Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pat Brown & Diane Fanning on E!'S 'Fatal Beauty: 15 Most Notorious Women'

Women in Crime Ink's own Pat Brown and Diane Fanning appear on E!'s Countdown: Fatal Beauty: 15 Most Notorious Women on Sunday, May 31 at 9 pm Eastern / 8 pm Central.

No, Pat and Diane didn't make E!'s list of notorious women—they appear on the show talking about some of those who did.

It's a countdown of ordinary women whose notorious crimes have made them pseudo-celebrities. E! investigates the remarkable and tumultuous lives of women who made headlines around the globe, some by committing unthinkable crimes & acts of violence and others whose decisions left us wondering why.

Over the course of two hours it reveals their shocking stories and explores the desperate circumstances that drove them to such extremes. Plus, it’ll look at the ways these sad and horrific events could have been prevented. The show provides a new perspective and keen insight into who these women really are with the help of medical experts, psychologists, law enforcement, and even the very women at the center of these high-profile cases.

Among the fifteen notorious women included in the countdown are these familiar names: Casey Anthony (above right), Karla Homolka, Aileen Wournos, Susan Smith, Carolyn Warmus, Mary Winkler and Karla Faye Tucker left)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Every Day You Wait . . . Is One Day Longer

by Todd Matthews, Guest Contributor

If you have a missing loved one, not knowing what you can do about it is a huge challenge. Dealing with the situation on the usual day-to-day basis is overwhelming in itself. But not knowing what you can do to make sure all paths are being followed is another issue.

One thing you can do is to make sure your missing persons data is being properly reviewed.

Of course, the information contained in the missing person's NCIC case file is considered for law enforcement only. But rather than the usual phone call to the detective in charge of your missing loved one, maybe you can do some fact checking.

Normally the call consists of asking if there's any new info in regards to the investigation of the missing person. (More often than not, nothing has changed.) But since you may not have any idea of what is listed in the NCIC report, this might be a good time to do some fact checking. Ask the detective to confirm physical characteristics, height, weight, etc.

Do they have dental info listed? If not, do you have the dental info that you need to get to them for inclusion into the file? This is an extremely valuable piece of information! Have here been any DNA family reference samples taken? Mitochondrial and nuclear? Can you confirm the DNA has been included in the CODIS, the national DNA database?

Dates are important as well. There is no database in existence that is immune to human error. Why not double-check the dates involved such as date last seen and date of birth?. For example, numbers such as Social Security numbers are easy to mix up. Are there any birthmarks, tattoos, or other distinguishing characteristics that weren't noted? Do you have a photo that might be of value?

A simple-fact check review can't hurt anything, and might change everything. You are not asking for investigative information. You are asking to verify the very data you helped to provide. During the course of this conversation, it is a good time to ask your law enforcement contact to register as a
NamUs user.

Now is the time when you yourself can get the ball rolling by entering your own loved one into NamUs.
By doing this, a great deal of conversation in regards to your loved one's case begins.

I have seen simple human errors resolved in this manner. Some are minor and do not make an immediate difference, but they still affect the future. Some errors are fairly important and can have an immediate impact on resolution or on how the case is processed internally.

Once your loved one's case is in NamUs, you can work to help make sure all the gaps are filled with accurate information. The only thing worse that a lack of data is inaccurate data. Consider the tiniest details.

Todd Matthews' calling to be a voice for missing and unidentified persons began when he solved the identity of the "Tent Girl," Barbara Hackman-Taylor, after a ten-year journey that ended in 1998. He is also Media Director for the Doe Network, a consultant to Emmy-award winning producer Dick Wolf ("Law & Order"), and on the Advisory Panel for the U. S. Department of Justice NamUS (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System) database project. Todd also hosts a weekly radio show that publicizes unidentified and missing persons cases. A documentary featuring our guest contributor's work was recently broadcast on the BBC. A second documentary about his life is in post-production.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

TV Crime Drama—the 'CSI Effect' Again and Again

by Andrea Campbell

I’ve been talking about the differences between TV crime drama and reality for about five years now. I’ve even given programs about the subject for mystery and crime novel writers with a presentation I call "The CSI Effect: 7 Key Differences between TV Crime Drama and Reality."

The live program is fun because I bring along personal protection equipment and have an audience member “suit up” while
I’m talking. And of course it is a Tyvek HAZMAT type outfit; and then we compare it to what the chicks on the CSI shows are wearing.

This week I got a press release that some researchers at the Mayo Clinic who compared CSI and CSI: Miami to actual U. S. homicide data. No surprise, they discovered clear differences. Timothy Lineberry, M.D., a psychiatrist at Mayo Clinic, says, “We make a lot of our decisions as a society based on information th
at we have, and television has been used to provide public health messages.”

Those two particular shows, CSI and CSI: Miami, were used because of their enormous viewing audience, somewhere around 43 million viewers every year.
Mainly the Mayo Clinic investigators used the
Center for Disease Control’s National Violent Death Reporting System to compare data with the television portrayals. They discovered the biggest discrepancies involved relationships, alcohol, and race where characterizations of perpetrators and victims were concerned.

Apparently, actual statistics say that drugs and alcohol affect both victim and offender at the time of the crime in reality—and that was one of the differences from what the TV shows portray.
The other main difference they found was regarding what race was more likely to be involved and on the television shows primarily they used Caucasians who did not know their attackers. In real life, however, whites are not the majority of offenders and, often, real victims know or were intimately involved with their attackers in the past.

"If we believe that there is a lack of association with alcohol, that strangers are more likely to attack, and that homicide doesn’t represent particular groups of people, it’s difficult to create public health interventions that the general public supports. We make a lot of our decisions as a society based on information that we have, and television has been used to provide public health messages." — Dr. Lineberry

I have a Web site blog called The CSI Effect, which I gave up writing about for lack of interest. I’ve written about these differences and have been trying to sell a book proposal on another Web site (for about four years now), not only about these very specific topics, but about the ramifications of how these misconceptions are perpetrated on the public and how they enter into real life—in the courtroom.

