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Saturday, September 30, 2023

The Robert Taylor Murder Case

     At eight-thirty in the morning of September 11, 2008, 52-year-old Robert Taylor called 91l to report the downing of his 63-year-old wife in their south Manatee County, Florida swimming pool. From 1994 to 2007 Mr. Taylor had been a Manatee County Sheriff's Office corrections deputy. He had met his wife Pamela in 2004. She had been a nurse at an assisted living facility and at the Manatee County Jail.

     Sheriff's deputies responding to the 911 call found Pamela Taylor lying at the edge of the pool. Robert Taylor said he had gone to bed around midnight and when he got up that morning found his wife floating face-down in the water. Although Taylor said he had just pulled his wife's body out of the deep end, his clothes and shoes were not wet. When the first officer arrived at the scene, Mr. Taylor, with his dead wife's body sprawled out beside the swimming pool, was making himself breakfast. While investigators suspected foul play the case wasn't seriously investigated and Robert Taylor was not charged with causing his wife's death.

     In December 2010, medical examiner Dr. Russell Vega ruled Pamela Taylor's death a homicide by drowning. (Since Dr. Vega conducted an autopsy it can be assumed that Pamela's body had been exhumed, and that the initial autopsy had been performed by someone who had ruled the death accidental or undetermined. It's even possible there was no initial autopsy.) The delayed manner of death ruling was followed by a criminal investigation which in turn led to Robert Taylor's arrest on February 8, 2011. Charged with second-degree murder he was booked into the Manatee County lockup a few days later. (He was later transferred to the Sarasota County Jail.) Since the suspect had not confessed and there were no eyewitnesses to his wife's drowning the case against him was circumstantial.

     The Taylor murder trial got underway in Bradenton, Florida on May 1, 2012. Prosecutor Art Brown put the medical examiner, Dr. Russell Vega, on the stand. Dr. Vega testified that the drowning victim had bruises on her legs, fractured ribs and a large contusion on her skull. Because the water was only five foot six inches deep at its deepest, Mrs. Taylor could have tip-toed out of the deep end.

     Ruth Mueller, a neighbor, told the jury that on the night of the drowning she heard Mr. and Mrs. Taylor yelling at each other. Next came a sound consistent with a body hitting cement, then the sound of gurgling water. On one occasion Mrs. Taylor had come to Mr. Mueller's house with a bruised and bloodied face. The witness cleaned her wounds and escorted her back to her kitchen where Mueller saw blood stains on the wall. "Robert," she said, "look what you've done to your wife." He didn't respond.

     Another neighbor, Eric Barr, took the stand and said that just days before the drowning Mrs. Taylor, in referring to the defendant, had said, "He's going to kill me." When the witness asked Mr. Taylor to "chill out," the defendant threatened his life.

     On Wednesday, May 2, 2012 the prosecutor played a video-tape of the police interrogation of the suspect conducted shortly after his arrest. The defendant said that he had last seen his wife at 8:15 on the evening of her death. He had been playing a computer game and she had complained that his chair was making noise. This led to an argument. According to Taylor, his wife had been drinking sherry and scotch, was drunk and was in a "nasty" mood. (At the time of her death the victim's blood-alcohol level was twice the driving legal limit of .08 percent.) The next day, when the defendant got up at eight he heard dogs barking out by the swimming pool. That's when he found his wife floating face-down in the water.

     Jennifer Fury, the defense attorney, did not put the defendant on the stand. Because the prosecution's case was circumstantial, attorney Fury argued that the state had not proven her client's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. (The case was being tried before an eight-person jury.)

     The lawyers made their closing arguments on the morning of May 4. 2012. Defense attorney Fury asked to jury to consider Pamela Taylor's death a tragic accident. The intoxicated, older woman had tripped over a garden hose and had fallen, unconscious, into the pool and drowned. The prosecution, the defense attorney said, had no direct evidence proving that Robert Taylor had caused her death.

     Prosecutor Brown presented the death as an intentional homicide motivated by money. After Mrs. Taylor's death the defendant received a $180,000 life insurance payout. Two weeks before killing his wife the defendant tried to take out another life insurance policy, but the premium check he sent to the insurance company bounced.

     The jury, after deliberating less than three hours found Robert Taylor guilty of second-degree murder. The judge sentenced the 56-year-old to twenty years in prison.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Jacob Limberio's Death: A Bungled Investigation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 28, 2023

The Botched Cheye Calvo SWAT Raid

     On July 28, 2008, drug traffickers in Los Angeles sent, by Federal Express, a box containing 32 pounds of marijuana to an address in Berwyn Heights, Maryland, a town of 3,000 ten miles north of Washington, D.C. The people who lived at that address had nothing to do with the shipment. The address was a delivery drop site where an accomplice would pick up the package before someone at the house took it inside. Ideal drop locations were homes occupied by childless couples who worked during the day. It also helped if the drop house had a front porch and at least one of the drug conspirators worked for the package delivery company.

     This particular marijuana delivery operation fell apart when, at a FedEx facility in Arizona, a drug dog made a hit on the parcel. The authorities in Arizona, after notifying the Prince George's County Police Department, resealed the box and sent it on its way. In Maryland, at the FedEx station in Beltsville, narcotics officers with the county police department took possession of the contraband.

     Instead of conducting a cursory investigation to determine the identities and backgrounds of the people who lived at the point of delivery and conferring with the chief of the Berwyn Heights Police Department to determine if there was suspicious drug activity associated with this house, the officers in charge of the case decided to deliver the package and then raid the house after the resident took the box inside. Had they checked with Patrick Murphy, the Berwyn Heights chief of police, the Prince George's County officers would have learned that 37-year-old Cheye Calvo, his wife Trinity, and her mother, Georgia Porter lived at that address.

     Mr. Calvo worked for a nonprofit organization that ran several public boarding schools for at-risk children. His wife Trinity had a job as a state finance officer. These people were not only law-abiding citizens, but Mr. Calvo was the mayor of Berwyn Heights. Had the Prince George's County police enlisted Mr. Calvo's cooperation they could have caught the drug dealers at the point of destination. Instead the county officers acquired a search warrant to raid the Calvo house.

     According to the plan, on the day after the package had been intercepted at Beltsville, a county officer posing as a deliveryman would bring it to the Calvo house at six-thirty in the evening. The police department's SWAT team, however, wasn't available to lead the raid that day. Melvin High, Prince George's chief of police called the police department in Greenbelt and asked if he could borrow their SWAT unit. The chief in Greenbelt said he couldn't help because his unit was not authorized to operate outside the boundaries of the town. Chief High then turned to Michael Jackson, the sheriff of Prince George's County. Sheriff Jackson agreed to send his SWAT deputies into the Calvo home.

     Every police leader in the county knew of the impending raid but Patrick Murphy, the chief of police of Berwyn Heights. Not only were his colleagues planning a wrong-house intrusion, the SWAT team that police chief High had recruited had been used mainly to intercede in domestic disturbances. The unit had no experience in conducting drug raids.

     At six o'clock on the evening of the raid, Mr. Calvo arrived home from work ahead of his wife, Trinity. He gathered up Payton and Chase, his two black lab retrievers and took them for a walk. While he was away a police officer approached the residence with the package of marijuana. Georgia, Mr. Calvo's mother-in-law, came to the door and instructed the "deliveryman" to leave the white box, addressed to her daughter, Trinity Tomsic, on the front porch.

     The point of delivery drug trafficking accomplice, realizing that the police had intercepted the package, ran from the scene. Mayor Calvo and his dogs returned from their walk a few minutes before seven. Mr. Calvo picked up the box that sat on a small table near the front entrance, then climbed the stairs to change out of his suit.

     A few minutes later, Georgia, while preparing dinner looked out the kitchen window and saw a SWAT officer pointing a rifle at her head. A few seconds after she screamed, SWAT officers broke down the front door. From the second floor Mr. Calvo heard his mother-in-law's scream, the front door cracking apart, loud male voices and gunfire. Several deputies rushed into Calvo's bedroom, grabbed him and dragged the stunned mayor down the stairs in his boxer shorts.

     Payton, the seven-year-old lab, lay dead on the living room floor. The officers ordered Mr. Calvo to his knees and told him to remain in that position with his hands cupped on his head. No one would listen as Mr. Calvo tried to tell them he was the mayor of the town and that the raiders had made some kind of mistake.

     One of the SWAT officers, in speaking to another member of the unit, said he thought the subject, who was kneeling in his own living room, was crazy. In the meantime officers were tearing the house apart looking for evidence of the drug trade. Finally, after an hour of ripping the place apart, an officer told Calvo they had intercepted a box of marijuana that had been sent to his address. The officer assured Mr. Calvo that the police had a search warrant and what they were doing was perfectly legal.

     With his hands bound behind his back, Mr. Calvo was led into the kitchen where he saw Georgia lying face-down on the floor, her hands restrained behind her back and a rifle barrel pointed at her head. Near her body Mr. Calvo saw his other dog, Chase, lying in a pool of blood. An officer had shot the three-year-old lab as the terrified dog fled into the kitchen.

