Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Balloon Man

By Lisa R. Cohen

I received this email recently from a friend with small children. She knew I’d written AFTER ETAN: The Missing Child Case That Held America Captive, and that my interest in the iconic, mysterious case of six-year old Etan Patz had led me to immerse myself in the issue of child safety in general:

"Dear Neighbourhood Parents,

Some of you may be aware that a creepy guy (tall, Caucasian, brown hair, early/mid-thirties) has been hanging around the playground at 110 Street (& CPW) and handing out free balloons to children for the past month or so. He's often accompanied by an older guy who stays
outside the playground area.
A few weeks ago one of the playground mothers asked him to leave since he was unaccompanied by a child and he became quite confrontational. She later reported him to the police and was told not to confront him but rather to call the police if he's seen again. The guy was back to the playground that same day and the police were called and escorted him off the playground.

I was at the
110 St playground this morning, and the guy was back again!!!- with a different older man this time. He is obviously very persistent and has some sort of personal motivation to be here. He's also getting craftier - this time he set up a balloon stand right outside the gate and was handing out free balloons and chatting with the kids.
I called the police and several police cars arrived soon after and talked to him and he finally left. The problem now is that he's not on the premises of the playground, nor is he selling anything so he's not really doing anything legally wrong. However his and his companion's behavior is VERY suspicious since he's not selling or promoting anything and just wants to hand out fancy balloons to young children.

They clearly want to be in the proximity of small children and want to build up some sort of a trust or friendship with kids - quite possibly to harm them. It's only going to take one situation (a parent or caregiver's head turned for a moment) and something terrible could happen to a child in our community. There is absolutely no good reason this guy should be at our playgrounds.

We need to have ZERO TOLERANCE with this guy and let him know that he's not welcome at our playground or anywhere else.

PLEASE CALL 911 if you see this guy (or his companion).

DON'T accept his balloons. He needs to realize that he's not welcome.

AND PLEASE also pass this message on to friends or parents in the neighbourhood since many people don't read this yahoo group and many people come to the playground at different times of the day and may not know this has been going on. Let's keep our neighborhood safe! Feel free to email if you want further details…."

First of all, let me hasten to say that, of course, “balloon men” are not by definition pedophiles. The ones you hire to come to your supervised birthday party, etc, have a perfectly rational, explicable reason for doing so.

But the ones who hang around children’s playgrounds handing out their artwork for free, who are asked to leave the premises by the police and return time and again, now that’s a different story. And I’m not saying they definitely are a danger to children. But I was pleased to see the level of vigilance in this email, and reminded again of the positive power of the internet as a source of information in today’s global village.

The email also gave me a chill that harkened back to the research I did on AFTER ETAN. Thirty years ago, when Etan disappeared, a “bubble man” was a fixture on the scene of
Washington Square Park, where Jose Ramos, Etan’s alleged abductor, also hung out. Ramos and the “bubble man” were reputed to compete for boys. They were both soft-spoken, sociable, and befriended the kids who played there after school and on weekends.

The “bubble man” blew bubbles endlessly for the children who gleefully chased them around the park. He himself was ultimately chased to Amsterdam where he was finally arrested on charges of child molestation and extradited to the U.S., serving his sentence in a Florida prison. Jose Ramos himself didn’t blow bubbles or twist balloons into animals – he handed out toys he’d collected in his travels as a “recycler” of people’s castoffs.

In 1982, three years after Etan’s disappearance, Ramos was arrested while unzipping his fly as he huddled with three young boys on a rooftop at midnight in the Times Square area. In his wallet at the time were photos of other youngsters, one of whom posed next to his mother with the Washington Square Park arch over his shoulder.

I tracked his mother down. At first she was reluctant to reveal she knew Ramos, given what he had turned out to be. Finally, she said yes, he’d often spent time there surrounded by children, befriending them and giving out these little toys. He’d seemed like a nice enough fellow, she said, and the kids had really liked him.

That’s what pedophiles do. The groom their young victims, sometimes for weeks or months. They don’t automatically snatch them from behind a bush and spirit them away. They often target the ones who seem less attended, with few friends. Perhaps they’re from broken homes and don’t have a man in their life. Or the adults who look after them are weakened in some way, by alcohol or poverty, or other distractions. The bubble man and Jose Ramos weren’t “strangers” to avoid after a while, but solicitous figures to embrace.

At times they befriended the parents too. Ramos met his “lady friend,” as he referred to her in a police interview, on the welfare line. He learned she was a single mother with a young son. And eventually he helped care for the boy, babysitting him, taking him to the Empire State Building and the movies, inviting him on sleepovers in his West 4th St. apartment. The boy would later tell authorities that there he’d take baths with Ramos, who would then molest him. The boy was four or five at the time.

Ramos's girlfriend briefly took care of six-year old Etan Patz in the weeks before his abduction, and she was the thread that connected Jose Ramos to Etan.

I recount all this because even though I don’t think people who position themselves in children’s playgrounds and hand out trinkets should be automatically treated like monsters, I do believe they should be suspect and watched. But when a warning, much like the email above, was posted in the online talk fest of that arbiter of parental public opinion,
Urban Baby, it was met by a lengthy, animated thread – some horror, some gratitude for the warning, but also some derision, including this post:

"That's a whole bucket of paranoia right there. What if the guys just want to give out balloons because they make the children smile? Geez. People."

And this one:

"That guy is not breaking any laws and the cops or the parents cannot do anything about this. I am very sure he just loves making kids happy and does not let some over-paranoid parents spoil it."

In fact, many of these playgrounds are designated by NYC Parks regulations as exclusively for the use of children, and only for adults who are accompanied by children. That’s why cops can escort a “balloon man” from the playground, but there’s little they can do outside the playground gates, where the Urban Baby poster is right - no laws are being broken.

I asked the now-retired cop who himself arrested Jose Ramos on that rooftop back in 1982 what WOULD constitute a chargeable offense. Former detective Joe Gelfand, who went on to become the senior investigator on the NYPD pedophilia squad, concurred that simply associating with children, befriending and giving them gifts, is not illegal, but said that parents should listen to, as well as watch any such interaction. It doesn’t have to be physical contact that crosses the line – even a sexually explicit conversation such an adult has with a minor is grounds for a charge of
endangering the welfare of a child. In New York that carries a sentence of up to a year in prison.