For example, years ago when people did not know as much about forensics they were little concerned about what types of evidence were brought into court and how they were collected. One could say that in the “old days,” the prosecutors took advantage of that notion at every turn. Obviously, we know now that the landscape has changed. Juries are more inclined to ask about a lack of evidence but, they also are more misinformed in many instances and take an unrealistic stance—such as expecting DNA evidence for car thefts—when that was never being done.

So the game has been upped. And in my last two articles, we’ve been talking about the recent denigrating reports from the National Academy of Sciences on behalf of Congress about forensic science and how the researchers found the industry lacking.
It's not good, we know.

But the TV producers do do those things; take more than poetic license with drama: portray white, rich, good-looking victims—because they need the show to sell to advertisers and if we saw the real low level of most crime, we’d change the channel—not sexy or appealing enough.

So television will continue to push the entertainment envelope away from reality. Reality sucks. Ask any detective. If he has the time to talk to you. Now that we’ve ferreted out these discrepancies yet again—it’s getting real old for me as a topic—let’s support science, give the labs the manpower and funds they need, educate the juries better, and kick some criminal ass.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Beginning of an Investigative Theory

by Pat Brown

Today I was on CNN HLN Prime News commenting on a horrific case, a double murder straight from a Hollywood movie. Davina and Brock Husted, a well-heeled California couple living on the beach in a three-million-plus Ventura home, were stabbed to death in front of their nine-year-old son. Sleeping just down the hall was their eleven-year-old daughter. Davina, a woman who gave her time to charity work, was four months pregnant. Her husband, Brock Husted, owned a wrought iron company in Santa Barbara and all who knew him said he was a quiet and unassuming man.

Yet at 10:30 PM last Wednesday night, a man climbed up the beach side steps to the back of this home in a gated community, and entered an open patio door. He passed by the young son watching television and then suddenly he was stabbing Davina to death. Brock ran to her aid and ended up dead beside her. The killer left the home, leaving the children unharmed. The horrified boy woke his sister and the two ran to the neighbors to get help.

What in the world was this double homicide all about? What, asked
Mike Gelanos, the host of tonight's show, was the motive of this killer? Captain Bruce Norris of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department tried to answer the question, see-sawing between the possibility of the murder being a random homicide or the murder being committed by someone who targeted the couple. I chimed in with Norris's this-or-that scenario, pointing out how, at this point in time, the homicide could be simply bad luck or it could be a hit.

Eh? I bet some people wonder how a police detective and a criminal profiler couldn't analyze the crime more astutely and narrow down the possibilities a lot more, gee, even a speck more! Would not a random killing and a murder for hire or for profit be at opposite ends of the spectrum? Are these crime analysts so incompetent that they need to leave a such huge margin for error ?

No, this is actually not the problem. The Captain and I are truly doing the right thing; recognizing that there may be more than one avenue of investigation and not making the mistake of cutting off one theory simply because another seems more plausible at this point in time. Secondly, with so little evidence yet available, it makes sense to consider all the possibilities.

So, I ask all of you to join me to brainstorm at this early point in the investigation! What theories can you come up with that might be plausible?

Here is what we know of the killer: he came up the back steps from the beach late in the evening. He was wearing a motorcycle helmet (but no one heard a motorcycle). He was wearing a dark jumpsuit. He was dark-complected. He came through the patio door, passed the boy, made contact with Davina Husted and started stabbing her. Brock ran in and got stabbed to death as well. The killer left the knife at the scene and disappeared.

Theory One: Mentally ill man sees the light on and, like a moth drawn to a flame, climbs the hill towards the home. He is off his meds and has some delusion about the adults living in the house; maybe they are aliens or some kind of evil beings and he must kill them. He is on a mission and, once he completes it, leaves the scene. The children were not part of his delusion, so he ignores them. He has a motorcycle helmet on either because he drives a motorcycle or because he found the helmet and thinks it is part of his astronaut's suit.

Theory Two: The couple is targeted by someone who wants one of them or both of them dead. Maybe Davina is pregnant with another man's child and was going to leave her husband, forcing the man to deal with her and the baby; he didn't like this and ordered a hit on her. Maybe Brock was involved in something squirrelly and someone wanted him out of the way. Maybe a relative named in their will wanted their home and their money.

I am sure someone will post, "How horrible you are to think such things about the Husteds! They are nothing but a wonderful, sweet family and you are suggesting awful things about them!" No, I am not. I am taking you through an investigator's ruminations and a profiler's difficult questions. We do not know the Husteds. They may be the perfect family, the kind of people we all wished lived next door. They may be the most innocent people in the world. This is not the point. When one analyzes a crime, one must consider all the motives, all the possibilities, and then eliminate them.

So, why would anyone even consider that the Husteds could have been targeted? Well, let's think again about that killer. Why would someone choose the Husteds? Why would that person climb those steps to a lit house (which means someone is at home), stab these people to death, and steal nothing? Why would that person leave the kids alive? Why was the murderer dressed in a jumpsuit and motorcycle helmet? Why did he leave the murder weapon?

If the killer isn't one of those people our mental health system now leaves on street because "mentally ill and psychotic people should have the right to live where they want," then the killer had a specific reason for choosing his victims.

The motorcycle helmet could have shielded his face and protected the killer from injury in the assault. The jumpsuit could have protected his clothing from blood. When he fled the scene, he could have removed this outer layer and his helmet and ditched them somewhere. He could then walk away in clean clothes and not become a suspect. He may have left the knife (some cheap, unidentifiable knife from Walmart) at the scene so he would not be caught with it. If he was hired to take out the Husteds, the appearance of the murder being "a crazy man with knife attack" would theoretically send law enforcement down the wrong path, searching for a nut who committed a random attack.

