Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: Crime In Review

 by Robin Sax 

It’s that time again — the very end of the year.  In addition to looking to the future (charting goals and resolutions), this is a chance for us to reflect upon 2009 and learn.  Blogs, TV shows, newspapers and magazines are looking at the year: the good and the bad, the trends and the hook-ups, the births and the deaths. From my perspective, this is an opportune time to examine the top crime stories of 2009.  After perusing dozens of media outlets, I’d like to remind you specifically of 12 crime stories -- one for every juror on a panel -- from 2009, in no particular order. Some represent justice, truth, and closure; others illustrate injustice, missed opportunities, and evil. These stories affected us all, directly or indirectly:

1.     Roman Polanski reignited: This case is about more than just the facts of Polanski’s offenses (which are indeed major). Polanski stole time, resources, and energy from the State of California for years, actually, decades. He accepted no responsibility for his actions, nor for the deal he chose to strike.  The best case would be for Polanski to come back and face a California judge, take his medicine, and receive the same sentence he bargained for in the first place (assuming the LA District Attorney). We're all fascinated by a man who lived freely for three decades, suffering no consequences for leaving the country to escape the law. So, man up Polanski!  Not just privately; teach your Hollywood buddies a lesson too!  Teach them not to blame the victim, not to minimize the damages caused by sexual assault; and not to deny the realities of the crime.  Tell Whoopi that you committed real rape, and you are finally going to take real responsibility! Once you do, we can all move on in 2010.

2.     Jaycee Duggard found:  Don’t get me wrong; this case represents one of the great outcomes in the criminal justice system!  And a big fat shout-out to Berkeley Events Manager Lisa Campbell and Berkeley Police Officer Ally Jacobs for not missing opportunities as the California Department of Corrections and the Contra Costa Police had done so many times before. This case may be the first time we heard law enforcement actually call it like it was -- a case of “missed opportunities.”  Missed opportunities no longer!  Nancy Garrido, wife of Phillip Garrido, may be the real monster in the 1991 abduction of 11-year-old Jaycee Duggard. True, her husband, Phillip Garrido, is a horrific figure who kidnapped Jaycee and held her captive for 18 years. Garrido, a registered sex offender, kept Jaycee (and her two kids, fathered by him) in a tent in the backyard. But Nancy Garrido knew and said nothing. Jaycee was returned to her family in September. What did we learn? We need to take a closer look at the way we use registered sex-offender lists and, perhaps more importantly, how we monitor sex offenders all the way around. 

3.     Balloon Boy takes off:  I hate to give this case any more attention, but it represents so much of the decade that I have to mention it. The balloon boy case illustrates the worst of media and the most pathetic things people will do to exploit it. I was shocked that so many news stations (almost all of them!) covered this loose-balloon chase with such intensity.  I mean, it was surreal -- a giant Chef Boyardee cap sweeping the skies and Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room tracking trajectories of falling balloons.  Why was it so popular? Because TMZ rules the media these days, and our society can't get enough of this type of buzz. It looked like traditional news outlets were trying, for once, to trump TMZ. (Get over it, TMZ rules!) The silver lining: at least mom and dad Heene pled guilty and were sentenced expeditiously.  I have never seen justice take off so fast…. a lot faster than it would have taken to get a real television show made.  

4.     Two tragic massacres -- Fort Hood and The Tacoma police murders: Nidal Malik Hasan and Maurice Clemmons both committed terrible acts of violence when they carried out their (unrelated) massacres. One similarity: both Hasan and Clemmons targeted official personnel in their shooting rampages, Hasan on a military base and Clemmons at police officers. Hasan, a 39-year-old military psychiatrist, was never suspected as being capable of massacre. Similarly, Clemmons, a 37-year-old parolee, got a second chance to live out in society precisely because he wasn’t seen as a threat. Clemmons was granted clemency by then-Gov. Mike Huckabee – putting forth the case (successfully) that he was rehabilitated.  Obviously, those around both Hasan and Clemmons got it wrong; they didn't see that either man was a violent sociopath. What can we learn from these tragedies? I honestly don’t think there is an answer here. This type of senseless violence occurs more often than any of us care to review. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims. We also pray and hope that this type of crime doesn’t make the list in 2010. 

