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Monday, September 26, 2022

Ethel Anderson: The Unrepentant Child Molester

     In 2011, Ethel Anderson, a 29-year-old teacher at the Mango Elementary School in suburban Seffner, Florida outside of Tampa, resided in Riverside with her husband and 5-year-old daughter. Anderson had recently been named the Diversity School Teacher of the Year.

     In December 2011, Teacher of the Year Anderson began tutoring a 12-year-old math student in her home. Over the next three months, she and the boy exchanged 230 pages of test messages in which she described, in vivid language, her lust for the child. Anderson also expressed her anxiety over feeling unattractive because of her weight. In these exchanges, the boy used the name Dirty Dan. No one reading this material would have guessed that Dirty Dan was a 12-year-old kid communicating with one of his public school teachers. The online exchange between teacher and student, while a bit puerile, was pretty raunchy.

     In February 2012, the teacher-student affair ended following a spat. The angry kid got his revenge by telling his mom everything. It's hard to imagine what was went through the mother's mind when her son described receiving oral sex from a woman paid to teach him math. The couple, according to the boy, also simulated various sexual acts while fully clothed. The boy's tutor also fondled him.

     The mother, perhaps worried that school officials and police officers would take the teacher's word over her son's, confronted Anderson before alerting the authorities. During that meeting, the teacher admitted having an inappropriate relationship with the boy. The student's mom, having clandestinely audio-taped the conversation, went to the police with the evidence. 

     Hillsborough County Assistant State Attorney Rita Peters, in March 2012, charged Ethel Anderson with nine counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child. Each count carried a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Following the teacher's arrest, the school suspended her without pay. Eight months later, Ethel Anderson resigned.

     The child molestation trial got underway in Tampa on September 18, 2013. The boy, now 14, took the stand for the prosecution. "I felt she was like my real girlfriend," he said. "She said I was her boyfriend and she loved me. I was thinking, 'I'm living a guy's dream...dating my teacher.' "

     According to the young prosecution witness, Anderson told him she planned to leave her husband because he wasn't a good father and didn't communicate with her. As time went on, however, the student began having doubts about the relationship. "I'm dating a girl I'm in love with and she thinks of me as a kid. It didn't feel right."

     On the third and final day of the trial, defense attorney William Knight, in a bold move, put his client on the stand. Rather than plead some kind of emotional breakdown, drinking problem or addiction to drugs, the former school teacher denied having physical contact with the boy, essentially calling him a liar. Claiming that the 12-year-old had tried to instigate a sexual relationship, Anderson said, "He attempted, at one point, to grab me in an inappropriate manner. He attempted to kiss me and I pushed him off."

     Regarding her sexually vivid text messages, the defendant said they were nothing more than "sexual therapy" tools to get the boy to focus on his studies. "I recognize it was explicit and inappropriate, but it was all fantasy," she said. "He was going through puberty. He couldn't connect with his family. He was always thinking sexually. My purpose was to get his attention."

     Prosecutor Peters, in a blistering cross-examination of the defendant, asked, "You want the jury to believe that you were in fantasyland to help the boy? Was that part of your training as a teacher? So by giving in to these sexual fantasies he did better in school?"

     "Sometimes, yes," Anderson replied.

     Defense attorney Knight, in his closing remarks to the jury, pointed out that the prosecution had not presented one piece of physical evidence proving any kind of sexual contact between his client and the student.

     When it came her turn to address the jury, the prosecutor called the former teacher's attempt to explain herself "remarkable," and "amazing in its audacity." The state attorney told the jurors that "everything the defendant told you defies logic and common sense."

     On December 19, 2013, following the guilty verdict, Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe, calling Ethel Anderson a parent's worst nightmare, sentenced the former teacher to 38 years in prison. 
     In hindsight, this defendant should have pleaded guilty in return for a lesser sentence. She rolled the dice and lost.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Teacher Lee Riddle: "Cup Checks" at Widefield High

     In 2009, Lee Riddle, a 25-year-old graduate of the University of Michigan, began teaching German at Widefield High School outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado. By all accounts he was a popular and outstanding teacher with a spotless record at the school. But in November 2013, Mr. Riddle lost his good name and his career as well.

     On November 15, 2013, the El Paso County (Colorado) Sheriff's Office received a tip that the 29-year-old teacher had made inappropriate physical contact with several male students ages 15 to 17. One of the complaints involved the teacher grabbing boys between the legs in what the teacher called "cup checks." (Cup check refers to the procedure used to verify the appropriate installation of protective athletic gear for the groin area.)

     The principal of Widefield High placed Mr. Riddle, who denied the allegations, on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.

     On November 18 and 19, 2013, investigators with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office questioned several of Mr. Riddle's male students. All of the boys said they had experienced such classroom encounters with the teacher, behavior that put Mr. Riddle in an extremely bad light.

     According to investigators, the suspect had "cup checked" several students, pinched one boy's nipple and called him "Cutie," spoke graphically to students about gay sex, showed sexually explicit cellphone photographs, and while giving one boy a ride home, asked him if he were bisexual.

     On November 20, 2013, an El Paso County prosecutor charged Lee Riddle with 18 counts of sexual assault on a child under 18 by a person of trust. The suspect pleaded not guilty to all counts. The judge set his bail at $25,000.

     Mr. Riddle's trial got underway in August 2014 in Colorado Springs. A week later, the jury found the defendant guilty of all charges. School officials immediately fired him.

     At Riddle's sentencing hearing in November 2014, the judge, before handing down the sentence, noted that the convicted man didn't appreciate the seriousness of his crimes due to the fact that none of the boys had been physically injured. The judge, noting the seriousness of these offenses, sentenced the 31-year-old former teacher to an indeterminate sentence that would keep him behind bars for a minimum of eight years.

     Compared to many lesser sentences given to rapists and pedophiles, this sentence seemed a bit harsh.  

The First American Executed by Gas

     On February 8, 1924, a Chinese immigrant named Gee Jon became the first person in America executed by cyanide gas. He died in the gas chamber inside the Nevada State Prison in Carson City. Over time, eleven states adopted the cyanide chamber as the official method of execution. From 1924 to 1999, 594 persons died in these gas chambers. In 1960, asphyxiation executioners in California killed a man named Caryl Chessman. He perished in the cyanide room for the crimes of kidnapping and rape. He is the only person in U.S. history to be executed for a crime other than murder. The gas chamber, compared to the rope, the firing squad, the electric chair and lethal drugs, is the cruelest way to dispatch murderers. Death by cyanide took between six and eighteen agonizing minutes, and for those witnessing the execution, it produced  a gruesome tableau. It was the only form of capital punishment that required the condemned man to contribute to his death by breathing within a chamber filled with cyanide gas.

The Michelle Boyer Double Murder-Suicide Case

     In 2014, 40-year-old Jonathan Masin, an employee of Texas Instruments, broke up with Michelle Boyer, a fellow employee at the corporation. Three years earlier, Michelle Boyer and her husband, Charles Hobbs, were divorced. The 45-year-old Boyer lived in a house in Dallas not far from her ex-husband's place.

     Jonathan Masin, a resident of Murphy, a quiet suburban community northeast of Dallas, had left Boyer for a 38-year-old woman named Amy Picchiotti. Amy, a physical trainer, had left Larry Picchiotti, her husband of seven years, in March 2014. Amy, the mother of two young girls, moved in with Masin.

     Michelle Boyer reacted with anger when Masin left her for another woman, a person she had considered a friend. She made her feelings known by sending her former boyfriend threatening emails and text messages.

     At eight in the morning of Saturday, May 10, 2014, Jonathan Masin's father, concerned about his son, called the local police department and requested a welfare check at his house in Murphy.

     Inside the dwelling, in separate rooms, officers found the bodies of Amy Picchiotti and Jonathan Masin. The partially clothed, barefooted couple had been shot to death with a handgun. Neighbors later told the police they had heard what might have been gunshots at 6:30 that morning.

     In Dallas, thirteen miles from the murder scene, police officers came upon Michelle Boyer's SUV parked on the street in front of her ex-husband's house. They found her slumped behind the wheel with a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. The suicide gun matched the caliber of the firearm used to murder Picchiotti and Masin.

     Inside the vehicle, officers recovered a suicide note that described the double murder in Murphy. According to one of Boyer's friends, she felt that Amy Picchiotti had stolen Jonathan Masin from her. The jilted woman felt betrayed and extremely angry. While the authorities did not release the text of the suicide note, the motive behind the double murder presumably involved revenge.

     The longtime Murphy city manager, James Fisher, told reporters there hadn't been a criminal homicide in this community as long as he could remember.  

Saturday, September 24, 2022

The Michael Curry Murder Case

     At 5:30 in the evening on August 29, 1985, Michael L. Curry called the Columbus, Georgia Police Department and reported that someone had entered his home while he was at work and murdered his pregnant wife and his two children.

     At the gory murder scene, police discovered that 26-year-old Ann Curry, her four-year-old daughter Erika and 20-month-old Ryan had been bludgeoned to death with an axe. The murder weapon, taken from its place of storage in the family garage, was lying next to Ann Curry's body. Detectives noticed that Michael Curry didn't have any of the crime scene blood on him, suggesting that he hadn't checked to see if any of his family members were still alive. Investigators also found it unusual that Curry had called the police department directly instead of 911.

     Other features of the murder scene bothered investigators. Someone had broken a small glass window near a back door secured by an interior deadbolt lock. The broken window was consistent with an intruder reaching in and unlocking the door. But the window had been smashed from the inside of the house and the door was still locked. If the Curry family had been murdered by an intruder or intruders, how did they get in, and what was their motive? Nothing had been stolen from the house, drawers and closets had not been rifled through and Ann Curry had not been sexually assaulted. If intruders had come to the dwelling to kill Ann Curry and her children, why didn't they bring their own murder weapons? (Later, crime lab personnel found no blood or bloody fingerprints on the axe. The killer had obviously sanitized the weapon.) Was this triple murder a crime of passion or a planned, cold-blooded execution?

