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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Chad Wolfe's Mysterious Death

     On Thursday night, March 14, 2013, Chad Wolfe and Jessica Price, his girlfriend of ten years, boarded Delta Flight 2233 out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania en route to Atlanta and their final destination, Tampa, Florida. Wolfe resided in West Newton, a Westmoreland County town of 3,000 twenty-five miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The 31-year-old worked in a Sewickley Township body shop with his father. Chad and Jessica planned to meet up with friends in Tampa, rent a car, then drive to Daytona Beach to participate in Bike Week festivities. They also planned to visit a few automobile auctions.

     The couple flew into the Tampa International Airport from their layover in Atlanta just before midnight. They had been arguing. Chad took an elevator from the third floor of the main terminal to the 7th floor parking garage while she picked up their luggage from baggage claim. When Jessica returned to the main concourse with the luggage, Chad wasn't there. When she couldn't find him she alerted an airport security officer who organized a search party.

     At ten o'clock the next morning airport maintenance workers found Chad Wolfe's body lying on top of an elevator car stopped at the third floor of the main terminal. In his pocket investigators found an empty Xanax bottle. (He had a prescription for Xanax and Paxil.)

     Investigators found, on the seventh floor not far from the bank of elevators, Chad's cellphone and carry-on case. This discovery raised questions of what Chad was doing in the parking garage, and how his body end up on top of the third floor elevator car.

     The authorities who looked into this mysterious death, certainly a suspicious one, came to the conclusion that Chad Wolfe had somehow accidentally fallen down the elevator shaft. But the young man's father, Garland Wolfe, didn't believe his 150 pound son had the strength to pry open the elevator doors. Don Cassell, an elevator expert, agreed. According to Mr. Cassell, opening the doors of a working elevator with one's bare hands was next to impossible.

     Jessica Price revealed that Chad had taken a Xanax pill to ease his anxiety about flying, He had also consumed a drink on the plane. Did her confused boyfriend go to the parking garage to smoke a cigarette? Still, how did he get into the elevator shaft?

     In May 2013, the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner issued the report on Chad Wolfe's death. The cause of this young man's demise went into the books as "blunt force impact to the head and neck." The manner of death: an accident.

     According to the medical examiner's report, the deceased had Alprozolam and Paxil in his system. In the report, a forensic investigator wrote: "It appears the deceased forced open an elevator door to gain entry into the elevator shaft."

     According to a report submitted months later by the airport, witnesses on Wolfe's flight from Atlanta to Tampa said that Wolfe had been drinking alcohol, popping pills and acting rudely on the plane. At the airport, a witness saw a belligerent man banging on the seventh floor elevator door. Tampa airport detective Kevin Durkin, the lead investigator in the case, concluded that Wolfe forced open the landing doors on the elevator. He then wrapped his arms and legs aground "the elevator cable inside the shaft with the intention to slide down the cable to the elevator car roof. As he descended down the elevator cable, friction wounds caused him to let go."

     Detective Durkin concluded that Wolfe had fallen and died when he landed on the top of the elevator car.

Monday, January 30, 2023

The Eli Weaver/Barbara Raber Murder Case

     In 2009, Eli Weaver, his wife Barbara and their five children resided in central Ohio's Amish heartland. He owned a gun shop near his Wayne County farm near Apple Creek. Over the past several years leaders of the Amish community had thrown him out of the church for running around with English women he had met online. Eli would ask for forgiveness, be accepted back into the fold, then get into trouble again with the same un-Amish behavior.

     The 23-year-old Amish man, in 2003, met Barbara Raber, a woman who had grown up Amish but had left the church. The 33-year-old from Millersburg, Ohio made extra money driving Amish people from place to place. The relationship between Eli and his driver eventually became sexual.

     Beginning in the fall of 2008, Weaver and Raber began discussing how to murder his wife. In 2009, they exchanged a series of text messages in which they discussed various plans on how to pull off the crime.

      At seven on the morning of June 2, 2009, one of the Weaver children ran to a neighbor's house with shocking news. Someone, during the night, had shot and killed his mother in her bed. Eli, at that moment, was fishing on Lake Erie. The neighbor and the boy entered the Weaver house where Barbara Weaver lay in her blood-soaked bed with a gaping gunshot wound in her chest.

     At 11:30 that morning, Wayne County Coroner Dr. Amy Joliff pronounced Barbara Weaver dead at the scene. Dr. Lisa Kohler, the Summit County Chief Medical Examiner, performed the autopsy. According to the forensic pathologist, the victim had been killed by a single shotgun blast to the right side of her chest. Several shotgun pellets were removed from the corpse. Dr. Kohler estimated the time of death as sometime between midnight and three o'clock that morning.

     John Gardner, a firearms expert with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation identified the death scene pellets as number six shot. While this ammunition could have been fired from shotguns of four different gauges, the firearms identification expert believed the murder weapon was a .410-gauge shotgun.

     Detectives with the Wayne County Sheriff's Office seized two .410 shotguns from Eli Weaver's gun shop. Officers also recovered a box of .410 shells with one round missing. Investigators in the murder house found an amount of cash sitting on a table suggesting that robbery had not been the motive in this killing.

     Questioned by detectives upon his return from the Lake Erie fishing trip, Eli Weaver denied any involvement in his wife's murder.

     On June 10, 2009, detectives arrested Weaver after he confessed to helping Barbara Raber murder his wife. She had pulled the trigger while he was fishing.

     That day, pursuant to a search of Raber's house in Millersburg, officers found a notebook in which she had written out a list of various poisons. At the police station following her arrest she denied knowledge of the murder. She explained the incriminating text messages to and from Eli as nothing more than joking around.

     The day after Raber's arrest, upon further questioning, the suspected trigger woman admitted going to the Weaver house around four in the morning armed with a .410-gauge shotgun. Eli had left the basement door unlocked for her. She said her intent was merely to frighten Barbara Weaver, but when she entered the bedroom, the gun discharged accidentally. Raber's interrogators didn't buy the accidental shooting story, but asked her to sign a written statement to that effect. She refused and asked to see a lawyer. The interrogation, at that point, came to an end.

     On August 17, 2009, Eli Weaver agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit murder. As part of the plea deal, he promised to testify for the prosecution at Barbara Raber's murder trial.

     The Raber murder trial got underway on September 16, 2009 in Wooster, Ohio with Judge Robert J. Brown presiding. Wayne County prosecutor Edna J. Boyle, following testimony from the county coroner, the medical examiner and several police officers, put Dena Unangst on the stand. Unangst had been the defendant's cellmate at the Wayne County Jail. According to this witness, Raber admitted to her that she had purchased a .410 shotgun after Eli Weaver, on numerous occasions, begged her to murder his wife. Raber also asked Unangst if she knew how long a fingerprint could last on a gun. (Under ideal conditions, 50 years or more.)

     Gun store owner Larry Miller took the stand and testified that the defendant had purchased a .410 on November 15, 2008.

     On September 30, 2009, prosecutor Boyle put the shunned Amish man on the stand. Elie Weaver, now 29, testified that when he mentioned getting rid of his wife, a woman he didn't love, Raber "ran away with the idea." At one point, during one of their homicide planning conversations she gave him a bottle of what she called "poison pills." Eli said he rejected poisoning as a way of killing his wife.

     On the day before the murder, Eli informed Raber that at three the next morning he would be leaving the house on a fishing trip. He'd leave the basement door open for her. Shortly after he left the house that morning, Raber sent him a text in which she asked how she was supposed to see in the dark. "It's too scary," she wrote. Eli advised her to take a flashlight.

     At 3:25 AM Raber texted, "I'm scared, where are you?" Texting that he was in Wooster, Eli cautioned Raber not to leave anything behind at the murder scene.

     According to the prosecutor's star witness, on June 9, 2009, the day before he and Raber were arrested, they had a conversation in his barn. She described the night she killed Barbara Weaver and said she was "sorry for everything." Before parting company, Raber asked Eli how to clean a gun so it looked like it hadn't been recently fired.

     Assistant public defender John J. Leonard tried to convince the jury that Eli Weaver, not his client, had murdered the victim. The defense attorney described Raber's incriminating statement to detectives as the product of fear and confusion. Leonard rested his defense without putting his client on the stand.

     On October 1, 2009, the jury found the defendant guilty as charged. Judge Brown sentence the 39-year-old woman to 23 years in prison. Eli Weaver had been sentenced by this judge the day before to 15 years to life.

     Weaver's light sentence illustrates, from the point of view of a guilty murder mastermind, the value of pleading guilty and testifying against an accomplice. Raber's sentence, given the cold-bloodedness of the killing and the innocence of the victim, was also lenient.  

Sunday, January 29, 2023

The History of American Forensic Science

     By 1935, crime laboratories were up and running in New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. The FBI Lab had opened its doors in 1933. The bureau's national fingerprint repository had been operating in Washington, D.C. since 1924, the year J. Edgar Hoover, an early advocate of scientific crime detection, became the agency's fourth director. August Vollmer, the progressive police administrator from Berkeley, California, and Dean John Wigmore of Northwestern University Law School, had been tireless crusaders for forensic science and physical evidence as an alternative to coerced confessions, eyewitness testimony and jailhouse informants. Wigmore and Vollmer were the main forces behind the formation in Chicago of the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory in 1930. In 1938, the private lab became part of the Chicago Police Department.