5.     Annie Le found dead: We were all horrified when Annie Le was found dead inside the wall of a research lab on the day she was supposed to be married. Lab technician Raymond Clark was arrested and charged with her murder. Investigators zeroed in on Clark early in the investigation after he failed a lie detector test and was found to have defensive wounds on his body, scratches on his arms and back and a bruised eye. In addition, his attempts to clean up the crime scene (where Le was last) and DNA evidence led to his arrest.  We were reminded, yet again, that even the guy-next-door-type can be capable of murder.

6.     Cherish Lewis still in jail: The case of Cherish hasn't made headline news. It stands for all such worthy cases that don't get national media attention. Cherish is the mother of five-year-old Jaelyn Rice. An Ohio judge ordered Cherish to hand her child over to an abusive father. When Cherish refused, she was jailed. Her child is in hiding with relatives, and the predator-father is free. This is a case of true injustice where the system got it totally wrong. I highlight these types of unknown important cases as a co-host on radio show "Justice Interrupted" (with Stacy Dittrich), which will be relaunching next month. Find out more at

7.     Amanda Knox convicted of murder: The conviction of this American student for the murder of her British roommate sent ripples of shock and scrutiny across the U.S. media waves. I can't say Amanda didn't do it, based on what I saw of the evidence presented; none of us can say for sure what happened that night. I can say this though: I don't think Amanda would have been convicted of murder if she were tried for the same crime in the United States. I believe this case raises a very important issue: American students traveling abroad for international education should be afforded some protections. There was clearly some questionable prosecutorial conduct in this case. But since the U.S. lacked jurisdiction, diplomats could do nothing once the sentence was handed down. I don't believe that's fair. We should learn from this case to help prevent further miscarriages of justice in future international trials. 

8.     Shaniya Davis sold for sex: Little Shaniya was sold by her mother and ended up dead. I applaud the prosecutors in the Davis case for calling this crime what it is: human trafficking, and not labeling it just another case of sexual assault and murder. There is true evil out there, unfortunately, and this case is an example of what an evil, desperate mother can do to her own child. We need to get the word out that human trafficking for sex is a problem not just in Thailand or Cambodia, but right here at home in North Carolina and other states. 

9.     Chris Brown’s attack: Rihanna’s battered face hitting TMZ was a huge moment this year. Many people in this country still believe that domestic violence isn’t prevalent anymore. Well, this case reminded us all that it's still around and can and does affect everyone. I believe that while Brown got special treatment as a rap-music superstar, he was forthright in taking responsibility for his crime and at least reminded us that we need to pay attention to domestic violence. Brown pled to a felony, and he suffered some public humiliation. I think Brown got a little better deal than what he would have if the case had gone to trial -- but that's the nature of a plea deal. The real big shocker was when Rihanna went back to him! She really let down thousands of female fans who counted on her to behave as a role model after the attack. While the crimes de jour may change from year to year, we must remember that we still have a long way to go to stem violence against our loved ones.  

10.  Michael Jackson’s death: Dr. Conrad Murray is the sideshow to this final Michael Jackson explosive controversy.  It seemed as though the world stopped for a bit when news of Jackson’s death hit the airwaves in June.  Jackson’s Facebook page jumped from 800,000 fans to 7 million the week following the self-proclaimed King of Pop’s passing.  But the controversy over Jackson's doctor still rages. I know we'll be hearing a lot more about this one in 2010. Murray probably will be charged early next year after prosecutors present their case to a grand jury. I don’t think L.A. wants to lose another celebrity trial. Dr. Murray will probably be charged with involuntary manslaughter. Right now Jackson's death is being treated as a homicide investigation (simply because homicide investigators handle cases in which the victim died in the presence of another person – in this case Conrad Murray).  Thousands of media outlets will continue to follow this case. Get ready L.A.!

11.   Anthony Sowell’s rampage: This Cleveland rapist, if convicted, is the perpetrator of one of the most gruesome series of crimes in recent history. He lived in a townhouse duplex filled with the rotting bodies of women he had raped and strangled to death. Police found bodies in upstairs bedrooms, the living room, a crawl space, a shallow grave in the backyard and another grave in the basement. There were at least 11 victims.  The real question in this unspeakable case: neighbors and officials who did nothing about the horrendous smell wafting from the home. Neighbors knew something was off about Sowell. Some said he reeked so terribly himself that their eyes would water. City officials who inspected the street blamed the smell on backed up sewers or Ray's Sausage Company, housed in an adjacent building. Had the signs been heeded earlier -- among them Sowell’s strange behavior and the stench coming from his house -- perhaps some of the women might have been saved and more deaths prevented. This is a cautionary tale (a gruesome one) for us all to pay attention to our surroundings, follow our instincts, and report and pursue strange things -- even odors -- that seem out-of-place.

