An Unexpected Knock


The other day, the rest of the gang went for a walk in the neighborhood. The youngest and most challenging boy showed little interest in going, so I stayed home with him.

A short time later, I heard a knock on the front door. Seeing that my son was engaged in an alphabet toy, I walked toward the sound.

Through a side glass panel, I could see an unfamiliar tall and thin young man standing in the entryway. He was dressed casually--a navy blue collared shirt, khaki pants, and brown dress shoes that do not require shining.

He appeared to be 19 or 20 years old.

I opened the door and quietly closed it behind me so as not to give our youngest son a chance to make a run for freedom. The young guy spoke immediately:

"Good afternoon sir. I do not want to disturb you, but I have an exciting opportunity for you. I am participating in a program to sell the best magazines at unbeatable prices. If I am able to generate the most sales, I will win a trip to Hawaii..."
From the young sales guy's body language, it seemed that he was not yet comfortable in speaking this way; yet he had been coached well and connected the words and sentences flawlessly.

He continued with the well rehearsed pitch; complete with uncomfortable dramatic pauses where the potential customer should be laughing or at least providing a complimentary chuckle.

After a few moments, I interrupted his sales attempt with a polite: "I am not interested."

The young man thanked me for my time, and walked toward the end of the block before disappearing.

The exchange reminded me of another rookie magazine salesman that I met while I was a patrol officer. It was after midnight, and I was dispatched to a pay phone near one of our city's housing projects to talk to a stranded individual.

I arrived at the location and encountered "Willy." Willy was a heavy-set 18 year old African-American kid with thick glasses.

"Sir, can you help me, I am stuck here?" The young man asked.

Willy was from a rural area in a neighboring state, and had responded to an appealing help wanted newspaper advertisement involving sales and being able to travel.

"These guys drove a bunch of us here and we have been training for a new job selling magazines. Man, if I'd have know that I be selling garbage door-to-door, I'd have never left home."
Willy's hands were trembling slightly as he spoke, and he was unable to find a comfortable position to stand while talking.

He continued:

"So, I told the team leader: I don't want to do this anymore. It is not me. He looked at me, cussed me, the other guy stopped the van over there, and they kicked me out to sidewalk. That was two hours ago. I have no friends or family here. I am scared."
Despite only have a few dollars with him, Willy was a certainly an appealing crime victim in this neck of the woods. I was able to make arrangements for him to stay the night at city shelter and they would help him return home.

It is odd how a knock on the door can elicit a long forgotten police memory.

My moment of quiet reflection was broken by the clicking sound of our deadbolt lock turning, and the laughing of my youngest son from the inside of the door. My mood immediately changed as I searched my empty pockets for house keys to unlock the door; realizing that they were inside on the table.

Thank goodness for summer and being able to find an open rear window.

Not the Greatest Crime Prevention Idea Ever

Sorry that the blog has been suffering from lack of attention, but I left one job this week and am in training for the next one.

************************************************************************

I really don't think that this is a good crime prevention idea:

British cops are officially way more awesome than any of their international counterparts today, thanks to a new experiment being conducted in an upscale London neighborhood.

In an effort to teach people not to leave valuable items in their cars, police officers will be wandering the streets looking for stuff to steal. If you don't have your doors locked, the cops will take your stuff. Because they're cops, they'll also be kind enough to leave a note explaining what happened, but the point is to teach people to be more responsible.

"The message to car owners is: 'Help us to help you,'" said Richmond Police Chief Inspector Duncan Slade in a statement.

So far the cops have only committed one robbery, while a couple dozen other potential capers were foiled when the car owners showed up...
What happens when police collect a few items from "Bubba Citizen's" car and he reports that he also is missing $200 from the inside of his vehicle? He is positive that he had the money prior to police entering his vehicle and that it was well hidden.

I am thinking the agency's internal affairs equivalent has enough to do rather than have this new approach generate investigations for them.

The author of this article closes with a similar yet humorous thought:

In theory the idea seems both awesome and hilarious. But if we were wily thieves hearing of this public campaign, we'd just start leaving notes blaming the police when we stole stuff.
Perhaps, having officers just leave a note on the unlocked vehicle be safer.

Tuber of the Week #21: Touchdown

With the start of the American collegiate and professional football seasons nearing, here is a compilation of a series of short commercials staring NFL players produced for the NFL Network.

Even for non-sports fans, I think the ads show excellent creativity and certainly what skilled videographers can do to make the impossible seem very real.



My favorite clip was WR Chris Chambers catching trick at 2:35.

I also sent this link to a police captain that I used to work with and am convinced, after he watched the video, that he pulled his patrol vehicle to a secluded location and tried several times the stunt involving the player jumping through the open sport utility window (at 3:00).

Taken and Never Returned


The public’s perception of missing persons cases through exposure to crime television, is not accurate—-the vast majority of disappearance calls that law enforcement responds to are not criminally related. The persons thought to missing, turn-up later just fine.

Fortunately, when I was a patrol officer, I took lots of missing person reports; many involved incidents where the person’s loved one was sure something bad had happened only to find out later that he/she had voluntarily left for some reason.

In contrast, the missing adult and children cases that I have highlighted on this blog remain unsolved.

The following case has made me uncomfortable for years, and I list several reasons why after this summary:

On June 9, 1995 at 10:45pm Morgan Nick was getting ready to leave a Little League baseball game. The 6-year-old girl was at the game with her mom and had stayed a little bit later to catch some fireflies with friends.