     In the 1930s a pair of private practice forensic chemists and crime scene reconstruction analysts in the northwest, Oscar Heinrich and Luke May, were grabbing headlines by solving high-profile murder cases. Stories involving crimes solved through the scientific analysis of physical evidence had become commonplace features in the fact-crime magazines so popular at the time. Numerous textbooks and manuals had been published on the subjects of fingerprint identification, forensic ballistics, questioned documents, trace evidence analysis, forensic serology, forensic medicine, scientific lie detection (polygraph) and forensic anthropology, the identification and analysis of skeletal remains.

     Criminal investigation textbooks of this era contained detailed instructions on how to protect crime scenes, render crime scene sketches, photograph clues, mark and package physical evidence, dust for latent fingerprints, make plaster-of-Paris casts of tire tracks and footwear impressions, and in the case of sudden, unexplained, or violent death, look for signs of criminal homicide. By the mid-thirties virtually every court in the country accepted the expert opinions of practitioners in the major forensic fields, and jurors recognized the advantages of expert physical evidence interpretation over the more direct testimony of jailhouse snitches and eyewitnesses.

     Today, notwithstanding DNA science and computerized fingerprint identification and retrieval capabilities, crime solution percentages in the United States have not improved since the mid-thirties when the FBI started collecting crime statistics. The emphasis on street policing (order maintenance), the escalating war on drugs and the threat of domestic terrorism diminished the role of criminal investigation and forensic science in the administration of justice. At a time when DNA technology advanced far beyond the imaginations of the pioneers of forensic serology (Dr. Paul Kirk and others), rapists, pedophiles and serial killers are escaping detection and arrest due to DNA analysis backlogs created by a shortage of funds and experts.

     Ironically, one of the byproducts of DNA science has been the release of hundreds of innocent people convicted on the strength of coerced confessions, unreliable eyewitnesses and the testimony of jailhouse informants. In the small percentage of trials that involve the analysis of physical evidence, jurors are commonly exposed to conflicting scientific testimony. When faced with opposing experts, jurors tend to disregard the science altogether. The forensic pioneers of the twenties and thirties would be appalled by this hired-gun phenomena and the low productivity of today's investigative services.

     During the first decade of the 21st Century, due to forensic misidentifications caused by substandard lab conditions and incompetent personnel, crime laboratories in, among other places, Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit and Boston had to be temporarily closed. During this period, for the first time in the history of the science, there were numerous high-profile fingerprint misidentifications. Moreover, modern forensic science has seen an infusion of pseudo-science and bogus expertise into the nation's courtrooms.

      In March 2009, the National Academy of Sciences, an organization within the National Institute of Justice, after an eighteen month study, published a report criticizing the state of forensic science in America. The writers of the widely publicized report recommended that Congress create a federal agency to insure a firewall between forensic science and law enforcement; finance more research and personnel training; and promote universal standards of excellence in the troubled fields of DNA profiling, forensic firearms identification, fingerprint analysis, forensic document examination and forensic pathology. From this, one might reasonably conclude that modern forensic science, weighed against the hopes and dreams of its pioneers, has not lived up to its potential.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven

     Writing and publishing a memoir that features a child's recollection of events is not only ridiculous, it's an abuse of the youngster, the genre and the people who pay good money to read what they think is a nonfiction book.

     In 2010, Tyndale House, a leading publisher of Christian books, came out with a memoir called, The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels and Life Beyond the World. The subject of the book, Alex Malarkey, was listed as the author of the memoir along with his father, Kevin. (In the memoir genre, the concept of authorship has been rendered almost meaningless.)

     The spiritual, uplifting story begins with a 2004 automobile accident that put Alex Malarkey into a coma that took him to Heaven where he saw angels and spoke to Jesus. The publicity savvy father took advantage of the feel-good appeal this journey into the afterlife held for fluff morning television shows. The book became a bestseller. By 2014 the publisher had sold 120,000 copies of the memoir.

     In 2014, shortly after Tyndale House brought out a new edition of the memoir that featured the cover blurb: "A true story," Alex Malarkey, in an open letter to the reading public, admitted that the book was a lie, a fraud driven by his desire for attention. (The fraudulent memoir genre has become so common it could be designated a literary category.)

    According to the boy, "I did not die. I did not go to Heaven. When I made those claims I had never read the Bible. People have profited from my lies and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough."

     The publisher, in early January 2015, pulled the book off the market. The discrediting of this memoir had been foreshadowed by the young author's mother, an early critic of the book. In April 2014 she wrote on her blog that her son had been exploited and that she found the book's success "both puzzling and painful to watch." 

Friday, January 27, 2023

The Brock Allen Turner Sexual Assault Case

     During the early morning hours of January 18, 2015, in Palo Alto, California, two Stanford University students came across a man lying on top of a woman near a fraternity house dumpster. The man and the woman had passed out from excessive alcohol consumption.

     The Stanford student on top of the partially clad woman was 20-year-old Brock Allen Turner, an all-American high school swimmer from Dayton, Ohio. He had met the woman found beneath him at a fraternity party that night. (Her identify was not made public.)

     Turner had twice the legal limit of alcohol in his system. The 23-year-old woman was three times over the legal limit for intoxication.

     After being examined at a hospital in San Jose, a deputy sheriff told the woman she may have been the victim of a sexual assault.

     Brock Turner, when questioned by the police, admitted that he had sexually fondled the unconscious woman but did not rape her.

     Shortly after being questioned by detectives, a Santa Clara County prosecutor charged Brock Turner with three felonies that included the sexual assault of an unconscious woman and assault with the intent to commit rape. If convicted as charged, Turner faced up to 14 years in prison.

     Following his arrest on the three felony charges Brock Turner withdrew from the university.

     The Turner sexual assault case went to trial in Palo Alto in March 2016. Prosecutor Alaleh Kianerci, in her opening remarks to the jury, called the defendant the "quintessential face of campus assault." The victim had consumed four shots of whisky before attending the party as well as a quantity of vodka at the fraternity house. As a result of her intoxication she had been unable to consent to having sex. Lack of consent constituted the legal basis for the prosecution.

     Brock Turner took the stand on his own behalf and testified that the woman had been a willing participant in the sexual activity. Following his testimony, and the closing arguments, the jury found the defendant guilty as charged.

     At the convicted man's sentencing hearing on June 2, 2016, his defense attorney asked Judge Aaron Persky to sentence his client to probation. The defendant's father, Dan Turner, took the stand and said, in reference to his son spending 14 years behind bars: "That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life."

     The female Santa Clara County probation officer who had conducted Brock Turner's pre-sentencing investigation took the stand and said: "When compared to other crimes of similar nature, this case may be considered less serious due to Mr. Turner's level of intoxication." The probation officer also pointed out that the former Stanford student did not have a criminal record, was young and unlikely to re-offend. The county agent concluded her testimony by saying that Mr. Turner had "expressed sincere remorse and empathy for the victim." The probation officer recommended a short jail term followed by a period of probation.

     Prosecutor Kianerci, in her pre-sentencing statement to the court, noted that Mr. Turner experienced a run-in with the police in November 2014. He had, according to police reports, run from an officer after the officer spotted him and other young men drinking on campus. Turner also admitted to possessing a fake driver's license. The prosecutor wondered out loud how the defendant could be so remorseful and empathetic when he had pleaded not guilty to the charges. Prosecutor Kianerci asked Judge Persky to sentence the defendant to six years in prison.

     The most dramatic phase of the pre-sentencing hearing occurred when the victim took the stand and read from her lengthy victim impact statement. She read, in part: "You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, and my own voice, until today. The damage is done, no one can undo it. And now we both have a choice. We can let this destroy us, I can remain angry and hurt and you can be in denial, or we can face it and head on: I accept the pain, you accept the punishment, and we move on."

     Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Brock Turner to six months in the county jail followed by three years' probation. Turner would also have to register as a sex offender. With good behavior, the convicted man was expected to serve three months behind bars.

     Judge Persky's sentence in the Turner sexual assault case created a firestorm of protest from an angry and vocal segment of society that considered the sentence a mere slap on the wrist. Others more sympathetic to the offender believed that making the young man register as a sex offender was, by itself, severe punishment. This group argued that the sexual assault conviction had essentially ruined his life.

    Judge Persky's sentence immediately prompted a movement to recall him from office. Under California law, the California Assembly could impeach Judge Persky after which he could be removed from office on a two-thirds vote in the state senate. Moreover, the State Commission on Judicial Performance could censure or remove the judge from the bench. This action would be subject to a review by the state supreme court.

     Those outraged by the Persky sentence called for Stanford University to apologize for the sexual assault. The activists also demanded that the school bolster its effort to prevent campus rape and other sexual offenses. In response, the university issued a statement that deflected criticism of its handling of the Turner case.

     Following the national uproar over the judge's sentence, a group of prospective Santa Clara County jurors refused to serve in Judge Persky's courtroom. The judge and members of his family also received death threats.

     The national publicity associated with the Turner case prompted several politicians, including Vice President Joe Biden, to express concern over the sentence and the problem of campus rape and other sexual crimes.  
     While the California Commission on Judicial Performance found no wrongdoing in Judge Persky's sentencing of Brock Turner, voters recalled the judge in June, 2018. 

Thursday, January 26, 2023

The Right to Give Your Child a Wrong Name

     Generally, because of the First Amendment right of free speech, there is nothing the government can do to stop a parent from giving a kid a weird and arguably stupid name. The only remedy for victims of bad names is to legally correct the problem when they become adults. Recent examples of ridiculous names include Ruger, Irelynd, Blaze, Cinsere, D'Artagnan, Abeus, Troolio, and Dusk. (For some reason, movie stars have a tendency to to burden their children with stupid, attention getting names.)