Again, I understand the delicacy of the issue, but I’ve always been fond of quoting that line, “Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Trace: It's the Little Things

by Andrea Campbell

Remember Locard's Exchange Principle, that whenever two objects come into contact a transfer of material will occur? Trace evidence—fibers, fabric, pet hair, paint chips and a thousand other items and artifacts can help to place the accused at a crime scene. While matching a tiny piece of evidence with its source may not be enough to link a suspect to a crime, when the pieces start to pile up it becomes more than coincidental and begins to become “conclusive” evidence. The more relevant the fibers found, the more convincing the evidence.

It is natural then, that fabrics, which are millions of fibers woven together, may provide the most compelling evidence of all. Fabric matches are much like jig-saw puzzles, the pieces must be found and reconstructed with exactness and certitude.

Hair and fiber evidence is useful in:

1. Helping to establish the scope of the crime scene
2. Placing a perpetrator at a scene
3. Connecting a suspect with a weapon
4. Supporting witness statements
5. Connecting crime scene areas (abduction, vehicle used, dump site)

Sources of Fibers

Fibers are divided into classes. There are four major types: animal fibers such as wool, vegetable fibers like cotton, asbestos is the only mineral fiber, and manmade or synthetic fibers such as polyester. Synthetic fibers make up about 75 percent of all textile fibers—there are over 1,000 different types in the United States and, consequently, they are the most common fiber investigated in the crime lab.

Tiny Details

As with other types of evidence, trace evidence is kept separate in a file or box, documented with the date and time, the name of person collecting it, a description, a case number for filing, and a sketch or photograph of where it came from. The chain of custody—a list of every person who touched it—is maintained for each item, no matter how small. Since evidence in this category can be wee stuff, preventing contamination and loss is a must, and trace evidence is usually collected before other examinations.

Finding the objects begins with a general look-see, but different types of alternate light sources such as UV, laser, and high intensity lamps may be needed.

The Little Things

A single thread is a fiber made up of tiny filaments. When fibers rub together, they leave fragments of themselves on each other and everything around it. As evidence, we could call hairs and fibers evidentiary minutiae because some particles can best be seen through a microscope.

Where Fibers are Found

Hairs and fibers can be found in the most remarkable of places but generally come from clothing, drapery, wigs, carpeting, furniture and blankets. Because fibers are transferred in such large numbers, they are much more likely to be found at a crime scene and are more likely to have a common origin. For example, a wool thread caught on a window sill at a crime scene could be matched to a pulled thread on the sweater found at the suspect’s house. However, it is actually quite common to find them in the barrel of guns! They get in there through a phenomenon called "blowback". The blast of a gun produces a vacuum in the wake of a wave of high-velocity gases. This negative phase creates a vacuum, which sucks up things in close proximity such as hair or fibers.

In 1982, a girl named Kristen Lea Harrison was abducted from a ball field in Ohio and her body was found six days later thirty miles away. She had been raped and strangled. Investigators found orange fibers in her hair that looked similar to those found on a twelve-year old murder victim eight months earlier in the same county. Some time later, a 28-year old woman was abducted and held prisoner in a man’s home. He tortured her and she was afraid for her life. After he left, she escaped and reported him. Police found a van with orange carpeting and scientists traced it back to Robert Anthony Buell. Other evidence helped to establish a more solid link and Buell was eventually convicted.

Fiber and Hair Collection

Fibers are collected in several different ways.

Picking. If visible to the eye, items can be picked up with tweezers or a section can be cut out and put into paper packets or petri dishes.

Lifting. Sometimes trace evidence is collected by taking wide cellophane tape and rolling it over the suspected area. The collected lifts are typically placed on a transparent backing such as clear plastic sheeting, easy for viewing under a microscope.

Vacuuming. Often, car seats, floorboards, and trunk space are vacuumed for fiber particles when there is a suspected abduction or when probable cause indicates the transportation of a murder victim or some illegal product. (*Note: some jurisdictions no longer use a vacuum.)

Scraping. Trace evidence scraped from clothing onto clean paper with a spatula or similar tool is used to dislodge certain items. This technique is most often conducted within the laboratory in a controlled environment that reduces the risk of contamination.

Combing. A clean comb or brush is used to recover trace evidence from the hair of an individual. The combing device and collected debris from the hair should be packaged together.

Clipping. Trace evidence can be recovered from fingernails by nail clipping, scraping or both.
Commonly, fingernails from the right and left hands are packaged separately.

Pieces of fabric found at the scene can be examined in a manner similar to fibers to determine color, type of cloth and fiber, thread count, direction of fiber twist and dye. When fabrics are torn or cut apart, the ends can be matched physically to another piece. In hit-and-run cases, pieces of the victim’s clothing are often found on the grill, the car’s fender or door handle.

Analysis of Fibers

Experienced examiners must have a good eye for comparison. At times they look at literally hundreds to thousands of hairs and fibers under a comparison microscope and from these weed out the few matches. Special microscopes found in some labs can magnify particles found at a crime scene by as much as 200,000 times. Sophisticated machines and new procedures help scientists identify chemicals found in complex mixtures.

To begin, fibers are first determined to be natural, manufactured, or a mix of both. Then analysts compare shape, dye content, size chemical composition and microscopic appearances. A phase-contrast microscope reveals some of the structure of a fiber, while various electron microscopes either pass beams through samples to provide a highly magnified image, or reflect electrons off the sample’s surface.


As any fiber analyst knows, color in a product is produced by mixing dyes. There are few "pure" colors. In a chemical laboratory, the color blue is never purely blue. The different ways in which manufacturers create their colors can aid in fiber identification and comparison. An instrument called a microspectrophotometer is used to create a "spectral fingerprint" of the color. When different dye analysis shows two color fingerprints as being identical, it is very strong evidence for proving that two fibers found in different places are from the same source.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Second up: Blood Lines

by Kathryn Casey

Now that I write fiction, I get e-mails and letters from folks wondering where the ideas come from. This is a rather interesting situation for me, since I've spent the past twenty-some years writing about real crime cases. You see, when you write true crime, you don't make up any of the details, the characters. The plots are constructed not by me but those involved, from the killers to the investigators who solve the cases.

Fiction, of course, is a whole new set of circumstances. To research a true crime book, I sit in a courtroom listening to testimony and then follow up with often more than one hundred interviews, before I even sit down to write. With fiction, I settle in at my computer, hands poised over the keyboard, stare at the blank screen, a horrible, scary sight, and think: Okay. This is it. Start writing.