     Ninety minutes after the intrusion, about the time personnel from an animal control agency hauled away the dead pets, a member of the SWAT team removed Mr. Calvo's plastic hand restraints. A narcotics officer informed him that while the white box delivered to his house by the police was enough to arrest him and his wife on drug charges, they would give them both a break as long as they cooperated with the authorities.

     When Trinity Calvo came home a little after eight, police questioned her in the front yard. Having found no evidence of drug trafficking in the house, the invading officers departed, leaving Mr. Calvo, his shaken mother-in-law and his distraught wife with a smashed front door, a ransacked house, a dark cloud of suspicion hanging over their heads and a home without their beloved pets.

     That night Cheye Calvo and his wife cleaned up the blood spilled by their dogs and tried to put their house back together. An officer from the Berwyn Heights Police Department came by at midnight to help the mayor secure the front door. The next morning the couple's friends started calling, offering their support and sympathy. The local and national media took an immediate interest in the story.

     At a news conference held on August 5, 2008, Prince George's County Police Chief Melvin High announced that his officers had arrested two suspects allegedly involved in the interstate scheme to deliver marijuana by shipping packages to unsuspecting homes. The package addressed to the mayor's house in Berwyn Heights was one of six or so parcels intercepted by the authorities in northern Prince George's County. In all, the packages contained 417 pounds of marijuana worth $3.6 million. One of the suspects worked for FedEx.

     Chief High and Sheriff Michael Jackson said they would not apologize for the Berwyn Heights raid which they characterized as legal and responsibly conducted. The sheriff said his SWAT team had been deployed because guns and violence are often associated with drug rings. Chief High, to those assembled at the news conference, said, "In some quarters, this has been viewed as a flawed police operation and an attack on the mayor. It was not. This was about an address, this was about a name on a package. In fact, our people did not know this was the home of the mayor and his family until after the fact." When asked by a reporter if the arrests of the FedEx deliveryman and his alleged accomplice had cleared Mayor Calvo and his wife, Chief High said, "From all indications at the moment, they had an unlikely involvement but we don't want to draw the definite conclusion. Most likely they were innocent victims."

     On August 8, 2008, Chief of Police Melvin High telephoned Mayor Calvo to inform him that Maryland's attorney general had cleared him and his wife of drug trafficking. While the chief didn't apologize for for the SWAT raid, he expressed regret over the killing of the dogs. A month after the Berwyn Heights SWAT raid, Melvin High retired.

     The internal affairs investigators, obviously aware that the killing of the dogs was unwarranted and made the SWAT team look like a squad of armed and vicious law enforcement zombies, did their best to make the killings appear justified. According to a preliminary report issued by the sheriff's office, the officer shot Payton because the dog had "engaged" a deputy. The police killed the other pet because it ran toward an officer.

     A few days after the police made the September 4, 2008 preliminary report public, Mr. Calvo released the results of necropsies (animal autopsies) performed by a veterinarian with the Maryland Department of Agriculture. According to the findings of this expert, the police had shot Peyton four times, twice in the chest/flank region, once in the jaw and once in the neck. Chase had been shot twice, one on the bullets striking his chest and the other his left rear leg.

     In conducting the internal inquiry into the Calvo raid the investigators did not interview Mr. Calvo or his mother-in-law. Quoted in the Washington Post, Calvo said, "The fact they've done an internal review without contacting the victims of their raid, the people whose house they stormed through, shows they're not very interested in the facts."

     In January 2011, Prince George's County attorneys settled the lawsuit Cheye Calvo had brought against the county in 2009. The parties to the civil suit did not disclose the amount of the settlement. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Student Drug Informant

      The University of Massachusetts at Amherst had a 61-officer police department that included a unit that handled drug cases. In the fall of 2012 campus drug cops learned from one of their student snitches that a sophomore named Logan was selling the ecstasy drug Molly as well as LSD to other students. Not long after that an undercover UMass officer bought drugs from the former high school hockey star and scholarship student.

     In most colleges and universities a student caught selling drugs on or near campus is suspended from school and charged with a crime. These schools also inform the student's parents why their son or daughter was kicked out of the institution. Once alerted parents of children with drug problems had the option of trying to get them help.

     In Logan's case the campus police gave him a choice: he could be thrown out of school, pay back the $40,000 in scholarship money, face the wrath of his parents and risk going to prison for up to five years or avoid all of that by becoming a drug informant for the campus police. Logan decided to snitch on his fellow students.

     In December 2012 the UMass drug officer in charge of Logan's case gave him back the $700 officers had seized from him at the time of his arrest. His parents, proud of the fact their son was earning good grades in college, had no idea he had a drug problem, had been caught dealing and was now an informant for the UMass police. In the department he was identified as "CI-8."

     Over the next several months Logan made drug buys for the campus police, became seriously hooked on heroin and snitched on his fellow students. He continued, through all of this, to maintain grades good enough to hold on to his scholarship. (Because he was an out-of-state student Logan's tuition was almost double that of his in-state counterparts.)

     On a Sunday afternoon in October 2013, Logan's parents showed up on campus to pay him a surprise visit. At his living quarters they knocked on his door. When he didn't respond his parents assumed he was working at his campus job. But Logan wasn't at his job. The parents became worried when he didn't answer their text messages. It was then they asked a maintenance employee to let them into his dwelling.

     In the bathroom the parents found their son lying dead on the floor next to a needle and a spoon. He had been dead for some time because his body had cooled. The medical examiner determined the cause of death to be "acute heroin poisoning."

     Although Logan had been arrested in 2011 for possession of cocaine, his parents thought he had beaten his drug problem. They were shocked that as a UMass student he had been hooked on heroin.

     Since the vast majority of UMass police cases involved underage and excessive drinking, Logan's heroin overdose came as a shock to everyone in the college community. There hadn't been a heroin related death at the school since 2008.

     Until the Boston Globe published an investigative article about Logan's case no one but the campus police knew about Logan's role as a campus drug snitch. His parents and others were outraged by the revelation.

     In September 2014, in response to the Boston Globe story, the UMass Police Department discontinued flipping drug arrestees into snitches.

     Most colleges and universities have no policy regarding the use of students as campus drug informants. Most of the schools that do prohibit this practice had student snitches like Logan who overdosed and died. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Kansas v. Hendricks: Institutionalizing Sexual Predators

     While no one knows exactly how many pedophiles roam our streets and inhabit our institutions, anyone who is paying attention knows there are too many of them. Not only that, each pedophile is a serial offender with dozens of victims. They are serial offenders because pedophiles cannot be rehabilitated. For them there is no cure, no treatment.

     So what can be done to protect potential victims against these sexual predators? Just catching them and sending them to prison isn't enough because they eventually get out and go right back to seducing and sexually violating children. Laws requiring convicted pedophiles to register as sex offenders and restricting where they can live doesn't deal with the problem either. These measures are legislative window dressing to make us think our political leaders are dealing with the problem.

     In 1994 lawmakers in Kansas concerned about children passed a controversial law called the Sexually Violent Predator Act that allowed the state, following a pedophile's release from prison, to involuntarily commit violent sex offenders to mental institutions through a process known as civil commitment.

     The procedure for committing pedophiles and other violent sex offenders under the Kansas law required notifying the local prosecutor handling the case 60 days before the prisoner's release. The prosecutor, upon such notice, had 45 days to file a petition with a state court requesting the involuntary commitment of the offender. Under this law the prosecutor had the burden of proving that the person in question suffered from a "mental abnormality" that made him or her a "sexually violent predator." If a psychological professional found sufficient evidence to support civil commitment on these grounds, a trial would follow.

     If the defendant was found, beyond a reasonable doubt, to be a sexually violent predator, the trial judge would order his or her commitment to a mental institution. Following the commitment the law required the court to conduct annual reviews to determine if the committed person should remain in custody for another year.

Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 347, (1997)

     In 1995, convicted pedophiles Leroy Hendricks and Tim Quinn were scheduled for prison release. Both men had extensive histories of sexually molesting children. As a result a Kansas prosecutor filed a petition under the Sexually Violent Predator Act to involuntarily commit Hendricks and Quinn to a state mental institution.

     At the Hendricks/Quinn commitment trial the defendants took the stand and agreed with the state psychiatrist's diagnosis that they were pedophiles who continued to experience uncontrollable sexual desires for children. Based on this testimony the jury found that Hendricks and Quinn qualified as sexually violent predators. The civil trial judge ordered both men committed to the state mental facility.

     Leroy Hendrick's attorneys asserted that the involuntary commitment of a man who had served his time in prison violated the ex post facto and double jeopardy clauses of the United States constitution. The circuit court judges ruling on the appeal did not address those specific issues but found the Kansas law unconstitutional on grounds the "mental abnormality" requirement was too vague to satisfy the constitution's due process clause.

     Attorneys representing the state of Kansas appealed the circuit court's ruling to the United States Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, the high court justices reversed the appellate court ruling, finding that the Kansas Violent Sexual Predator Act did not violate the U.S. constitution's ex post facto, double jeopardy or due process clauses.

