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Monday, August 29, 2022

Bath Salts and the Hannibal Lecter Syndrome

     At five in the evening on Saturday June 2, 2012, 21-year-old Brandon De Leon, accompanied by three other homeless men, walked into a Boston Market fast-food restaurant in North Miami Beach, Florida. High on marijuana, Xanax and a bath salt called Cloud 9, De Leon had also consumed a bottle of rum and an alcohol and caffeine-laced drink called Four Loko.

     The moment De Leon entered the restaurant he became belligerent. Cursing loudly, he challenged one of his homeless companions to a fight. As it happened, two uniformed police officers were eating there. As the officers approached the manifestly intoxicated and unruly man, he swore at them. De Leon was asking for trouble, and he got it.

     Although De Leon resisted, the officers hustled him out of the eating place and onto the ground outside. Once handcuffed behind his back and seated in the patrol car, De Leon began bashing his head against the glass divider between the back seat and the front interior of the police vehicle. As he slammed the glass with his head, De Leon yelled, "I'm going to eat you!"

     At the police station Mr. De Leon continued to behave like an animal intent on eating its prey by baring and gnashing his teeth. Several officers wrestled him to the floor, then carried the squirming, spitting, growling and snapping man to a holding cell where De Leon tried to bite one of his captors in the hand as they put him in leg restraints. Once they had the prisoner physically under control officers slipped a Hannibal Lecter-type "bite-mask" over his head.

     Following drug testing procedures at Aventura Hospital, police officers transported the chained and masked De Leon to the Miami-Dade County Jail where he was held on $7,500 bond.

     Because of a recent rash of cases involving cannibalistic behavior, Brandon De Leon's Hannibal Lecter act became more than a local crime story. The intense interest in these type cases brought a gruesome homicide, committed in 2009 by a San Antonio woman named Otty Sanchez, back into the news. Sanchez was found not guilty by reason of insanity for killing and eating parts of her 3-week-old baby. The schizophrenic said the devil made her do it.

     In December 2010, Stephen Griffith, a Ph.D. student in England, murdered three women and ate the body parts of two of them. (He killed one of his victims with a crossbow.) In Russia, a chef, in August 2011, lured his victims to his apartment through a gay-dating website, then killed them with a butcher-knife. He made meatballs and sausages from their corpses.

      Other murders of this nature included Miami's Rudy Eugene who chewed off the face of a homeless man and Alexander Kinyua, the Morgan State University student who allegedly ate a portion of his victim's heart and brain. In Sweden, a professor, in a fit of jealous rage, cut off and ate his wife's lips. He was charged with attempted murder and was later found legally insane.

     Perhaps the most disturbing cases involving cannibalistic behavior unfolded in Japan and Canada, countries not normally associated with violent crime. In May 2012, a man named Mao Sugiyama advertised a meal where five diners each paid 100,000 yen to eat Sugiyama's surgically removed genitals. Sugiyama and the five diners who ate his flesh were not charged with a crime. In Japan, consensual cannibalism is not illegal. The Canadian case involved Luka Magnotta, the porn star snuff-video maker who ate parts of his dismembered victim, then mailed four of Jun Lin's body parts to two addresses in Ottawa and two in Vancouver.

         Designer drugs were linked to the cases of 31-year-old Rudy Eugene, the Miami causeway flesh-eater and Brandon De Leon, the homeless man transported to the Miami-Dade County Jail in the Hannibal Lecter mask. In De Leon's case, he was under the influence, among other substances, of the bath salt Cloud 9 (also called Ivory Wave), a synthetic form of cocaine. Once legal in the United States, Cloud 9 could be purchased online, in smoke shops, convenience stores and at gas stations. Cloud 9 came in 500mg packets containing instructions on how to add it to bath water for a soothing and relaxing soak. There was also a warning not to sniff or inject the product. 

     Cloud 9 users snort, smoke, and eat the bath salt. The drug produces a euphoric ecstasy-like sensation combined with an amphetamine-like high. Cloud 9 has been known to produce violent and bizarre hallucinations, extreme paranoid delusions, acute agitation and thoughts of suicide. When the drug wears off, users suffer painful hangovers.

     According to Dr. Deborah Schurman-Kauflin in a 2011 Psychology Today article, "Most cannibals are extreme loners. They do not have friends, and they are bitter about it. Killing and eating a victim ensures that the offender is never alone." Jack Levin, author and co-director of the Center on Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University in Boston, in discussing America's most infamous cannibal, Jeffrey Dahmer, pointed out that Dahmer was a loner. Levin theorized that Dahmer, who killed and ate parts of 17 young men, consumed his victims out of "affection." According to Levin, this was Dahmer's way of physically possessing the objects of his love.

     Cannibalism, although freakish and newsworthy, is an extremely rare form of deviant behavior. 

Sunday, August 28, 2022

The Forensic Science Hall of Shame

Albert H. Hamilton 
     In the 1920s and 30s, this druggist from Auburn, New York, professing expertise in toxicology, fingerprint identification, firearms analysis and questioned document work, testified falsely in dozens of criminal trials. A pure charlatan, Albert Hamilton was caught switching gun barrels in the Sacco and Vanzetti murder case. He also injected himself as a forensic document examiner into the Lindbergh kidnapping case. After that, his reputation was so bad no one would put him on the stand.

Dr. Ralph Erdmann
     Beginning in 1981, Dr. Ralph Erdmann began serving several west Texas counties as a private contract forensic pathologist. During the next fifteen years he performed thousands of autopsies and testified in dozens of homicide trials. Prosecutors loved Dr. Erdmann because he always gave them exactly what they needed. Stupendously incompetent and dishonest, Dr. Erdmann's testimony and bogus cause and manner of death findings sent scores of defendants to prison. While several of these convicted men were later exonerated, there is no way to know how many other Erdmann case defendants were innocent.

Joyce Gilchrist
     The damage a single phony forensic scientist can do to the criminal justice system is enormous. Such is the case of Joyce Gilchrist, a DNA analyst and hair follicle identification practitioner who worked in the Oklahoma City Crime Laboratory in the 1980s and 90s. Gilchrist, through a series of unscientific identifications, was accused of sending dozens of innocent defendants to prison. Like Albert Hamilton and Dr. Ralph Erdmann, prosecutors found this expert witness extremely helpful in weak cases.

Fred Salem Zain
     A West Virginia state trooper who flunked chemistry in college, Fred Zain began working in the state police crime laboratory in 1977 as a forensic serologist. He later became a DNA analyst, and in that capacity, through his recklessly and bogus testimony, falsely linked dozens of innocent defendants to crimes they had not committed. Because Mr. Zain was so flamboyant and prolific in his willingness to tailor his testimony to the needs of prosecutors, he was in demand all over the country as a prosecution witness. This was particularly true in Texas. His dreadful career as a phony expert came to an end with his early death in 2002.

Dr. Louise Robbins
     In the 1980s and 90s, Dr. Louise Robbins, an anthropology professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, testified for the prosecution in scores of homicide trials involving footwear impression evidence. Prosecutors liked Dr. Robbins because she always linked the defendant to the crime scene shoe or boot print through a methodology with no basis in science. If Dr. Robbins hadn't died early from a brain tumor, there is no telling how many more defendants would have been falsely connected to crime scenes. Prosecutors would bring Dr. Robbins out of the bullpen when no other forensic expert saw a physical connection between the defendant and the murder scene. No one will ever know if this woman was simply stupid and full of it, or motivated by money and attention. For the innocent defendants sent to prison on her bogus testimony, it really didn't matter what motivated this charlatan.

Dr. Michael West
     In the 1990s, this forensic dentist from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, through his patented "blue light technique," helped convict innocent homicide defendants by testifying to the presence of human bite marks that qualified odontologists could not see. Dr. West later expanded his forensic repertoire into blood spatter interpretation, forensic photography, video enhancement and gunshot-powder analysis. As a forensic scientist, Dr. West attacked the criminal justice system like an out of control wrecking ball. Several of the defendants sent to prison on the strength of his testimony were later exonerated through DNA analysis. 

Saturday, August 27, 2022

The Shane Absalon Murder Case

     In 1984, 17-year-old Shane Absalon lived in a Fort Worth, Texas apartment building with his parents. Ginger Hayden, a year older than him, lived in the same apartment complex with her mother. She and Absalon had attended the same high school in Fort Worth. On September 4, 1984, after starting class at the University of Texas at Arlington (situated halfway between Fort Worth and Dallas), Ginger, her boyfriend Jeff Green and Shane Absalon were gathered in her mother's apartment drinking beer and watching television.

     At 6:15 the next morning, Ginger's mother, Sharon Hayden Harvey, was awaken by the ringing of Ginger's alarm clock. When she entered the bedroom to see why Ginger hadn't turned off her alarm, Sharon Harvey discovered her daughter lying on the floor next to her bed in a pool of blood. The hysterical mother dialed the operator and screamed, "My baby's dead!"

     According to the Tarrant County forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, Ginger Hayden had been stabbed 57 times with a kitchen knife and had bled to death. Wounds on the victim's arms and hands suggested she had put up a fight.

     Detectives with the Fort Worth Police Department questioned Shane Absalon on September 12, 1984. Absalon said that Ginger and her boyfriend were in the apartment when he left the place at 11:30 that night. When asked if he was willing to take a polygraph test, Absalon said that he would. But the next day, stating that he was acting on the advice of his attorney, the suspect declined to submit to the lie detector examination.

     For whatever reason, the investigation of Ginger Hayden's brutal murder ground to a halt and died on the vine. In the meantime, Shane Absalon, during the two years following the homicide, turned into a drunk and drug abuser with a history of arrests for crimes such as burglary, arson and assault. In July 1986, he pleaded guilty in Tarrant County to smashing a vehicle with a club while intoxicated. The judge sentenced him to a one-year period of probation. Pursuant to his sentence, Absalon was ordered to enter a drug and alcohol treatment program in Richardson, Texas called Straight Inc. (This outfit was later closed down following charges of patient abuse.)