These are just two theories.
The police have already been searching campsites in the area and questioning vagrants and homeless people. They are looking for evidence that might support the nutcase theory. I am sure they are also asking the Husted's relatives, friends, and co-workers about their habits, activities, and relationships. They are looking for a motive for Theory Number Two.

These aren't the only possible theories. Can anyone come up with a reasonable Theory Number Three and Four?

Dead Man Walking—Next to Me. . . .

by Katherine Scardino

For the last twenty plus years, I have been involved in representing defendants who are accused of capital murder, and in most of those cases, death was an option for the jury. I have heard the death verdict three times in that period of time—not a great number, considering I practice law in Harris County, the death capital of the United States.

I have watched our Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ignore valid constitutional issues and affirm the trial court’s sentence of death. I have watched prosecutors get away with withholding exculpatory evidence. I have watched the case involving the “sleeping lawyer”—and that was on the defense side. Pretty embarrassing.

I have watched the rise in the number of death verdicts, and now I seem to be watching a fall in the number of death verdicts across the United States, and even in my state of Texas. The fall in the number of death verdicts can be attributed mainly to the passing of a statute allowing for “life without parole,” or LWOP. Texas seemed to be hesitant in adopting this law, much later than a lot of the other states in our Union. But, we have it now, and it seems to assuage many juries away from the death penalty.

I actually felt that juries were getting away from sentencing death because of the life without parole option. So, when I was called by the Federal judge in the Eastern District of Texas about two years ago to represent this man accused of murdering a fellow inmate in a Beaumont federal prison, I readily accepted, thinking that the Federal court does not generally seek the death penalty, and even if they did seek death, since we are in Texas, we would have the LWOP option.

When the discovery materials started arriving from the Assistant United States Attorney who was assigned to prosecute this case, I soon learned that this “simple” case was not so simple after all. My client had been convicted of juvenile murder at the age of 15 years in Washington, D. C.

He was sent to several juvenile detention centers across the nation, ending at a place in Brush, Colorado, which was later closed due to allegations of abuse and neglect. After being in these juvenile centers for approximately two years, he was released back to the same dysfuntional, poverty-stricken, crime-infested environment that he came from.

Given these circumstances, it is not hard to believe that at the age of 18 years, he was again accused of murder. This murder involved a dope dealer whom my client and one of his buddies believed had stolen some money from the buddy.

So, both of these young men, without a hint of morality or hesitation, found this “thief” and executed him. They were both caught, of course, and my client, at the age of 18 years, in 1999, was sentenced by a Washington, D. C. jury to 61 years to life in prison.

After a stint in prison in Lorton, Virginia, and then in Atlanta, Georgia—where he found the Muslim religion—he eventually was transferred to Beaumont.

The DC Gang in Beaumont Federal prison stuck together. Instead of an ethnic group, like the Hispanics with the Mexican Mafia or the Texas Syndicate, the DC crew consisted of young and old men who were from the DC area. They helped each other and took up for each other.

In May 2005, a man was transferred to Beaumont from Atlanta. This man had been a snitch against two of the other DC crew members. The Beaumont inmates learned he was there, with them, and conspired how and when to take him out, to “punish him.”

My client, unfortunately, became involved in this plan and was accused of putting the snitch in a headlock and holding him while another of the DC crew members stabbed him, and stabbed him, over and over—106 times. My client told me a tale that sounded believable and I actually did believe him. He seemed to be sincere. And, that was important because he was going to have to get on the stand and tell it to the jury.

The jury would know my client was in the cell after they learned about his fingerprint found inside the cell where the snitch was killed, not to mention the security videotape that shows a person identified as my client walking into the snitch’s cell along with the man who was the stabber. My client told his story to the jury; he told them he did not have any knowledge that the other guy had a shank and that he was going to kill the snitch. He tried to stop him, but could not.

Needless to say, this is a very shorthand version of this case. The reason I am relaying this to you is because a jury came back to me and said that I failed; that they did not believe any evidence I presented to them; nor did they believe my client’s testimony. The jury pronounced a death verdict for my client.

I was sitting there wondering how I was going to get over this. I wanted very much to get a life sentence for this young man. You may say, “Scardino, what is your problem? The man has now been convicted of killing three people.”

I do understand that, but this young man epitomized everything that I think is wrong with our social makeup today. He had a family who failed him; after dropping out of school in the 9th grade, no one came to his home and picked him up and made him go to school. There was no one from Child Protective Services to knock on his door and offer some type of assistance to the family, or to this child personally.

The juvenile courts took one look at him, and without more, sentenced him to juvenile life, which was supposed to mean locked up until 21 years of age. But, that did not happen. He was released at the age of 17 and some few months. After being at home and on the streets for only four or five months, he was back in trouble and the same type of trouble as before, only this time he was an adult. The sentence is a bit lengthier—like Life.

There is no parole in the Federal system. So, by getting a sentence of 61 years to Life, that meant he would serve 61 years or close to it, before he would even be considered for release.

So, even though people like the "Unabomber," Ted Kaczynski, or Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols, and other hardened criminals received life sentences—which are being served at the famed ultra-security Supermax facility in Florence, Colorado—this jury in Beaumont, Texas did not think this young man was deserving to live at all. Spending a lifetime in a facility like Supermax would not be a walk in the park.

During this jury trial, my expert witness told the jury what it would be like to live in a high security facility. He would stay in his cell, alone, 23 out of 24 hours a day. When he was allowed to see the sunlight for one hour a day, it would be in a very small wired cage about 16 feet tall but the top was open so that some sunlight could hit his white body. One hour a day of Vitamin D was about all the nutrients he would ever get.

What I do not understand is why we feel that we have to kill. Is it revenge? Why can’t the defendant be placed in a box for the rest of his life. God knows that he will be punished. No human contact for years would be enough to make me nuts. Sensory deprivation would be a big punishment. And, studies show that it costs a lot more to execute an individual than to place him in this box for the rest of his life. Don’t ask me to explain that statistic to you. I can’t. I just know that it is there. I would think that the cost of minimal care, minimal food, minimal needs all around, would not be as expensive as appellate lawyers, briefs, retrials, more appellate briefs, more lawyers, more appellate courts, etc. for years.