     Because only a few states have violent sexual predator laws, and prosecutors in states that do don't have the time or will to go through the civil commitment process, only a few prison released pedophiles remain isolated from society. Moreover, even if there were more laws like this and prosecutors who cared enough to go through the process, there are fewer and fewer institutions where these predators can be confined. As a result, Kansas v. Hendricks was a hollow victory that has not solved the problem of what to do about our pedophiles. Children are still at risk.

     If our political leaders where serious about protecting children, convicted pedophiles would be subjected to mandatory life sentences.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Eric Lee Ramsey: Releasing a Violent Criminal From Prison

     In 2007, after being convicted of assault with intent to do great bodily harm, an Isabella County judge in central Michigan sentenced Eric Lee Ramsey to five to fifteen years behind bars. The 25-year-old felon from Mount Pleasant, a town 120 miles northwest of Detroit, had previous felony convictions for destruction of police property, resisting arrest and assault with a dangerous weapon. Eric Ramsey had proven himself to be a violent, lawless person unfit for life outside of prison.

     In the summer of 2012 a Michigan parole board set this violent man free after he had served his minimum sentence of five years. During his relatively short prison stretch Mr. Ramsey had been cited for inmate misconduct six times. Putting this prisoner back into society turned out to be a stupid, disastrous decision by so-called experts in the corrections field.

     At nine-thirty on the night of January 16, 2013 Eric Ramsey drove his pickup onto the campus of Central Michigan University. He arrived on campus with the intent of abducting, raping and murdering the first vulnerable woman who crossed his path. Outside the Student Activity Center, Ramsey approached a senior from Grand Rapids as she walked toward her car. He stuck a BB handgun into the victim's face, opened the door to her 2003 Ford Escape and ordered her into the vehicle. Ramsey climbed in behind the wheel and drove the abductee to his house in Mount Pleasant where he bound her with tape and raped her.

     Later that night Eric Ramsey forced the terrified college student back into her car. He also placed  two cans of gasoline in the vehicle and drove north out of Mount Pleasant. When they reached nearby Lincoln Township Ramsey informed his victim that he was going to kill her. (I presume he intended to use the gasoline to torch the Ford Escape with her in it.) Moments after Ramsey announced his plan to murder his captive she opened her back passenger seat door and rolled out of the moving vehicle.

     The young woman, not seriously injured from her vehicular escape, jumped to her feet and ran to the closest house where she pounded on the door and screamed for help. A 14-year-old boy, at home with his 11-year-old sister and a younger brother who was two, let the frantic woman into their dwelling. As the victim used the teenager's cellphone to call 911, the teen armed himself with a hunting knife.

     Eric Ramsey climbed out of the Ford Escape, grabbed the two cans of gasoline and walked up to the house occupied by the victim and the boy who had taken her in. Using the gasoline as an accelerant, Ramsey set fire to the place, climbed back into the victim's car and drove off. Shortly after Ramsey torched the house the occupants' father arrive home, and using an extinguisher, doused the small blaze.

     Just after midnight a Michigan State Police officer spotted Ramsey and the Ford Escape in Gaylord, an Otsego County town north of Mount Pleasant. Ramsey intentionally drove his victim's car into the state patrol vehicle, veered off onto a field, jumped out of the damaged vehicle and ran. In Gaylord, Ramsey stole a Ford F-350 sanitation truck, rammed another state police car and continued north into Crawford County. Near the town of Fredric about 70 miles north of Mount Pleasant he plowed the city garbage truck into a police car driven by a Crawford County sheriff's deputy. Just before climbing out of the sanitation vehicle Ramsey posted the following message on his Facebook page: "Well folks, I'm about to be shot." 

      Eric Ramsey had correctly predicted his fate. The Crawford County Deputy whose car Ramsey had disabled shot him dead.

     Eric Lee Ramsey was not some drug-addled mental case who flipped-out and embarked on a criminal rampage. He had carried out a planned kidnapping and rape of a total stranger. Had this young woman not escaped he would have murdered her and set her body on fire. If this wasn't bad enough, the 30-year-old felon had set fire to an occupied dwelling and tried to kill three police officers.

     Members of the parole board who let this dangerous man out of prison ten years early were responsible for the college student's abduction and rape. It's a miracle she wasn't killed, and that held true for the three police officers Ramsey crashed into. Under the circumstances, it's not a bad thing that Ramsey is dead. That's what he wanted, that's what he deserved, and that's what he got. 

Sunday, September 24, 2023

The Stacey Sutera Murder Case

     Early in 2010 Robert McLaughlin, a 62-year-old retired U.S. Postal employee from Painesville, Ohio, a Lake County town in the northeastern part of the state, asked Stacey Sutera out for a date. The 37-year-old teacher who lived in Canfield, a suburban town located on the western edge of the Youngstown metropolitan area, informed McLaughlin that she had no interest in him romantically. The two had known each other fifteen years. McLaughlin gave no indication that he had been hurt and angered by the rejection. Stacey Sutera said she hoped the two could remain, if not friends, at least friendly acquaintances.

     Stacey Sutera's rejection of a much older man who had no reason to expect that he had any chance of developing a relationship with the young, attractive woman changed her life in a way she could not have predicted or imagined. The rejection turned this otherwise unremarkable man into a stealthy and insidious monster.

     Stacey Sutera's prolonged nightmare began on March 26, 2010 when someone used a key to scratch her car in the parking lot of a grocery store. Three months later the superintendent of the Columbiana School District started receiving emails about a sexually oriented website that falsely featured Sutera. The anonymous writer of the emails began sending messages to Sutera in which he threatened to ruin her reputation. These emails were signed, "Your Enemy For Life." During this period Stacey Sutera, who had remained in touch with McLauglin, spoke to him about her problem. He responded with sympathy and concern.

     On July 29, 2010 Stacey Sutera filed a report with the Canfield Police Department which detailed the Internet harassment. Sutera had no idea who hated her enough to wage such a malicious campaign against her. Following the police report her tormentor scratched a derogatory slur on her car and began harassing her with a series of prank telephone calls.

     In September 2010 Sutera received a fake used condom in the mail, a gag item sold online to people out for revenge. The following month her teaching colleagues received, through the mail, business cards bearing the teacher's name and address. The cards advertised Sutera's willingness to perform sexual acts for a fee. At this point it was obvious that Sutera's stalker had dedicated his life to ruining hers.

     Stacey Sutera's ongoing nightmare intensified on December 1, 2010 when her stalker poisoned her dog to death. A week later Canfield detectives learned that Robert McLaughlin had purchased the fake condom online and had created the sexually explicit websites designed to embarrass and scandalize Sutera. When police officers informed Sutera who had been stalking her she was stunned. What had she ever done to this man to incur his wrath? Why did he think she deserved to be treated like this?

     On December 8, 2010 detectives with the Canfield Police Department searched Mr. McLaughlin's home in Painesville. The officers discovered information linking the suspect to the malicious website, a mailing list of Sutera's colleagues, the phony sex act business cards, photographs of her and miscellaneous pornographic material. The next day detectives arrested McLaughlin on charges of pandering obscenity and menacing by stalking.

     Sutera, on the day of McLaughlin's arrest, filed for a civil protection order before Judge Eugene J. Fehr of the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. The judge granted the order which barred McLaughlin from possessing a firearm and prohibited him from any further contact with Sutera. The order would remain in effect until July 2015. In her affidavit in support of the protection order Sutera had written: "McLaughlin's actions are clearly designed to cause me mental illness and fear of physical harm. I live in constant fear. My dog has been killed. My daughter and I are in danger."

     Robert McLaughlin, on December 17, 2010, after eight months of stalking Stacey Sutera pleaded guilty in a Mahoning County Court to menacing by stalking. The judge sentenced him to six months in jail. Six months for ruining a woman's life. This judge had given Sutera just six months of protection from a malicious nutcase.

      Stacey Sutera, on January 8, 2011, filed a civil suit against McLaughlin claiming infliction of emotional stress, libel and invasion of privacy. The plaintiff sought $1.5 million in damages.

     A Mahoning County grand jury, in the spring of 2011, indicted Mr. McLaughlin on the felony charges of pandering obscenity and three counts of possessing criminal tools (his computer). That fall the defendant pleaded guilty to these charges, and on November 29, 2011, Judge Maureen A. Sweeney shocked Sutera, her family and friends by only sentencing this aggressively vicious stalker to five years of probation. McLaughlin was also sentenced to 500 hours of community service and fined $2,500. The judge ordered him to enroll in an anger-management program. He would also have to register in the county as a Tier-I sex offender.

     From Sutera's point of view Mr. McLaughlin's sentence amounted to a slap on the wrist. The fact he would not serve time behind bars guaranteed that he would continue his program of personal destruction. Sutera suffered from multiple sclerosis and ulcers and had nothing to look forward to but a future of worry and fear. Robert McLaughlin, a nobody and loser who couldn't handle being rejected by someone out of his league had ruined the life of a once productive mother and teacher. Anger-management? Community service? Probation? 
     On February 8, 2012, a neighbor found Stacey Sutera lying dead outside her Carriage Hill apartment. She had been shot at close range. That day a Mahoning County judge issued a warrant for Robert McLaughlin's arrest on the charge of capital murder. After harassing Stacey Sutera for almost two years, this stalker, who should have been in prison, waited for his 40-year-old victim to come out of her dwelling. 