     In 2001, 18 years after Ginger Hayden's murder, cold-case investigators in Fort Worth re-opened the investigation which focused on Shane Absalon as the prime suspect. Detectives believed that he had murdered Hayden after she refused to have sex with him. Among other evidence of his guilt, a neighbor had seen the suspect, after he said he had left his apartment that night, climb over a fence and knock on the victim's sliding patio door. But the police needed more, and it wasn't until 2009 that they had enough evidence to support his arrest. After acquiring DNA samples from Absalon, forensic experts were able to link him to the murder scene.

     On August 20, 2010, Shane Absalon was taken into custody at his home in Sierra Vista, Arizona where he lived with his wife and young child. At the time he was working as a welder. A month later, a grand jury sitting in Fort Worth indicted Absalon for capital murder. If convicted, he would be automatically sentenced to life in prison. Because he had been a juvenile at the time of the murder, the defendant was not eligible for the death penalty. Moreover, under the applicable 1984 law, the 43-year-old would be eligible for parole after serving 20 years of his sentence.

     Word of Shane Absalon's arrest reached at least three former patients who were treated with him in 1986 for alcohol and drug abuse at Straight Inc. These people had attended group therapy sessions with Absalon. The news of his arrest for Ginger Hayden's murder prompted the former patients to tell the Fort Worth police that during a group therapy session two years after the murder, he had confessed to killing a girl he knew. (Why didn't these former drug-alcohol patients inform the police immediately after Absalon's group therapy confession?)

     Shane Absalon's trial got underway on September 17, 2012. Following the testimony of a DNA analyst who linked the defendant to the murder scene, the prosecutor put three of the former Straight Inc. patients on the stand to state their recollections of the defendant's group therapy confession. (Absalon's attorney, Gary Udashen, had objected to the introduction of this evidence, but had been overruled by the judge.)

     The first Straight Inc. witness, Sean Garrett, informed the jurors that "He [the defendant] told me he was angry. He told me he wanted more of a relationship with her [the victim], that he wanted to be more than just friends. Her response was no, and he was real embarrassed. He stabbed her until he was tired, and thought she was dead. His intentions were to kill her." According to this witness, after stabbing Hayden to death, Absalon cleaned up in the bathroom, threw his jacket and shoes in a nearby trash bin and went back to his apartment.

     Former patient Stefany Knight took the stand and said, "Shane stood up to admit to wrongdoing when he was high on heroin. He said he killed a girl...stabbed her with a knife." Michele Valencia, the third Straight, Inc. witness, testified that Absalon's confession had made her physically ill.

     Defense attorney Gary Udashen, in cross-examining Michele Valencia, got her to admit that members of the rehabilitation center's poorly trained staff had pressured patients into confessing to crimes and former bad behavior. In this witness' opinion, some patients made false confessions just to please staff members running the group therapy sessions. "There was some brainwashing going on...I learned to conform. I had to get out," she said.

     Gary Udashen, in addressing the crime scene DNA evidence in his closing remarks to the jury, referred to unidentified semen on the victim's bed quilt and unidentified blood and tissue under Hayden's fingernails. The fact the defendant's DNA was in the apartment was not surprising because he had been there many times. Suggesting that Ginger Hayden had been murdered by a serial killer who had been loose in the Fort Worth area at the time of her death, the defense attorney said, "The person who killed Ginger Hayden is still out there, and the police need to find that person. That person is not Shane Abalson."

     On September 21, 2012, the jury, following a short deliberation, found the defendant guilty of capital murder. Shane Absalon looked stunned after the foreman of the jury read the verdict. The convicted man's wife ran out of the courtroom in tears. Absalon would not eligible for parole until after the 45-year-old turned 65.  

Friday, August 26, 2022

Professor James Aune Chose Death Over Disgrace

     Dr. James Aune, the holder of a Ph.D. in Rhetoric from Northwestern University, joined the faculty at Texas A & M in 1996. He published a book about Rhetoric theory and the First Amendment in 2003, and eight years later, was named head of the university's Department of Communication. He lived with his wife in College Station, Texas. The short, pudgy academic with the full beard, long, unruly hair and glasses, cut the figure of the stereotypical college professor.

     In December 2012, a 37-year-old man from Metairie, Louisiana named Daniel T. Duplaisir, under the email address pretty-gurl985@yahoo.com, sent sexually explicit photographs of one of his underage female relatives to Dr. Aune and several other men. The 59-year-old professor took the bait, and with the girl, who called herself Karen McCall, set up a website on MocoSpace.com. Over the next five or six weeks the professor and the girl communicated online. These exchanges included the transmission of sexually explicit photos of each other.

     On January 7, 2013, Daniel Duplaisir, holding himself out as Karen McCall's outraged father, sent Professor Aune a message demanding $5,000 in hush money. The extortionist wrote: "If I do not hear from you I swear to God Almighty that the police, your place of employment, students, ALL OVER THE INTERNET--ALL OF THEM will be able to see your conversations, texts, pictures you sent. And if by some miracle you get away with this, I will use every chance I get to make sure every place or person associated with you knows and sees what you have done. Last chance, you better make the right move." Duplaisir demanded the money by January 8, 2013.

     Shortly after he received the extortion demand, the professor transferred $1,000 to Duplaisir. In an email to the girl, he wrote: "I answered and said I would do whatever he wanted....I sent him $1,000 and then promised more in January. I am scared shitless about this, and can't figure out how to come up with more money."

     At ten-thirty in the morning of January 8, 2013, 90 minutes before Dulpaisir's extortion payoff deadline, Professor Aune sent him the following email: "Killing myself now, and you will be prosecuted for blackmail." One minute after sending the message, the 59-year-old professor jumped to his death from the sixth floor of a campus parking garage.

     On March 26, 2013, FBI agents arrested Daniel Duplaisir in Metairie, Louisiana, an unincorporated community within metropolitan New Orleans. The suspect was charged with the federal crimes of using a phone and the Internet to extort money. At his arraignment in a federal courtroom in Houston, Duplaisir pleaded not guilty to all charges. The judge denied him bail.

     In 2011, the authorities in Louisiana had charged Duplaisir with aggravated incest and oral sexual battery for allegedly abusing the girl Professor Aune thought was Karen McCall.

     In the immediate aftermath of the professor's death, his family, friends and colleagues were baffled by the suicide. What's hard to understand in this case is why a man of Professor Aune's intelligence and stature would establish a sexual, online relationship with a young girl. As a professor of communications, didn't he realize that his exchanges with this Internet personality were quasi-public?

     In November 2013, Daniel Duplaisir pleaded guilty to extortion in a Houston federal courtroom. At his sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes, professor Aune's wife Miriam testified that her husband had confessed to her a week before he killed himself. She said she found it absurd that a man who was so brilliant could have fallen for a blackmail scheme by a so-called father who was supposedly outraged but would take $5,000 to keep silent. She conceded there was a side to her husband she did not know. He had struggled with alcoholism and had been changed by a bout with prostate cancer. Miriam Aune said she regretted not trying to help her husband raise the rest of the blackmail money. Because of the expense of caring for their two sons with autism, that would have been difficult. There was just no money, she said. (Had they paid off this degenerate he would have asked for more.)

     Regarding her feelings toward the man who caused her husband's suicide, Miriam Aune said, "I truly wanted to hate him, I tried very hard to hate him. How much sadness there must be in this man's life. How much anger there must be in his heart."

     Prior to the sentencing hearing, Duplaisir, who had been behind bars eight months, wrote Judge Hughes two letters asking for mercy. "Please do the right thing for everybody," he wrote. "Put me in a mental hospital so I can begin longterm care. I need to stop being so twisted up and lost in my own mind."

     Judge Hughes, noting that Duplaisir had not been charged with causing professor Aune's suicide, sentenced him to one year in prison.

     Professor Aune must have gone through hell between the period of Duplaisir's extortion demand and his suicide. It's tragic that a criminal like Daniel Duplaisir could exploit and destroy a man who was, by all accounts, an outstanding professor. Some people pay dearly for their weaknesses and flaws.

Brittni Colleps and Her Senior High Orgy Club

     In the fall of 2010, Brittni Nicole Colleps, a married 28-year-old with three children, started teaching English at Kennedale High School near Arlington, a city located between Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas. She had also been hired to coach the girl's basketball team. Her husband Christopher served in the military and was stationed in the area.

     In April 2011, Brittni began sending sexually explicit text messages, including nude photographs of herself, to some of her senior male students. That quickly led to sexual encounters with five 18-year-old boys at her Arlington home. On at least four occasions, the teacher engaged in group sex with three of her students. (Colleps and her husband were so-called "swingers" who participated in group sex with other consenting adults. On her job application, Brittni probably did not list this activity as one of her hobbies.)

     Colleps' extracurricular sex sessions were exposed in May 2011 when a cellphone video recorded by a participant in one of the home orgies came to the attention of school officials. The police were called in, and when a detective with the Arlington Police Department asked Colleps about this, she denied being involved in such activity. However, when confronted with her text messages to these students, she confessed. The high school immediately suspended her and a short time later she resigned.

     While it was not a crime in Texas for a 28-year-old woman to have sex with 18-year-old boys, it was an offense for a school teacher to have an "inappropriate" sexual relationship with a student. The text messages did not constitute a crime, but in Texas, the texting would have been sufficient grounds to fire her. A prosecutor in Tarrant County charged Brittni Nicole Colleps with 16 counts under the inappropriate teacher-student sexual relationship statute. These second-degree felonies carried sentences of two to twenty years in prison each. Colleps was clearly a serial offender.

