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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Sandusky Conviction: No Basis For An Appeal

     Compared to the O. J. Simpson double-murder trial, a mind-numbing TV soap opera that dragged on for nine months and ended in an acquittal, Jerry Sandusky's sexual molestation trial, completed in less than three weeks, produced a verdict that makes sense. Simpson had a battery of high-profile defense attorneys, who, like the prosecutors and the judge, played to the TV camera in one of the media capitals of the world. The Sandusky trial, held in sleepy central Pennsylvania, and not televised, did not last long enough (June 4 to June 22) for any of the court house participants other than Jerry Sandusky to become celebrities. Most Americans were shocked and outraged by the Simpson acquittal. In the Sandusky case, people were relieved by the guilty verdict. The Simpson case represents everything that is wrong with our criminal justice system. While it took too long to bring Jerry Sandusky to justice, once he was arrested, the system worked the way it should. (The next phase of the case will be about why this prolific pedophile was not arrested years ago.)

     Two days after the Centre County jury returned the Sandusky verdict, one of his attorneys, Joe Amendola, hinted of an appeal based upon the Sixth Amendment right to effective legal representation. Although Amendola won't be involved in the appellate process, he believes that Judge John Cleland did not give him and his co-attorney, Karl Rominger, enough time to prepare an adequate defense.

     While it is true that the seven months between the former Penn State coach's arrest and trial is, by the sluggish standards of American criminal justice, quite speedy, Amendola's argument has no merit.

     Attorney Joe Amendola claims that he and attorney Karl Rominger needed more time to prepare Jerry Sandusky's defense. This begs the question: time to do what? To dig up more dirt on the eight victims who took the stand for the prosecution? What dirt? All of these witnesses were credible and compelling because they were obviously telling the truth. Did the defense attorneys actually think the jurors would consider all of them liars? Did the defense need more time to find more character witnesses like the defendant's former Penn State coaching colleagues who told the jury they liked to shower with young boys, too? Perhaps Mr. Amendola had in mind putting boys on the stand the defendant hadn't molested. This testimony would have been consistent with Sandusky's statement to NBC's Bob Costas that he hadn't molested all of the troubled kids he had helped through his molestation net, The Second Mile.

     More time for a proper defense? In the Sandusky case, there was no such thing as an adequate defense. At the close of the prosecution's case, the defense attorneys should have thrown their client to the mercy of the court, begged for some kind of plea deal. (Their client, as a sociopath who can't believe molesting young boys is even a crime, would not have gone along with this.)

     In the Sandusky case, Attorney Amendola has nothing to complain about. Judge Cleland allowed the defense the jury they had asked for--twelve residents of Centre County, the home of Penn State University. In fact, eight of the jurors had direct or indirect associations with the school, the biggest employer in the region. If there was ever a trial ripe for jury nullification, it was this one. Moreover, it was fortunate for the defense that the jurors didn't learn about Matt Sandusky, the adopted son who now claims he had been sexually molested by the coach.

     If there was a defect in the Sandusky defense, it was the defendant. A dream team of defense attorneys, with all the time in the world, could not have gotten this defendant off. Attorneys Joe Amendola and Karl Rominger did the best they could with what they had. The evidence against Sandusky was overwhelming, and suggested decades of sexual molestation, and hundreds of victims. Talk of an appeal in this case is ridiculous.

     Jerry Sandusky is awaiting his sentence in the Centre County Correctional Facility. He is living alone in a cell within a special unit reserved for sex offenders and prisoners deemed mentally ill. His attorney, Karl Rominger, after visiting him on Monday, June 24, reported that Sandusky's mood is "defiant." (Exactly what you'd expect from a sociopathic sex predator.)

     After the media left town, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania returned to its small town self. But the media will return, because the Penn State Scandal is far from over.

     

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Jerry Sandusky and the Mind of a Pedophile

     The jury in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, on Friday, June 22, 2012, found Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State football coach under Joe Paterno, guilty of 45 counts of child sexual abuse. When escorted out of the Centre County Court House in handcuffs, Sandusky, instead of feeling guilt and shame, felt misunderstood, under-appreciated, and persecuted. The day before the verdict, one of Sandusky 6 adopted children, 33-year-old Matt Sandusky, came forward with accusations that he too had been sexually molested by this man. This should not come as a surprise to anyone who knows anything about pedophilia. This revelation also begs the question of how the coach's wife had lived with this serial sex offender all those years without having a clue.

     Two things are certain in the Sandusky case. This pedophile will die behind bars, and he will never admit what he is, and the harm he has caused. As a textbook pedophile, Sandusky is a compulsive sex offending machine who on the surface looks and acts like a normal person. This is what makes these people so dangerous. It's a disturbing truth that a high number of pedophiles end up as coaches, teachers, counselors, and men of the cloth who impersonate do-gooders who say they simply want to help children. They are not about helping children, they are about helping themselves to children.

     Because pedophiles are not mentally ill, these sociopaths cannot be fixed. They are human monsters for life who feel no shame, have no remorse, and possess no awareness of the consequences of their perverted behavior.

     The only way to protect children from pedophiles is to put the sex offenders away for life. Otherwise, they will re-offend. Treating them as mental patients or like drug addicts is a waste of time and money. And simply registering known offenders, and not allowing them to live near playgrounds and schools does not prevent them from molesting children. These are nothing more than feel-good measures. Compulsive sexual predators are consumed by their desire for children, and will do whatever it takes to satisfy their insatiable appetites. They are cruel, cunning, and manipulative. To a deviant sexual sociopath fixated on children, everything in life is secondary to having regular sex with kids. These violent sexual deviates do not become teachers, coaches, ministers and priests primarily to teach, coach, and preach; they go into these professions to have easy access to children. To ignore this reality is a disservice to young people.

     Most pedophiles are never brought to justice. And the ones who are, like Jerry Sandusky, are caught after they have raped hundreds of boys. In Sandusky's case, he sexually molested one of his victims more than 100 times. Pedophiles are also known to rape members of their families simply because of proximity and opportunity. Because victims of pedophilia are young, vulnerable, easily manipulated, and ashamed, and embarrassed about what is happening to them, they tend not to report their attackers. And when they do, it's often as damaged adults. No one knows how many pedophiles have been spared prison sentences by statutes of limitations.

     When school teachers are accused in a timely fashion, they are often transferred to another school where they can prey upon a fresh batch of victims.  This is called "passing the trash."  Countless numbers of priests have been protected by the Catholic Church which has, over the years, paid hundreds of millions in court settlements. One of the costs of living under a criminal justice system oriented toward individual rights and the presumption of innocence is paid by the victims of pedophilia. Sexual predators know how to use and abuse the system, and if accused, often threaten to sue the accuser.

