Saturday, April 30, 2011

How A True Crime Writer Protects Herself From Scammers

by Cathy Scott

Wanna-be scammers sometimes jump out of the shadows to steal authors’ identities to pull off their dirty deeds. Case in point was my own recent encounter with a man who said he was developing the definitive biopic about Tupac Shakur.

That’s been done. Over and over. But no one’s quite hit the mark yet. So, I talked to Mr. Scam, who said he was a producer. The first red flag was his request that I do interviews for his documentary.

I’m used to being at the flip side of a reporter’s notebook, taking down interview notes and quotes. I’m also used to being on the lens side of the camera as the interviewee, especially when it comes to the Tupac story, because of my book, The Killing of Tupac Shakur, about the murder.

 What I’m not used to is being asked to do a producer’s work. They land the interviews, hire the video crew, nail down a studio and on-site locations for the interviews, and typically get on-air talent to conduct the interviews.

But scammer was eager. He didn’t stop calling. Or e-mailing. He wanted to get me immediately signed to a contract–for what, it wasn’t made clear. What did become clear was his burning desire to use my name as part of his project.

How to Spot a Scammer

Unlike other producers who have contacted me over the years, this one didn’t offer his background or even the name of his company. I learned that myself through a simple Internet search. A tap of the Google “send” button turned up a disturbing recent past. He’d been arrested and charged in a multi-million-dollar Ponzi scheme (think Madoff) bilking people and companies out of millions for investments in projects and land deals as illusory as the fabled swampland in Florida.

My scammer’s new con was the promise of a documentary that would never be made using an author’s name to lend it credibility. The author being offered the starring role in that scam was me. In the meantime, my personal predator had already been living large on the backs of others running an old-fashioned con.

FBI to Author: 'He’s Desperate – Give Him Wide Berth'

An FBI special agent, when reached about the case, said the poser was desperate. He’d lost his house and had run out of cash. He was fund-raising his own support. The fed’s advice? “Stay away. And don’t get him angry. You don’t want to be in a confrontation with this guy.”

As business women, we all have to watch for red lights, green lights, and red flags. Not everybody is good at recognizing them. I’m a skeptic at heart. I’ve been in the business of crime news too long not to be. And it’s not just little fish that get fried. Even the big kids occasionally get scammed. Witness the recent porn site ad scam that AT&T and Verizon fell for.

Here’s how to protect yourself from scammers. Recognize the red flag, do your research, and consult with law enforcement.

For Mr. Producer, I have some very public advice: Quit e-mailing, quit texting, quit calling. I know who you are and what you’re trying to pull. Don’t use my name to plan your crime.

(Reprinted with permission from ForbesWoman).

Friday, April 29, 2011

Is Justice Ever Possible for Dyke and Karen Rhoads?

by Diane Fanning

"I'm told I'm naive to expect prosecutors in an adversarial system of justice to seek truth rather than victory and go wherever the evidence leads them. Until now, this story seemed to underscore that naivete and serve as yet another frightening example of how the engine of the State, once in motion, can roll right over the innocent as well as the guilty."  –Eric Zorn, Chicago Tribune

I knew the basic outline of facts in the 1986 double murder of Dyke and Karen Rhoads. I knew that two innocent men, Herb Whitlock and Randy Steidl, were convicted of that crime. Herb received a life sentence, Randy the death penalty.

I knew there were problems with the investigation. I had no idea of the extent of the problems. If it weren't for Bill Clutter, investigator with the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project, maybe none of us would have ever known.

Clutter traced the unethical behavior of law enforcement back to the original investigators in Paris, Illinois. They rounded up two witnesses: the town drunk and a known drug addict. They plied the two with booze and fed them the story of Herb and Randy's responsibility. It didn't matter that they contradicted each other in places. It didn't matter that other, more reliable witnesses possessed information that made their stories lies–the investigators simply ignored that information.

The unethical–in fact, criminal–behavior of these officers was complicated by the less than honest prosecution team. Ed Parkinson and David Rands hid exculpatory evidence from the defense. The two state's attorneys were familiar to me; they also played a major role in the perversion of justice that resulted in the wrongful conviction of Julie Rea.

After years behind bars, the injustice perpetrated on Herb Whitlock and Randy Steidl was finally receiving the attention it deserved, thanks to Clutter's relentless investigation. The Center for Wrongful Convictions rallied to their cause, and 48 Hours began producing a show about the case.

That's when Michale Callahan entered the picture. Callahan, a lieutenant with the Illinois State Police, was newly promoted to investigations commander over a nine-county area in Eastern Illinois. His first assignment: Take a fresh look at the murder of Dyke and Karen Rhoads.

When he started on the case in 2000, Callahan assumed that he was expected to uncover the truth.  He believed that if he found merit in anything uncovered in his investigation, it would lead to a re-opening of the case.  Soon, he learned that the truth was the last thing the state wanted to find.

At first, he thought he must be mistaken about his suspicions.  He had always believed the Illinois State Police where he'd served for decades was an honorable institution–above politics and dedicated to justice.  That idealism was soon dashed when he stood in the office of his superior officer.  She told him that he could not re-open the case.  It was "too politically sensitive."

Callahan was not a political puppet.  He was a man of principle.  He could not accept the fact that any murder was "too politically sensitive."  Although he'd been ordered to stop investigation of the case, he continued to work with federal law enforcement in any way he could.  He'd discovered a fetid stream of corruption running through the state government and its agencies, iincluding the Illinois State Police. He could not ignore that.

Callahan's reward for pursing truth and justice?  His payment for uncovering institutional corruption?  He was removed from the investigations and stuck in a desk job in the patrol  division.  They insisted it was a lateral move for the betterment of the department, but Callahan knew better.

Michale Callahan's book, Too Politically Sensitive, is the story of the corrupt culture in the highest reaches of Illinois government, the pursuit for justice for the Rhoads and the cover-up order by the highest ranks in the administration of the Illinois State Police.

