (Later, a toxicological analysis showed that the victim had been high on Spice.)
     An Oakland County prosecutor charged Sandra Layne with open murder, a general homicide charge which covered first and second-degree murder. On May 21, 2012, following her arraignment at the West Bloomfield District Court, the judge ordered Sandra Layne to be held without bail in the Oakland County Jail. Her attorney Mitch Ribitwer told reporters that his client, married for 28 years, had never been in trouble before. "She's very distraught, very upset. It's a very difficult time."
    In April 2013 an Oakland County jury rejected Sandra Layne's self defense argument and found her guilty of second-degree murder. The judge sentenced the 75-year-old to a minimum of 22 years in prison.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

The John Mallett Stabbing Spree

     As a teenager growing up in New York City John Mallett spent time in the juvenile wing in the city jail on Rikers Island. He had stabbed a boy in a fight over a girl. As a young adult Mallett, a paranoid schizophrenic, continued to have problems with the law. He served three years in prison for robbery. John Mallett's family tried to get him help through the courts and public health but were ignored. They learned that the criminal justice system is of no help to a family of a violent mentally ill person until that person commits a heinous crime. Then of course it is too late.

     John Mallett moved to Nashville Tennessee where his mental illness continued to lead him into trouble. In March of 2010 he was convicted of resisting arrest and three months later for criminal trespass. In February 2011, just before moving to Columbus Ohio, the authorities in Nashville charged Mallett with the unlawful possession of a weapon. (That charge was later dismissed.)

     In Columbus, John Mallett moved in with his aunt. He became such a problem for her she asked him to move out. This placed the mentally ill man under considerable stress. On March 14, 2012, while in downtown Columbus a few blocks from the state capitol, John Mallett entered the 25-story Continental Centre building carrying three knives, one of which came from his aunt's kitchen. The office building housed, on the first floor, a for-profit trade school (criminal justice, security, investigation, and court reporting) called Miami-Jacobs Career College. The school, owned by the Delta Career Education Corporation headquartered in Virginia Beach Virginia, consisted of 37 campuses and 16,000 students around the country.

     In the trade school's admissions office, John Mallett, carrying a knife in each hand repeatedly stabbed two employees and a criminal justice student. Back outside he knifed an attorney who worked for the state attorney general's office that was also housed in the building. Several bystanders tried but failed to disarm Mallett. One of the witnesses dialed 911.

      Within minutes of the 911 call Columbus patrol officer Deborah Ayers pulled up to the building. The 15-year veteran of the force confronted Mallett near the building's entrance. "Sir," she yelled, "you need to put the knife down. Sir, please put the knife down!" Instead of complying with the officer's command Mr. Mallet lunged toward her with his knife. Ayers fired 11 shots, hitting Mallett twice. Before he collapsed to the pavement a second officer shocked him with a stun gun.

     The 37-year-old Mallett and his four victims were rushed to a local hospital. They were expected to survive their wounds. The fact Mallett had lunged at the officer with his knives suggested a suicide-by-cop attempt.

     On Thursday March 15, 2012, the day after the rampage, the local prosecutor charged John Mallett with four counts of felonious assault.

     A battery of psychiatrists appointed by the court to examine the assailant concluded that he suffered from severe paranoid schizophrenia. On June 10, 2013 Franklin County Judge Kimberly Cocroft found Mallett not guilty by reason of insanity.

     A few weeks after the verdict corrections officials assigned the schizophrenic to a Columbus area forensic psychiatric facility where he was to remain incarcerated until his doctors declared he was sane enough to rejoin society. 

The Wrong House SWAT Raid

     In Gwinnett County Georgia, a suburban community of 700,000 within the Atlanta metropolitan area, narcotics officers had been watching a house in Lawrenceville for three months. Members of the county police department's Special Investigations Section suspected that the man living at 2934 Valley Spring Drive was selling methamphetamine. At 9:15 in the morning of December 9, 2008 20 officers with the department's 60-member SWAT unit began making final preparations for a no-knock raid. Thirty minutes later, after a detective with the Special Investigations Section pointed out the meth suspect's house, the SWAT team moved in on the target. The officers didn't know it but the detectives had sent them to the wrong house. The suspected drug dealer lived a few doors down the street.