     The day after he murdered Stacey Sutera, the 64-year-old McLaughlin used the same gun to kill himself at his mother's gravesite. No one knew why McLaughlin felt the need to take his life near his mother's grave. No one really cared. In McLaughlin's Painesville storage unit, investigators found a suicide note in which he had written out his plans to murder Sutera then kill himself. 

     Stacey Sutera had been powerless to protect herself from a man she knew would eventually kill her. She had reached out to the police and the courts for help and got nothing because local criminal justice practitioners were more interested in protecting Robert McLaughlin than Stacey Sutera.

      Was the sentencing judge so stupid that she thought an anger-management counselor could fix Robert McLaughlin? 

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Postulant Sosefina Amoa's Secret

     Sosefina Amoa came to the United States from the Pacific nation of Samoa to become a Catholic nun. The 26-year-old postulant sought admission to the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic order that operated nursing homes and assisted living residences for impoverished old people in the United States and around the world.

     On October 15, 2013 Sofefina, following a 7,000 mile journey, arrived at the Little Sisters of the Poor Elderly Center, a 100-unit complex in Washington, D. C. located across the street from Catholic University. Five days later, while alone in her convent room, Amoa gave birth to a six pound, two ounce boy she named Joseph.

     To muffle the infant's cries Sosefina covered his nose and mouth with a wool garment. Unable to breathe, the baby died.

     The day after she suffocated her child, Sosefina told one of the nuns she had found the dead infant on the sidewalk outside the convent. She and the nun carried the little corpse in a satchel to a nearby hospital.

     When questioned at the hospital by detectives, Sosefina admitted the baby was hers. Not knowing she was pregnant, the stillborn infant had been a complete shock. Police officers, skeptical of her story, searched Amoa's room at the convent.

     A few days later, while being interrogated at the police station, Sosefina Amoa admitted that in trying to silence the infant with the garment she had killed him. She said she had considered throwing the body into the trash but decided instead to alert one of the nuns.

     Following the autopsy the medical examiner's office announced that Baby Joseph had been asphyxiated. The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.

     On October 15, 2013 a District of Columbia prosecutor charged Sosefina Amoa with first-degree murder. If convicted she would spend no less than thirty years in prison. Held without bond, jail authorities put the murder suspect on suicide watch.

     At a preliminary hearing on October 24, 2013 the prosecutor offered Amoa a plea deal. If she pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, thirty years in prison would be the maximum rather than the minimum sentence. Her public defender attorney said he and his client would consider the offer.

    In February 2014 Sofefina Amoa pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. At her sentencing hearing on May 23, 2014 defense attorney Judith Pipe asked federal judge Robert Morin to sentence Amoa to time served after which she would be sent back to her family in Samoa. "Of course this is a case that deserves punishment," said attorney Pipe. "But she will be punished by it every day of her life."

     Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Wright pointed out that Amoa had been "plagued by fear" of being thrown out of the convent and made a "conscious decision" to end her baby's life. The prosecutor argued that Amoa chose to have the baby herself in her room then lied about how he had died.

     Judge Morin sentenced Sofefina Amoa to four years in prison and five years of supervised release. Upon completion of her sentence she would face deportation back to Samoa.

     This sentence, in view of the facts of the case, was lenient. Four years in prison for the killing of an infant was outrageous. By agreeing to the plea of voluntary manslaughter the prosecutor cheapened the life of this infant. 

Friday, September 22, 2023

The Amy Senser Hit and Run Homicide Case

     Amy Senser and her husband Joe lived in Edina, Minnesota, an upscale Minneapolis suburb. Joe Senser, a NFL tight end with the Minnesota Vikings in the early 1980s co-owned four Minneapolis-St. Paul area sports bars. A knee injury had ended his 4-year career with the Vikings. The businessman and sports commentator was a well-liked local celebrity. His attractive 45-year-old wife Amy was also well-known and popular. But on the night of August 23, 2011, Amy and Joe Senser's successful lives would take a sudden and tragic turn.

     On the night that changed everything for the Senser family, Amy and her daughters were attending a Katy Perry concert at the Xcell Energy Center in St. Paul. Ninety minutes into the show Amy developed a headache and decided to drive home. She called Joe who agreed to pick up the girls after the concert.

     According to Amy's version of what happened, while driving Joe's Mercedes-Benz SUV on I-94's Riverside exit off-ramp, a poorly lit section of the highway under construction, she felt a jolt and thought she'd hit a pothole or had bumped a construction barrel. In fact, the right front of her vehicle had hit and killed a man from Laos named Anousone Phantauong. The 38-year-old chef at a Thai restaurant was pouring gasoline into his car that had rolled to a stop on the shoulder of the exit ramp.

     After the collision, Amy got lost and called her husband. At one point, in her confusion, she came full circle and got off the interstate using the same Riverside exit. This time the area was lit up with the flashing lights of emergency vehicles. She did not associate this activity with the earlier jolt she had felt from either a pothole or a construction barrel.

     The next morning, according to Amy Senser's account, Joe called her outside and asked how the Mercedes' right headlight and fog light had gotten knocked out. By then, they both had seen TV reports of Phantauong's death and the search for the hit and run driver. Realizing what had happened the previous night the Sensers called their lawyer, and later that day, surrendered the damaged Mercedes to the police.

     In speaking to the police Amy Senser admitted that just before the Katy Perry concert she had gone to a nearby restaurant where she had consumed less than a full glass of wine. She insisted, however, that she had not been intoxicated when her car hit and killed Mr. Phantauong. Investigators believed she had been drunk, and because of that, had not stopped after plowing into the victim. Detectives were convinced she wanted to sober up before reporting the fatal accident.

     In November 2011 the Hennepin County prosecutor, Deborah Russell, charged Amy Senser with three vehicular related felonies: driving in a grossly negligent manner; leaving the scene of an accident; and failure to promptly report an accident. If convicted of all charges the defendant could face up to 30 years in prison. Because she didn't confess and no witness to the accident came forward, the case against Amy Senser was circumstantial. To find her guilty the jury would have to infer her state of mind that night. If they believed her testimony they would have to acquit her.

     To find the defendant guilty of reckless driving the jury would also have to infer she had been intoxicated at the time of the accident. The fact she had clipped Mr. Phantauong, a man who had placed himself in harm's way by standing just off a poorly lit exit ramp, was not, by itself, enough to establish gross negligence on her part. If the jurors did not find that she was drunk they would probably not find that the accident was a result of reckless driving.

     The highly anticipated, media intense Amy Senser trial commenced on April 23, 2012. In an effort to prove that the defendant had been driving drunk that night prosecutor Russell put a motorist on the stand. Shortly after the accident this witness saw, on I-94, a Mercedes SUV being driven in an erratic manner. The witness passed this vehicle when it slowed to 40 MPH, and when she looked into her rearview mirror, noticed that the car's right front lights were out.

     Defense attorney Eric Nelson put on only one witness, Amy Senser. The defendant denied she had been intoxicated when her car hit what she thought was a pothole or a construction barrel. As for her erratic driving on I-94 she said she had dropped her cellphone between the seat and the center console and was trying to fish it out.

     On May 2, 2012 the jury of 7 men and 5 women, after a grueling deliberation period of 19 hours, found Amy Senser guilty of two of the three felonies. Jurors acquitted the defendant of the gross negligent charge. The defendant, who still faced up to 20 years on prison, showed no emotion as the verdicts were read.

     At a post-trial press conference, attorney Eric Nelson said he would appeal his client's conviction on the grounds she had met the requirements of the state accident notification law. One of the jurors who spoke to reporters said, "It was just a very challenging case for us to come to a consensus."

     On July 10, 2012 the judge sentenced Amy Senser to 41 months in prison.

     Corrections authorities, on April 24, 2014 released Amy Senser from the Shakopee Women's Prison after she had served all but six months of her prison stretch. On October 20, 2014, following the completion of a six-month work release program, she was free.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Elzbieta Plackowska Double Murder Case

      In 2012 Elzbieta Plackowska lived with her husband Artur and their son in Naperville, Illinois, a DuPage County town 25 miles west of Chicago. Born and raised in Poland, Elzbieta had come to the United States twelve years earlier on a vacation visa.

     Elzbieta's father, in October 2012, passed away and she wanted to return to Poland for the funeral. Artur was against her leaving the country and the two of them argued over this. Their marriage was already strained over the fact that as a long-haul truck driver he was seldom home. Elzbieta resented having to raise their 7-year-old son without out his help. (Their oldest boy was in his late teens and lived with a family friend.) The 40-year-old discontented wife was also angry that she had to work as a housemaid, a job she felt was beneath her. Elzbieta Plackowska was an angry, frustrated and profoundly unhappy woman.

