Friday, November 28, 2008

Cyber Bullies & Killers: Defining Justice in Cyberspace

Hunt for Justice
by Cynthia Hunt

Megan Meier was only 13. She had a big smile, braces, and fragile eyes that hinted at the pain that adolescence often brings. It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to hurt this little girl, but someone did.

The Mother’s Evil Plan

Her family’s neighbor, a mother of another 13-year-old girl, created a fake identity of a teenage boy on MySpace just so she could hurt Megan. After weeks of a fake courtship, the mother then sent a message to Megan saying, “The world would be a better place without you.”

Megan believed her MySpace crush had sent that cruel message. That afternoon, Megan hanged herself in her bedroom.

Getting Away with Murder? . . . Sort of. . . .

At first it seemed the mother, Lori Drew, would get away with these acts after Missouri law enforcement officials said she had not broken any law on their books. People across the nation were outraged Drew could get away with acts that seem criminal to any person with a lick of common sense. That’s when the United States attorney in Los Angeles, Thomas P. O’Brien, took action.

Lori Drew Convicted by Federal Jury of Computer Fraud After Bullying Teen

U.S. Attorney Fights for Justice

O’Brien, a father himself, took a personal interest in Megan’s case. Using a creative legal strategy, O’Brien asserted jurisdiction because MySpace is based in Los Angeles where its servers are located. He prosecuted Drew on computer fraud charges for creating a phony account on MySpace.

This case marks the first time the federal statute designed to fight computer crime was used to prosecute someone for abusing a user agreement on a social networking site.

O’Brien said the verdict sends an “overwhelming message” to Internet users everywhere.

“If you are going to attempt to annoy or go after a little girl and you’re going to use the Internet to do so," O'Brien said, "this office and others across the country will hold you responsible.”

The Mother Should Go to Prison

I’m not sure how strong the message is though. The jury reduced the charges from felonies to misdemeanors. Drew could face up to three years in prison and a $300,000 fine. It seems light for someone with an elaborate scheme to torture a little girl.

Reporters described Drew as emotionless during most of the trial. After the verdict was read, she left the courtroom so angry her face was red. I hope the judge sentences Drew to the maximum. Her obvious lack of remorse might help.

I remember distinctly when the Missouri officials passed on the case. Credit should go to O’Brien for working so hard at his job despite the fact lawmakers haven’t done theirs.

Lawmakers need to act to address the growth of crime on the Internet. In the meantime, I hope there are more prosecutors like O’Brien who will fight for justice. People need to take responsibility for their actions on the Internet.

Florida Teen Commits Suicide on Web Cam While Internet Users Encourage It

Last week, a 19-year-old student in Florida committed suicide in front of his Web cam while more than a thousand watched. On a message board at, Abraham Biggs (pictured below) posted a suicide note and listed the pills he was going to use to take his life.

Strangers encouraged him to take the pills.

Over 1,300 strangers watched him take the pills.

And strangers watched him die on his bed.

By the time one of the watchers finally called police to check on Andrew, it was too late.

Biggs’ father believes the Web site operators and the Internet users that encouraged Abraham must share some blame for Abraham’s suicide.

Experts say the users' comments did play a role in his suicide. I believe that all the Web users who encouraged Abraham and especially the one who told him "go ahead and do it, faggot" should face serious charges.

While Biggs’ father is hoping police can file some kind of charges in his son’s suicide, Megan’s mother is waiting for her daughter’s cyber bully Lori Drew to be sentenced. Meanwhile, the unrepentant mother-bully is asking for a new trial. I think the only new thing she deserves is three long years facing federal prisoners who will know her as the big, mean, Internet bully who hurt little Megan. She may find what it's like to face a bully her own size.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


All of us at Women in Crime Ink give thanks to you for making our unique crime blog a success. We appreciate your readership as well as your insightful commentary. To all of our guest contributors, thank you for your thought-provoking stories.
To mark the holiday, our regular contributors are noting what we're grateful for this Thanksgiving. We invite you to use the comments section to share with us whatever blessings you're counting. Thanks for reading Women in Crime Ink. Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Pat Brown - Although the world is struggling with disasters, violence, economic, moral and ethical problems, I am thankful that there are still many, many kind and loving people who wish to do right in the world, who live a principled and responsible life in spite of the attitudes and conditions which plague the societies they live in.

Andrea Campbell - I am grateful that forensic science keeps progressing and is working better than ever. Personally, I am happy to have good health for me and my family. And I am also warmed by the camaraderie that I share with the other important women here at Women in Crime Ink.

Kathryn Casey -
I'm more grateful than I can say for family and friends, including all the wonderful people I've met this past year through my association with Women in Crime Ink. Even though the world is a tumultuous and sometimes dangerous place, there's so much that's positive. We write about bad people at WCI, those who do terrible things, but the truth is that the bad folks are vastly outnumbered by the good ones, another reason to feel good this Thanksgiving.

Diane Dimond -
This Thanksgiving makes me stop and reconsider the last year. No, the economy isn't great, no, our politicians still aren't doing their best for the country (mired as they are in their own partisanship), no, there is no peace in the middle east. But I have a loving family who are healthy and happy. We have warm homes and food on the table. And I'm most thankful that the miserable demon known as
Tony Alamo is in prison. He has tortured children in the name of God for long enough!
Tina Dirmann - I'm thankful for all the work, despite the horrible economy. I'm thankful that I'll be surrounded by dear friends this turkey day. And I'm thankful the
Hawks family finally found justice in the courts this year.
Stacy Dittrich - I am most thankful for my husband and daughters, and the fact that we are healthy! On a lighter, more humorous note—I'm thankful for annulments and second marriages . . . I'm thankful that I didn't grow up with a ridiculous name like Joran Van der Sloot . . . I'm thankful that in less than a month I will basking on the sunny beaches of Florida laughing at my fellow Ohioans . . . I'm thankful for the medical phenomenon known as plastic surgery and those wonderful plastic surgeons who lowered their rates during this economic crisis—my thighs and the thighs of millions thank you as well . . . and I'm damn thankful for being alongside the most audacious group of women known as Women in Crime Ink!
Diane Fanning - I am thankful that my daughter moved to Austin and is now only an hour away, that I was able to celebrate my 25th anniversary in Jamaica with the man I love and that we live in a nation that has chosen to step into the future with optimism and hope.