Ah, but where to begin?

You know, we all have stories to draw on, tales to tell, based on our experiences. But then again, I'm living a rather strange life, so maybe I have more unusual ones than most folks? You be the judge.

For example, let's look at my second novel, Blood Lines, which just hit bookstores this past week. It's the second in a series about a Texas Ranger/profiler named Sarah Armstrong. In the first book, Singularity, Sarah hunted a serial killer. This time around, in Blood Lines, there are two cases for Sarah to solve: the first, a celebrity is being stalked; the second, did oil-exec Billie Cox really commit suicide? The basis of both plots stem, at least partly, from my own life.

The celebrity plot has its roots on an afternoon shopping trip. Along with writing about crime, I spent more than twenty years writing feature articles for national magazines. Some of that time, I hobnobbed with celebrities, and one rather unusual interview was with Roseanne Barr. First off: she is as funny in person as on TV. She's irreverent and in-your-face, not suffering fools well. And she's unpredictable. The interview took place in her Los Angeles-area home, a big English Tudor with security gates. After we talked, just out of curiosity, I asked, "So, what's it like being a television star? Can you do normal things, like taking an afternoon walk?"

"Sure," Roseanne said. "Let's go." Fifteen minutes later, we were out her front door and trekking through the neighborhood. All went well, until Roseanne decided to stop at a small local strip center, maybe half a mile down the road from the house, to drop in at the bookstore. We arrived, looked through an upscale dress shop, then hit the bookstore, where Roseanne had a book on order, a true crime book on a Mormon murder. Turns out Roseanne is a true crime fan, and growing up in Salt Lake City, Utah, hey, why not a book on a Mormon murder?

After the bookstore, we walked through the courtyard area. It was there that Roseanne was spotted. Someone screamed her name and ran toward her, and in less than a minute, we were surrounded by a crowd that grew larger with each passing second. They pushed in, and we could barely move. I was terrified, but Roseanne just whispered, "Kathryn, head down. We're walking." We did, snaking our way through the crush. And we kept walking, fast, while some followed us, throwing their business cards and screaming Roseanne's name.

That afternoon was a vivid lesson in the downside of being a celebrity. On the way back to the house, Roseanne remarked that life isn't always what one expects, and that fame doesn't always open as many doors as it closes. From that experience came the idea for Cassidy Collins, the superstar teen in my new book, who's being stalked by a cunning adversary who calls himself Argus.

Blood Lines' second plot line, the suicide, is also a joint product of imagination and experience.

About fifteen years ago, a woman died a block and a half from my house. An attractive and successful woman, she was found on her bed with a gunshot wound to the forehead. The autopsy report read suicide, but few in my neighborhood agreed. Most whispered of an unfaithful husband who quickly married his mistress and a large life-insurance policy. I walked by that house daily for many years, a beautiful home, meticulously cared for, and wondered who pulled the trigger.

So, perhaps I'm odd, but I think probably not. Whether it's a newspaper article that sparks an idea or something an author sees on the street, my bet is most fiction writers begin by drawing from the outside world and then let their imaginations take over to form their characters and plots. Hope you enjoy Blood Lines. It sure was fun to write.

P.S. For those of you in the Houston area, mark your calendars. My first book signing for Blood Lines will be at Murder by the Book on Wednesday, August 26th, 6:30 p.m. I'd love to meet you.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Forensics Reveal Truth

by Diane Dimond

Imagine the hushed, sterile atmosphere of an autopsy room. A body arrives and a team of forensic experts quietly gets to work to try to determine cause of death. Scientific evidence is gathered to determine whether a crime was committed to cause the death, whether it occurred from natural, unavoidable causes or if it was death by suicide.

In many cases, such as that of retired NFL quarterback Steve McNair, the cause of death is pretty obvious. McNair, was found sprawled on his condo’s couch, shot twice in the head and twice in the chest. Nearby was the dead body of his 20 year old mistress, a gun underneath her. It was quickly ruled a murder/suicide.

But other deaths are not so clear cut. Take the case of 50-year-old infomercial scream-seller Billy Mays. After he was found dead in his bed by his wife, we heard that he’d violently bumped his head in an airplane just hours earlier. It was thought the hit on the head had something to do with his sudden death. But forensic science proved it wasn’t so. Once the medical professionals opened Mays’ chest they immediately discovered a diseased heart was to blame, an affliction Mays apparently was unaware he had.

And then there are the full blown forensic death investigations like the one surrounding entertainer Michael Jackson, suspected of dying at home from an overdose of a hospital strength anesthesia called Diprivan and, perhaps, a cocktail of other drugs. Cases like Jackson’s demand a full toxicology and histology workup. In layman’s terms: a full examination of blood, tissue, hair and organ samples to determine if someone should be charged with a crime.

All this scientific sleuthing takes time to accomplish and in the meantime families of the dead anxiously await the final verdict.

Autopsy blood workups are routine. The sample is usually taken from deep inside the body’s heart chamber and tests determine what compounds are present in the bloodstream. Some drugs like cocaine break down in the body quickly and are hard to detect. But most drugs stop metabolizing when the person dies and so the traces found in the bloodstream are indicative of what was present at the time of death. The forensic investigators also examine urine, bile and tissue samples from the liver, heart, spleen and kidneys. The information gathered fits together like pieces in a cause-of-death puzzle.

Hair is especially revealing, holding on to what the body has ingested like rings on a tree. Since scalp hair usually grows about half an inch a month the longer the body’s hair the more information can be found. A six inch hair will reveal a full year’s worth of clues. Traces of each drug used will be stored in the hair shaft and the coroner’s office will be able to list every one, be they prescription or illegal drugs, and when they were used. In the case of a bald person shorter hair from armpits or the groin area can be used, they’ll just yield less historical information.

But there is nothing as telling as what the scientists can deduce from studying the brain. Unlike other organs from which samples can be taken immediately, the brain requires special handling. The entire brain mass must be submerged and hardened in formaldehyde for about three weeks before samples can be taken. Once gathered a neuron-forensic pathologist usually needs four to six weeks to unravel all the telltale evidence about what happened to the body during life.

If the decedent was beaten as a child contusions on the brain will be seen as dead tissue, called necrosis spots. If in life the person suffered a drug overdose (or multiple drug overdoses) the scientist will be able to see evidence of that and can determine when the overdose(s) occurred. If the decedent suffered strokes there will be visible scar tissue.

