Not So Pretty in Pink


The older boy and I took in a high school football game yesterday. Friday night lights.

Since his little brother and sister were born a few years ago, our football viewing has been limited to one or two games per season. Last night was the home team's next to last game on the schedule and well, our first game to watch in 2009.

The temperature was unusually mild for a late October night game in the Northeast. Fifty degrees with a slight breeze mixed with some moisture in the air, made it actually a great night for players and fans--who are used to scraping ice off of their bottoms during these end of the season contests.

Upon arrival, it was obvious that this was not an ordinary game. Not because the teams are having good years, but because the event was being used as a fundraiser for breast cancer research.

Pink dominates the scene. Some of the players sport pink shoes; other competitors have pink towels or belts. Coaches wear pink hats. Many spectators are garbed in the distinctly "woman/girl" color.

Pink here, pink there, and pink everywhere.

Even the two local agency uniformed police officers working security for the game are wearing bright pink Ts over their department issue shirts. SCREECHHHHHHHHH.... CRASHH!!!!!! What????

The officers are wearing pink t-shirts OVER their uniforms?

I did a double and then a triple take. Yes, two officers, wearing black boots, uniform pants, patent leather duty belts, and bright pink t-shirts.

These fundraiser shirts were all pink except for a cancer survivors slogan printed in small blue letters. There is nothing on the shirt to indicate that these officers are the police.

Look, I am happy that the officers' department is participating in a community fundraiser for cancer research. I also realize that there probably has not been a call for service at one of the football games this year, and these officers are happy to be working an event certainly labled as "easy money."

The contract with the school district pays for uniformed officers not partially uniformed officers. What if these officers were watching the football game (when that one time something does happen), and they are called to respond to a "man with a a gun" incident behind the bleachers?

Are two guys, clad in pink t-shirts, guns drawn, and barking verbal commands readily identifiable as police officers?

If the officers needed to be discrete and approach a potentially dangerous situation cautiously, would it matter that they were wearing the equivalent of neon pink signs?

If the officers plan was to remove the pink shirt if a situation occurred, do you really want two guys running and undressing while in route to the call for service?

Will the officers be able to handle any hot call as effectively as if they were in proper uniform attire?

I argue the answer to all of these questions is a resounding "No!"

I think most of the blame for this lapse in judgment falls on the police chief. By approving this extreme deviation to officer apparel, he/she reduced the effectiveness of the officers, made it less safe for them working the game, and potentially increased the liability on the department.

Again, I am all for officer showing support for such a worthy cause. By all means, donate to the worthy cause, and wear pink ribbons or something small on a uniform.

Please, buy the pink shirt, but then leave it in the patrol car for off-duty activities.

Vehicles Not to Steal


For years, communities have searched for a safe alternative to reduce the number of police vehicle pursuits. Injuries to officers, citizens, and the civil litigation involved in these incidents make pursuits an extremely dangerous endeavor.

Recently, On-Star was effectively used by police in California to halt the pursuit of a stolen Chevy Tahoe.

The vehicle's owner reported his SUV stolen, that it had On-Star capabilities, and authorities were able to work through the vehicle monitoring company so that the acceleration capability of the stolen vehicle was shut-off. With no means to continue the high-speed chase, the offender bailed out on foot and was apprehended by officers.

In an informative article over at Police One, Captain Travis Yates summarizes the findings of a pioneer in pursuit research, Geoffrey Alpert (University of South Carolina).

Two points of interest are:

(Yates) "The compiled research suggests that the odds of a negative outcome in police pursuits were 30 percent...Approximately one-third of police pursuits end in a collision, injury or property damage."

(Me) If On-Star technology is only able to reduce this total by a small percentage, it will go a long way in reducing the estimated 300 pursuit related deaths annually.

(Yates) "The average length of the pursuit was 5.5 minutes and the data suggest what many of us already know. The longer a pursuit continues, the better chance it will end with a negative outcome."

(Me) Initiating strategies like On-Star take time (after everyone that needs to be contacted and approvals are gained). Strictly citing the "average" length of a pursuit (as Yates does) does not account for outliers that could impact the total, and thus makes does not make this statistic useful.

For instance, if 10 pursuits last 60 seconds and one pursuit lasted 2 hours, the average time of the 11 pursuits is over 11 minutes long. But is 11 minutes long representative of the 11 pursuits? Of course not.

Yates should include "median" length in time of the pursuits (that was included in Alpert's research) so as better understand that most police pursuits are short in duration (in my previous example the median time of the 11 pursuits would be 60 seconds).
In sum, it is unclear how many pursuits that On-Star will be able to assist police with (M.O., time involved, ability to acquire permissions, etc.), but this development of a safe option for ending one of law enforcement's most deadly situations is nothing short of amazing for the public and the law enforcement community.