     The day after the raid, John Louis, the 38-year-old whose house the police wrongfully entered, described the intrusion to a television reporter: "They came in here and put guns on us. The house was full of police. I never had a gun in my face before...All I see is a bunch of police, guns drawn, yelling 'Hands in the air! Hands in the air!' "

     When the SWAT officers broke down the front door Heather Jones, John Louis's girlfriend who had been asleep with their three-month baby, stepped out of the bedroom in her nightgown. Police ordered her to the floor at gunpoint. The couple asked the police what they wanted and were told to shut up and remain still. The raid came to an abrupt halt when one of the officers, seeing the baby, realized they had broken into the wrong place. As the SWAT unit decamped to raid the drug suspect's house one of the officers apologized for the intrusion and promised to have the front door repaired.

     In an interview with a TV correspondent the next day a Gwinnet Police Department spokesperson pointed out that the narcotics officers had been watching the meth suspect's house for three months. In response to this John Louis said, "If you had this house under surveillance for three months why did you come here? You broke in and put all our lives in danger, and all you can say is you're sorry?" (Mr. Lewis was lucky to get an apology. That was unusual.)

     The police spokesperson, in explaining what went wrong, said, "Somehow there was an investigator that had been working closely with the case that...mistakenly pointed out the wrong house, the wrong location." When asked if the police department had any kind of policy regarding no-knock raids the police representative replied, "We double check the address, there's a description of the location as well as an address of the house that we're looking at on the search warrant, and we always have someone double check that every time." 

   Three days after the raid the commander of the Special Investigations Section, in a news release, announced that the detective who had directed the SWAT team to the wrong house had been transferred to the uniform division. Without identifying this officer the commander characterized the incident as a "case of human error and not deliberate malfeasance on the part of the investigator."

     Had Mr. Louis, thinking that his home was being invaded by criminals, picked up a gun for self-protection, he would be dead. 

Monday, August 1, 2022

The Rise And Fall Of A Chief of Police

     It's not surprising that a crime-ridden city in long decline has a troubled and shrinking police department with a history of disgraced police administrators. Between 2000 and 2010 750,000 middle-class residents of Detroit moved out of the city to the suburbs. Today there are 700,000 people living in a city that in the 1950s had a population of 2 million.

     In 2012, 300 people were murdered in Detroit, a ten percent increase over the previous year. There were cities the size of Detroit that had under 20 murders a year. In 2012 Detroit's murderers were dumping their victims' corpses around several inner city neighborhoods. Because the police don't patrol these districts the bodies laid around for days, even weeks, rotting and stinking up the city. It was hard to believe there was a place like this in America. 

     Because of massive budget cuts the Detroit Police Department grew smaller while the crime problem got bigger. Police response time, even to major crime scenes, had significantly slowed. A man who had committed a murder called the Detroit Police Department and asked to be taken into custody. When no one showed the killer walked to a precinct station to turn himself in. In Detroit it was actually difficult to get yourself arrested.

     When Ralph Godbee jointed the Detroit Police Department in 1986 the city, while a shell of its former self, had not entered its final stage of decline and decomposition. The 19-year-old high school graduate, after just a few years on patrol, was assigned to the elite Executive Protection Unit. In 1995 when Godbee was only 26, the chief named him commander of the unit.

     Seven years after taking over the Executive Protection Unit, Police Chief Jerry Oliver appointed Godbee commander of the 1st Precinct. In 2005 Godbee made Assistant Chief of Police, but three years later, was demoted. Mr. Godbee retired and started a private security consulting agency. Just a year into Godbee's retirement Chief Warren Evans brought him back into law enforcement by making him the Assistant Chief of Police.

     In July 2010 Detroit Mayor Dave Bing promoted Ralph Godbee to interim chief of police after Chief Warren Evans had to step down as a result of a sexual affair he had with a subordinate police officer. The following month, Godbee, after having taken up with the same female officer, Lieutenant Monique Patterson, filed for divorce. Notwithstanding Godbee's relationship with officer Patterson Mayor Bing promoted him to the permanent position of Chief of Police.

     The beginning of the end of Chief Godbee's law enforcement career came on October 2, 2012 when Mayor Dave Bing suspended him for thirty days. The assistant chief, Chester Logan, took over his duties. Like his predecessor, Ralph Godbee's problem involved having an affair with a subordinate departmental employee. In Godbee's case the woman was an internal affairs officer named Angelica Robinson.