When a family receives a negative cause of death determination from the coroner they are often in denial. They don’t want to believe their family member could have committed suicide or died of a self-inflicted drug overdose.

Media leaks about the state of Jackson’s body at death have been excruciating. The almost six foot tall performer was reported to have weighed just 112 pounds. The skin on his arms, neck and legs were said to have been pockmarked with both old and new needle punctures. All indications are he died from a fatal overdose of several different drugs.

If that is the final judgment on what killed Michael Jackson something tells me the Jackson family will never accept it. It will be more comforting to believe some outside force killed their loved one. It’s much harder to accept the fact that someone you cherished slowly and deliberately shortened his own life.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Lies and No Consequences

by Pat Brown

I know most of us are pretty sick of Chris Brown from his previous denial of "I didn't hit the bitch" (paraphrased) to his full confession "I am so sorry I didn't act quite right with that lovely lady" (paraphrased). "I know I lied to you and the courts when I said I didn't do it, but, now that I got my plea deal sealed and don't have to pay for my sins ( service is a pretty fine publicity gig for me), now I will tell you the truth and you will go out and by my records again." (paraphrased).

Really, I don't care much what Chris Brown says. He's not my man, never going to be my man, and any woman who considers making him her man can't say she wasn't aware of his violent nature and his attitude toward women. But, I am quite appalled by the multitude of defense lawyers who came forth and publicly stated that Chris Brown waited so long to fess up because telling the truth earlier would have damaged his defense. He might have gone to jail if he admitted his guilt.

Now, I know this is apparently how the criminal justice system presently functions in the United States. But, it sickens me. These attorneys are saying they are telling their clients to blatantly lie, commit perjury in my book, by saying they are not guilty when, in fact, they are. If that lawyer gets up in court and says, "My client is not guilty," when he knows damn well he is because he client has told him exactly what he has done, than that lawyer is committing perjury as well. Oh I know it's the way the game is legally played but legal doesn't make it right.

Whatever happened to the concept in this country that guilty people ought to man up and accept responsibility for their crimes? What happened to the idea that they should do their time because they deserve to do their time? The legal defense system was put in place to prevent innocent people from being railroaded by an overzealous government or to stop one group of people from persecuting an innocent person of another group just because they don't like their skin color, sex, lifestyle, or religion. The criminal justice system was not intended to provide the guilty with a thousand avenues to get off unpunished. The justice system is supposed to provide a responsible and fair way to punish the guilty and protect the innocent. It was not intended to pervert justice and exempt the Chris Browns of the world from doing time for a crime any fool with an IQ over 50 knows they committed.

So there we have Chris Brown caught red-handed and he says, "Not guilty."

We give him a break and he gets a slap on the wrist. Now he says, "Guilty," but don't call me a big, fat liar just because I pleaded not guilty in court and then guilty a little later when I got my sweet deal" (paraphrased).

Telling the truth seems to now be a situational behavior, especially for defendants and their lawyers. Perjury is rampant so I guess lying to the court is no longer a crime. If lying to a court of law isn't a crime, how can lying to the public be a crime? Why should cheating in school be a crime? (It hardly is any more either). Why should lying to your constituents be a crime? (Bill did it; Mark did it). Why should lying to your mate be wrong? (Bill did it; Mark did it). Why should the truth matter at all? Maybe it doesn't any more.

I have read arguments for our bizarre system of pleading guilty or not guilty. The legal explanation is that pleading "not guilty" actually doesn't mean you are saying you are not guilty or that you are innocent; it simply means you are requesting a trial. For most of us who have had little experience inside a court and only have dealt with speeding tickets, we think that pleading guilty means we did do it and we will pay the fine, pleading not guilty means we think the cop was wrong, and pleading guilty with explanation means we understand that technically we committed the act but there was a valid and excusable reason why we did so (like running a red light because one is racing a heart attack victim to the emergency room). These three pleas are pretty clear and any honorable citizen shouldn't be saying "Not Guilty" just because he hopes the police officer won't make it to court that day so he can get out of the fine he deserves.

But, outside of traffic court, pleading guilty is hardly ever done because most criminals won't do so unless they get a good plea deal. Most people who plead not guilty are, in fact, guilty as hell. But, this doesn't matter because pleading not guilty is said to be a code phrase for "I want a trial and I want the court to prove me guilty."

What does this truly mean? The guilty get all the advantages and the innocent all the disadvantages. Here is how it works:

Guilty guy gets the option of pleading not guilty and going to trial or accepting a plea deal. The worst he can get is what he deserves (if found guilty in court) and the best he can get is to get off scot free (if the prosecution fails to provide enough evidence of his guilt or the defense can confuse the jury enough to let him off.) If guilty guy doesn't want to roll the dice in court, he can accept a plea deal and get less than he deserves.

The innocent guy, on the other hand is screwed. He can go to trial and be found guilty in spite of his innocence or he can accept a plea deal if he is too afraid of leaving his fate in the hands of an uneducated jury and get a lesser punishment for a crime he never committed (and a criminal record to boot).

And what of the matter of asking people to be liars? Is there not any ethical and moral concern about this? I don't care how many times lawyers and judges insist that pleading not guilty does not mean you are saying you are not guilty...the words are "Not guilty" and they mean "Not guilty." Why can't the court change the verbiage to "Request for trial"? Why do they insist on using specific words and then telling us to pretend they don't mean what they mean?

It is clear to me that honesty is not the policy of the court and obfuscating is acceptable.

I took my son to traffic court with me once to show him how our court system works. He sure got a lesson that day. I had gotten nailed in a very unfair speed trap. On a six lane road with no residential areas to the sides, I came down a steep hill. From where I turned onto the road I had seen no speed limits. Common sense would tell you the speed limit should be forty or fifty miles an hour. As I had just pulled onto the road out of a parking lot, I wasn't even going that fast. But as I came down the hill the car automatically picked up speed. Right at the bottom of the hill was the cop car with the radar. I was pulled over and charged with reckless driving, going fifty in a twenty-five mile zone! I was floored.

So, I went to court where I was going to plead guilty with explanation and protest what was clearly an unfair trap. When I arrived at the courthouse, there was a huge line of people; this county in Virginia - Arlington County - was known for its speed traps. We were told not to go into the courtroom but stay in the line. The line snaked into a side room where a table of district attorneys sat. Each person was to show the ticket to the lawyer and then he would make recommendations.