      When questioned by the police, Michael Curry said he had left his place of employment at 9:40 that morning to buy a small fan for his office. At 12:55 (according to the retail receipt) he purchased the item at a K-Mart store before returning to his office at 1:10 in the afternoon. He remained in his office until quitting time then drove home, arriving at his house shortly before 5:30 in the evening.

     In tracing the activities of Mrs. Curry and the children on the day of their deaths, investigators learned they had shopped that morning at a Sears store. After visiting her parents in Columbus, Ann headed home, arriving there at 12:37 PM. If Michael Curry had slaughtered his family he had committed the murders between 12:37 and 12:55 PM, an 18-minute window of opportunity.

     Looking into Michael Curry's recent history, investigators learned he was having an affair and spending nights drinking at bars with friends. Witnesses told detectives that Michael Curry felt trapped by a growing family he couldn't afford. He longed for a bachelor's lifestyle, but couldn't afford a divorce and the resultant child support responsibilities.

     Because the forensic pathologist who performed the victim's autopsies couldn't pinpoint their times of death either within or without the 18 minutes of opportunity, Michael Curry didn't have an airtight alibi. But that also meant that a prosecutor couldn't prove the killings took place during the 18-minute timeframe.

     Following a murder inquest held in February 1986, the Muscogee County District Attorney, with no confession, eyewitnesses, or physical evidence linking Michael Curry to the murder scene, decided not to pursue the matter further. Since investigators had no other suspects, the case remained in limbo until January 2009 when a new district attorney, Julia Slater, took office. The Curry murder case came back to life as a cold case homicide investigation.

     Prosecutor Slater theorized that on the day of the murders, when shopping for a desk fan, Michael Curry saw his family at Sears. Realizing this was his opportunity to free himself of his family burden, he drove home to lay in wait. To protect himself from what he knew would be a bloody massacre, he either put on a jumpsuit or a pair of coveralls. He next smashed the window next to the backdoor to stage an intrusion. When his wife and his two children entered the house at 12:37, he attacked them with the axe. After disposing of his blood-spattered coveralls, he rushed to the K-Mart store where he purchased the fan. (When he returned to his office at 1:10 that afternoon, fellow employees noticed he was drenched in sweat.)

     On May 20, 2009, after a Muscogee Grand Jury indicted Michael Curry for murdering his pregnant wife and their two children, detectives arrested him at his home in Dalton, Georgia. He went on trial in April 2011 at the Muscogee County Superior Court in Columbus. Public defender Bob Wadkins argued that his client had an alibi, and that the state's case, based solely on circumstantial evidence, didn't rise to the level of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Attorney Wadkins chose not to put the defendant on the stand to testify on his own behalf.

     On April 27, 2011, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on all counts. Judge John Allen sentenced the 54-year-old Michael Curry to three consecutive life sentences. The convicted killer wouldn't be eligible for parole until he had served 30 years behind bars. The best he could hope for was to be set free at age 84.

      Defense attorney Bob Wadkins appealed Michael Curry's conviction on grounds his client had been found guilty on insufficient evidence. On June 9, 2012, the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously upheld the jury verdict.  

Friday, September 23, 2022

The Andrew McCormack Murder Case

     On September 23, 2017, 31-year-old Andrew McCormack and his one-year-old daughter entered their home in Revere, Massachusetts. McCormack had returned to the house after finishing a carpentry job at a friend's place. Shortly after arriving home, Mr. McCormack called 911 and reported that someone had entered the dwelling in his absence and murdered his wife. 

     Police officers found 30-year-old Vanessa Nasucci lying face down on the bedroom floor with a garbage bag over her head. The bag had been taken from the kitchen trash container. When a first responder removed the bag it became obvious that the Vanessa Nasucci had been brutally beaten. An autopsy revealed she had also been stabbed many times and strangled. 
     The murder bedroom gave off a strong scent of bleach and there were chemical burns on the victim's body. Investigators believed the killer had used bleach to destroy crime scene evidence. A large kitchen knife was missing from the kitchen butcher's block and there was no evidence of forced entry into the house. Moreover, the victim had not been sexually attacked, and nothing had been stolen from the dwelling. The fact the killer had taken the time to sanitize the crime scene suggested that Vanessa Nasucci had not been murdered by an intruder. Suspicion immediately fell up the husband, Andrew McCormack.
     Detectives quickly determined that the couple's marriage had been on the rocks. To support his $500-a-day cocaine habit, Andrew McCormack had drained his wife's credit card accounts, forged checks on her bank account and had even stolen her wedding ring. On the day of the murder, after finishing the carpentry job, McCormack took his 1-year-old daughter with him to East Boston where he purchased cocaine from his drug dealer. 
     Shortly before her murder, Vanessa Nasucci, a second grade teacher at Connery Elementary in Lynn, Massachusetts, told her husband that she planned to sell the house and hire a divorce attorney. 
     A week after the murder, police officers arrested Andrew McCormack on the charge of first-degree murder. He was booked into the Suffolk County Jail. Through his attorney, the suspect pleaded not guilty. The magistrate denied him bail. 
     The Andrew McCormack murder trial got underway in mid-October 2019 in a Suffolk County courtroom. The prosecution, without a murder weapon, an eyewitness, confession or physical evidence connecting the defendant directly to the murder had an entirely circumstantial case. What the prosecutor had was a strong case of motive, means and opportunity, and the argument that, given the facts of the case, it was unreasonable to conclude that anyone other than the defendant had committed this murder.
     The defense relied heavily on reasonable doubt, and the position that investigators never considered the possibility that someone other than Andrew McCormack had murdered his wife.
     On November 16, 2019, following eleven days of testimony, the jury, after deliberating a week, found Andrew McCormack guilty of first-degree murder. At his sentencing hearing on December 2, 2019, the convicted killer said this to the judge: "I did not murder her. There is someone else getting away with murder." 
     The Suffolk County judge sentenced McCormack to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  

Homeowner Shot in Wrong House Raid

     During the early morning hours of June 27, 2006, a total of 100 federal, state and local drug enforcement agents and officers raided 23 homes in Decatur, Huntsville, Madison and Hartsville, Alabama. The raids culminated a two-year investigation of a Mexican-based cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine trafficking operation doing business in the northern part of the state. That morning, officers with the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force arrested 29 people, including Jerome Wallace, a 28-year-old who lived on Honey Way, a dirt road in rural Limestone County. A police Officer arrested Jerome as he stood in his front yard while task force members, in search of him, broke into the wrong house down the road. The wrong house these officers raided belonged to Wallace's uncle, Kenneth Jamar.

     Just before daybreak, several vans rolled down Honey Way, and parked across from Kenneth Jamar's house. Agents with the DEA, ATF, FBI and ICE, as well as the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, along with Alabama state troopers and SWAT teams from Huntsville and Madison County, alighted from their vehicles. A few seconds after one of the officers yelled, "Open Up! Police!" they broke into the house through the front door. Even if the 51-year-old semi-invalid with severe gout and a pace-maker had heard the officers announce themselves, he could not have made it to the door in time to let them in. Had he tried, Mr. Jamar would have walked into a flash bang grenade explosion.

     Mr. Jamar, in his bedroom when he heard his front door bashed open and the stun grenade go off, picked up his pistol. SWAT team officers, when they kicked open Mr. Jamar's bedroom door, saw him standing next to his bed holding the handgun. Armed with semi-automatic rifles, the officers opened fire. One of the 16 bullets from their rifles hit Mr. Jamar in the hip, another in the groin and a third in the foot. He went down without firing a shot.

     Paramedics rushed Mr. Jamar, in critical condition, to a hospital in Huntsville where he spent two weeks in the intensive care unit. After searching his house, the police confiscated Mr. Jamar's gun collection. Because the SWAT team had broken into the wrong house, the Limestone County prosecutor chose not to charge Mr. Jamar with attempted assault.

     In the days and weeks following this police involved shooting, newspaper accounts of the raid were sketchy because Mike Blakely, the sheriff of Limestone County, the official heading up the internal investigation of the incident, did not release much information to the media. According to Sheriff Blakely, the officers had to "neutralize" a man who was "aggressively resisting." When a reporter asked the sheriff to comment on the wrong house aspect of the raid, he said, "I guess you could call it a clerical error over the address, but I don't think Jamar's dwelling even has a street address." This begged the question: if Mr Jamar's house didn't have a street address, how could there have been "a clerical error over the address?"

     Because the SWAT officers who shot Kenneth Jamar were not personally responsible for the wrong house raid, and had fired their weapons in self defense, they were cleared of criminal wrongdoing. Kenneth Jamar, in June 2008, filed a $7.5 million lawsuit in federal court claiming that the city of Huntsville, and other entities had violated his civil rights. In April 2011, the Huntsville city council voted to settle Kenneth Jamar's suit for $500,000.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Lori Isenberg Poison-Murder Case

      In 2018, Laurcene "Lori" Barnes Isenberg, the Executive Director of North Idaho Housing Cooperative, a non-profit organization created to help low-income families, resided with her 68-year old husband, Larry Isenberg, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Mr. Isenberg had a 39-year-old son from a former marriage. His 66-year-old wife had four daughters from her first husband. 

     On the morning of February 13, 2018, Lori Isenberg called 911. To the emergency dispatcher she reported that while boating with her husband on Lake Coeur d'Alene, he had fallen overboard.