12.  Bernie Madoff’s scheme exposed: Madoff ran the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history. He cheated thousands of investors of some $50 billion. The federal government exposed the scheme in December ’08. Madoff pled guilty to 11 felony counts in March of  ’09, making him the highest profile white-collar criminal in recent memory. Madoff's scheme wiped out dozens of charities and the life savings of entire families; he totally ruined many innocent lives. Madoff wants everyone to believe he was the only one who knew of the fraud. That's hard to believe, since his brother, two sons, niece, and other family members held high-level positions in the firm. Now the 70-year-old will spend the rest of his life in prison. The Madoff scandal seemed to be at the epicenter of the economic meltdown and will undoubtedly shake the financial community for years to come. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year’s Military-style: A Look Back

Just before New Year’s Eve 2003, something extraordinary happened in three popular partying spots: The arm of the law came down and ordered that information on everyone visiting those respective cities be handed over to the FBI. It was a true Big Brother moment, all in the name of Homeland Security.

The three cities -- Washington, D.C., New York and Las Vegas – were pointed out as possible target cities for terrorist strikes. As history would show, it never happened, but that didn’t stop the frenzy that it might happen. The New York Times' story about the high alert, issued December 21, 2004, read: "Military helicopters and sharpshooters joined fireworks and noisemakers on Wednesday in welcoming the New Year in the nation's largest celebrations."

Then-Las Vegas Sheriff Bill Young told PBS’s “FRONTLINE” producers, “We have 300,000 to 400,000 people on the streets on Las Vegas Boulevard [the Las Vegas Strip] in front of all these beautiful hotels, waiting for the clock to strike midnight and all the fireworks to go off. And that was what the intelligence information indicated, that that was, you know, the type of area or venue that they were going to try to target.”

“Here was the real dilemma,” Young continued. “Do we cancel our New Year's Eve celebration in Las Vegas? That was the question being placed on me.”

So the answer was to hand over the names of everybody staying in town. That meant hotel records, airline records, rental car records, gift shop records and casino records.
People swarmed into Las Vegas anyway to welcome in 2004.

Sheriff Young seemed to justify the heavy scrutiny over his city's guests, telling PBS, “People that come to Vegas, the only time they're not on video is when they're in their room or they're in a public restroom. They don't have them in those. But the hallways, the elevators, the gaming area -- we've taken that to a level that has, I think, surpassed any place in the United States.”

But the high alerts weren’t the only time guests of Las Vegas have unknowingly had their personal information handed over to law enforcement. For years, insiders at Vegas hotels have reported that when someone registers at a hotel or even a small motel, and the hotel desk clerk takes the guest's driver’s license, he then walks behind the lobby where you can’t see him. That’s when he makes a Xerox copy that is later handed over, in a stack of driver’s licenses, to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. The police, in turn, run the licenses see if there are any outstanding arrest warrants.

Early on, when I was covering the police beat for the Las Vegas Sun, I wondered how, when someone had just arrived in town and wasn’t pulled over for a traffic violation, the cops knew that particular person had an outstanding warrant. I’d see it several times a week in police reports. Or a news release would state that so-and-so was arrested soon after arriving in Las Vegas because he or she was a fugitive from justice.

Once I learned that hotel personnel regularly Xeroxed driver’s licenses of registered hotel guests and handed them over to the cops, then I knew. The police would run the names, then, voila, up would pop the miscreants–an easy collar for police.

That’s the dirty secret most people who come to Las Vegas don’t know about. It’s not just that people are being watched via surveillance cameras in cabs, restaurants, hotels and casinos, but their driver’s license info may be passed on to the authorities as well.

As Gary Peck, director with the American Civil Liberties Nevada office, told PBS in reference to the December 2003 terrorist scare, '"Trust us. We're the government. And if you're not up to no good, why should you care?' That's not the way our system works. We are a country that is founded on a set of principles relating to individual freedom, including our privacy, our right to be left alone by the government."

Well said, Gary Peck.