     In September 2012, about a month before her father died, Elzbieta met Marta Dworakowski on an online Polish networking site. Marta, the mother of a 5-year-old girl named Olivia, worked nights as a nurse at a dialysis center and was looking for a babysitter. Marta lived just five miles from Elzbieta in a townhouse in Naperville's upscale Brookdale Manor subdivision. The two mothers came to an agreement, and on certain nights, Elzbieta brought her 7-year-old son Justin to Dworakowski's home.

     On October 30, 2012, while spending an evening with Justin and Olivia at Dworakowski's townhouse, Elzbieta decided to murder her son. She grabbed a steak knife from the kitchen and entered Olivia's room where the children were playing. She told Justin that this was the night he was going to heaven. After making him kneel in prayer, Elzbieta repeatedly stabbed him as he pleaded for his life. She plunged the knife into the boy 100 times, then slashed his throat.

     After killing her son and cutting her own hand in the process (common in stabbing cases), the babysitter used the knife on Olivia, stabbing her 50 times before slashing her throat. She killed the 5-year-old because the girl had witnessed Justin's murder.

     After she had slaughtered her son and the girl she was babysitting, Plackowska drove to her Catholic church. It was ten o'clock at night and the place was closed so she called the church and left a message to the effect she had done something bad and needed help. About this time Marta Dworakowski arrived at her townhouse to find the dwelling locked and the babysitter's car missing. She called the Naperville Police Department.

     The police broke into the house and found Olivia on her bed and Justin on the floor next to it. The officers were stunned by the brutality of the double murder. Plackowska had also stabbed to death both of Dworakowski's dogs. The dwelling was awash in blood. Officers found a bloodstained knife in the kitchen sink.

     After murdering the children and driving to the church, Elzbieta Plackowska showed up at the house where her oldest boy was living. She told her son that a robber had attacked her and killed the children. The son called the police. Officers came to the house and took her into custody. (They found a second bloody knife in her car.) Before transporting the suspect to the police station the police had her treated for her knife wielding cuts at Edward Hospital.  

     At police headquarters Plackowska offered up the robbery story, then blamed the murders on a man she claimed had been stalking her. Eventually she admitted killing the children after hearing "demonic voices" in her head. Finally the truth came out: she had murdered her son to get back at her husband. She said she wanted Artur to hurt as much as he had made her suffer. She murdered Olivia because the little girl had witnessed the anger-killing of her son.

     On November 1, 2012, at her arraignment hearing in a DuPage County Court, the judge denied Plackowska bail. At the defendant's next court appearance she was formally charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

     In September 2017 following a short bench trial the DuPage County Judge found Plackowska guilty as charged. The judge sentenced her to life in prison.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Khaseen Morris Murder Case: Bleeding To Death On Social Media

     In 2019, Tyler Flach, a graduate of Long Beach High School on the south shore of Long Island, New York, attended Nassau County Community College where he majored in business and music sound engineering. He lived with his mother in Lido Beach, Long Island. She and Flach's father had divorced.

     An aspiring hip-hop artist, Tyler Flach had caught the attention of a notable music producer who considered taking the 18-year-old on as a client.

     In May 2019, Nassau County police officers arrested Flach for assault in connection with a road-rage incident, and on September 8, 2019, for  possession of a controlled substance. He had recently split up with his girlfriend, a 10th grader at Long Island's Oceanside High School.

     In the summer of 2019 Khaseen Morris and his family moved to Oceanside, Long Island from the neighboring town of Freeport. The 16-year-old skateboarder wore his hair in dreadlocks and had dyed half of it orange. He planned to study photography.

     On Sunday, September 15, 2019, the 10th grade girl who had dated Tyler Flach asked Khaseen Morris to walk her home from an event. He obliged, apparently unaware that she wanted to make her ex-boyfriend jealous.

     When Tyler Flach learned that Khaseen Morris had been with the 10th grader he made threats against Morris on social media. At some point the two young men agreed to fight in the parking lot of a pizzeria on Brower Avenue in Oceanside. The spot they picked was a popular hangout for local high school students.

     Word quickly spread on social media that the fight would take place on Tuesday afternoon, September 17. Each combatant would show up with a half dozen friends who would participate in the brawl.

     At three in the afternoon that Tuesday the rival groups faced off in the pizzeria parking lot. They were surrounded by 50 to 70 high school kids who had gathered to watch the fight.

     Shortly into the fray Tyler Flach pulled a knife and stabbed Khaseen Morris in the chest. The young man collapsed to the pavement, and while he lay bleeding, everyone in the crowd continued filming the scene with their cellphones, uploading the videos onto social media sites. The spectators were so busy recording the assault and its aftermath no one bothered to call for an ambulance.

     Finally, after the passage of ten to fifteen minutes, perhaps more, someone called 911 to report a young man bleeding to death in the parking lot of the Brower Avenue strip mall.

     Paramedics rushed Khaseen Morris to the South Nassau Communities Hospital where later that night he died. Another participant in the fight was treated for a broken arm and swollen head.

     A Nassau County prosecutor charged Tyler Flach with second-degree murder. On Thursday, September 19, 2019, at the suspect's arraignment at the First District Court in Hempstead he pleaded not guilty to the charge. Flach, accompanied by his attorney had turned himself in earlier that day. After being booked into the local jail the judge denied him bail.
     In February 2023, following a jury verdict of guilty of second-degree murder, the trial judge sentenced Flach to the maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Gary Irving: The Bail Jumping Rapist

     In 1978 a jury in Norfolk County, Massachusetts found 18-year-old Gary Irving guilty of three counts of rape with force, unnatural acts and kidnapping. Irving had knocked one of his victims off her bike, dragged her to a secluded area and viciously raped her. He had threatened a second rape victim with a knife. The convicted rapist faced up to life in prison.

     Immediately following Irving's guilty verdict and prior to his sentencing, the rapist's attorney asked Judge Robert Prince to extend his client's bail a couple of days so Irving could make final arrangements before being packed off to prison.

     The prosecutor in the case, Louis Sabadini, pointed out that if Gary Irving was not sent straight to prison he would flee. Extending bail to a convicted rapist who was facing at least 35 years in prison was simply out of the question. This young man was a violent sexual predator.

     Judge Prince shocked the prosecutor and the rape victims' families by granting Irving the weekend to settle his affairs before his incarceration. Irving took this opportunity to flee the state. Except perhaps for Judge Prince, Gary Irving's bail jump surprised no one.

     The convicted rapist would remain at large for 35 years.

     In trying to find this fugitive the police received plenty of help from reality television. The Irving bail jumping case was featured on "America's Most Wanted," "Unsolved Mysteries" and "Real Stories of the Highway Patrol." It seemed that Gary Irving had somehow left the planet.

     On Wednesday, March 27, 2013, local police and FBI agents arrested Irving at his home in Gorham, Maine where the 52-year-old had been living under the name Gregg Irving. He hadn't even bothered to change his last name.

     On July 14, 2014, Judge George Singal sentenced Gary Irving to 47 years in prison. The 57-year-old wouldn't be eligible for parole until he was 84.

     What can you say about a judge who made such a reckless decision? What was he thinking? Could he have been that stupid or were his motives more complicated and perhaps pathological? One can only hope that Mr. Irving, during his 35 years of freedom, didn't rape more victims. If he did, Judge Prince was his accomplice. (The judge has since died.)

Monday, September 18, 2023

The Nuzzio Begaren Murder-For-Hire Case

      In 1997 in the southern California city of Santa Ana, Nuzzio Begaren married a 36-year-old state corrections officer named Elizabeth. The 40-year-old groom had a daughter from a previous marriage who was ten. Three days after the wedding Nuzzio bought a $1 million insurance policy on his new wife's life. This meant that Elizabeth Begaren stood between her husband and a million dollars. Purchasing life insurance on his wife was the first step on Nuzzio Begaren's path to wealth. Getting someone to murder his wife comprised step two.

     Finding someone to kill his wife was the easy part of Nuzzio's murder-for-hire scheme. He simply offered $4,800 in cash to friends who belonged to a Los Angeles criminal gang. On the night of January 17, 1998, the murder-for-hire mastermind took Elizabeth and his daughter shopping at a mall in Burbank. While shopping in Macy's he gave Elizabeth the cash to hold for him. She placed the money into her purse unaware she was carrying the pay-off for her own demise.

     As Nuzzio, Elizabeth and his daughter drove home in his blue Kia Sportage they were followed by a Buick Regal driven by 24-year-old Guillermo Espinoza. Three other gang members were in the vehicle. At eleven o'clock as Nuzzio Begaren pulled onto the off-ramp of the 91 Freeway in Anaheim the Buick pulled up alongside Nuzzio's vehicle and forced him off the road. Three of the LA gangsters alighted from the Buick and as Nuzzio climbed into the back seat of the Kia to be with his daughter his wife Elizabeth made a run for it as the hit men approached the car.

     The hit men quickly caught up with Nuzzio's terrified wife. In begging for her life she pulled out her correction officer's badge. That's when Guillermo Espinoza shot her in the head and chest. The shooter grabbed the dead woman's handbag, returned to the Buick with the other three gangsters, and drove off.