I stepped up to the attorney and presented the ticket. He laughed and said, "Yeah, that is the worst trap in the county! You can't get down to twenty-five on that hill unless you know beforehand the radar is at the bottom and you stand on your brake the whole way down." Then he offered me a plea deal. Plead guilty to going forty miles an hour, pay the lower fine, and I would not get points on my record.

"But I wasn't going forty," I told him. "I was going fifty. Are you telling me to lie to the court? Isn't that perjury?"

He became annoyed with me, rolling his eyes. "Take your pick, lady. Plead to forty or go piss off the judge."

I took my seat in the courtroom. I pissed off the judge. I got the higher fine and points.

What kind of court actually tells a citizen to commit perjury? An American court. Honest people get punished and Chris Brown goes on a holiday. Truth is mocked and lies are honored. This is a criminal justice system? It may be but it needs desperately to be fixed

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Did the “Black Widow” Kill Her Husband?

by Cathy Scott

News late last year that convicted murderer
Margaret Rudin was granted a new Las Vegas trial came as a big surprise. After all, the courts and the media, who dubbed her “The Black Widow,” had convicted her eight years earlier.

Margaret wrote me from jail after a friend of hers e-mailed me about Margaret’s hopes for a new trial. Coincidentally, I’d met Margaret before. When my mother and sister, antiques dealers, visited from out of town. we’d always stop by Margaret’s antiques store on West Charleston Boulevard not far from the home she shared with her fifth husband, 64-year-old millionaire realtor Ron Rudin.

Margaret was soft spoken, polite, and unassuming. Other than that, seeing her in her store half a dozen times was unremarkable. It was that quiet demeanor, I believe, that led to half of her troubles.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that Margaret, the quiet shop owner, was named a suspect in the murder of her husband. Prosecutors contended that Margaret and an unknown accomplice shot Ron several times in the head as he slept in the master bedroom of the couple’s home.

The prosecution claimed that Margaret and her accomplice cut off Ron’s head to fit his body into an antique trunk, and then they took the body and the trunk to Nelson's Landing at Lake Mohave and set it on fire. In January 1995, as a father and his boy hiked the area, they stumbled across Ron Rudin’s skull, which had rolled down a hill from the burned out trunk above.

Margaret’s story gained national notoriety when, as police and the district attorney’s office started closing in on her. Instead of staying to fight, Margaret, shy and reserved, fled town. She was featured several times on Fox TV’s “America’s Most Wanted” show. Two years after fleeing Las Vegas, a man in Massachusetts recognized Margaret as a neighbor and turned her in to police. A sting was set up when Margaret and her roommate ordered pizza. She was arrested by in a Boston suburb after a police officer posed as a pizza deliveryman. Police surrounded the house and they pulled Margaret, wearing a black wig, from a closet, where she’d hidden from them. She had been living, first in Arizona, then in Massachusetts, for two years under an assumed name. Because Margaret fled, many figured she was guilty; otherwise, why would she flee? If you believe Margaret, it was because she was losing her legal fight against the trustees of husband's estate, who had turned on her. She was afraid she couldn't win.

Margaret wasn't the only one who stood to gain from Ron Rudin’s death. The defense suggested there were others who had a motive to murder Ron, including the trustees and beneficiaries, who took control of Ron’s fortunes after Margaret was accused of murder. Many gained millions from his death. Margaret, because she was accused, then convicted, of killing Ron, was ousted from the will.

The mantra in the Rudin case this time around looks like it will be “follow the money.” With Margaret, who was given 60 percent of her husband’s estimated $10 million in assets, out of the picture; the trustees’ cut of the estate was much larger. According to testimony of Ron's associates, he wasn't the most popular man in Las Vegas and was known for his falling outs with people. Others, the defense contended at the time, had reasons to want Ron dead. It all will play out again in a Nevada courtroom, probably in early 2010.

District Court Judge Joseph Bonaventure, now retired from the bench, presided over the first trial, which lasted nine weeks. At Margaret’s sentencing, Bonaventure told Margaret, “You're going to be locked away in the cold confines of your prison cell, never to be heard from again.”

It seems Margaret Rudin has the last word after all.

Scott is a true crime author who splits her time between Las Vegas and San Diego. Her latest book—The Rough Guide to True Crime (Penguin)—is scheduled for release Aug. 31.

Photo courtesy of CBS News

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Supersized Kids

by Katherine Scardino

According to Merriam Webster's Dictionary, a person who is "obese" is “well above one’s normal weight.” A person has traditionally been considered obese if he or she is more than 20% over his or her ideal weight. A morbidly obese person usually weighs twice more than he or she should or 50-500% over the ideal weight.

Morbid obesity is an unfortunate problem that is becoming worse everyday. The alarming aspect of it is that it is affecting people at a much earlier age. Young children are becoming morbidly obese and are experiencing the same health problems as middle-aged adults. This severe state of obesity is something that can be controlled and prevented, but only if parents take an active role in their child’s diet and exercise.

I began thinking about this serious problem today after reading an article in
USA Today about a woman in South Carolina whose 14 year old son who weighed 550 pounds. The authorities there arrested and charged her with criminal neglect. There have been many articles written about childhood obesity being on the rise in the United States, but I have never heard of a parent being charged with a crime as a result of their child being obese. The mother in South Carolina was jailed and her son was placed in foster care. The mother insisted that she followed nutritional guidelines, but because she worked two jobs her child was able to get food from other people when she was not around.

The main case on this issue in Texas involved a woman with a child who was four years old and weighed 97 pounds, and then during the process of the case, wound up weighing 136 pounds.(In the Interest of G.C., A Minor Child, 66 SW3d 517). CPS took custody of the child and placed him in foster care, where he immediately started losing weight. After investigating, CPS filed a suit to terminate her parental rights based on medical neglect, and after a trial on this matter, the jury did just that. CPS looks at child obesity as child abuse. The ability to terminate a person’s parental title is a fundamental, constitutional right that belongs exclusively to a parent. To take that away from a citizen of the United States should require strict proof and very strong evidence against a parent.