Such law enforcement scrutiny for New Year’s Eve hasn’t happened since 2003 turned into 2004–at least not that we know of.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


by Katherine Scardino

I thought I'd get your attention with the title to my post this week. What a year! How about that Tiger Woods, eh? What a man! I read a comment by Donald Trump, the icon of faithfulness, who said “Tiger Woods is going to be hotter than ever before.” Well, perhaps so. Being a married man and having an extramarital affair does seem to be de riguer this year. We've read the statistics about the large number of women in the United States who have been raped. One statistic from 2004, its reliability subsequently questioned, was one in four women. Even if it were one in 10 women, that's still a horrifying number -- especially if you are a woman in the United States. Each of you have 10 female friends. Look around you. Statistically, either you or one of your 10 friends will be raped in your lifetimes. Not a pretty picture.

But let’s be realistic. Are we, as a nation and a society, telling the male population that taking advantage of a woman, whether the extreme act of violence against a woman, or having a lustful, consensual relationship that makes your skin tingle -- while married -- is acceptable in our world? Do men not think they're taking advantage of a wife when they have sex with another woman? My comment to men who come to my office and start complaining about their married life is: you got yourself into this situation. If you're not happy, take action. Talk to her. Do something about it -- and that doesn't include having sex on the side. That’s the wimpy way of handling an unhappy marital relationship.

This year, we had a lot of men -- bad boys -- to talk about. Tiger Woods, of course, but then he's turned out to be a total jerk. But since my job is generally to look at both sides of a situation; didn't his wife know what was going on? For whatever reason (maybe 300 million or so of them), she must have decided she preferred to stay where she was. But for that impulsive drive down the driveway into a tree, we probably still wouldn't  know what all he'd  been up to. I still think there was a logical reason why Elin had that golf club in her hand. (Heh, heh...) Bad, bad boy!

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford gets my vote for the whiniest bad boy. Oh goodness, he flies to Argentina (on taxpayer dollars) to see his long-time mistress while telling his staff, and presumably his wife, that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Now, really -- what governor’s staff is going to let their boss go hiking mountain trails by himself, and who would really believe that anyway? What politician doesn't relish the security detail? The whiniest politicians are most likely to see an assassin behind every corner just waiting to knock off his attractive butt. As you can tell, I wasn't impressed with the Sanford story. If he wants to go see his mistress and leave his wife at home, go for it -- but have the cajones to tell Ms. Sanford. She is, after all, his legal partner and the mother of his children. Not nice.

John Edwards. Oh my gawd! Mister Nice Guy; Mister Good Husband and Father; Mister Religious Person; Mister Husband Who Stands Beside His Cancerous Wife: he's a fraud in every way. Actually, he's  scary. If he could convince so many people to believe they might  vote for him in a presidential election, just imagine what he could do with international politics. No, not much to say about John Edwards. He is bad to the core.

Then we had David Letterman. Okay, I admit it -- I like David Letterman, and frankly, I thought he handled the entire “expose” fairly well. He admitted his affair, and he joked about the scandal and about himself to his national audience. I'm sure his wife didn't find it amusing and told him so in an appropriate manner. However, I felt that he handled the indiscretion with a little style and hopefully, those two will work things out. I'm rooting for them.

And, now, a local scandal. One of our Harris County, Texas, county court-at-law judges was accused of official oppression. He didn't actually have sex with another woman, but career-wise, he might as well have had mad, lustful sex in the middle of the courtroom on a Monday morning at 10:00 a.m.  Sitting on the bench one day, he saw an attractive woman  -- a defendant in his courtroom. The judge got her telephone number, called her, and asked her out for dinner. She went. Then she alleged that he'd told her that he would get her a better lawyer if she didn't like her own and, she alleged, he said he wanted a long-term relationship with her. I suppose he gets some credit for not wanting a one-night stand. The District Attorney’s Office sent an investigator to interview the judge in his chambers. The judge talked to the investigator without knowing he was being secretly recorded. The defense tried to attack the credibility and  reputation of the woman. It didn't work. A jury found him guilty.

These are just a few of the many sexual incidents in the news during 2009. Not one was charged with an offense, except the judge in my jurisdiction.  He was tried and found guilty, but only on charges of “official oppression”. The other examples might elicit sympathy for the wife, or in some cases, even the bad boy. You may complain that I've only relayed sexually imprudent incidents committed by the male half of our population. Well, I thought about that -- and other than stupid, young Hollywood bimbos, I can't recall any significant news story involving a woman running off with another man and getting caught. Did I miss something? Hollywood gave us Roman Polanski, again, this year. Sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977. Really. Was that before or after Woody Allen? Who have I missed??