     Several years ago in New Jersey, the parents of a 3-year-old they had named Adolph Hitler Campbell, sued a bakery for refusing to write that name on the boy's birthday cake. While the bakery won the suit, the state of New Jersey did not have the authority to have little Adolph Hitler re-named.

     If you can name an innocent child Adolph Hitler, you can pretty much name a kid anything. There are, however, a few limitations to this right. In most states a name cannot be an Arabic number, an obscenity or a symbol. Names that are extremely long are also forbidden. So, could a mother lawfully name her girl Promiscuous, or her son Fecal? Probably.

     Jaleesa Martin, a resident of Newport, Tennessee, a town of 7,000 in the rural foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains, gave birth to a boy in January 2013. The boy's father, a man named McCullough, wanted his son to have his last name. The mother wanted to give the child her last name. The couple did agree, however, on the baby's first name--Messiah.

     To settle this domestic dispute, Jaleesa Martin, in the summer of 2013, asked child support magistrate Lu Anna Ballew to approve the name Messiah DeShawn Martin. Following the hearing in August 2013, Magistrate Ballew ordered the parents to name their child Martin DeShawn McCullough.

     The magistrate said she disapproved of the child's first name because "the word 'messiah' is a title and it's a title that has been earned by one person and that person is Jesus Christ." Moreover, Ballew reasoned, that first name "could put him [the boy] at odds with a lot of people, and at this point he had no choice in what his name was. (What kid does have a choice in this matter?)

     In announcing that she was appealing the magistrate's decision, Jaleesa Martin told reporters that "I was shocked. I never intended on naming my son Messiah because it means God, and I didn't think a judge could make me change my boy's name because of her religious beliefs." (The mother could have pointed out that in 2012, more babies were named Messiah than Donald, Philip, Bruce or Gary.)

     On September 18, 2013, Judge Telford Forgety overturned the magistrate's ruling. Pursuant to an agreement reached by the parents, the kid's name was changed to Messiah DeShawn McCullough. (The boy had siblings named Micah and Mason.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Jerome Murdough's Jail Cell Death

     After graduating from a Queens, New York high school in 1976, Jerome Murdough joined the Marine Corps. He served a tour in Okinawa, Japan before his honorable discharge. Shortly after he returned to New York City, Murdough started drinking heavily and taking drugs. In his thirties, after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, he found himself living on the street and in homeless shelters. He had joined the growing number of mentally ill Americans living on the fringes of urban society. To maintain a semblance of sanity, Murdough had to keep taking his anti-psychotic medication. He also took anti-seizure pills and continued to medicate himself with alcohol.

     Over the years, New York City police officers, on a dozen occasions, arrested Murdough for the misdemeanor offenses of drunk in public, trespassing and drug possession. On February 7, 2014, a police officer in Harlem, New York arrested the 56-year-old homeless man for trespassing. Murdough had been sleeping in an enclosed stairwell in a public housing project.

     The arresting officer booked Mr. Murdough into Rikers Island, the nation's second largest jail system. At any given time, Rikers Island is the temporary home of 1,200 prisoners, almost half of whom are mentally ill. At his arraignment, the judge assigned Murdough an attorney from the public defender office, and set his bail at a prohibitive $2,500.

     On February 14, 2014, a week into his incarceration, jail officials transferred Murdough to the Anna M. Kross Center, the jail system's massive mental health unit. They placed him into a 6-by-10 foot cinderblock cell at 10:30 that night. Pursuant to jail policy pertaining to prisoners in the mental observation unit, corrections officers were supposed to check on Murdough every fifteen minutes.

     At 2:30 the next morning, four hours after Murdough's transfer to the mental health unit, a corrections officer discovered Murdough dead on his cot. The first thing the guard noticed was the intense heat coming out of the cell. The temperature in the enclosure had risen to well about 100 degrees due to an heating system malfunction.

     While the forensic pathologist with the New York City's Medical Examiner's Office was unable to articulate the exact cause of death without more testing, initial indicators pointed toward extreme dehydration otherwise know as heat stroke. Since psychotropic medications can impair the body's ability to cool itself by sweating, Murdough's prescription regime may have been a contributing factor to his death.

     Jerome Murdough's 75-year-old mother learned of her son's fate a month after he essentially baked to death. She learned of  his passing from a reporter with the Associated Press. Mrs. Murdough hadn't been in contact with her son for three years.

     On April 3, 2014, a spokesperson for New York City's jail system announced that the warden of the mental health unit had been demoted over the incident. Two corrections officer were placed on thirty-day suspensions for not "following basic procedures."
     In October 2014, pursuant to a civil suit filed by Jerome Murdough's family, the city of New York authorized a $2.25 million settlement.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Historic Fingerprint: The Jennings Murder Case

     In Chicago, Illinois, on September 19, 1910, a noise at two in the morning coming from her 15-year-old's bedroom awoke Mary Hiller. She slipped into her robe and ventured into the hall where she noticed that the gaslight outside her daughter's room had been turned off. Fearing that an intruder had entered the house, Mrs. Hiller returned to the master bedroom and shook her husband awake.

    Clarence Hiller, on the landing en route to his daughter's room, bumped into Thomas Jennings, a 32-year-old paroled burglar in possession of a .38-caliber revolver. The men struggled, then tumbled down the stairway. At the foot of the stairs, Jennings, the bigger man, got to his feet, pulled his gun and fired two shots. The first bullet entered Hiller's right arm, traveled up through his shoulder and exited the left side of his neck. The second slug slammed into his chest, piercing his heart and lung before coming out his back. The gunman left the scene through the front door, leaving behind a screaming Mary Hiller, her dead husband and a terrified 15-year-old girl who had been sexually molested.

     About a mile from the murder house, Jennings, walking with a limp and bleeding from cuts on his arm, passed four off-duty police officers waiting for a streetcar. When questioned about his injuries, Jennings said he had fallen off a trolley. One of the officers patted him down and discovered the recently fired handgun. The officers placed Jennings under arrest and escorted the suspect to the police station.

     A few hours after the arrest detectives at the murder scene found the two .38-caliber bullets that had passed through Clarence Hiller's body. Today, a forensic firearms identification expert would be able to match the crime scene slugs with bullets test-fired through the suspect's gun. But in 1910 this type of forensic identification was 15 year in the future. Investigators also determined that the intruder had entered the Hiller house through a kitchen window. A detective who was ahead of his time found four fingerprint impressions on a freshly painted porch rail outside the point of entry. (Paint, in those days, dried slowly.) A technician with the police department's two-year-old fingerprint bureau photographed the the finger marks that had been left in the dark gray paint. (The science of fingerprint identification first came to American from England in 1906 when the St. Louis Police Department started the country's first fingerprint bureau.) Mary Hiller, traumatized by the murder of her husband, failed to pick Thomas Jennings out of a police lineup. While roughed up, and the recipient of a third-degree interrogation, Jennings did not confess.

     At Jennings' May 1911 murder trial two Chicago Police Department fingerprint examiners, a fingerprint technician from the police department in Ottawa, Canada and a private expert who had studied fingerprint science at Scotland Yard, testified that the impressions on the porch rail matched the ridges on four of the defendant's fingers, placing him at the scene of the murder. While the idea that fingerprints were unique had been around for 20 years, this was the first U.S. jury to be presented with this form of impression evidence. The chance of convicting Jennings was not good because the prosecution's case--the defendant's arrest one mile from the house, his injuries, his possession of a recently fired gun and his murder scene fingerprints--was based entirely on circumstantial evidence. In those days, and to some extent today, jurors prefer direct evidence in the form of confessions and eyewitness identifications.

     Prior to the testimony of the four fingerprint witnesses, Jennings' attorney had objected to the introduction of this evidence on the grounds this form of forensic identification had not been scientifically tested and was therefore unreliable, and inadmissible. The trial judge, in allowing the fingerprint testimony, relied on a 1908 arson case, Carleton v. People, in which the defendant had been linked to the fire scene by impressions left by his shoes.

     The jury, following a short deliberation, found Thomas Jennings guilty of first-degree murder. To arrive at this verdict the jurors had placed more weight on the physical evidence than on the defendant's claim of innocence. The judge sentenced Thomas Jennings to death.

     On appeal, Thomas Jennings' lawyer argued that there was no scientific proof that fingerprints were unique. By admitting the testimony of so-called fingerprint experts, the trial court had sentenced a man to the gallows on pseudoscience and bogus expertise. The Illinois Supreme Court, on December 21, 1911, ruled that the Jennings trial judge had not made a judicial error by admitting the fingerprint testimony. This was good news for forensic science and bad news for Thomas Jennings who died in 1912 at the end of a rope.

     People v. Jennings laid the groundwork for forensic fingerprint identification in America. By 1925, virtually every court in the United States accepted this form of impression evidence as proof of guilt. In medicine, illness leads to cures, and in law enforcement, murders produce advances in forensic science.  

Monday, January 23, 2023

Was Kendrick Johnson Murdered?

     Kendrick Johnson attended Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia. The thin, muscular 17-year-old played on the football and basketball teams. After attending his fourth period class on Thursday, January 10, 2013, Kendrick went missing. The next morning someone discovered the student's body stuffed upside-down inside a  rolled-up wrestling mat that stood on its end in the school gymnasium. He was dead.

     Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine, in charge of the death scene investigation, quickly concluded that the high school student's death had been accidental. According to Sheriff Prine, Kendrick must have gone into the mat head-first to retrieve a shoe or some other item. The sheriff theorized that Kendrick got stuck inside the mat and suffocated.

     On January 25, 2013, the director of the Valdosta-Lowndes Regional Crime Laboratory where a forensic pathologist had performed the autopsy ten days earlier, informed members of the media that Johnson's body had "showed no signs of blunt  force trauma." Sheriff Prine assured reporters there were no other signs of a struggle on Johnson's body.

     Kendrick's parents, Kenneth and Jackie Johnson, took issue with the manner of death determination and complained that officials with the sheriff's office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation were not talking to them about their son's death.

     In mid-April 2013, Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson told a reporter with the Valdosta Daily Times that Kendrick Johnson's body had been moved before the coroner arrived at the gym. According to Mr. Watson, the sheriff had waited six hours before informing him of the gruesome discovery. (Under Georgia law, the local coroner's office must be notified immediately in cases of sudden, violent or unexplained death.) Regarding the delay in notification and the moving of the body, Coroner Watson said, "Well it compromises my investigation one-hundred percent. I don't know what the county [sheriff's office personnel] did when they got on the scene. The [death] scene, in my opinion, had been compromised."

     On May 4, 2013, the authorities finally provided the media with a copy of the autopsy report. According to the forensic pathologist who performed Kendrick's autopsy, the young man had died from "positional asphyxia." He had suffocated as a result of being trapped upside-down in the rolled-up mat. Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson, based upon this cause of death determination, had no choice but to rule that Kendrick Johnson had died as a result of a freak accident.

     Kenneth and Jackie Johnson, convinced that their son had been murdered, and the authorities were involved in a cover-up, asked a judge to authorize an exhumation. In May 2013 the judge granted the request which led to a second autopsy. That postmortem examination was performed by Dr. William R. Anderson, a forensic pathologist with the private firm Forensic Dimensions, a company located in Heathrow, Florida. The Johnsons paid for Dr. Anderson's postmortem review.

     The dead boy's parents were also pressing for a federal investigation into the closed case. In support of this request, the Johnson couple alleged that crime scene evidence had either been destroyed or tampered with. The sheriff's office had also denied the parents the opportunity to view high school surveillance camera footage of their son during the hours before he went missing. The parents also claimed that postmortem photographs of Kendrick revealed lacerations on his face and body.

     On May 23, 2013, Kenneth and Jackie Johnson released copies of two reports that had been written by a pair of paramedics with the South Georgia Medical Center Mobile Healthcare Service. According to the paramedics, Kendrick's body showed obvious signs of a struggle. Moreover, they found the student's body in a pool of blood and vomit. One of the paramedics wrote that he considered the high school gym the scene of a criminal homicide. The sheriff, however, insisted that morning that Kendrick Johnson's death had been a tragic accident.

     The results of the second autopsy performed by Dr. William R. Anderson were released in early September 2013. In his report, Dr. Anderson concluded that Kendrick Johnson had died from "unexplained, apparent non-accidental blunt force trauma to his right neck and soft tissues."

     The attorney representing the Johnson family told reporters that she was sending a copy of Dr. Anderson's autopsy report to the civil rights division of the U. S. Department of Justice. The cause and manner of Kendrick Johnson's death had not been changed. Officially, he died of a freak accident.

     On October 10, 2013, Kendrick Johnson's parents revealed that when Kendrick's body was exhumed for the second autopsy, Dr. Anderson discovered that the boy's internal organs were missing. "I feel outraged about them stuffing my son's body with newspaper," Jacquelin Johnson said. The parents told reporters they believe the missing organs was further evidence of foul play and a cover-up in their son's death.

     Michael Moore, the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia announced on October 31, 2013 that the FBI would investigate the circumstances surrounding Kendrick Johnson's death. "We're happy," Jacquelyn Johnson said. "The only thing we ever wanted was the truth."

     In December 2013, FBI agents questioned several of Johnson's Lowndes High School classmates as well as Lowndes County coroner Bill Watson. Agents also spent time with the deceased boy's parents. The parents, in February 2014, filed a lawsuit against the funeral home that handled their son's remains. According to the plaintiffs, funeral home personnel intentionally destroyed his internal organs in an attempt to interfere with the investigation into their son's murder.

     On March 13, 2014, in Macon, Georgia, four of Johnson's classmates as well as students from nearby Valdosta High School appeared before the federal grand jury looking into the death.

     CNN reporters, on March 17, 2014, announced that they had acquired, through the Georgia Open Records Act, an anonymous email dated January 27, 2014. According to the police tipster, one of Johnson's classmates confessed to killing the young man. This person had not, however, confessed directly to the email sender. In an effort to identify the tipster, a Lowndes County assistant district attorney ordered a communications company to hand over its internet records pertaining to this email.

     In June 2016, an official with the United States Attorney's Office announced there was insufficient evidence of foul play in Kendrick Johnson's death to merit the filing of criminal charges.

     In July 2017, a federal district judge dismissed the Johnson family $100 million civil lawsuit filed six months earlier against dozens of state and local officials.
     In April 2019, the new Loundes County Sheriff, Ashley Paulik, asked the federal government to release its file on the investigation into Kendrick Johnson's death. The request was denied, but after federal officials met with Kendrick's parents, the government, in November 2020, sent the Loundes County Sheriff 17 boxes of material pertaining to its investigation. 
     Sheriff Paulik, in March 2021, reopened the Kendrick Johnson case.
     In January 2022, after finding no evidence of foul play in Johnson's death, the Loundes County Sheriff's Office officially closed the case.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

True Detective Magazines: The Golden Era


     The period 1920 to 1940 marked the golden age of the fact crime magazine. Aimed at the adult male reader, the pulp art covers--often featuring sexy women in distress--promised stories of salacious violence and mayhem. Unlike many writers for crime fiction periodicals such as Black Mask who went on to become famous authors of mystery novels, the literary contributors to the fact-crime magazines remained relatively unknown. Exceptions included writers Dashiell Hammett, Jim Thompson and Alan Hynd.

     True crime magazines usually featured ten murder cases per issue. (Occasionally there were accounts starring con men, counterfeiters, safe crackers, forgers, pickpockets and extortionists.) Because true crime readers were armchair detectives, good investigative work comprised a major element of each story. Editors liked cases solved by the emerging forensic sciences of latent fingerprint identification, blood stain analysis, tire impression evidence, biological time of death estimation, handwriting identification and forensic ballistics. It also helped if the homicides were exceptionally gruesome such as one cover-story that featured a woman tied to a tree to be eaten alive by hyenas.

     True crime magazines in the golden era reflected the history of crime in America. In the 1920s and 30s the magazines featured depression era bank robbers like John Dillinger, "Pretty Boy" Floyd, "Baby Face" Nelson and Ma Barker and her degenerate son Fred. Bonnie and Clyde, Al Capone, Alvin Karpus and "Machine Gun" Kelly all made regular appearances between the covers of fact-crime publications. In 1931, True Detective Mysteries started a regular feature called "Line Up." Police departments across the country sent in mug shots and descriptions of criminals on the run. Readers who recognized these fugitives and turned them in received small cash rewards. By 1944 "Line Up" had been responsible for the apprehension of more than 300 criminals. The magazine also ran an ongoing piece called "Crime Doesn't Pay" consisting of photographs of bad guys who had been recently brought to justice. (Crime did pay for True Detective Mysteries.) Many of the men shown in this feature were destined for the electric chair.

     In 1933, True Detective Mysteries started a series of articles by the famous Seattle criminalist, Luke S. May. All of these pieces involved criminals who had been outfoxed by scientific crime detection. By 1940 Luke May was also writing a regular question and answer column about forensic science. May also authored several books featuring his most interesting cases.

     True Detective Mysteries, first published by Bernard MacFadden in 1924, is considered the first fact-crime magazine. Within a few years MacFadden would be publishing several true crime periodicals including Master Detective. At his peak, MacFadden was selling two million magazines a month. In the 1930s, a true crime buff could choose between 100 magazines with titles like, Front Page Detective, Official Detective, Baffling Detective, True Gangster, Detective Yarns, Spicy Detective, Current Detective and Detective World.

    By the end of World War II the golden era of the true detective magazine came to an end. Mass market paperbacks and television would finish off the last of the true crime magazines. MacFadden Publications, in 1971, sold off  True Detective Mysteries to a British firm. In the summer of 1995, the company ceased publication altogether. In the 1960s, MacFadden managing editor Marc Gerald said, "Our readership of blue-hairs, shut-ins, Greyhound bus riders, cops and axe murderers are old and dying fast."

     Today, true crime buffs (mostly women), have access to mass market paperbacks, cable television and the internet. Patterson Smith, the antiquarian bookseller doing business in New Jersey, had a database of 30,000 articles out of 2,000 fact-crime magazines. To request a search of this repository, the crime researcher could submit the name of the crime victim, the name of the perpetrator, the location of the crime, the year it took place or a brief account of the case. 

Saturday, January 21, 2023

The Rashad Owens Murder Case

     At midnight on March 13, 2014, a patrol officer in Austin, Texas tried to pull over a vehicle without its headlights on that made an illegal left turn onto an I-35 frontage road. The driver of the car, a 21-year-old rapper from Killeen, Texas named Rashad Owens, refused to stop for the officer. A short time later, in the process of avoiding arrest, Owens drove through a barricade on Red River Street. The street had been blocked off for the South by Southwest film media and music festival.