Here I am, one week after hearing that death verdict, and I cannot shake the sadness. Sometimes I just break out in tears. I have been told that I get too personal with my cases; that I care too much. And, this was a criticism, not a compliment.

Frankly, I do not see how lawyers can practice death penalty work unless they do get “involved.” The lawyer has to know every aspect of this person’s life, and frequently, that is not a pleasant duty. If the lawyer does not want to win, then how can he or she send a message to the jury that this client of mine is a human being—he deserves to live? He will grow out of his dangerous years and statistics show that inmates with lengthy sentences actually help the other inmates. As the inmate ages, his desire to cause trouble decreases.

But, no, that is not to be for my young client. He will be sent to Death Row. He will be appointed some hotshot appellate lawyer who will begin the appellate process that will take years. In the meantime, he will sit, alone, and have his memories. He will remember seeing his “family” during the trial after eight long years and the shame of it all was unbearable. He will remember not being able to look at his aunt—not that she did anything to help many years ago—in another lifetime—but she was his aunt and someone he cared about when he was a child. And, more shame. And, more loneliness and more hopelessness, and more waiting. And, for no reason other than 12 people said he should die, but another set of 12 people said other criminals get to live.

Dead man walking. . . . When will this insanity stop?

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Day to Honor, Memorialize, and Empower

by Robin Sax

On Memorial Day, we take the time to honor our veterans, acknowledging the men and women who have risked and continue to risk their lives in order to provide a safer America. Coincidentally, this Memorial Day has fallen on
National Missing Children's Day.

May 25th is the anniversary of the day in 1979 when 6-year-old Etan Patz disappeared from a New York street corner on his way to school and has been observed as
National Missing Children's Day since 1983—when it was first dedicated by President Ronald Reagan. This day is a reminder to the nation to renew efforts to reunite missing children with their families and to make child protection a national priority. So how are we doing three decades after the still-unsolved Etan Patz case?

According the
FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) for 2000: 85% to 90% of the 876,213 persons reported missing to America’s law enforcement agencies were juveniles (persons under 18 years of age). That means that 2,100 times per day parents or primary caregivers felt the disappearance was serious enough to call law enforcement. Also, the number of missing persons reported to law enforcement has increased by 468% since 1982. If any other segment of our population were so impacted, we would declare an epidemic! The Center for Disease Control would fund a cure; we would pass and enforce legislation and increase private and public security. But, since it is only our children, many in our society accept these appalling numbers as status quo.

Although there are no quick fixes to the problems of child safety, there are many things that we can do as adults to address and positively impact the issue. So, like everything else, the lessons start at home and that means parents need a reality check—to make time to TALK to their kids, share with their kids, and communicate about how to be safe.

The key to keeping talks about Internet safety from being scary, for both parents and kids, is for the parent to take the position that discussions of this nature are nothing to be afraid of! Just because we, as adults, are nervous about “the world out there,” we needn’t transfer our fears to our children. However, there are things kids must know before they dive into the treacherous world of independent adults.

As trite and over-used as the expression seems, “Knowledge is power.” I am not suggesting that parents need to tell kids about the gruesome details of every case in the news, or grill them with statistics. But youngsters need to have a solid understanding of how they can defend themselves in ways appropriate to their age.

On its Web site, the California Department of Justice reminds parents that “we provide safety information to our children in a number of other areas that may seem pretty scary, such as “drop and roll” if your clothes catch on fire or “look both ways when you cross the street.”

When it’s time to discuss potential or actual sexual abuse from online encounters, the best way to combat the fear associated with such talks is to just start talking! It’s never too early to begin to give children information that can help them stay safe. However, you need to treat personal safety like any other parenting lesson—finding appropriate times, not tackling too many lessons at a time, and considering the child’s personal development and ability to understand the discussion. When communicating with your child, watch for and avoid messages that are not realistic or don't make sense. Instincts rarely lie. When in doubt, trust your instincts.

A very important issue: parents must learn about and use social networking sites such as
Facebook. Better yet, it’s a great idea for children to teach their parents how to navigate them, which naturally opens the communication process between parent and child or tween. Talk with them, learn what they know, have them educate you so you know where you need more knowledge.

"We know teaching children about safety works," said Ernie Allen, president and CEO of NCMEC. "It is important that parents take the time to talk to their children about safety." Safety talks are difficult for many parents to broach, as they bring them face-to-face with fear of events out of their control. However, children depend on adults to teach them how to be safe. Such talks are also a great opportunity to bond and learn from your child.

May 25th is simply one day, one reminder about our children, but use this day to remind yourself that our children depend on us to empower them, honor them and especially protect them. And on this Memorial Day, I say thank you to the men and women who have and continue to serve our country. Thank you.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Will the Real Susan LeFevre Please Stand Up

by Donna Pendergast

The past caught up to Susan LeFevre last year. On April 24, 2008, thirty-two years of freedom came to an abrupt end when federal authorities, acting on an anonymous tip, arrested LeFevre outside her suburban San Diego home and dragged her away from her life of prestige and privilege. She had been running and hiding from the law since escaping from a Michigan women's prison in 1976.

Back to the Beginning

Susan LeFevre was 19 years old when she was arrested in Saginaw, Michigan in 1974 for selling drugs to an undercover police officer during a heroin sting. Prosecutors dropped a charge of Conspiracy to Deliver Heroin as a part of a plea agreement and LeFevre was sentenced to a 10-to 20-year prison sentence on the drug charge. She began to serve her sentence in a minimum security womens' prison in Michigan on February 25, 1975. She completed nearly one year of that sentence before walking away from the prison and making her getaway in her grandfather's waiting vehicle while on her way to a work assignment on February 2, 1976.