     On August 13, 2012, the Colleps student orgy trial got underway in Arlington, Texas. The prosecutor put five of the defendant's student sex partners on the stand. All of the witnesses, while describing how their teacher had lured them into sex, testified that they did not consider themselves victims of sexual abuse. The prosecutor showed the jury portions of the cellphone recorded group sex episode that had ignited the scandal. (Colleps's face was not depicted, but a distinct tattoo on her lower back identified her as the female participant.)

     The jury, on August 17, 2012, after deliberating less than an hour, returned a verdict of guilty on all counts. Colleps' sentence: five years in prison. Following the verdict, Christopher Colleps told reporters that while his wife's extramarital sexual activities had angered him, he was standing by her.

     In recent years there have been several cases involving female high school teachers who have engaged in sex with male students. These women tended to be immature, overly romantic types who fell in love with a single kid who was just too cool to resist. Brittni Colleps, on the other hand, simply enjoyed group sex with young men.

     On January 7, 2015, after serving less than half of her five year sentence, the parole board granted Colleps' request for early release. She returned home where she would undergo monthly supervision for the remaining period of her sentence.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Mayson Armando Ortiz-Vazuez's Meth-Crazed Rampage

     At six-ten in the morning of Friday, August 28, 2020, an ex-con from Orlando, Florida named Mayson Armando Ortiz-Vazquez was driving in Polk City, Florida with a female passenger in his car. He was in the town to buy drugs. For some reason, Ortiz-Vazquez lost control of his vehicle, swerved, and crashed into a chainlink fence.

    Not far from the accident, school bus driver Margie Yzaguirre had pulled over to pick up a student. Shortly after the youngster climbed into the bus, Ortiz-Vazquez approached the vehicle and demanded to be let onboard. When the bus driver refused to let him in, the six-foot, 250 pound Ortiz-Vazquez, with his arm bloodied from the car accident, screamed and pounded on the bus door. Bus driver Yzaguirre drove off.

     Left behind by the school bus, Ortiz-Vazquez jumped on the hood of a passing car. After rolling off the vehicle he jumped onto another moving car, breaking its windshield. After growling at the shocked driver, Ortiz-Vazquez rolled off the car, got to his feet and walked to a dwelling on Old Polk City Road in nearby North Lakeland.

     At six-thirty that morning, Ortiz-Vazquez smashed a glass paneled front door and forcefully entered a dwelling occupied at the time by a 9-year-old boy, his parents and the boy's grandparents. The boy's father, when confronted in his living room by a crazed, bloodied intruder holding a shard of glass from the smashed front door, picked up a gun and shot him. Later that morning Mr. Ortiz-Vazquez was pronounced dead at the Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center.

     According to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, Ortiz-Vazquez had been a man "totally out of control." In  reference to Ortiz-Vazquez's behavior that morning, the sheriff told reporters that the violent spree had "meth written all over it."

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Father Jerold Lindner: The Career Pedophile Aided By The Catholic Church

     Tens of thousands of American children have been sexually molested by Catholic clerics. And these victims just represent the tip of the iceberg of pedophilia within the Catholic Church. According to a study conducted by researchers at John Jay College in New York City, between 1950 and 2002, 4,392 Catholic priests were accused of sexual abuse. What follows is the story of just one of the sexual predators protected by the church, and just one of his victims who took extreme measures to get revenge.

     Jerold Lindner, accepted into Jesuit training in June 1964, was, at 24, sent to the Sacred Heart novitiate in Los Gatos, California for two years of study. Six years later he was in San Francisco teaching English at St. Ignatius High School. In 1973, after sexually assaulting a number of boys at St. Ignatius, Lindner enrolled at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California.

     In the summer of 1975, while still at the Berkeley theology school, Lindner, as a "spiritual advisor" for the lay organization Christian Family Movement, accompanied a group of young boys on a church sponsored camping trip to the Santa Cruz Mountains. During that weekend Lindner shared a tent with seven-year-old William Lynch and his four-year-old brother Buddy. The spiritual advisor sodomized both boys, forced them to give him oral sex, then threatened to kill their sister if they told anyone what he had done to them. Lindner also promised the boys an eternity in hell if they squealed.

     By 1976, the year the 36-year-old became ordained as a Jesuit Priest, Father Jerry, as he was called, had molested dozens of boys. That year, Father Jerry returned to St. Ignatius High School where he continued his career as an English teacher and a practicing pedophile. In 1982, the Catholic Church transferred Father Lindner to Loyola High School, a private prep school near downtown Los Angeles. Ten years later, while teaching at Loyola and molesting more of his students, Lindner's mother, aware that her son was a pedophile, spoke to Father Jerry's supervisor at his order--the Society of Jesus--and told the supervising priest that Father Lindner had been a child molester long before he entered Jesuit training in 1964. Mrs. Lindner informed the supervising priest that her son had molested several members of his own family, including a younger sibling.

     In response to accusations of child molestation by the priest's own mother, the Jesuits took Father Lindner out of the classroom and sent him to a psychiatric facility for evaluation. Whatever the results of that psychiatric analysis, the Jesuit brass declared that Mrs. Lindner's allegations were not credible, and sent the pedophile teacher back into the classroom where he could continue preying on vulnerable victims. (This would not be the first time the Jesuits would have Father Jerry psychiatrically tested, then declared suitable for classroom work.)

     In 1995, twenty years after the weekend of sexual abuse in the spiritual advisor's tent on the Santa Cruz Mountain camping trip, William Lynch's younger brother, for the first time since their ordeal, revealed their secret. (He had been sworn to secret by William.) He told his parents what happened to them in Father Lindner's tent. Two years later, the Lynch brothers sued Father Lindner and the Society of Jesus. (Criminal prosecution, because of the statute of limitations, was no longer an option. The six year year statute of limitations in California protected Lindner from being criminally charged by dozens of his victims.) To avoid an embarrassing and revealing civil trial, the Jesuits settled the lawsuit for $625,000. (After legal costs, William and his brother ended up with $187,000 a piece.) Following the settlement, the Society of Jesus removed the 58-year-old priest from active ministry. But Jerold Lindner still had access to children, and the complaints kept rolling in.

     In September 2002, the Jesuits at the Society of Jesus sent Father Lindner to a Catholic retirement home and medical center for priests in Los Gatos called the Scared Heart Jesuit Center. Several of the priests in this place had been sent there because they were known pedophiles. Father Lindner was one of the residents placed on the institution's child molester register. However, he still had access to young people and continued to offend.

     It was not surprising, that in a facility where pedophiles are housed, there was a sex scandal. In 2002, it came to light that two developmentally disabled men who lived at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center for 30 years had been regularly molested by priests they considered their friends. Two years after the scandal broke, a priest at the Los Gatos facility committed suicide after being raped by a gang of Jesuits. The order avoided an even bigger scandal by paying off several civil suit plaintiffs with million dollar settlement.

     William Lynch, the man Father Lindner had molested and traumatized as a seven-year-old in 1975, had not gotten over his ordeal. As a fourth grader in Los Altos, California, William started smoking marijuana. By the seventh grade he was dealing in pot and drinking heavily. At age 15, Lynch tried to kill himself by slashing his wrists, and as an adult, the victim of Father Lindner's sexual assault suffered severe depression. In his thirties, Mr. Lynch once again attempted suicide. Aware that the man who had ruined his life back in 1975 continued to abuse children under the protection of the church, William Lynch could barely control his frustration and rage. By 2010, at age 42, he decided to turn the tables on Father Jerry by becoming the predator.

     On May 10, 2010, William Lynch used a false name and the pretense of notifying Father Lindner of a death in the priest's family, to meet with him in the guest parlor at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos. When the two men came face-to-face after all of these years, Lynch told the 65-year-old to take off his glasses. As he punched the priest in the head and body, Lynch asked him, "Do you recognize me?" After the beating which included several attempts to kick Lindner in the groin, Lynch said, "Turn yourself in or I'll come back and kill you."

     After the attack, William Lynch made no attempt to conceal what he had done. The Santa Clara County prosecutor had no choice but to charge him with one count of assault and one count of elder abuse. If convicted of both felonies, Mr. Lynch faced up to four years in prison.

     After turning down a plea bargain in which he would serve no more than a year in jail, William Lynch told reporters that "I want to take responsibility for what I've done. I don't think I'm above the law like the church and Father Jerry." Lynch said he looked forward to a trial in which the pedophile priest would be publicly exposed for what he was.

     William Lynch's assault trial got under way on Wednesday, June 20, 2012 in the Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose. Prosecutor Vicki Genetti, in her opening statement to the jury of nine men and three women, said she was prosecuting this defendant under the assumption that Father Jerold Lindner, the victim in the assault case, had in fact sexually molested Lindner and his brother back in 1975. And in an even more unusual remark for a prosecutor to make about one of her own witnesses, Genetti warned jurors that Father Lindner, in denying the allegations, would be not be telling the truth. The prosecutor labeled the assault in this case a "revenge attack." Defendant Lynch, Genetti said, had acted like a "vigilante."

     On the first day of the trial, following the opening statements, Genetti put the prosecution's chief witness, Father Jerold Lindner, on the stand. As expected, the 67-year-old priest, overweight and wearing old-fashioned horn-rimmed glasses, denied sexually molesting the defendant and his brother. The witness said he had done nothing in 1975 to justify his beating at the hands of Mr. Lynch.

     After the jurors were dismissed for the day, William Lynch's attorney, Pat Harris, said this to Judge David A. Cena: "He [Father Lindner] has chosen to perjure himself. He should be advised of his right to counsel." The judge said he would take the request under advisement.

     The next day, before the defense attorney's cross-examination of Jerold Lindner, the priest took the Fifth and refused to testify further. At this point, attorney Harris moved for a mistrial on the grounds he had been denied his right to question his client's accuser. Judge Cena denied the motion, and the trial continued. Judge Cena also ruled that the jury would not hear from three witnesses prepared to testify that as children, they too had been molested by Jerold Lindner. The judge ordered the jury to disregard Father Lindner's testimony altogether.