Cynthia Hunt - I am thankful that despite the fact that doctors believed my mom and younger sister would die of their brain and heart anuerysms nine years ago, they are miraculously still alive.That makes me thankful every day, every hour, every minute. I am thankful to live in a nation where brave men and women fight to protect my freedom and the First Amendment. Finally, I am thankful for Coach Nick Saban who has taken Alabama to #1 in the college football rankings. Rolllllllll tide!

Jenna Jackson - I’m more thankful this year than I’ve ever been . . . for: My twin boys—that they’re here, running around, laughing, counting, and singing their letters. My job—that I’m still riveted by the people and their stories after a decade at the same show. My family—that we become better friends every year and I know they always support me. My friends—that they get me through every single day, enjoying the good and more than surviving the bad.

Kelly Siegler - When we see the tragedies that happen to wonderful people in our world through no fault of their own, it makes me more grateful to God for my family. Donna Weaver - I am grateful to be surrounded by the warmth and love of friends and family—especially Lauren, Leanna, Gabby, Gracie, and Emma. I am also thankful that disgraced FBI agent John J. Connolly was finally brought to justice this month when a Florida jury convicted him for a murder committed twenty-six years ago. A very Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!Michele McPhee - I am thankful for the cops who put their lives and families on hold every holiday to maintain public order. Susan Murphy-Milano - I am grateful for the ability to provide hope to victims of crime. Sometimes it is by shining the light via the media or a simple blog. Other times, I can relocate a woman in danger, taking her with her children far enough away from her abusive husband where she and her children are having their first safe and peaceful holiday meal and know all is well. Connie Park - I'm thankful for all the blessings God has given me in my life: my family, friends and all the people who had such a positive impact on me throughout my life. I hope that I can make a difference, even if it's a small one, and give back what I've received. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Donna Pendergast - I'm thankful that despite current tough times, I live in the best country in the world. I'm thankful that I have a roof over my head, a job that pays my bills, a hot shower in the morning, a warm bed at night and enough food to eat in between the two. I'm also thankful that my darling nephew Brandon who was born with a severe heart defect is well and thriving. We continue to pray for our miracle baby. Lucy Puryear - I am thankful for second chances—second marriages; Andrea Yates' second trial that allowed her to live and be treated in a psychiatric hospital; and second helpings at Thanksgiving dinner. Peace and goodwill to all. Robin Sax - I am thankful to have a forum to learn, write, and connect with the most amazing group of women . . . ever. Katherine Scardino - I am so very thankful that for the first time in a very long time, my life feels as if it is in order! My children are grown, educated, employed, married and happy. I am grown, educated, employed, not married and happy! I am so grateful to be in a country that is more than bountiful in its riches, even in what we may think are hard times. We still have so much to be grateful for—and the most important one is that we live in the United States. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Not Just a Career—A Calling

by Connie Park

This past August, I celebrated my 13th anniversary with the Houston Police Department. I was only 25 years old when I started the police academy and not really knowing what to expect. The only expectation I had was to meet the goals and challenges of pursuing a career I was so passionate about. After thirteen years in law enforcement, the opportunities and experiences I’ve had have exceeded all my expectations.

My first assignment was nightshift patrol at the Westside station with Mondays and Tuesdays off. Days off were determined by department seniority. Needless to say, I was one of the rookies that just got off the probationary program. Wow, I was an official police officer! The first years of being an officer were the most exciting times. Everything was new and I was learning so many different things. The adrenaline stemming from catching the “bad guys” is an experience that all young officers lived for. You were actually making an impact on the community. I lived and breathed police work and was amazed that I was actually getting paid for doing something I loved.

When I first hit the streets, I felt like I had something to prove and that I had to show my fellow officers that I could handle the job. I wanted to demonstrate that I was capable and could do the job as well as any other male officer. I soon realized all the pressure I had placed on myself was from my own expectations and from no one else. I quickly got to know my fellow beat officers and we all worked well together and took care of one another. Don’t get me wrong, just like any other family, we all had our differences and opinions and our share of disagreements. But by the end of the day, we knew we could rely on each other and we made sure we all went home safely at the end of the shift to our families. The special camaraderie we shared was one of the reasons I became an officer, a unique bond and understanding.

Through the years, I came to the realization that I didn’t have to prove my abilities as a police officer to others. I didn’t have to work or try twice as hard because I was a female officer. I learned that I needed to develop my own policing style and that it wasn’t about seeking approval or recognition from others. I learned that police work was about self gratification and that the gratification came from me knowing that I had a positive impact in people’s lives. We are ALL police officers regardless of our gender and we all share a common goal.

I have been fortunate to work in Homicide for the past eight years and it has been such an invaluable experience. I’ve learned from the best homicide investigators and have had great mentors who have guided my career. There were numerous times that we worked throughout the night, nonstop, in order to solve heinous crimes where innocent lives were taken and families were changed forever. All of the hard work, energy, and long hours placed upon the investigations have been well worth it and made my journey within the police department an amazing experience that I would never change. One can never take away the pride we as officers experience together.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Victims Matter More than Money

by Diane Fanning

Last week, a spokesman for the Monroe County Sheriff's Office in Florida said that the case is too old and the investigation would cost too much to continue. That bothers me--a lot.

I am saddened but do understand when a law enforcement agency says that they have no more leads, no suspects and nowhere to turn. Dead ends can end an investigation. But money should not block the path to justice. And in the case in question, there is a suspect.

In 1965, Nelos Sills' death was ruled a suicide. This conclusion was based on the statement of his wife Betty Sills. According to her, she and her husband were alone in their mobile home on
Big Coppitt Key. They argued and Nelos pulled out a gun and shot himself--once. An autopsy was not performed.

But Nelos was in the Navy and the
Naval Criminal Investigation Service had a file on the case. According to their documents, Nelos was shot twice--definitely not a typical suicide. One bullet from the pistol went through his heart, the other sliced his liver.

The current investigators wanted to exhume his body but they were told since it might be voluntary manslaughter, the statute of limitations had run out. Of course, if that assumption is wrong and Betty commited first or even second degree murder, there is not time limit. How can they determine that it was the lesser crime without an autopsy?