While walking to her mom's car, Morgan realized she had some sand in her shoe. Cops say her mom had already sat down in the driver's seat to turn on the air conditioning. When Morgan's mom turned around to check up on her daughter... Morgan was gone. She was never heard from again.

Officials say several witnesses saw a white male watching Morgan as she was playing in the park with her friends.

Strange Vehicle

Officials say several witnesses saw a white male watching Morgan as she was playing in the park with her friends. Those who saw him say he was about 6 feet tall, with a medium build and had a mustache and one-inch beard.

At the time, witnesses say he was between 23 and 38 years old with curly, black or salt-and-pepper, slicked back hair.

Cops say, at the time of the crime, a witness saw a suspicious car parked nearby that disappeared around the same time as Morgan. The witness described the vehicle as a white camper, with rear damage on the passenger side, hooked up to a red Ford pick-up truck.

According to the witness, the pick-up looked odd with the camper, since the camper was around five inches too short for the truck. Cops say the truck had Arkansas plates.
Why this case bothers me:

Reason #1: Proximity—I spent most of my childhood not too far from Alma, AR. It is not a hotbed of criminal activity--much less child abductions.

Reason #2: Circumstances—When I read of the little girl being watched in the park while catching fireflies, I was reminded of how much freedom we had as children.

When my brother had a Little League baseball or football game, I would wander the expansive park area with friends until the game was over. I still remember the icy stare I got from Marine Dad one time when I was late returning and he had to go look for me as it was getting dark.

Reason #3: Suspect Description:--A suspect driving an old damaged pickup truck with an undersized camper shell, and an Arkansas plate is a fantastic lead for law enforcement to investigate; especially when a second attempted abduction was reported in the area a few days later. It makes you wonder what was wrong with the vehicle description…

As a result of the tragedy, the victim’s mother, Colleen Nick, started the Morgan Nick Foundation to provide a support network for the families of missing children and offer preventative education.

In closing, here is a letter posted on the Foundation’s site from Morgan Nick’s mother and father to their missing daughter:

Dear Morgan,

We want you to know how special you are! You are a blessing we cannot live without. We feel cheated every day that goes by and we do not see your smile, hear your bubbly laughter or listen to your thoughts and ideas.

We have never stopped believing that we’ll find you. We are saving our hugs and kisses for you. Always know that you are loved. Most of all, don’t ever give up.

We WILL find you. We promise!

Love,
Mom and Dad
The words are certainly heartbreaking, but also motivational in forcing us to recognize how more needs to be done to assist the families of missing children.

Naked on the Westside: Part I


As with all bloggers, we have peaks and valleys. My time for blogging the past few weeks has been very limited. I also have missed regularly reading the works of the many talented individual writers.

Part of the lack of time is that I am leaving my current job to pursue a terminal degree in criminal justice. It is will not be an easy task, but I welcome the challenge--especially when the institution offered me a job and to pay for the schooling.

Related to my new "career", I recently spent a day in Big City observing police officers for a crime research project.

The following post is part one of that experience.


******************************************************************************

"Take a deep breath. Connect the Velcro straps and ensure a snug fit. Exhale." I thought to myself.

It had been nine years since I had done this--wear a ballistic vest. No thick trauma plate in the front with this body armor, but still as uncomfortable as I remember.

After tucking in my shirts to conceal the vest, I instinctively reached to check my belt. Nothing was there. No Glock pistol. No portable radio. No Freeze-Plus-P chemical spray.

My right forearm wanted to rest on an invisible expandable baton on the right of my belt. With my uniform arrangement I always placed the leather baton holder on the right-front, but it was not there either. My arm kept dropping down.

I felt naked. Naked on the Westside of Big City.

When I arranged for the police observation, I was shocked. Why do I need body armor for this?

My thoughts were interrupted by fellow student and a former Adjacent Big City officer Edward's concerned voice:

"I have had trouble getting in here. The officers are mistrustful of riders after a bad experience with a student observer. Hopefully, our policing experience will put them ease."

We enter the precinct doors and speak to a desk sergeant. "The Lieutenant will be with you guys in a little while," she directs and moves over to a man standing next to us wanting to file an assault report.

After 40 minutes, the sergeant takes us through the secured door to the Lt.'s office. He is a man of average height and weight. On the walls are the usual cop items for commanders--certificates, awards, and pictures of Big City Department's chief and other brass.

On the wall next to a desktop computer (that does not look heavily used) is the picture of the Lt.--as a younger man smiling and sitting on a police motorcycle.

"You know the veteran officers would never agree to this," the Lt. states to Edward after a brief introduction. "The Captain had a talk with the new guys and we hope they will cooperate, but there is no guarantee."

Edward nods and thanks the Lt.for his efforts.

It is an odd situation since the chief of the department is the one who wanted this study conducted; yet, Edward and his student cohorts are made to feel like the bad guys.

With the observers placed with me back in the day, I had no choice in the matter. A supervisor would say this is "Citizen John" and he is with you tonight. Different times--more professional research I guess.

The Lt. assigns an officer to drive us to the zones that we will be observing.

That officer, named Jordan, sports a spotless uniform. He is polite, but does not say much to us as we exit the precinct parking lot. He later mentions that he recently returned from a tour in Iraq.

A blast of hot air hits me in the face as the driver accelerates--reminding me that there will be little relief for vest wearers today in the scorching summer heat.

**************************************************

I'll finish this post next time.

Breaking Football News: Well Maybe

I again try my hand at investigative reporter...

I certainly hope that the guy arrested early this morning by the Florida Highway Patrol is not the same Aqib Talib who plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The arrested guy named Talib was charged with battery and resisting.