It is a warning to all of us.  Illinois is only the canary in the coal mine.  There is corruption in every state that needs to be ferreted out before it takes complete control of our system of justice as it has in the Land of Lincoln.

Yes, Herb Whitlock and Randy Steidl have been vindicated and released from prison after approximately two decades behind bars.  What about the two victims, Dyke and Karen Rhoads?  Will they ever find justice?   Even if new dedicated, ethical detectives took over the case at this point, the original investigation has been so compromised, it would probably be impossible to identify and convict the real killers.

Instead, those who committed the cold-blooded, vicious murders of Dyke and Karen Rhoads still walk among us–smug in knowing they got away with murder, confident in the protection they continue to receive from a corrupt state agency and the excessively unethical prosecutors who orchestrated this travesty of justice.  And no one has been punished for perpetrating this deliberate miscarriage–no one but the one man who blew the whistle.

When the Casey Anthony trial begins, currently scheduled for May, you'll find daily updates of the case on Diane Fanning's blog, Writing is a Crime.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Stigmatizing Mental Illness Ought to be a Crime

Catherine Zeta Jones was outed by the National Enquirer for having sought treatment for bipolar disorder. Her response was swift, sure, and inspiring: “There is no need to suffer silently and there is no shame in seeking help.” She acknowledged that she had bipolar disorder stating, “This is a disorder that affects millions of people and I am one of them. ... If my revelation of having bipolar II has encouraged one person to seek help, then it is worth it.”

The stigmatization of the disease was responsible for the salacious interest and inquiry. The gracious and courageous response will serve to help remove the stigma for so many, including me--and maybe Charlie Sheen.

I found out I had bipolar disorder, a progressive disease that is both my greatest strength and my greatest weakness, when I was in my 20s. I had extra energy, didn’t need much sleep, and I thought I could charm and disarm judges, opposing counsel and juries. I could think on my feet at lightning speed. I had one speed: Go. I was omnipotent, winning, and death was not an option. I became anorexic, spent too much money, thought way too fast, made reckless decisions and had deep depressions. My life was a manic roller coaster. Sometimes it was great fun and was exhilarating. Often it was anything but.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is known as the genius disease (many of us like to think). Mark Twain had it, as did Ludwig Von Beethoven, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Teddy Roosevelt and Vincent Van Gogh. So does Ted Turner, Jane Pauley, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and, I suspect, Charlie Sheen.

It is a disease that is characterized by shifts in mood, thinking and behavior--mania on one pole and depression on the other. One in 45 people have it, which is more than six million people. And, 20 percent of the people who have it commit suicide. But once it is diagnosed, patients can go on to live normal, fulfilling lives if they manage their medication as prescribed. 

I was fortunate to get the help needed and have had a wonderful career and life, other than one notable exception: Like Catherine Zeta-Jones, I too was outed by the press. 

I had a life-changing manic episode after being involved in a car accident last year that caused $34,000 worth of damage to my vehicle. My assistant and best friend had just died from cancer. All the witnesses said I was one-hundred percent okay before my accident and one hundred-percent not okay after. Although I wasn't charged initially, the Seattle media went after my records and printed and broadcasted one story after another. I tried to get the media blocked from getting my records because of privacy issues relating to my bipolar disorder. No one knew except me.

I didn't want my records released because of the stigma of having the disease and because of crazy things I said and did while under the influence of a full-blown manic episode. The person in the police report was a person I didn't know. The local media hired big-gun lawyers and fought me every step of the way in my case. They were like piranhas. I felt enormous shame that I had failed to properly manage my medications, inviting my mania to revisit me. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. In the aftermath, nearly one year later, it has brutalized me.

I released my records voluntarily during the court battle and disclosed I was bipolar. I was, for all intent and purpose, outed. The stigma and lack of understanding of the disease is why I fought for my privacy and resisted disclosure of my records. I ultimately had to reveal what I never, ever wanted to do. And with that came a barrage of anonymous, undocumented comments and blogs on the Internet. They have had a field day.

I have much in common with Charlie Sheen. He is being brutalized too. I wish the media could recognize mental illness and addiction issues for what they are and not showcase Charlie as the Wild Man From Borneo. He is sick. I disagree with the portrayal of Charlie in Newsweek's March 21 article titled "Charlie Sheen Is Winning." He isn't winning. He isn't a role model or someone to emulate, despite the ever-shifting mores of our instant pop culture. He is, simply, a manic depressive like me and like Catherine. He has exhibited the best and the worst of the disease. It can be fun. It can make you crazy. And it can kill you. Anyone with bipolar disorder knows that I am right.

What about Charlie? He needs help. There are a lot of us manic depressives out there who would be happy to help him. As my psychiatrist brother said when I asked him if I would lose clients if I went public with my disease, "yes, but your new ones will be far more interesting." Until Charlie Sheen gets the help he needs, nobody is winning.

We are here. And we are pretty interesting. Yet in some ways, his touring, tweeting and interviewing has eased the stigma as well, although in a far different way than Catherine Zeta-Jones’ statements and actions could. He has shown the fun, zany, contagious part of the disease. He has shown it's appealing fun madness. And we can't get enough of it.

Three stories. Three Manics. The stigma remains but may well change in our lifetimes. Catherine Zeta-Jones' grace and humility, Charlie's controversial Torpedo of Truth/Death is not an Option tour, and the local girl-gone-bad who only sees good ahead. We all work through this crazy disease in our own ways. We are all human. We are all one of you. 

For my part, I am going to do everything in my power to help reduce the stigma. I am not from Hollywood; I am just from little old Olympia, Washington. But in this arena, I hope I can help to make a difference too. Stigmatizing mental illness ought to be a crime.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

New High-Profile Contributors Join WCI

by Women in Crime Ink
We’re sure our readers have noticed over the last couple of months that our posts have been three days a week instead of five. Trust us,; we were just as bummed as you were, but the spring book and deadline season has been upon us and we've all been swamped. The good news is that beginning in May, we're going back to our five-day-a-week posts. We're also extremely excited to announce that three new contributors have joined our ranks. Not just any regular bloggers, these powerhouse women should be familiar to you. Each one has appeared on many television networks and in print for their areas of expertise, including; ABC, NBC, CBS, "The Today Show," "Tyra," CNN, HLN, and Fox as well as The New York Times and People magazine, to name a few. Here they are:

Dr. Michelle Golland
Dr. Michelle Golland (pictured right) is in private practice as a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, California, with a focus on issues relating to couples and individuals. She is also an expert in multi-cultural and community psychology issues. Dr. Golland is a national media psychologist and has appeared on CNN's "Larry King Live," "Campbell Brown" and "The O’Reilly Factor" on FOX News.