     As a water recovery team searched for Mr. Isenberg, Lori Isenberg told deputies with the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office that her husband had been ill with the flu, but had insisted on taking her on a boat ride that morning. While attempting to restart the boat's stalled electric motor, he toppled into the water. When she couldn't find him, she called 911 from his cellphone, 

     In a written police statement, Lori Isenberg described her husband's fall this way: "He stood up, looked at me with a confused look on his face and started to fall over. I jumped up and tried to get him, but I tripped on the heater and banged my head and couldn't reach him in time." 

    Searchers were unable to recover Mr. Isenberg's body. At this point the authorities presumed he had drowned as a result of a boating accident. Perhaps he'd suffered a stroke, lost his balance and toppled out of the boat. At this point no one believed that his death had been the result of foul play. 

     The day following Mr. Isenberg's presumed death, Lori Isenberg put the family home up for sale. She also gave her daughters personal items that were once owned by Mr. Isenberg. 

     On February 24, 2018, with Larry Isenberg still missing and presumed dead, FBI agents arrested Lori Isenberg on 40 counts of federal wire fraud and one count of theft. Over a period of years, the Executive Director of North Idaho Housing Coalition had created thousands of forged invoices that enabled her to embezzled $570,000 from the non-profit organization. Her four daughters, having knowingly received some of the stolen money, were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and theft. 

     After pleading not guilty to the charges, a federal magistrate set Lori Isenberg's bail at $2 million. She was held in the Kootenai County Jail on the federal charges. 

     On March 1, 2018, Larry Isenberg's body was seen floating near the shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene. The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, based on the results of a toxicological analysis that showed a lethal dose of the drug diphenhydramine in Mr. Isenberg's system, ruled his manner of death homicide by poisoning. Diphenhydramine is an ingredient commonly found in over the counter sleeping aid and pain pills. The forensic pathologist did not publicly reveal how Mr. Isenberg had been given the poison.

     Investigators with the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office, with Lori Isenberg as the prime suspect, launched a murder investigation. In the course of that inquiry detectives learned that in late 2017, when Mr. Isenberg and his wife were vacationing in Florida, she made an Internet inquiry about rental boats, lake currents, weather conditions and water depths pertaining to another Coeur d'Alene area lake called Lake Pend Oreville. While on that Florida trip, detectives had reason to believe that Lori Isenberg tried to kill her husband with diphenhydramine. As for motive, homicide investigators believed that Lori Isenberg was afraid that if her husband learned she had embezzled from her employer, he would divorce her.

     Detectives also learned that just weeks before Larry Isenberg's death, his wife had made handwritten changes to his will. As a result of these crude alterations, the will devised 80 percent of his estate to her four daughters. 

     In the spring of 2019, Lori Isenberg pleaded guilty to defrauding North Idaho Housing Coalition of $570,000. The judge sentenced her to five years in federal prison. Her daughters were sentenced to three years probation, community service and were ordered to pay back the stolen money they had received.

     A Kootenai County grand jury, in January 2020, indicted Lori Isenberg on the charge of first-degree murder for poisoning her husband to death, then throwing him off the boat into the waters of Lake Coeur d'Alene. At the time of the indictment Lori Isenberg was serving time for wire fraud and theft at a federal prison. 

     In March 2020, due to COVID-19, the Idaho Supreme Court delayed all criminal jury trials in the state. Lori Isenberg's murder trial was postponed to August 3, 2020. The trial was postponed again to September 14, 2020, then again to early 2021.

     In February 2021, Lori Isenberg pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Three months later the judge sentenced her to life in prison.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

An FBI Agent Brought Down by Heroin

     Matthew Lowry grew up in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. His father worked as an officer with the Prince George's County Police Department and his mother was an active member of their Baptist Church. Matthew graduated in 1999 from the Grace Brethren Christian School in Clinton, Maryland where he played soccer, wrestled and was a member of the National Honor Society. A few years after graduating from the University of Maryland with a bachelor's degree in Criminology he became a Special Agent with the FBI.

     In 2013, Agent Lowry was assigned to the FBI field office in Washington, D.C. where he was part of a task force that focused on drug crimes along the borders of D.C, Maryland and Virginia. He resided in a two-bedroom townhouse in the district with his wife Shana who worked as a senior territory manager for a global pharmaceutical company. His father, retired from the Prince George's Police Department, held the position of assistant police chief at an Anne Arundel County law enforcement agency.

     In August 2013, Special Agent Lowry began stealing packets of heroin from the Washington Field Office's evidence room. He had been taking prescription medication for an old injury but had switched to heroin.

     Stealing heroin from the field office's evidence room was easy. Agent Lowry checked out packages of the contraband on the pretext of having the narcotics tested at the FBI Laboratory. Instead, he removed a quantity of the substance from each packet, cut what was left with either the supplement Creatine or the laxative Purelax, weighed the packages on a digital scale to bring them to their original weights, then returned the attenuated heroin to the evidence room in bags with new stickers signifying they had been sealed.

     Agent Lowry got away with his thefts because of the lack of supervision and checks and balances built into the evidence handling procedure at the FBI field office.

     On September 29, 2014, Agent Lowry's bureau colleagues lost track of him. That night, they found the 33-year-old slumped over the wheel of his FBI car. The vehicle had run out of gas near the Washington Navy Yard.

     Inside Lowry's car agents found opened packets of heroin scattered about. They also found a shotgun and a pistol, evidence seized from a drug raid that was never logged into the evidence room.

     The Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Field Office suspended Agent Lowry pending the outcome of an internal investigation conducted by agents from other field divisions. In 2014, federal prosecutors, as a result of Lowry's evidence-handling scandal, had to dismiss drug charges against 28 defendants.

     The Lowry case caused high level bureau administrators to institute an internal review of the evidence handling procedures in all 56 FBI field offices.

      On March 3, 2015, a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C. charged the former agent with 20 counts of obstruction of justice, 18 counts of falsification of records, 13 counts of conversion of property and 13 counts of possession of heroin. 

    On March 31, 2015, Lowry's attorney announced that his client had pleaded guilty in federal court.

    U.S. District Court Judge Thomas F. Hogan, on July 9, 2015, sentenced Matthew Lowry to three years in prison. The judge denied Lowry's plea for home detention on the grounds that his crimes had tainted dozens of major FBI drug cases.

The Orlando Hall/Bruce Carnell Murder Case

      In September 1994, 23-year-old Orlando Hall ran a marijuana trafficking operation in Arkansas. That month, he and 21-year-old Bruce Carnell drove to Arlington, Texas to confront a man Hall believed had stolen $5,000 from him. At the man's apartment, Hall and Carnell encountered his16-year-old sister who was home alone. When Lisa Rene refused Hall and his accomplice entry, they broke into the apartment and kidnapped her. In the car on their way back to Arkansas, Hall and Carnell raped Lisa Rene. At a hotel in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, the men, over at two day period, continued to rape and torture her.

     From the hotel in Pine Bluff, Orlando Hall and Bruce Carnell drove the victim to a nearby park where they dug a grave, hit their victim with a shovel, then buried her alive.

     Because the Lisa Rene kidnapping involved the crossing of the Texas/Arkansa state lines, the case was handled as a federal kidnapping offense, a death penalty crime when the kidnapped person is harmed or killed.

     Following the kidnapping convictions of Orlando Hall and Bruce Carnell in1996, federal judges sentenced the men to death.

     In 2019, because Bruce Carnell had an I.Q. of 69, a federal judge reduced his sentence to life.

     On November 19, 2020, after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene, Orlando Hall was executed by lethal injection at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Monday, September 19, 2022

The Abernathy/Walker Sex Trade Case

     On February 5, 2003, a judge sentenced 20-year-old Rasul Abernathy, a resident of Coatesville, a Philadelphia suburb in eastern Pennsylvania, to three to ten years for selling drugs. He began serving his time at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) in nearby Chester, Pennsylvania. Two months later, prison authorities transferred Abernathy to SCI-Greenburg, a Westmoreland County facility east of Pittsburgh in the southwestern part of the state.

     On March 28, 2005, after serving slightly more than two years behind bars, Rasul Abernathy was granted parole. He returned to the Philadelphia area. After twenty months of freedom, Mr. Abernathy violated the conditions of his parole and landed back at SCI-Chester. Prison administrators, on February 6, 2007, transferred him back to the state prison in Greensburg.

     On January 28, 2008, 29-year-old Postauntaramin Walker, a resident of North Versailles, a community outside of Pittsburgh, began working as a corrections officer at SCI-Greensburg. That's where she met inmate Rasul Abernathy. Upon his parole on September 24, 2008, Rasul Abernathy moved in with the prison guard.

      Mr. Abernathy, in June 2012, encountered a 16-year-old girl who had run away from a western Pennsylvania juvenile facility. The girl accepted his invitation to live with him and Postauntaramin Walker. Walker was still employed as a prison guard at SCI-Greensburg. She knew the girl was wanted by the authorities.

     A month after taking the runaway in, Abernathy and Walker turned the girl out as a teen prostitute. They posted online ads featuring provocative photographs of the young sex worker. To ease the girls's anxiety over turning tricks, her ex-con and corrections officer handlers kept her supplied with marijuana, alcohol and pain pills. Abernathy set the young prostitute's fees and took care of the business end of the vice operation. When the girl refused to cooperate, her handlers beat her.

     In October 2012, the girl reached out to a former counselor she liked. She told the counselor about her life as an involuntary prostitute, but out of fear, did not identify her captors. The counselor notified the authorities. A short time later the police picked the girl up and placed her back into the juvenile facility.

     Five months after re-entering the juvenile detention center, the girl escaped. She called Rasul Walker who welcomed her back into the sex trade. A few weeks after the young prostitute and her pimps were re-united in North Versailles, prison authorities transferred Walker across the state to SCI-Chester. Abernathy, Walker and their young sex worker moved into an apartment in Coatesville outside of Philadelphia.