Monday, December 28, 2009

Tips from the Fashion DA

By Robin Sax

“Fashion crimes” and associated terms such as “fashion police,” are expressions  loaded with meaning.  Of course, there's the pure pop culture meaning: when someone is wearing something so atrocious it deserves a citation, a warning, or even a filing! But there's another context where the words “fashion” and “crime” intersect, and that’s in the courtroom. 
One unintended consequence of the O.J. Simpson double murder trial was the spotlight on clothes, fashion, and what worked in front of a jury.  Not only was the defendant's choice of clothing important, but with the televising of the trial, the lawyers' dress became significant as well. As People Magazine  reported in its September 19, 1994 issue:  “Not since L.A. Law have so many sharp dressers filled a televised courtroom. But this time it's real life.”

Attorneys spend much of their time advising their clients how to act, how to behave, and what to wear in court.  But now lawyers must pay attention to their appearance, as well.  “Let's face it, human nature being what it is, when we pay attention to looks, looks matter,'' says Susan Powell, a licensed clinical psychologist and principal with New York-based jury consultants Strategic Litigation Research.  “And an attorney who doesn't look right is an attorney who will not have the confidence of his client . . . or, possibly, a jury.''

Lawyers can easily dole out advice to their clients on what to wear and not to wear in court, as I did in The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Criminal Justice System 

“APPEARANCE: Dress like you are going to church or interviewing for a job that you wanted.

- If you want more specific suggestions, a dress for women/girls and slacks and button-down shirt for men/boys.


- Women should avoid wearing too much makeup. You don’t want to look flashy or tough; you want to look soft and natural.”

For those professionals who must appear in court -- the lawyers, the expert witnesses, the cops -- who regularly find their way into a courtroom, here are some suggestions to make you likable and effective:

 1. Present yourself as a professional in that role should be presented.   If you are the lawyer in front of a jury, wear a suit.  Other professionals should dress as they would in a business setting.  People watch TV and surf the web---they have preconceived notions of what professionals “should” look like.  Failing to meet those preconceived notions might make the judge or the jury doubt the professional and his or her opinion.  Accept it—looks and demeanor count!

2. More important than what you wear, you must be truthful.   Be transparent in your conversations; avoid vagueness or confusing terminology.
 For those of you who are willing to go a bit further, other advice I would give you includes:

 3.  Speak plain English.  Simple and concise statements are easy to understand.  If you don’t speak “over” the jury’s head, they are more likely to understand and be persuaded by your position.

 4.    Be yourself.  Don't try to play a role or be pretentious. A jury wants professionals to be truthful, and if you aren’t “being yourself," the jury will know it.  Acting pompous or unnatural is likely to turn the jury off and possibly create distrust when you present  information. They'll also be less likely to reach the conclusions you want them to reach.

 5.    Be prepared.  Someone who speaks easily and freely (due to careful preparation) in front of a jury seems honest and truthful.  Again, the more honest a professional appears, the more likely the jury is to accept that professional’s opinion and point of view.  Also, a well-prepared speaker appears knowledgeable, whereas someone who lacks preparation often reveals a sense of insecurity about the subject they are presenting.

We live in a media-savvy world where jurors, judges, potential clients, and society as a whole expect those in the courtroom to look and act like professionals.  Following the suggestions above can help legal professionals achieve their  objectives--both in and out of the courtroom.

Friday, December 25, 2009

It's Beginning To Sound A Lot Like Christmas

by Donna Pendergast

Love him, hate him or indifferent, one thing is for certain: it's hard to ignore him.

Joe Arpaio, the self-proclaimed toughest sheriff in the country, is back in the news. The 77-year-old top cop at the Maricopa Sheriff's Department has never been one to steer away from controversy. Even his most ardent fans will admit that he gravitates toward the front page like the three wise men toward a star.

Since his first election in 1996, Arpaio has been a source of controversy and media attention for his MR. GRINCH-like approach to running the Maricopa County, Arizona, jail. Of the firm belief that a jail is not a country club, Arpaio has initiated a number of operating procedures that have earned him fans and foes.