The team has already had to deal with injuries and a failed drug test this summer (which results in a suspension)--a first season which looks to be a challenge for head coach Raheem Morris.

The booking photo looks like the Buccaneers' Talib and the date of birth provided is one day off of what is listed for the player on NFL.com.

I have not seen any news reports on the story yet.

***************************************

Update: The St. Petersburg Times confirmed the report of Talib's arrest a few minutes ago. It looks like I scooped them by about half-an-hour. Yes, I know--a small accomplishment.

Pick-up Lines and Crime


From a password-protected news article (that I am unable to link):

…An 18-year-old man was arrested after he pretended to be a plain-clothes cop making an arrest in a park in order to get the contact information from two teen girls sitting nearby, police said.

Thomas Lee Armstrong's plan was allegedly foiled after the girls demanded to see a badge — which Armstrong could not produce — then called the real police to report him.

The two girls, both 17, were sitting on park swings at around 7:40 p.m. Friday when they saw Armstrong tackle another young man and put him in handcuffs nearby, police said. Armstrong, Northumberland, walked over to the girls and told them he was "Officer Jackson," and he just arrested the other man on charges of violating a protective order, police said.

He told the girls he would need to get their names and "information" as witnesses.

After the girls said "no" and demanded a badge, Armstrong walked away.

He tried to come back, this time with his buddies, but the girls ran away and called police before he could, police said.

Armstrong was charged with impersonating a police officer, harassment and disorderly conduct, police said.
Perhaps, Mr. Armstrong should have tried these beaut pick-up lines with the girls at the park instead:

• Are you from Tennessee? {No} Because you are the only 10 I see…

• Is it hot in here or is it just you?

• Did it hurt? You know when you fell from heaven and landed here.

• Are you a parking ticket? Cause you got FINE written all over you.

• If I could rearrange the alphabet, I would put U and I together.
Then again, maybe an arrest with his approach was not such a bad outcome.

Part XVIII: Brianna Maitland Missing Person


This is a continuation of my discussion with "Bob" about the Brianna Maitland missing person case.

****************************************************

ME: In our discussion last week, you suggested that in the three months prior to Brianna’s disappearance, that much was going on. In this post, what is it that you were able to put together that may provide us with more of an idea of what Brianna was experiencing… and which may help bring more insight…

BOB: Brianna had a lot of friends… in rural NW Vermont I’d say that’s uncommon. There are lots of small towns around, everything requires a long drive. Where Brianna grew up would seem to make that even more unusual. Eventually grew up to the point where having time for her friends would force a hard choice on her.

That time came when she turned 17, in October 2003.

Her parents loved nature… they bought a camp during the 1980’s located in the middle of the woods, at the end of a long dirt road that went past cornfields, swamps and vast forested area, in East Franklin, VT. They were very near the border to Canada, and if by chance they needed to call the police, it was often the US Border Patrol that came, not the VT State Police. They build onto the camp over the years and it became a very comfortable, energy independent home.

Things were peaceful, and they raised two children there, Brianna and her brother.

Christmas 2003 seemed to be the time at which Brianna decided she’d had enough of living so far away from everyone else… she really didn’t like the High School she attended, especially since it seemed to her all her friends attended another High School. So she discussed it with her parents, and although not keen to the idea of her moving out, they accepted it.

She initially stayed with her then current boyfriend, though that didn’t last long… after Brianna disappeared a note in her effects seemed to indicate that he had a drinking problem, which she had urged him to control.

Shortly after that, I believe she was living with James, the James from the previous post. James lived with his father, at a very nice home in Montgomery, ironically, not far from the Dutchburn place. James was someone Brianna knew growing up – one of the locals and apparently a popular guy himself.

Brianna’s primary goal at the time wasn’t guys per se… it was school, and her friends in general. The primary reason she moved away from home was to get closer into town where she could attend the same HS her friends attended.

Unfortunately, although she did this, the unexpected happened. A small group of her friends apparently at the HS didn’t like the idea Brianna was there… but why?

The reason it turns out seems to be plain, old teenage envy and jealousy. Brianna had grown up to be a young, very attractive woman. During one of my conversations with a best friend of hers, I said something like, “why would Brianna attract so much attention?”

Her friend replied – “You need to understand, there really weren’t that many women as attractive as Brianna is in that part of Vermont. When Brianna entered a room, heads turned and stared”. This friend and Brianna also experimented with modeling, taking pictures of each other dressed up. Nothing “professional” came of it – they did it for fun.

The story with regards to her new HS was… she was with her friends, but they weren’t happy and several made her life difficult. Those “friends” turned on her, and reportedly, told the school office, the principal, that Brianna “…lived out of the District”, and reportedly, the story I heard was she was told to leave”.

I spoke with a school principal in the area and he told me – VT has no residency requirement. She wouldn’t have been expelled. She must had had enough of the bullying and decided to quit school on her own.

She enrolled at a local community college that offered a GED. She also got a job as a waitress in one of the towns - not the Black Lantern.

Things apparently didn’t last between her and James and in February 2004 she moved out from there, and in with a childhood girlfriend, Jillian, who also lived with her father. That seems to have been a positive step for Brianna… as Jillian and her father were both living a stable lifestyle, were not naive when it came to problems in the area such as hard-drugs and other vices.

According to Jillian, Brianna was a little wild, but not that bad, and they all got along well. So she and her father were a bit surprised one day, when Brianna introduced a new friend to them… a 26 year old guy named, Nathanial Low Jackson, who wasn’t a local. I researched this man at the time and found out he had a criminal record from NC.* He was also friends with other’s in the area that had moved up from NYC.