     In March 2013, one of Abernathy's ex-con acquaintances raped the young prostitute. Instead of punishing the rapist, Abernathy shrugged off the assault by calling it a "learning experience." The incident motivated the teen to run off and return to the Pittsburgh area. A few weeks later, she was back in the juvenile facility where she spilled the beans, this time identifying Abernathy and Walker as her pimps.

     Back in the Philadelphia area, Abernathy and Walker were busy pimping out a 17-year-old male prostitute.

     In November 2013, realizing that her career as a Pennsylvania corrections officer was about to end, Walker quit showing up for work at SCI-Chester.

     In January 2014, a federal grand jury sitting in Philadelphia indicted Abernathy and Walker on charges of child sex trafficking and conspiring to engage in sex trafficking. The indictment pertained to the exploitation of the runaway girl. (The defendants' use of the internet to promote their sex trade made the offense federal.)

     FBI agents arrested Abernathy and the former state corrections officer in Philadelphia shortly after the indictment. Two months later, the same grand jury charged Abernathy, 32, and Walker, 34, with forcing the 17-year-boy into the sex trade. The defendants also faced state charges of kidnapping, promoting prostitution, assault and other offenses related to the corruption of minors.
     Postauntaramin Walker and Rasul Abernathy, after pleading guilty to kidnapping and promoting prostitution in January 2015, were each sentenced to ten years in federal prison.

Getting Away With Rape

     In August 2011, in Louisville, Kentucky, 16-year-old Savannah Dietrich, while drinking with two teenage boys she knew, passed out drunk. The boys took advantage of her condition by having sex with her. This, in most states, including Kentucky, was rape. If that wasn't bad enough, the rapists photographed each other committing the crime and put the photographs on the Internet.

     When Savannah Dietrich learned of the humiliating photographs, and the fact they had been published, she and her parents reported the crime to the Louisville Metro Police Department. The two minors were then charged with the felony of first-degree sexual abuse. Since the juveniles had photographed each other in the act, they had no choice to plead guilty. But for some reason, the prosecutor, in return for their guilty pleas, promised a lenient sentence.

     Following the defendant's June 26, 2012 plea hearing before Jefferson County District Judge Dee McDonald, Savannah Dietrich posted several tweets on her Twitter account in which she named the two boys who had pleaded guilty to her sexual assaults. By doing this, she had violated the judges's order not to reveal information about the case, especially the identities of the assaulting juveniles.

     The attorneys representing the two minors, asked Judge McDonald to hold Dietrich in contempt of court. If found in contempt, the rape victim faced up to 180 days in jail and a $500 fine. (Much more time behind bars than the boys who had assaulted her would spend.)

      Savannah Dietrich, in speaking to a Louisville reporter with The Courier-Journal, said, "So many of my rights have been taken away by these boys. I'm at the the point that if I have to go to jail for my rights, I will do it. If they really feel it's necessary to throw me in jail for talking about what happened to me--then I don't understand justice."

     On Monday, July 23, 2012, the lawyers representing the juveniles awaiting their sentences, withdrew their motion to have Dietrich held in contempt of court. In a single day, an online petition on change.org had brought 62,000 signatures in support of Dietrich's decision to publicize the identities of her assaulters. It was obvious that members of the public believed these boys, so afraid of being publicly embarrassed and humiliated by their cruelty and criminality, deserved to be exposed by their victim.

     In September 2012, a judge ruled that documents pertaining to the Dietrich case had to be released to the public. As a result, it was revealed that a prosecutor had told the victim to "Get over it (the rape) and see a therapist." The documents also revealed that the victim's 16-year-old attackers had committed the assault because they believed it would be "funny."

     The sex offenders, in October 2012, were sentenced to 50 hours of community service. The boys also were ordered to undergo sex-offender counseling. When they reached the age of 19 they could file motions to have their guilty pleas withdrawn and the case dismissed. If granted that request, their criminal records would be expunged. 

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Murder-For-Hire: The Crime and Its Cast of Characters

     Murder-for-hire cases fall generally into one of two categories: homicides in which the contract for the killing is carried out, and crimes in which, due to law enforcement intervention in the form of an undercover operative playing the role of the assassin, no one is killed. The latter offense is one of criminal solicitation.

     The cast of a murder-for-hire plot features three principal characters: the instigator/mastermind who solicits/contracts the homicide, the hit man (or undercover agent playing the triggerman's role) and the victim, the person targeted for death. Supporting players might include a cast of go-betweens and accomplices such as people who put the mastermind in touch with the hit man or undercover cop and helpers brought into the scheme by the triggerman. Murder-for-hire cases frequently include potential assassins the mastermind initially reached out to, ones who rejected the assignment. These would-be hit men, often the mastermind's friends, casual acquaintances, relatives or co-workers, after declining to participate in the plot, either remain silent or go to the police. Many of the ones who remain silent do so because they didn't take the mastermind seriously.

     While murder-for-hire stories, in terms of the characters involved have a somewhat common anatomy, they differ widely according to the social and economic status of the participants, the nature of their relationships to each other and the specific motive behind the murder.

     Unlike rapists, sex murderers, pathological fire setters and pedophiles, murder-for-hire masterminds do not conform to a general psychological profile. They are men and women of various ages and backgrounds who solicit their murders pursuant to a diverse range of motives. Murder plotters, compared to the murderers themselves, tend to be older, more commonly female and less likely to have histories of crime or violence. Given the pre-meditated nature of a murder-for-hire plot, masterminds, while either sociopathic, desperate, depressed, angry, drug-addled or simply not very bright, are not psychotic and therefore not mentally ill enough to be found legally insane. Without the benefit of the insanity defense, masterminds, when their backs are against the criminal justice wall, tend to throw themselves on the mercy of the court. They often cite, as justification for their murderous acts or homicidal intentions, abuse, depression, and addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. Generally, these pleas for mercy and understanding fall on deaf judicial ears, particularly when the mastermind was obviously motivated by greed such as avoiding the cost of divorce, benefiting from a life insurance policy or inheriting the victim's estate.

     Masterminds labor under the rather stupid belief that the best way to get away with murder is to pay someone else to do it. They think that having an alibi is their ticket to avoiding arrest and prosecution. These homicide plotters underestimate the reach of federal conspiracy laws, as well as the incriminating power of motive. Moreover, while masterminds do not pull the trigger, wield the bat or sink the knife, they do participate in the crime beyond simply asking someone to commit murder on their behalf. Although detectives won't find their bloody latents at the scene of the crime, masterminds can't help leaving their figurative fingerprints all over the conspiracy. Masterminds also leave behind witnesses in the form of hit men, go-betweens, confidants and accomplices.

     Most murder-for-hire masterminds, before the homicide, make no secret of the fact they want to eliminate the object of their greed or the source of their frustration and anger. To facilitate the murder, they pay the the hit men cash upfront and promise the balance following the target's death. The mastermind commonly provides the assassin with a hand-drawn map pinpointing the proposed murder site, a photograph of the victim, the license plate number to the target's vehicle and an outline that details the future victim's daily routine. Masterminds also leave behind records of cellphone calls that can be quite incriminating.

     Some masterminds leave the murder methodology, the modus operandi, to the hit man, while other plotters actively participate in the planning stage. Masterminds who are engaged in the killing process usually want the homicide to look like an accident, a carjacking, rape, mugging or deadly home invasion. What they don't realize is that making a murder look like something else is easier said than done. Besides, the people masterminds hire to do the job are commonly incompetent, indifferent, drug-addled or dimwitted. 

     Paid assassins are almost always men who are younger than their masterminds. They are also more likely to have criminal backgrounds. Because of who they are, hit men do not plan the hit carefully or take steps not to leave behind physical evidence. After the murder they seldom keep their mouths shut about what they have done and who they have committed the murder for. If paid a lot of money hit men usually spend it on drugs or lose it gambling. While hit men are cold-blooded killers, they are nothing like the cool-headed professional assassins seen on television and in the movies. The are disorganized amateurs and bunglers who are easy to catch. Once they are caught they are quick to spill their guts.

     Murder-for-hire targets are not random victims of crime. They are people with whom the mastermind has had some kind of relationship. People targeted for death can be current and former spouses, estranged lovers or the mastermind's parents, children or business associates. Targets can include people the mastermind has previously victimized who are marked for elimination as crime accusers and potential trial witnesses. In cases of revenge involving masterminds who have scores to settle, victims can be judges, prosecutors and police informants. Men who batter woman also become murder-for-hire victims at the hands of the women they have beaten.

     The crime solution rate for murder-for-hire offenses is relatively high, particularly when the defendant ends up negotiating with an undercover cop brought into the case by the person the mastermind either recruited for the job or asked to find a hit man. Undercover operatives and masterminds meet, often in Walmart and shopping mall parking lots, where the conversations are audio and video-taped. Once the mastermind makes clear his or her homicidal intention, perhaps by supplying the upfront money, a weapon or a photograph of the target, the unsuspecting plotter is arrested on the spot. These arrestees are charged with crimes that include solicitation of murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

     Occasionally, masterminds caught red-handed in undercover sting operations plead not guilty by reason of insanity, claim they have been entrapped by the police or raise defenses based on the battered spouse syndrome. But most of the time they confess and hope for leniency.

     Murder solicitation cases, while incomplete in nature, are fascinating because the police-recorded conversations between the undercover cops and the masterminds provides a window into the minds of people with sociopathic personalities intent on having assorted targets murdered. These cases reveal, in the extreme, how badly a marriage or romantic relationship can deteriorate. One gets the sense, after reviewing hundreds of murder-for-hire cases, that America has become a society of depressed, drug-addled sociopaths who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

     Murder-for-hire crimes that result in actual killings are more challenging for investigators. This is because these offenses include crime scenes, physical evidence, autopsies, witnesses and suspected masterminds with alibis they can establish. However, compared to drive-by shootings, drug and gang-related murders and criminal homicides without obvious suspects, murder-for-hire crimes are relatively easy to solve.