Parents who are advised by medical doctors to decrease the caloric intake and increase activity level yet choose to disregard that medical advice do nothing but harm their child. The child becomes morbidly obese. Suppose this hypothetical child dies. Who is responsible? The legal system’s answer to this question of responsibility is that the parent is at fault when they consciously ignored the danger their child was in. Fortunately, in the South Carolina case, the State intervened before the child died.

So, why are children gaining weight? The causes for obesity and morbid obesity are identical. The most common causes are genetic factors, lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating habits, or a combination of these factors. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that only one in 100 children eats a balanced diet. Children take in fats and sugar far in excess of recommendations and add to this problem the fact that the growth of video games in the United States has helped to ensure that the average American child now spends four hours a day sitting in front of a television or a computer screen.

All of the above describes the problem that we have in our society. But, what do we do about it? Is arresting the parent responsible for feeding the child the solution? Is that even right? Parents should take action to see that their children do not literally eat themselves to death. Is there a distinction between parents of an anorexic child by the fact that the child refuses to eat anything? That child also has serious health problems.

In the fight against morbid obesity, the courts are getting involved. If parents are found to have neglected their child by consciously disregarding the medical advice provided by a doctor and their child continues to eat to the point of morbid obesity, then there are a variety of options available. Some of these options include mandated enrollment in nutrition education programs, removal of the child and placement in a temporary foster home or health facility, or in severe cases, criminal prosecution.

How would this work? First, the courts must find the parents neglectful. The Family Code outlines the rights and duties of a parent and mandates that parents see to a child’s medical needs. If a parent fails to comply with this parental duty, the CPS and the court will step in and do something - and the most severe is a termination of parental rights.

So, what are solutions? What can we do to stop this rise of childhood obesity? It is generally believed that education for children and parents of all weights and ages is necessary, but there is an imminent need to educate morbidly obese children and their parents. A health clinic located at Yale University called Bright Bodies has a program to teaches behavior modification to children and parents. In all areas, there are clinics and hospitals with the facilities to educate the parents and the children about their bodies and their health.

What about the psychological effect on the child of removal from his home? Doesn’t a child have an attachment to his parents which forms the basis of who we are as human beings and the continuity of that attachment is essential? A break in this chain between parent and child could cause fear and anxiety, and diminish the child’s sense of stability. Which situation is worse for the child?

As you can see, there is no easy solution. Is the government trying to legislate too much? Is it right to charge a parent with a crime in extreme situations where the child is grossly overweight? Does a parent have a right “as a parent” to make decisions for the child - even bad decisions?

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What is Human Trafficking Anyway?

by Robin Sax

Upon hearing those words, many people assume that is not a crime that happens here in our country. Most people think human trafficking is synonymous with Thailand, Indonesia, and Russia. When asked what are the biggest crimes facing kids here today, most people say drugs. And why do people talk about drugs and alcohol so much when it comes to kids? The reason is simple—we have spent time educating society.

Adults and children of all ages know about drugs because there has been a conscientious effort to make sure people know. So that is where we must begin with human trafficking too. Adults and children need to learn what human trafficking is, how it happens, and perhaps most importantly recognize that human trafficking is not just a foreign problem…it is a problem that is happening here, right on our soil, and happening more and more. Where better to begin than going to the kids themselves.

To get a sense of how kids perceive this epidemic that effects THEM, I turned to my trusty network of Facebook friends and found a teenager who has her act together to get a sense of what she thinks about this phenomenon of human trafficking. And this is what Senior High School Cassie Nelson, said: “As a seventeen year old entering my senior year in a high school with over four thousand students, I constantly witness young girls dressing and acting as though they were prostitutes. From cut off shorts that hardly cover their underwear and see-through tank tops, to hosted events at houses called “pimps-ho’s” parties where everyone dresses in lingerie and pictures are posted online, it becomes almost impossible to watch girls and boys play make-believe of an enterprise that strikes every country, every day. One may sit back with a smirk upon his or her face and say that these men and women, boys and girls chose their lifestyle; however upon hearing the words human trafficking that smirk is immediately swept off and replaced with an open mouth of shock.

Human trafficking is not a new problem, nor is it a fad that will soon end, instead it is an issue that has existed for decades and will continue to grow and prosper as a result of being ignored each and every day. Due to being such an unsettling and upsetting issue, most individuals would prefer to get up and walk away rather than to sit and listen to what happens and how it can be prevented.

All, if not most high schools consist of a broad curriculum consisting of four core subjects, as well as numerous electives and advanced placement classes. In my three years of high school I believe the topic of human trafficking was only brought up once in health, a required course in the tenth grade, and never again. The topics of sex, drugs, alcohol, abuse, adultery, and many more are discussed, but the topic of human trafficking never is. Unlike evolution and sex-ed, human trafficking is not a topic of debate or controversy. It is an issue sweeping all countries, and affecting thousands and even millions of girls, boys and their families.”

So with this perspective in mind, I took my new friend Cassie with me to see the screening of the “Playground Project” a documentary by Libby Spears that puts into perspective how this crime reeks havoc on young people’s lives. After we left Cassie said, “No one gets it, everyone needs to see this film.” And, while I agreed with her I also relayed to her the difficulties in getting our society to accept a film on this difficult issue of sex crimes, prostitution, and human trafficking. Our society is much more open to hear about drugs, gangs, and even killing but there is something that makes people queasy when it comes to sex crimes. But Cassie reminded me of the words of the producer Libby about why this film is so important, “Wherever drugs are sold people are sold too.” While this is a realization that many would prefer to process into short term memory and forget rather then encode and store in long term memory for constant retrieval both Cassie and I decided this is a lesson that must be repeatedly taught. So, together, we decided that we are going to do our part in our respective populations, circle of friends, regions or the country to educate people about this prolific problem.

So here is what we learned and what we want to share with you so that you begin to view the issue with eyes wide open and instead of with your head buried in the sand.

- Trafficking primarily involves exploitation which comes in many forms, including: * Forcing victims into prostitution * Subjecting victims to slavery or involuntary servitude * Compelling victims to commit sex acts for the purpose of creating pornography * Misleading victims into debt bondage.

- Human trafficking is big business. Although estimates vary, it is thought that about $7-9.5 billion is made every year from human trafficking.

- Worldwide, it is estimated that somewhere between 700,000 and four
million women, children and men are trafficked each year, and no region is unaffected.

- Despite an estimated prevalence of 100,000 to 150,000 slaves in the U.S., fewer than 1,000 victims have been assisted through the efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement since 2001, when services for trafficking victims were first made available.