Also, according to the Navy, the couple was not alone. Betty's two children were there. Gary Flynn, her son, is dead. Betty's daughter, Peggy Saunders, lives in Ocala, Florida, and remembers the argument and the shooting. (Betty, Gary, Peggy, on the right) Monroe County investigators did not question her. Why? The same Sheriff's Office spokesperson said that "they just didn't have the money to fly all over the state."

Betty received life insurance after the death of Nelos--she benefited from his death.

Where is Betty now at the age of 76? You've heard her name in the news recently. She's suspected black widow, Betty Neumar. This past summer, she was arrested in North Carolina for the 1986 homicide of the fourth of her five dead husbands, Harold Gentry. Nelos Sills was her third husband.

Betty is out on a $300,000 bail bond awaiting trial for soliciting three different people to commit first-degree murder in the six weeks before Harold was found shot dead in his home. In Ohio, Betty is being investigated in the 1970 shooting death of her first husband,
Clarence Malone. They are also investigating what happened to her son, Gary, whose death in 1985 was ruled a suicide. Betty collected life insurance when he died, too.

Georgia has recently closed their investigation into the death of her fifth husband, John Neumar. His family feels the closure of that case, too, was premature. And no one is looking into the death of her second husband, James Flynn. Betty told North Carolina investigators that he "died on a pier" somewhere in New York in the mid-fifties.

I ran across a similar cases while researching the murders committed by serial killer
Tommy Lynn Sells. One investigator told me that he didn't see any sense in wasting taxpayer money on an investigation when the perpetrator was already sitting on death row in Texas. "If anybody'll take care of him, Texas will."

Yes, he is right. But a victim cries out for justice and a family waits on the sidelines for answers. The victim's death and the family's questions do matter.

Murder investigation--particularly in a cold case--is an expensive proposition. And time-consuming as well. But don't our law enforcement agencies owe it to the victim and their families to pursue justice until all leads have been exhausted?

I understand if law enforcement has to limit the resources and make an older, expensive investigation a lower priority. But to give up because it would cost too much? It sounds too much like putting a price tag on someone's life.

That, I will never understand.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Getting Away with Murder - Part 2

by Stacy Dittrich

Today, in Part 2 of Getting Away with Murder, I’ll be focusing on the cases of Natalee Holloway, Rilya Wilson, O.J. Simpson, and JonBenét Ramsey. (Click here to read Part 1) Out of these eight featured cases, only two bodies have been found (Simpson and Ramsey), and only three suspects have been arrested in the murders (O.J. Simpson, who subsequently was found not guilty, Geralyn Graham, and Casey Anthony, both who are currently awaiting trial). While watching the various experts commentating on most of these cases, I hear repeatedly how difficult it is for the prosecution to proceed with charges without a body. Not so, says Assistant U.S. District Attorney, Tad DiBiase, an expert in the area of “No Body Cases.”

DiBiase has tracked these cases as far back as 1834, when seaman Maurice Fitzgerald was murdered at sea and his body was never found. However, his killers were tried and found guilty of murder. According to DiBiase, this case and 279 others in the United States (excluding ID, NH and VT) tracked through November 2008, only resulted in 25 acquittals or reversals on appeal due to the fact no body was found. His contention is that it is a high probability of a conviction without a body, and the case should proceed.

Unfortunately, it seems that some prosecutors are “gun shy.” The possibility of a not guilty verdict or the suspect walking free is too great in their eyes. In the meantime, the murderer is out on the streets free to kill again. In this aspect, I say kudos to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in Florida for the arrest of Casey Anthony. If the evidence is there, take it and run with it.

Regardless, there are some circumstances that it would be highly unlikely any charges would come whether or not the body is found—these are few and far between. In the case of missing Alabama student, Natalee Holloway, sometimes politics plays a far greater role than a murdered high school student.

4. Natalee Holloway—Missing May 30, 2005, No Body Found.

I believe it’s certainly safe to say at this point that the Aruban government has thoroughly botched the investigation into missing American high school student, Natalee Holloway, 19, and failed her family miserably.

On Monday, May 30, 2005, Natalee Holloway was last seen alive in a bar in Aruba while on a senior class trip. There is no question that she was accompanied by then 17-year-old Joran Van der Sloot, and brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe (pictured right with Holloway) as she left the bar. She was never seen again and her body has never been found. In the meantime, all three men have been questioned in the case and no formal charges have been brought. The fact that Van der Sloot is the son of a prominent Aruban political figure raises some eyebrows. Apparently, his father's influence is enough to erase the fact he recently confessed to the murder of Holloway on videotape. Smoking marijuana, the Aruban authorities claimed they could not proceed as he “was under the influence when making that claim.”

According to Women In Crime Ink’s Robin Sax, an L.A. Deputy District Attorney, it is not for the prosecution to question his frame of mind—it’s up to the defense to prove he was “muddled by the wacky weed.” But, like all of the other claims and witness statements in the case, the information was ignored. Just recently, Van der Sloot was videotaped taking part in a sex ring in Thailand. Allegedly, there’s more to the tape than that. FOX News’ Greta Van Susteren claims to have in her possession more of the tape which has Van der Sloot confessing to Holloway’s murder—yet again. She offered to bring it to Aruban prosecutor Hans Mos in person, but he refused. Why? He said there is nothing on the tape that has any substance—a claim made even though he has never seen it.

At this point, Joran Van der Sloot is laughing at law enforcement in his country, and at the Americans that believe in his guilt. Unfortunately, it may take this sociopathic animal murdering another human being before he is finally caught. Either that or the Kalpoe brothers need to grow a conscious and start talking. But, the question remains: even if they do talk, and Holloway’s body is found, will they even prosecute Van der Sloot then? I think not.

This sends a clear message to parents out there: If your child is taking a class trip or vacation with friends—send them to Florida.

5. Rilya Wilson—Missing, unknown month, 2000—No Body Found.

There are some people who actually have not heard of 4-year-old Rilya Wilson, but you may have heard the story. Rilya was the foster child in Florida who went “unnoticed” by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). Living at the time with foster mother, Geralyn Graham, DCF didn’t notice Rilya was missing until two years later. According to Graham, Rilya was picked up by a caseworker for a doctor’s appointment and was never returned. DCF authorities quickly established this wasn’t the case, but admitted they had “lost this child” within the system.

Furthermore, the outrageous actions of the DCF ultimately caused the resignation of the DCF chief, and news laws that require officials to track missing foster children and the supervision of caregivers.