     Masterminds generally make it easy for homicide detectives by hiring hit men who are incompetent fools. Murder-for-hire plotters also create future witnesses by casting a wide net in their search for a contract killer. Because hit men are usually careless and have big mouths, these amateur assassins are almost always caught. And when they are arrested, hit men regularly inform on the mastermind in return for a lighter sentence. Murder-for-hire dramas are less about police work, forensic science and criminal justice than they are about sociology, criminal psychology and American culture.

     From a criminal justice point of view, murder-for-hire cases raise interesting questions associated with the comparative sentencing of masterminds and their hit men. Because both the mastermind and the hired killer can be found guilty of first-degree murder, they are eligible, in 32 states, for the death penalty. In most cases, however, the triggerman receives a much lighter sentence that the person who hired him. This is because hit men usually confess first and agree to testify against the mastermind.

     In the recent history of murder-for-hire crime there have been cold-blooded killers who, in return for their cooperation with law enforcement, have been awarded sentences as light as seventeen years in prison while the mastermind was sentenced to death. Although these sentencing disparities have a lot to do with the practicalities of plea bargaining, there may be more to it than that.

     Masterminding a contract murder is generally perceived as more evil than actually pulling the trigger. The particular loathing of murder-for-hire masterminds is reflected in the fact that homicide investigators and prosecutors target the instigator more than the hit man. Amateurs who kill for money, usually petty criminals who do it for peanuts, don't shock us because they are young, male criminals doing what society expects them to do. When middle and upper-middle class people exploit these desperate and pathetic losers by hiring them to do their dirty work, we hold them more responsible for the murder. For masterminds, it's who they are that makes their behavior so repugnant and evil. This is interesting because a nation full of masterminds would be a lot safer than a country full of hit men.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

The Alexander Kinyua Cannibalism Murder Case

     Cannibalism by cold-blooded serial killers, or psychotics under the influence of mind-altering drugs, is a rare form of criminal homicide. In 1936, Albert Fish, a child molester, serial killer and cannibal, died in Sing Sing's electric chair. He was believed to have eaten 28 children. Ed Gein, a Wisconsin butcher (a really disturbing thought) robbed graves, committed serial murder and ate (and sold) human flesh. In 1968, the authorities sent Gein to a state mental institution for life. Another Wisconsin man, Jeffery Dahmer, killed and ate the parts of dozens of young homosexual men. When arrested in 1991, the police found heads and other body parts in his refrigerator. One of Dahmer's fellow inmates bludgeoned him to death in 1994.

     In May 2012, the big true crime stories in the news involved cannibalism. In Miami, a police officer killed Rudy Eugene as he ate most of a homeless man's face along a busy highway. Rudy Eugene is believed to  have been under the influence of a LSD-like drug called bath salts. His victim was in critical condition but survived the attack. In Montreal, Canada, a porn actor named Luka Magnotta stabbed and dismembered  a man on videotape. The victim's torso was found behind Magnotta's apartment building. Magnotta mailed the dismembered man's body parts to two addresses in Ottawa. 

The Alexander Kinyua Case

     Alexander Kinyua, a 21-year-old electrical engineering student at Morgan State University in Baltimore, lived with his family in Joppatowne, an unincorporated bedroom community in southwest Maryland. A top student at Morgan State, this native of Kenya was in the ROTC program at the school. Kujoe Agyie-Kodie, a 37-year-old immigrant from Ghana who attended Morgan State as a graduate student, roomed in the Kinyua family home.

     At dawn on Friday, May 25,  2012, Agyie-Kodie, wearing at T-shirt and shorts went out for a jog. He left his wallet and his cell phone at the Kinyua house. When he didn't return, Alexander Kinyua's father, Anthony Kinyua, reported him missing to the Harford County Police.

     On Tuesday, May 29, 2012, Alexander Kinyua's brother, while in the basement laundry room, discovered two tin cans hidden beneath a blanket. Inside one of the containers he found a human head, and in the other, two hands. Confronted by his brother, Alexander Kinyua said the bloody objects were not human. The sibling ran to the second floor to fetch his father. When the two of them returned to the basement, Alexander was washing out a pair of empty cans.

     Anthony Kinyua called the Hartford County detective who was looking for Kujoe Agyei-Kodie. At the Kinyua house, the detective and his partner found the head and two hands hidden on the first floor of the dwelling. The officers questioned Alexander who admitted murdering Agyei-Kodie with a knife, then dismembering his body. He also confessed to eating the dead man's heart and part of his brain. Shortly thereafter, the detectives found the headless corpse in a dumpster on the parking lot of the nearby Town Baptist Church.

     Alexander Kinyua was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. He was held without bail at the Harford County Detection Center.

      At the time of his arrest Alexander Kinyua was on bail for severely beating a fellow student three weeks earlier at Morgan State University. He had  blinded the victim's left eye and fractured his skull, arm, and shoulder. In the days leading up to this vicious assault Alexander Kinyua's behavior had been erratic and bizarre.

     Forensic psychiatrist Steven Hoge, the director of the Columbia-Cornell Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship Program in New York City, wrote in an article that cannibalism was usually the product of mind-altering drugs, psychosis, or both. As for the pathological motive behind this kind of violence, Dr. Hoge said that human flesh eaters were trying to "capture the power or the spirit of their victims."

     On August 19, 2013, Alexander Kinyua pleaded guilty but not criminally responsible due to legal insanity. As a result, he would remain incarcerated in a mental institution until psychiatrists ruled him mentally healthy enough to rejoin society. 
     Diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, Kinyua, as of this writing, remains a patient at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital in Jessup, Maryland.

The Lawrence Capener Knife Attack

     On Sunday morning, April 28, 2013, all hell broke loose inside St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The mass had just ended and the choir had begun its final hymn when a 24-year-old man who had been nervous acting and fidgety throughout the service vaulted over several pews toward the front of the church. Lawrence Capener, the crazed churchgoer, possessed a knife which he used to stab the choir director, Adam Alvarez, several times.

     Gerald Madrid, the church flutist, came to Adam Alvarez's rescue by attempting to put Lawrence Capener into a bear hug. During the scuffle, Capener, before collapsing to the church floor under the weight of other churchgoers who mobbed him, stabbed the flutist five times in the back. Daren De Aquero, an off-duty Albuquerque police officer, put the subdued assailant into handcuffs.

     Greg Aragon, an off-duty Albuquerque Fire Department Lieutenant, treated the choir director, the man who came to his aid, and a female member of the choir who had been slashed by Capener's knife. None of the victims incurred life-threatening injuries.

     As Lawrence Capener was led out of the church, an elderly parishioner spoke to him. She said, "God bless you, forgive yourself."

     "You don't know about the Masons," the attacker replied.

     Later that Sunday, a local prosecutor charged Lawrence Capener with three counts of aggravated battery. A magistrate set his bail at $250,000.

     After detectives advised Mr. Capener of his Miranda rights, the subject informed his interrogators that he was "99 percent sure" that the choir director was a Mason involved in a conspiracy "that is far more reaching than I could or would believe." He apologized for stabbing the flutist and the woman in the choir.

     While Capener did not belong to the 3,000-member church, his mother was an active parishioner. He had recently graduated from a community college and had started a new job. According to people who know him, Lawrence Capener struggled with mental illness.

     In February 2014, Carpener's attorney petitioned the court to lower his bail so he could live at home under the supervision of a GPS device. The judge, after hearing from Carpener's victims, denied the request. The trial was scheduled for September 2014.

     On September 29, 2014, pursuant to a plea deal, a judge sentenced Lawrence Capener to five years in prison with one year credit for time spent in jail. 
     In June 2016, five days before he was scheduled for early release, Capener punched a prison guard. The assault kept him behind bars until his release on parole in April 2017. 
     The man who almost murdered three people and assaulted a prison guard served less than three years in prison. 

Friday, September 16, 2022

Death BY Hospital Negligence: The Lynne Spalding Case

     On September 19, 2013, Lynne Spalding, suffering from a bladder infection, checked herself into the San Francisco General Hospital. The 57-year-old native of Peterlee, England worked in San Francisco's tourist industry. The thin, frail divorced mother of two seemed confused and disoriented, perhaps from the effects of her medication. Members of the hospital staff assigned to her care were under orders to look in on Spalding every fifteen minutes.

     When one of Lynne Spalding's friends showed up at the hospital on September 21 for a visit, she was not in her room. Hospital employees searched the immediate area and couldn't find her. Maybe she had checked herself out. The friend went to Spalding's apartment and found it vacant. When Lynne Spalding didn't return to her dwelling the friend filed a missing persons report with the police.

     Over the next few days the missing woman's friends and members of her family looked for her at various places in the city. They posted missing persons flyers around as well. One of her friends created a "Find Lynne" Facebook page. Deputies with the sheriff's office, the agency that was in charge of hospital security, conducted a search of the giant medical complex. It seemed this woman had vanished into thin air.

     At ten in the morning of October 8, 2013, seventeen days after Lynne Spalding went missing from her hospital room, a hospital employee discovered the body of a middle-aged woman lying dead in a stairwell used as a fire escape. Todd May, the chief hospital medical officer tentatively identified the dead woman as Lynne Spalding. (I presume she was wearing a hospital identification bracelet.)