Burglary Arrests with Hollywood Flair



It looks like prison blogger Teen in Jail may have some Hollywood criminal competition:

The world is learning more about the gang of suspects arrested on suspicion of burglarizing Lindsay Lohan and other Hollywood Hills celebs.

Police say the group, dubbed the 'Burglar Bunch,' may have been involved with similar heists involving Audrina Patridge, Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and Rachel Bilson.

One of the suspects, 18-year-old Alexis Neirs, is the sister of Playboy model Tess Taylor and the subject of a reality show pilot for E!, called 'Home-Schooling With the Arlingtons.'

Sources tell PEOPLE that Neirs was in the middle of filming the show when the raid occurred and cameras may have kept rolling all the way to jail.

Neirs was arrested on Thursday night along with her high school buddies Rachel Lee and Diana Tamayo (both 19) and 18-year-old Courtney Ames. A fifth suspect, Roy Lopez, Jr., 27, was also taken into custody. According to TMZ, Lopez is a bar bouncer and his connection to the 'Bunch' is unclear.

The suspects were taken into custody in five different mini-raids that included four locations in Southern California and one in Las Vegas, police said in a statement. All were booked for investigation of residential burglary. Bail was set at $50,000 for each...
Criminal code in California defines two types of burglary: first degree or burglary of an "inhabited dwelling," and second degree burglary or burglary of another type of structure.

The codified punishment for first degree burglary in the Eureka State is attention-getting: (CA Penal Code 461) "imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years."

Wow, if convicted, I am thinking that after two to six in a historic facility like San Quentin, Valley State, or Folsom, these young felons will have lots of experiences to share with fans if they choose to use blogging as a method to pass the time.

Note: The photo is of San Quentin State Prison from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's website.

Part XXV: Brianna Maitland Missing Person


Guest blogger Bob continues his discussion of the Brianna Maitland case.

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Brianna Maitland – “the Crime-Scene”


Part FIVE


The Lime and Meet Me At…


”Meet Me at…” Simulated Night-Scene 2 by BobKat























Happy Halloween!








I don’t know about you… but I don’t think I’d stop and have a drink at this place, even on Halloween night; let alone after a long night at work washing dishes. The house you see is a simulated image of what Brianna would have seen coming around the curve in the road to the Dutchburn place on her way home - with a history that’s common knowledge these days.

We’ve got two basic theories to address, each with minor sub-plots.

1) She had planned to meet someone there after work.

2) She was forced to pull off the road at this place for reason’s unknown.

Beginning with Theory # 1:

The lime wedge seen on the trunk of her car. How did it get there? Is it evidence that Brianna stopped at the Dutchburn place and met someone, had a beverage with a lime in it, or someone else did?

The origin of the “party at the Dutchburn place” goes back to the very beginning of the questions family and friends had. In addition to the lime, there were questions about whether her driver’s side door was open when first found; whether any cigarette butts were lying on the ground indicating people standing around. Whether there was vomit on the ground?

In late 2004 I was fortunate enough to interview the persons known as the World travelers. They are the trio of skiers who happened to pass by the house around 8 AM Saturday morning, saw the car crashed into the house, and thought it strange enough to stop. They got out to investigate the scene.

Here is my interview with them (Edited version):


11/17/05

Me: Do you remember if the car door was open or closed when you got there? I know I have been asked that question so many times.

J: To answer your question below, I remember the car being as we pictured it: doors closed. We looked around, but didn't touch anything, and like I said we were pretty spooked by the situation - it's not every day you drive by a car implanted into a house.


******

11/18/05

J: You're right, thinking back it was a lime. I remember thinking that it wasn't a drunk driving accident - I was an EMT and drunk driving accidents never looked this clean. There aren't skid marks to speak of really.


I don't recall any tracks and I don't recall any vomit. Then again vomit is hard to see on brown grass (there wasn't much snow and we weren't looking very carefully). In retrospect, I wish I had taken 50 more photos of the scene.


I forwarded your email to my friend who was with me at the time and this is what he had to say:


T: "When we arrived at the car, the doors were closed but unlocked. I remember this distinctly because either you or C opened it. On the trunk of the car was a squeezed lime wedge (I don't think it was a lemon wedge.) In any event, it was the type of thing that would be put in a cocktail or Corona (although I don't remember seeing any evidence of any alcohol.) The reason the lime stands out in my mind was that I remembered thinking, "this is a pretty random place to stand around and have a drink."