     An intoxicated Owens, at a top speed of 55 miles per hour, plowed his car into thirty festival goers, killing four of them and injuring others. After driving into the crowd with his headlights off, Owens led police officers on a chase that culminated in his arrest after he fled his vehicle on foot.

     A Travis County prosecutor charged Rashad Owens with four counts of capital murder (in some jurisdictions called first-degree murder) and 24 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He was held in the Travis County Jail without bond.

     The Owens murder trial got underway in Austin on November 2, 2015. In her opening remarks to the jury, prosecutor Amy Meredith told the jury that because the defendant knew his action put the people on Red River Street in mortal danger, the charges of capital murder in this case were appropriate. The prosecutor argued that Owens had acted with intent and malice, key elements in the offense of capital murder. While the prosecution was not seeking the death penalty, if convicted Mr. Owens would face mandated life in prison without the chance of parole.

     Rick Jones, Owens' attorney, argued that capital murder was not an appropriate charge in the case because his client, while intending to flee the police, did not intend to kill anyone. The defense attorney pointed out that the defendant did not know Red River Street had been closed to traffic. (What did he think the barricade was for?)

     The prosecution began its case with a police dash cam video showing Owens failing to stop for the patrol officer.

     The case went to the jury of seven women and five men on November 6, 2015. The defendant did not take the stand on his own behalf. After three hours of deliberation the jurors found Rashad Owens guilty as charged. The judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Friday, January 20, 2023

The Anesson Joseph Police-Involved Shooting Case

     On February 4, 2014, at eight-thirty in the evening, Douglas Kozlik, a 66-year-old retired New York City police officer on a stroll in Delray Beach, Florida, saw something that caused him great concern. A six-foot-three, 250-pound young man with a crazed look and obvious bad intentions charged toward him. The fact this physically imposing stranger was also naked told the ex-cop he was in imminent danger of being attacked.

     Mr. Kozlik's assessment of the bizarre situation turned out to be correct. Within a matter of seconds he found himself on the ground with the large maniac on top of him throwing punches. A 10-year-old boy not far from the unprovoked assault ran for his life.

     After leaving Mr. Kozlik on the ground badly beaten, the naked menace moved on. At the main entrance of the Colony, a gated neighborhood in Delray Beach, the wild man--later identified as a West Palm Beach 28-year-old named Anesson Joseph--came upon 16-year-old Tania Grein who was taking trash out of her family's house. Tania's 18-year-old brother Tony, who happened to be working in the yard with  his father, tackled Joseph as he grabbed Tania by the hair. The five-foot-six, 150-pound Boynton High School senior began stabbing the nude attacker in the face with a box cutter. The boy's father, Mario Grein, tried to help his children by punching the crazy man in the head.

     Unfazed by the box cutter wounds and the punches to his face, the frenzied man, grunting like an animal, started biting the teenage boy on the cheek and ear. Tony Grein was saved when the automatic security gate closed, knocking the crazy man to the ground. The attacker got to his feet and ran off with the teenager pinned beneath the gate.

     Responding to 911 calls placed by witnesses to Anesson Joseph's rampage, five deputies with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office encountered him not far from the entrance to the Colony. The subject crouched into a fighting stance then charged the officers. Unable to get the subject off his feet and onto the ground, a deputy shot him several times with a taser gun. When that technique failed to subdue Mr. Joseph, a sergeant pulled his gun and shot the subject three times in the torso.

    Fire and rescue personnel rolled up to the scene but were unable to treat the wounded man who was incapacitated but still combative. A few hours later Anesson Joseph died at the Delray Medical Center.

     Mr. Kozlik and Tony Grein were also treated at the hospital for their injuries. The 18-year-old who saved his sister from the zombie-like attacker ended up with teeth marks on his face. The 10-year-old boy had hurt himself when he tried to escape by crawling under a fence. One of the deputy sheriff's also required medical attention.

     According to Anesson Joseph's Facebook page, he worked for a West Palm Beach entertainment company called Nightlife University Parties and Events. Prior to that he had been employed at a local Starbucks. Joseph had attended Forest Hill Community High School and had no criminal record in Florida.

     The Joseph case is reminiscent of a police-involved shooting in Miami that occurred in May 2012. In that assault, a 31-year-old naked man named Rudy Eugene was shot on MacArthur Causeway as he chewed off most of a homeless man's face.

     Investigators believe that Anesson Joseph had removed his striped polo shirt, dark shorts and a pair of flip flops not far from the Kozlik attack. There was speculation that Mr. Joseph had been under the influence of some kind of mind altering drug. Toxicological tests later confirmed this suspicion.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

The Thomas Gilbert High Society Murder Case

       In 2015, 70-year-old Thomas Gilbert Sr. resided with his wife in an apartment building on the east side of Manhattan just north of the United Nations headquarters. Besides their two sons, the couple had a 24-year-old daughter who aspired to be a writer.
     A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Business School, Mr. Gilbert, in 2011, started a hedge fund called Wainscott Partners Fund, a firm that specialized in the biotech and healthcare industries. Three years after its inception, the fund handled $200 million in assets. Only people with $500,000 or more to invest were invited to participate in the fund.

     Mr. Gilbert worked hard to get his relatively small investment firm off the ground. A friendly man who enjoyed the upper-crust social life, Mr. Gilbert belonged to exclusive organizations such as the Maidstone Club in East Hampton and the River Club in Manhattan.

     Mr. Gilbert's youngest son, Thomas Jr., grew up benefiting from his father's wealth, hard work and success. His parents enrolled him in elite boarding schools--the Buckley School ($30,000 a year tuition) and Deerfield Prep ($54,000 annual tuition)--where the six-foot-three student with the thick blond hair excelled at sports. Following boarding school, Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert's quiet, reserved and socially awkward youngest son attended Princeton University. In 2009 Thomas Jr. graduated from the Ivy League school with a degree in economics.

     Notwithstanding his prestigious education, high social status and all the advantages a young man could ask for, Thomas Jr. didn't enter the world of finance or any other business or profession. He wanted to start his own hedge fund but his father didn't think he had the ability or the drive to succeed in the field. As a result, Thomas assumed the role of a playboy reliant on his father's generosity. 

     To maintain his high society lifestyle, Thomas needed more money than his father was willing to shell out. He existed on a $2,400 a month housing stipend and a $600 per week spending allowance. This was not nearly enough to support his expensive apartment in Chelsea, his gym fees, the party-going circuit and his love of surfing. Deeply in debt, Thomas wanted a much larger allowance to continue living in the style he had become accustomed to.

     But there was a problem: Thomas and his father didn't get along. His father thought he was lazy and stupid and Thomas considered his father stingy and mean. In September 2014, the family's 17th century mansion on eastern Long Island's East Hampton community burned down. Thomas Jr., an obsessive-compulsive who didn't always stay on his medication, surfaced quickly as the prime suspect in the arson. (No charges were filed in the case.) 

     A little after three in the afternoon on Sunday January 5, 2015, Thomas Jr. showed up at his parents' apartment to discuss his allowance with his father. Thomas Sr. had informed his son that he had decided to cut his weekly spending budget from $600 to $400.

     Upon his arrival at the apartment, the younger Mr. Gilbert sent his mother out of the building to buy him a sandwich. Shortly after she left the premises, Thomas, while confronting his father in the master bedroom, shot him once in the head with a handgun. In an inept attempt to make the shooting look like a suicide, Thomas laid the murder weapon on his father's chest and positioned the dead man's left hand over it.

     After the shooting Thomas fled the apartment. When his mother returned with the sandwich she discovered her husband's corpse and called 911.

     At ten-forty-five on the night of Mr. Gilbert's sudden and violent death, New York City detectives showed up at his son's apartment with an arrest and a search warrant. In the Chelsea dwelling, officers found loose bullets and a shell casing that matched the caliber of the murder weapon.

     On Monday January 6, 2015, at his arraignment, the judge informed Thomas Gilbert Jr. that he had been charged with second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon. After the judge denied the suspect bail, officers returned him to Riker's Island, the city's massive jail complex.

    On February 5, 2014, corrections officers escorted the murder suspect to a Lower Manhattan courtroom. At the pre-trial hearing before Judge Melissa Jackson, the suspect pleaded not guilty. The defendant was represented by attorneys from the high-profile defense firm of Brafman & Associates.

     According to his attorneys, Thomas Gilbert Jr. had a long history of violent and erratic behavior. On the grounds that their client was insane, the defense petitioned the court to render Gilbert mentally unfit to stand trial. At the same time, the defense lawyers asserted that their client was innocent of the crime. The judge declared Thomas Gilbert Jr. fit to stand trial.
     In June 2019, the Manhattan jury found the defendant guilty of second-degree murder. Two months later Judge Melissa Jackson sentenced him to 30 years to life.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

The Rurik Jutting Double Murder Case

     Rurik George Caton Jutting grew up wealthy in Cobham Surrey, England. He attended the Winchester College Independent Boarding School and in 2007 graduated with a degree in history from the University of Cambridge.

     In 2010, after working a couple of years for the banking firm Barclays, Jutting joined Bank of America Merrill Lynch in London where he worked in structured equity finance and trading. 

     In 2012, the British woman Jutting planned to marry left London for a job in New York City. Shortly after leaving England she had an affair with an American and broke off the engagement. Mr. Jutting took the rejection hard. The two of them tried to reconcile but it didn't work out.