     The next day, prosecutor Genetti put a Sacred Heart Jesuit Center health care worker on the stand who had witnessed the assault. Mary Eden testified that she heard William Lynch scream that Lindner had raped him and his brother, and had ruined their lives. When it came time for the defense to present its case, William Lynch took the stand, and in great detail, told the jurors what the priest had done to him and his brother, and how the sexual assaults had affected their lives. According to the defendant, when he went to the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center that day, his intention was to get Lindner to take responsibility for what he had done by signing a written confession. When Lindner refused, and looked as though he might become aggressive, Lynch resorted to violence. (With this testimony, the defense was giving the jurors an opportunity, an excuse if you will, to nullify the evidence and find William Lynch not guilty.)

     Following William Lynch's compelling testimony the defense rested its case. Prosecutor Genetti, in her closing remarks to the jury, said that what Father Lindner had done to the defendant and his brother 37 years ago did not legally justify the assault. The prosecutor also accused the defense of encouraging the jurors to return a "nullified" verdict, one that ignored the evidence against the defendant.

     On Thursday, July 5, 2012, the jury, in this difficult and unusual case, found William Lynch not guilty of felony assault and elder abuse. By this verdict, the jury sent a clear message to priests who get away with molesting boys. If as adults their victims hunt them down and beat them up, tough luck.   

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Dr. Henry Lee: Celebrity Forensic Scientist

     Dr. Henry Lee became as close to becoming a household name as any forensic scientist in U.S. history. He achieved fame in a profession whose practitioners generally operate behind the scenes. In the criminal justice field, it's usually the defense attorneys who get the headlines, and in forensic science, it's often forensic pathologists like Dr. Michael Baden and Dr. Cyril Wecht.

     In the 1930s, a pair of criminalists in the Seattle area, Oscar Heinrich and Luke May, achieved celebrity status by solving a number of celebrated murder cases. Clark Sellers, a handwriting expert from Los Angeles, made headlines with his testimony at the Lindbergh kidnapping trial in Flemington, New Jersey. In the 1960s, Dr. Paul Kirk, a forensic chemist from Berkeley, California became something of a celebrity. The peak of his notoriety came in 1995 when he analyzed crime scene blood-spatter patterns for attorney F. Lee Bailey in the infamous Dr. Sam Shepard murder case near Cleveland, Ohio.

     Dr. Henry Lee, because he rose to fame in the era of true crime television, enjoyed a level of celebrity more intense and intimate than his well-known predecessors. He made hundreds of television appearances and hosted a show on Court TV called Trace Evidence: The Case Files of Dr. Henry Lee. Dr. Lee's personality, demeanor and life story helped make him a bigger-than-life character. Like sports stars and major film and television actors, he was vain and dramatic. On the witness stand he educated jurors and as a charismatic courtroom showman entertained them. When Dr. Lee testified for the prosecution he was the defense attorney's worst nightmare. When he appeared on behalf of the defense, it was bad for the prosecutor. In either case, the media loved it, and so did the jurors.

     Dr. Henry Chang-Yu Lee was born in Rugao City, China on November 22, 1938. When Henry was four, the Chinese communists murdered his father. Two years later his family fled to Taiwan to avoid the communist revolution. After graduating from the Taiwan Central Police College in 1960 with a degree in police science, Henry jointed the Taipei Police Department. Six years later, after rising to the rank of captain, he came to the United States where, in 1972, he graduated from New York City's John Jay College of Criminal Justice with a bachelor of science degree in science. In 1974, he earned a master's degree in biochemistry from New York University. A year later he was awarded a Ph.D in biochemistry.

     In 1979, Dr. Lee became the director of the Connecticut State Police Forensic Laboratory where he also held the title of chief criminalist. Following his retirement from the lab in 2000, Dr. Lee began teaching at the University of New Haven where he founded the Henry C. Lee Forensic Institute. According to his resume, Dr. Lee had several honorary degrees, written more than 20 books (most with co-authors), published numerous scientific articles, given hundreds of speeches, investigated 4,000 homicide cases and consulted with more than 300 law enforcement agencies.

The Wood Chipper Case

     Dr. Lee vaulted onto the national stage in 1986 when an airline pilot named Richard Crafts went on trial in Connecticut for murdering his wife, Halle. Having incurred her husband's wrath by announcing her plans to divorce him, Halle Crafts had covertly audio-taped his threats to to kill her. Perhaps even more incriminating, Richard Crafts was seen by a motorist, on the night of Halle's disappearance, operating a commercial-grade wood chipper in the midst of a blizzard along the bank of the Housatonic River. The audio-tape and the wood chipper sighting led the police to suspect Mr. Crafts of murdering his wife. But investigators had a serious problem; they didn't have a corpse. Faced with one of those maddening cases of a good suspect with no physical evidence, the homicide detectives called on Dr. Lee

     In the couple's bedroom, Dr. Lee found traces of the victim's blood. When he examined a chainsaw that had been in the suspect's possession, Dr. Lee discovered hair follicles, traces of blood and tissue that he identified as the victim's. In the rented wood chipper, Dr. Lee recovered the same, and at the spot where Richard Crafts had been seen operating the equipment, he found fragments of the victim's teeth and bones, along with follicles of her hair. It wasn't much, but it was enough to establish that Halle Crafts had been murdered. From this evidence Dr. Lee was able to reconstruct the crime, theorizing that the defendant had bludgeoned his wife to death in their bedroom, frozen her body in a home freezer, cut her into pieces with the chainsaw then shoved the body parts into the wood chipper which sprayed her remains into the river.

     The jurors at Richard Crafts' trial, obviously impressed with Dr. Lee and his evidence, found the defendant guilty of first-degree murder. A few years later, while serving his life sentence, Richard Crafts confessed to murdering his wife. Featuring blood and gore, an attractive victim, a suburban killer, a dramatic trial and scientific investigation in the mold of Sherlock Holmes, the wood chipper case turned Dr. Henry Lee into a celebrity forensic scientist.

William Kennedy Smith Case

     Five years after his famous Crafts murder trial testimony, Dr. Lee took the stand on behalf of a defendant named William Kennedy Smith who was on trail for an alleged 1991 date rape that dominated the news because of the Kennedy family connection. According to the accused, following a night of drinking in Palm Beach, Florida with his accuser, the two had engaged in consensual sex on the lawn of the Kennedy family estate. Dr. Lee, to help prove that the defendant's partner had consented to sex, testified that he had found no grass stains on the woman's pantyhose, evidence one would expect to find had there been a struggle. To illustrate this point, Dr. Lee produced a grass-stained handkerchief he had rubbed against the grass in his own yard. The jury found William Kennedy Smith not guilty.

     Dr. Lee's testimony in the Kennedy case drew criticism from John Hicks, the director of the FBI Laboratory, who called it "outrageous." Hicks characterized Dr. Lee's handkerchief experiment as unscientific, and labeled the conclusions drawn from it speculative. The crime lab director pointed out that the handkerchief was not made of the same fabric as the pantyhose, and the conditions that had created the handkerchief stains did not necessarily replicate the environment at the alleged crime site. Criticism of this type--that Dr. Lee's testimony was more theater than science- followed him throughout his career.

The O. J. Simpson Case

     Dr. Lee's testimony on behalf of O. J. Simpson in 1995 did not endear him to many of his forensic science colleagues. In general, Dr. Lee's testimony in that case helped the Simpson defense in five ways. It depicted Los Angeles police detectives and crime scene technicians as incompetent; it suggested that blood evidence had been contaminated; it supported the theory that evidence against the defendant had been planted; it pushed the time of the crime forward 45 minutes which accommodated Simpson's alibi; and it laid the groundwork for the theory than Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman had been murdered by more than one person.

     On the last point, Dr. Lee's testimony contradicted the testimony of the FBI's renowned footwear identification expert, William Bodziak. Dr. Lee identified a bloody stain on an envelope and scrap of paper found in Nicole Simpson's house as a shoe print that didn't match the footwear--the Bruno Magli Italian designer shoes--prosecutors believed the defendant was wearing when he committed the murders. Mr. Bodziak testified that this bloody print had not been made by a shoe at all. Douglas Deedrich, also from the FBI Crime Lab, testified that the bloody pattern was in fact a fabric print.

     At the Simpson trial, Dr. Lee also raised the possibility that a bloodstain on Ronald Goldman's blue jeans had been made by a shoe that was not a Bruno Magli. On cross-examination, when pressed about this blood print identification, Dr. Lee said that if these patterns were footwear marks, they were not made by the Bruno Magli brand.

     Critics of Dr. Lee's testimony in the O. J. Simpson case called it an example of "blowing smoke"--a term referring to the giving of vague defense testimony intended to muddy the water in an effort to create reasonable doubt.

     After his testimony in the O. J. Simpson case, Dr. Lee was involved in dozens of celebrated cases that included the JonBenet Ramsey murder, the Scott Peterson homicide case, and the Phil Spector murder case where he was accused of removing a piece of crime scene evidence that might have incriminated the defendant.

     In 2019, the Connecticut Supreme Court ordered a new trial in the 1989 conviction of Shawn Henning and Ralph Bush. The teenagers were accused of stabbing to death 65-year-old Everett Carr. The justices found that Dr. Lee had given inaccurate testimony regarding the identification of a smear on a crime scene towel as human blood. Years later, a crime lab technician testified that the towel had never been tested for blood. Dr. Lee defended his reputation by stating that he had conducted a presumptive luminal field test on the towel that indicted the stain was blood.

     In August 2020, at 81-years-old, Dr. Henry Lee retired from practice.