- Traffickers typically lure women and children with false promises of jobs, money, or security. They are promised jobs as waitresses, nannies, models, factory workers but once they accept “invite,” they suffer extreme physical and mental abuse, including rape, imprisonment, forced abortions, and physical brutality.

- As many as 2.8 million children live on the streets, a third of whom are lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.

We are on a mission to educate society and make human trafficking something so understandable that it rolls off your tongue like “Just say no,” or the recognition of “Pink” as the color of breast cancer awareness. We hope that you will join us by spreading the word.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Collecting Commentary for a New Edition of The Michigan Murders

by Laura James

Years before Ted Bundy began his killing spree, John Norman Collins terrorized two university towns, assaulting and killing young women. When he was finally caught by his uncle, the "Co-Ed Killer" had inflicted harm in many forms.

Photo: John Norman Collins today. Via Michigan Offender Tracking Information System

Those who hail from around Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Michigan, still recall this time of terror. These murders affected people deeply. As one remarked to me, "Several bodies of the victims were dumped within several miles of my childhood home. It made my father crazy and paranoid, and other people I talk to who were in Ann Arbor -- or in places where the murdered women grew up -- during that period have vivid recollections about the murders, investigation, trial, and conviction of John Norman Collins."

Collins once appeared on a local TV show, Kelly and Company. Some involved in the trial also spoke. The video can be seen on Youtube.

The University of Michigan Press is about to issue a new edition of the seminal book about the case. It is The Michigan Murders by Edward Keyes, which is on many "best of true crime" lists.

The new edition will be replete with commentary from Michigan true crime author Mardi Link, whose books and website I know and admire. She will address the police work that went into capturing Collins and what detectives might do differently today.

The new edition will also feature a prologue that I will write about the social impact of the murders themselves. It will include stories of how the murders affected and changed people. If you remember Collins and have a story for the book, please share it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Children Deserve Better

by Diane Fanning

Richard McFarland murdered his wife Susan (left) during Thanksgiving week, 2002 and burned her body at an abandoned farm in rural Bexar County. He told their three sons, ages 5, 9, and 11, "Mommy needed a break from you because you are so bad."

After Richard went to prison, the oldest boy was adopted into one home and the other two children were adopted by their fundamentalist, evangelical foster parents, Roy and Judi Block. The world wished the boys well--they deserved a safe and loving environment.
Unfortunately, all was not well in the Block home. The two youngest boys gained a dangerous sibling, Sean Michael Block (below left), the biological child of Roy and Judi. Sean was a married adult but he had free and easy access into his parents' house.

On May 29, 2009, after a short two-hour deliberation, the jury found Sean Block guilty of aiding and abetting his girlfriend,
Jennifer Richards, in an attempt to sell her five-year-old daughter for sexual purposes. He also was found guilty on another charge of distributing pornography.

Sean first came to the attention of authorities in 2004 when he made contact with a Los Angeles Police Department detective who was posing as a teen aged girl on-line. Block popped up on investigators' radar again in 2006. But it wasn't until August, 2008, that they had gathered sufficient evidence to arrest Block and his girlfriend, a former Phoenix stripper.

Sean Block came to the attention of William Gholson, owner of
Billy Bob's Beds in San Antonio, who was working as an FBI informant in their crack down on child pornography. Gholson played the role of an older man seeking sex with children. He received a text message from Block: "Nice piece 5 yrs old belongs to my gf and she wants to sell it." In another message, Block referred to the little girl as "our little play toy."

Jennifer Richards met with William Gholson and agreed to grant sexual access to her 5-year-old because she wanted to train her daughter how to perform sex acts "'cause I want her to be comfortable with it all." Jennifer also said that her 10-month-old girl might be available later.

Block and Richards negotiated a filthy bargain: Jennifer's daughter would be available for sex acts, photographs and videotape in exchange for $300, a used Toyota Corolla and rent payment on the two-bedroom apartment where the young child would be victimized.

The relationship between Block and Richards was dark and violent. Prosecutors revealed the contents of their on-line chats and emails discussing their sado-masochistic sex preferences, their desire to have sex with both of Jennifer's daughters, Sean's scheme to blackmail Gholson after the assault of the 5-year-old and his plan to abduct, rape and cut up the face of a female teenage runaway.

Jennifer Richards (right) pled guilty, testifying that she only agreed to the sale of her daughter because of pressure from and fear of Block. The prosecution supported her statement saying that Block "...found someone broken, pathetic with children and who is open sexually..." and browbeat her into submissiveness. He made Jennifer drink his urine and have sex with other men for money. "He was grooming her to deliver her children to.." a predator. In court, Prosecutor Wannarka backed this up by reading one of Block's messages to Richards: "Don't ever for a second forget who owns you."

In return for her plea, Jennifer received a reduced sentence of twenty years in federal
prison--where typical convicts serve 85% of their time--followed by ten years of probation and registration as a sex offender when she is released. Sean Michael Block faces thirty years to life on the attempted sale of the child along with five to twenty years on the child pornography distribution charge. Judge Harry Lee Husdpeth will sentence him at the end of this month. We can only hope he will give Block the maximum on both counts.

Prosector Wannarka told the San Antonio Express News, "Children are safer because Sean Block and Jennifer Richards are in jail." And she is right.

But what about Sean Block's parents? Did they demonstrate poor judgment when they allowed their son Sean to be a frequent visitor to the home where they cared for a number of foster children and adopted others including Susan McFarland's two sons. Wouldn't staunch believers with strong moral recognize his moral depravity? And yet, these children under their roof--kids who were already harmed by previous tragedy or abuse in their lives--were exposed to this dangerous man. Is that responsible parenting?

Who knows what damage may have been done to Susan's boys or the other children? Did the Blocks turn a blind eye to their son's disturbed and violent desires? The presence of Sean in their home raises questions about their fitness to foster and adopt children. It also raises concerns about Roy Block's position as the Executive Director of the Texas Foster Family Association. The message that connection delivers is troubling.

I wrote about Susan McFarland and her sons long before this problem with the Block's son came to light. If you are interested in their story, you'll find it in Gone Forever from St. Martin's Press.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Expanding Crime Scene

by Sheryl McCollum

An "expanding crime scene” is what law enforcement is calling the burial plot scam in Burr Oak Cemetery. Police have discovered that up to 300 bodies were dug up and dumped in an unused part of the cemetery in order to resell the plots.