     While the Jerry Sandusky case has put a spotlight on the pedophile problem, these sex offenders, impervious to deterrence and shame, will continue to prey upon the nation's children.    

Rodney King's Sudden and Unexplained Death

     On March 3, 1991, when 25-year-old Rodney King led Los Angeles Police officers on a high-speed chase through LA County, he was trying to avoid a DUI arrest, not become a key figure in the history of civil rights and police brutality. (King was on probation following an April 1990 robbery conviction.)

     Once pulled over, 4 police officers, with 17 looking on, hit King more than 50 times with their nightsticks. They also used a stun gun on the man lying on the ground in the fetal position. George Holliday, from the balcony of his apartment, caught the entire beating with his video camera.

     The King beating marked the beginning of the video camera/cellphone era of citizen police surveillance. Over the next two decades, officers all over the country would be visually recorded beating people. Cops hate citizen video cameras and cellphones, and in many cases have seized them to avoid having their behavior exposed. Laws have been passed to prevent this. There is no telling how many police beatings have been detected and prevented by this technology. One could argue that the police are less brutal because citizens are armed with this surveillance capability.

     The four officers seen on the video tape pounding Rodney King were indicted (the 17 who watched the assault were not), but a jury in Simi Valley found the defendants not guilty. The acquittals led to riots in April and May, 1992. The following year, in April, a federal jury found two of the officers guilty of violating King's civil rights. The other two officers were acquitted.

     In 1996, Rodney King sued the city of Los Angeles for $15 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The civil jury awarded him $3.8 million in compensatory damages, but nothing punitive. Eighteen years later, King published his autobiography. It was not a bestseller.

     At 5:25 in the morning of Sunday, June 17, 2012, Cynthia Kelly, King's fiancee, called 911 from their home in Rialto, California. Responding officers found him on the bottom of his swimming pool. The 47-year-old was wearing swim trunks. A short time later King was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. Although there were no physical injuries on his body, and no other indications of foul play, his body was autopsied. A toxicology report will come later. The presumed cause of death was drowning, and the manner of death, accidental.

     A next-door neighbor told officers that she heard a man crying in King's backyard from three to five that morning. The witness also heard Cynthia Kelly trying to coax the crying man back into the house. The neighbor said, "She was just saying, 'Get in the house. Get in the house.'" A few minutes later the witness heard a splash. Cynthia Kelly told detectives that because she was a poor swimmer, she had been unable to rescue King.

      

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Jerry Sandusky's Personality Disorder and Confession

     The Jerry Sandusky sexual molestation trial began on Monday, June 4, 2012 at the Centre County Court House in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. The 58-year-old former Penn State Coach under Joe Paterno faces 51 counts of sexually molesting, over a period of 15 years, 10 boys. Sandusky met and groomed many of his victims through a charity he started in 1977 called The Second Mile. The defendant stands accused of having sex with boys at his home, and in Penn State locker room showers.

     In November 2011, shortly after the scandal broke, Sandusky was interviewed on NBC TV by sportscaster Bob Costas. During that interview, Sandusky admitted that he enjoyed horsing around in a shower with a boy. In a portion of the interview that didn't air, Costas asked Sandusky if he used his charity for troubled youth to lure in victims. Instead of angrily denying any such thing, Sandusky said this: "Well, you might think that....I would guess that there are many young people who would come forward [with accusations of molestation]. Many more young people who would come forward and say that my methods and what I had done for them made a very positive impact on their life. And I didn't go around seeking out every young person for sexual needs that I helped. There are many that I didn't have, I hardly had any contact with who I have helped in many, many ways."


     Sandusky, in response to Bob Costas' question, made a statement so incriminating it borders on being a full confession. (I'm guessing the statement was so explosive, producers as NBC decided not to air it. These people are not stupid, they knew what they had. They were either afraid, or acted out of some misguided sense of justice.)

     Sandusky, who fits the textbook profile of a pedophile, was telling Bob Costas that he had helped more boys than he had raped. The fact he was a do-gooder earned him the right to pick out a few of the boys for molestation. This rings true because this is exactly how these sexual predators think.

     Prosecutors, who have rested their case against the defendant, have asked for the unaired portions of the Costas interview.

     Sandusky's first two defense witnesses, a pair of his former coaching colleagues, testified that at Penn State and elsewhere in the world of athletics, adult coaches regularly shower with young boys. This revelation took prosecutor Joseph McGettigan by surprise. When defense witness Richard Anderson said he had seen Sandusky showering with youngsters, and that he showered with kids as well, the prosecutor asked, "Eleven-year-olds?"

     "Yes," answered the witness.
   
     "[Boys] you don't know?"

     "Yes. I do it all the time. There are regularly young boys at the YMCA showering the same time that are older people showering."

     If Richard Anderson's testimony is true, they need to make changes at the YMCA, and Anderson and his former Penn State colleagues need to be investigated. Until the authorities get to the bottom of what happened to young boys under Joe Paterno and his staff, the Penn State football program should be shut down.

     A psychologist named Elliot Atkins took the stand, and in a effort to explain Sandusky's undisputed weird relationship with young boys--the gifts, overnight trips, love letters, and the like--the witness said the defendant has a personality disorder called "histronic personality disorder." According to the psychologist, people with this syndrome try to get attention by being over-dramatic and emotional. The disorder can cause them to be sexually inappropriate. What a load of psychological crap. If Sandusky has a personality disorder, it is this: He is a pedophile. (This case is making me over-dramatic and emotional.)

     By law, Jerry Sandusky is presumed innocent. That is the law, but in this case it's not the reality. The man is a serial pedophile who has, for decades, been raping boys under the noses of his wife, Joe Paterno, and Paterno's staff. They must have known what was going on, no one could be that blind, or stupid. If this trial ends without a guilty verdict on at least some of the counts, Jerry Sandusky will still be a pedophile, and the jurors, accomplices after the fact. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Houston Crime Lab: The Nation's Worst

     The fact that forensic science is a service commonly delivered by government agencies makes solving its problems a real challenge. Government is slow, resistant to change, and difficult to hold accountable. The stratified nature of our criminal justice system--federal, state, county, and local levels of law enforcement--and the adversarial nature of the trial process, exacerbates the difficulties of improving crime lab services. Most problems in forensic science can be placed into three general categories: personnel, jurisprudence (courts and law), and science itself. The principal source of the problems within the Houston Police Department's crime laboratory have involved personnel.