The media turns to Dr. Golland when they need an expert's opinion on the psychological issues related to anything in popular media. She is an expert and contributing writer on, a popular website for mothers. Dr. Golland earned her doctorate with honors in clinical psychology in 1998 from the California School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles. She received her undergraduate degree from USC in 1993. Whether it's couples wanting a deeper connection, struggling with communication or issues of domestic violence, she has the insight, compassion and tenacity to help those in need.

Michelle views any challenge in our lives as a chance to expand our understanding of others and ourselves. The pain we experience today will only help us in the future if we listen to what that pain is trying to tell us. We must be willing to rise to life’s challenges and reach out to those who are willing to help us when we need personal clarity. We must ask ourselves what we are turning towards and what we are turning away from in our lives if we are to gain insight.The universe will keep sending us the messages of what we need to do and change in our lives but many of us are not willing to listen or simply don’t know how to listen.

Dr. Golland assists her clients in slowing down and listening to what the world is trying to tell us about our life and ourselves. She believes the key to personal growth and understanding comes from the ability to be vulnerable with ourselves and those closest to us. It is only through the opening of our heart and soul that we can truly heal our emotional pain and discover our amazing personal potential. Dr. Golland is currently working on two books. The first is her view on relationships titled The Marriage Matrix. Her second book is a memoir, The Glistening Web: A True Story of Living, Dying and Being.

Michelle Sigona
Michelle Sigona (pictured left) is a true-crime fighter extraordinaire. Over her career, Michelle has covered hundreds of breaking and historical news stories such as the tragedies of September 11, the anthrax attacks on our nation, the D.C. sniper murders, high-profile prison escapes, national missing children and adult cases from Stacy Peterson and Caylee Anthony, and the international search to find missing toddler Madeleine McCann. Michelle is not only an advocate for victims, but she works hard day and night to help keep America’s communities safe. Experts agree that Michelle is a trusted source for a variety of safety-related topics, including identity theft, Internet safety, child safety and domestic violence issues.

Crime is not the only thing Michelle battles. For more than a decade, Michelle has served her community as a volunteer firefighter—fighting fires and cutting people out of vehicles after serious accidents. She has also devoted many hours to keeping children drug-free as a guest speaker for her community's D.A.R.E. program, along with serving as a keynote and master of ceremonies for many high profile companies and non-profit organizations.

Michelle understands that devotion is the key to success, as she worked seven days a week, and often around the clock to achieve her dreams. Her journey began in 1999 as an intern for the prime-time network TV show, “America’s Most Wanted.” From the moment she stepped in the door, Michelle knew that one day she would be a national on-air correspondent making a difference in the lives of victims. After her internship, things really started gearing up.

She was not only offered a full-time position with AMW, but also a second position in the same building with the local FOX 5 WTTG affiliate in Washington, D.C. Michelle couldn’t turn down one or the other, so she did both, along with attending college courses full time, living in her sorority house, and volunteering any extra overnight hours at her fire department. As Michelle worked feverishly through both jobs at AMW and WTTG—on very little sleep—she made it her goal to learn every position in both news departments to include the assignment desk, field producing, writing for shows, segment producing, and traveling the country to work with victims of crime.

Michelle’s hard work and dedication paid off, landing an on-air reporting position in Baltimore, Maryland. It wasn’t long before Michelle was on the air in Washington, D.C. as the daily traffic-breaking news reporter for the morning show from the sky in a helicopter. She also completed many fire training courses through the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute. In March 2006, Michelle met one of her life-long goals of becoming a national on-air correspondent for "America’s Most Wanted," where she worked in front of the camera to help cases for many years.I t was her responsibility to work hand-in-hand with investigators across the globe to increase captures. Michelle's dedication to this role helped to propel the AMW hotline to new levels.

You can often see Michelle reporting live on national programs, including NBC TODAY show, NBC Nightly News, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, and "Inside Edition." Tune in as she takes you inside the cases in which she is personally involved with. Crime fighting is what she loves to do, and making a true difference in the lives of victims is a priority.

Holly Hughes

For the past decade, Holly Hughes (pictured right) has served as a senior assistant district attorney with the Fulton County District Attorney’s office in Atlanta, GA where she prosecuted some of the most high-profile cases in the United States, including working on the murder case against Ray Lewis, superstar with the Baltimore Ravens.

Holly was a triple threat prosecuting homicides, hate crimes and high-profile felony cases. Prior to making a name for herself as a tough big-city prosecutor, she also worked as an attorney specializing in discrimination and civil rights. Ms. Hughes has hosted the highly popular “Nancy Grace Show” on CNN Headline News Channel and continues to appear as a frequent guest on the program. She has also appeared on Court TV as a frequent commentator and legal analyst since 2003. Additionally, she appears regularly on Tru TV’s "In Session," HLN Prime News, as well as "The Levi Page Radio," "The Cop Doc Radio Show" and "The Susan Murphy Milano Show" as an expert in criminal law. With more than a hundred media appearances,

Holly has been qualified as an expert in high-profile litigation and criminal procedure with the Cold Case Research Institute of Georgia. She is also a frequent guest lecturer at local colleges and law schools. She has been honored in Madison Avenue’s Who’s Who of Young Professionals. After ten years with the DA’s Office, she is now in private practice in Atlanta, handling criminal defense and civil matters.