In 2005, Geralyn Graham was charged with first degree murder in the death of Rilya. While incarcerated, she allegedly told a fellow inmate, “I killed it.” She claimed Rilya (pictured left) had demons and she dumped the child’s body in a ravine—authorities have yet to locate her remains. At this time, Graham is still awaiting trial and prosecutors are confident they will attain a conviction.

The case sparked outrage against DCF treatment of African-American foster children and is presently being used to help lobby a bill that would enact the “Rilya Alert.” Similar to the Amber Alert, the Rilya Alert would be geared towards missing African-American children within the foster care system.

6. O.J. Simpson—Found Not Guilty in the Murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, October, 1995.

Like most, the mere mention of Simpson’s name is difficult to say without vomiting in my mouth a little. One would be hard pressed to find a person that truly believed in his innocence, especially after he wrote a full blown confession in a book years later. His arrogance and mockery were never-ending (I’ve always seen a chilling connection between the attitude of Joran Van der Sloot and Simpson . . . blech). The case in which the famed football star brutally sliced and diced his ex-wife and her friend has caused prosecutors, and defense attorneys, to tighten their belts and get their acts together for the last decade. The world’s obsession with the O.J. Simpson case is never-ending. Just recently, Simpson (pictured right) was tried and convicted of armed robbery in Las Vegas for holding a memorabilia dealer in his hotel room at gunpoint. Some say it’s retribution for getting away with murder.

As Simpson sits whining away in his jail cell awaiting sentencing, he is appealing his conviction based on the fact he is black. However, some say this is precisely the reason he was acquitted in the murders over a decade ago and that he uses his ethnicity to his benefit when suited. Black or white, most prudent people of all colors believe that this is a man who deserves to live, and die, in prison. It looks like we may just get our wish. Simpson will no longer be remembered for his impressive football career—he will forever be remembered in the graduating class of the upper echelons of crime like Manson and Bundy. It would seem that miracles in the halls of crime really do happen—The Juice has finally been squeezed dry.

It’s at long last time to throw that used-up-piece-of-fruit in the garbage where it belongs.

7. JonBenét Ramsey—Murdered, December 26, 1996—No Arrests Made.

The case that, twelve years later, still is heatedly debated on the crime blogs and media, the Ramsey case is, undoubtedly, solved in the minds of many. However, it is the prosecutor who is most important and, apparently, they don’t have a clue who the murderer is. I wrote my own theory on the Ramsey case (view it here) that sparked outrage among the supporters of John Ramsey, the father of victim 6-year-old JonBenét. Referring to someone like myself as a BORG, which I think stands for “believer of Ramsey guilt.”

Either that or they’re obsessive Star Trek fans.

The small group of supporters launches an immediate attack for anyone pointing to JonBenét’s parents as the murderers—a fact I firmly believe. No doubt several of them will make an appearance in the comments section of this post.

No one but John and Patsy Ramsey (who is now deceased) really know what happened the night of December 26, 1996. After a lengthy Christmas day, they put their 6-year-old daughter to sleep, woke up the next morning, found her missing, and ultimately discovered her sexually assaulted and dead body in the basement.

The prosecutor has since cleared the parents and believes that, someday, DNA evidence will hit on a match to the true murderer. It’s my opinion that the human race will most likely witness The Rapture before an arrest in the murder of JonBenét Ramsey. It’s a shame, but the man that brutally took the life of this small, innocent child has to look in the mirror every day and live with it.

But, if he can be so cold-hearted to commit murder he probably doesn’t care.

All eight of these cases have generated millions of dollars in movie, television, and book deals, feeding society’s hunger for a good crime story, and driving those at-home-super-sleuths into a frenzy for the need to solve. There may be several more that I didn’t touch on, but these are the ones that come to mind when I think of “crime stories.” Of course, it’s a historical fact that these cases will be replaced over the next few decades with a new class of innocent victims and barbaric heathens that will get away with murder—a sad, and frightening, fact.

I have always said during my tenure as a police officer that my job security was higher than anyone’s. Now, as a full-time crime writer, my opinion remains the same.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Getting Away with Murder - Part 1

by Stacy Dittrich

Is it really that easy? Any prudent person would formulate the opinion that committing an act of murder—and getting away with it—is a fairly simple task. A little skill, minimal thought, and a final resting place is all you need these days. Or, so it seems. Now that the elections are over, we are once again barraged with the latest crime stories in the news—those that are new, and those we have been subjected to over the last five years. Every day a new piece of evidence emerges that may, or may not, solve one of the grisly murders that we have been talking about daily in coffee shops and beauty salons everywhere.

Today and Monday, I will cover those cases that refuse to go away, those that have earned their rightful places in the Crime Hall of Fame. Solved, unsolved, body, or no body, guilty, or not guilty, these cases continuously permeate an air of mystery or suspicion at the slightest mention of their names. At the mere hint of the stories taking a back seat, crime bloggers and media worldwide drive these cases to the forefront once again.

I’ll begin with the most recent:

1. Caylee Anthony—Missing since June, 2008, No Body Found.

Perhaps one of the most high-profile cases in recent history, the case of missing 2-year-old Caylee Anthony continues to draw our attention. The circus-like atmosphere that has attached itself to the missing Orlando toddler’s mother, Casey Anthony (pictured right with Caylee), has undoubtedly clouded the true focus of the case—finding Caylee and bringing her killer to justice.

Her daughter last seen sometime in mid-June, Casey Anthony waited almost a month before reporting Caylee missing. In fact, she didn’t report it all; it was her mother Cindy Anthony that called 911 to report her granddaughter missing after they found Casey’s car, a white Pontiac that, in Cindy’s own words “smell[ed] like a dead body was in the damn car!” Cindy Anthony, a former nurse, and her husband, George, a former police officer, quickly dismissed the obvious when they realized the horror of what most likely had transpired: their own daughter murdered their granddaughter. Both familiar to the stomach-churning odor of a decomposing body, they later brushed off the smell as "rotting pizza."

Regardless, Casey Anthony wouldn’t talk. She insisted her daughter had been taken by a nanny whose existence the police quickly disproved. After finding chloroform in Casey’s trunk—coupled with computer searches on obtaining the deadly chemical—police were convinced that little Caylee was deceased. Add to that the physical evidence of decomposition in the trunk and one would think it is a clear-cut case of murder. Unfortunately, there is no body, and the prosecutors are dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s to make sure they can put forth the best case possible against Casey Anthony.