His more controversial moves include re-establishing chain gangs for males and females, and forcing inmates to wear pink underwear, handcuffs and socks, certain that teasing worse than RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED REINDEER endured will have a future deterrent effect
 on offenders. He also cut his food bill by reducing the inmate meal plan from three meals a day to two, and he pared down his per-meal cost to under 40 cents by introducing the bologna sandwich as standard fare. That's just the tip of the iceberg. He banned coffee, smoking, pornographic magazines and unrestricted TV in the jail. He created tent cities to handle the jail overload. When a federal court order required cable TV in the jail, he hooked it up but only allowed The Weather and Disney channels.

When temperatures reached an unrelenting 120 degrees in the tent city, Arpaio commented to a complaining inmate that the troops in Iraq sleep in tents in similar temperatures -- while wearing heavy gear. He did allow the inmates to strip down to their pink undies to help weather the heat as they probably prayed LET IT SNOW and drifted off to uncomfortable sleep dreaming of a WINTER WONDERLAND.

As it turns out, the tough guy has a soft spot and that soft spot is Christmas music, yes Christmas music, especially anything by Alvin and the Chipmunks. Tidings of comfort and joy make Sheriff Joe happy, and he's darn determined to make his inmates enjoy them as much as he does. They will have a HOLLY JOLLY CHRISTMAS if jolly Joe has anything to say about it. There will be no BLUE CHRISTMAS in Maricopa County on joyful Joe's watch.

For the second year in a row, jocund Joe has been piping "Christmas" music into the third largest jail system in the country nonstop twelve hours a day throughout the holiday season. It's enough to make the nearly 8,000 inmates pray LET THERE BE PEACE ON EARTH and long for a SILENT NIGHT. Mind you, judicious Joe's song selection is culturally diverse and multi-ethnic. Holiday music from all countries and all faiths are included on his playlist. You are as likely to hear FELIZ NAVIDAD or a selection by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as you are GRANDMA GOT RUN OVER BY A REINDEER. Since very few of jovial Joe's charges are likely to be HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, he has a captive audience for his onslaught of holiday cheer. If you don't like holiday music, it must make the TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS (or however long jubilant Joe deems the holiday season to be) seem very long indeed.

Six separate lawsuits have been brought by inmates over the last two years to halt the noel noise on grounds that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and that it forces inmates to participate in religious celebrations. The last of these lawsuits was dismissed by the court last week, a fact celebrated by joyous Joe in a red and green press release. So jocular Joe can GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN and in the jail as well.

As a final note from all of us here at Women in Crime Ink, WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS and a Happy New Year.

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

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Massacre

by Susan Murphy Milano

The house (left) in Carnation, Washington, was brightly decorated for the holidays. A freshly cut, eight-foot tree in the living room overflowed with presents as Wayne and Judy Anderson prepared for their Christmas Eve dinner. They awaited their adult children and grandchildren. 

Just before 5 p.m. on Dec. 24, 2007, Michele Anderson, 30, and her former live-in boyfriend, Joseph McEnroe, 29, entered her parents' home to bring them a present no one could have predicted. Like a scene out of a horror movie, each armed with hand guns they purchased at a pawn shop together, they executed her father and then her mother. 

Five minutes later, the joy and anticipation of sharing Christmas with the family turned into terror and fear for Scott Anderson, his wife Erica and children, Nathan, three, and Carolina, five, when they walked in the door. The family met with a blaze of gunfire. 


The pair (above) shot Scott and then Erica in front of the couple’s children. Somehow Erica, already shot twice, managed to call to 911.

* 5:13.47 p.m.: Communications Center receives a call lasting about 10 seconds from the Anderson residence. The 911 call receiver did not hear any talking on the call, and noted information for the dispatcher: "Heard a lot of yelling in the background….sounded more like party noise than angry heated arguing".

 * 5:15.11 p.m.: Call Receiver calls back into the residence but the call goes to voice mail. Two squad cars are dispatched to the caller's home.

Prosecutors say murder suspect Joe McEnroe yanked the phone out of Erica's hands, tore the phone apart, then shot her in the head. Afterward, McEnroe shot and killed her two young children.

Michele Anderson, in her bright orange county-issued jumpsuit, told a Seattle Times reporter in a June 2008 jail-house interview that she "killed her family in a fit of rage, claiming she had suffered years of physical and emotional abuse."