     People who knew Rurik Jutting considered him a highly competent employee who was preoccupied with money and power. He once told an acquaintance that he had spent thousands of pounds on an ornamental horse's skull that he had purchased from a specialty shop. It seemed he enjoyed spending every penny he made on food, entertainment and nonessential luxury items.

     In 2013, the Bank of America transferred Jutting to its branch operation in Hong Kong. After moving to the Chinese city of 7.2 million, Jutting moved into an apartment on the 31st floor of the J. Residence Building in the Wan Chai district of the city. Located in Hong Kong's southern quarter, Wan Chia was known for its high number of restaurants, bars, nightclubs and strip joints. Apartments in the 381-unit complex rented out at between $3,000 and $5,000 a month.

     Hong Kong's red light district, located adjacent to Wan Chai to the north, featured prostitutes from southeast Asia and Africa. Hong Kong, however, with the world's lowest homicide rate, was a safe place to live. During the first six months of 2014 there were just 14 murders in the city. (In New York City during that period there were 120 criminal homicides. 

     At three-forty in the morning of Saturday November 1, 2014, the 29-year-old Jutting called the Hong Kong police to his flat. Upon entering the luxury apartment police officers were immediately struck with the sight of recently spilled blood splashed on the floor and walls of the dwelling. They also were confronted by the stench of a decaying body.

     Police officers at the scene encountered the nude body of an Indonesian prostitute named Jesse Lorena. Among other lacerations, the 30-year-old's throat had been slashed. Investigators would later learn that she also worked as a part-time disc jockey at a Hong Kong pub.

     Officers in Jutting's apartment came upon a black suitcase on the dwelling's balcony. When they opened it they found, wrapped in a carpet, the decaying body of a young woman who had almost been decapitated. This was 25-year-old Sumarti Nighshih, a sex worker from Cilacap, Indonesia who in October had traveled to Hong Kong on a tourist's visa.

     Investigators believed that Nighshih, her hands and feet bound with rope, had been murdered on October 27, 2014. Lacerations covered her naked and decomposing body.

     Police officers placed Jutting under arrest on suspicion of double murder and escorted him out of the building.

     Crime scene investigators found, on Jutting's Smartphone, 2,000 photographs of the dead prostitutes, shots that had been taken after he had murdered them. Many of the images included close-ups of the victims' knife wounds.

     Security camera footage revealed that Jutting and Jesse Lorena had entered his apartment at midnight, shortly before he murdered her then notified the authorities. Officers also recovered a small quantity of cocaine from the flat.

     A resident of the building told police officers that he and several others who lived there had recently detected the smell of death coming from the vicinity of Jutting's 31st floor apartment.

     On Monday, November 3, 2014, Mr. Jutting, accompanied by his attorney, Martyn Richmond, appeared before a judge in Hong Kong's Eastern Magistrate's Court. Attorney Richmond informed the magistrate that his client had been co-operating fully with the police. Moreover, Mr. Jutting had expressed a willingness to re-enact the murders on video, a common practice in Hong Kong, China.

     On November 24, 2014, Judge Bina Chainral, following psychiatric evaluations of the accused, ruled that he was mentally competent. The judge scheduled the murder trial for July 6, 2015.

     In November 2016, a jury sitting in Hong Kong found the defendant guilty of double murder. In a statement at his sentencing hearing, the defendant said, "The evil I have inflicted can never be remedied by me in words or actions." Justice Michael Stuart-Moore, after noting that he did not believe Rurik felt any remorse for his murders, sentenced him to life in prison.

     Although he had promised not to appeal his convictions, Rurik did in fact appeal his case in September 2017. In April 2018 the justices on the Court of Final Appeal upheld the double murder conviction.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

The Execution of Herbert Smulls

     By 1991, 33-year-old Herbert Smulls had spent several years behind bars for armed robbery and other crimes. On July 27, 1991, Smulls and a 15-year-old accomplice named Normon Brown walked into the F & M Crown Jewelers store in Chesterfield, Missouri with the intent of robbing the establishment. Smulls told the owners of the St. Louis County jewelry store, Stephen and Florence Honickman, that he wanted to buy a diamond ring for his fiancee.

     Instead of purchasing a ring, Smulls pulled out a handgun and shot the owners. He killed 51-year-old Stephen Honickman on the spot. When Smulls and Brown fled the scene they left behind Florence Honickman who was still alive but lying in a pool of her own blood. Smulls had shot her in the arm and side. She survived the shooting by playing dead.

     Fifteen minutes after the robbery-murder a police officer pulled Smulls off the road on a traffic stop. Inside the car officers found handguns and the stolen jewelry.

     Upon Florence Honickman's recovery she identified Smulls and Brown as the armed robbers and Smulls at the man who had shot her and her husband.

     In 1993, a judge sentenced Normon Brown to life in prison without parole. The judge handed Smulls the death sentence. The murderer was sent to Missouri's death row.

     In 1989, executioners in Missouri began dispatching death row inmates by injecting them with a lethal three-drug cocktail. The first drug, Midazalam, helped calm the inmate. Hydromorphine, a strong narcotic, reduced pain. Sodium Thiopental, the killer drug, stopped the heart.

   In 2013,  the overseas companies that manufactured and distributed the above drugs stopped exporting them to the U.S. if they were to be used to execute prisoners. As a result, Missouri and other states had to switch to a single execution drug, Pentobarbital. If Smulls' execution, scheduled for 12:01 AM, January 29, 2014 went ahead as planned he'd receive a shot of Pentobarbital.

     A few days before the 56-year-old's execution date Cheryl Pilante, one of the lawyers fervently fighting to save Smulls life, asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a temporary stay of execution. Just two and a half hours before Smulls' execution the Supreme Court granted the stay. Justice Samuel Alito signed the order temporarily delaying the punishment.

     Smulls' execution was put on hold because corrections officials with the state of Missouri refused to disclose the identify of the compounding pharmacy that mixed the Pentobarbital. Attorney Pilate argued that Missouri's execution secret made it impossible to know whether the drug would cause Mr. Smulls any pain.

     In expressing grave concern for her client, attorney Pilate said, "I frankly cannot begin to tell you how distressing this situation is, that the state is going to execute a prisoner in his mid-50s who made one series of colossal mistakes [italics mine] that were in many ways out of character because he is not a violent person."

     What? He's not a violent person? His cold-blooded murder was out of character? If defense attorneys are paid to embarrass themselves on behalf of their clients, attorney Pilate deserved a bonus.

     St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch characterized the drug purchase issue a smokescreen designed to save the life of a vicious killer. He also accused attorney Pilate of trying to divert attention from her client's horrific crime.

     On January 29, 2014, the U. S. Supreme Court lifted the temporary stay of execution. Later that morning, the state executioner in Bonne Terre, Missouri administered the lethal drug. Herbert Smulls was pronounced dead at 10:20 AM. Only his attorneys and a few others were sad to see him go.

     Most U.S. citizens do not oppose the death penalty as a matter of principle. Regarding inmates like Herbert Smulls, few citizens are concerned they may feel some pain at the end. We all have to occasionally endure pain and anxiety in our daily lives. And because of people like Herbert Smulls, victims of crime are certainly no strangers to suffering.

     So what's behind this obsessive quest to insure that cold-blooded killers are dispatched without discomfort? Who really cares that Mr. Smulls was anxious about dying and worried about pain? Who isn't? 

Monday, January 16, 2023

Serial Killers: Real Life Versus Fiction

     To meet the criteria of being a serial killer the murderer, over a period longer than a month, must kill at least three people with a cooling-off period separating each homicide. A mass murderer, on the other hand, murders more than two people in a single killing spree. Because most mass murderers are usually psychotic and completely out of control, people find them less interesting than serial killers who blend into society and are more difficult to catch.
 
     While the public has always been interested in murder, in the mid-1980s following the publication of several books about serial killer Ted Bundy, serial killing became the number one true crime subject in America. Since then there have been thousands of true crime books featuring serial killers, their crimes, and the investigation of these cases. (Half of the criminal justice students in the country during this period wanted to become FBI criminal profilers.) Fictitious serial killing was the subject of hundreds of TV shows and theatrical films. Serial killers in fiction, however, are more intelligent, intriguing and evil-looking than their typical real life counterparts.

     So, who are these people who go around killing people? About 80 percent of them are white males with blue collar working backgrounds. Very few physicians (except for a couple of angel of death killers), lawyers, college professors or electrical engineers have been serial killers. (When a medical doctor kills someone intentionally the victim is usually his wife.) No one knows for sure how many serial killers are active in the U.S. at any given time. In the mid-1980's, at the height of serial killer hysteria, experts were telling us there were 50,000 of them. That of course was ridiculous. The overall crime statistics simply didn't support that estimate. Cooler heads prevailed and guessed there are probably 10 to 20 serial killers at any given time.

     As children, a significant percentage of serial killers were bed-wetters. Many of them, abused and bullied, were also erotic fire-setters who were cruel to animals. Most serial killers didn't do well in school, and most of them were loners.

     Male serial killers generally fall into two major categories: organized and disorganized. The organized killers, with IQs in the average range, plan their murders, are more cold-blooded and harder to identify because they take steps to avoid detection. Disorganized serial killers select victims randomly and kill on impulse. The disorganized killers, with lower IQs, are easier to identify and catch because they carelessly leave physical evidence of themselves at the murder sites and take traces of the killing scenes with them. (Crime scene investigators call this "the exchange principle.") Disorganized serial killers are psychotic, and while they know what they are doing and are therefore not criminally insane, they are not fully in control of themselves.

