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.


Anonymous said...

On the Madeleine Mccann
disappearance I dont think she is still alive.I do however think that the parents did not harm her, but are ultimately responsible because they left three young children alone.It has been stated
that Madeleine had woken up the night before and had asked her mum where were you, but as with some parents that didnt stop them doing exactly the same thing the next evening shame on them

Vanessa Leggett said...

I agree with anonymous. I am convinced Madeleine is dead and I stand by my theory of what happened to her that night:

Stacy, you commented on my post and basically agreed, but you noted:

"However, had the McCanns had any remorse, one would've taken the fall while the other claimed innocence to stay and raise the other children."

I disagree. If my theory is correct, they were equally culpable, and it would have been impossible for one parent to take the fall in that scenario.

Even if it were possible, and one parent was imprisoned and the other remained to care for the surviving children, the medical practice of the free parent would be ruined.

Based on the facts that are public, I believe the McCanns know where Madeleine is buried but they will never tell.

Thought-provoking post, Stacy. Look forward to reading Part 2 on Monday.

Philly said...

It's unimaginable that these people have not been prosecuted for their crimes. Does it mean that they are extremely clever or that the police are inept? Either way, it's a crying shame.
Looking forward to you rnext post.

Rose C said...

Madeline McCann... poor sweet baby, and I think that her parents will always be somewhat responsible for leaving her and her siblings. I truly don't know what happened to her, and pray that her body, alive or dead, is located.

Stacy Peterson, Oh Drew totally did it. She is probably hidden well, as he knows what to do with a body with his extensive experience in law enforcement.

Calee Anthony, The mom is so guilty, either she did it or she knows who did and is protecting that person. She should be ashamed of herself.

I'm looking forward to your next blog entry on 11/24.

A Voice of Sanity said...

Ref: Madeline McCann.

Your American commentators are judging this case based on the US environment. It is vastly more dangerous for children (and adults) in the USA than in Great Britain, and what the McCanns did would not be regarded as dangerous there. They may have felt as safe in Portugal as in the UK and, had the police there been more effective, would have been. However there should be no smug sense of self satisfaction in the USA as your police forces may be more experienced with violent crime but are hardly any more competent and are often less so and too often more corrupt.

As for Drew Peterson, while he 'smells' bad, the switch in the coroner's opinion on the death of his third wife says more about the coroner than about Peterson or any potential guilt.

Levi said...

Vanessa, interesting theory on the McCann case. Have you ever read "And Justice For Some" By Wendy Murohy? She touches on the cross finger pointing defense in her book.

Great post Stacy.

I don't think there is any doubt that little Madeleine is dead. There was large quantities of her hair and bodily fluid found in a car her parents rented 25 DAYS AFTER she went missing.

A Voice of Sanity said...

Levi said... "....."

Please quote correct facts:

"Documents made public from the exhaustive inquiry have already revealed that detectives claimed the young girl’s DNA had been found in her parents’ hire car, despite a British scientist’s warning days earlier that tests were inconclusive. A family friend accused Portuguese officers of trying to extract a confession from Madeleine’s father, Gerry McCann, by lying about the results of forensic analysis".

" 'All completely false,' a senior source close to the investigation told The Observer yesterday, saying that no blood at all had been found in the car and that a DNA sample taken from its interior, though still a likely match for Madeleine, could have come from just about any item with which the McCanns' daughter had come into contact in the days before she vanished".

Levi said...

The Observer was reporting from an anonymous source, and a FRIEND of the family.

I'll go by what the police make public.

Levi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Voice of Sanity said...

Levi said: "I'll go by what the police make public".

If the body had been transported in any vehicle that long after death you'd have to burn the car to get rid of the stench. The fact that the police now admit that the parents are no longer suspects reinforces the view that this was a last, desperate police lie to try to get the parents to confess and, as they are innocent, it failed miserably.

I hope and believe that she was abducted by a woman who wanted a cute little girl. One day she may be found alive - it has happened before.

Levi said...

It doesn't have to be the body that they were transporting in the car, they could have been driving somewhere to get rid of incriminating evidence.

Levi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Voice of Sanity said...

Levi said:"<...>"

Ah, yes, the old, "Someone might have done something for some reason so that's enough" argument.

Who was carrying what? Why was it evidence? Why wasn't it found before? Where was it taken? Why?

It's the sort of nonsense that convinces too many Americans but makes them look like superstitious, prehistoric villagers - good enough to burn witches to death but haven't we been there before? It isn't evidence.

FleaStiff said...

The Portugese initially treated the case as more a missing child than an abducted one. Later police efforts in a resort area seem to often be affected by what is good for tourism rather than what the evidence or common sense leads to.
Even the forensic inquiries seemed guided by a desire of the Portugese police to save face rather than solve a homicide.
Its an usualy grouping of cases, but I don't think this one case belongs with any of the others. Even those who look askance at some parenting practices should probably realize that a luxury resort in Portugal is not viewed as the site of any threats that would be perceived more readily in the UK's urban areas.

Stacy Dittrich said...

Vanessa, you're right, I believe 99% in the parents guilt, but am holding off on the 1% for debate!
LIke I stated, I wouldn't be shocked in either outcome as opposed to Caylee Anthony-if she were found alive I would fall over in shock...

You pose an excellent point. Countries such as the UK and Portugal historically have low crime rates and to leave the children alone, such as the McCanns did, is not unheard of. However, it's my opinion no matter what the crime rate is the possibility of other risks to the children are high. Examples, a fire, a medical emergency, access to the medicine cabinet, accidental injury are just a few things that could happen when a small child is left unattended. As doctors, one would think they would have enough common sense to understand this which is probably why they were looked at as suspects in the first place.

Whether or not they are the true suspects doesn't dismiss the fact that they exercised extremely poor judgement by leaving the children alone...

Anonymous said...

Excellent post!

A Voice of Sanity said...

The chance of any involvement of the parents is negligibly small. Unless they posited some accident, a holiday in Portugal is extraordinarily unlikely as a setting for any such crime.

As for safety, while living in the UK / Ireland I was often surprised with the general level of trust. I noticed many teens hitch hiking in Ireland - I picked up one girl myself. I asked her if it was safe to do and she was quite surprised at the question and assured me it was. It was not uncommon until recently for woman to leave babies in pushchairs outside a store while shopping inside. It is a different culture and must be judged on that basis.

Unfortunately it is all too common in the USA for people to suspect the nearest person, with nothing to support this suspicion, unless there is strong evidence against another person - and sometimes even that is not enough to prevent finger pointing.

Anonymous said...

I find this blog "rather" late [euphemism for nearly 3 years...], but would like to add/ask, if anyone of you has been following this case in the past years? The Casey Anthony Case had its course, may it be one that no-one was expecting and the McCanns are still running free, giving interviews wherever you look, publishing a book, making millions and drumming their mantras into the tabloid readers' minds: we felt so safe, the doors were open [sic!], she's still alive, there are many cases of abducted children found years later [and then drum up the same 3 every time OMG], those DOGS are COMPLETELY unreliable ... ALL of this to stop people from asking : where is the bl••dy evidence of an abductor ???? No jemmied shutters, no open window and a max. 3 minutes "window of opportunity"! A high-risk-operation, as father Gerry McCann once formulated it. My foot! IMO the poor child IS dead, they know what happened and as such their "Fund", which is NOT a charity, but a private company is a FRAUD.

Rant over :-)