It was at that point that I told J and C that "If the person that did this is inside [which i thought was the case], I'd be willing to bet they aren't going to be happy about us being here." At that point, we left.

There was no vomit on the ground.

In addition to a necklace - as far as I can recall, the necklace was metallic. I don't think it was gold though. and coffee cup on the ground was a small pile of change - about $0.65 or so within about 5 feet of the discarded coffee cup and the necklace.

When first driving by the house, we thought a drunk driver had hit the house and abandoned the car, but in retrospect it appeared that they must have intentionally hit the house. The photograph doesn't really capture it well, but it appears that the back corner of the car struck the bottom corner of the plywood covering the window with some precision.

Although it appears the plywood covered the entire trunk in the picture, it was only covering a portion of it. We saw the lime (there may have been more than one - I don't recall though) .

With regards to the weather: It was about 25 degrees out on the previous night, but NOT snowing. The snow began falling at about 11:00 AM that Saturday, AFTER we had already been past the car.

Hope that helps."

*****

J: I don't remember any butts near the scene... Then again the grass was brown and we weren't really studying the situation. Yes that is the coffee cup in the photo - one of those plastic refillable ones. Do not remember seeing a windbreaker or keys - I would've remembered keys.

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

RE: Cigarette butts around the car:

T: "Cigaratte butts: I can't say for certain on that one. I'm thinking that there may have been an ashtray in the car with cigarette butt's in it, but i don't remember noticing cigarette butts at all.

The coffee cup that we mentioned is the one in the picture - I believe it's a "to go" refillable mug that you would get at a convenience store.

I don't remember a windbreaker jacket on the ground, but there may have been one in the car. I mostly remember that the back seat had unopened packages of food (don't remember what kind - I think it was non-perishable stuff like cereal, cans of soda, that sort of thing).

Did not see any car keys around, and I feel like we would have remembered that."

*****

Conclusion Theory #1:

I personally believe the lime wedge was on Brianna’s car when she left the Black Lantern, probably tossed there by a patron who sneaked a drink out. I doubt very much Brianna left with a drink of her own. It is out of character based on what I know about her.

As for the possibility that she went to the Dutchburn place and made up a drink for herself, or was given one? Unlikely. There was never any evidence of alcohol use found at the scene.

What about “planning”? A “planned event to meet someone there”?

Until recently, there were no indications known to me or the family, that she had planned anything other than to go home after work that night. Her note to her roommate is evidence of her intentions from that afternoon. Further, there were no known contacts either in person or through a phone call that occurred after Brianna got to work that her plan had changed.

There is however this latest information from a blogger who claims to know much more than myself or the family. This is a cached version of the blog, as the person deleted the blog soon after contacting Slam Dunks.

The blog is here. It is too bad this person(s) isn’t willing to assist us any longer, but that’s their prerogative. At least we still have what they did contribute while they were here.

What’s new here is the claim, made by cbcklr, is that James, Brianna’s on again, off again boyfriend saw her the afternoon of March 19, 2004.

If that is true, were some plans made where Brianna agreed to stop and meet someone at the Dutchburn place after work? We don’t know. But what is obvious… is, what I heard at the time is the story that James claimed he went to Canada that evening and so wasn’t around when Brianna left work.

His version of the morning is this: he didn’t return home until around 4:30 AM Saturday and while driving by the Dutchburn noticed what looked like Brianna's car, crashed into the house, but he was really tired, so he didn’t stop.

If true, then what the blogger, cbcklr, wrote about James, claiming to know him, and he himself knowing those involved in an alleged drug overdose, that information would have to have come second hand, as he couldn’t both be in Canada and also at a party alleged to have occurred in Richford, VT that night.

This implies issues with what the blogger, cbcklr, is trying to tell us… and again… too bad that blogger who was interested in finding Brianna has abandoned us.

Next Time on Slam Dunks… A Review of Theory #2…

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Previous posts in this series can be accessed by clicking "Brianna Maitland" on the left margin of the home page or a list of historical posts is here.

Serial Killer Hunting: Part Two


This is a continuation of suggestions for the Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office in using the web to generate leads related to a suspected serial killer in their jurisdiction.
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5) I know investigators believe that someone with local ties is the culprit, but why not try to attract leads from outside the area as well?

Instead of focusing only on generating local discussion, a liaison, an agency employee, or another volunteer could regularly post case updates on news sites, crime discussion boards, and other national websites to keep Internet traffic from around the country visiting the Parish’s website. The key lead could be generated from an out-of-state relative or friend of the killer.