Please join us in welcoming these amazing women to Women in Crime Ink! Also starting in May, Women in Crime Ink is featuring its authors and their books, as well as lining up some exciting guest contributors.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Holly Bobo Case: Serial Killer, Bad Boyfriend, or Staged Abduction?

by Pat Brown

Another story of a beautiful, missing woman has taken over the media. Twenty-year-old nursing student, Holly Bobo, disappeared on April 13 from Parsons, Tennessee, and she has not been found.

With so much misinformation, changing stories, rumors, and peculiar behavior on the part of the family and law enforcement, the only thing we really know is that something horrible happened to Holly Bobo. Now, I know a few people believe that Holly ran away or that the family is hiding her and trying to collect money, and some people even think that this is a ruse to further the career of country music singer, Whitney Duncan. None of this I believe to be true, especially the last one. Duncan, who has some lovely songs that have made the charts, is doing fine enough on her own, she will thank you very much, and she doesn't need some horrifying charade like this to get her notice.

The chance of Holly being found alive is slim to none. But the looming question is did one of her boyfriends take her away? Is there a serial killer loose in the area? Or, did a family member do something to Holly, perhaps in a rage over some particular issue, real or imagined? I have worked a couple of Cain-and-Abel cases in which one child became jealous of the other and murdered them to get rid of the competition and gain the parents' attention. It usually works, because parents tend to hang on to the one remaining child left and fight to save him.

So, what happened to Holly? Here are a few known facts.

Fact One: Holly Bobo has not been seen in over a week.
Fact Two: Holly's brother, Clint, claims to be the last one who saw Holly in the company of a man that looked like her boyfriend.
Fact Three: Holly's white lunchbox was found in a creek eight miles from her home.

This is all we know. Everything else we can only wonder about. Many think we know more, but we don't because we are either taking the family's word on it or the convoluted and changing stories from law enforcement or the media. Because of all this confusion, there are four credible theories as to what happened to Holly:

Theory One: A serial killer or stalker abducted Holly
Theory Two: One of her boyfriends (present or ex) abducted Holly.
Theory Three: Holly's brother, Clint, did something to Holly and the family has no idea.
Theory Four: A family member did something to Holly, most likely Clint, and they are all covering it up.

Now, in saying this, I can guess there are those who will become immediately angry that I would even suggest Theory Three and Four. But as a criminal profiler, I cannot eliminate these possibilities unless they can be proven to not possibly be true. Sad as it is to ever question a family's involvement - especially when you understand the pain they must be in - the family is statistically the most likely to be responsible for a member's homicide and they must be looked at first and foremost unless they can be clearly eliminated by the evidence.

As it stands now with the Bobo family, they were the last to see Holly. Actually, the father never stated when he last saw Holly and the mother never stated when she last saw Holly. Only the brother has claimed to have seen his sister on the morning of her disappearance, and it has been stated he called 911 to report her missing. We have no information as to when Holly was last heard from, although there is a claim there was some activity on the phone after she went missing (whether it was a ping or a text, we do not know).

We cannot know at this time if Holly was alive the morning the 911 call from Clint was made. We have heard of a woman, supposedly a neighbor, who reportedly called 911 after hearing a female scream. We have yet to get clarity on the veracity of that call or when it was actually made, although the sheriff sort of stated it was around the time Clint saw Holly with the guy he thought was a boyfriend (but Clint didn't hear his sister scream). The police have not released either the 911 call from Clint Bobo nor this supposed 911 call from the neighbor. Why?

Next, we have some mighty strange stories about Clint Bobo's 911 call. When the story first broke, we heard it was a home invasion. We heard of a man in camouflage who dragged Holly off into the woods. Then we heard that Holly was never dragged off but that what Clint actually saw through a window was a man walking off with Holly into the woods. He thought - because their backs were to him - Holly was with her boyfriend, that he didn't think anything was wrong until he came out some forty minutes later to find her car still there and blood spatter in the area. It is theorized that media got it wrong but it is also stated by law enforcement that they originally believed she was dragged. How can the story change? In the 911 call, did Clint say Holly was dragged but changed his story later when no drag marks were found or did law enforcement misinterpret his phone call or did the media get it wrong? Why isn't Clint Bobo's 911 call being released?

For that matter, why isn't a decent description of the alleged abductor being released? Bobo supposedly claims (we have never heard from him because he has not been spoken to the media or appeared in front of any cameras) that the abductor was 5-foot-10 to 6-feet tall and about 200 pounds. Is that the same height and weight for the boyfriend he is said to have thought was with Holly? I have seen some photos of the boyfriend, and he doesn't look anywhere near 200 pounds. How about hair color? Did he have on a hat? Is he the same build as the brother, whose photo doesn't seem to be anywhere around? Why, if the police believe Clint Bobo's story, have they not released clear information about the suspect?

The police have stated that no one has been eliminated as a suspect. At the same time, they actually stated that Holly was led away into the woods "in fear of her life." What kind of cock-and-bull statement is that from law enforcement? If they did not see Holly being led away on camera and if all Clint said was he saw Holly walking off with a man in such a fashion that he didn't notice her in any distress, how do the police make such a ridiculous claim? And, in making that statement, they are indeed saying that the family has been eliminated. They also have stated that Holly may have been spirited out of the area but she is still in the state! How would they know this unless they know exactly who took her and where that person is? Why are they still searching through the bushes then? Why is law enforcement so inconsistent? Are they purposely giving misinformation or are they simply not very competent? I am not too happy with either conclusion. Even the family spokesperson, Kevin Bromley, appeared on Nancy Grace, stumbled over his words, hemmed and hawed, and was very evasive about the details of what happened at the Bobo home and whether Clint Bobo had taken a polygraph. This does not inspire confidence in the family's noninvolvement.

The community has put their heart out for this family and the search for Holly. They have responded in a way I wish every community would respond. They have given wholeheartedly and without reservation, given their time and money and physical and emotional efforts scouring the dense woods for this missing woman. I would hate to think they have been played by either the family or the police. They have the right to know the truth, as much as is known, at this time.