Brianna got the job at the Black Lantern restaurant 5 weeks before she vanished… a move that brought her close again to James. That figures in with the party I last wrote about.

Until then she was far distant from the Montgomery area… though I’m sure that wouldn’t stop her from going there… it’s just she didn’t have much money and as is evident from having a second job at the Black Lantern.

*****************************************************

More from Bob next week, and thanks again for his willingness to share information.

Previous posts in this series can be accessed by clicking "Brianna Maitland" on the left margin of the home page.

*Correction added by editor.

Putt-Putt and Constantino Wire


With my background in policing, I don’t much of an interest in prisons and corrections. I am glad that comedic blogger Iowahawk keeps me informed—-give him a few photos taken outside a state prison and wait for the hilarious satire to flow:

…Even more than the minigolf, I think we relished a turn in the batting cages. Sometimes the screws would let Dad come up to the guard tower to yell coaching instructions.

Maybe he wasn't there at every Little League game or school suspension hearing, but Dad made sure that we could all hit a curve ball -- and handle ourselves with a baseball bat inside a locked cage.

And after working up a sweat, there was a cold creamy treat waiting for us next door at Dairy Lockdown. I opted for my old favorite, the StrawbShake Redemption…
Yes, there is a miniature golf course next to the Iowa State Penitentiary.

Tuber of the Week #20: Controversy


Note: My goal with posts on police videos is not to bash officers or to blindly regurgitate law enforcement talking points, but rather to simply provide perspective.

Many issues are more complex than folks are willing to admit. I would argue that the following incident is one of them.


*******************************************************************

Before the latest video allegation of excessive force by police (this time in Whitehall, Ohio) goes viral, I had a few observations.

The confrontation's background (as I understand it) is a Walmart where police were called after an elderly woman was seen walking the parking lot holding a large knife.

Here is a portion of the incident captured on video:



My thoughts:

• Officers are required to process inordinate amounts of information prior to making split second decisions concerning life and death.

• The agency’s chief, Richard Zitzke, immediately defended actions of the arresting officer.

• The physical contact part of the video is difficult to follow due to the camera’s unsteadiness.

• I have not seen the actual text of the dispatched call, but that is an important factor in understanding the incident.

• If the unofficial reports are accurate of the call text, a woman aggressively approaching shoppers with a kitchen knife in her hand is a danger to herself and others—-at age 84 or at age 24.

• I am not going to comment on what one poster of the video labels a “body slam.” I can say that {warning: this is where I have to use a "war story"} I used a take-down technique against an intoxicated and fleeing DUI subject who had just fought with and broken free from the grasp of another officer, and I fully expected the guy to fall forward and use his hands to break his fall (as most anyone would).

Instead, the drunken man twisted and fell backwards to his side; arms dangling in the air striking the side of a trailer with a thud.

What was our reward for my miscalculation? Four hours at the General Hospital for the man’s head bump, and lots of extra paperwork. My point being that sometimes the proper technique applied to someone intoxicated, elderly, or otherwise not coordinated, can lead to surprising and unwanted results.

• In the Internet "discussions" of the case that I reviewed, I did not see a mention of how the woman was a danger to herself. It is easy for someone to talk about how they would easily disarm an elderly person if attacked, but the officer was also responsible for protecting the woman from hurting herself with the knife.

• The woman continues to struggle with the officer even from the ground, despite her injuries. Being a regular around nursing homes for several years, I feel comfortable in saying that the behaviors of some Alzheimer’s patients are often unpredictable yet determined.

In closing, Melvin Hale was a 74 years old man and reportedly suffering from Alzheimer’s when he was charged after this violent incident recorded on a cruiser camera in Texas.

Part XVII: Brianna Maitland Missing Person

This is a continuation of my discussion with "Bob" about the Brianna Maitland missing person case.

****************************************************

ME: In our last discussion, we were discussing parties that Brianna attended or reportedly attended prior to her disappearance.

Related to that conversation, there was a party a few weeks earlier where I mentioned that she was in a fight. In fact, an investigative reporter wrote about that topic.

What is your take on that and how it may relate to Brianna?


BOB: The party was three weeks prior to the night Brianna disappeared and personally I feel it could be the best lead we have towards what happened to her. I have to make clear though, that what I know comes from talking with a few of Brianna’s friends at her parents request.

It was early 2005 I began making the calls… on my list were 4 or 5 individuals. Many grew up knowing and playing with Brianna.

The conversations were friendly, her friends very concerned; willing to help in any way they could. I was honest with them, I told them on the phone I did not work in law enforcement, nor as a PI, that I didn’t care what drugs they did, and like them I was just a a friend of the family trying to put together a profile of Brianna prior to when she went missing. This was the way it was with all my interviews.

Brianna got a ride with James to the party 3 weeks hence - either as an ex-boyfriend at the time, or as a friend. He was a past boyfriend, I know that, and perhaps we can go into that in more detail in another post.

It was pretty much the typical local group getting together, though a few of the new friends, up from NYC were also present I was told. Persons recall the party started early evening, going along well, when something “flirtatious” occurred. Brianna was involved.

Best as I could understand, either someone was flirting with James who brought her to the party, or Brianna was talking to another girls boyfriend and pissed someone off. Regardless, a situation developed.

Brianna, who hadn’t been feeling well period, left the party and sat in the James’ truck.

Two young women then went to the truck, a girlfriend she grew up with, Keely, and her cousin. The events as remembered by others are that: they started a fight with Brianna who’d been curled up in the truck sleeping, and later we found out, Brianna simply didn’t fight back.