Justice is a long time coming. Defense attorneys for both of these animals have been granted one continuance after another since the prosecutor announced he would seek the death penalty. The defense attorneys claim that they are not ready to set a trial date because of the complexity of the case. They say they have approximately 200 witnesses to schedule and interview. At this point, the judge will set a trial date sometime in 2010.

If found guilty, Anderson and McEnroe face only two possible sentences for six counts of aggravated murder: execution, or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

These grisly murders, which might seem a prime argument for the death penalty, should instead make us reexamine death-penalty statutes across the country.

The costs necessary to obtain and carry out a death sentence, including many years of appeals, require more than the justice system can absorb, according to a recent report from the Death Penalty Information Center. The defense of Anderson and McEnroe is a case in point. They will drain the justice system dry of resources it can't afford and waste as much time and money as possible. Warehousing them would cost far less money, time and effort.

I would be in favor of abolishing the death penalty if it meant these offenders could be convicted within a reasonable amount of time and sentenced to live out the rest of their lives in a prison cell. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Tidings of Mayhem

by Diane Fanning
Austin, Texas, (left) woke to an unusual sprinkling of snow on Christmas morning, 1885. Instead of tidings of great joy, residents picked up their copies of the Austin Daily Statesman to find a Halloween-style nightmare.

A front-page headline mocked sentiments of peace on earth and goodwill to men: "Blood! Blood! Blood! The Demons Have Transferred Their Thirst for Blood to White People."

The crime spree began nearly a year earlier with the murders  of African Americans who lived in servants' quarters across an alley from their wealthy employers' homes. First to die was Mollie Smith, on Dec. 30th, 1884, at Ninth and West Pecan Street(now the famed Sixth Street.) The killer beat, stabbed and slashed her to death with an ax and a knife before dragging her body outside. Her death was reported under the headline: "BLOODY WORK! A Fearful Midnight Murder ... A Colored Woman Killed Outright and Her Lover Mostly Done For."

On May 6, 1885, the town was rocked again: "THE FOUL FIENDS Keep up Their Work, Another Woman Cruelly Murdered. Another Deed of Deviltry in the Crimson Catalogue of Crime." The Statesman reported that the body of Eliza Shelley found with "the night dress displaced in such a manner as to suggest she may have been outraged after death."

Over nine months, five black maids -- including a girl just 11 years old -- were murdered and possibly raped postmortem. The killer also bludgeoned to death the lover sharing the fifth victim's bed.  The paper named the attacker "The Servant Girl Annihilator."

The crimes baffled authorities. Homicides were rare in Austin, usually the result of a bar fight or domestic violence. The idea of a serial killers had yet to be developed. When prosecutor E.T. Moore said he believed the murders were committed by one man who hated women, Moore was treated with scorn. The police pursued their rejected-lover theory, arresting three men. Only one went to trial, and he was acquitted.

In his State of the City address, on Nov. 10, 1885, Mayor John Robertson proclaimed, "I have faith the author of these crimes will be uncovered. No human heart is strong enough to hold such secrets." The mayor had no idea how many secrets a psychopath can hide.

Then the attacker changed his victimology on Christmas Eve 1885. Susan Hancock (her grave site on left) died in her home on the spot where the Four Seasons Hotel now stands. The killer dragged her brutalized body outside and dumped it in the snow.

His next stop was a few blocks away, at the home of Jimmy and Eula Phillips, now the site of the John Henry Faulk Central Library. The murderer treated Eula (below right) as he had Susan and left Jimmy for dead in his bed. 

These victims were not servants and they were not black--but the methodologies of the crime pointed to the same predator.  Fear oozed under the door sills of every home in town.
The police charged Eula's husband with her murder, accusing him of committing a copycat crime even though he was seriously injured in the incident.  The jury convicted Jimmy Phillips but he was cleared on appeal with the discovery that his fingerprints were smaller than those the murderer left in Eula's blood at the crime scene.

The murders ended after Eula's death.  Historians researching the Servant Girl Annihilator estimate his victims numbered anywhere from eight to twenty.  But where did this seemingly insatiable killer go?

Does he lie buried in the Oakwood Cemetery (below) near his victims? No one knows.
Did he cross the Atlantic, as some theorize, and resume his killing spree in London as Jack the Ripper? Evidence of that possibility is tenuous at best.