What needs to be done:
  • The family and the boyfriends need to take polygraphs.
  • The family and boyfriends need to be alibied.
  • The family, including the brother, need to step forward and clearly state where everyone was after the last time Holly was seen or heard of from a non-family member (by voice, not text).
  • The brother needs to give a clear public description of what he saw at the home, when he saw it, and what he did.
  • The 911 calls need to be released to the public.
  • A description of the supposed blood spatter needs to be released by the police, including what it is (human or animal) and whose it is (known person's or persons, or stranger's, or known person's and stranger's).
  • The police need to clarify exactly what items of Holly's were found and where, and what items of Holly's are missing.
One final note that has really raised eyebrows. The media is reporting that the family is selling T-shirts for twelve dollars each and more than 2500 have been sold so far. The sales are going into The Holly Bobo Fund which is described as monies being saved to give Holly a vacation when she gets home, not a fund to help pay for searches or help victims of abduction and homicide. If this is true, it is one more issue that makes people uncomfortable with the Bobo family's behaviors. Not only is this inappropriate for the family of a victim to collect money that doesn't go toward the cause, but it makes me wonder if this is money being set aside for a defense fund.

If this is a true abduction, the police and the family should have no problem complying with the above list and, furthermore, it could only help, and not damage, the investigation. If the incomplete and erroneous information continues to be all that is offered to the public, no one can blame folks out there for questioning whether the family had something to do with Holly Bobo going missing. At some point, they may simply stop looking for her. That they haven't given up is a testament to good neighbors and a strong community. God bless them all.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Domestic Violence - Am I Crazy?

by Katherine Scardino
Domestic violence is not funny. It is not macho. Domestic violence against a partner can be so confusing and hurtful that you, on the receiving end, may think you are crazy. You may think you are at fault for the unexplained and abnormal actions of your spouse or partner. I am not saying it is always male against female, because it does run both ways. But in most cases, it is the male abuser against the female victim. Why does an individual who otherwise may be successful, seemingly normal to other people, and even loving at times, suddenly become physically or verbally abusive?

Abusive behavior is not normal. People who have violent outbursts, either physically or verbally, have underlying problems that cause the abuse. Most abusers have personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, or sociopathy - technically called antisocial personality disorder. People who suffer from these disorders have extreme emotions which lead them to actions that can range from confusing and puzzling to brutal. Living with these people is painful, both emotionally and sometimes physically. Personality disorders are aptly named because the minds of people who suffer from these disorders work differently than those of healthy people.

Abusive partners have a difficult time living with the reality of their behavior. On some level, they may realize how hurtful they are, yet accepting this major flaw in themselves is just too painful for them. These people tend to make the object of their abuse believe they are the crazy one in order to make their own reality less painful. One common defense mechanism used by an abuser is projection, where their disorders are perceived in their partner. They believe they do not have a personality disorder - “you are the crazy one!” Another defense mechanism used by the abuser is blame shifting - “I am not at fault. It’s all your fault.”

Abuse is a behavior, not a disease. It is caused by an underlying disease. Abusive partners constantly work to distort their partner's perception of what is happening and what is right and wrong, until the receiving end of the abnormal relationship doubts his or her own judgment. This warped sense of what is normal and what is not is a direct result of the abuse.

There are many instances where a spouse or partner feels trapped in this abnormal relationship. That may be caused by loss of self-confidence as a result of the constant verbal or physical violence, or it could be a financial trap. For example, in many domestic violence cases where the partner finally calls for help, we learn that they married a wealthy individual who used financial security to maintain the relationship. It is amazing to healthy people to think of remaining in such a relationship for money, but for those who have suffered the feeling of helplessness due to being poor, it can be understandable. The abused spouse or partner may believe that he or she is not capable of making enough money to even support themselves, or cannot conceive of a situation where they could be on their own. 

Sometimes the abused partner feels so trapped that they remain in the relationship, and just take the abuse, saying it is not that bad. Or even more unrealistic - "I can make him change.” The recipient of the abuse will never be able to change the personality disorder of their partner. It cannot happen. The personality disorder is a disease over which they have absolutely no control, other than allowing the abusive spouse or partner to use them as the object of their unhealthy behavior.

The worst case scenario of this type of relationship is physical violence. Generally, it is the man who is violent with his wife or partner. The abused partner may be forced to discuss the abnormal relationship only after a visit to the Emergency Room and the resultant conversation with a police officer. For most of us, it is unbelievable to think about ever remaining in a situation where a partner hit us - even once.

But, we are not all that strong. In those situations, which are many, the abused individual becomes unhealthy in a different sense. They allow the abuser to convince them that they are crazy or at fault in some other manner. After all, other people, friends, co-workers, think they are lucky to have such a good partner. The abuser hides their problems well. They make serious efforts to convince other people that they are normal. So, the abused starts to think it’s their fault or that they can change the one they love, or that the situation itself will change on its own. It will not.

There have been many criminal cases involving the death of the abused partner. People actually do sometimes kill the object of their abnormal, violent behavior, either intentionally or accidentally in a rage. And, victims actually do sometimes kill their abusers when they finally get to the point of no return. The end result can be a funeral and a lifetime of issues about guilt.

Women have been in my office describing these relationships and making an effort to justify both parties abnormal behavior. I have always suggested counseling and leave the home - coupled with usually a divorce petition and a protective order. In some cases, the abused party will call my office and tell me that she is going to give the relationship one more try. Every case is different, of course, but it is my belief that this is a mistake. I hope that you, Ms. Reader, will take the steps to protect yourself - and now, not later.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cell Phones Are Not All Bad

by Robin Sax

Oprah, I’m sorry. Please don’t think I’m a bad person because of what I’m about to write here.

I have a confession to make. I love my phone, I love technology. and I love being connected, in touch, and up on the latest, even if it causes me stress or overloads my synapses or interferes with a meal here and there. Yep, I’m one of those. You know exactly the type, the ones who are seemingly always texting, tweeting, updating, emailing, and even sometimes talking. Basically, if it involves my phone, count me in.