     Since 2003, the Houston Crime Laboratory has been a disgrace to forensic science. At times the lab's services have been so subpar the entire operation has been shut down. Physical evidence has been lost, tampered with, and contaminated. Convictions have been overturned due to discredited forensic analysis. Lab personnel have resigned, been suspended, and indicted. Because of a decade of scandal, corruption, and incompetence, innocent defendants have been convicted, and guilty persons set free.

     Forensic science is supposed to improve the quality of criminal justice, not make it worse. If you want to know what can go bad in forensic science, study the recent history of the Houston Crime Laboratory. It's a textbook of failure.  

     In the field of DNA analysis, the backbone of any major forensic science operation, the work of the Houston lab has been particularly atrocious. In 2008, plagued by backlogs, evidence contamination, and inaccurate test results, the DNA unit had to be closed. There have also been persistent problems in the latent fingerprint, firearms identification, and toxicology sections of the lab. In 2010, an audit disclosed 7,000 untested rape kits sitting in the evidence room. That year a lab supervisor quit over the number in inaccurate blood-alcohol test results.

     On June 6, 2012, the Houston City Council voted 15-2 to hand control of the crime lab to an independent 9-member board. The $21 million a year operation will be overseen by lawyers, academics, business people, and a state legislator. I would  hope that at least some of these board members know something about forensic science. Only time will tell if taking control of the crime lab from the Houston Police Department will end a decade of forensic science disgrace. Separating lab personnel from the direct influence of law enforcement should make these scientists more objective. Perhaps the reorganization will mark the start of a new era of forensic science in Houston. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Disappearances of Ray Gricar and Stephen Ivens: Evil Forces V. Tragic Lives

     Ray Gricar, the Pennsylvania district attorney who vanished from Centre County on April 15, 2005, and Stephen Ivens, the FBI agent who went missing from his Burbank California home on May 11, 2012, have two things in common: they were officers of the law, and their disappearances sparked speculation regarding why they went missing, where they are, and whether or not they could still be alive.

     The fact Ray Gricar has been linked to the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case, and Special Agent Stephen Ivens worked counterterrorism cases for the FBI, has stoked the imaginations of hundreds, if not thousands, of armchair detectives and espionage buffs. The variety of explanations that have surfaced regarding the fates of these men reflects how people think and reason according to their experiences, personal beliefs, and personalities. Offering a theory of what happened to Gricar and Ivens is bit like taking a Rorschach test.

     People who are generally cynical, extremely distrustful of authority, and given to bouts of magical thinking, tend to view mysteries such as these as the tips of conspiracy icebergs. This kind of thinker--one who bases his opinions more on what he believes than what he knows--isn't usually interested in mundane explanations that do not involve intrigue and foul play. These theorists are perhaps less interested in getting to the bottom of an event than weaving narratives reflective of their noir, gothic visions of reality. This doesn't mean, however that such thinkers are always wrong. People in authority shouldn't be trusted, and our government has been caught covering up all kinds of crimes, big and small.

Ray Gricar

     The fact that Ray Gricar had declined to prosecute Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky for child molestation in 1998, then in 2005, took a drive and never returned home, is ripe for theories of foul play. Perhaps, in the face of continued accusations of child abuse by Sandusky following the 59-year-old district attorney's decision not to prosecute, Gricar had changed his mind. Maybe a couple of homicidal Penn State football fans decided to take matters into their own hands. Connecting Ray Gricar to the Jerry Sandusky case, and people who would do anything to save the reputation of Penn State, gives conspiracy theorists the evil forces they need to make his disappearance really interesting.

     Theorists and investigators who search for the most simple, direct, and reasonable explanation behind events and crimes, thinkers who use the inductive rather than the deductive process of reasoning, would probably hypothesize that Ray Gricar's disappearance had been motivated by personal rather than work-related problems. Many of the people who knew Gricar do not believe he was murdered, or that he committed suicide. They think he died accidentally, perhaps by drowning in the Susquehanna River. Gricar's fellow prosecutors don't think he declined to prosecute Sandusky in 1998 because he was afraid to take on Penn State. They therefore don't believe he killed himself because he felt guilty about not putting a pedophile behind bars. However, the belief that Gricar killed himself is not, under the circumstances, unreasonable. And the fact he was not intimidated by Penn State is not inconsistent with the theory he was murdered. While Gricar was officially declared dead in 2011, there are probably people who think he is still alive, living somewhere under a new identify. (There are Lindbergh kidnapping buffs who believe the Lindbergh baby still lives among us.)

Stephen Ivens

     Stephen Ivens, the 35-year-old FBI agent who walked away from his Burbank home on the morning of May 11, 2012, and hasn't been seen since, has presented a perfect slate upon which to write a narrative featuring a governmental conspiracy of secrets and wrongdoing. The fact there has been a virtual news blackout on the case adds fuel to theories ranging from Ivens was a victim of murder; is being held by the government in some secret place; or, as an exposed Russian spy, has been sent back to Russia. While there is no direct or even credible circumstantial evidence supporting any of these rather fantastic theories, there is no proof these scenarios couldn't have occurred. For people drawn to conspiratorial explanations, that's enough.

     Assuming that Ivens' remains are found in the wilderness not far from his home with a contact head wound, and his FBI revolver next to his body, conspiracy theorists will interpret the death scene in a way consistent with murder. To wit: the Vincent Foster case. Some psychologists believe that in big crimes like presidential assassinations, people find comfort in conspiratorial explanations. The thought that a deranged lone wolf can change history with a couple of shots is unsettling. The realization that a district attorney and a FBI agent can come unglued and disappear on their own volition is also a bit disturbing. If it can happen to them, it can happen to anybody.

     Unless there is strong evidence to the contrary, the more straightforward theorists will assume that Stephen Ivens' disappearance, like Ray Gricar's, came about as the result of personal demons rather than the evildoing of others. We will probably never know the story behind the Gricar mystery. The Stephen Ivens case is still relatively fresh, and has the potential of being explained. At least to most people.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Synthetic Marijuana and the Killing of Jonathan Hoffman

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

     Synthetic marijuana can cause bath salts-like euphoria, paranoia, and hallucinations. In addition to becoming agitated, aggressive, and violent, users have suffered seizures and heart attacks. Several states are considering making this group of mind-altering substances illegal. One of those states is Michigan, the site of an ongoing murder case involving a high school student named Jonathan Hoffman. 

Jonathan Hoffman

     After his divorced parents moved from West Bloomfield, Michigan to Scottsdale, Arizona, 17-year-old Jonathan Hoffman, in the fall of 2011, moved in with his grandparents so he could finish his senior year at Farmington Central High School. He had been accepted to East Michigan University where he planned on majoring in computer science. The boy's father, 56-year-old Michael Hoffman, a prominent divorce lawyer and co-founder of the law firm American Divorce Association for Men (ADAM), had recently retired. He and Jonathan's mother had been divorced 6 years and were living near each other in Scottsdale so they both could spend time with Jonathan's 15-year-old sister. While living at his grandparents' condo at Maple Place Villas in the Detroit suburb, Jonathan had been smoking the synthetic marijuana Spice. He had been arrested for possession of the drug, and was on probation. This had caused friction between him and his 74-year-old grandmother, a former school teacher named Sandra Layne. 