I also asked approved Centre Daily Times blogger JJ (he has credentials unlike myself) for his suggestions on the topic:

On the site, list the common characteristics of the victims and the crimes, i.e. partly nude.

1. If possible, create a map where the bodies were found and the last location that each victim was seen; do a map.

2. If possible give a timeline on each victim before they were last seen. Because of their problems, that may exceptionally difficult.

3. If they could get possibly a retired officer to do it Q & A section, one where someone could contact the police that would be idea. The could also team up with a local media source. After asking the question, make sure the questioner can contact the police.

4. Cross index the information; if they do a timeline for all the victims, have a timeline where all can be seen.

Since the police are saying this is probably a serial killer, an introduction could be written explaining the situation in greater detail.
By using suggestions such as these, authorities could revise the website to attract a steady stream of repeat visitors, encourage discussion, and increase the likelihood that some key piece of information is shared with investigators.

The initial post in this series is here.

Serial Killer Hunting: Part One


Last week, the Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff's Office (JDPSO) launched this website to attract more publicity regarding an apparent serial killer that is active in their jurisdiction.

Authorities believe the offender is known to the community, and with the site, detectives hope the public will provide leads that can help stop this dangerous assailant.

Other law enforcement agencies including the Louisiana State Police and the FBI have been assisting in the investigation.

I commend Sheriff Ricky Edwards and his staff with their innovative efforts in gaining public support. The most difficult challenge for a police or any website is not getting people to initially visit, but making them want to come back regularly.

In my opinion, the JDPSO's website is constructed for one-time visitors. It has some details of the crimes, a list of victims, and photos, but really nothing to entice citizens to return to the website.

With that in mind, here are some suggestions to improve their online crime-fighting effort:

1) Use a Liaison
Use a volunteer to act as a liaison with the public and the police. This person should not be someone who is a victim's relative, but a person who will keep the case's web page updated through a blog or regular posting section. Also, the liaison could receive information from persons afraid to use the direct contact to police.

2) Add a Discussion Component
Create an area that allows participants to discuss the case or use some existing discussion board and link to it from the site. I think that these discussion boards can result in people, who are afraid to talk directly to police, leaving bits of information that can be used as leads.

3) Add a Question/Answer Feature
Allow the public to ask questions either through the liaison or directly to an agency representative (something like Detective Brown will respond to submitted questions twice per month and the answers will be posted online) to maintain publicity in the cases.

4) Provide More Reader-Friendly Details
The "More Information" page on the current website needs to be broken into multiple pages. Each point on the list could be modified to a few words and then linked to additional details. As it appears now, I think the list is too long and I would guess that most folks will either skip the section or simply just scan it--missing the important details there.
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Note: I plan to send this information directly to the JDPSO in a letter format.

I'll finish my thoughts with a second post next time, and pass along what talented blogger JJ recommends that the agency do to improve the website (JJ has done great website work on the Ray Gricar missing person case).

Squeegees and the Future


Recently, I mentioned that I had discussed the better part of being frugal with our nine-year old son--including the joy of finding money.

For those interested, all of his checking the coin-returns of soda machines, peeking under the self-checkout registers, and dodging cars in the parking lot on family errands has resulted in nearly $35 in liberated currency and coinage (over the past 9 months).

The following discussion occurred as I parked our vehicle in front of a gas pump to refuel:

PENNY-PINCHER SON: Hey Dad.

ME: Yes.

PENNY-PINCHER SON: You know that hand tool cleaner in the bucket over there? The... the...

ME: Do you mean the Squeegee?

PENNY-PINCHER SON: Yeah. How much does that cost to use?

ME: Well, really nothing. You can use the Squeegee when you are pumping gas, but you don't have to insert a quarter into the holder or anything.

PENNY-PINCHER SON: {Pause} Dad. What if you were to use the Squeegee to wash your whole car instead of just the windows? They have that blue cleaner in there, right? That way you could scrub the entire vehicle for free.

ME: {Hearty laugh} Hmmm... technically, um, yes, you could wash your car for free with the gas station's Squeegee. There is nothing wrong with being careful with money, but it is important also to keep some of your dignity...
I then had a disturbing image of the little guy on his first date. He is holding the movie theater door open for a young lady, sees a shiny copper penny on the ground, and moves quickly to pick-up the "treasure" just as the door closes on his date's shoulder.

Maybe, it is not too late to prevent the first-date vision from becoming a reality...

Part XXIV: Brianna Maitland Missing Person


Guest blogger Bob is working on his next installment on this case, and hopes to have it ready for press later in the week.