There are many published articles that criticize cell phones for any number of reasons, with the majority focusing on the same theme that being connected is distracting, dangerous, and even lethal. Not coincidentally, lobbyists, concerned citizens and legislators have rallied around this issue. There is even a zero tolerance time in California, with the state declaring April Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and we all have heard Oprah’s truly wonderful campaign against texting while driving (I signed that pledge).

Let me be clear: I am not here to say that all of these cell phone campaigns are not worthy, but I am also here to embrace the cell phone by taking a moment to celebrate (or LOL) about the anniversary of probably the single-most used piece of technology, the cell phone. Thirty-eight years ago the first public cell phone call was made by a Motorola executive walking on the streets of Manhattan. We’ve come a long way, baby. 

Before I highlight the benefits of cell phones, I must clear up an essential misnomer. Cell phones are not phones. Cell phones are mini-computers, mini-cameras, mini-video recorders, GPS devices, and phones all rolled into one, and that’s the beauty of these devices. Yes, they help connect our worlds, but when it comes to crime, their benefits are even greater.

We know that criminals exploit technology and advance their behaviors as technology advances. Well, folks, cops can too. And it is these benefits that have saved lives, found people and provided essential evidence later on. 

Let’s take a look.

Emergency scenarios: It's not news that cell phones often record key elements and evidence in a life-threatening disaster as well provide a lifeline and assistance in an emergency scenario. Cell phones have played a role in emergency events, from 9-1-1 calls, to young people lost while hiking or rock climbing alone in the mountains.

Crime reportinting/memoralizing: Victims and witnesses who find themselves in a crime scene have been able to use those devices in many ways--instantly calling law enforcement, snapping photos, and utilizing data stored in phones (for example, registration and insurance).

Law enforcement is often able to see the last searches on a suspect’s cell phone, Internet browsers, and can even start to form a criminal profile based on the kinds of apps, games,and searches the suspect uses.

Drug crimes: Phone records, cell phone camera pictures of drugs found as well as “pay and owe lists” stored on a drug dealer’s cell phone provide a veritable treasure trove of information. And it's all kept in one place. Before cell phones, drug dealers usually kept this incriminating information on little slips of paper shoved in wallets.

Missing persons/kidnapping: With these crimes, time is of the essence. Cell phones can let authorities know where people are. The last calls made can determine who was called, where the person was going, and where a ping goes off on a cell phone tower that helps find the location of a victim.

Domestic violence: Secret cell phones allow victims to memorialize their abusers' crimes and eventually leave the abusers. Victims can get cell phones with disposable, non-traceable numbers.

Serial killers: They often like to memorialize their crimes on their cell phone camera leaving law enforcement with ready made evidence.

Sex crimes/child pornography: Cell phones are one of the best ways to corroborate child sexual assault. In addition to porn, phones store text messages and ping locations provide the corroboration that is necessary to prove a sex crimes case. Given that cell phones are used so often by just about everybody, it's nearly impossible for a perp not to lead to a mark in the phone that will lead to eventual corroboration. In addition, child pornographers as collectors often carry and store images with them, thus making it an immediate value a crime scene evidence right there in the phone itself. 

So, while I totally agree with the downsides and problems with the cell phone, please don’t blame the device. Happy anniversary, cell phone. It’s been great working with you. This is truly a relationship that can last, so long as we all do not text and drive.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Michael Jackson's Burial Mystery Revealed

Fewer places are more beautiful than Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California. It’s a park-like 300 acres of rolling hills, massive trees, majestic marble statuary and soothing water features. Hubert Eaton, a devout Christian, took over an existing graveyard in the early 1900s and designed it to mark a new and glorious beginning, rather than the end of something.

But this otherwise majestic place sits atop some dark secrets. I was able to glimpse a peek at the King of Pop’s eternal throne, and the reality is stranger than his Thriller video, sitting atop more than a dozen floors of secret subterranean burial sections housing the remains of ancient devil worshippers and Gypsies, sacrificial fonts and crypts decorated with pentagrams and a secreted area with shelves housing at least a thousand abandoned urns containing the ashes of souls no one claimed.

My behind-the-scenes tour of the cemetery was done by a man who had worked there for several years in a job that had him in the bowels of every single building, the entire breadth of the grounds, and he knew the place like the back of his hand.

“There’s Spencer Tracy’s plot -- and over here Errol Flynn’s,” says my guide, pointing to the appropriate places. After rounding a corner of one elaborate building, he motioned toward an out-of-the-way flower bed, pulled back a low hanging palm frond and said, “Hardly anyone has ever seen this.” He pointed to a plaque which read: Walter Elias Disney. Engraved underneath: “Ashes scattered in paradise.” Resting below, at the foot of a Little Mermaid statue, was a small stuffed Mickey Mouse.

Inside the mammoth Freedom Mausoleum, my guide points to a low marble bench and then up to the wall where a side-by-side crypt held the remains of Gracie Allen (1902-1964) and George Burns (1896-1996). He explains that every Tuesday for decades, Burns would sit on that bench and visit with his departed soulmate. The simple legend on their crypt reads: “Together Again.”  Nat King Cole’s crypt is above and to the right.

Downstairs in this particular building, down into more marble walls holding the remains of members of the Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers, Alan Ladd, Dorothy Dandridge, Clara Bow and many others, my chest tightens. It was like breathing in a heavy dose of musty mold--a rotting, suffocating odor that forces staffers to leave open opposing doors so the breeze can carry at least some of the smell away. This smell of death cropped up randomly, in various buildings, throughout our excursion.

The talk of workers on the property immediately after his death was of exactly where Michael Jackson would spend eternity. His final family memorial service was at Forest Lawn’s Great Mausoleum, inside the elaborate Memorial Court of Honor.  In that hall, Jackson’s casket was staged under a stunning stained glass rendition of Leonardo da Vinci’s "Last Supper" masterpiece which occupies an entire wall.