     Nuzzio Begaren told officers with the Anaheim Police Department that the men behind his wife's cold-blooded murder had targeted his family at the shopping mall and followed them home. "There was no reason for someone to follow us," he said. "We have no enemies." Nuzzio described the gangsters' car as a dark blue late 1970s Oldsmobile and gave detectives a license number that didn't check out. Nuzzio described the four men in the Oldsmobile as a pair of blacks and two men who were either white or Latino. "When they saw the badge," he said, "they shot her. She was lying face down in the blood with her badge in her hand." Nuzzio Begaren described his wife as someone who had been "full of joy."

      Although detectives didn't believe Begeren's account of the murder, the investigation stalled and the case eventually died on the vine. It looked as though Nuzzio Begaren had gotten away with his crime.

     In February 2012, four years after Elizabeth Begaren's murder, police officers arrested 55-year-old Nuzzio Begaren in Rancho Cucamonga, California. An Orange County grand jury had indicted him for soliciting the murder of his wife. Guillermo Espinoza had been indicted as well, but his whereabouts were unknown. (In 2011 when the gangster learned that cold case detectives had reopened the case he went underground.)

      Nuzzio Begaren went on trial on August 21, 2013 in a Santa Ana court for conspiracy to murder his wife for financial gain. (Guillermo Espinoza was still at large.) Orange County prosecutor Larry Yellin in his opening statement to the jury told of a piece of torn-up paper found near the murder scene that bore the victim's handwriting. Elizabeth had scribbled "light blue" and had written down the license number of the car that had been following them. The plate number belonged to a light blue Buick Regal, the vehicle driven that night by Guillermo Espinosa.

     Prosecutor Yellin informed the jurors that gang members Rudy Duran and Jose Luis Sandoval, both of whom had been in the Buick that night, were going to testify for the prosecution. According to these men the defendant had arranged his wife's murder for the insurance money. The murder-for-hire mastermind had wanted the killing to look like a highway robbery turned fatal.

     Defense attorney Sal Ciula told the jury that state witness Rudy Duran had been pressured into cooperating with the authorities. According to the defense attorney, if Duran worked with the prosecution "he would become a witness instead of a defendant. He [Duran] made the obvious choice."

     The heart of the prosecution's case involved the $1 million life insurance police and the testimony of the alleged hit men Rudy Duran and Jose Luis Sandoval. The essence of the Begaren's defense involved attacking the credibility of these two key prosecution witnesses.

     On September 6, 2013, the jury, after deliberating three days found the defendant guilty of hiring Espinoza and Sandoval to murder his wife. On October 4, 2013 the judge sentenced him to 25 years to life.

     In October 2013, Rudy Duran and Jose Luis Sandoval pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. Both men were sentenced to time served and were released from jail. On March 4, 2016, after being apprehended in Mexico, the authorities extradited Guillermo Espinoza back to California.

     On August 2, 2017 Jose Luis Sandoval was shot to death in the Los Angeles County town of Downey. He was 41.

     Guillermo Espinoza, in September 2018, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in return for a sentence of 21 years in prison.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Dr. Louise Robbins: The Shoe Print Expert From Hell

     Comparing a crime scene shoe print on a hard surface or an impression in dirt, mud or snow to the bottom of a specific shoe is not unlike the process of latent fingerprint identification. In many crime laboratories latent fingerprint examiners also handle footwear and tire-track evidence and occasionally deal with the identification of tool marks. Compared to DNA analysis, toxicology and various aspects of forensic pathology, the identification of shoe marks, latent fingerprints, crime scene bullets, tool marks and handwriting involves less science than it does informed observation.

     A crime scene shoe print or impression can be identified as part of a footwear group according to size, brand and model. In some cases an impression can be identified as coming from one shoe to the exclusion of all other footwear. Every year 1.5 billion pairs of shoes are sold in the United States. At any given time there could be as many as 100,000 pairs of size 10 Nike sneakers of a certain model and tread design. There could be, say, 5,000 pairs of these shoes in circulation in the Chicago area alone. The criminalistic or incriminating value of a group identification depends upon the size of the group. These group, or class identifications occur when the crime scene print or impression is not detailed enough for a match to a specific shoe or when the shoe that made the mark is not available for comparison.

     The most famous group identification of shoe prints came at O. J. Simpson's double murder trial in 1995 when FBI expert William Bodziak identified several crime scene prints in blood as having been made by a pair of size 12 Bruno Magli Lorenzo shoes, luxury footwear made in Italy. Bodziak's testimony tended to incriminate Simpson in two ways: the identification involved a relatively small footwear group, and Simpson, after denying that he owned Bruno Magli shoes was seen on television wearing a pair. The actual shoes that made the bloody murder scene prints were never located.

     An individual shoe, boot or sandal can be linked to a crime scene print or impression the way a latent fingerprint can be matched to its known counterpart. Instead of comparing ridge configurations the footwear examiner looks at a shoe's sole and heel for unique signs of wear that show up in the print or impression. Every shoe that has been worn for awhile is as unique as a fingerprint. The more wear the more potential for identification.

     Footwear identification, unlike fingerprint matching, does not require a minimum number of similarity points to be admissible in court. The credibility of a shoe identification depends upon the training, experience and objectivity of the examiner as well as the quality, clarity and uniqueness of the characteristics being compared. New methods and techniques are constantly being developed, for example, to lift footwear impressions from dust and even preserve shoe prints made in snow.

     Shoe prints left in dust, blood or soot are photographed (next to a reference ruler) then peeled off the surface the way a latent fingerprint is lifted. Footwear impressions are often preserved with plaster-of-paris casts of the depressions. Shoes and their crime scene prints and impressions can be compared side-by-side or through the use of transparent overlays. To connect a suspect to a crime scene through footwear evidence detectives need three things: a good print or impression; the shoe that made it; and a way to link the suspect to the footwear. In the O. J. Simpson case the detectives had shoe prints in blood but none of the footwear in Simpson's possession matched the murder scene evidence. The prosecution had to settle for a group identification.

Dr. Louise Robbins and her "Cinderella Analysis"

     Fortunately for O. J. Simpson the world's only footwear identification expert who might have identified the crime scene impressions as having been made by shoes worn by him without having access to the actual footwear had died eight years before his trial. Dr. Louise Robbins, an anthropology professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro wasn't interested in matching the bottoms of shoes to corresponding crime scene impressions. She would have claimed she could identify the crime scene prints in the Simpson case by examining other shoes in Simpson's possession. Robbin's method of identification, a process she called "wear pattern analysis," was based on her theory that no two people have the same shaped feet or walk in exactly the same way. According to her this unique feature revealed itself inside the shoes people wear and in the prints or impressions they leave behind.

     Dr. Robbins claimed she could look at a crime scene shoe print and determine it had been made by the wearer of shoes other than the shoe that left the crime scene mark. Her critics, and there were many, called this her "Cinderella Analysis." If a defense attorney had a client in a case in which Dr. Robbins was testifying for the prosecution, that defendant's foot always seemed to end up fitting the shoe that had made the crime scene print or impression. The jury, without access to the actual shoe that had made the crime scene mark simply had to take her word for it. It's not surprising that prosecutors with insufficient footwear evidence and weak cases loved this witness. Defense attorneys, on the other hand, called her the prosecution expert from hell.

     In her work as an anthropologist Dr. Robbins had frequently exhibited the ability to see things that her colleagues could not. When working in Africa she garnered worldwide publicity after identifying a 3.5 million-year-old fossilized footprint as made by a woman who was five and a half months pregnant. Dr. Timothy White, a professor of anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley, who had worked with Dr. Robbins in Africa characterized her conclusions as pure nonsense.

     If Dr. Robbins had confined her ideas to the classroom she would have been harmless and no one would have been greatly bothered by her patently ridiculous theories. But in 1976 when she took her nonsense into the courtroom as a forensic footwear identification expert people not only started to worry, defendants started going to prison. Between 1976 and 1986 Dr. Robbins testified, for fees up to $9,000 a case, in ten states and Canada. During this period at least 12 defendants were sent to prison on the strength of her expert testimony. Her career as an expert witness came to an end in 1987 when she died of brain cancer at the age of 58.

     In the year of Dr. Robbin's death the American Academy of Forensic Sciences sponsored a panel of 135 anthropologists, forensic scientists, lawyers and legal scholars to review her cases and work. The panel concluded that her identification methodology had no basis in science. Marvin Lewis, a law professor at John Marshall University called her work "complete hogwash." Lewis, who operated an expert witness referral service was dismayed that so many judges had qualified Robbins as an expert witness. Russell Tuttle, a professor of physical anthropology at the University of Chicago, in referring to Dr. Robbins, said, "Why do we allow this kind of rot, this pseudoscience, into our courts?" FBI expert William Bodziak, who had testified against Dr. Robbins in several murder trials, agreed: "Nobody else has ever dreamed of saying the kinds of things she said."