When her parents asked her why? “Why didn’t she fight back,” she replied, “I could have really hurt them…”

What Brianna did do, I was told, she did file assault charges against the girls… she was accompanied by either her mother or a friend, I don’t recall. However, three weeks later, Brianna had disappeared. The charges are dropped or excused or disregarded. That confuses me… Slam, maybe you can offer a tip here:

ME: On dropping the charges: Yes. It varies by state and by criminal offense, but District Attorneys do have discretion in dropping criminal charges in cases where the victim is no longer able to testify and a significant portion of the prosecution's argument rests on his/her testimony.

BOB: Now the issue with that in my opinion is, since this was a good friend, and this good friend had other good friends, that there is something very significant here to consider. Brianna was beaten up pretty badly… it sent a shockwave through her community. It was a sign of change… of young people growing up.

Which raises the real question: what else was going on at that time… say during the previous 3 months or so… and I know there was plenty.

*****************************************************

I'll continue next week with more from Bob, and thanks again to him for his insights.

Previous posts in this series can be accessed by clicking "Brianna Maitland" on the left margin of the home page.

Tent Girl: A Lesson in Tenacity


In June, I posted on missing persons report in the United States, and stated that I was surprised to learn that in 2008, authorities listed 918 unidentified and recovered bodies and 199 unidentified living persons (those who could not remember who they were and police had been unable to identify them) in national databases.

In response, excellent blogger and police officer Christopher made this comment:

What's sad is someone can be completely missing, and there is not a soul in their life that is out there doing everything possible to find them.

Almost 200 living people who don't know who they are? Almost a thousand bodies not identified? It makes you wonder where the people who loved them are, or if they had them.
With this blog, I have tried to show how citizens, especially in missing persons cases, can assist police in generating leads.

I am certain that their are many sad stories to explain why no one is looking for so many of America's missing persons, but here is an example of a murdered (most likely) and forgotten woman and one citizen's refusal to let her case remain unsolved:

In the end, it was love and the Internet that solved a 30-year-old Jane Doe case.

Todd Matthews was 17 and dating the daughter of a former Kentucky well-digger when he first heard the mystery of the Tent Girl.

His girlfriend's father had discovered the discarded body wrapped in what appeared to be a carnival worker's tent in the backwoods of Kentucky in 1968, two years before Matthews was born.

The man who made the discovery, Wilbur Riddle, was consumed with the traumatic tale, telling whomever he could about the girl, who was found with a remnant of what appeared to be a white towel draped over her decomposing shoulder, and never identified.

Soon Matthews, who married Riddle's daughter in 1988, was also obsessed with trying to solve Tent Girl's death.

Investigators had originally assumed that the girl was a teenager. But Matthews discovered from culling FBI reports that the towel was a diaper. He thought she could be older, and possibly a mother.

For the next decade, he chased down cold leads. Then, with the birth of the Internet, he haunted electronic chat rooms and bulletin boards, looking for any clue to link a body in Kentucky to someone's missing loved one.

One late night in 1998, he ran across a posting from an Arkansas woman who had been searching for her older sister, missing since 1968. With Matthews' help, the woman forwarded information about her sister to the forensic medical examiner for the state of Kentucky. DNA testing confirmed that Tent Girl was Barbara Ann Hackman-Taylor, who had drifted from her family after marrying young.

Unbeknownst to her family, Hackman-Taylor had been living in Kentucky. She had a young daughter when she vanished from her restaurant job in Lexington. She had been married to a carnival worker. She was 24 years old.

Her husband, who has since died, was never questioned about the wife he never reported missing…
The full article on Todd Matthews and his unbelievable tenacity can be found here. After the identification, the victim was reburied with a headstone identifying her as "Barbara Hackman-Taylor."



In 2001, Matthews joined a new initiative, the DOE Network--an effort involving criminal justice professionals and volunteers from around the world who work on cold cases "to provide names to the nameless."

Further, an example of my thoughts as to citizen groups further aiding law enforcement on specific cases is in this post.

Citizens can make a difference in directly assisting police in solving missing person incidents. For those who doubt this assertion, the DOE folks' 51 cases solved are overwhelming proof to the contrary.

Note: The picture was used from Mr. Matthews' webpage.

Why Yellow is the New Green


One environmental group has a suggestion regarding how to conserve water in Brazil and help the rainforests:

It sounds a wee strange, but a leak can save lots of water. That's the message an environmental group is sending in a new ad campaign.

Spots running on several Brazilian TV stations promote urinating in the shower.

In one commercial, animated characters such as King Kong, a trapeze artist, a basketball player and an alien show viewers how it's done -- usually in silhouette behind a shower curtain...

Children's voice narrate as a bouncy tune is strummed in the background. At the end, the kids shout: "Pee in the shower! Save the Atlantic rainforest!..."

The group says eliminating just one toilet flush a day can save more than 1,100 gallons of water in a year.
I was excited about this tidbit until I remembered who usually is the designated shower scrubber in our family--argh!

Evidently, George Costanza was right after all:

GEORGE(on intercom): Oh, uh...it's George.

ELAINE: Hey, what happened to you?

GEORGE (meekly): Nothing...little problem.

ELAINE: Well, what was it? I mean, I was waiting.

GEORGE: Can I come upstairs, please? {Elaine pushes the button and lets George in.}

ELAINE (to Jerry): I mean, maybe he wants to ask me out.

JERRY: I don't know why you're interested in this guy, he's a jerk.