     Angelica Robinson's attorney said this to a reporter with the Detroit Free Press: "She was trying to cut it off and he [Godbee] didn't like that. And apparently she was very depressed, and the concern was whether or not she was going to take her own life, and Godbee got wind of that. I guess he tried to intervene." Other Detroit media outlets reported that Angelic Robinson became upset after discovering that Godbee may have been attending the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in San Diego with another woman.

     Ralph Godbee, on October 4, 2012, announced his intention to step down as Detroit's chief of police. Retired Detroit police officer David Malhalab, a longtime Godbee critic, in speaking to a reporter with The Detroit News said: "Godbee was a stink bomb waiting to go off. I've said from day one that because of his past actions he shouldn't have been the face of the DPD. But [Mayor Bing] went ahead and appointed him anyway. Now he's reaping the consequences of his bad choices."

     In police work the higher up the ranks you go the less power you have. The cop on the street, armed with the discretionary power of arrest, exercises the real muscle. Moreover, the street officer is protected by civil service and the police union. A street cop can abuse his authority and behave in a manner unbecoming a police officer and still keep his job. The chief, on the other hand, is wedged between the rank-and-file and the major and is vulnerable to politics and bad publicity. Chief Godbee knew this but risked his career and good name anyway. 
     Ralph Godbee's career, like the city of Detroit, started in glory and ended in ignominy. 

Where is Tiffany Michelle Whitton?

     On March 7, 2011 25-year-old Tiffany Michelle Whitton, a resident of Marietta Georgia within the Atlanta metropolitan region, showed up in Dalton Georgia with two other women and a man named Matthew Stone. That night Tiffany Whitton, Tracy Chambers, Casey Renee Cantrell and Matthew Stone broke into a woman's house and terrorized her with a tire iron. The victim managed to lock herself into the bathroom and call 911. Before fleeing the dwelling Tiffany Whitton and her crew stole the woman's purse that had been lying on the couch. It contained $60.

     When questioned by detectives Whitton claimed the owner of the purse owed her money. She and her friends had gone to the house to collect what was hers. Investigators suspected that the victim and the four intruders had been in a drug deal. Whitton, a user of illicit drugs, had paid the woman for pills and when the supplier didn't deliver the goods she and her friends raided the house to get her money back.

     A prosecutor charged Tiffany Whitton and her accomplices with armed robbery, burglary and possession of drug-related objects. Following her guilty plea the judge gave Whitton  a probated sentence.

     Tiffany Whitton, a former Hooter's waitress in Kennesaw, a suburban community north of Atlanta, disappeared on September 13, 2013. The mother of a 6-year-old daughter was last seen at two in the morning in the parking lot of a Walmart store not far from her home in Marietta Georgia. Since that night she has not made contact with family members or friends. She was last seen with her boyfriend Ashley Caudle. (A few weeks after Tiffany Whitton's disappearance police arrested Caudle in a meth raid at his mother's house.)

     The missing woman's mother created a Facebook page called "Find Tiffany Whitton."

     On February 20, 2014 Marietta police officer David Baldwin, in referring to the multi-tattooed five-foot-two-inch 100-pound Whitton said, "What really worries us is that she literally vanished without a trace."

     In July 2014 detectives executed a search warrant at Caudle's mother's house in Marietta where workman dug up her back yard looking for Tiffany Whitton's remains. The searchers came up empty handed.

     So what could have happened to Tiffany Whitton? She could have run off to start a new life. However, because of her daughter that didn't seem likely. It was also unlikely that some abductor was holding her captive. If dead, she could have killed herself in some remote location or accidentally overdosed on drugs. If none of these events took place someone may have murdered her. As a drug abuser Tiffany Whitton rubbed shoulders with unsavory and dangerous people. Did she fail to pay a drug dealer? Did her criminal associates come to believe that she was a snitch?

     If Tiffany Whitton was murdered her case would not move forward until someone who knew something about her disappearance called the police or someone stumbled upon her body. Finding a person who is dead is a lot more difficult than finding someone who is alive. Where do you even begin to look for a corpse?

     As of August 2022 Tiffany Whitton's whereabouts remain unknown. There have been no arrests in the case.