     Dr. Robbins not only wormed her way into courtrooms and the hearts of desperate prosecutors, she had impressed juries. She had a Ph.D, taught at a major university and had been written up in Time Magazine. In 1985 she published a book, Footprints: Collection, Analysis, and Interpretation. As a self-validating expert who used scientific terminology to advance an absurd theory, she came off as extremely confident and sure of her conclusions. Moreover, some prosecutors portrayed her as a pioneer in a new field of scientific identification. One prosecutor in defending Dr. Robbins against her critics reminded the jury that it had taken 400 years for Galileo's theories to gain acceptance in the scientific community. 

Saturday, September 16, 2023

The Christopher Vaughn Murder Case

     Christopher Vaughn, a 32-year-old former private investigator who specialized in cyber-crime detection and computer security, lived with his wife and their three children in Oswego, Illinois, a suburban community of 30,000 west of Chicago. His 34-year-old wife Kimberly had just earned a college degree in criminal justice administration. In preparation for a weekend excursion to a water park in downstate Springfield, the couple and their children--Abigayle 12, Cassandra 11 and Blake 8--had arisen early on June 14, 2007.

     That morning, at 5:40, Christopher Vaughn, stood bleeding near his vehicle parked on the shoulder of Interstate 55 in Channahon Township, Illinois. He waved down a motorist who discovered that the wounded man had been shot in the left wrist and left thigh. Vaughn's wife Kimberly and his three children were inside the 2004 Ford Expedition. They had been shot to death. The motorist called 911.

     Christopher Vaughn's gunshot injuries turned out to be glancing bullet wounds that were minor. After being treated and discharged from a hospital in Joliet, he submitted to questioning by officers with the Illinois State Police. Vaughn said that his wife had asked him to pull off the road because she was feeling ill. After bringing the car to a stop he climbed out of the vehicle to check on the luggage tied to the rack on the roof of the SUV. When he got back into the vehicle she shot him twice with a pistol. Wounded, he managed to get out of the Ford without being hit again. Once out of her line of fire he heard the gun go off several times from inside the vehicle. When he returned to the SUV to check on his family he found that his wife had murdered the children and had turned the gun on herself.

     None of the detectives questioning Vaughn bought the murder-suicide scenario. They were convinced he had murdered his family then strategically shot himself. The officers didn't know why this seemingly rational but emotionless man had committed mass murder, or how they would be able to prove it without an eyewitness or a confession. This case looked like a cold-blooded mass murder committed by a killer with nerves of steel.

     According to the Will County forensic pathologist who performed the autopsies, Kimberly Vaugh had been shot under the chin. The killer had shot the children in their chests and heads. Their deaths were ruled homicides.

      On June 20, 2007 members of the Illinois State Police seized from the Vaughn home in Oswego, three computers and several boxes full of personal items. Included in the things removed from the Vaughn family dwelling that day was a magazine containing an article on how to make a murder look like a suicide. Detectives had also learned that the suspect had purchased the handgun used in the killings in the state of Washington, and that on the day before the murders he had practiced shooting it at a firing range.

     In the days before the quadruple murder Christopher Vaughn had spent $5,000 at a suburban strip club where he had confided in a pole dancer that he was having marital problems. Vaughn told friends that he dreamed of escaping the rat-race by moving into a remote cabin in Canada's Yukon Territory. He also stood to inherit $1 million in life insurance benefits. Investigators believed that Vaughn had murdered his family because they stood between him and his desire to start a new life.

     On June 22, 2007 the Will County States Attorney's Office charged Christopher Vaughn with four counts of first-degree murder. The next day he was taken into custody in St. Charles, Missouri when he arrived at the funeral home where services were being held for his wife and three children.

     In late August 2012, more than five years after the shooting deaths of his family, Christopher Vaughn went on trial for mass murder in Joliet, Illinois. The heart of the prosecution's case consisted of the testimony of forensic ballistic and blood spatter experts. According to these analysts, the physical death scene evidence did not support the defendant's version of a murder-suicide. What the bullet and blood evidence did suggest was this: once Vaughn had pulled off the interstate he got out of the car, walked around to the front passenger's door, opened it, and shot his wife under the chin. He then shot each of his three children twice, climbed back behind the wheel of the SUV, wrapped his jacket around the muzzle of the gun to mitigate its effect, then grazed himself in the left thigh and wrist. Before leaving the vehicle to flag down a motorist, Mr. Vaughn placed the murder weapon at his wife's feet to make the shooting look like a murder-suicide.

     On September 20, 2012, following a five-week trial featuring six hours of closing arguments, the jury, after a 50-minute deliberation returned a verdict of guilty on all four counts.

     On November 26, 2012 Will County Judge Daniel Rozak sentenced Christopher Vaughn to life in prison. Before imposing the sentence Judge Rozak said he was "very frustrated" with the state's decision in 2011 to abolish the death sentence. State's attorney James Glasgow, in speaking to reporters about the case following the sentencing, said, "There isn't a punishment that fits this crime. You could lock him up for 500 lifetimes and it would not compensate the victims in this case or the family members."

Friday, September 15, 2023

Franc Cano and Steven Dean Gordon: Serial Sex Offenders On Parole

     In 1992, 23-year-old Steven Gordon, a resident of Orange County, California, was convicted of two counts of lewd and lascivious acts with girls under 14 and 10-years-old. He was convicted and spent three years behind bars. In 2002, in Riverside County, California, Mr. Gordon was sent to prison on a kidnapping conviction.

     Twenty-one-year-old Franc Cano, another Orange County sexual predator, went to prison in 2008 for rape.

     In April 2012, Steven Gordon was on parole and wearing a federal GPS device. His friend Franc Cano, also on parole, wore a state-issued ankle bracelet. That month the two transients removed their tracking devices, and under the names Dexter McCoy and Joseph Madrid, boarded a Greyhound bus for Law Vegas.

     On May 8, 2012 federal agents apprehended the two paroled sex offenders at the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Returned to California, the men pleaded guilty to failure to register as sex offenders. Instead of sending them back to prison where they belonged, the parolees were ordered to provide DNA samples. As further "punishment", their computers would be monitored by parole and probation authorities. They were also required to check in once a month with the Anaheim Police Department. New GPS tracking devices were attached to each man and they were set free.

     On October 10, 2013, Kianna Jackson, a 20-year-old from Las Vegas, disappeared while she was in Santa Ana, California. In Santa Ana she had been charged with prostitution and loitering to commit prostitution. Jackson wasn't the only sex worker that had gone missing in southern California during that period. Thirty-four-year-old Josephine Monique Vargas was last seen on October 24, 1913 after attending a family birthday party at a Santa Ana Red Roof Inn. Vargas had a history of drug abuse and prostitution.

     Martha Anaya, a 28-year-old Santa Ana woman with a history of prostitution was last seen on November 12, 2013. Before her disappearance she had asked her boyfriend to pick up her 5-year-old daughter so she could work her trade.

     On March 14, 2014 the naked body of 21-year-old Jarrae Nykkole Estepp was found on a conveyor belt at an Anaheim trash-sorting plant. Estepp was known to work on a strip of beach in Anaheim known for prostitution. She had moved to southern California from Oklahoma.

     On April 11, 2014, Anaheim police officers arrested Franc Cano, 27 and his traveling partner Steven Dean Gordon, 45, near the trash sorting facility in Anaheim where Jarrae Estepp had been raped and murdered. (I presume the suspects were linked to this victim through DNA.)

     On Monday, April 14, 2014 an Orange County prosecutor charged Cano and Gordon with four felony counts of special circumstances murder and four counts of rape. If convicted as charged these men faced sentences of life without parole. While they were also eligible for the death penalty, no California judge had imposed that sentence for decades. 

     Anaheim Police Lieutenant Bob Dunn at a press conference on April 15, 2014 said the suspects may have raped and killed more women in southern California. The officer would not say if the bodies of the other three prostitutes had been found. According to Lieutenant Dunn, the suspects, when they raped and murdered the four victims, were wearing their GPS tracking devices.

     Just prior to his December 2016 Orange County murder trial Steven Dean Gordon fired his public defender so he could act as his own defense attorney. In his opening remarks to the jury the defendant did not deny murdering the four women. Instead, he blamed Franc Cano and the parole and probation department for not monitoring him more closely.

     On December 16, 2016, the jury just took one hour to find Gordon guilty as charged. He was sentenced to life.
     Four years later, after Franc Cano pleaded guilty to four counts of rape and four counts of murder, the judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Dr. Lisa Tseng: When Does a Physician Become a Drug Dealing Murderer?

     In California, as in most states, a cocaine dealer can be convicted of second-degree murder if a person he sold the drug to dies of an overdose. Such a conviction is based on what is referred to as the felony-murder doctrine which holds that if in the commission of a felony (selling cocaine) someone dies, the felon can be held criminally culpable for that death. The element of criminal intent applies to the commission of the felony, not the resultant death. In other words, it doesn't matter that the cocaine dealer didn't intend to kill one of his or her customers. It's still murder.