ELAINE: Because, he doesn't pay any attention to me, and he ignores me.

JERRY: Yeah, so?

ELAINE: I respect that. {George enters} Mmm, what happened?

GEORGE: Nothing, I... said it was a little problem.

ELAINE: Yeah? What was it?

GEORGE (defensive): Well...I was in the locker room showering, and I...I had to go, so...

JERRY: Here we go.

GEORGE: Anyway, I think the guy in the shower opposite saw me. He gave me a dirty look.

ELAINE: You went...in the shower?

GEORGE: Yeah, so what? I'm not the only one! {Kramer enters with his quilt.}

ELAINE (to Jerry): Do you go in the shower?

JERRY: No, never.

ELAINE (to Kramer): Do you?

KRAMER: I take baths.

GEORGE: Well, what was I supposed to do? Get out of the shower, put on my bathrobe? Go all the way down to the other end? Come all the way back?

ELAINE: Ever hear of...holding it in?

GEORGE: Oh, no...no, that's very bad for the kidneys.

ELAINE: How do you know?

GEORGE: Medical journals!

JERRY: Do the medical journals mention anything about standing in a pool of someone else's urine?

A New Hiding Place for Firearms?



Searching arrestees
is certainly not a fun part of the policing job:





HOUSTON -- A nearly 600-pound man was able to hide a weapon for more than a day while he was in custody, police told KPRC Local 2 Wednesday.

"Obviously the system broke down," former Harris County Detention Major Mark Kellar said. "The procedures didn't work as they were designed to work."

Houston police said George Vera, 25, was arrested Aug. 2 and taken to the city jail.

He spent a day there before being transferred to the Harris County Jail. After being there for 14 hours, going through intake procedures, he was taken to the showers, the final step before going to his cell. There, Vera told police he had a 9mm handgun on him, along with 2 clips.

"If a person has a weapon, narcotics, anything of danger, it should have been found before he winds up in the county jail," said Kellar.

Kellar said Vera should have been searched at least three times before getting to the jail.

Vera weighs nearly 600 pounds and the gun was allegedly hidden between fat layers.

Houston Police Officers Union President Gary Blankinship said cadets are trained how to search morbidly obese people.

"We teach officers to lift up and look under," Blankinship said. "The officer may not have arrested anyone this big before..."


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If the training academy in sunny Houston does not cover searching obese defendants, you can be certain a couple of minutes on the topic have now been added to the curriculum.

I am not sure if the image of being able to hide a 9 mm handgun and two clips as described is more impressive or disturbing.

Note: The defendant's image was used from this site.

Thoughts of a Killer


George Sodini’s recent shooting spree at a Pittsburgh health club is fortunately a rare occurrence in the US—despite the widespread media attention that similar incidents of gun violence have garnered.

What may be different about Sodini’s morbid act is that he evidently kept an online diary up to the day before the tragedy.

Yesterday morning, several news sites linked to Sodini’s blog, but access to the site was quickly removed as I am certain investigators were just learning about the writings. The national reports then offered paraphrased versions and excerpts of the killer’s words.

I originally saw the full Sordini journal as posted by an alert reader over at Vox Day’s site prior to the site being blocked.

I now see that it is now posted in several other places including**Warning, if you do read the linked full version, it is unedited and contains offensive language and content** this link at ABC News.

After reading Sodini's uncut blog, here are my observations:

• His writings appear much different from many spree killers*—no incoherent rants, no psychotic repetition, basically the ill frustrations of a lonely guy. It is apparent that his anger targeting women dominated his thinking and it carries over into the other aspects of his life (hating youth, his father and mother, the rest of his family, holidays, Christians, persons of different races, etc.).

• Sordini rehearsed the shooting spree multiple times. Several months prior, the killer even arrived at the gym with his firearms loaded with the intent of implementing his evil act before “chickening out,” as he described it. This reminded me of how the Virginia Tech shooter Cho practiced his plan days prior to the incident.

From the witness accounts, the shooter even turned off the lights in the exercise room prior to opening fire.

• The shooter feels that he is being made to do this by society (as a relationship outcast)—he exhibits no remorse. He even lists what he hates about his family, and it is surprising that he did not act violently against them as well.

• It was odd with Sordini’s fixation on sexual issues (descriptions of watching his neighbors, talking to young girls, looking at teen Internet chat areas, etc.) that there was not an escalation of criminal behavior prior to the murders. During the months of no blog updates, it would almost seem that Sordini would have been involved in at the least peeping tom or prowler type behaviors in an attempt to satisfy his internal issues.

• Sordini described being retained twice after his company downsized and was even recently promoted. He seems to like his new boss and describes him in a positive manner. Though his last few entries indicate that the he believed his job would be eliminated soon.

• I have not seen any interviews with his family or coworkers, but I would expect them to be shocked by this incident—-much different from the reactions of persons exposed to the Columbine and VA Tech shooters prior to their murderous rampages.

With Sordini's online writings and evidence that he described would be found at his residence after the incident, at least investigators in this instance will have a relatively clear understanding of the thoughts of a killer.

*Note: Forensic psychologists interviewed in one article do not agree with my assessment that Sordini's writings are in contrast to a psychotic mass killer. Certainly his thinking is abnormal, but I am not convinced by the arguments of the experts--especially with this quote from the news story:

...The loner, who feels he was neglected as a child and seeks attention through killing, fits the classic profile for a mass shooter, law enforcement officials said. Forensic psychologists who study killers told ABC News.com that judging from Sodini's writings he was likely severely depressed and felt that the shooting was the one way he could garner people's interest in him...
I am not sure if you asked those around Sordini that they would consider him "a loner"--though he felt that about himself.