     Late in the afternoon of Friday, May 18, 2012, neighbors heard Jonathan and his grandmother yelling at each other from inside the condo. They were fighting over Jonathan's schoolwork and his drug abuse. Hearing several gunshots, several neighbors called 911. Jonathan himself phoned for help, screaming that he'd been shot several times, and that he was going to die. Three minutes into his 911 call, he exclaimed that he had been shot again. 

     Police officers rolled up to the scene at 5:25 PM and ordered Sandra Layne out of the dwelling. She walked out of the condo carrying a .40-caliber Glock semi-automatic pistol and announced that she had just "murdered" her grandson. 

     Emergency personnel rushed Jonathan to Botsford Hospital in Farmington Hills where he died less than an hour later. Police officers transported the married, 74-year-old mother of five to a holding cell in the West Bloomfield police station. 

     The Oakland County Medical Examiner determined that Jonathan Hoffman had been shot 10 times. (Later, a toxicological analysis showed that the victim had been high on Spice.)

     An Oakland County prosecutor charged Sandra Layne with open murder, a general homicide charge which covers first and second degree murder. On May 21, following her arraignment at the West Bloomfield District Court, the judge ordered Layne to be held without bail in the Oakland County Jail. Her attorney, Mitch Ribitwer, told reporters that his client, married for 28 years, had never been in trouble before. "She's very distraught, very upset. It's a very difficult time."

     If Sandra Layne is tried for murder, I imagine she will claim self-defense, and we will hear how the synthetic drug Spice had affected Jonathan Hoffman's behavior. 

     

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Charging Marijuana Growers With Child Abuse

     Although voters in California have legalized medical marijuana, police and prosecutors in the state continue to raid growers who they believe are illegally cultivating the cannabis for resale. (Cops also get a kick out of the raids themselves. If there was no drug war, SWAT teams would have to be disbanded, or called out in shoplifting cases.) To further criminalize pot growing, cannabis cultivators with children are being charged with child endangerment, and in some cases, abuse. In the medical marijuana community, these raids and arrests, and charges of child abuse, are considered harassment tactics by the cops and prosecutors who are against the legalization of medical marijuana. They argue that living in a house with marijuana plants is not equivalent to growing up in a crack house.

     Generally, people who support marijuana decriminalization include libertarians, liberals, potheads, and the relatively small number of sick people cannabis actually helps. Opponents include social conservatives, religious groups, and the law enforcement community. Judges, caught in the middle of this social and legal debate, will have to sort it out case by case.

     Daisy Bram and Jayme Walsh grow medical marijuana in their garage and on their property in Concow, California, an unincorporated community in Butte County. This remote, mountainous area in the north central part of the state is named after the Indian tribe indigenous to the region. Bram and Walsh have two children, 15-month-old Thor, and 3-week-old Zeus. (I'm going to take a wild guess and speculate that Daisy and Jayme play the guitar, and sing folk songs.)

     At eight in the morning of September 29, 2011, members of the Butte Interagency Narcotics Task Force, accompanied by child protection service agents, raided the Bram-Walsh house on Yellow Wood Road. They seized 96 marijuana plants, a plastic bag containing syringes and spoons, and both of the children.

     Assistant District Attorney Jeff Greeson charged Daisy Bram and Jayme Walsh with a total of 8 class A felonies that included cultivating and possessing cannabis for sale, and two counts of child abuse.

     On November 30, 2011, Judge Steven Howell dismissed the child abuse charges for lack of evidence. Six weeks later, the defendants got their children back. Prosecutor Greeson, on March 8, re-filed the child abuse charges against Daisy Bram. The re-instatment of these charges upset local medical marijuana supporters who called for a grand jury investigation of the drug task force, and the child protection agency.

     At the preliminary hearing on June 11, 2012 held in Oroville before Butte County Superior Court Judge Steven Howell to determine if the state had sufficient probable cause to hold Daisy Bram over for trial on the child abuse charges, prosecutor Greeson presented an expert witness.

     Dr. Angela Rosas with the Sutter Medical Group, testified that the psychoactive chemical in cannabis--THC--is hazardous to children. If a child eats raw marijuana plant leaves, the effect could be toxic, she said. Defense attorney Michael Levinsohn put on his own medical expert, Dr. William Courtney. Dr. Courtney, who studies the effects of marijuana on users, testified that THC isn't activated unless it's heated. He said a child would have to eat a pile of raw leaves to get sick. And not only that, the leaves have a bad taste.

     Judge Howell has not made his ruling on the child abuse issue. I think he will dismiss the charges and allow Bram and Walsh to keep Zeus and Thor. (If there's child abuse in this case, it's giving your kids dogs' names.)     

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Irina Gaidamachuk: Russia's "Satan in a Skirt"

     Irina Gaidamachuk, a 41-year-old mother of two in the remote Urals region town of Krasnovfimsk, had a big thirst for vodka. But her husband Yury wouldn't give her money to buy the drink. So, Irina decided to earn it herself.

     From 2003 until June 2010, Gaidamachuk, by posing as a social worker, gained entry into the flats of women living on government pensions. Using this ruse, she used a hammer to smash the skulls of 17 women between the ages 61 and 89. Each murder brought a small amount of cash from the victims's purses.

     Following Gaidamachuk's arrest in June 2010, the accused serial killer confessed that she had murdered these women for vodka money. At her trial in western Russia's Yekaterinburg, the country's fourth largest city, three psychiatrists testified that the defendant was sane when she hammered her victims to death.

     On June 6, 2012, after the trial judge found this cold-blooded serial killer guilty of 17 murders, he sentenced the so-called "Satan in a skirt" to 20 years in prison. While members of the victims' families were shocked and outraged by such lenient punishment, Gaidamachuk's attorney immediately filed an appeal demanding an even lighter sentence.

     One would expect that in Russia of all places, the cold-blooded murder of 17 women would bring, at the very least, life in prison without parole. (In the United States, while the death sentence would be out because she's a woman, Gaidamachuk could expect life without parole.) Assuming she serves her full sentence, Gaidamachuk will be back on the streets of Krasnovfimsk at age 61. We can only hope that Yury has learned his lesson. When Irina asks for Vodka money, he better give it to her.