This location likely would have met with Michael’s approval. He once commissioned his own special Last Supper painting and for years it hung directly over his bed at Neverland Ranch. In Jackson’s version he occupies the center space where Jesus is usually seen and instead of the disciples there are some of Jackson’s heroes painted in, among them Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin, Elvis Presley and Little Richard.

Once the hoopla surrounding Jackson’s death was over, Jackson was permanently buried in the uber-expensive “Golden Key” section of Forest Lawn, in the Great Mausoleum, which is outlined with a prohibitively tall brick wall. Only family members in possession of a special key are allowed to enter this rarified space where the likes of Mary Pickford, Sammy Davis Jr. and Humphrey Bogart are interred. It’s a vast and lavish area of the cemetery surrounded with glittering marble statues and elaborate sarcophaguses.

Until his body was moved, sources tell me, Michael Jackson was stored in a crypt almost directly underneath the Last Supper masterpiece. To get to that spot, my guide showed me a wide marble staircase, roped off to keep the public out, but clearly visible as going down. The first sunken level is where it’s expected Jackson will be held.

Standing at the top of these stairs is like standing on the top floor of an apartment building and being able to see all the levels of staircases. It has an eerie feeling to it, and, according to multiple sources, this is the route to the secret underground catacombs.

Michael Jackson lay in repose over no fewer than 13 subterranean floors, each holding intriguing secrets, some which could date as far back to the late 1800s. As one cemetery insider told me, ”It’s sort of the opposite of the stairway to heaven.”

When asked to confirm these areas, a Forest Lawn spokesperson denied they exist. But my sources, including another former Forest Lawn maintenance man and a mutual acquaintance of both employees to whom they gave contemporaneous accounts over the years, gave descriptions that were rich with detail.

“There is a level where devil worshippers were once interred,” my guide told me. “It’s complete with devil statues, pentagrams and an area where worshippers conducted weird services.”

Continuing down there is another level said to be dedicated to some of Los Angeles’ original and very wealthy industrialists and their families. They rest down behind ancient hardcore steel gates off to each side of a long main corridor.  These are the departed rich who wanted to spend eternity away from the prying eyes of common citizens. Families with names like Williamson and Wilkinson and Miller. According to my sources, the Miller family, of Miller beer, has ancestors interred in these underground spaces.

Another subterranean area, according to the guide, was set aside as the final spot for wealthy gypsy families, the figurines on their crypts otherworldly, and as recently as the 1960s, my sources say, their families would stage elaborate get-togethers to honor their dead relatives. Many doors remain padlocked deep within this labyrinth but when two workers opened one they discovered a room lined with shelves holding crematory urns for military men, police officers, nurses and city workers who were cremated gratis and held all these years because there were no families to claim them.

Both men told me that when their duties required them to be in these underground spaces they often felt the eerie presence of some of the forgotten occupants.

“I’m not a supernatural, ghosty kind of guy,” the guide told me as we continued our tour, “but more  than once when I was down in those places I felt cold and clammy fingers brush against the back of my neck. I knew I was alone down there--but I wasn’t really alone, you know?” Sounds like a real life "Thriller" location--and one whose history would likely delight Michael Jackson.

Photos courtesy of Wikipedia Commons portal.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Blockbuster Surveillance Tape Shows Casey Anthony's Cool Calmness

A jury will now see surveillance videotape of Casey Anthony and her ex-boyfriend, Tony Lazzaro, as they rented movies at a video store shortly after Casey's toddler daughter Caylee went missing.

Viewing a screen shot of the tape of Casey and Tony, you see Casey's hand placed strategically on Tony's back side, which indicates a strong sexuality on Casey's part.

He leans into her, indicating sexuality as well. But Tony rarely looks directly at Casey, and their movements are a bit awkward when they're together, indicating that the only thing they have in common is sex.

According to police reports, the salesperson reported that Casey rented a film titled Untraceable, about a kidnapper and a killer, and a second movie called Jumper, about a mother who abandons her 5-year-old child. It's damning evidence, as the films reflect Casey's psyche and state of mind.  To even choose such films out of the thousands of movies available in the store validates the point that issues of kidnapping, abandonment and killing were in the forefront of Casey's mind.

No doubt,  in her sociopathicic mind, the films were soothing to Casey as she watched actors carry out what she most likely did in real life: kill, abandon, and try to pin her daughter's disappearance on a supposed--and nonexistent--kidnapper, Zanny the Nanny. When interviewed by police, the video store clerk said Casey showed no emotion or tears as she rented the films.

When you look at the images of Casey captured on the surveillance tape, it confirms what the clerk reported, that Casey appears to not have a care in the world. She shows no outward signals of anxiety, even though deep down she knows her daughter is missing and, worse, is dead.

As I see it, after viewing this video and screen shots, a jury cannot help but see Casey as cold, heartless and calculating. Knowing that your child is dead, yet Casey acts so nonchalantly while browsing movies should shock jurors. Should Casey stick by her claim that someone  kidnapped Caylee, the fact that Casey acted so cool, calm, and collected in the  surveillance video speaks volumes.

What mother  in the world would act so calm knowing her child is missing? The answer is this: Only a  mother who wanted her daughter to be gone and out of her life would act that way. Seeing this tape will  give the jury a much  clearer  and comprehensive  picture of who Casey Anthony really is.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Publishing Industry Isn't Always That Great

As authors here at Women in Crime Ink, we realize how fortunate we've been in breaking into the publishing industry. However, sometimes its not all it's cracked up to be.

Just imagine spending year upon year pouring your heart and soul into a book, having those dreams of grandeur that someday you’ll get published. The day finally comes and you’re euphoric. You get your meager advance, but don’t care because you’re genuinely published. You do your first book signing. Eventually, your books get optioned for television and are being developed into a series.

You are riding high when...uh-oh, what’s this? Grumblings that there are problems with the publisher; the largest and oldest mass market publisher in America. A publisher that used to be highly respected; one that has published the likes of Stephen King, Simon Wood, etc..Come to think of it, you realize you’ve never received one royalty check. The publisher claims you didn’t sell enough books, but Nielsen book scan says differently. In fact, one of your e-books hit 1,000 and…Wait a minute! The publisher doesn’t even own the rights to the e-books. Your agent kept requesting a contract but heard crickets. Digging a little deeper, you find on some sites your book, (that the publisher is illegally selling), is available for free. Yes, for free.