In addition, it seems that he was motivated by revenge against perceived wrongs as opposed by being noticed. It sounds to me more like a bit of Monday morning quaterbacking by the experts (we can see this but you, as the uneducated public, cannot).

Tuber of the Week #19: Worst Pitch

This past week, the eight-year old boy got to throw out one of the ceremonial first pitches at a local minor league baseball game. It was a thrill for him, and the team treated him and the Mrs. like royalty--including gifts of autographed baseballs, hats, radio time, and seats alongside a buffet spread in one of the VIP boxes.

Unfortunately, I know all of this second-hand as I was at home (aka the mini-correctional facility complete with barbed wire, roving guard dog patrols, and sniper towers--ok maybe not quite) minding the little delinquents and keeping them from any major acts of destruction.

If it were me on that mound, I would have debated too much between my knuckle-curve and my split-fingered fastball, but my son with his best and only pitch--a straight change-up.

The Mrs. did tell me that the little guy's pitch was on target and that the team's catcher did not have to move much to glove the lobbed ball--everyone applauded his effort.

The eight year old's big night at a baseball game reminded me of the following video. It involves a memorable ceremonial first pitch tossed by the mayor of Cincinnati, Mark Mallory, at a Reds game this April.

I say memorable with a chuckle because this politician's throw has been dubbed the "worst ceremonial first pitch ever."



The pitch itself is funny, but evidently Mr. Mallory was given a chance to redeem himself later on the Jimmy Kimmel show--the result was equally disastrous.



The line by Michael Wilbon, of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption, describing the impact of the incident tongue-and-cheek is funny:

...If that was your pops... and your father came home, you would try to get the locks changed...
Ouch!

I am not sure what strategy of damage control that Mr. Mallory's political advisers could have used to try and save face from the pitching debacle--other than banning him from even attending any future sporting events until he leaves office...

Fifty Years


Setting: At the quiet corner of Sherman and Oak streets, near the entrance of our neighborhood, sits an old ranch-style brick home.

The following conversations occurred as the Mrs. and I either walked or drove past that residence.
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14 Months Ago

The Mrs.: Hello Mrs. Andrews. How are you doing today?

Mrs. Andrews: Oh, pretty good, but I am sure am feeling old lately.

{She peers into the jog stroller}

My, your little babies are growing fast. I have been in this house for 50 years, raised three sons you know, and it all seems like just yesterday.

The Mrs.: Wow—three boys. I am sure you had your hands full… You take such good care of your flowers. We love looking at your iris.

Mrs. Andrews: I appreciate that dear. My flower beds have always brought me peace—especially after my husband died back in 1993. I have to admit that it is a struggle to get out here some mornings at 92 years old, but I still enjoy the colors.
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8 Months Ago

Me: Did you see all of those cars parked over there at Mrs. Andrews’ house a few days ago?

The Mrs.: Yes, not a good sign for someone in her 90s who lives alone.

Me: Her obituary was in the paper this morning. Did you know she lived in the same house for five decades? All of those Christmas days, birthdays, fourth of Julys in one place for so long—-hard to imagine.

------------------------------------------------

7 Months Ago

The Mrs: Why are they having Mrs. Andrews’ estate auction on a Thursday? It seems like a weekend would bring a much better crowd.

Me: As a teen, I remember when my grandfather died. All of the family was from out of state. We mourned at the funeral one day, and then the next day everyone divided his things before departing. Anything that was unwanted was given away, trashed, or sold at a hastily scheduled auction not long thereafter.

It was disturbing to see the place dismantled, grandpa’s home of 50 years and the destination of our only summer vacation for so long, but it certainly puts things in perspective as to where we should store our treasures.
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2 Month Ago

The Mrs. Wow, look at how high the grass is in Mrs. Andrews’ yard. The weeds in the front have completely taken over her nicely kept flower beds. I wonder what is going on over there.
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3 Weeks Ago

Me: Glad to see that they finally started cutting the Andrews’ lawn.

The Mrs: Yeah, I wish the contractor would have taken a little pride in his work though—what a mess. It looks like a cow pasture.
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2 Weeks Ago

Me: Hey look, a moving truck at the Andrews house.

The Mrs.: I count three kids: two teen girls and a little boy.

{Amidst the commotion of the adults and teens busily unloading the truck, the little boy, ball cap on backwards, stands alone on the front sidewalk bouncing a small blue rubber ball and glancing at his new home.}

The Mrs.: What do you think the kid is thinking? Is he trying to guess which room is his? How many others his age live nearby? Is he wondering if the family will eventually install a basketball goal in the driveway?

Me: Hmm…

{I peer into my rear view mirror, spy the child, and pause to think… I wonder if someday, far into the future, he’ll remember this morning. He will still feel the humid July breeze. He might even hear the chorus of songbirds, and recall the sweet scent of honeysuckle in the air. I wonder if someday he will remember this moment as when the clock started for his family’s 50 years}

The Mrs.: Well?

Me: Yeah, probably about the room.

Part XVI: Brianna Maitland Missing Person


With this blog, I have highlighted how citizens have or can aid police in missing persons cases. The following is an excerpt from a discussion with a reader named Bob about the Brianna Maitland missing person case.

Not knowing Brianna or her family prior to the disappearance, Bob volunteered his time and talents to the case through activities on the ground and through website coordination. Working closely with family members, Bob developed certain insights about the Maitland case and those involved.