Her attorney, Jose Baez, continues to maintain “we’ll all be sorry” when the real truth comes out. Of course, neither he nor his client has bothered to expose that truth during the investigation. It seems that they would rather wait until Casey is facing the death penalty to say, “I told ya so!” Public displays of affection shown between Baez and Casey has reared its ugly head as well.

Then comes along the colorful, gun-totin’, cowboy-hat-wearing, bounty hunter, Leonard Padilla. Padilla, at first, believed in Casey’s innocence, enough to post her bond before realizing what a fool he looked like. Apparently, he didn’t mind because he subsequently launched a search frenzy, which included divers from the controversial Blackwater USA and thousands of people walking through the dense woods in search of little Caylee. Undaunted by the fact he and his people could potentially taint or alter much-needed evidence, Padilla (proudly posing left) has become a thorn in the side of law enforcement. He even pushed out the well-respected Tim Miller of Texas EquuSearch by telling Tim, “Imagine the money we could make if we’re photographed holding little Caylee’s skull?” Ugh.

Yes, he’s searching, but he's doing more harm than good, and it is past time for him to go home and bury his cowboy hat in the desert sand while squatting over a cactus.

Merge all of this with the numerous protesters in front of the Anthony home—with George and Cindy parading around town with their “Find Caylee” t-shirts—and the stone-cold monster, Casey Anthony, sitting in jail painting her nails, along with the book and movie deals, and it would appear this melee isn’t going away any time soon.

In the meantime, the remains of a beautiful, innocent, 2-year-old little girl are out there somewhere, and her mother stays silent as she sits in jail.

2. Stacy Peterson—Missing, October 28, 2007, No Body Found.

Women in Crime Ink’s Susan Murphy-Milano refuses to mention his name, and as much as I hate to give Drew Peterson any attention at all, his missing wife certainly deserves it. Former Bolingbrook, Illinois police sergeant Drew Peterson is not only a suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy (pictured right with Drew), but he is also suspected in the recently determined homicide of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. He has yet to be charged with either.

Stacy Peterson was last seen October, 28, 2007, and was reported missing by her sister when she failed to show up to a scheduled meeting. Drew reportedly told the family that Stacy had left him for another man and he found her car at the airport—claims Stacy’s family deems utterly preposterous. She left behind two small children that she completely adored.

Nonetheless, new evidence surfaced that Drew’s third wife, Kathleen, had not died accidentally and the focus intensified on the arrogant, publicity-seeking, former police officer. Not that he was worried. Hiring a publicist and accompanied by his shady lawyer, Joel Brodsky—a man with his own history of domestic problems—Drew hit the media circuit, hamming it up and posing for the cameras, insisting that his wife was still alive.

With a significant lack of evidence in Stacy’s disappearance, authorities focused on the homicide of Kathleen Savio. At this time, the grand jury is still hearing testimony and deciding if there is enough evidence to indict Drew for murder. However, while they wait for the grand jury, the authorities are holding a gun charge over his head that most likely won’t amount to much. A new book out on Drew claims he failed a polygraph test that related to his missing wife. Like everything else, Drew dismisses the test as inaccurate.

Drew continues to push the envelope and mock law enforcement. Just recently, he met with a divorce attorney to file against his wife for “abandonment,” in an attempt to sell off their assets and move from the neighborhood.

3. Madeleine McCann—Missing, May 3, 2007, No Body Found

Three-year-old Madeleine McCann (pictured below) disappeared from her family’s apartment at the resort of Praia da Luz, in the Algarve region of Portugal. The British family was vacationing there when Kate and Gerry McCann went to dinner with another couple, leaving Madeleine and her 2-year-old twin siblings alone in the apartment. The restaurant was only 130 yards away from the apartment.

At approximately 10 p.m., Kate McCann allegedly checked on the children and found Madeleine gone, and a window to the apartment open. What followed was an international frenzy of theories, finger-pointing, and searches in hopes of finding the little girl alive.

Kate and Gerry McCann immediately fell under an umbrella of suspicion. Both doctors, the theory they had given Madeleine too much medicine to make her sleep causing an accidental death began to circulate. The McCanns, who vowed to not leave the country until their daughter was found, fled months later after an intense focus on them by investigators.

The Portuguese police compiled an impressive list of suspects and theories relating to Madeleine’s disappearance, all of which were disproved and unfounded. In July 2008, the McCanns were officially cleared as suspects in their daughter’s disappearance, raising eyebrows of other law enforcement investigators worldwide.

If there were ever a case where I believed there was a minuscule (and I mean microscopic!) chance that the missing were actually alive—this would be the one. An international investigation such as this can bring forth many possibilities. It’s doubtful, but it wouldn’t be surprising.

Why haven’t these bodies been found? And, why haven’t some of the suspects been charged? It’s a touchy subject. A lack of evidence in some of the cases prohibits the prosecutors from launching a tirade of charges against the most likely suspect. Or, as in the case of Natalee Holloway, the evidence is there but politics play a far bigger role than an American teenager’s death. That said, it appears that most of the suspects in these high-profile cases will undoubtedly get away with murder.

On Monday, November 24th, in Part 2 of this story, I will touch on the cases of Natalee Holloway, Rilya Wilson, O.J. Simpson, and JonBenét Ramsey. Please leave your thoughts and comments on each of these stories. I’m curious to see who believes in innocence, guilt, and whether any of these bodies will be found.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Growing up with the Secret Service

by Diane Dimond

They’ve already had a taste of Secret Service protection during the 21 months of the long campaign. But as the old seventies song says, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

I dialed up a
pal of mine the other day, Scott Alswang, a retired Special Agent with the Secret Service. From 1984 to 2004, he guarded all the Presidents, from Regan to “W” and almost all of the foreign heads of state who visited them in between. Alswang walked me through what the two Obama girls can expect.

First, they’ve already gotten their new monikers. You know, those pithy code names Secret Service agents use when they refer to those they protect? Ten-year-old Malia Obama’s shortcut name is Radiance. Seven-year-old Sasha will be referred to as Rosebud. (By the way the new President is Renegade, First Lady Michelle is Renaissance.)