In the meantime, the discussion of Brianna's car and what reportedly was found inside and outside reminded me of a potential clue that was not highlighted by me previously.

The young men who took the published photos of Brianna's car at the Dutchburn farm also evidently reported seeing something odd on the back of the vehicle. There on the trunk, on that cold morning amidst the wood from the collapsed wall of the farmhouse, was a lime wedge.

I remembered this being discussed on the now-defunct discussion board about the disappearance, but had initially forgotten about it since the information was not included in the media reports of the case. Bob confirmed that he believes the piece of fruit was there and recovered at the scene, and will address it specifically in his next post.

So, what would a lime wedge be doing outside at the scene of a missing woman's car at an abandoned building?

Despite the compact timeline, could it be evidence of a party that occurred at the location or somewhere else that night (and the fruit froze to the car)?

Or, does it simply support the theory that Brianna stopped unexpectedly at the farmhouse, was out of her car speaking with someone that she knew, placed a drink on the roof of her car, and the cup and lime wedge spilled off when the vehicle impacted the house?

What do you think?

*Note: Photo was used from here.

On Death and Life


I wanted to mention two thought provoking posts on death and life that I found inspiring. Author and blog coordinator for The Friday Challenge Bruce Bethke recently wrote this post in remembrance of his twenty-eight year old daughter who recently passed away.

Second, new police officer HF posted his first experience with responding to an infant needing CPR at A Police Wife blog. His professionalism in handling the situation, and then the honesty and sincerity reflected in his discussion of how the call impacted his shift and family time thereafter is certainly worth the read.

Policing and Scent Lineups


This week, several news outlets ran articles about law enforcement agencies in Texas using a unique approach involving dogs to implicate persons in serious crimes. Prior to reading the articles, I had not heard of this practice.

"Scent lineups" are described as this:

...A scent lineup starts with the dog being introduced to a scent sample that has been collected from a crime scene or a piece of evidence. After "getting" that scent, the dog is then presented with a series of containers with similar scents in them.

These scents have often been taken directly from a suspect and others matching the general description of the suspect.

The idea is that the dog will then communicate to its handler/observer if the scent that it "got" the first time matches the scent in one of the containers. The handler/observer, so the theory goes, can then testify that his dog accurately picked out the scent of a particular suspect...

It is called a "scent lineup" because of its similarity to an eyewitness lineup...
Evidently, this technique is only being used by prosecutors in Texas and Florida and has resulted in recent criticism and some civil litigation for those agencies involved.

Last month, the Innocence Project of Texas released a critical report of scent lineups labeling the approach "junk science." Despite having a persuasive argument against scent lineups, I believe the author of the report does his organization a disservice in his approach by including personal attacks against a specific officer and clearly writing with an agenda (as opposed to offering the evidence and assuming that his readers are intelligent enough to make their own conclusions).

If you can stomach the author's arrogant tone, the report includes this:

--That the dog handler in Texas allegedly testified that his dogs were wrong in scent lineups only about 5 times in 7,000 chances. The author then offers that the best scent dogs used with strict guidelines and training in the Netherlands are reportedly accurate only about 85% of the time.

--In the Netherlands, scent lineups are only admissible if other corroborating evidence is available (DNA, etc.).

--There are evidently no standards or certification process in the US for handlers using this approach.
The author cites several cases where the incorrect suspect was targeted by police based on scent lineups, and concludes with an appeal to officials in Texas to immediately stop using the practice.

With the negative publicity generated by the report, it will be interesting to see how this story progresses. The pending civil litigation should be telling--if the lawsuits are successful, expect this practice to disappear.

In the meantime, I would expect police and prosecutorial supporters to start trying to prove in scientific terms that this is a valid approach in helping to solve crimes, and to develop a certification process and training standards for handlers involved in scent lineups.

Note: The photo above was taken by Bill Clough and is displayed here.

Contest with an Appealing Prize


Talented blogger and photographer from across the pond AngelCel is hosting a contest with the first prize being a matted or laminated print of one of her photos ($75+ value). Instructions and rules for the contest are here and this is her gallery.

You have until October 18, 2009 to participate. I strongly encourage you not to enter to improve my chances of claiming the prize.

A Hypothetical Emergency: What Do You Think?


A hypothetical situation...

You are employed by a college and are in your office working. In the hallway outside, you hear a thud, some gasps, and then a voice saying "are you ok?"

You exit the office and see a female student lying on the floor. She has obviously fainted, has a visible bump on her head, and is pale. She is conscience and trying to answer the questions being asked by a former (at least he tells everyone he is) police officer and current professor.