     While Irina Gaidamachuk was being tried in Yekaterinburg, a 22-year-old woman in Russia's Udmurtia region beat a man to death with a blunt object on the eve of her wedding. The killer's fiancee looked on as his bride-to-be murdered the man who supposedly owed her money. If the Gaidamachuk serial murder case represents Russia's sentencing standards, the wedding-eve killer is looking at six months behind bars.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Stephen Ivens: Why No News on the MIssing FBI Agent?

     Stephen Ivens, a 35-year-old FBI agent assigned to the Los Angeles Field Division, has been missing since he walked away from his Burbank home on the morning of May 11, 2012. Blood hounds tranced his scent to the Verdugo Mountains where a search party of FBI agents, local police, and volunteers looked for him.

     Ivens, a married father of a toddler, has been an FBI agent a little more than 3 years. Before joining the bureau Ivens had been a Los Angeles police officer. The white, 6 foot, 160 pound bespectacled agent worked on counterterrorism cases. Because his FBI-issued revolver is also missing, Ivens was presumably armed when he left his house that morning.

     According to news reports, Special Agent Ivens had been depressed. This has led to speculation that he was suicidal, and has killed himself. However, the fact he worked on cases related to counterterrorism has led some to believe he has been the victim of foul play.

     Special Agent Ivens has been missing one month, and as far as I can tell, since the days following his disappearance, there have been no news stories about his case. I don't know if reporters have been pressing the bureau for information, and have been stonewalled, or if the media has simply lost interest. I do know this: if Stephen Ivens had been even a minor celebrity, particularly someone in the entertainment world, the media would be all over his disappearance. There would be daily press conferences, three-page features in People Magazine, candle-light vigils, and investigative reporting into every corner of the missing celeb's life.

     An FBI agent missing for a month is an event worthy of serious investigative reporting and media scrutiny. The possibility of foul play, and even a government cover-up, trumps issues of personal privacy. The public has a right to know who Stephen Ivens is, why he has disappeared, and the status of the search for him.

     Questions the media apparently havn't asked the authorities about the case include: Have they stopped looking for Ivens? Where have they looked? And why hasn't he been found? After he left his house that morning on foot, could someone have picked him up and taken him away in a vehicle? On a more personal note, what was the status of his marriage? Has Ivens attempted or threatened suicide before? Did he leave a suicide note? Was the agent taking anti-depressant or anti-psychotic medication? Did he have a drinking problem? Was he being treated by a psychologist or a psychiatrist? And why did he leave the Los Angeles Police Department for the FBI?

     The absence of news on this case will create speculation regarding the possibility of foul play and a government cover-up. At a time when White House personnel are suspected of leaking our national security secrets, there is nothing from the government on Stephen Ivens' background and disappearance. In some cases, loose lips sink ships, and in others, tight lips cause suspicion and distrust. Where is Stephen Ivens? 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Paige Parkerson and the Mother's Day Murder

     Clifton "JR" Barkin lived in a rented house in Beaumont, Texas with Paige Parkerson, his 22-year-old fiancee and their two sons. At eleven o'clock Mother's Day night, Sunday May 13, 2012, Barkin's mother, Evetta Wright, drove him to the local Walmart where he bought Parkerson a Mother's Day card and a bouquet of flowers. Wright dropped her son off at his house at 11:20, and drove home.

     Less than an hour later, Paige Parkerson called Evetta Wright and told her that in a fit of rage over the cheap, last minute Mother's Day gifts, she had stabbed JR to death. The distraught mother called 911.

     Early Monday morning, Parkerson was arraigned on the charge of first degree murder. She is being held in the Jefferson County Jail on $75,000 bond.

     While people are murdered every day for reasons even sillier than this one--a man in Ohio was just arrested for killing his wife for refusing to get out of bed to buy a new car--one has to assume that in this case there is more to the story than a Mother's Day slight. I'm guessing that alcohol, drugs, and/or mental illness played a role in the killing.  

Catalina Clouser: Stoned Mother Drives Off With Baby On Car

     On Friday, June 1, 2012, Catalina Clouser, a vacuous-faced 19-year-old with pink hair, a pot habit, and a 5-week-old baby, spent the evening at a Phoenix park near her home drinking and smoking marijuana with her boyfriend. Clouser had brought her baby to the park to enjoy the night, and inhale their second-hand smoke. Parenting in the age of drugs.

     Later that night, Clouser and the squeeze ran out of booze so he and Clouser, with the sleeping baby in the carseat, drove off to get more beer. Along the way, police pulled them over and charged him with driving under the influence. After the cops hauled the boyfriend off the jail, Clouser drove to her girlfriend's house on West Cholla Street.

     At her friend's place, Clouser, distraught that the police had interrupted a fun night by busting her boyfriend, added to her high by smoking two bowls of marijuana. Around midnight, she staggered to her 2000 Ford Focus, laid the carrier containing the sleeping infant on the roof of the vehicle, slid behind the wheel, and drove off. As she motored mindlessly through the intersection of Cholla and 45th Avenue, the baby, wearing only a diaper, bounced off the car and landed in the street.

     Arriving home, the stoned mother discovered that her baby wasn't in or on the car. Instead of calling 911, she phoned her friend and asked her to retrace the route she had taken from her house. Clouser said she would do the same from her place back to the friend's dwelling. In the meantime, passing motorists spotted the baby in the intersection and called 911. Miraculously, the child (probably half-stoned) had not been seriously injured.

     Clouser and her girlfriend, when they converged at the intersection of Cholla and 45th Avenue, encountered police officers who were questioning the citizens who had called in the emergency. Identifying herself as the mother of the baby in the street, Clouser admitted she had driven off with the infant on her car roof. An officer at the scene arrested Clouser for aggravated DUI, and child abuse. Paramedics with the Phoenix Fire Department transported the baby, who appeared to be okay but hungry, to a nearby hospital. The next day, officials with the Arizona's child protective services took control of Clouser's baby.

     Clouser bailed out of the Maricopa County Jail, and is awaiting her trial under house arrest. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Jury Nullification in the Jerry Sandusky Sex Molestation Case?

     The Jerry Sandusky sexual molestation trial began on Monday, June 4, 2012 at the Centre County Court House in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. The 58-year-old former Penn State football coach under Joe Paterno (who died of cancer last January), faces 52 counts of sexually molesting, over a period of 15 years, 10 boys. Sandusky met and allegedly groomed his victims through a charity he started in 1977 called The Second Mile. The defendant stands accused of having sex with these boys in his home, and in Penn State locker room showers.

     Prosecutors wanted to try the case before jurors from outside the immediate Penn State area. The defense argued for a jury of locals. On this important issue, Judge John Cleland ruled in Sandusky's favor.