LeFevre moved to California shortly thereafter and began a new life. She adopted her middle name Marie as her name and began using the last name of Day. She also began using the social security number of an individual who died in 1981, a number which LeFevre claims to have made up.

By all accounts LeFevre led a model life in California. In 1985, she married a waste management executive, Alan Walsh, and led a privileged life as Marie Walsh while raising three children in Del Mar, California, an affluent suburb of San Diego. Alan Walsh would later claim that he and his children knew nothing of LeFevre's criminal past and were blindsided by her arrest. After her arrest, LeFevre was taken into custody and eventually extradited to Michigan to serve the remainder of her sentence on the drug charge.

News of the arrest garnered international attention. People were fascinated with the story of the one-time escaped drug dealer—now a mother of three—who was outed, arrested, and carried away from her affluent lifestyle. The media hype was immediate. TV shows wanted interviews, Web sites calling for her release sprang up and talk of book rights swirled in the air.

A Legal Dilemma

After arriving in Michigan, LeFevre hired two well-known attorneys. One lawyer was charged with the task of fighting the original drug charge sentence. The other attorney was hired to defend the charge of escape from prison. He contended that LeFevre escaped because she feared for her safety.

While her attorneys were fighting her legal battles, LeFevre was fighting battles of her own. She racked up 11 misconduct tickets in prison, mostly for disobeying orders from guards and for arguing with another inmate. She also was found responsible of hiding medication under her mattress rather than taking it out in the hospital area.

After a series of legal machinations and hearings, LeFevre received two years probation for her escape. The drug charge would prove more difficult. LeFevre's attorney had to convince a Circuit Court Judge that the original judge abused his discretion by imposing an excessive sentence of 10-to-20 years for a first-time offender. In an unusual move, the judge transferred the case to the Michigan Parole Board without making a decision. The Parole Board unanimously voted to release LeFevre citing her thirty-two years as a model citizen. LeFevre was released this past Tuesday into the waiting arms of family and friends to return home to Califonia.

Reaction to LeFevre's release has been mixed. Supporters say that she deserves a second chance and that her model life as a productive citizen reflects the rehabilitation that the corrections system aspires to have prisoners emulate. They argue that she is not a menace to society and that it would be counterproductive to waste taxpayer dollars on a non-violent offender for an incident that occurred over three decades ago. They ask why Michigan should spend $33,000 a year on an individual who has paid her debt to society.

An equally vocal faction asks what sets LeFevre apart for special treatment. They argue that the only reason that LeFevre was released is because she was wealthy and Caucasian and cite similarly situated individuals who did not receive the same deference that LeFevre did. They feel that LeFevre "beat the system" by escaping and ask whether the passage of thirty-two years excuses the behavior. They also worry about the precedent that this release sets. The Saginaw County Prosecutor Michael Thomas wrote this statement in a court filing: "What does that say to the 51,000 people serving a sentence in the state? You don't have to serve a sentence if you escape?"

John Cordell of the Michigan Department of Corrections has stated, "She effectively did what we want our offenders to do—live a crime-free life after they leave us. . . . Of course, she did commit a crime in order to live that crime-free life."

Hence lies the dilemma.

Statements made in this post are my own and are not intended to reflect the views, opinions, or position of the Michigan Attorney General or the Michigan Department of Attorney General.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dissecting Cindy Anthony's Statement: What "Maggots in the Trunk" Could Tell Us

by Karen Chabert, RN

When Casey Anthony’s car was found, her father went to pick it up at the impound lot. George Anthony stated to the FBI that the smell was immediately identifiable as decomposition. He said he was praying that it would not be the body of his daughter Casey or granddaughter Caylee in the trunk. He should know that smell. He was a law enforcement officer and has smelled that unmistakable odor before. As a forensic nurse death investigator, I can tell you, the smell is one you never forget.

As pieces of information in the disappearance of toddler Caylee Anthony came forward, we heard her mother, Cindy Anthony, cry out to reporters, "There was a bag of pizza for what, twelve days in the back of the car, full of maggots. It stunk so bad. You know how hot it's been. That smell was terrible."

If you take her statement and dissect it (no pun intended), there are many small bits of information that may raise more questions:

· "There was a bag of pizza for . . . twelve days . . ."

If there had been a bag of pizza in the trunk for 12 days, wouldn’t the pizza have been dried up by then, making it no longer tasty to our forensic friends, the hungry maggots?

· ". . . full of maggots. It stunk so bad. . . ."

What is the life cycle of a maggot? From what I have read, the life cycle of a maggot is around 10 days, and by that time, the maggot is now a fly. Cindy didn’t say anything about flies emerging from the trunk. Given the timeline, I would imagine flies would have emerged from the trunk in a small swarm.

· "You know how hot it’s been."

This takes in to consideration the ambient temperature and the temperature in the trunk and the effect of the environment on decomposition. Hotter temperatures cause more rapid decomposition.

So, now that we have considered the maggot theory, I pose the question: What if there were maggots in the trunk?

OK, let’s say the maggots were still in their customary feeding frenzy. Did you know that while maggots are in a feeding frenzy, you can hear them? I’ve read that it sounds like Rice Krispies. Like the smell of decomposition, that would be one sound I would never forget! Talk about goose bumps!

Take it one step further and if we may now presume there were maggots in the trunk, there is a wealth of information that can be gleaned from analyzing those maggots.

Toxicology or drug screens can be performed to test for the presence of any drugs in the body of the maggots' host at the time of death. In my reading, there was a person who died of a cocaine overdose and maggots were feasting in a very speedy fashion. With that said, depressant ingestion by the deceased prior to death would induce the opposite in terms of speed of maggot activity, i.e., they would slow down considerably.

If Caylee was given chloroform as her mother’s chemical babysitter, there might just be a way to tell: Maggots!

Also, DNA analysis of the maggots can be done to determine just who were they feasting on. Yes, human DNA can be extracted from maggot guts to identify the body.