His questions to the victim are on the silly side regarding how big the lump on her head appears.

You interrupt the playful interrogation and ask, "has anyone called 911 yet?"

Another female employee standing next to the question-answer session informs you that the "professor" is an emergency responder and does not believe that 911 is necessary.

You mumble a few choice words under your breath, scramble down the hall, and have another worker call 911 and campus security. The female employee follows you reiterating that no ambulance is needed and states that the student does not want one because she cannot afford to pay for it.

You ignore the comment, verify that the EMTs have been contacted, and proceed back down the hall to the student.

The victim is now standing/leaning against the wall, and rather than wait five minutes and have hundreds of students gawking at her in the hallway, you move the victim to an adjacent office to wait for medical personnel who arrive a few minutes later.

The ambulance personnel treat the victim and determine that her condition and vital signs are concerning to them--enough that they persuade (as all good EMTs know how to do) the victim to go to the hospital via ambulance.

When told about this hypothetical situation, I commended the responsible worker for taking action, contacting the proper authorities, and overruling the "emergency responder" professor on scene. The correct action in that case was to contact medical professionals for a proper evaluation.

A victim with a head injury and other visible signs of concern is likely not in any condition to be evaluated as "ok" after a few questions by a professor. Use the 911 system and let the EMTs make that call.

As in this case, the victim can always refuse treatment, but you, as a representative of the institution, involved the appropriate services to make an educated decision in resolving the situation.

I complimented the family member on her handling of the incident, and she thanked me for those conversations long ago about situations involving injured persons and being first on the scene.

At last report, our former police officer professor is developing a cover story to make himself the hero.*

Wait, sorry, this was a hypothetical story, please pretend I did not mention the last two paragraphs.

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*Note: I am always suspicious of anyone who promotes themselves as a great former police officer, soldier, instructor, or high school football player for that matter.

I follow Iwo Jima flag raiser John Bradley's (as recorded in the book Flags of Our Fathers by his son James Bradley) observations concerning such matters (paraphrased):

We all were just doing our jobs. The only heroes are the ones who did not come home.

Part XXIII: Brianna Maitland Missing Person


Bob continues his insights on the Maitland missing person case. He graciously has included these photos of the car involved--I do not believe they are available anywhere else on the web.

Also, Bob has established his own blog which can be found at this link.

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Brianna Maitland – “the Crime-Scene”


Part Four


A closer look at Brianna’s car…

In the Spring of 2005, I stayed weekends with the Maitlands. Originally they offered Waylon’s place (Brianna's brother), a couple hundred yards from their house. Waylon wasn’t living there at the time. After the day and evening discussions, they said I could sleep on the couch. I had my sleeping bag, as we’d already planned it would be okay for me to stay the weekend.

By then the VSP had finished an extensive forensics investigation involving her car. What follows are pictures of the car, stored at the Maitland's property, and after a thorough discussion of the car I did my own investigation. Due to the renewed activity by VSP, I’m leaving out certain things I discovered, but in general, this is most of what I saw and thought.

Brianna either bought or inherited the car from her grandfather. She loved her car, and from some of the images I’m showing you that appears to be a fact.















The car is gone now… but she had pasted the pictures there above her visor.















This is her dashboard. Bottle-caps are glued to her radio dials. The “PROWL” yellow-tape is a mystery to me. Inside the ashtray there are more than one brand of cigarette butts present.















View of steering wheel.















View of front seat: Note Styrofoam food container on floor of passenger side. Note necklace on passenger seat. Not obvious is vomit at the bottom left, on the piece of carpet near the corner where the door hinge is. The necklace apparently was not kept as evidence.




















Back seat: Note ice scrapper on floor, beside it is a Walkman CD Player. Also, behind the driver’s seat are cans of food wrapped in commercial plastic-wrap. Note, the cuts in the rear seat for forensic DNA (the orange and yellowish patch-cuts).




















Almost forgot…when I flipped down the visor on the driver’s side, an image of Angelina Jolie was there, along with this fairy-image cutout; the marijuana trinket in the picture was hanging from her rear-view mirror. I combined the two using graphics software. The idea is to give you the readers a sense of what Brianna was like…
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Conclusion: The “crack-overdose” theory was at the top of the list of discussions, theories, etc., at the time I I got involved in late 2004, early 2005… before I ever inspected her car, I remember discussing the drug overdose theory. A leading edge to that idea was the suggestion that someone was waiting for Brianna in her car at the Black Lantern, where she was working that night.