     Since Centre County is home to Penn State's massive main campus in State College, there wasn't a single prospective juror (600 of them) who wasn't intimately familiar with Jerry Sandusky, the case, and the school. State College and Bellefonte are company towns, and the company is Penn State University. America is red, white, and blue. Centre County is just white and blue.

     By June 6, twelve jurors and four alternatives had been seated. Eight of the jurors had direct connections to Penn State, as did two of the alternates. Some had graduated from the school, others currently work there, and one is a student. Several of the jurors acknowledged that they regularly attend Penn State football games, and one of them has a cousin who played for Joe Paterno. Good heavens.

     Trial lawyers know that a case is essentially won or lost after the jury is selected. The acquisition of jury members who will be sympathetic to one's client has become an art and science. A litigator who doesn't know how to tailor a jury to a defendant can hire a jury selection consultant.

     In the Sandusky trial, if the prosecutors wanted a panel of jurors unaffiliated with Penn State, they are in trouble. With limited jury selection challenges, there was no way for them to carve an impartial group out of a pool of prospective jurors from Centre County.

     In the O. J. Simpson murder trial, the Los Angeles County prosecutors were careless in selecting the jury because they assumed that no person with a brain, when presented the DNA evidence against Simpson, would acquit this defendant. They were wrong. The Simpson prosecutors failed to anticipate the real possibility in that case of jury nullification. They should have known that some jurors will simply ignore the evidence and vote according to how they want the case to come out. (In one celebrated trial, the jury voted to acquit because they believed an acquittal would make a better movie.)

     Jury nullification explains the O. J. Simpson verdict, and many believe it led to the acquittals in the Casey Anthony and John Edwards trials. (I don't believe it played a role in the Edwards case.)

     While the Sandusky jury has not been tailored to the defendant through professional juror profiling and screening, I think, thanks to Judge Cleland, it has come to the defense ready-made. The Sandusky verdict, or lack of verdict, could be more about school loyalty than one man's guilt or innocence.  

Charlotte and Owen Schilling: An Unusual and Disturbing Murder-Suicide

     On May 10, 2012, Charlotte Schilling, a mother of three, picked-up her youngest child, 10-year-old Owen, from his elementary school in Bellevue, Nebraska. She told the boy they were going on an overnight vacation to Lake Manawa State Park south of Council Bluffs, Iowa, 20 miles north of their home in Plattsmouth, Nebraska. When the 41-year-old mother and her son didn't return home the following day, members of the family became concerned, and called the police.

     Charlotte Schilling's relatives had reason to worry. Last November, she had tried to kill herself by cinching a self-locking plastic strip--a so-called zip-tie fastener commonly used to bind electrical wires and cables together--around her neck. A relative in the house heard Charlotte collapse to the floor, got to her while she was still breathing, and cut the ligature off her neck. The day before Charlotte checked Owen out of his school, she gave some of her belongs to friends and family. This was not a good sign, an indication she was seriously contemplating suicide.

     A day after Charlotte and her son left Bellevue, police found her car parked in the Iowa state park. She had left her cellphone and wallet in the vehicle. Investigators found no signs of her or Owen. A surveillance video from a nearby convenience store showed Charlotte and the boy, on the day they left Nebraska, buying groceries. The video revealed nothing out of the ordinary in their behavior. He is seen hugging his mother, and she kissing the top of his head.

     Ten days after mother and son drove from the school, police found their decomposing bodies in the woods near the lake, a half mile from her car. They had zip-ties wrapped tightly around their necks, and had died from strangulation by ligature. Police found no physical evidence of a struggle. Near their bodies the officers found some of the food Charlotte had purchased from the convenience store. While their times of death couldn't be pinpointed, the authorities believe they had died shortly after arriving at the park on May 10.

     Why suicidal people murder their children is a mystery. Perhaps they think the youngsters will be better off dead than alive. Maybe it's done to get back at someone. Whatever the motivation, it's pathological, and beyond rational explanation.     

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Luka Magnotta's Arrest and the Mailing of More Body Parts

     Luka Magnotta, the 29-year-old porn actor who videotaped his murder and dismemberment of Chinese student Jun Lin in mid-May, dumped his torso behind his Montreal apartment building, then mailed the victim's hand and a foot to two addresses in Ottawa, is now in custody in Germany.

     Prior to his arrest in Berlin, the cannibal and snuff-video maker was seen partying in the Bastille section of east Paris. On Friday, June 1, a surveillance camera caught Magnotta boarding a bus to Berlin. In his rundown hotel room in Bagnolet, a town northwest of Paris, police found a cache of pornography magazines and an air-sickness bag from the plane he had taken from Montreal.

     In Berlin, on Monday, June 4, an employee of an internet cafe recognized Magnotta from his newspaper photographs. The cafe worker flagged down a police car, and shortly thereafter, 7 officers took Magnotta into custody without incident. At first Magnotta gave the police a false name, then said, "You got me."

     On Tuesday, June 5, as Magnotta appeared before a German judge regarding matters of his extradition back to Canada, innocent victims were still being subjected to the aftermath of his macabre handiwork. In Vancouver, in British Columbia, Canada, staff members at the False Creek Elementary School, and at St. George's, a private school for boys, opened packages containing, respectively, Jun Lin's other hand and foot. It is not clear, at this point, what Magnotta's connection is to these institutions. (Lin's head has not been recovered.)

     Detectives on Montreal's major crimes unit are conducting cold-case reviews of old murder cases for possible links to Luka Magnotta. 

DUI Suspect Amanda Bynes to Obama: "Help! I'm a Celebrity!"

     At three in the morning on April 6, 2012, in West Hollywood, California, a 26-year-old TV actress named Amanda Bynes, while making a right-hand turn in her BMW, sideswiped a police car. Suspecting that she was driving under the influence, the officer asked her to take a breathalyzer or a blood test. She refused both.

     On Tuesday, June 5, Bynes received a summons charging her with misdemeanor DUI. If convicted, she could be sentenced to 48 hours in jail, and get three years probation. Bynes would also have to enroll in a 9-month alcohol program, and could lose her driver's license for up to a year.

     Apparently outraged by the DUI charge, the actress sent the following tweet to the President of the United States: "Hey Barack Obama. I don't drink. Please fire the cop who arrested me. I also don't hit and run. The end."

     At first blush, asking the leader of the free world to fire a local cop over a wrongful DUI arrest seems puerile and stupid even for an entertainment celebrity. But on second thought, maybe not. Obama is known for sticking his nose into criminal cases. In 2009, after a local police officer in New Jersey detained Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Obama called the arrest "stupid." (Basing this analysis, I guess, on his vast experience in law enforcement.) More recently, the president injected himself into the Treyvon Martin case by telling the world that if he had a son, the boy would look like Treyvon. (Upon hearing that, I proposed that we make shooting anyone who looks like the president of the United States a federal crime.) And we know that Obama loves Hollywood celebrities, not for their fame, but for their money.