However, I haven’t heard anything about the maggots except from Cindy Anthony. Did she inadvertently let something slip?

Therefore, I submit the question: If there maggots in the trunk, were they collected as the important evidence they have the potential to be? And if so, were they analyzed?

Such evidence could be significant for the Anthony prosecution. If the stomach contents of maggots collected from Casey Anthony's trunk revealed the maggots were feeding on a host with Caylee's DNA . . . that would place the child's dead body in her mother's car.

You may never look at maggots in the same way again. Let's hope you don't have to see them . . . or smell them . . . or hear them. Yikes!

Known as a "Crime Fighting RN," Karen Chabert is a Forensic Nurse Death Investigator, a Legal Nurse Consultant, and a licensed Private Investigator. She is the director of the Legal / Forensic Department of a national consulting firm and President of Dynamic Nursing Associates, LLC. She has been a Forensic Nurse Liaison to Law Enforcement and has worked as a Death Investigator for an urban level one trauma center. Based in New Orleans, Louisiana, she has lectured around the United States and in Canada.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Drew Peterson: A View From Two Perspectives

by Susan Murphy-Milano

Part 2: "The Violence Expert's Perspective" (Read Part 1: "The Prosecutor's Perspective," here.)

Twenty years as a violence expert was never an intended career choice. It did not evolve from sitting behind a desk, researching the subject, blogging or reading journals from a crime periodical. It was harvested like a crop in the fields. Like adding another candle on a birthday cake every year, the violence escalated in my home and the screams for help turned into an important lesson in survival.

My own
Mother died on my watch, so to speak. After years of violence by my father, a Chicago police detective, they finally divorced. Within 6 months of my mother’s false belief she was safe, I discovered her dead body in the kitchen of the former marital home she and my father once shared.

Similar to
Drew Peterson and other perpetrators of violence in the home, my father was not going to allow my mother to benefit in any way from the divorce. This included her own personal freedom which he owned like the title to a car, until the day she died.

We have not heard much about Kathleen Savio other than she died of an accidental drowning in a bathtub. Her body exhumed 4 years later only because Stacy Peterson had vanished after a botched investigation.

In 1992,
Kathleen Savio was an accountant in her late twenties when a mutual acquaintance who happened to be a police officer’s wife set up a blind date for her to meet Drew Peterson. Friends and family members recall how happy Kathleen was with Drew. A few short months after the couple began dating Drew popped the question. Kathleen felt safe and secure knowing she was marrying a man who made her feel safe and secure. Shortly after the couple’s second child was born, the marriage began to crumble. Drew was beginning to shout the national anthem, a theme used among most abusers maintaining power and control. “Bitch,”, you “whore.” "You look like a dog." You f..king slob.” When that did not have the affect Drew was looking for, with his open hand he punched and slapped her as evidenced by medical reports and photo’s taken after a violent outburst.

Similar to other abusers Peterson began setting the stage with his fellow officers in his department, and later on, under his command. Carefully strategizing how “crazy” Kathleen had become in an effort to minimize police response just in case she called and tried to report him for threatening and physically harming her. Obviously his plan worked because when officers from the Bolingbrook police department responded to the 19 documented calls and another 78 calls magically removed from the police log as responding officers did nothing more than as if someone was trying to "band aid a boo boo.” This case is just one example of the clear reluctance on the part of responding officers to use their police powers in the homes of fellow officers. The hesitation to deal professionally with this crime in my opinion increased the danger to Kathleen’s life. Looking the other way enabled Drew Peterson to increase his threats and violence to his then wife.

Once the couple filed for divorce,
Drew continued his threats of violence and terrorism. Kathleen took out an order protection and was pressured into dropping it. And she did write in her own words on more than one occasion that Drew had “threatened to kill her.” He was furious at the thought of splitting his hard earned assets with Kathleen. This included the bar jointly owned in Montgomery, IL, sold for $325,000 and the martial residence sold at $287,000, half of his pension and shelling out monthly child support payments for his children.

Peterson had a history of abuse from undocumented allegations from Vicki Connely, wife #2 to a serious relationship with a girlfriend who claimed Peterson was stalking her. It is a fact, many officer related cases where violence erupts during the marriage dies with the victim similar to Kathleeen Savio.

Drew Peterson’s motive in 2004 for murder fell on deaf ears after the coroner’s inquest ruled “accidental death,” silencing, Savio’s family members from providing information or ever speaking out. Or the facts of the bogus hand written Will emerging after this healthy mother of 2 “accidently” drowned in a tub she never used when she was alive.

Silence behind the blue wall is also a common theme across the country. Back in 1989, had I not been spared by fate or divine intervention, I too, would have been killed that night. In working to solve cases where a woman has been murdered by an ex-lover or husband each case has characteristics specific to the relationship and the alleged crime. In creating a detailed work- up on a case, often I am able to pin point a direction not considered by police or a Prosecuting attorney to determine motive. And not every case has intent or motive. Each time a woman is murdered I do not assume anything about anyone until information and documents are provided to me. Sometimes relatives or police ask me to review a file on a
missing person or murder case and I do not always have the answers.

I take what I do very seriously and it has saved many lives. My
training and expertise began with a teacher with whom I studied under and feared for many years. As a seasoned veteran Chicago police detective, my father had two professional career’s one as Police detective, the other as a serial abuser.

Over the years of studying and working these types of cases, I have been able to develop specific procedures that work well to take a woman safely from a violent situation and to help get her abuser behind bars. My success rate has been phenomenal.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Drew Peterson: A View From Two Perspectives

by Robin Sax

Part 1: "The Prosecutor's Perspective"
(Tomorrow, The Violence Expert, Susan Murphy Milano, in Part 2)

What a great relief it was to all justice seekers to see that the grand jury finally handed down an indictment against Drew Peterson. You heard it here first; there is no way that this case will settle. Drew Peterson is probably one of the most narcissistic (self loving persons) out there. He will never take responsibility for the years of domestic abuse against all of his wives, the abuse of power by using his police knowledge and power to murder at least one and probably two of his wives, and the child abuse; for not only killing his children’s mother but also for subjecting his children to the lies and cover-up that have become the symbol of this case since the onset. Drew Peterson is incapable of accepting responsibility and a trial will give him the opportunity to do what he loves best—to be in front of a camera and to talk, talk, talk.