     The job of determining when, where and exactly how this woman had died rested in the hands of the San Francisco Medical Examiner's Office. The principal determination involved Spalding's manner of death. While it was not unreasonable to presume that this hospital patient's death occurred naturally, the forensic pathologist looked for signs of physical trauma that suggested a struggle. The pathologist who performed the autopsy also looked for physical evidence of a sexual assault.

     Assuming the absence of foul play in this unusual death, the Spalding case presented the obvious question as to how this sick woman had gotten from her room to the stairwell without being observed by hospital staff. Unless the stairwell where Spalding's body was found was located in an extremely remote section of the hospital, someone should have detected the odor of decomposition.

     San Francisco General Hospital spokesperson Todd May, at a press conference held on October 8, 2013, said, "What happened at our hospital is horrible. We are here to take care of patients, to heal them, to keep them safe. This has shaken us to our core. Our staff is devastated."

     David Perry, Lynne Spalding's friend and the family spokesperson, told reporters that "We need to know what Lynne's condition was. We need to know what she was being treated for and frankly we need to know what medications she was on and what state of mind she was in. We're not trying to place blame. We're trying to find answers."

     On Thursday, October 10, 2013, San Francisco General Hospital Chief Operating Officer Roland Pickens announced that pursuant to the medical examiner's office report, the corpse in the stairwell was Lynne Spalding's body. A second hospital spokesperson revealed that the stairwell in question was located several hundred feet from the unit where Spalding was being treated. According to this spokesperson, Lynne Spalding was being treated in a unit where patients were not watched closely. This contradicted previous information regarding the fifteen minute patient check-ups.

     In a private ceremony held on October 21, 2013, Spalding's body was cremated. (This meant, of course, that there would be no second autopsy if one became necessary.)

     On October 22, 2013, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that four days before sheriff's deputies responded to the dead woman found in the city-owned hospital's stairwell, an orderly had twice stepped over her body thinking she was a homeless person. To reporters, Haig Harris, the attorney representing Spalding's children, said, "This is a hospital. Why didn't somebody put their hand on the body to see if there was a pulse?"

     David Perry, a Spalding family spokesperson said this to reporters: "The family is angry and frustrated and out of patience. While we understand the need for a thorough investigation, it has now been one month and three days since Lynne Spalding went missing...The time for answers and real solutions that will protect lives of future patients is long past due."

     A woman who had been visiting her son at the hospital in June 2013, said she had been locked in the same stairwell. She had taken the stairs instead of the elevator, entering the fifth-floor stairwell without realizing it was an emergency exit. The woman walked down to the ground level, but the door sounded an alarm when she opened it. She slammed the door shut and went back upstairs where she pounded on the door window to attract attention. A nurse who happened by let her back inside. No one had responded to the exit alarm.

     Investigators and hospital authorities did not reveal if Spalding had changed into her street clothes before leaving her room. (The fact the orderly presumed she was a homeless person suggests that she had.) While the coroner still had not announced Lynne Spalding's cause of death, the family was assured she had not been the victim of foul play.

     Dan Cunningham with the San Francisco Police homicide unit reported on October 28, 2013 that four days before Lynne Spalding's body was discovered, an Asian man in his thirties wearing a hospital name tag told a hospital supervisor that he had seen a person lying in the stairwell. The supervisor checked out the stairwell but didn't see anyone there. Homicide investigators were trying to identify this man for questioning. (It's not clear if the Asian man was the orderly who stepped over the body on October 4, 2013.)

     On December 15, 2013, the medical examiner's office released the results of Lynne Spalding's autopsy. According to the San Francisco medical examiner, she had died of "probable electrolyte imbalance with delirium clinical sepsis." In other words, she had died from a chemical imbalance related to chronic alcoholism. According to Dr. Thomas Shaughnessey, the electrolyte imbalances, in combination with a liver that was unable to compensate from the imbalance, resulted in a collapse of Spalding's heart or brain resulting in her death. The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy was not able to say exactly when she died.

     Members of Spalding's family immediately disputed the allegation that she was an alcoholic. They were therefore outraged by the contents of the medical examiner's report.

     In February 2014, the Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, a federal agency that decided whether hospitals met minimum standards to be eligible for Medicare payments, announced the results of its investigation into the Spalding tragedy. According to the report, hospital nurses failed to act on a doctor's order that this patient be watched around the clock. Federal investigators also blamed the sheriff's department for not having an emergency plan worked out with hospital staff. Investigators concluded that the hospital's "chaotic and poorly coordinated response had contributed to patient Spalding's death."

     The sheriff, in the wake of the hospital scandal, fired one member of the agency's hospital staff and suspended two others. Five more deputies were disciplined administratively. No hospital employees were punished for the Spalding fiasco.

     The Spalding family filed a wrongful death suit against the hospital and the city. In December 2014, the city of San Francisco settled the case for just under $3 million.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Female Pedophile: The Tabatha Partsch Case

     In the 1980s, criminologists believed that 80 percent of molested boys were victimized by men, and that 95 percent of sexually assaulted girls were victims of adult males. More current research suggested these figures did not reflect the true number of female pedophiles.

     Female pedophiles can be placed into three general categories: women who target children under six; those who molest adolescents; and women who assault children with a male partner. Female pedophiles who were themselves victimized tend to target their own children. So-called self-made female offenders tend to prey upon victims outside the home. These pedophiles acquire access to children as trusted daycare workers, relatives, school teachers and coaches.

      The female pedophiles who are most likely to grab headlines are the school teachers who have sex with adolescent males. According to criminologists who study these women, they lack self-esteem, are co-dependent and are afraid of rejection. They tend to romanticize their victims as ideal partners who truly understand them. There seems to be an epidemic of this type of female pedophilia. For some reason many of these offenders teach English.

     Many female pedophiles avoid prison because prosecutors believe they are more difficult to convict than their male counterparts. Convicted women receive lighter sentences than males who commit the same crimes. Journalists, when referring to women so accused, use words like "had sex with," or "affair," instead of "rape" or "molestation."

The Tabatha Partsch Case

     Tabatha Partsch, a 39-year-old middle school teacher, lived in Claysburg, a town of 1,500 in central Pennsylvania about 35 miles south of Altoona. In September 2011, a 14-year-old boy who had been to Partsch's house told a police officer he'd seen Partsch take a girl his age into her bedroom and lock the door.

     The Greenfield Township Police acquired, in March 2012, a day-long exchange of text messages between Partsch and a 12-year-old boy. Partsch instructed the kid to skip school and come to her house, noting that if his parents found out, she'd hide him. Partsch also suggested they exchange nude photographs of each other.

     Detectives learned that Partsch had been involved in several sexually explicit conversations with other boys she was possibly grooming. In one of her texts, she wrote, "We can do stuff, maybe touch each other."

     Shortly after midnight on March 29, 2012, police officers from several local jurisdictions arrived at Partsch's house with a search warrant. Among other items, they seized nine cellphones, two computers, and a Playstation 3 video game console. Officers found nude photographs of children on several of the recovered cellphones.

     Over the next few weeks detectives questioned several children who had spent time at Tabatha Partsch's dwelling. According to these children, the suspect had showed them Internet pornography, supplied them with cigarettes and alcohol, and sexually molested them. According to an 11-year-old boy, Partsch forced him to sexually assault a 5-year-old girl.

     On July 13, 2012, a detective, accompanied by a Blair County social worker, questioned the suspect at her home. Partach said she hadn't placed the sexually explicit photographs on her cellphones and denied sexually molesting anyone. All of the children were making things up and lying, she said.

     Ten days following the interview, police officers took Tabatha Partsch into custody. Charged with 18 felonies related to child sexual abuse, she was placed into the Blair County Jail on $150,000 bond. Richard Consiglio, the Blair County District Attorney, charged Partsch with child rape, statutory indecent assault, disseminating explicit material to minors and corrupting minors. Questioned by a local reporter, Consiglio noted that convictions in trials involving young prosecution witnesses were not sure things. At least in this case, not much time has passed since the alleged crimes took place.

    In November 2012, following her guilty plea, a Blair County judge sentenced Tabatha Partch to fifteen to thirty years in prison. (In November 2013, Partsch's 34-year-old husband, Patrick, was sentenced to 8 to 28 years for his involvement in the child molestations.)

     In late 2014, Judge Daniel J. Milliron ordered a review of the case by the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board. The board, on July 5, 2015, found that Tabatha Partsch, under the terms of Megan's Law, met the criteria to be declared a sexually violent predator. That meant that Partsch would be required, once out of prison, to register annually with the local police for the rest of her life. Moreover, once she was released from the State Correctional Institution at Muncy, Pennsylvania, Partsch would undergo monthly counseling for the duration of her 15 years on probation. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

The Joseph Oberhansley Murder Case

     On Wednesday night September 10, 2014, Tammy Jo Blanton, following an argument with her boyfriend Joseph Oberhansley, threw him and his belongings out of her house. A few hours later, Blanton's father changed the locks on her Jeffersonville, Indiana dwelling.

     The next day, at three in the morning, Tammy Blanton called 911. Her 33-year-old ex-boyfriend had returned and was trying to break into her house by kicking in the back door. Police in the southern Indiana town confronted Oberhansley at the Locus Street residence.

     Instead of taking Joseph Oberhansley into custody for attempted burglary and threats, officers ordered him off the property and told him to stay away from his former girlfriend. Oberhansley, just before he drove off in his 2002 Chevrolet Blazer, complained to the officers that the police aways favored the woman in domestic disputes.

     From his 46-year-old ex-girlfriend's home, Oberhansley drove to his mother's place. He got her out of bed and complained about his mistreatment at the hands of Tammy Blanton and the police officers his ex-girlfriend had summoned. He left his mother's home at three-thirty that morning.