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Me: What aspect of your participation did you feel best about?

Bob: My involvement in Brianna’s case began early December 2004. I have never known, directly or indirectly, corresponded with, or met any of the people involved in Brianna’s life, her family or family’s life, prior to any of this.

When I read in the news about Brianna Maitland’s “strange accident”, read the articles and saw the picture of her car backed into an old, dilapidated, farmhouse, the story touched me immediately – both personally and with genuine concern.

The news-stories I read included all the speculations and theories about what happened and why, and were immediately troubling … I simply felt the theories being tossed about, “runaway, questionable character, etc.” were biased, like a rape case where a woman wore a short skirt – I simply thought the whole scenario was biased.

My opinion at the time – Brianna was being dragged through the mud by the media and the police. I read no real proof that the speculations being put forth were based in reality.

Of course, being a stranger reading about this online, I was hardly in a position to defend her character and possibly help with finding the truth. But I wasn’t happy. What I did have was expertise with a metal detector, 15+ years searching woods, fields, cornfields for lost treasure. I read that her car-keys were missing…

It was with great inner turmoil and doubt that I ever got involved. I was just a stranger, wanting to help, but really, the general common sense we rely on says “stay out of it”. I just couldn’t. I looked up the Maitland’s phone number, via the family forum, and called. I spoke to Bruce Maitland and volunteered my time. He accepted.

What started as a search for the keys led to much more than I could have imagined. I found myself in rural Vermont, unfamiliar territory, after hours of searching, in a local restaurant across the table from the father of a young woman who was missing. Outside was a drizzly, rainy cold night… just like the day had been. I got a beer and an order of chicken fingers, Bruce and I talked.

It’s a situation where the average person could not even imagine what it’s like… this was the truth, more than decent father of his only daughter sat across from me, I ate my chicken fingers with onion rings and barbeque sauce, starving after a day out in the cold drizzle, and listened to Brianna’s father, strong, resolute, but in sheer agony over his daughter, and the actual progress at the time to find her.

This was 9 months later that I met Bruce Maitland.

Me: Do you believe that the party held in the area the night/morning of Brianna’s disappearance is an important facet of the case?

Bob: I do, but not in the way it’s been presented thus far… I doubt if there was a party like the week before that she had planned on attending. Two good reasons:

1) The note she left her housemate (who didn’t get the note until Sunday because she’d been with spending the weekend with her grandmother).* The fact the housemate didn’t see the note sooner wasn’t something she felt good about after the fact. And Brianna didn’t know her friend was spending the weekend away… at 17 or even my age you can’t predict everything!!!

2) The party the week before ended with Brianna showing up at her friend’s house by 1AM. That suggests she wasn’t into it.

Me: Please help clarify this whole party scene.

Bob: I would love to… would like to write a book titled: “The Party Scene in America – 1970 to Now”…

I would start by saying partying in the USA is like a ‘speak-easy’ like during the 1920’s…most parties are “underground”… personally I ‘partied” during the 70’s and 80’s… so I do not have any direct knowledge of what Brianna experienced in her area. I can only try and fill you in on what I learned from discussions with her friends and others.

I didn’t get the feeling strangers were common in the area, until 2001-02. . I got the impression of young people, 17 – 26, having ”normal” fun at friend’s homes, water-parks, rivers to swim and bath in the sun. Parties included music, much social interaction, sexual innuendo, and as far as “drugs” - there was beer, Rum, Vodka… iced tea, lemonade, marijuana, and some liked coke. Like any other community, it was a 1920’s style “speak-easy” party thing.

I got the sense though, talking to Brianna’s friends that things were changing during 2001-02, I can’t go into too much detail right now, but… rumors were: that the NW VT Drug Task Force was monitoring activities in the area; that “gang” members were up from NYC; that a Chinese gang was in the area, reputably involved in human trafficking; and a local businessman in Richford that had a private plane which he often flew to Columbia who may have been involved.

For myself, obviously, making sense of all this is beyond my comprehension, …I only mention it as it’s what I’ve heard... so for future discussion perhaps.

As many know, the source of much speculation, Brianna attended a party the week before in Richford, one where there were hard drugs available… it’s that party that got the attention of the local media, LE and others… fact is … she didn’t stay there long.

By 1AM she was with a childhood friend who lived in town with his parents, sleeping on the couch in their living-room… her car still at the Black Lantern as she didn’t “drink and drive”… I think if anything, this was a wake-up call kind thing for Brianna.
*Note: Grammar correction added later.
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I’ll post more of my conversations with Bob soon. Thanks to him for providing this interesting perspective.

Previous posts in the Brianna Maitland series can be accessed by clicking "Brianna Maitland" on the left margin of the home page.

Another Gun Range Suicide


I was sorry to hear that another suicide at a gun range, similar to an incident in Florida that I blogged about back in April, occurred this week in Ohio:

SHARONVILLE — A woman rented a handgun at an indoor shooting range, got some instructions on how to use it and then fatally shot herself, police said Monday.

Police in the Cincinnati suburb of Sharonville said they believe the woman committed suicide Sunday at Target World, a public range that sells and rents guns and has a dozen 25-yard target shooting lanes.

The 46-year-old woman, Ann Fukuyama, of Cincinnati, died at a local hospital, police said…
As I stated in my April post, being able to rent a gun for use at firing range will be as foreign of a concept as being able to pet a just-hatched dodo bird.

Since renting a gun and then using it to kill yourself seems to have become a morbid fad, I am shocked that insurers of shooting ranges would continue to insure these facilities that offer firearm rentals.