Before they go to their first day in their new school the Secret Service will have run
background checks on the school’s staff and maybe some of the students and their families. Agents will accompany the girls to and from campus everyday. They may, depending on space, set up a small command center inside the building. If not, they’ll set one up outside. They may tap into the school’s closed-circuit camera system if there is one.

How many agents will be assigned to the girls? “The appropriate number to get the job done,” according to my still secretive friend, Agent Alswang.

When Malia and Sasha want to have new friends over to the White House to play, those friends and their families will probably have undergone a discreet background check. And on the actual day of the play date . . . what happens when the child arrives? As Agent Alswang put it, “No one gets inside the White House without passing through a name check and a magnetometer.”

What if the two
Obama daughters (pictured right) want to go on a typical sleepover at a friend’s house? You guessed it. The Secret Service will go too. Agents will conduct a site survey ahead of time and figure out where in the house the children might spend time. Escape routes will be devised just in case. The agents will either stay outside in a command vehicle or if there’s room they’ll set up inside the house.

“We’re not there to intrude on others' privacy,” Alswang told me. But the Secret Service protection duties are three-fold. “Observe and sound off, that is, yell ‘GUN’ or whatever the threat is. Cover the protected person and evacuate them from the problem area.”

If President Obama wins a second 4-year-term, the girls will be of prime dating age. Then what happens with his daughters? Answer: There won’t be a hand held, a first kiss or a high school dance that the Secret Service won’t attend.

The agents do try to be unobtrusive. If they have to protect someone at a school dance, for example, they’ll show up in formal wear and try to blend in. But, come on – how many prom-goers wear squiggly ear pieces and talk into their shirt cuffs?

I had to ask Agent Alswang what might happen if the Obama girls misbehave as the Bush twins, Barbara and Jenna, did when they were caught drinking at age 19?
That 2001 incident at a Tex-Mex bar in Austin resulted in the twins being slapped with misdemeanor charges.

Does the Secret Service discipline presidential children? Do they tattle to the parents if the kids act out in a major way?

Alswang says agents always try to “bring some common sense to the situation but if it’s bad enough” they might have to resort to telling the First Parents. And, he told me, “It goes the other way too. . . . The Bush girls tattled on the agents they thought were too aggressive, especially in the beginning.” He says Jenna and Barbara’s Dad was “always happy to get the complaints. He knew we were doing the job.”

It is tradition at the end of an Agent’s lengthy assignment to the First Family to get a personal send off from the President and First Lady. When the detail around the twins (pictured left) finally rotated out after a long tour, the President is reported to have called them in and said, "Laura and I would like to thank you for letting us sleep every night while you were up every night watching the girls. I’m trying to figure out a way to award you the Medal of Freedom!”

Welcome to Washington, Malia and Sasha . . . have a great childhood!

Bonus: Get ready to wow your friends with your knowledge of Presidential Trivia!

Used to be that Secret Service radio communications could not be encrypted. And because agents worried about eavesdroppers, they used code words over the radio to talk about the President and his family as they moved from location to location. That subterfuge is no longer needed but the tradition of giving pithy monikers to the First Family stuck.

Did you know these nicknames? I knew President Ronald Reagan was "Rawhide," but most of the rest were news to me:

President-elect Barack Obama: Renegade
Michelle Obama: Renaissance
Malia Obama: Radiance
Sasha Obama: Rosebud
Vice President-elect Joe Biden: Celtic
Jill Biden: Capri
President George W. Bush: Tumbler
First Lady Laura Bush: Tempo
Bill Clinton: Eagle
Hillary Clinton: Evergreen
Chelsea Clinton: Energy
George Bush: Timberwolf
Barbara Bush: Tranquility
Jimmy Carter: Deacon
Rosalynn Carter: Dancer
Amy Carter: Dynamo
Ronald Reagan: Rawhide
Nancy Reagan: Rainbow
Gerald Ford: Passkey
Betty Ford: Pinafore
Richard Nixon: Searchlight
Pat Nixon: Starlight
Lyndon Johnson: Volunteer
Lady Bird Johnson: Victoria
Lynda Bird Johnson: Velvet
Luci Baines Johnson: Venus
John F. Kennedy: Lancer
Jacqueline Kennedy: Lace
Caroline Kennedy: Lyric
John F. Kennedy Jr.: Lark
Dwight Eisenhower: Providence
Harry Truman: General
Ted Kennedy (during 1970 campaign): Sunburn
Kitty Dukakis: Panda
Scott McClellan: Matrix

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dead Give-A-Way

by Susan Murphy-Milano

Imagine for a moment the grief associated with the death of a loved one. The planning of a memorial or funeral service is overwhelming.

Your body and mind feel invaded by some unknown alien force. You cannot think straight. There is a tremendous amount to do during this time. And all you want to do is “just get through it all.”

When my
parents died, the family home where I learned to play my first game of hopscotch and learned to roller skate without taking another trip to the emergency room for a broken bone, was burglarized.

On the day of my parents' funerals, along with the entire residential street, as we were saying goodbye . . . thieves were saying hello as they entered into the rear basement window of the home and helped themselves to whatever they could easily carry out the door. No one was ever arrested. It has haunted me ever since.

Recently, a neighbor passed away. The husband and
wife raised their family and lived in the same home for close to 50 years. As Emily, the grieving widow surrounded herself with family and close friends she went through the motions. First, Emily made arrangements with a funeral home for the wake and funeral service. While in the office of the funeral director, Emily handed the computer-generated death notice she filled out on-line with all the information on the immediate family, date and time of both the wake and funeral, for submission to the newspapers. Emily included the clubs, charities, and associations her dearly departed loved one involved himself with over the years. From the published death notice:

"John was a loving husband, father and grandfather. He served in the Army as a captain during WWII. He was a proud member of local 714. Bob was a member of a rare stamp and coin club. He collected first edition books. And when he retired John traveled the world discovering new treasures and meeting and making many friends. He will be missed by so many who loved and knew him."

It would become painfully obvious someone else loved John, or at least his property, when Emily and her grown children returned from the funeral service eleven hours later to find a thief had broken into their home as the family laid their loved one to rest. Much of what was stolen could not be replaced. This included years of family photos filled with loving memories.