So, what are we likely to see as his defense? In the words of
Joel Brodsky on the Today Show, “This is a weak, circumstantial case at best.” All I have to say is SO WHAT? Most cases are proved by circumstantial evidence.

In order to understand what a big nothing relying on circumstantial evidence is, you must attend my short class on evidence. So, welcome, here we go. Basically everything presented to a jury is considered evidence, except for the statements and questions from the lawyers. The testimony of fact witnesses and the opinions of expert witne
sses are evidence. Documents are evidence. Physical objects, like murder weapons, are evidence. Tape recordings, police reports, and photos are all evidence. Just about everything submitted to the jury that proves or disproves the charges against the defendant is evidence. Before we take a look at the rule of evidence, for a good review of the state of the evidence in this case, I highly recommend taking a peak at the Justice Café Blog which has followed the key pieces of evidence, history, and key people in this of Drew Peterson.

Now back to our lesson. In law evidence that is not drawn from direct observation of a fact can be drawn from events or circumstances that surround it. If a witness arrives at a crime scene seconds after hearing a gunshot to find someone standing over a corpse and holding a smoking pistol, the evidence is circumstantial, since the person may merely be a bystander who picked up the weapon after the killer dropped it. The popular notion that one cannot be convicted on circumstantial evidence is false. Most criminal convictions are based, at least in part, on circumstantial evidence that sufficiently links criminal and crime.

Circumstantial evidence is the bread and butter of criminal trials. Many circumstances can create inferences about the defendant’s guilt in a criminal case, including the defendant’ statements to police, statements made publicly (i.e. statements made in a television interviews, press conferences, newspaper articles, etc.) inconsistencies of any above statements, the presence of a motive or opportunity to commit the crime; the defendant’s presence at the time and place of the crime or at the discovery of the crime; any denials, evasions, or contradictions on the part of the accused; and the general conduct of the accused, other prior bad acts including history of domestic violence, character evidence, etc. In addition, much scientific evidence is circumstantial, because it requires a jury to make a connection between the circumstance and the fact in issue. For example, with fingerprint evidence, a jury must make a connection between this evidence that the accused handled some object tied to the crime and the commission of the crime itself.

There will be circumstantial
evidence against him and Drew Peterson will try VERY hard to get jurors to buy into the theory (which books, movies, and television perpetuate) that somehow circumstantial evidence is not as good or may not be used to convict a criminal of a crime. But this view is FLAT OUT WRONG. In most cases, circumstantial evidence is the only evidence linking an accused to a crime; direct evidence may simply not exist. As a result, the jury may have only circumstantial evidence to consider in determining whether to convict or acquit a person charged with a crime. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has stated that “circumstantial evidence is intrinsically no different from testimonial [direct] evidence” (Holland v. United States, 348 U.S. 121, 75 S. Ct. 127, 99 L. Ed. 150 [1954]). In other words, the distinction between direct and circumstantial evidence has little practical effect in the presentation or admissibility of evidence in trials.

And if y
ou don’t believe me that circumstantial evidence is used all the time and brings about convictions, I direct you to some of the more newsworthy cases where convictions were based largely on circumstantial evidence: Scott Peterson, Timothy McVeigh, Phil Spector, Michael Skakel, David Westerfield – the list goes on.

Perhaps no one says it better than Norman Garland, professor of Law and
author of several books including Criminal Law for the Law Enforcement Professional, “...Circumstantial evidence is nothing more than what we live by on a daily basis as a matter of common sense.” And my common sense says Drew Peterson is guilty as hell.

Criminal Selfishness

by Diane Fanning

When does standing up for your own best interests become a criminal act? Danny Dorrian seems to have found that line and crossed it. He publicly admitted he was a liar last week in New York courtroom.

The subject of his dishonesty was an horrific crime in New York City in late February 2006. An anonymous called led police to a body in a swampy area of Brooklyn--an area once a common dumping ground for the 1930's killing syndicate, Murder Incorporated. The victim was identified as Imette St. Guillen, (right) a 24-year-old graduate student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. A white athletic sock was forced down Imette's throat. Her wrists were bound with plastic ties, her ankles tied with wire. She had been sexually assaulted, strangled, suffocated, wrapped in a quilt and left like garbage in a marshy refuge overlooking the sour waters of a Jamaica Bay inlet.

The crime was sickening, disgusting and even perverse. Danny Dorrian made it all even worse by lying to the cops about the victim.

Danny told law enforcement that Imette left The Falls bar alone. Actually, Danny told her killer, a bouncer at The Falls, to escort her out. And he heard an argument between them that ended in a scream.
Not only did he ignore that cry for help, he hid his apathy a blanket of dishonesty. His lie allowed
Darryl Littlejohn (left) to roam free for a week--seven days of opportunity to victimize someone else. His dishonesty gave Littlejohn an additional week to dispose of evidence. It gave him days to possibly flee the area.

Fortunately, Littlejohn was brought before the bar of justice and now faces a trial for the murder of Imette. But Danny didn't know that when he lied. And he didn't care.

There was only one thing Danny cared about: the business. He didn't want to risk the bar's liquor license. He didn't want to risk a scandal. He didn't want to be bothered.

You see, Danny's family owned The Falls. And his family also owned Dorrian's Red Hand, the bar connected in 1986 to the infamous Preppy Murder. Robert Chambers and Jennifer Levin drank rum and cokes at the Red Hand--the same drink Imette was served that fatal night at The Falls. Jennifer left the bar with bar regular Chambers. Her bruised body--sexually assaulted and strangled--was found just hours after her death in Central Park. Chambers claimed the death was an accident occurring during rough sex. He plead guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 15 years in jail.