     Most serial killers are sadistic sociopaths who kill for lust and power. Their victims are mostly vulnerable women who live on the fringes of society such as drug addicts, prostitutes and runaways. Many of these women are killed and nobody takes notice or reports them missing. As a result, some of these victims don't even become murder statistics.

     Female serial killers, while not as common as men, can be prolific murderers. So-called "black widows" marry with the intent of murdering--often with poison--their husbands in order to inherit their estates. These women are cold-blooded and cunning, and because homicidal poisonings are not easy to detect, usually avoid being investigated until an obvious pattern emerges. Even then it's often difficult to acquire a murder conviction due to the passage of time and lack of physical evidence.

     Another category of female serial killer is the "angel of death" murderer. These nurses and hospital aides poison ailing patients under their care. Because many of these victims were expected to die and show no signs of homicidal trauma, a good number of these deaths are not investigated. As a result, no one knows how many hospital and nursing home patients are murdered every year.

     There is also a group of female serial murderers known as "team killers" who help their boyfriends and husbands kill people. These crimes are usually motivated by lust. Only a small percentage of female serial killers themselves are sexual predators.

     It's a myth that most serial killers move about the country to avoid being caught. Most of them commit their crimes close to home where they feel most comfortable. They are not evil geniuses or even that interesting. Most of them do not stand out in a crowd.

     A few serial killers, after years of committing murder, stop killing on their own volition. Notwithstanding all the effort that has gone into studying this relatively rare type of murderer, no one really knows what makes them tick. Perhaps that's one of the reasons people find serial killers so fascinating.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Breaking Out of Prison Is the Easy Part

     In August 1993, a 19-year-old armed robber and arsonist named Michael David Elliot and a criminal associate entered a house near Midland, Michigan with their guns drawn. They had come to the Bentley Township home 140 miles northwest of Detroit to rob Michael and Bruce Tufnell and their friends Vickie Currie and Kathy Lane. Elliot and his accomplice needed the money for drugs. When the home invaders didn't find any cash in the house, they opened fired on the victims, killing all four of them. Before leaving the murder scene, Elliot set fire to the house.

     Four days after the mass murder police officers arrested Michael David Elliot in Saginaw, Michigan. He still possessed the .38-caliber revolver that had fired ten of the fifteen bullets removed from the bodies of the four murder victims.

     At his August 1994 trial Mr. Elliot claimed that he had purchased the murder weapon the day after the massacre from the real killer. He also asserted that at the time of the murders he was at his aunt's house. The jury found the defendant guilty of four counts of first-degree murder. At his sentencing hearing Elliot told the judge that despite his conviction he was innocent. The judge sentenced him to four life terms to be served at the Ionia Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Ionia, Michigan.

     During the first 14 years of his incarceration Elliot was a problem inmate with 20 acts of misconduct. But after December 2008 he began serving his time as a model prisoner. Perhaps he decided that a low profile would enhance his chances to escape.

     On February 2, 2014--Super Bowl Sunday--while the other inmates were headed for dinner, the five-foot-eight, 165 pound Elliot made his move. Dressed in a white kitchen uniform to blend in with the snow, Elliot pulled back the bottoms of two fences and crawled to freedom. (Is this what passed for maximum security in Michigan?)
     After trudging through fields and woods the escapee walked into the town of Ionia where he used a box cutter to abduct a woman. Elliot and his hostage, in her 2004 red Jeep Liberty, crossed the Michigan border into Indiana. At 9:15 that night, correction officers performing a routine head-count discovered that inmate Elliot was missing.

     Just before midnight, Elliot and his captive stopped for gas at a Marathon station in the town of Middlebury. While he paid for the gas, she entered the gas station restroom and locked the door. Using the cellphone she had kept hidden, the kidnapped woman called 911. After calmly reporting the carjacking and describing her captor, Elliot came to the restroom door and told her to hurry-up. "Yeah, in a little bit," she said. "Sorry, it's taking me longer than what I thought." At that point Elliot decided to drive off without her.

     At 5 PM on February 3, 2014, Elliot pulled into Shipshewan, a town twenty miles east of Elkhart, Indiana. There he abandoned the Jeep Liberty and stole a Chevy Monte Carlo.

     Not long after the prison escapee stole the Monte Carlo, a La Porte County sheriff's deputy spotted the stolen vehicle and tried to pull it over. The high-speed chase that followed ended abruptly when Elliot drove over stop sticks that flattened the Chevy's tires. Officers took him into custody. He had been free less than 48 hours.

     In speaking to a reporter with the Detroit Free Press after his capture, Elliott said, "I just seen an opportunity. It was really simple." Of the five main strategies inmates use to escape low-security facilities--the cut-and-run, the ruse, the tunnel, the outside accomplice and the walk-away--Elliott's methodology combined the ruse and the cut-and-run. None of these escape methods should have worked in a maximum security prison.
     On February 6, 2014 a spokesperson for the prison announced that two corrections employees had been suspended in connection with the escape. One was a corrections officer and the other a shift commander.

     Michael Elliot had found a way to escape from a maximum security penitentiary, but he wasn't equipped to elude capture once he got outside prison fences. While prison escapes are rare, it's even more unusual for escapees to remain at large for more than a few days. 

Saturday, January 14, 2023

The Jerome Sidney DeAvila Murder Case

     Jerome Sidney DeAvila, a Stockton, California pedophile with a long history of sex crimes, was sentenced to a prison psychiatric hospital after a child molestation conviction in 2011. The 38-year-old criminally insane sexual predator should have remained in custody for the remainder of his life. Although allowing this man back into society guaranteed more victims, state parole officials released him from the prison mental facility in May 2012. Correction officials did not let DeAvila out because he was no longer dangerous. They freed him because some judge determined that the state psychiatric hospital was too crowded.

     DeAvila was just one of thousands of violent criminals California authorities paroled early because there was no room for them in the state's prisons and jails. Because getting into prison and jail had become so difficult in the state, parole violators like DeAvila had no incentive to comply with the conditions of parole. DeAvila was supposed to wear a GPS tracking device that triggered an alarm if tampered with. Removing the device constituted a parole violation. Because removing tracking devices didn't lead to jail time, many parolees decided not to wear them. As a result, DeAvila's parole officer had no idea where he was or what he was doing.

     The Stockton police, on February 13, 2013, arrested DeAvila for the tenth time since his release from the state psychiatric facility. Every one of his arrests involved violations of the terms of his parole and included public drunkenness, possession of drugs and the removal of his GPS tracking device. On each these occasions officers booked him into the San Joaquin County Jail.

    Before the court ordered the thinning out of the state's prison and jail population, parole violators would be held in county jails until their state parole revocation hearings. If found in violation they'd be sent back to prison to serve up to another year behind bars.

     In DeAvila's case he'd only spend a few nights in the San Joaquin lockup before being released back into society. Following his tenth parole violation arrest on February 13, 2013 he remained in the overcrowded San Joaquin Jail one week before walking free.

     On February 26, 2013, just six days after DeAvila's last jail release, neighbors discovered the corpse of Rachael Russell, the parole violator's grandmother. Her body had been placed into a wheelbarrow that sat in her backyard. Later that day Stockton police officers arrested the high-risk parolee for the rape, robbery and murder of his grandmother. When taken into custody he was wearing her jewelry.

     It had taken a murder to get Jerome DeAvila off the streets of Stockton, California. But DeAvila's arrest for murder meant that some other criminal would be set free to make room for him. 

     In August 2013, Rachael Russell's daughter and son (DeAvila's mother and uncle) sued the state and San Joaquin County. The plaintiffs claimed that after this dangerous man violated his parole for the tenth time he should not have been released from the county jail. According to the suit, parole agents who supervised DeAvila knew he was a danger to the 76-year-old victim.

     In April 2014, DeAvila pleaded guilty to rape, robbery and murder. The judge sentenced him to 25 years to life. The civil case was settled for an undisclosed amount.

Friday, January 13, 2023

What Happened to Ryan Uhre?

     Ryan Uhre grew up in the suburban town of Weston, Florida, a planned community of 65,000 in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach metropolitan area. After attending Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale where he was on the wrestling team, Ryan enrolled at Florida State University in the state's capital, Tallahassee. After graduating from FSU in December 2013 with a degree in psychology, Ryan signed on as a legislative intern in state representative Richard Stark's Tallahassee office. In the fall of 2014 the 23-year-old planned to start law school.

     On Super Bowl Sunday, February 2, 2014, Ryan and several of his Alpha Delta Phi fraternity brothers watched the game at Andrew's Capital Grill and Bar in downtown Tallahassee. That night, after the game, he left the bar on foot. His friends thought he was walking to his apartment. He wore a Hawaiian-style shirt and what they call surfing Santas. [Red pants worn by Florida surfers who hit the waves wearing Santa Claus suits.]

     On Friday, February 7, 2014, Ryan's fraternity brothers reported him missing to the FSU Police Department. The search that ensued failed to produce a clue as to Ryan's whereabouts. The day before the missing person report, Ryan's cellphone briefly turned on from the Pompano Beach area. Police officers and others searched for him without result in and around Pompano Beach.