     The Jeffersonville police must have known that Joseph A. Oberhansley was an unstable and dangerous man. In 1998, outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, shortly after Sabrina Elder, his 17-year-old girlfriend, gave birth to their child, he shot her to death. He shot the victim's mother in the back and in the arm when she tried to protect her daughter. The mother survived her wounds.

     After shooting his girlfriend and her mother, Joseph Oberhansley put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. The bullet entered his frontal lobe and damaged his brain. A year later, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sent to prison. He got out of prison in 2012 after spending eleven years behind bars.

     In March 2013, after putting a man into a chokehold and fighting the Jeffersonville police when they broke up the fight, a Clark County prosecutor charged Oberhansley with assault and resisting arrest. He posted his bail and was released from the county jail.

     In July 2014, Oberhansley led Jeffersonville police officers on a vehicle chase that ended up with his arrest in Louisville, Kentucky. Due to a bureaucratic screwup, the judge set Oberhansley's bail at $500. Once again Oberhansley walked out of jail a free man.

     On Friday September 11, 2014, when Tammy Jo Blanton did not show up for work, the police, at ten o'clock that morning, returned to her house. They were met at the door by Oberhansley who had a fresh cut across the knuckles of his right hand. Officers searching him incident to his arrest found a bloody folding knife in his back pocket.

     Officers discovered Tammy Jo Blanton's body beneath a vinyl camping tent draped over the bathtub. She had been stabbed numerous times in the chest and head. Her killer had also slashed her throat. Her torso had been cut open and several of her internal organs were missing.

     Officers at the murder scene found a piece of skull sitting on a bloody dinner plate. A kitchen skillet contained traces of blood as did the handle to a pair of tongs. Searchers found hunks of human flesh in the victim's garbage can.

     Confronted with this physical evidence of horrific violence, Joseph Oberhansley confessed that he had stabbed and slashed his ex-girlfriend. He cut out her heart, her lungs and other internal organs that he claimed to have eaten. Some of the body parts he cooked, others he consumed raw.

      Charged with murder, abuse of corpse and breaking and entering, Mr. Oberhansley appeared before Clark County Judge Vickie Carmichael on September 15, 2014. At the arraignment hearing, the defendant took back his confession. "Obviously you've got the wrong guy," he told the judge. Moreover, he claimed that he was not Joseph Oberhansley but a man named Zeus Brown. The suspect also asserted that he didn't know how old he was or if he were a U.S. citizen. The judge denied him bail.

     To reporters after the arraignment, Clark County prosecutor Jeremy Mull said, "There's a motive and a reason behind Oberhansley's denial of guilt. There's no doubt in my mind he is responsible for Tammy Jo Blanton's murder."

     On March 8, 2017, Clark County Circuit Judge Vicki Carmichael, pursuant to a defense motion declaring the defendant mentally incompetent to stand trial, ordered additional psychiatric examinations of the accused killer. These examinations were to be conducted by mental health experts selected by the court, not by parties to the case. At the time, Oberhansley was receiving psychiatric treatment at the Logansport State Hospital in Logansport, Indiania.

     In October 2017, after the testimony of three mental health experts, Judge Carmichael ruled that Oberhansley was unfit to stand trial. However, on August 9, 2018, after an Indiana state psychiatrist testified that the defendant was mentally competent, Judge Carmichael ruled that the murder trial could go forward. 
     On September 18, 2020, after six days of testimony, the Clark County jury found Joseph Oberhansley guilty of murder and burglary. Judge Carmichael sentenced him to life in prison. 
     The criminal justice system had failed to protect Tammy Jo Blanton.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

The "Tiger King" Murder-For-Hire Case

      From February to June 2006, the animal rights group PETA conducted an investigation into the activities of a big cat breeder and private zoo owner named Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage. The 42-year-old owner of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, a ramshackle petting zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, called himself "Joe Exotic." Maldonado-Passage, in addition to owning the zoo, supplied tiger cubs to the cruel petting zoo industry. 

     PETA activists had been trying to shut down Maldonado-Passage's operation for several years. The PETA investigation revealed the Wynnewood zoo's tigers were beaten, deprived of food and denied basic veterinary treatment. As a result, the U.S. Department of Agriculture fined Maldonado-Passage $25,000 for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act. 

     In 2011, the Humane Society conducted an investigation of Maldonado-Passage's animal park. An undercover Humane Society investigator, after working at the private zoo for four months, reported that tigers were beaten and whipped during training. Moreover, visitors to the zoo were bitten and attacked by tiger cubs that were too old to be near people. Tiger cubs that were so young they hadn't opened their eyes were handled by park visitors, traumatizing the animals.

     The results of these investigations did not result in the shutting down of Maldonado-Passage's operation.

     Joseph Maldonado-Passage, in 2015, ran for the office of U.S. President as an Independent candidate. He had also run for Governor of Oklahoma, a race he also lost.

     In 2016, after the deaths of 23 tiger cubs at the Wynnewood Animal Park, PETA members rescued 39 abused tigers, two bears and two baboons from the zoo. The place was still not shut down.

     Carole Baskin, an animal rights activist and owner of Big Cat Rescue, a 69-acre animal sanctuary in Tampa, Florida, had also been trying to put Maldonado-Passage out of the big cat breeding and petting zoo business. She sued Maldonado-Passage for his unauthorized use of her Big Cat Rescue's trademark, and in 2016, won a million-dollar civil judgment against him.

     As his debts mounted, Maldonado-Passage harassed Baskin with online videos in which he accused her of all sorts of criminal behavior. In order to escape his financial responsibilities, Maldonado-Passage transferred ownership of the animal park to his mother. A federal judge ruled this transfer of ownership void, an attempt by Maldonado-Passage to defraud his creditors. 

     Enraged and desperate, Joseph Maldonado-Passage, in November 2017, paid an unnamed man $3,000 to travel to Tampa, Florida and murder his nemesis, Carole Baskin. The murder-for-hire mastermind promised to pay the hit man an additional $7,000 when he finished the job. For some reason, the would-be assassin failed to carry out his assignment.

     In December 2017, Maldonado-Passage reached out to another unnamed man and asked him to murder the animal rights activist. This person went straight to the FBI. Later that month, Maldonado-Passage and an undercover FBI agent met. At one point during the recorded conversation, Maldonado-Passage said, "Just follow her into a small parking lot and just cap her and drive off." Maldonado-Passage offered to pay the FBI agent $10,000 for the hit.

     On September 5, 2018, Timmothy J. Downing, the United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma, acquired an indictment against Joseph Maldonado-Passage charging him with two counts of murder-for-hire, several counts of violating the Endangered Species Act, and multiple counts of crimes against wildlife.

     FBI agents, two days after the indictment, arrested Maldonado-Passage in Gulf Breeze, Florida. He was booked into the Santa Rosa County jail to await extradition back to Oklahoma. 

     The Maldonado-Passage murder-for-hire trial got underway on March 25, 2019. After six days of testimony in which the defendant took the stand and claimed that he hadn't been serious when he solicited Carole Baskin's murder, the jury found him guilty as charged. 

     Several months after the conviction the federal district judge sentenced the 56-year-old Maldonado-Passage to 22 years in prison. Attorneys for Maldonado-Passage said they would appeal.

     Following Maldonado-Passage's sentencing, Carole Baskin, on her Big Cat Rescue website, posted this: "Because of his constant threats to kill me, I have found myself seeing every bystander as a potential threat. My daughter, my husband, my mother, my staff and volunteers have all been in peril because of his obsession with seeing me dead."

     In March 2020, Maldonado-Passage, while serving his time at a federal prison in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, filed a $94 million civil suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a federal agent and a former business partner he blamed for his arrest and conviction.

     Netflix, in March 2020, aired "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness," a several part documentary that made Maldonado-Passage a pop culture celebrity. The following month, the animal abuser and murder-for-hire mastermind was featured on the cover of People Magazine.

     In June 2020, a federal district judge granted Carole Baskin and her animal rescue group control of Maldonado-Passage's Oklahoma zoo. Homes would be found for all of the abused animals.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Yale Professor Samuel See's Jailhouse Death

     Samuel Ryan See grew up in California's Central Valley where he attended California State University in his hometown of Bakersfield. After acquiring his Bachelors of Arts degree, Mr. See earned a Ph.D from the University of California, Los Angeles.

     In May 2013, the 34-year-old assistant professor of English and American Studies at Yale University married Sunder Ganglani, a former student at the Yale School of Drama. The two men took up residence in a house in New Haven, Connecticut. 
     Professor See's academic focus, as described on his Facebook page, included "British and American Modernist Literature and Sexuality Studies." In addition to writing about sexual orientation in modern literature, Professor See moonlighted, under the alias Ryan Cochran, as a male escort. In one of Ryan Cochran's Internet profiles, he described himself as loving sex and being with men. "I can get into all kinds of sexual and social situations--just name your pleasure. I'm down to earth, humble [really?], personally generous, and horny a lot of the time." Professor See was, in other words, a male prostitute.
     Dr. See, on leave from Yale University during the fall semester 2013, was not getting along with his 32-year-old husband. On September 18, 2013, officers with the New Haven Police Department, after responding to a domestic call at See's residence, arrested him and Sunder Ganglani for breaching the peace and third-degree assault. 
     After a judge issued orders of protection requiring that the two men stay away from each other, Mr. Ganglani moved to New York City. 
     At five in the evening of Saturday, November 23, 2013, Sunder Ganglani, in violation of his protection order, showed up at the New Haven house to retrieve some of his possessions. Two hours later the estranged couple were engaged in a heated argument. The fight became so intense a third man in the house called the police. 
     When the responding officers couldn't calm down the combatants, they placed both men under arrest for violating their protection orders. This infuriated Dr. See who couldn't believe he was being arrested in his own home. The situation escalated when See fought against being handcuffed. In the scuffle with officers, Professor See fell and sustained a cut above his right eye. 
     While being escorted in handcuffs to the police vehicle, Samuel See, in addressing the arresting officer, said,  "I will kill you. I will destroy you."
     Following his treatment at the Yale-New Haven Hospital, police officers booked the professor into the police department jail on the additional charges of interfering with police and second-degree threatening. He was placed into a cell at nine-fifteen that night.
     At six o'clock the next morning, when a guard checked on Professor See, he found the prisoner unresponsive. The officer called for paramedic help then tried to revive Dr. See with CPR. Fifteen minutes later, emergency service responders pronounced the inmate dead.