These types of crimes during death are common. According to law enforcement it is rare when an arrest is made in these cases, because everyone is attending the funeral.

A published death notice is a dead giveaway for a thief.

It is very simple to gain information. Start by using the
white pages on the Internet (go to people search) and type in anyone's name and the state where they live. I suggest using your own name and see what comes up. When I did this for Emily, John's name came up, age, phone number, who else lives in the home. If I look further, the site also lists the first 10 neighbors in the surrounding area of the residence. YUK!

Once I had the address I headed for the County Treasurer's Office Web site. Depending on the state and county of an address, locating the tax identification number of a property will vary.

Once I typed in the address, the tax information and history of the home was on the screen. I pressed another tab on the site and I was directed to a live photo of Emily's home and property. Great tool for someone preparing to break into a home. For Emily's residence, I was able to visually see with the assistance of Google "streetview." Close-up I viewed the back entrance of the property, the height of the trees and shrubs surrounding the home and a large detached garage.

The very first order of business you should take care of prior to going to make arrangements is, head to your local post office. Fill out a card and have the mail held for a three to four week period or change the mailing address to a friend or a relative's. This prevents important mail from being stolen. And all around it is a great safety tool.

Next, limit what is said in a published death notice. Do not list too much personal information or activities. This gives a heads-up to thieves about valuables or money in the home.

Make arrangements with your church to house sit during the wake and funeral service. If that if is not an option, contact a reputable security company and hire them to sit in the home. Or call your local law enforcement and ask if you can hire an off-duty officer.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Waiting on a Verdict

by Katherine Scardino

Last Friday, I found myself sitting in a courtroom in another county—where I had been for the prior two weeks
trying a capital murder case.

The prosecutor did not seek the death penalty in this capital case, so if the jury finds my client guilty, he will spend the rest of his life in prison without any hope of parole. Courts have two ways to take a person’s life in Texas. We can execute by lethal injection, or we can send the offender to a Texas prison where he or she will spend the rest of his life sitting in a cell about the size of your closet. In this case, my young male client’s only possible punishment if found guilty is "life without parole."

But I was thinking of something else. I looked at this young man, age 25, a white male, who had graduated high school as a National Merit Scholar. He married his high-school sweetheart, had a set of twins and another baby—three children total—and then signed up for the Marines. He was accepted and was shipped to Iraq where he was in the Military Police. He returned to the United States only a few months before he was arrested for the murder-for-hire of a man in Surfside, Texas.

My question was: How in the world did he find himself sitting in the defendant’s chair at counsel table? . . . What happened to this man? . . . He had an adorable wife, children, supportive family, brains, and most importantly—he had opportunity. But he blew it all. In God’s name, Why???

I think I can answer that question in one word: COCAINE. His now ex-wife explained to me that during high school, he was popular, made good grades, and played sports. It was generally felt that he had a good future. She told me that he did not use drugs then, and only started using drugs after he returned home from Iraq. Did he use drugs in Iraq? Did he get hooked on drugs while serving our country in a place on the other side of the world where no one could see him or help him? She did not know. But she did know that as soon as he returned, he found a group of "friends" who loved cocaine and would do just about anything to get the next hit or snort or injection.

I know that cocaine has been called the "shame of Iraq" and that there have been court martials of soldiers who were caught selling weapons for cocaine. The only logical explanation for my young client is that he started cocaine in Iraq, and continued when he came home to the United States. Obviously, in either location, cocaine is easy to get—all it takes is money.

Hence, my client’s charge of murder in exchange for payment of money, which he used to buy more cocaine.

Going a little further than my client’s situation, I know that drugs in general are a major problem in almost every area of the United States. How can there be so many young people in prison for using drugs, or for committing a crime in order to get more drugs? Do these young people not have any family or friends who can see what is going on and help them stop ruining their lives? Do we, as parents, just sit back and assume "nothing will happen to my child"—thinking that it is just a phase and he or she will grow out of it? Have we become parental zombies who ignore all the signs because we are so busy with ourselves? And, best yet, how do we fix this problem?

I believe that our society has deteriorated to the point that we risk losing our future. I recall in my childhood a time when my family did not have to lock a door, or worry about me when I met my friends at the movies, or even think about crime in our neighborhoods. During that time in the United States, "crime" may have been high-school boys vandalizing a building. The police in these towns did not have much to do on a daily basis. But that was also a time when parents sat down at the dinner table at the end of the day with the entire family. They ate together; they discussed what was going on in everyone’s lives; they talked about their problems; they talked about church, school, and gossiped maybe about their neighbors. But they did it together as a unit, a family. That time is gone. We do not do that anymore. Children play video games about killing cops, committing robberies or other crimes and getting away with it; they watch violent movies on television—all under the same roof as the parents, who do nothing.

Now please—no angry comments about "my kid did all these things and he is now president of his own company" . . . or some such thing. I am not saying that every child who is allowed to grow up like that will turn out to be a mass murderer or a serial killer. I am saying that the habits of our lives today engender an attitude that family doesn’t matter and no one really cares what we do. It is not the best situation for a child.

Back to my client. We are sitting in this courtroom; I see him glance at me and smile. I know he feels that he is going to walk out of the courtroom a free man. I feel differently. I know how juries are and how they will convict someone whom they even remotely feel may be guilty. And, frankly, I gave a great closing argument—(second only to our famous Kelly Siegler’s closings). But even as I sat down, feeling a little smug about what I had done, I knew that it was not enough. I felt it; I sensed it. And I was right. The jury returned a guilty verdict, and my young client was sentenced to spend the rest of his natural life in a prison cell, where the highlight of his day will be feeding time at the zoo.

So sad.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Quamar and A Killer Boy

by Pat Brown

I just came back from an evening at an Indian film festival where I saw an amazing documentary about a little girl named Quamar who lives in Hyderabad. Just ten-years-old, Quamar spends her day making bangles, affixing little hot stones onto the jewelry in intricate designs. She has calloused thumbs, burns on her legs, and the most delightful smile in the world. She cleans the house, cooks the food, and earns a pittance of money for her family with the bangle work; she gets beatings from her father and mother if she slacks off. Quamar wishes she could go to school but accepts that she cannot. In spite of all her difficulties, she is cheerful and loving. I would adopt this child in a heartbeat if she were an orphan.