     At eight-thirty on the morning of Tuesday, February 18, 2014, 16 days after Ryan was seen leaving Andrew's Capital Grill and Bar in Tallahassee, police officers discovered his body on the second floor of a two-story vacant building not far from the bar. To have gotten into the building, Ryan would have had to have entered through a door on the roof. The structure, owned by the Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare Foundation had been empty since 2006. In 2012 the place was gutted by a fire. Ryan's body lay near a boarded-up window.

     At the death scene officers found Ryan's broken cellphone, his wallet, identification cards, watch and an unspecified amount of cash in his pocket. It appeared he had not been the victim of a street mugging. According to reports, detectives were looking for a man believed to have been with Ryan at the time of his disappearance. (Media sites reported that Ryan Uhre was gay.)

     The fact it took the police 16 days to find the young man's body just yards from where he was last seen suggests one of two things: Police incompetence or the possibility that Ryan died somewhere else and that his body had been placed in the abandoned building.

    On May 7, 2014, following the February 19 autopsy, the Leon County Medical Examiner's Office announced that Ryan Uhre had accidentally fallen to his death in the abandoned building. According to the toxicology report he had cocaine, heroin and alcohol in his blood.

     Why Ryan Uhre was in the building, and exactly what he was doing there, remained a mystery. 

Thursday, January 12, 2023

The Violent Death of Judge Sandra Feurstein

      At ten in the morning on Friday, April 9, 2021, in the Atlantic coastal town of Boca Raton, Florida, a young woman in a red two-door sedan was seen speeding around stopped vehicles and veering off the street onto the sidewalk. The car struck 75-year-old Sandra Feurstein, a vacationing federal judge from Long Island, New York. After smashing into Judge Feurstein on the sidewalk, the out of control vehicle swerved back onto the street and hit a six-year-old boy walking in an Ocean Boulevard crosswalk.

     Fifteen minutes after plowing into the two Boca Raton pedestrians, the driver crashed her car in Delray Beach. When police officers approached the red two-door sedan the driver appeared unconscious. When spoken to she climbed out of her damaged car convulsing and starring into space. 

     Once in the ambulance, 23-year-old Natasia Snape from North Lauderdale started screaming, fighting with the medics and yelling that she was Harry Potter. (In the Potter novels there's a prominent character named Snape.) A member of the ambulance crew subdued Snape with an injection. Snape was transported to the Delray Beach Medical Center for observation. 

     At the hospital, when questioned by a police officer, Natasia Snape denied running over the judge and the six-year-old boy in Boca Raton. 

     In Snapes' vehicle officers found a container labeled "THC Cannabis" and synthetic drug called T-Salts, a bath salt known to cause psychotic episodes. Officers acquired a search warrant authorizing removal of the suspect's blood for toxicological tests. 

     Later that Friday officers booked Natasia Snape into the Palm County Jail on charges of vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury. The magistrate set her bail at $60,000.

     Sandra Feurstein, the 75-year-old victim of the Boca Raton hit and run was pronounced dead at the Delray Beach Medical Center. The boy, Anthony Ouchinnikov, was treated for his injuries, and on Sunday, April 8, discharged from the hospital.

     After working a few years as a public school teacher, Sandra Feurstein graduated in 1979 from New York City's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. She practiced law for a few years then served 16 years as a New York State judge. President George W. Bush, in 2003, appointed her to the federal bench for the Eastern District of New York, a jurisdiction that included Long Island, Brooklyn and Queens. Her mother Annette Eistein, who died in 2020, had been a federal judge as well. 

     At the time of Judge Feurstein's death she was presiding over a high-profile murder-for-hire case in which former New York City Police officer Valerie Cincinelli was accused of paying her lover to kill her estranged husband. The defendant was expected to plead guilty upon the judge's return to New York. Due to her unexpected death the case was placed on hold. 

     As of this writing the Natasia Snape case remains pending and unresolved.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Adding Insult to Injury in a False Arrest Case

     At 1:45 in the morning of September 26, 2007, a couple returning to their home in Millcreek, a suburban community adjacent to Erie, Pennsylvania, encountered a pair of burglars. When one of the intruders pointed a gun at the home owners the husband tried to disarm him. In the scuffle, the burglar fired a shot into the ceiling, then, accompanied by his partner, ran out of the house. The burglars sped from the scene in a white minivan.

     Shortly after the incident a pair of Erie police officers looking for the fleeing burglars happened upon Maria Jordan parked in front of her house in a white minivan. Maria was about to pick up her husband, the night shift manager at a local Taco Bell.

     The police officers ordered Maria out of the van at gunpoint, ordered her to the ground, then handcuffed the prone woman behind her back. Once they placed Maria into the patrol car (calling her an "idiot," and "retard"), the officers entered the Jordon house where, at gunpoint, they hauled Maria's 10-year-old stepson out of bed and arrested Maria's father. After handcuffing the boy and Jose Arenas, the officers searched the dwelling. They found nothing incriminating in the house, removed the handcuffs from the people they had arrested, then took leave of the citizens they had traumatized. 

     In 2009, Maria, her father, and her stepson sued the Erie Police Department in federal court for violating their civil rights. According to the complaint, the false arrests and police manhandling had caused the family "worry, humiliation and anxiety." In defense of their actions, the officers said they should not be sued for doing their jobs. (Since when is making false arrests part of the job?) The city offered to settle the case out of court for $10,000. The plaintiffs turned down the offer and the suit moved forward.

     On May 11, 2012, following a 4-day trial in the Erie federal court house the jury found that the two Erie police officers had in fact violated the plaintiffs' civil rights. While finding that the defendants had acted improperly, the jurors didn't believe the false arrests and house search had significantly harmed the family. As a result, in what could be interpreted as an insult, the jury awarded Maria Jordon $2 and her stepson and father $1 each.

     If the plaintiffs were angered and insulted by the token damages, they didn't let on. In fact, Maria's husband told a local reporter the family was pleased by the verdict because they had sought justice, not money.

     On May 26, 2012, the assistant city solicitor, unwilling to leave well enough alone, filed a motion asking the federal judge to order the plaintiffs to pay some of the city's legal costs created by the lawsuit. According to the Erie solicitor, Pennsylvania law "obligated a prevailing plaintiff to pay the defendant's post-offer costs after rejecting an offer more favorable than the judgement." The city wanted the judge to order the Jordons--the wronged parties in the suit--to pay $5,085 of the city's legal expenses.

     In March 2013, the judge dismissed the solicitor's case.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Cody Mark Cousins: Murder by Insanity or Hatred and Drugs?

     Cody Mark Cousins, after graduating from high school in Springsboro, Indiana in 2008, enrolled as an engineering major at Purdue University. While attending classes on the West Lafayette, Indiana campus, Cousins struggled with mental illness and drug abuse. During the summer of 2013, during a 72-hour-stint in a mental ward, a psychiatrist opined that Cousins, already suffering from bipolar disorder, was developing schizophrenia.

     The fact that the university student had been acting aggressively and experiencing hallucinations could have been the result of his use of the drug ecstasy. From August to October 2013 Cousins bought a gram of ecstasy every ten days. During this period he also abused amphetamine. Still, he managed to make the dean's list three times.

     At noon on Tuesday January 21, 2014, Cousins attended a class in the electrical engineering building taught by a 21-year-old teaching assistant from West Bend, Wisconsin named Andrew F. Boldt. During this class, in front of classmates, Cousins pulled a handgun and shot Boldt five times. As Cousins replaced the empty revolver with a knife, he told the horrified witnesses to call the police. Cousins next stabbed the teaching assistant 19 times then walked out of the classroom.

     Later on the day of Andrew Boldt's murder, police officers booked Cody Cousins into the Tippecanoe County Jail on the charge of first-degree murder. If convicted as charged, Cousins faced up to 65 years in prison. The judge denied him bond and ordered a psychiatric evaluation.

     In May 2014 Mr. Cousin's attorney filed notice that he planned to plead his client guilty but mentally ill.

     The Cousins murder trial got underway in the summer of 2014. In his opening statement to the jury, Tippecanoe County prosecutor Pat Harrington argued that the defendant, frustrated by his own lack of success, killed the victim out of drug-fueled hatred and envy. "Violent thoughts," Harrington said, "led to violent actions. That's not insanity--that's what happened."

     Defense attorney Kirk Freeman, when it came his turn to address the jury, spoke of his clients's history of insanity and argued that guilty but mentally ill would be an appropriate verdict in this case. The defense attorney pointed out that mental illness ran in the defendant's family.

     According to a prosecution psychiatrist, when the defendant shot and stabbed Andrew Boldt to death, he was not acting pursuant to the symptoms of any form of mental illness. A second medical expert took the stand for the prosecution and said essentially the same thing.

     Following the closing arguments, the jury, in rejecting the insanity defense, found the defendant guilty as charged. The verdict surprised no one.

     Judge Thomas Busch, following testimony from both sides at the convicted man's September 19, 2014 sentencing hearing, sentenced him to 65 years in prison. "This is a crime of hatred," the judge said. "It's also a crime of terror. Cousins chose a place where people were gathered."

     Cousins, given credit for the 242 days he'd already spent in jail, would not be eligible for release until July 22, 2046. That year he would be 54 years old.

     On October 28, 2014, at nine o'clock at night, while being held in a one-man cell in the Orientation Unit of the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Cody Cousins slashed his arms and neck with a sharp instrument. An ambulance crew tried in vain to save the bleeding, unresponsive inmate. Thirty minutes later, medical personnel pronounced the convicted killer dead.