     Since Obama is not above trying to intimidate members of the U.S. Supreme Court, if I were the Hollywood police officer who busted the airhead, I'd get ready for a late night visit by, say, George Clooney.

     

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Missing FBI Agent Stephen Ivens and Accused Child Porn Ex-Agent Donald Sachtleben: A Connection?

     Most of the comments directed at my blog about the May 11, 2012 disappearance of FBI agent Stephen Ivens take issue with my opinion that Ivens, who is still missing, walked into the Verdugo Mountains near his Burbank, California home to kill himself. The 35-year-old agent, a former Los Angeles police officer, had been in the bureau three years, and worked counterterrorism cases out of the Los Angeles field division. According to reports, the agent had been struggling with depression, and left his house carrying his service revolver.

     The blog commentators who consider my theory of Stephen Ivens' disappearance the height of naivete (or worse), believe he has been the victim of foul play. They think Agent Ivens was murdered, and that his killing is connected to his work in the FBI. One of the commentators also believes there is a connection between the Ivens case and the arrest, on the day Ivens disappeared, of a former FBI agent named Donald Sachtleben.

Donald Sachtleben

     On January 9, 2012, investigators with the Illinois Internet Crimes Against Children task force searched two computers in Rosco, Illinois owned by a man who admitted trading child pornography via email with people all over the country. One of the porn exchanges involved a person with the email address pedodave69@yahoo.com (why would anyone include the letters "pedo" in their email address?). The last known IP address for pedodave69 belonged to Donald John Sachtleben, a 54-year-old former FBI agent. Sachtelben lived with his wife in Carmel, Indiana, a town just northeast of Indianapolis.

     Donald Sachtleben left the bureau in 2008 after a 25-year career as an explosives specialist and bomb scene investigator. Special Agent Sachtleben had worked on a number of high-profile cases including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000, and the crash of Flight 93 in central Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. He also led the team that processed unabomber Ted Kacznski's Lincoln, Montana cabin where the schizophrenic manufactured his package bombs. After leaving the FBI, Sachtleben became a visiting professor and Director of Training at the Oklahoma State University for Improvised Explosives Research and Training Center.

     On May 11, 2012, the day Stephen Ivens left his house in Burbank never to be seen again, FBI agents and officers with the Indiana State Police showed up at Sachtleben's house with a federal warrant to search his computers. The former agent had just returned home from the Indianapolis airport.

     On Sachtleben's computers, the searchers discovered 30 images and video files of child pornography featuring girls under the age of 12. Sachtleben's wife told the officers she had no knowledge of her husband's possession of this kind of material. FBI agents took Sachtleben into custody. That night he was incarcerated in the Marion County Jail.

     The United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana charged the former FBI agent with the federal crime of possession and distribution of child pornography. If convicted, Sachtleben faces up to 20 years on the distribution count, and an additional 10 years on the possession charge. He could also be fined up to $250,000. At his arraignment on May 15, Sachtleben, in custody without bail, pleaded not guilty to both charges. He resigned his position at Oklahoma State University.

     So, how are Stephen Ivens and Donald Sachtleben connected? They couldn't have worked together at the FBI because when Ivens became an agent in Los Angeles in 2009, Sachtleben had already retired from the Indianapolis office. While there is obviously a lot I don't know about these two men, the fact Ivens disappeared on the day agents arrested Sachtleben doesn't convince me these two men, and the events involving them, are related.

     Conspiracy buffs are adept at weaving coincidences into foul play and intrigue, especially when the federal government is involved. Instead of connecting the dots, people with active imaginations and a taste for spy v. spy scenarios, create their own dots. Of course anything is possible, and if I'm wrong about this I will be quick to admit it. Although I'm a former FBI agent myself, I've never carried water for the bureau. (See: "FBI: Tarnished Badges," January 3, 2012.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Is the Hernandez Confession in the Etan Patz Case False?

     When a schizophrenic with no history of violence or pathological crime says he committed a 33-year-old child murder in a case recently in the news, chances are the confession is false. On May 16, 2012, Pedro Hernandez, a 51-year-old from Maple Shade, New Jersey, told detectives he choked 6-year-old Etan Patz to death in the basement of a lower Manhattan, New York bodega. The confession led to Hernandez's arrest and psychiatric evaluation at Bellevue Hospital. (See: "Pedro Hernandez's Confession in the Etan Patz Case," May 25, 2012.)

     The Hernandez confession has been the subject of debate between forensic psychiatrists, law enforcement personnel, and legal scholars, over its reliability. Everybody knows that celebrated crimes like the Lindbergh kidnapping case, the John F. Kennedy Assassination, and the JonBenet Ramsey case draw false confessors out of the woodwork. In the Patz case, a known child molester and mental patient named Jose A. Ramos confessed to sexually molesting, but not killing Etan. In 2004, the boy's family won a wrongful death lawsuit against Ramos who is currently serving time in a Pennsylvania prison. While the burden of proof in a civil suit is not as high as a criminal trial, there was obviously enough evidence to convince the civil jurors that Ramos' confession was true, and that he had murdered Etan.

     Dr. Michael H. Stone, the New York City Psychiatrist who wrote the 2009 book, The Anatomy of Evil, doesn't put much stock in the Pedro Hernandez confession. According to Dr. Stone, the vast majority of men who kill children do it for sexual reasons. Pedro Hernandez has not admitted to a sexual motive in the Patz murder. In his confession, Hernandez told the detectives that "something just came over me." This does not ring true.

     Men who are convicted of sexually molesting and murdering children, long before their convictions, were considered dangerous sexual predators. Mr. Hernandez not only doesn't have a history of this kind of behavior, he is married, and helped raise two children. Had Hernandez murdered Etan Patz in 1979, how did he control his deviant sexual urges for 33 years? According to Dr. Stone, "For him to go from being that person to a marriageable, somewhat pleasant guy with his own children--that's a very unlikely scenario."

     There is a good chance that Pedro Hernandez's confession is a schizophrenic's delusion, and not the solution of a 33-year-old murder case. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bath Salts and the Zombie Apocalypse

     The Memorial weekend "causeway cannibal" case in Miami involving the fatal police shooting of Rudy Eugene, the person who chewed off the face of a homeless man, has ignited the morbid imagination of millions of people fascinated with zombies, cannibalism, and the specter of a "zombie apocalypse." The Rudy Eugene case has also increased awareness of the bath salt trend, and how designer drugs can make people dangerous. (See: "The Naked Flesh Eater: Police Kill Rudy Eugene.") Other recent cases of cannibalistic behavior include the Texas woman who killed and ate part of her newborn baby, and the college student in Maryland consumed part of a man's brain and heart.