So, Danny lied. He didn't want the scrutiny that fell on his family and its business in 1986. He didn't want to be involved. But, he was involved--he brought the perpetrator and victim together. And he wants to sit this one out?

Sure he did change his story and admit his knowledge a week later. Was that from a guilty conscience or a desire to be a good citizen? Probably not. Most likely, he realized the truth would out and he'd look worse if he stuck with his original story.

The district attorney's attitude to his prevarication was disturbing. In a press conference announcing the indictment of Darryl Littlejohn, in March 2006, Charles Hynes said, "Oh, I've been lied to before. I've gotten over it. When that becomes a crime, I think we should all get out of this business."

I guess you could call it practicality or pragmatism, but I call it a shame. Those self-serving lies were an obstruction of justice, a violation of human decency and a crime against the humanity we all share.

Danny D
orrian deserved to be labelled as a lying "drug-addled loser who relied on daddy's connections to get himself out of trouble," by Littlejohn's attorney in court last week. He deserved the humiliation of having to respond to questions about drug use, alcohol abuse and sexual promiscuity on the stand. And he deserves more than that--he's earned our eternal scorn.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mary Jane's Grave

by Women in Crime Ink

If you've been wondering how life for fictional detective CeeCee Gallagher could possibly get any more difficult, the wait is officially over. Mary Jane's Grave, the highly anticipated second novel of the CeeCee Gallagher detective series is in bookstores now. The follow-up to The Devil's Closet, WCI's own Stacy Dittrich continues taking the reader down a road filled with unknowns, romance, and mystery.

Summary of the book:

“Long known for its history of being haunted by a witch who was hanged and buried there, Mary Jane’s Grave has been a teenage staple for decades. Local historians have since disproved the area as mere folk lore, but when a local teen is found brutally murdered at the grave, Detective Sergeant CeeCee Gallagher is forced to re-investigate the history, and find its link to the teen’s murder. With the aid of her powerful co-workers, Naomi and Jeff Cooper, CeeCee is thrown into the depths of a secret so horrifying; locals have kept it hidden for over a hundred years. Finding the chilling connection between Mary Jane, and an eighteenth century murderess, Ceely Rose, CeeCee refuses to believe in the supernatural occurrences that witnesses claim are taking place at the grave. CeeCee’s investigation takes her across the country in her hunt for the true killer while she tries to keep her relationship with FBI Agent, Michael Hagerman, from unraveling. CeeCee takes readers along with her to face their darkest fears, while holding their breath until the secret of the grave, and the identity of the killer, is revealed.”

Extremely detailed, Mary Jane's Grave tends to be one of those novels that the reader will get lost if one page is missed. Mixing history with modern day policing, the research on this book took Stacy the longest of the entire Gallagher series, as she had to delve into 18th century writing and history. Stacy also had complete access to the case files (investigated by her police department) of some of the crimes that occurred at the actual grave; some of which are depicted in the book.

The novel revolves around the local folklore that surrounds a real grave in Stacy's area in Richland County, Ohio. She combined the myth with a true case of an 18th century murderess whose crimes occurred at Pulitzer Prize winning author Louis Bromfield’s farm-Malabar Farm. (This also happened to be the location of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s wedding and is just a mile or so down the road from the grave). For over 5 decades, people from all over the state have flocked to the “real” Mary Jane’s Grave in Lucas, Ohio (pictured right) to see the burnt cross on the famed witches tree, and to indulge in possible paranormal experiences. Although there is much written about the myth on web sites, there has never been a book written about it, or the murderess Ceely Rose, until now.

Most Recent Reviews:

“A creepy ghost story lies at the heart of Dittrich’s second thriller starring detective CeeCee Gallagher. The crime is horrific and puzzling, and Dittrich does an excellent job laying out a clever procedural that is hauntingly laced with eeriness. A book to send true chills down the spine! Four and a half stars!
--Romantic Times Book Review

“In March 1898, four men killed her infant son, raped her and her daughter Madeline, and burned her as a witch. With her last breath, Mary Jane Hendrickson, using her gift, cursed the men and the grounds where they committed their atrocities. The sexual assault of Madeline left her pregnant. In the present, the grave of Mary Jane was buried by a tree in the middle of an old cemetery where teens fool around scaring one another.

Sergeant CeeCee Gallagher is called to the Mount Olive Cemetery because the murdered body of Keri Sutter was found on Mary Jane’s grave. She had been separated from her friends who swore they saw an old woman and heard the scream of a baby crying though no infant was seen. CeeCee assumes one of the students killed Keri and used the Mary Jane witch tale to frighten the others. Elder Walter Morris suggests CeeCee look up the history. The detective does and learns that twenty years ago another teen was stoned to death on the grave-site; the culprit got away with murder. CeeCee continues investigating into Mary Jane’s life and death tracking ancestry and descendants onto the present in order to prevent more homicides.

A CeeCee Gallagher police procedural is always a treat (see THE DEVIL’S CLOSET) as the sergeant gives her readers a deep look at how she runs an investigation and why she takes some of the key steps that she does. The audience also receives glimpses of her love affair with FBI Agent Michael Hagerman while he deals with a treacherous former wife who will do anything to get him back. The who-done-it is terrific with its ties to the late nineteenth century atrocities as Stacy Dittrich provides a unique voice with a fresh brisk thriller starring a heroine who resonates with readers.” --MidWest Book Review

"...Mary Jane's Grave provides a fast-paced storyline with a ghostly flair, emotional turmoil and multi-generational twists."--Fresh Fiction Book Review

Mary Jane's Grave is available in bookstores and online now. Stacy will be at BookExpo of America in New York City May 29th and May 30th for signings and also June 6, 2009 at the Barnes and Noble in Ontario, Ohio.