     The forensic pathologist who performed Dr. See's autopsy ruled out trauma as the cause of death. (The professor did not hang himself, cut his wrists or had been attacked by another prisoner.)

     In January 2014, Chief State Medical Examiner Dr. James Gill announced that Professor See had died of a heart attack brought on by methamphetamine and amphetamine intoxication. The manner of death went into the books as accidental.

     In September 2014, a See family lawyer, after reviewing police and hospital records, told reporters that Mr. See may have died of either neglect or mistreatment at the jail. Attorney David Rosen pointed out that Professor See's death had not been reported to the police for three days after his passing. Although the family was considering filing a wrongful death suit against the authorities, their lawyer conceded that there probably wasn't enough evidence of official negligence or wrongdoing to support such an action. 

America's Oldest Murder-For-Hire Mastermind

     Dorothy Clark Canfield, born and raised in Montgomery County, Texas in the eastern part of the state, began a life of crime at the rather late age of 57. In 1986, in Huntsville, Texas, a Walker County judge sentenced Canfield to seven years probation following a felony theft conviction. A few months after she got off probation in 1993, she pleaded guilty to forgery in Montgomery County. The judge in that case sentenced the 64-year-old forger and thief to ten years probation. In 2009, after being convicted of passing forged checks at the age of 80, Dorothy Canfield was sent to prison for two years.

     Shortly after being released from prison in early 2011, Canfield formed a company in Willis, Texas called International Profession Placement Services. Between September 2011 and September 2012, at least seven undocumented residents each paid Canfield to "facilitate" their immigration paperwork for residency or citizenship in the United States. According to a Montgomery County assistant prosecutor, Canfield's operation was a scam. In November 2012, the prosecutor charged Canfield with stealing between $20,000 and $100,000 from her clients. A magistrate set her bond at $100,000.

     On April 4, 2013, while incarcerated in the Montgomery County Jail 30 miles north of Houston, 84-year-old Dorothy Canfield decided to hire someone to murder the assistant district attorney in charge of her case. She also wanted the hit man to beat-up the district attorney so bad he'd be hospitalized for three weeks. Canfield took inspiration from the recent Texas murders of the Kaufman County District Attorney, his wife and one of his assistant prosecutors. By killing the Montgomery County assistant prosecutor, Robert Freyer, and incapacitating his boss, D. A. Brett Ligon, Dorothy Canfield hoped to buy some time in her theft case.

     In search of an assassin, Canfield reached out to a fellow inmate who promptly reported Canfield's inquiry to the Texas Rangers Office. On April 5, the elderly murder-for-hire mastermind met with an undercover investigator who showed up at the jail posing as a contract killer. In the recorded conversation that followed, Canfield offered the phony hit-man $5,000 for assistant prosecutor Robert Freyer's murder, and half of that amount for the beating of Freyer's boss, District Attorney Brett Ligon.

     Ten days after the Montgomery County Jail murder-for-hire meeting, Texas Rangers Wende Wakeman and Wesley Doolittle showed Canfield staged crime scene photographs depicting the murders of the Montgomery County prosecutors. The elderly inmate, showing no remorse at the sight of the men she had tried to have killed, confessed to the murder plot.

     Dorothy Canfield was charged with solicitation of capital murder and solicitation to commit aggravated assault on a public figure. She remained incarcerated in the Montgomery County Jail under $500,000 bond.

     In August 2014, Canfield pleaded guilty to the theft and murder solicitation charges. At her sentencing hearing, her attorney asked Judge David Walker to grant the 85-year-old probation. The defense attorney argued that because of his client's poor health and age, she was not a danger to society. Unmoved, the judge sentenced the career thief and murder-for-hire mastermind to 53 years in prison. 

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Arthur Morgan III: A Narcissistic, Remorseless Child Killer

     By November 2011, Imani Benton, a 26-year-old resident of Lakehurst, New Jersey, had terminated her relationship with Arthur Morgan III, the father of their two-year-old daughter, Tierra. The couple had fought constantly, and on several occasions had taken each other to court. He continued to deny the breakup even after she returned the engagement ring and the other jewelry he had given her. The two of them had also traded accusations of child abuse. Because of Imani Benton's domestic abuse complaints, state child protection agents conducted four separate investigations that cleared Arthur Morgan of these accusations. As a result he continued to have access to his daughter.

     On November 15, 2011, Mr. Morgan's boss at Creative Building Supplies Company in Lakewood, New Jersey fired him.

     On November 21, 2011, just eight hours after Morgan called Imani Benton a bad mother and a whore, he made arrangements with her to take Tierra to see a movie about dancing penguins. Four hours after he promised to return the child, the girl's mother called the police to report Tierra missing.

     Police officers from thirteen New Jersey law enforcement agencies looked for the girl and her missing father. The search came to an end when searchers found Tierra's body in Shark River Park twenty miles north of her Lakehurst home.

     Homicide investigators believed that Arthur Morgan had dropped the girl's car seat, with her strapped into it, fifteen feet into a creek that ran below an overpass. The partially submerged car seat had been weighed down by a car jack. The drowned girl, still wearing her Pink Hello Kitty hat, had landed in three feet of water. (According to the father who did not deny throwing his daughter off the bridge, he heard her scream as he got back into his car.)

     After leaving his daughter to drown in the creek beneath the overpass, Arthur Morgan drove to a friend's house where he had a few drinks. The next day he boarded a train for San Diego, California.

     At four in the afternoon on November 29, 2011, agents with the U.S. Marshals Service arrested Morgan at a house in San Diego. (He was arrested on a federal unlawful flight to avoid prosecution warrant. These UFAP warrants are dismissed after the fugitive is returned to the local jurisdiction.)

     Back in New Jersey a few days after his apprehension, Arthur Morgan faced the charge of first-degree murder. Over the objection of his court-appointed lawyer, the arraignment judge set Morgan's bond at $10 million. Peter J. Warshaw Jr., the Monmouth County prosecutor in charge of the case said he would seek the maximum penalty of life without parole. (New Jersey abolished the death penalty several years earlier.)

     The Arthur Morgan child murder trial got underway in a Freehold, New Jersey Superior Court on March 12, 2014. In his opening remarks to the jury, prosecutor Peter J. Warshaw Jr. accused the defendant of killing his daughter simply because he was angry that Imani Benton had ended their relationship. According to the prosecutor, Mr. Morgan killed Tierra to get back at his former girlfriend. Mr. Warshaw called the killing a "knowing and purposeful murder" motivated by pride and revenge.

     The public defender told the jurors that her client was merely guilty of reckless manslaughter, a lesser degree of criminal homicide that carried a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Given the undisputed facts of this case, that would turn out to be a hard sell.

     The murdered girl's mother, Imani Benton, took the stand as the prosecution's star witness. To the jury, Benton read a letter the defendant had sent her from the San Diego jail shortly after his arrest. In that letter, Morgan, in justifying the murder, accused members of Benton's family of abusing Tierra. He referred to their behavior as "heinous and depraved." Morgan also blamed the girl's mother for her death: "You should have come with us to the movie. It would have been so different, I'm sure. That was the plan, to go as a family."

     Regarding the defendant's self-serving letter, Imani Benton testified that, "If I would have gone to the movie, we wouldn't have gone to the movie. We all would be dead."

     One of the defendant's co-workers at the Lakewood lumber yard testified that Morgan had been paid every Tuesday, and by Friday, he was broke. According to Tulio Bazan, the defendant spent a lot of money on clothes and accessories. "He showed me the Gucci sunglasses, a Gucci wallet and the Gucci shoes." Morgan told the witness that the wallet itself cost him $400.

     In mid-April 2014, the jury in Freehold, New Jersey, following a short period of deliberation, found Arthur Morgan guilty as charged.

     Six weeks after the guilty verdict, at his May 28, 2014 sentence hearing, the convicted murderer apologized to Imani Benton for the breakdown of their relationship. (He didn't apologize for killing their daughter.) "I want to say I'm sorry for the deterioration of what I thought was a beautiful friendship between the two of us that blossomed into a daughter. For anybody that was truly affected by this, I hope we can all heal from the situation, knowing that Tierra is in a better place." (In other words, he was the victim in this story.)

     As one might expect from a narcissistic sociopath with a god-complex, the convicted murderer whined about the media coverage of the trial. He said he didn't like newspaper photographs that depicted him as either angry or inappropriately jolly. He informed the court that had he known that reporters would make negative comments about his designer courtroom attire, he would have dressed more modestly.

     The complaining sociopath also rambled on about how badly his murder victim had been treated by members of Benton's family. He contrasted that behavior to how, before he murdered his daughter out of wounded pride, he had been such an excellent father.

     Judge Anthony Mellaci, Jr., before handing down Morgan's sentence, lamented that New Jersey no longer imposed the death penalty. "You'd be candidate number one for its imposition," he said. "Your actions were horrific, unthinkable and appalling. This child was alive when she was placed in the water in pitch darkness. She had to suffer the unthinkable action of having water rush in and fill her lungs while strapped into that car seat. This child suffered before she died."

     Judge Mellaci sentenced the remorseless sociopath to life in prison without the possibility of parole.