     Zombies, the stars of horror movies, TV series ("The Walking Dead"), novels, and comic books, along with vampires, their more romantic, blood-sucking cousins, have worked their way into American culture. The term "zombie apocalypse" pertains to human-like creatures who rise from the dead, as the world is ending, to prey upon the living to replenish their brains and blood. In the wake of the causeway cannibal case in Miami, people are wondering if the bath salt epidemic is creating a class of zombie-like flesh eaters.

     Mind altering bath salts are not those crystallin household products people put in bath water. While in some states the drug can still be purchased at convenience stores, gas stations, and head shops, these designer hallucinogenic powders are extremely toxic. Although the active ingredients in bath salts have been outlawed by congress, drug designers have been able to replace the banned chemicals with modified substances that are even worse.

     Besides giving the user an intense high, bath salts, like LSD, create bizarre hallucinations. And like PCP, Ecstasy, and crystal meth, they give users supernatural strength, and can turn them violent.

     So, could the abuse of bath salts and similar synthetic designer drugs turn people into flesh-eating zombies? No. While taking these toxic chemicals can make a stupid person even less bright, a crazy person crazier, and an otherwise nonviolent person dangerous, they do not give users a taste for human flesh. Bath salts are responsible for bizarre and violent behavior, but they don't turn people into cannibals.  

Wayne Carter: NJ Man Throws Intestines at Police

     At ten o'clock Sunday night, May 20, 2012, police in Hackensack, New Jersey responded to a report of a 43-year-old man who threatened to kill himself. Wayne Carter had barricaded himself in the bedroom of his house. Two officers kicked open the bedroom door and found Carter crouched in a corner holding a 12-inch knife. The officers ordered the disturbed and distraught man to drop the weapon. Instead, he stood up and began stabbing himself in the abdomen, legs, and neck.

     The stunned police officers, in an effort to keep this man from killing himself, showered him with two cans of pepper-spray. Immune to the pepper-spray, Mr. Carter reacted by throwing pieces of his bloody tissue and intestines at the officers. They backed-off and called in the Bergen County SWAT team.

     Members of the SWAT team overpowered and disarmed the bleeding and weakened subject. Paramedics rushed him to a nearby hospital where he underwent emergency surgery. He had stabbed himself 50 times, and was listed in critical condition.

     According to his family and friends, Wayne Carter had a history of mental illness and had abused drugs. He had also been arrested for assault and resisting arrest but has not been charged in this case. His bizarre behavior, coming as it did in the wake of the face-chewing case in Miami, and the college student's cannibalism in Maryland, has made people wonder where the epidemic of drug use and mental illness is leading this country.   

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Peter Keller: The Survivalist Who Didn't Survive

     On Sunday morning, April 22, 2012, firefighters responded to a house fire in North Bend, Washington, a Cascade foothills town 30 miles east of Seattle. When they tried to enter the dwelling through the front door, firefighters realized someone had blocked the entrance from the inside with a couch and an easy chair.

     Once the fire had been extinguished, firefighters discovered the bodies of 18-year-old Kaylene Keller and her mother Lynnettee who was 41. The victims were in their bedrooms, and both of them had been shot in the head at close range with .22-caliber bullets. Arson investigators found 7 empty gasoline cans at the site. (The fire had been started by placing a skillet on the stove containing a plastic container of gasoline, then turning on the burner.)

     Peter A. Keller, the 41-year-old husband and father of the victims, was nowhere to be found. He and his wife had been married 21 years, and for the last 7 lived in the rented house in this unincorporated community. Keller's red Toyota pickup truck was missing, and a week earlier, he had withdrawn $6,200 from the local bank. Friends of the family told the police that Keller, a reclusive man interested in guns, body armor, and trains, was an avid outdoorsman who spent weekends hiking on the logging trails in the rugged Cascade Mountain foothills. Over the past 8 years, Keller, fearing that the end of the world was near, had been building and stockpiling a wilderness fortress/hideout dug into the side of a hill. The cave-like structure he called Camp Keller, featured three levels, a wood stove, a sophisticated ventilation system, a generator, and several hidden entrances and exits. Although Keller had no history of violence, he owned several guns, and a healthy supply of ammunition.

     On April 25, the King County prosecutor charged Peter Keller with two counts of first-degree murder, and one count of arson.

     The police searching for Keller caught a break on Friday, April 27 when a tipster gave them the location of Keller's pickup abandoned on a Rattlesnake Ridge trailhead. From this location, expert trackers picked up Keller's trail comprised of deep foot impressions made by someone carrying a heavy backpack. The boot marks led them to Keller's wilderness refuge.

     At 5 o'clock Saturday evening, April 28, a group of Seattle police officers and a 30-member SWAT team surrounded the bunker. They figured he was inside because they could smell wood smoke coming from his stove. The fugitive didn't respond when ordered out of the structure. Rather than enter a possibly booby-trapped structure to encounter a heavily armed inhabitant, the police pumped teargas into the fort, then waited.

     Following a 23-hour standoff, the officers, equipped with explosive devices, blew the top off Keller's bunker, and found him dead inside. He had shot himself in the mouth with a Glock pistol. Among the stockpiled provisions, the police recovered 13 rifles and handguns.

     Keller's wife Lynnette, disabled several years ago from a workplace accident, had been receiving a monthly state disability check. Because her husband had been so controlling, and tight with money, she often had to borrow money from relatives. Kaylene Keller had been a student at Bellevue Community College.           

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Alexander Kinyua: Another Cannibalism Case

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

     In May 2012, the big true crime stories in the news involved cannibalism. In Miami, a police officer killed Rudy Eugene as he ate most of a homeless man's face along a busy highway. Eugene is believed to  have been under the influence of a LSD-like drug called bath salts. His victim is in critical condition. In Montreal, Canada, a porn actor named Luka Magnotta stands accused of stabbing and dismembering a man on videotape. The victim's torso was found behind Magnotta's apartment building. The authorities also believe Magnotta is the person who mailed the dismembered man's body parts to Ottawa. And now there is the cannibalism case in Maryland involving a college student named Alexander Kinyua.

The Alexander Kinyua Case

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

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

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

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

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

     Three weeks before his homicide arrest, Kinyua was charged with severely beating a fellow student at Morgan State University. He had allegedly blinded the victim's left eye, and fractured his skull, arm, and shoulder. In the days leading up to this vicious assault, Kinyua's behavior had been erratic and bizarre.

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