     Dr. Lee's participation at various levels in so many cases involving such a variety of evidence and analysis is unusual for a forensic scientist. In forensic science he was almost a one-of-a-kind practitioner. At the core of his expertise, he was a forensic serologist, one who examines crime scene biological stains to determine their identify and origin. As a crime scene reconstruction expert, one who determines what happened at the crime site by taking into consideration all of the physical clues, Dr. Lee was also a blood-spatter analyst. As one who studies physical evidence to figure out, after the fact, what occurred at the scene of the crime, Dr. Lee analyzed all kinds of physical evidence including hair follicles, fibers, bite marks, bone fragments, brain matter, tissue, gunshot powder residue, soil, dust, pollen and other forms of trace evidence.

     Dr. Lee also studied latent footwear and fingerprint patterns and analyzed bullet trajectories. He was a generalist in a field of narrowly defined specialists. This had its appeal, and explaines why he had been able to insert himself in so many cases. It may also have been his weakness, because his expertise and knowledge, over all this forensic territory, was arguably thin. One man can only know so much. Because science and ego are a bad mix, forensic science is best conducted by behind-the-scenes people who are not worried about living up to their press clippings.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Pittsburgh's Depression Era Cops

     In the 1930s, a young man didn't get on the Pittsburgh Police force by passing a test. He got the job because he had pull--a priest he knew, a relative in uniform, or the sponsorship of a ward chairman. Most recruits had ended their schooling early, in some cases so early they couldn't read or write. Some came from neighborhoods where joining the police force was considered an act of treason. Had it not been for the Great Depression, many of these men would have found work in the mills, driving a truck or in the building trades. But when the bottom fell out of the employment market, police department jobs looked good. This was a  time when people who couldn't find work either lived off their relatives, stole, begged, or starved.

     In those days the city didn't supply its officers with the tools of the trade. A rookie had to purchase his own uniform, badge, billy club, gun and call-box key. If he planned on firing his revolver he'd have to buy his own ammunition, and if he wanted to hit what he shot at, he'd have to arrange for his own firearms training.

     One night on Pittsburgh's South Side, a rookie responding to a grocery store hold-up saw the robber running out of the place with a gun in his hand. The young cop, in fumbling with his second-hand revolver, accidentally shot the hold-up man in the shoulder. The wounded robber stopped in his tracks, dropped his gun and surrendered. But before the rookie could collect his thoughts, a pair of seasoned patrolmen come on the scene and took credit for the arrest. By stealing the pinch, the veterans got promoted to the detective bureau. The rookie got nothing but a little wiser. This was police training 1930's style.

     Every cop in Pittsburgh began his career as a substitute officer. Subs were expected to attend roll-call at the beginning of each shift--three times a day--until someone was needed to replace a regular officer who hadn't shown up for duty. A sub might report for work three times a day for weeks before getting an assignment. If a sub didn't get work he didn't get paid, and when he was assigned temporary shift duty, he was paid what the man who had called off earned. Cops who joined the force in the 1930s worked from three to six years as subs before they got on the job full time.

     A few Pittsburgh cops had German backgrounds and some were Italian, but most were Irish because the city was controlled by Irish politicians. But this western Pennsylvania mill town wasn't all Irish. The city had a thriving Chinatown as well as Polish, Russian, German and Italian neighborhoods. Most of the city's black population lived in the Hill District, a neighborhood east of the downtown business district. One of the best-known and respected foot patrolman of the era was a black officer who walked the beat on the South Side. And on the Hill, a pair of black cops in plainclothes worked vice. But black cops were never promoted, and only white officers were allowed inside a patrol car.

     During the depression, sprawling shanty-towns sprung up around the city. There was a large encampment in the woods near Tropical Avenue in the Banksville section of town. The residents of this makeshift ghetto fed and clothed themselves off a nearby garbage dump. On the fringes of downtown, homeless people the police called "cavemen" camped in caves they had dug out of the hillsides. Occasionally a caveman would drink too much moonshine and stagger into the business district where the police would scoop him up and haul him off to jail in a paddy wagon.

     A pair of devastating floods hit Pittsburgh in 1936 and 1937, and downtown, police in rowboats had to rescue customers and employees from the second story of Kaufman's Department Store. In 1936, a Pittsburgh patrolman lost his life when he slipped into the swollen Ohio River between two barges.

     In the thirties, Pittsburgh police officers directed traffic, operated the city run ambulance service, rode paddy wagons or walked a beat. There were a handful of detectives, vice cops and a few patrol car and motorcycle officers. Sergeants and lieutenants and their clerical personnel worked inside a dozen station houses throughout the city.

     In those days cops didn't carry two-way radios. They kept in touch by telephoning the station every hour or so from call-boxes situated along their beats. Patrol cars were equipped with one-way radios which meant that radio messages could be received in the car but not transmitted. To acknowledge a transmission from the radio dispatcher, one of the patrol car officers had to telephone the station from a call box.

     Since law enforcement is an around-the-clock operation, the workday was divided into three, eight-hour shifts, or "turns" as Pittsburgh cops called them. In the old days every station house had a sergeant on duty during each turn. These sergeants exercised absolute authority over the cops on the beat, and they seldom left the station except to check on a patrolman suspected of sleeping or drinking on the job. Offending patrol officers were assigned so-called "penalty beats" for thirty days. These beats were located in the remote sections of the city and involved long walks between call-boxes.

     Officers on patrol shook doors, reported in on call-boxes and handled disturbances such as barroom fights and domestic flare-ups. Downtown, cops wearing white gloves directed traffic while officers on paddy wagon duty hauled drunks, the mentally ill, tramps and prostitutes to jail. The ambulance crew picked up the sick, the old, and the injured, and carried corpses down endless flights of hillside stairways. Beat cops, besides maintaining order, rendered a variety of unofficial social services. A distraught wife could speak to a patrolman about her drunken husband and the officer might walk into the bar and yank the domestic slacker onto the street for a lecture and a warning.

     In the 1930s, Pittsburgh police officers were paid in cash. In many police households there was a difference between what the officer earned and the amount he turned over to his wife. In other words, a lot of cops skimmed a little off the top for themselves. One police officer's wife, after her husband suffered a heart attack, went to the station to pick up his pay. When she counted it out she thought they had given him a raise. A cop they called "Bullet" because he was quick to use his gun, hid a fifty-dollar bill in the barrel of his revolver. When confronted by a rabid dog, he shot his gun, and his nest egg.

     The prohibition era featured a wave of violent crime in New York and Chicago, and in Pittsburgh, three bootleggers from Stowe Township, the Volpe brothers, were gunned-down on the Hill in a St. Valentine's Day style massacre. The Volpes were murdered on the corner of Chatam and Wylie Streets by rival bootleggers from New York City.

     Pittsburgh in the 1930s had it share of whorehouses, at that time called "sporting houses," and a few of them were palatial. The most spectacular sporting house was located on the North Side where Three Rivers Stadium once sat. The police called this cluster of cathouses the "blackberry patch." The madams paid local politicians and ranking police officers for protection. One whorehouse proprietor even built a special men's room for cops on the beat. Detectives used prostitutes as confidential informants, and every so often a vice cop would arrange an illegal, whorehouse abortion for the daughter of a judge or prominent politician.

     Gamblers rolled dice in pool halls, bars, after-hour clubs and casinos. Ordinary citizens played the daily number for a nickel or a dime--a racket said to have originated in Pittsburgh by Gus Greenlee, Bill Synder and a guy named Woggie Harris. The gambling bosses paid for police protection, but every so often the cops would raid a joint to remind the racketeers what they were paying for.

     Policing in the 1930s was nothing like it is today. Cops were all male, mostly Irish, poorly educated and undertrained. There were no hiring standards and corruption was institutionalized. Because there was almost no public accountability, police brutality was simply part of the job. While the official pay was extremely low, cops made up the difference through petty graft. If a police officer could handle himself physically and kept his political fences mended, he had a job for life. For most people the depression era was a terrible time, but for cops, it was, in many ways, the best of times.    

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Aaron Schaffhausen: What Kind of Man Murders His Daughters?

     Jessica Schaffhausen and her three daughters, ages five to eleven, lived in River Falls, Wisconsin, a town of 15,000 30 miles east of the twin cities of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minnesota. The 34-year-old mother had been single six months after she and her husband of 12 years, Aaron Schaffhausen, divorced in January 2012. In March, Jessica called the police after Aaron threatened to harm one of the children. No arrest followed the complaint which was classified by the police as a "harassment incident."

     On July 5, 2012, Aaron Schaffhausen, a construction worker employed by a St. Paul company to work on projects in western North Dakota, was fired after he didn't show up for work. He was living in Minot, North Dakota.

     Just before noon on July 10, 2012, Aaron called his ex-wife who worked in St. Paul for a nonprofit agency on aging and asked if he could pay the girls a surprise visit. Amara, age eleven, eight-year-old Sophie, and Cecilia who was five, were at home in River Falls. Jessica agreed to the visit, but wanted Aaron out of the house before she got home from work.

     That afternoon, when Aaron Schaffhausen arrived at his former place of residence in the subdivision on the east side of town, the babysitter said goodbye to the girls and went home. Around four that afternoon Aaron Schaffhausen called his ex-wife and said, "You can come home now because I killed the kids."

     Jessica Schaffhausen, after receiving this horrific message, called the police. River Falls officers arrived at the scene about the time Jessica pulled up to the house. Upstairs, the officers found the three girls dead. The were tucked into their beds.

     As the officers were trying to understand what had happened to these children, Aaron showed up at the police department to turn himself in. When asked to describe what he had done, and why, the suspect refused to speak.

    The autopsies of the three victims revealed they had been murdered by what the forensic pathologist called "sharp force entry." They had been stabbed, and the five-year-old had been strangled as well.