     Dr. Hsiu-Ying (Lisa) Tseng and her husband ran a storefront medical clinic in Rowland Heights, California, an unincorporated community of 50,000 in Los Angeles County's Gabriel Valley. The clinic had a reputation among prescription drug addicts as a place one could go to acquire prescriptions for drugs such as Xanax, Oxycodone, Methadone, Soma and Vicodin. Dr. Tseng allegedly issued prescriptions for these pain and anti-anxiety drugs without asking too many questions or requiring an acceptable medical reason.

     In 2010 reporters with the Los Angeles Times linked Dr. Tseng's drugs to eight overdose deaths. (Not all of the people who overdosed had acquired the prescriptions from the doctor, many of her patients had sold the drugs to others who overdosed on them.) According to the Times, Dr. Tseng, from 2007 through 2010, had written more than 27,000 prescriptions for pain and anti-anxiety medicine.

     In March 2012 state, county and federal narcotics officers arrested Dr. Tseng for murder in connection with the 2009 overdose deaths of three men in their twenties, all of whom had gotten prescription drugs at the Rowland Heights clinic. The authorities also charged Dr. Tseng with 20 felony counts of prescribing drugs to patients with no medical need for the medicine. (If this government-imposed standard were enforced strictly across the country we'd need a dozen new prisons just for physicians and chiropractors and street corner cocaine dealers would see their businesses shoot through the roof.) The 42-year-old doctor was placed in the Los Angeles County Jail under $3 million bond.

      At the time of Dr. Tseng's arrest there had only been a handful of prescription drug/felony-murder overdose prosecutions in the country. The Tseng case was the first of its kind in Los Angeles County. In June 2012, at a preliminary hearing before judge M. L. Villar de Longoria in a Los Angeles Superior Court to determine if the state had sufficient evidence to move the case to the trial phase, the assistant district attorney put on several witnesses. (In preliminary hearings held to determine if the government has a prima facie case there are no defense witnesses.)

     An undercover DEA agent took the stand and said he (or she) had been prescribed pain and anti-anxiety drugs without exhibiting tangible evidence of a physical injury. (What are the physical signs of chronic back pain?) Several family members of Tseng's patients testified that they had begged the doctor to quit issuing their addicted relatives prescription drugs. A representative of the Los Angeles Coroner's Office said he had warned Dr. Tseng that many of her patients were dying of prescription drug overdoses.

     On June 25, 2012, after three weeks of testimony, Judge Villar de Longoria ruled that Dr. Tseng could be held over for trial on the three murder charges. The judge, in justifying the ruling, told the defendant that she had "failed to heed repeated red flags" that her patients were drug addicts." (Since it's the role of a jury to make fact determinations like this, the judge's remarks were, in my opinion, inappropriate.)

     Assuming that Dr. Tseng had in fact intentionally or recklessly issued prescriptions to drug addicts, prosecuting her for second-degree murder was risky jurisprudence in a country with millions of prescription drug junkies. Retailers who sell booze aren't prosecuted for murder when drunks kill themselves in car wrecks. Gun dealers who sell firearms to people who use the weapons to blow their brains out aren't prosecuted for murder.

     If convicted of three counts of murder because she prescribed pills to junkies who overdosed on the drugs, Dr. Tseng faced up to life in prison. This was at a time when residents of 18 states, including California, could legally buy "medical" marijuana.

     In October 2015 a jury in Los Angeles County Superior Court found Dr. Tseng guilty of second-degree murder. The judge, on February 5, 2016, sentenced her to 30 years to life in prison.

     In 2017 Dr. Tseng appealed her conviction to California's 2nd District Court of Appeals. In December 2018 the 3-judge panel found there was overwhelming evidence that the appellant, in prescribing drugs to patients who had overdosed, had been recklessly indifferent to their lives. Dr. Tseng's attorneys appealed this decision to the California Supreme Court which in March 2019 declined to review her case. Her conviction stood.  

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Joseph L. Miller: The Deacon's Secret

     In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on June 12, 1959, 23-year-old Joseph Lewis Miller shot John and Donna Lumpkins with a 12-gauge shotgun. Mr. Lumpkins died of his injuries on July 4 of that year. Donna Lumpkins, his wife, survived her wounds.

     On January 22, 1960, Joseph Miller pleaded guilty to the John Lumpkins murder and the attempted murder of the victim's wife. The judge sentenced him to life in prison. Throughout the late 1960s Mr. Miller made several requests to have his life sentence commuted. On February 9, 1971 Joseph Miller got his wish when Governor Raymond P. Shaffer granted his motion. After serving 11 years and 6 months behind bars, Mr. Miller began his life as an ex-con on lifetime parole.

     Governor Shaffer's decision in this case would end up costing another man his life. (Whenever a politician commutes a sentence in a case that did not involve injustice, the politician is saying that he knows better than the judge who issued the original sentence.)

     On January 15, 1981 Joseph Miller, at age 45, shot Thomas Walker to death in the parking lot outside a Harrisburg bar. After being charged with murder and several firearms violations a month later Miller was nowhere to be found. He became a fugitive from justice.

     In 2010 in the northeastern Texas town of Mineola, Joseph Miller, now a deacon in the New Life Family Baptist Church, married a 58-year-old member of the congregation named Gennell. He was 74-years-old and living under the name Eugene Eubanks. A wanted murder suspect and convected killer, Mr. Miller had established himself as a pillar of the community. 

     In the early morning hours of April 21, 2014, a team of U.S. Marshals showed up in Mineola with a warrant for the longtime fugitive's arrest. The marshals took Joseph Miller, aka Eugene Eubanks, into custody and booked him into the Wood County Jail where he awaited his extradition back to Pennsylvania. According to the fugitive's wife Gennell Eubanks, Eugene suffered from early stage Alzheimer's Disease and arthritis. He also had been having problems with his heart.

     After the marshals hauled her 78-year-old husband off to jail, Gennell Eubanks told a reporter from Pennsylvania that she had not known her husband's real name. Regarding the shooting death of Thomas Walker in 1981, she said, "Eugene said it was an accident. He was trying to protect his brother because a man was trying to kill him. I believe my husband. He wasn't trying to kill that man; it just happened. He isn't going to lie to me," she said, "because he is a deacon. He was trying to do what's right." As Miller was being taken out of his house in handcuffs, he said this to his 62-year-old wife: "Take care of yourself, and trust in the Lord. He will see you through."

     Miller had not told Gennell Eubanks about his 1959 murder of John Lumpkins and the shooting of the victim's wife. Gennell had no idea her husband of four years had spent more than eleven years in a Pennsylvania prison.
 
     The deacon knew how to keep a secret. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Pedophile Martin A. Petersime

     In 1992, 39-year-old Martin Alan Petersime, the owner of a successful music store in the northeastern Ohio town of Warren, was a prominent member of the local arts and music community. He had been president of the Warren Symphony Society and a member in good standing of the Fine Arts Council of Trumbull County. Over the years he had given lessons to hundreds of children at his store, Warren Music Center. Many of his students were pre-teen boys.

     Martin Alan Petersime, a married man, prominent citizen and pillar of the community was a serial sexual predator who had been victimizing boys who came unsuspecting to his place of business for music lessons. He committed most of his assaults in the basement of the Warren Music Center and had gotten away with it for years. Then, in April 1992 he was exposed and his life as a serial sex offender came to an end.

     On April 28, 1992, a partially clad 15-year-old boy ran from the basement of the Warren Music Center directly to the Warren Police Department. The distraught kid brought with him a videotape that showed him dancing nude to Van Halen's "Running With The Devil." Martin Petersime was also in the video stripping off his clothes to the music.

     Warren police officers used the videotape to acquire a search warrant for Petersime's music store which led to enough evidence to support a 20-count indictment charging the music teacher with the sexual abuse of seven boys. According to the indictment two of the victims,  an 11 and 12-year-old, had been raped.

     In December 1992, following Martin Petersime's guilty plea to the above charges, the Trumbull County judge sentenced him to ten to 25 years for the two rapes, and two to 15 years for the sexual crimes against the other boys. The sentences were to run one after the other. That meant if Petersime served out his full term he would not get out of prison until 2032 when he was 78.

     In 2009, while serving his time at the Ohio North Central Correctional Institute, Petersime filed his first motion for early release. The parole board denied his request.

     Two years later, while taking advantage of a prison outreach program that involved taking an online college course at Ashland University, prison authorities discovered child pornography on Petersime's computer.

     The incarcerated pedophile, in 2014, tried again for parole and was again denied being released before serving his full term.

     In August 2019, Martin Petersime, for the third time, filed a motion for parole in anticipation of the board's meeting the following month. The district attorney of Trumbull County who had handled Petersime's case wrote a letter to the Ohio Parole Board recommending that the convicted pedophile remain behind bars.

     In the letter to the parole board prosecutor Dennis Watkins wrote that Petersime "is wired differently and does not learn from his past mistakes." (Mistakes?) Watkins added that Petersime "has no shame." Watkins also pointed out that prison records revealed that Petersime had yet to complete the prison's comprehensive sex program.

     On a Youngstown television program, Prosecutor Watkins called Martin Petersime "a pervert's pervert."

     The parole board, in September 2019, denied Petersime's quest for early release. As of this writing he remains behind bars.