The local sheriff, Sheriff Dart, says it is hard to tell how many graves have been scammed due to the poor record keeping at the cemetery. He stated that the burial records for these remains either do not exist have been altered or destroyed. Thus far, his office has received over 1,300 complaints from family members for the suspected remains. This number may rise in the days and weeks to come.

What office in Illinois oversees cemeteries? How was this one so inadequately missed? How could this criminal scam continue for four years?

The state of Georgia had a crematory scam years ago that turned into a massive crime scene and a larger victim assistance outreach. Assisting numerous family members for each loved one was quite an undertaking. For every victim in Burr Oak, there could be several family members. Therefore, Illinois could possibly end up assisting thousands of family members. Reading about the latest scam from Illinois makes my heart sick and furious at the same time. Although the state of Georgia had regulations, a loophole in the law allowed crematories, who only did business with funeral homes, to operate without a license; therefore, they could operate without any state inspections.

What’s the loophole here?

Historical Factor of Burr Oak

"Emmett Till is being treated with the same disrespect in death as he was treated in life," said Jonathan Fine, executive director of the group Preservation Chicago.

Numerous mothers of missing children have stated to me that they just want to be able to bury their children. They want to bring them home and lay them to rest. A proper burial is the last thing that they can do for them. How could anyone take that away from the Till family and all the other families? Emmett’s body has been exhumed once previously in order to prove it was in fact the civil rights victim inside. How horrifying will it be for his family to possibly have to exhume him again?

Each and every burial site is now under investigation. Not one grave is a final resting place. Crimes that target the dead hit many aspects from religion to a family honoring their loved ones. These criminals should receive the max time for their disrespect and disregard.

Current Factor

Each grave is someone’s father, mother, sister, brother, child, friend, or spouse. Police suspect as many as 300 grave sites have been disinterred or disturbed at the Burr Oak Cemetery. Sheriff Dart stated in a news cast: "I can't tell you how many mothers can't find their babies."

Crime Scene

Police will do a grid search on the 100,000 graves that span over 150 acres.

Some head stones were removed and smashed into pieces. This will make the task of locating sites difficult for law enforcement.

Each grave will be marked once that it has been inspected, and then officers will move on to the next grave. This systematic search will continue until all graves are accounted for.

The 300 human remains which were dumped in a pile on the vacant lot were all mixed together and mixed with garbage. Three hundred loved ones many just dumped in a vacant lot to make room to resell the sites.

Burr Oak is closed today. Families can not go and visit their loved ones grave site today because it is a crime scene. Some of them may have to wait on DNA testing to insure that their loved one was located in that vacant lot or in the developing crime scene. The police will question them. The FBI will assist in identifying the bodies. The EPA may also be involved, and then come the criminal and civil trials. All of this and then, they will have to bury their loved again. This event may take years to complete.

Going Forward

There has to be accountability. Scared burial grounds must be regulated and inspected and most of all investigated. Of course, Illinois did have a senate seat up for sale, should the resale of cemetery plots really surprise us? Bottom line–we regulate hair dressers better than our loved ones' burial sites.


Women in Crime Ink is pleased to introduce two new regular contributors: True Crime Author Cathy Scott and Crime Analyst Sheryl McCollum.

Cathy Scott is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist who's received more than a dozen awards from news organizations in California and Nevada. Her work—which has appeared in The New York Times, Reuters, George magazine, Los Angeles Times, New York Post, The New York Times Magazine, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Las Vegas Sun—has taken her to Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Panama. Dividing her time between San Diego and Las Vegas, Cathy also writes fulltime for Best Friends Animal Society's magazine and Web site. She is a member of the Authors Guild and the Society of Professional Journalists' national Speakers Bureau. She has served as the Nevada chairwoman of the Society of Professional Journalist’s Sunshine Committee, which works to keep government records open to the public. At the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Cathy was an adjunct journalism instructor for five years, a position she gave up to stay on the Gulf Coast for nearly four months to cover the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Cathy is perhaps best known as the author of seven nonfiction books, including the Los Angeles Times best-seller The Killing of Tupac Shakur as well as the critically acclaimed The Murder of Biggie Smalls. Her other crime titles include Death in the Desert: The Ted Binion Homicide Case and Murder of a Mafia Daughter: The Life and Tragic Death of Susan Berman. Cathy's latest, The Rough Guide to True Crime, is being released August 31. She is currently finishing the case of Barbara Kogan, a Manhattan millionaire's widow who was indicted late last year for the contract murder of her husband nearly two decades ago. The book is scheduled for release by St. Martin’s Press True Crime Library in spring 2010.
Cathy has appeared on Unsolved Mysteries, Oxygen network’s “Snapped,” the Discovery Channel, CourtTV, CNN, MTV, Uncovered TV, Talk Books, and National Public Radio.

Women in Crime Ink is also welcoming Atlanta-based Sheryl McCollum, renowned crime analyst and college professor. She is the Director of the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute. Under Sheryl's direction, the Institute has been responsible for helping renew interest in cases that were deemed unsolvable. Sheryl has been involved in a number of notable investigations, including the disappearances of Natalee Holloway, Chandra Levy, and Amber Hagerman, as well as historical cases such as the Atlanta Child Murders and the Moore's Ford Bridge Lynching.
Sheryl is also the Director of a Metro Atlanta Cold Case Crime Analysis Squad. During the 1996 Olympic Games, Sheryl was Coordinator for the Crisis Response Team, which planned and trained for four years and responded to the Centennial Olympic Park Bombing, providing victim services through the criminal trial seven years later. In the wake of 9/11, Sheryl was Director of the Georgia team that was sent to the Pentagon in Washington, DC (aftermath at left). She is a POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) Certified Instructor, a Hostage Negotiator, a Crime Scene Technician, and a First Responder. Holding two Master’s Degrees, one in Policing and one in Criminal Justice, Sheryl is also a college professor, teaching Criminal Investigation, Crime Scene, and Forensics.
You can watch her as a regular guest expert on Nancy Grace. Sheryl has also been featured on Fox and Friends and CNN. Most recently, she is co-host of the new program "Fugitive Fridays" on the The Levi Page Show.
Read Sheryl's first piece for Women in Crime Ink on Thursday. And you can expect Cathy's first post a week from tomorrow, on July 23rd.
Please join us in welcoming our newest contributors!