     On July 12, 2012, the St. Croix County district attorney charged Aaron Schaffhausen with three counts of first-degree murder. Held on $2 million bond, the defendant faced a mandatory life sentence on each count. A few days after filing these charges, the district attorney appointed Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Gary Freyburg to take over the case as a special prosecutor.

     St. Croix County Circuit Judge Scott Needham, on July 24, 2012 at Mr. Schaffhausen's preliminary hearing, heard testimony from River Falls detective John Wilson who said he found a large pool of blood in one of the bedrooms where he believed the three girls had been stabbed. Officer Wilson also noted that the walls were splattered in blood. The girls were lying on their backs in their beds with their eyes wide open. The woman at the police department who had taken Jessica Schaffhausen's call that afternoon described the caller as "hysterical and hyperventilating." Following the 90-minute hearing, the judge bound the case over for trial.

     In early March 2013, Aaron Schaffhausen pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder. Although he pleaded guilty he maintained that, due to insanity, he should not be held criminally responsible for his daughters' deaths. On March 5, 2013, at the prosecutor's request, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Erik Knudson interviewed Schaffhausen for seven hours. During that session, Aaron Schaffhausen revealed that before the murders he had experienced reoccurring images in his head that featured the violent deaths of his ex-wife and children. Schaffhausen told Dr. Knudson that on two occasions he had aborted plans to murder the girls.

     After the killings, Aaron Schaffhausen, when he realized he couldn't clean up the murder scene, decided to burn down the house. In furtherance of that plan he went to the basement and poured gasoline on the floor. He didn't go through with the arson out of fear he would get trapped in the fire.

     On March 25, 2013, Aaron Schaffhausen went on trial before a jury that would decide whether or not he had been insane at the time of the murders. Dr. Erik Knudson, testifying for the prosecution, opined that the defendant's depression and alcohol dependency had no relevance to why he killed his children. According to the psychiatrist, the defendant, rather than insane, possessed an antisocial personality disorder.

     In his closing remarks to the jury following the testimony phase of the trial, Mr. Schaffhausen's attorney argued that his client suffered from a rare mental disorder rooted in his deep dependency on his ex-wife that caused him to believe the only solution to his problems involved murdering his children. The defense attorney blamed the mass murder on what a defense mental health expert had called "catathymic homicide."

     On April 13, 2013, the jury found the defendant guilty. Notwithstanding Schaffhausen's mental defects, the jurors wanted this man held criminally accountable for the murders. The jurors obviously believed that Schaffhausn, at the time of the killings, knew what he was doing and that what he was doing was wrong.

     Judge Scott Needham, on July 15, 2013, sentenced  Aaron Schaffhausen to three consecutive life sentences. Because of the nature of his murders, prison authorities were faced with the likelihood that this prisoner's life would be under constant threat from other inmates.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Bite Mark Identification in the Ted Bundy Serial Murder Case

     The identification of bruises or abrasions usually in the shape of two semi-circles or brackets as a human bite mark made by a particular set of teeth, is a function of forensic dentistry referred to as bite mark identification. This form of impression identification, also called forensic odontology, is based on the assumption that no two people in the world have front teeth that are identical in thickness, shape, relationship to each other and patterns of wear.

     The process of comparing a bite mark to a known set of teeth is not unlike the identification of latent fingerprint, footwear and tire track impressions. Bite mark wounds are found on victims of murder, rape, and child molestation. This type of crime scene evidence is preserved by life-size photography, tooth mark tracings onto transparent sheets and dental casts of the impressions themselves. A suspect might be asked to bite down on a pliable surface for an impression sample, have a cast made of his teeth, or both. Usually, connecting a suspect to a victim through expert bite mark testimony will be enough evidence, by itself, to sustain a criminal conviction. For this reason bite mark evidence must be 100 percent reliable. Unfortunately, it is not even close to that.

     The field of bite mark identification exploded in the 1980s. Hundreds, if not thousands of defendants went to prison on the strength of bite mark testimony. Although bite mark identification has been a recognized branch of forensic science since 1970, it was the 1979 trial of serial killer Ted Bundy in south Florida that put this form of identification on the map the way the O. J. Simpson murder case popularized DNA profiling in the mid-1990s.

The Ted Bundy Serial Murder Case

     After killing 30 to 100 college-aged women in the states of Washington, Utah and Colorado, Theodore Bundy entered a Florida State University sorority house in Tallahassee where he sexually assaulted and murdered two Chi Omega sorority members. The police arrested him a short time later in a stolen car, then put him on trial for murder.

     The prosecutor had plenty of nonphysical evidence against Bundy, but it was circumstantial and didn't place him in the Chi Omega murder room. The killer had left a hair follicle on a crime scene stocking mask that looked similar under a microscope to samples from Bundy's head. But hair identification wasn't enough by itself to carry a conviction. The rapist had left traces of semen, but these murders were committed more than ten years before the dawn of DNA analysis.

     If the Dade County prosecutor had any chance of convicting Ted Bundy, he would have to connect him to the murder scene through a bite mark wound on one of the victims. To do that, the prosecutor called on Dr. Richard Souviron, the chief odontologist for the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner's Office. He also enlisted the services of Dr. Lowell J. Levine, a forensic dentistry consultant to the New York City Medical Examiner's Office. To round out his battery of experts, the prosecutor brought in Dr. Norman Sperber, an odontologist with the San Diego and Imperial County Medical Examiner's Office in California. These three forensic experts comprised the nation's most renowned bite mark analysts.

     Dr. Souviron took the stand and testified that the sorority house attacker had left a postmortem double-bite mark on one victim's left buttock. He had bitten once, turned sideways, them clamped down again. The killer's top bicuspids and his lateral and central incisors had remained in the same position, but he had made two wound brackets with his lower front teeth. When he photographed Ted Bundy's teeth, Dr. Souviron noticed they were of uneven length, chipped and oddly aligned, factors that helped individualize the defendant's bite mark pattern. To illustrate for the jury that Mr. Bundy's teeth matched the murder scene wound, Dr. Sourviron laid a photograph of the defendant's teeth, depicted on a transparent sheet, over an enlarged photograph of the bite mark. The bottom edges of Bundy's teeth lined up perfectly with the crime scene wound.

     Dr. Norman Sperber and Dr. Lowell Levine took the strand and lent their expertise to the identification. Bundy, representing himself, brought in his own dental expert, an odontologist from Maryland who testified that "the dental pattern [bite mark] is one I'd expect to find in 20 percent of the population of male Caucasians." The defense expert didn't say the bite mark on the victim couldn't have been Bundy's, he just wasn't willing to identify the wound as coming from the defendant to the exclusion of all others.

     The jury found Ted Bundy guilty as charged. The judge sentenced him to death, and ten years later, Bundy was executed. Before his execution he confessed to the sorority house killings and dozens of other lust murders.

     The Ted Bundy case established the credibility and usefulness of forensic bite mark analysis, and for a while placed it on the same level, in terms of reliability, as latent fingerprint identification. But following a series of high-profile misidentifications in bite mark cases, this form of impression analysis was no longer considered as reliable as latent fingerprint identification. Today, in most states, odontologists are not allowed, by law, to state unequivocally that a defendant is the source of a bite mark. The most these experts can say is that the questioned bite mark is consistent with having been made by the defendant's teeth. 

The Child Porn Preacher and Puppeteer

     In 1992, puppeteer Ronald Wilson Brown started his entertainment enterprise, Puppets Plus. Mr. Brown performed with his hand-puppets for children at shopping malls, schools, churches and birthday parties throughout the Tampa Bay area. Beginning in 1997, Ronald Brown, through his so-called Kid Zone Ministry, hosted weekly gatherings at the Gulf Coast Church in his hometown of Largo, Florida. He also worked for the Christian Television Network, using his puppets to warn kids against viewing pornography. 

     The puppeteer, a resident of the Whispering Pines mobile home park in Largo, regularly invited neighborhood boys and girls between the ages 5 and 12 to his trailer for pizza and candy. (Brown lived in an area populated by young families as evidenced by all the playgrounds near his home.)  He was also Facebook friends with several of the local kids who knew him as the "Cotton Candy Man." The neighborhood comprised an excellent hunting ground for a pedophile.

     In 1998, when a police officer pulled Brown over for a traffic violation, the cop noticed several pairs of boys' underwear in the car. When asked why he had children's undergarments in his vehicle, Brown explained that the clothing belonged to his puppets. Whether or not the officer bought Brown's story, nothing came of the traffic cop's observation.

     In 2012, agents with the Department of Homeland Security were conducting an international child pornography investigation that led to 40 arrests in six countries. The child pornography ring, headquartered in Massachusetts, centered around an online chat room where sexual degenerates from around the world could communicate with each other. Ronald Brown, the 57-year-old puppeteer from Largo, Florida, was a regular presence on the pedophile site.

     In one conversation with a man from Kansas named Michael Arnett, Brown wrote that he wanted to kidnap a child, tie him up, lock him in a closet then eat him for Easter dinner. "I imagine him wiggling and then going still," he wrote. Brown also mentioned a female toddler he knew who made his mouth water, describing how human flesh tastes when prepared in various ways. Michael Arnett sent Brown a photograph of a strangled 3-year-old girl. Turned on by the sight of a dead toddler, Brown replied that this was how he'd "do" the young boy he wanted to kill and consume.

     On July 19, 2012, Homeland Security agents, pursuant to a search of the puppeteer's Largo mobile home, seized CDs, DVDs, thumb drives, micro disks and VHS tapes containing images of nude children in bondage positions. Some of the youngsters had been posed as though they were dead.

     The day following the search, federal officers took Ronald Brown into custody. When interrogated he identified the boy he said he wanted to kidnap and eat as a 10-year-old he knew from church. Ronald Brown referred to his Internet musings as being "in the realm of fantasy."