“Witnesses” after the fact recall seeing a Styrofoam food container with a marijuana leaf drawn onto it. It was also suggested the drawing had to have taken a good deal of time, as it was recalled as near perfect… not a “quote”, that’s what I remember. But what I saw after that discussion, in Brianna’s car, was a food container just like the one suggested, only it had a magazine cutout pasted to it of a race-car. The marijuana leaf trinket was hanging from her rear-view mirror.

Brief analysis… no blood; no indication of a struggle; cans of food intact; bottle caps glued to radio dials intact; Styrofoam food container on floor of passenger side (very fragile) intact - containing a fossilized burrito half eaten, with old mold on it.

And as a final image, the underside of the rear of her car… note mud caked into her tires.















Reminder - the pictures above and below are not from the Dutchburn place at the time her car was found there… all these pictures were taken by me, months later, her car was parked on the Maitland’s former property at that time.

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Previous posts in this series can be accessed by clicking "Brianna Maitland" on the left margin of the home page or a list of historical posts is here.

Teen in Jail


Several newspapers in Florida recently printed articles about a young man currently serving time in Florida's correctional system. "Ted" sends letters to his mom on the outside, and she posts the information to his blog: Teen in Jail.

I hope the inmate writer is sincere as he discusses the dangers of drugs and gang life--as opposed to a clever tactic by his lawyer and relatives to persuade the parole board.

In contrast to my guess about many of his fellow inmates, the author appears to come from a supportive family who provided for him well beyond his means. He talks of being given a nice car and traveling domestically and internationally in his youth.

Quite a shame when considering that he squandered all of his gifts while Michael Oher, who grew up without parents sleeping on floors any place that he could find, went to college and now plays in the National Football League.

In any event, Teen in Jail provides some insights into his encounters with police officers:

I can’t count how many times I’ve run from the cops.

I’ve been in two chases in a car (both times I got away) and too many chases to count on foot.

A lot of times when I run from the cops, they always try to sneak up on me while I’m at my house. I always can tell if they’re about to try something when there’s a police cruiser parked on each end of my block.

Whenever I think they’re coming for me, I take off from my backyard and run across the street to the school that’s right next to my house. When I get there, I jump on the shed and from there I jump on the roof. Once I’m on the roof, the only way to keep up with me is in a helicopter and even though I haven’t tried, I’d be willing to bet I could still get away.

After awhile, the cops caught on to me and started parking at the school too. One time they did that, they caught me off guard, so I had to run through a church with nothing but open space around instead. It was just my luck that the cop that was parked at the school probably ran track professionally – he tackled me in seconds.
He also writes about being worried that "the Clearwater Police will be watching me every minute after I get out of jail."

Interesting tales, but I think he overestimates how much free time police have.

I am confident in saying that if police from that agency never set foot over at Teen in Jail's house again, they will be just peachy. It is the squeaky wheel concept--places or persons that generate calls get more attention. If "Ted's" family and neighbors do not call the police and he avoids behaving as a law breaker, I doubt he will see many patrol units in his driveway.

One additional comment on something Ted stated. In this post, he talks about how dirty condition of his cell.

Well "Ted", here is a fantastic way to not only show the parole board that you are becoming responsible, as well as improve your living conditions: grab some toilet paper and start scrubbing away my friend. With all of the free time that you describe, that tiny cell will be sparkling fresh in no time.

Best wishes to "Ted" and his future.

You Know.. about that Facebook Msg for Money?


After the email password theft stories in the news this week, the FBI is also warning users of scams involving stolen account information related to social networking sites like Facebook.

The warning was issued after Internet theft incidents like this one reported in Missouri:

...Jayne Scherrman, of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, was the unfortunate victim of a scam that turned her compassion and trust into a $4,000 profit, the AP reports. A still unknown crook hacked the Facebook account of Jayne's friend Grace Parry and began to send Jayne messages, purporting to be Grace and claiming that she and her husband had been detained in London and were in need of money.

Jayne figured if the couple could reach her only by Facebook, then they were in dire straits, indeed, and quickly wired $600 as per the scammer's instructions. As is common in these kinds of schemes, subsequent messages were sent requesting additional funds.

In this case, the huckster blamed the exchange rate when explaining the discrepancy between the funds needed and the amount initially requested.

All in all, Jayne eventually sent $4,000 via Western Union to the impostor before realizing that she had fallen victim to a scam. On August 26th, she alerted the authorities...
I don't think criminals would be rewarded by contacting my relatives and friends with a phony story about me being stuck overseas and needing money.

Now, some of my relatives might pay to have me stay overseas...

Real Law Enforcement: The Arrest Warrant


Every wonder what a felony arrest warrant in a Federal kidnapping case looks like?