Now, you get a phone call from several bookstores, “Hi, Stacy! We’re out of your books and the publisher says they’re not available. What’s up? We’ve got a waiting list of people looking to order them.”

So, then, said agent gets in touch with the publisher, “Um, what the hell is going on?” Answer: “Well, we’re not sure why they can’t order them from the warehouse. We’ll look into it and get back to you.”

Weeks of crickets—a sound becoming all too familiar. Said agent asks again, “Still waiting.” Publisher, “We’ll get back to you but, in the meantime, have the bookstores call this 1-800-XXX-XXXX to get the books.”

Barnes and Noble, “Uh, we can’t do this. This publisher knows this. We have to order directly through a distributor.”

Agent to publisher, “Ok, we’ve had enough. We’re requesting a reversion of all rights.” Publisher, “To my knowledge, we’re not reverting anyone's rights back.”

Here’s the e-mail all of the Dorchester authors received last November with a few of my comments mixed in (all caps of course):

"Dear Authors: You may have gleaned this information from the previous emailed press release regarding Dorchester’s new CEO, but several exciting changes are happening at the company (WHAT? BANKRUPTCY?) In addition to Mr. Robert Anthony’s appointment, the imminent revamping of our Web site and release of Winter 2010 titles, our old printer and warehouse, Offset Paperback Manufacturers, has agreed to once again distribute single-copy sales of our inventory.(YEAH, OKAY, AND CHARLIE SHEEN WAS JUST ORDAINED AS A PRIEST)

What this means to you, the author:
Your fans will be able to buy your books.(UH, NO, THEY WON’T, STILL CAN’T, AND IT DOESN’T APPEAR THEY EVER WILL) All of your mass-market paperback books that were in stock before the August 7 shutdown are back in stock (LIE). If you have readers who are interested in purchasing your books, direct them to either to the Telecenter at (800) 481-9191. These books will be accounted for individually and appear on your May royalty statement.(LIE)

You’ll be able to set up book signings. Bookstores can once again order your books (NOT TRUE), provided they are willing to do so on a non-returnable basis. Because of the caveat, depending on the number of copies they are willing to buy, they will be granted a scaling discount. They should call the Telecenter to set up orders.( OKAY, YOU’VE BEEN IN THE PUBLISHING BUSINESS HOW LONG? YOU KNOW BOOKSTORES LIKE BARNES AND NOBLE CAN’T DO IT THIS WAY!)These books will also show up on your May royalty statement.

You’ll continue to be able to purchase any stock you desire (LIE). Special offer author discounts continue to apply, on a sliding scale dependent on volume.

Things you should know:
If your rights have reverted, Dorchester is still able to sell these books (REALLY? FIND ME THE LAW ON THAT ONE). A caveat of our reversion notice allows for sales of all pre-existing stock (I GUESS ITS NOT AN ISSUE SINCE YOU OBVIOUSLY DON’T HAVE A CLUE WHERE THE PRE-EXISTING STOCK IS. BUT PLEASE, WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR EXPLANATION ON HOW YOU ARE STILL OFFERING E-BOOKS THAT YOU DON’T HAVE THE RIGHTS TO). Be assured that we are not going back to press on any of these books in order to sell them at a discount.

There will be a slightly longer turnaround time on all orders (YES, IT’S CALLED NEVER). Allow a day or two longer for shipments, as some changes have taken place at the warehouse (A WAREHOUSE THAT IS APPARENTLY PERMANENTLY LOCKED AND THEY LOST THE KEY) that will slow fulfillment.

All in all, though, this is great news (OH, YES, IT’S EXTRAORDINARY.). Dorchester looks forward to providing your fans with your books for as long as we have stock and the rights (LIE)—and we wish you the very best of luck in the continuance of your careers. We hope to be part of them."

As to Dorchester claiming they weren’t reverting rights back to any authors...really? Considering I’ve been in contact with multiple Dorchester authors who have since received their rights back—even though you continue to sell their books illegally—I find your answer pretty pathetic. Look, most of my correspondence has been with editor, Chris Keeslar, and I want to be very clear that Chris has been nothing but kind to me. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that Chris is Dorchester’s scapegoat and perpetual sacrificial lamb. That poor guy probably walks through the doors everyday looking down both barrels. But, to the person holding the gun, you are a thief–plain and simple.

I miss you horribly, Don D'Auria. I hope someone rescues you, Chris Keeslar.

I decided to follow J.A. Konrath’s lead and self-publish one of the books in my series that Dorchester didn’t get its dirty hands on. And guess what? I had more downloads in less than one day than Dorchester claimed I had in two years.

You cannot begin to imagine the emotional distress this entire situation has caused. Potentially, thousands of dollars down the drain because my books can’t be purchased anywhere but through a bogus 1-800 number. What brought this particular rant on? Because today, I finally realized I wasn’t alone. There are hundreds of Dorchester authors experiencing this and it makes me sick. With all of my years in law enforcement, I have to say that it absolutely cannot be legal for someone to sell an author’s book without holding the rights to it. You mean to tell me that if Jane Doe Publishing Company takes a Stephen King book, reprints it, and puts it up on Amazon that it would hold for a matter of an hour? I don’t think so, and what Dorchester is doing is no different. It is theft, and I wonder when someone is going to step and deal with it? Authors Guild legal: We’ve contacted you several times about this. Hello? Hello, law enforcement?

Author Brian Keene is trying.

My agent forwarded me an article on him today, which is why I got fired up. Brian, one of the Dorchester authors who had all of his rights reverted (while Dorchester continues to sell his books illegally), has called for an industry-wide boycott of the corrupt publisher. And, thankfully, he is being flooded with adversaries. Luckily for Brian, he has found another publisher for his books. But for the rest of us who are still imprisoned by Dorchester, the future remains very, very, bleak.