     On July 24, 2012, at Ronald Brown's arraignment, the Assistant United States Attorney informed the defendant he had been charged with conspiracy to kidnap a child and possession of child pornography. The judge set a date in August 2012 for Brown's bond hearing. Two days later, federal agents and deputies with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office returned to Brown's mobile home where they removed more evidence from the dwelling. Agents and deputies walked out of the place carrying boxes and bags of additional evidence.

     In July 2013, following his guilty plea in federal court, the judge sentenced Ronald Brown to twenty years behind bars. The sentence also included probation for life.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Danford Grant Massage Parlor Rape Case

     In 2011, 47-year-old Danford Grant and his wife Jennifer lived in the Seattle suburb of Auburn, Washington with their 5-year-old son, 8-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old boy from Mr. Grant's former marriage. A graduate of the University of Washington School of Law, Mr. Grant was a litigation partner at Bailey Grant and Onsanger, a prestigious Seattle law firm. Attorney Grant had handled appeals before the Washington State Supreme Court and the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Years earlier he had been a King County prosecutor.

     Grant's 38-year-old wife Jennifer, an attorney herself, worked in the Seattle City Attorney's Office as a supervisor. She had worked in that office since the mid-1990s. To the casual observer these successful attorneys living in the big, upscale house with their beautiful children represented the American dream come true.

     As is often the case, superficial appearances can be misleading. It seemed that Danford Grant had a problem controlling his sexual urges around women. Because of his unwanted sexual advances, female paralegal employees at the law firm had nicknamed him "Dirty Dan." And this wasn't the worst of it.

     Early in 2011, using the last name Hunter, Danford Grant received a massage from a 45-year-old Asian masseuse in Bellevue, Washington. After the massage Mr. Grant grabbed the woman and told her to remove her pants. When she refused and broke down in tears he left the parlor.

      Mr. Grant purchased a massage in June 2011 at the Carnation Chinese Massage Clinic in Greenwood, Washington. He grabbed the masseuse and had a condom in his hand when a noise from the hallway outside the room ended the assault. The victim of the attempted rape quit her job at the Greenwood parlor and opened a massage operation out of her home in Shoreline, Washington.

     On August 19, 2012, Grant had an appointment under the name Pete with the Asian masseuse he had tried to rape in Greenwood. When she cracked her front door in response to his knock she immediately recognized him as the man who had tried to assault her at her previous place of employment. Before the masseuse could close the door he pushed his way into her house and raped her.

     On August 28, 2012, the attorney returned to the massage clinic in Bellevue where he raped the 45-year-old masseuse at knife point. After the assault the victim realized this was the Mr. Hunter who had tried to rape her in early 2011.

     Not long after the Bellevue attack, Danford Grant raped a massage clinic cashier in Seattle. He attacked the woman in his Honda Pilot after identifying himself as a police officer.

     Danford Grant, at 9:30 on the night of Monday, September 24, 2012, returned to the massage clinic in Greenwood where, after the message, he pulled out a pocket knife and demanded sex with the Asian masseuse. She said she'd go along if he put away the knife then informed him that she had HIV. To that he replied, "Me too." He then slipped on a condom and raped the victim.

     After the September 24 sexual assault, employees of the massage parlor called the police. Later that night, Danford Grant returned to the clinic. When employees tried to detain him, he fled on foot. Just after midnight on September 25, 2012, police officers arrested Grant and booked him into the King County Jail.

     King County prosecutor Valiant L. Richey, on September 28, 2012, formally charged the prominent Seattle attorney with four counts of first-degree rape and several lesser offenses. The judge set Grant's bail at $3 million.

     In October 2012, Danford Grant posted his reduced bail and was confined to house arrest. Four weeks after the Greenwood massage clinic rape, detectives located the suspect's missing Honda Pilot. They found it parked in the garage of Jennifer Grant's aunt. (He had raped the massage clinic cashier in Seattle in this SUV.)

     The day after her husband's arrest, Jennifer Grant and her aunt had moved Danford's SUV from where it had been parked near the massage parlor in Greenwood to the aunt's house in Auburn. Jennifer insisted that she had moved the vehicle at the direction of her husband's attorney, David Allen. She denied intentionally hiding potential evidence against her husband from the police.

     Inside the rape suspect's SUV, searchers found a realistic looking pellet gun, a cell phone, an iPad, a laptop computer, a black stocking cap and a bottle of Cialis.

     In November 2012, Jennifer Grant filed a petition for legal separation from her husband. The couple remained married but would divide their assets and debts. Danford Grant, under the terms of the separation would be liable for child support. After six months the couple could ask the family court judge to convert the separation into a divorce.

     On March 6, 2013, The Seattle Times reported that investigators recovered the September 24, 2012 rape victim's DNA from Danford Grant's underwear. One of the suspect's attorneys, Richard Hasen, told the reporter that, "Much of the DNA evidence actually favors the defense." The defense attorney acknowledged that his client had been a regular customer at several Asian massage parlors where he had been a problem client. "But that doesn't mean he was raping everyone there," said Hasen.

     On June 2013, Jennifer Grant resigned from her position in the Seattle City Attorney's Office. The Danford Grant rape trial was scheduled for the spring of 2014. If convicted as charged, the once prominent attorney could be sent to prison for up to 45 years.

     On May 7, 2014, Danford Grant pleaded guilty to five counts of third-degree rape and one count of first-degree burglary. On May 19, 2914, the King County Superior Court Judge sentenced him to 25 years in prison. The day after the sentencing, officers transported Grant to the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton where they placed him in the "intensive management unit," an area segregated from the general prison population. Danford Grant, for his own protection, would spend 23 hours a day in a one-man cell.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The Ronald Samuels Murder-For-Hire Case

     In 1993, Heather Samuels, after five years of marriage to Ronald Samuels, a Pensacola, Florida car dealer who sold drugs and ran with other women, left him and returned to her parent's home in Minnesota. The six-foot-four inch, burly Brooklyn born husband who was eighteen years older than his 26-year-old wife, immediately moved his girlfriend into the Samuels' house.

     A year later the Samuels divorce became final. A Santa Rosa County judge awarded custody of the ex-couple's three children to Heather and ordered Ronald to pay her $3,000 a month in child support. Ronald, already angry over the fact he had wasted thousands of dollars in attorney's fees fighting the divorce, vowed to fight the child support order. He was not going to allow his ex-wife to raise the children, at his expense, in Minnesota.

     In 1995, Ronald Samuels married Deborah Love, the woman who had moved into the house in Pensacola following his separation from Heather. Samuels' resentment over the child custody situation turned to wrath in June 1997 when Heather married John Grossman, the son of Bud Grossman, the former part owner of the National Football League's Minnesota Vikings. Heather, the children and her new husband, the heir to a multi-million dollar estate, moved from Minnesota to Boca Raton, Florida.

     With his ex-wife and her new husband living in south Florida, Ronald Samuels decided it was now possible to have them both murdered.

     After the divorce Ronald Samuels sold his Toyota car dealership. He was now making his living selling cocaine, the proceeds of which he deposited in a bank in the Cayman Islands. In September 1997, Samuels paid Hugh Estes, a 50-year-old cocaine addict, $5,000 to arrange the double murder. Samuels told the former insurance company employee that his ex-wife was a gold-digger who had cheated on him before their divorce. Her new husband, John Grossman, had to be killed because he was abusing the children.

     Hugh Estes, instead of using the hit money to buy a weapon and recruit an assassin, went on a cocaine binge. This forced Ronald Samuels to ask Geoffrey Pollock, another drug addict, for help. A week later, at a Denny's Restaurant, Pollock introduced Samuels to Eddie "Slim" Stafford, a third cocaine junkie who said he had found a trigger man, a former Army marksman named Roger Runyon. Eddie Stafford assured Samuels that Runyon was a competent cold-blooded killer who would murder the ex-wife and her husband.

     At the Denny's meeting Ronald Samuels provided Roger Runyon with murder-for-hire intelligence that included photographs of the targets, their address, a description of their cars and an outline of their daily routines. Samuels' murder-for-hire team consisted of three drug-addled accomplices and a man he had just met who claimed to have been in the Army. The mastermind agreed to pay the accomplices in cocaine. Roger Runyon was paid $5,000 down and promised $20,000 when he completed the job.

     Late in the afternoon of October 14, 1997, as John and Heather Grossman sat at a traffic light in Boca Raton, Florida, Eddie "Slim" Stafford pulled up alongside the couple in Hugh Estes' 1996 green Ford Thunderbird. From the back seat of the Ford, Roger Runyon fired two rifle bullets into the Grossman vehicle. The first slug grazed John Grossman's chin, the second severed Heather Grossman's spine, paralyzing her for life.

     Ronald Samuel's hit team had bungled the job. The targets were still alive and the murder-for-hire mastermind instantly became the prime suspect in the attempted murders.

     The victims told investigators that they were certain that Ronald Samuels was behind the ambush. Shortly after the shooting, detectives traced the Ford Thunderbird to Hugh Estes who immediately gave up Stafford and Runyon. The accomplice and the hit man, in return for immunity, identified Ronald Samuels as the brains behind the botched murder plot.

     In May 1998, the drug addicts and the failed hit man appeared before a grand jury which promptly indicted Ronald Samuels on charges of attempted murder, solicitation of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

     Samuels, who had divorced his second wife Deborah, fled to Mexico to avoid arrest. In 1999, the police in the state of Neueno Leon caught Samuels in possession of thirteen pounds of cocaine. Tried and found guilty, he was sentenced to five years in prison. In 2004, when Samuels walked out of the Mexican lockup, a pair of United States Marshals took him into custody on charges related to passport fraud. The officers transported Mr. Samuels to New Orleans where he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison on the fraud case.

     Heather and John Grossman were divorced in 2003. She moved back in with her parents who had moved from Minnesota to Phoenix, Arizona. In February 2005, after serving his federal prison sentence in Louisiana, the authorities extradited Ronald Samuels to Palm Beach, Florida where he was scheduled to be tried on the Grossman attempted murder charges. Before the trial got underway in October 2006, John Grossman died of a heart attack. He was 55.