Here is the link to the warrant signed by Andrea Ahumada, an agent with The Federal Bureau of Investigation, that details the arrest of Tammy Renee Silas. Silas is accused of kidnapping infant Yair Anthony Carrillo in Nashville after allegedly stabbing the baby's mother.

Authorities were able to safely apprehend Silas in Alabama and recover the baby evidently unharmed.

Just a few comments regarding the document:

--Since the baby was taken across state lines, it became a Federal case.

--Investigators used technology to their advantage. They were able to use the mother's basic description of the suspect car, along with her statements about where the family had been earlier that day, to learn that the suspect had been following them. Authorities were then able to enhance security video from a Wal-Mart parking lot to identify the car's license tag and trace it back to rental car company. The same security cameras captured the pictures of the defendant at the store.

Further, the defendant's cell records indicate that she made calls near the scene of the crime.

--The information in the warrant provides probable cause details of the government's case, but not all of the information that the prosecution will use (e.g. no identification of the defendant by the victim was included).

--The State will also file appropriate charges against the defendant (such as aggravated assault).

--Unrelated to the warrant, but I saw that the victim's children were placed in State custody. I am sure there will be more details on this situation than is available now.
Having near-immediate access to an arrest warrant in a Federal case is a wonderful learning tool for criminal justice students as well as citizens interested in how professionals solve crimes.

Birthday Gift Regrets?


As a birthday gift this year, we bought the nine-year-old boy a tetherball game set.

For my non-North American readers who may not be familiar with tetherball or for those Americans who have blocked out memories of elementary school, tetherball features two players standing on opposing sides of a 10 foot stationary pole, and using their hands to hit a ball that is hung from a rope attached to the pole. The first player to wrap the ball around the pole is the winner.

Anyway, we cemented the the base attachment and setup the removable pole in the middle of our backyard. The kids have enjoyed playing with the tetherball set at least initially--the oldest boy punching the heavy ball around the poll and the little boy figuring out that if he wrapped the ball's rope around the poll, he could sit on the ball and spin through the air as the rope untangled (kids are so creative).

The Mrs. was very happy with the purchase; that is until yesterday when she was multi-tasking while walking through the yard and forgot about the tetherball's impact zone. She was rewarded with a flying yellow tetherball strike to the side of her head.

After shaking off the cobwebs, she has been dealing with a persistent headache since the injury. We talked about concussions, relived our own current concussion count (at least: me=4, she=2), and she spoke with Dr. dad about it, and fortunately he does not believe it is serious.

With the good luck that this birthday gift has brought to our family, I will suggest something a little less dangerous in the future--maybe a pump-action BB gun for the youngster's tenth birthday.

Note: Picture is courtesy of Wiki.

How Unlucky Can One Be?


A few words of advice for other underage intoxicated youths teetering around at a county fair: steer clear of the police booth...

A drunken teen stumbling through the fair on Monday night knocked over one display he should have avoided – the one belonging to Berwick Police.

"Of all the vendors, he runs into the only police trailer here," said Sgt. Michael Monico, who ended up wrestling the teen to the ground in front of a crowd of about 40.

The teen had been trying to slip between vendors' booths to cross from one boulevard to another. Around 8 p.m., he bumped into Cpl. Kodac, a wooden cutout that serves as the police dog mascot of Berwick's policing program, Monico said. The cutout crashed to the ground in the middle of the midway.

Monico collared the 19-year-old, who was heading toward the free stage nearby, sat him down in the tent he had installed beside the trailer, and called fair security.

"I'm on the phone with security, and he jumped up and tried to push me out of the way so he could run," Monico said. "He didn't make it one foot."

Monico threw his phone down and wrestled the young suspect to the ground, then cuffed him while his volunteer helper, Brent Fedder, helped hold the teen's kicking feet.

A crowd of vendors and fairgoers quickly gathered around, cheering them on, Monico said.

--Quick response--

Meanwhile, about eight security personnel – mostly retired police officers and state troopers – rushed to the scene, Monico said.

The dispatcher for security had heard Monico's voice suddenly cut off during his call. Monico hadn't had time to explain what was going on, so the dispatcher sent emergency help.

"They were here in minutes," Monico said. "And for how busy things were, that's impressive."

Monico said he found vodka mixed in a Gatorade bottle on the teen.
I think if the kid had accidentally knocked over the Internal Revenue Service information display instead, he may have received applause instead of cuffs.

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Note: Unfortunately, this story is from a newspaper that restricts articles to subscribers, so I am unable to provide a link.