Curiosity about the unsolved crimes continues to this day. Author Steven Saylor hoped to solve the mystery when he began his research. He didn't find the name of the killer. Instead he wrote a fictional account, A TWIST AT THE END: A NOVEL OF O. HENRY. Saylor focused on the rumor that O. Henry, the famous writer was once a lover of Eula Phillips.

Other experienced and amateur sleuths -- including Skip Hollandsworth of Texas Monthly, former waitress Nicole Krizak and Rondina Phillips Mercer, a contemporary relative of Eula Phillips -- have sought answers, at times with a passion verging on obsession. 

In 1884, before Jack the Ripper, before Sigmund Freud, before anyone could envision the long list of serial killers who'd become household names, the Servant Girl Annihilator stalked the streets of downtown Austin leaving a string of victims, disturbing the quiet of a Silent Night, and leaving a mystery unsolved for 125 years.

Sending my heartfelt gratitude for the research assistance I received from Danny Camacho of Save Austin's Cemeteries -- an organization dedicated to the preservation of historic cemeteries and the timeless glimpse at our past that they contain.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Last Minute Christmas Gifts? You've Found Them

by Stacy Dittrich

It’s that time of year again. Only three days until Christmas and — if you’re like me -- you’re scrambling to pick up the last minute gift you forgot to buy for your Aunt Sally. You know Aunt Sally; the at-home super-sleuth who takes her phone off the hook and locks her doors to ensure she never misses an episode of Nancy Grace or the FBI Files. She’s the one who insists that everyone she passes in the mall is on a wanted poster, or every child she sees has been recently abducted. “It’s the birthmark above the eye — I’m telling you, it’s her!”

She's the neighborhood Sherlock Holmes, complete with binoculars handily stationed at each window so she can quickly and efficiently determine who in her neighborhood is a pedophile, or who is having an affair. Everyone knows someone like Aunt Sally. She's tricky to shop for. There's always the highly regarded Spy Gear — located in the toy department and aimed at 5- to 12-year old boys, but it’s doubtful she could maneuver her way around the night vision goggles or laser alarms. Or, you can browse through the Women in Crime Ink bookstore (an excellent Facebook catalog) and overload her with a slew of true-crime books and thrillers. Most people are feeling the crunch of the economy this year and are cutting back on spending, so books make a great gift!

Caylee Anthony and Michael Jackson books dominated the year's crime shows. Get an up close and personal view; look deep into the facts of these cases with true-crime books like “Mommy’s Little Girl,” by WCI’s Diane Fanning and “Be Careful Who You Love: Inside the Michael Jackson Case,” by Diane Dimond. Kathryn Casey’s, “A Descent Into Hell,” and Lisa Cohen’s “After Etan,” are favorites.

Have a self-proclaimed criminal profiler in the family? Pat Brown’s “Killing for Sport” would make the perfect gift. Books make their way to even those family members that rarely keep up with crime. If your teen is a die-hard rap-music fan, Cathy Scott’s “The Killing of Tupac Shakur” would be a different twist to an ear-busting CD. If the perpetual macho-man in your household scoffs at girly crimes, my book, “Murder Behind the Badge: True Stories of Cops Who Kill,” would make a great stocking stuffer. A history buff in the family? Laura James' theory that Jesse James' son was a cold blooded killer in "The Love Pirate and the Bandit's Son," will keep them occupied for hours.

Between $8-$25 each, books are within this year's budgets and, contrary to popular belief, this print medium is not going away anytime soon. Prefer fictional mysteries to true crime? Many of WCI's versatile authors WCI have delved into the world of fiction. Kathryn Casey’s “Singularity” and “Bloodlines” are both-award winning novels. Diane Fanning and I both have created our own fiction series as well.

Aspiring law students could probably use Andrea Campbell’s “Legal Ease,” and Robin Sax’s “It Happens Every Day: Inside the Life of a Sex Crime DA” and keep them on a shelf close to the computer. Trying to figure out how to help a friend or relative who's suffering her domestic life with a dangerous boyfriend or spouse, or is enduring an abusive relationship? Susan Murphy-Milano’s “Defending Our Lives” or “Moving Out, Moving On” can help. Just make sure you give this gift discretely, where the abuser can't see!

Yep, our authors have it all. Your last-minute shopping is over. Click over to the Women In Crime Ink book store, find the books you want, and scoot on over to your nearest bookstore. Your friends and relatives will thank you for it—and so will we! Happy Holidays to all of you from all of us here at Women In Crime Ink!