     The prosecutor in West Palm Beach offered Ronald Samuels a deal in return for his guilty plea. Samuels rejected the offer and the case went to trial. The government's key witnesses included accomplices Geoffrey Pollock, Hugh Estes, Eddie Stafford and the hit man, Roger Runyon. Heather, seated in a wheelchair and breathing with the help of a ventilator, took the stand as well. Ronald Samuel's second wife, Deborah, testified that the defendant really didn't care about his children. He simply didn't like paying child support to a woman he considered a gold-digger. The defendant's second wife described him as a man with a bad temper who threw a fit whenever he didn't get what he wanted.

     The Samuels defense centered around the idea that Roger Runyon and his three helpers were dregs of society without any credibility. The defense attorney portrayed his client as a victim of a wealthy and influential family's revenge for a crime that he did not commit. Against the advice of his attorney, Samuels took the stand and testified on his own behalf. Coming off as arrogant and hostile, he did not make a sympathetic witness. On October 31, 2006 the jury found the defendant guilty on all counts. The next day the judge sentenced Samuels to life in prison plus 120 years.

     Ronald Samuels and his drug-addled murder-for-hire team were stupid and sociopathic. The prosecutor, to convict Ronald Samuels, gave Roger Runyon, Hugh Estes, Eddie Stafford and Geoffrey Pollock no prison time. In the world of murder-for-hire prosecutions this is what passes for prosecutorial success and justice.

Monday, August 15, 2022

The Professor Kirk Nesset Child Pornography Case

     Dr. Kirk Nesset taught contemporary literature at Allegheny College, a small liberal arts school located in Meadville, a western Pennsylvania town about 90 miles north of Pittsburgh. In 2007, the then 49-year-old professor won the Heinz Literature Prize awarded by the University of Pennsylvania for his short story collection, Paradise Road. In addition to literary prestige the award came with a $15,000 cash prize.

     In August 2014, in Arizona where Professor Nesset had a second home in Prescott, a sex offense investigator working undercover traced two child pornographic movies to Nesset's computer billing address in Meadville. The films depicted two 8-year-old girls having sex with men. A month after this discovery, a detective with the Pennsylvania State Police found another pornographic film Nesset had purchased online. This movie featured a naked girl who was about six.

     In September 2014, FBI agents and officers with the Pennsylvania State Police, pursuant to a search warrant, took Professor Nesset's hard-drive from his home in Meadville. Over the next several days forensic computer experts found, on his computer, 540,000 images of children. While not all of the images were pornographic, at least 36,000 of them featured erotica or photographs depicting female child sexual molestation. One of the professor's computer files contained more than 1,000 images and movies depicting babies. In one film, a man had sex with an infant during a diaper change.

     Professor Nesset's computer revealed that he had been collecting child pornography since November 2005. 

     A federal prosecutor in Erie, Pennsylvania, on October 1, 2014, charged Kirk Nesset with possessing, receiving, and distributing child pornography. FBI agents and officers with the state police booked him into the Crawford County Jail on the federal charges.

     At Nesset's arraignment, the federal magistrate released him on a $10,000 unsecured bond. As a condition of his release, the suspect was required to wear an electronic monitoring device. Shortly after posting his bail, the 57-year-old resigned from Allegheny College. Classes at the school were cancelled for a day during which time students could seek counseling.

     When questioned by FBI agents, Kirk Nesset said his massive child pornography collection allowed him to "release steam." He also explained that looking at child pornography gave him "solace." He said his sexual viewing preference involved girls 10 to 13-years-old.

     Professor Joe Tompkins, Assistant Professor of Communication Arts at Allegheny College, in an October 4, 2014 opinion piece in The Campus, the school newspaper, wrote the following regarding what he considered the school's over-reaction to the Nesset case: "We should ask ourselves, are there "sexual predators" simply outside the realm of civilized behavior, or are they actually over-conforming to the cultural norms--norms that result in all too frequent incidents of not only child porn, but related instances of pornographic media, male violence and sexual assault against women?  Indeed, we're fooling ourselves to think these are completely unrelated matters…." 

     An Allegheny student, in response to Professor Tompkins' article, wrote: "I completely agree that pornography is a more overt extension of the way women are implicitly abused by our androcentric culture, and I agree that culture is largely to blame. I agree that largely, Kirk Nesset is being dehumanized as a fluke in our community, instead of a product of the culture…."

     This academic drivel from an ivory tower egghead and a liberal arts student; that it's society's fault that a 57-year-old man gained "solace" from watching men have sex with infants, reflects what American higher education had devolved to.

     Enjoying child pornography is criminally deviant behavior, and purchasing it is not a victimless crime. Children were being horribly abused because of people with Mr. Kirk Nesset's sexual appetite.

     On April 6, 2015, at the U.S. District Courthouse in Erie, Pennsylvania, the former college professor pleaded guilty to one count each of possessing, receiving and distributing child pornography. At his sentencing hearing scheduled for August 10, 2015, Nesset faced five to forty years in prison. Because he cooperated with the authorities and pleaded guilty, his attorney hoped the judge would hand down a light sentence.

     In July 2015, federal judge David Cercone postponed Nesset's sentencing to October 5, 2015 in order that his supporters could attend the hearing. (Only in academia would a person like Kirk Nesset have supporters.) Following a second sentencing postponement, the judge, on February 8, 2016, sent the former professor to prison for six years and four months.

     In December 2016, eight of the children depicted in Nesset's internet porn collection filed suit against the former professor in federal court. The plaintiffs, identified by pseudonyms, sought $150,000 apiece plus compensatory and punitive damages.

     In October 2018, the former creative writing teacher settled the lawsuits against him. The terms of the settlements were not disclosed. Kirk Nesset served his time at the Federal Correctional Institution at Lompoc, California located near Santa Barbara.

The Brittany Norwood Murder Case

     In some cases, when it comes to predicting who is capable of committing murder, you can't tell the book by its cover. This is particularly true in a murder committed in 2011 by a 29-year-old woman named Brittany Norwood.

     Norwood played high school soccer in Kent, her hometown outside of Seattle, Washington. She continued her career as an athlete at Stony Brook University on Long Island. At Stony Brook, her soccer teammates accused the 5 foot, 120 pound player of stealing cash from them. A member of the team reported the thefts to the coach who chose to ignore the allegations.

     In 2011, Brittany Norwood worked as a sales clerk at a downtown Bethesda, Maryland store called Lululemon Athletica where upper-middle class customers bought $98 yoga pants and $58 running shirts. Jayna Murray, a 30-year-old graduate student at John Hopkins University worked in the store with Norwood. Although the two young women were not close friends, they worked well as a sales clerk team.

     At 9 P.M., March 11, 2011, the two Lululemon clerks closed the doors to the public and began shutting down the shop for the night. Forty-five minutes later, pursuant to one of the retail chain's anti-employee theft measures, Jayna and Brittany checked each other's handbags for un-purchased store merchandise. This led to Jayna's discovery of a pair of yoga pants in Brittany's purse. As they walked out the door Jayna told her fellow employee that she would have to report the attempted theft to the store manager.

     On her walk to the Metro station, Brittany, as a ruse to get Jayna back into the store where she could talk her out of reporting the incident, phoned Jayna to tell her that she had left her wallet in the shop. Since Jayna possessed the key to the store, the two clerks headed back to Lululemon.

     As soon as Brittany and Jayna re-entered the store at 10:05, Brittany Norwood made her pitch. But it was to no avail, Jayna had already called the store manager. There was nothing she could do. This infuriated Norwood and led to a shouting match overheard by employees of a nearby Apple store. The screaming and shouting turned violent when Norwood picked up a heavy metal rod used to support a mannequin and bludgeoned Jayna in the back of the head, crushing her skull. As Jayna staggered toward the store's rear exit, Norwood beat her with a hammer then picked up a knife and repeatedly stabbed her.

     Norwood's assault lasted six minutes and produced 332 wounds on the dying victim that included a severed spinal cord and 83 defensive injuries.

     In an effort to make the murder look like a violent store invasion, Brittany Norwood tossed mops, brooms and chairs around the shop, used a pair size 12 Reebok sneakers to track bloody shoe prints about the crime scene, and inflicted minor injuries on herself. She then bound her own hands and feet with pieces of rope and waited overnight on the restroom floor. The next morning the store manager found Jayna Murray dead in the back hallway and Brittany Norwood in the bathroom tied up and moaning.

     On the morning after the murder, from her hospital bed, Norwood told detectives that two intruders in ski-masks had attacked her and killed Jayna. According to Norwood, one of the attackers, a white man making racial slurs (Norwood was black), threatened to cut her throat if she resisted. "It was my fault because I left my wallet," she said.

     From the beginning detectives had problems fitting the crime scene evidence to Norwood's story. Six days after the crime, the prosecutor charged Brittany Norwood with first-degree murder. Under Maryland law, first-degree, premeditated murder carried a sentence of life without parole. Second-degree murder, on the other hand, involved a sentence of 30 years maximum with a chance of parole after 15 years. Although the defendant didn't make a full confession, she did not maintain her innocence. Her attorney's defense consisted of the argument that the killing was spontaneous, making it second-degree murder.

     Norwood's trial, held in the Montgomery County court, got underway in November 2011 and lasted six days. The defense attorney didn't put on a single witness, relying instead on his closing statement to the jury. His client was not, he told jurors, "in a right state of mind" when she attacked the victim. The murder, he said, "was the product of an explosion."

     The jury didn't buy the defense theory of the case, and after deliberating less than an hour, returned with their verdict: they found Norwood guilty of  first-degree murder. This meant the sobbing defendant would spend the rest of her life behind bars with no hope of parole.