Compare this girl with the eight-year-old boy in Arizona who confessed to methodically and coldbloodedly killing his father and a roomer with a rifle.

The boy attended school, enjoyed sports, went hunting with his dad, and played video games incessantly. No doubt he had lots of free time, games, toys, and food and little responsibility to handle. So why does an impoverished, deprived, and overworked little girl become a kind and loving human being while a boy with relative comfort turns into a vicious killer? What is it that makes this boy and the twenty-one other American children between five eight years who committed homicides (from 1994-2004) different from Quamar?

Some experts believe that children kill because of physical or sexual abuse. I can buy that possibility but then why is Quamar still a lovely child? She admits to being abused, both physically and emotionally. But I am pretty sure she is not going to get up tomorrow morning and hack her parents to death.

Four variables come to mind when I am searching for differences in these two children: disaffection, narcissism, responsibility, and violent inputs. The first three can be narrowed down to one: caring about others. Many parents allow children to become very selfish and self-centered, letting them think about no one but themselves. They are catered to and are not given any true responsibility for others; they aren't expected to care for younger brothers and sisters, help their parents with household tasks or earning a money, and they aren't asked to do anything for grandparents or neighbors either. They grow up narcissistic, and, oddly, alone.

It is true that many child killers come from broken homes and dysfunctional families, but I believe the disaffection comes not so much from parental discord or the child's separation from either father or mother, but from the poor parenting that causes the child to disconnect emotionally from everyone else. He ends up living in a secluded world where others really do not matter. "Others" become tools (for what the child wants) or burdens (when they prevent a child from getting what he wants).

Quamar clearly does not view her family as either tools or burdens. She feels she is part of the family and they are part of her. Everyone is in the struggle together, even if some suffer more than others. Quamar knows she is needed and she worries about her parents and her siblings. She works to make sure they eat.

The Arizona boy, on the other hand, probably couldn't care less about anyone else. Perhaps his dad was general okay and useful, but the day that the boy shot him (and the boarder), dad must have gotten in his way - perhaps refusing to let him trick-or-treat (as some have suggested was the motive for the shooting) - and that was unacceptable to the son. Maybe if the boy hadn't played so many violent video games and been taught to shoot prairie dogs for fun, the idea of gunning down irritating adults might not have crossed his mind; but, unfortunately, the child did have the concept of killing implanted in his head and he acted out this violent ideation.

So my advice to parents is this: Don't give your kids weapons and unlimited violent video time if you haven't worked hard to make your child one who feels responsible for the health and welfare of others. Otherwise, they just might put their gun skills to good use . . . on you.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Tonight at 9:00 EST, don't miss two WCI contributors on E! THS Investigates. Our Prosecutor-for-Hire Kelly Siegler and our Violence Expert Susan Murphy-Milano were both interviewed for the show. "Husbands Who Kill" explores cases of seemingly loving husbands driven to murder their wives. One was in fact a loving husband. Problem was, his wife loved another man. That case ended in murder-suicide.

As most of our readers know, Susan's father (the decorated Chicago Violent Crimes Detective who caught the "Chicago Rippers") shot her mother to death before turning his gun on himself. Susan, then 29, found her parents' bodies. Ever since that day, she has dedicated herself to saving the lives of endangered women in domestic violence situations. She is also an author.

Susan will be providing commentary throughout the hour on tonight's program, which focuses on four women slain by their husbands. The three men who only appeared to be loving husbands had been living lies. Two had misled family and friends into believing they were pursuing advanced degrees, one in medicine, the other an MBA from Harvard. The truth was that neither had graduated from college and both were running out of money and lies. One of the wives discovered the truth, but did not live to tell. The other man gave his "ailing" wife Gatorade spiked with antifreeze and went on to become a popular radio host. (WCI's Broadcaster Michele McPhee wrote about that case and others in "Why Are Smart Women Carried Away by Fakes?")

The third husband living a lie was David Temple, a Texas football star turned high-school coach. Temple ended up being prosecuted by Kelly Siegler for firing a shotgun into the back of his wife's head. Belinda Temple was eight months pregnant with their second child. (Siegler, right, grills Temple during the trial)

Two of tonight's cases involve husbands convicted of taking the lives of their wives and unborn children. Lately, any story about a pregnant wife murdered by her husband immediately draws a Laci Peterson comparison. The Temple case predated Laci's by a few years, but there are notable similarities. The tale is complete with an Amber Frey look-alike—a mistress with one key character difference: Scott Peterson's lover did not know she was dating a married man until he became a suspect in his wife's disappearance. When Frey realized that Peterson had been motivated to do away with his wife so he could be with Amber, she helped authorities bring him to justice. David Temple's love interest, Heather Scott, a teacher at the school where David coached, knew her lover was someone's husband and father. After David murdered his wife, Heather (above) married him and testified on his behalf.

Once the cold-case made it to trial, the courtroom heated up as Kelly Siegler clashed with renowned criminal defense attorney Dick DeGuerin, making the media's prediction of "fireworks" between the legal giants the only easily predictable aspect of the explosive trial.

DeGuerin maintains his client's innocence, pointing out that Temple was filmed by Home Depot surveillance cameras around the time of the murder. DeGuerin (pictured right of Temple upon conviction) accused Siegler of being so effective at her job that she'd done what defense attorney Richard "Racehorse" Haynes once said was inevitable: "She's convicted an innocent man."

The victim's family saw things differently. When Temple was finally convicted nearly nine years after the murder, Belinda's brother said he'd suspected David's involvement within ten minutes of learning of her death. Following sentencing, her father said, "People have told us, 'Get over it.' You can't get over your baby—especially in these types of circumstances. . . . Put a shotgun to my baby's head and blow her brains out. It just wasn't right. And I'm so glad justice has prevailed."

In tonight's program, Kelly's case is just one of several stories on husbands who kill. For a full hour on the Temple case, watch 48 Hours on December 6 for the show produced by WCI's Jenna Jackson. Next year, expect a book on the case from Kathryn Casey, who's working on Shattered: The David Temple Story.

For tonight, watch Susan and Kelly for what the producer of "Husbands Who Kill" promises to be a provocative hour of television. Click here to watch the trailer for this special THS Investigates: An in-depth examination of criminal behavior.

Friday, November 14
9:00 p.m. EST
E! Entertainment Television Network
THS Investigates
"Husbands Who Kill"