Holiday Music. Wait Which Holiday?

This will be my last post of 2010. 

I am going to take a break from blogging to do what dad's do this time of year: eat cookies, watch football, construct children's toys and playsets from instructions written in a foreign language, use an entire roll of gift wrap trying to wrap the Mrs.' presents and the final products looking awful, etc.

I'll be back in early January. 

In the meantime, I offer this...
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Setting: A Hallmark gift store at the local shopping mall. 

The family is browsing the Christmas decorations, while our special little guy "Luca" is interested in a holiday display on the wall.

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SLAMDUNK: What are you doing Luca?

LUCA: I listening to "Halloween Course".

I looked at the musical Christmas ornament in front of our energetic boy and saw that it was a tribute to Clark Griswold plugging in his outdoor holiday lights--a scene depicted in the comedic film Christmas Vacation.



SLAMDUNK: Hmm.

Curious, I pushed the tiny button on the ornament and was provided with music.  Yes, the "Halloween Course" or better known as the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah.

SLAMDUNK: Oh yeah Luca, I like that "Halloween Course" as well.

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone.

Debbie Flores-Narvaez

I had just a couple things on the missing person case of Debbie Flores-Narvaez. 


Case Summary

Ms. Flores-Narvaez is a showgirl in Las Vegas who reportedly was last seen on December 12.  On the night she vanished, her roommate (who filed the initial report) stated that Flores-Narvaez was going to visit her ex-boyfriend Jason Omar "Blu" Griffith at his residence.

Reportedly, Griffith confirmed that he spoke with the missing woman that evening, but has not seen her since. The victim's vehicle was found abandoned in a parking lot in the northern part of Las Vegas.

Flores-Narvaez's mother said that she received an odd message from her daughter on December 1 stating: "In case there is ever an emergency with me, contact Blu Griffith in Vegas. My ex-boyfriend. Not my best friend."* 

*Note: The mother was confused as to the meaning of the message--it is unclear.

Also, Las Vegas Metro Police arrested Blu Griffith in October of 2010 and charged him with battery/domestic violence of the missing woman and coercion (for allegedly throwing the victim's cell phone so that she could not contact authorities).

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Comment #1: Look at the Police Report

Skip the summarized news accounts of the domestic violence incident between the couple and read the arresting officer's report, it reveals an unappealing picture of Griffith.  The report details include the large clump of the victim's hair recovered by police and him allegedly kicking her that caused visible bruising--this occurred while Flores-Narvaez was pregnant.  

Comment #2: Look at Griffith's Twitter

Griffith had not posted anything to this Twitter account since last year, but it is still revealing.

On July 8, 2009, he tweeted this:

"Just took a large gulp of that I don't give a (--expletive--) juice. You should fear a man who is willing to give anything to get everything. (Truth)"

Six of his next seven posts over 10 days focus on his frustration with women and relationships.

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Police will continue to investigate Griffith's potential involvement and other possibilities that could explain the missing woman's disappearance.

My prayers are with Ms. Flores-Narvaez and her family.

For a $100

I actually got two laughs from the following--first simply at face value, and second in that it reminds me of the many grown men I see intent on trying to relive their past "sports glories" or in most cases compensating for their lack of sports glories...

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"This is from a football Saturday at Notre Dame. We were walking by this group of kids playing football. My friend told them he would give them $100 if they kicked the ball off to him and he didn't run it back for a touchdown. He ran past most of the kids fairly easily, but 'had' to stiff arm the last kid."

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Yes "Big Boy," congrats on the touchdown and keeping the $100, but I hope these kids find you again in 15 years for revenge when they are over 21 years old and built like professional wrestlers. 

Joseph the Mugger

Since I posted two missing persons stories last week, I don't have one for my usual Missing Person Monday segment today.

Instead, I offer this.
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Police are more apt to catch a certain type of criminal.

Which type?

Well, stupid, of course...

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Manchester police said they arrested a man after a 91-year-old woman was mugged outside a church, and the incident was caught on surveillance video.

Officers said the woman her companion, Patricia Turcotte, 67, were heading to afternoon Mass at St. Hedwig's Catholic Church on Walnut Street on Tuesday afternoon when a young man approached them.

"I didn't have time to be scared. I didn't know what was going in," Turcotte said. "Someone was running by, she is falling and I am falling with her. She said, 'They got my pocketbook.'"

A security guard at the Currier Museum across the street observed as a truck pulled into his driveway and a man got out. He focused the museum's security camera on the man as he crossed the street and grabbed a purse from the victim, who was on her way to a 4 p.m. church service.

The victim, who did not want to be identified, fell to the ground, and the man took off running down the street, police said. 

The suspect returned to his parked truck at the museum three hours later, where police were waiting for him. They arrested Joseph Audet Jr., of Manchester...

The security video of the incident is below...



The 91-year-old victim reportedly broke her wrist during the strong-arm robbery.

And the suspect?

Nice of him to return to the scene of the crime to try to retrieve his truck, and offer the highly creative alibi to police that he had been out jogging for the past few hours--only he had forgotten which streets the strenuous exercise had occurred.

Authorities have linked another robbery involving an elderly woman to Audet Jr., and are investigating his possible participation in other similar crimes.

I was not surprised to learn that the defendant dropped-out of school in 10th grade, lives with his parents, and has a previous arrest history.

Yes, being stupid significantly increases a criminal's chances of being apprehended.

On David Emigh, Missing

Sorry for the second post today, but I wanted to talk briefly about this case.
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Authorities are searching for David Emigh, a missing pastor from Sand Springs, Oklahoma, after he failed to show up for his church's Wednesday night worship service.



Reportedly, the last person to see him was his wife Sharon Emigh (also a pastor at the church).

Ms. Emigh stated that at about 11 am on the Wednesday of his disappearance, her husband told her that he was returning home to retrieve a book.  He left the church in his black 2008 Ford pickup (OK tag number E56304), but did not return.

The latest report on the disappearance is here at one of the local news station.

Within a few minutes of this story going national, the perceptive crime enthusiasts at the site WebSleuths had made two observations:
1) A Lake: Looking at a probable driving route from work to home, he would pass by Sand Springs Lake

2) A Phone: The missing man used an IPhone to post to his Twitter account.  Though David appears to tweet infrequently (his last post was on Dec. 8), it is important to note that he used a mobile device which could be helpful in locating him, if he was in possession of that phone.
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Nicely done by the Internet folks.

If David has his phone, I hope that authorities go through the necessary protocols to immediately begin pinging it. 

The dire need to ping now rather than later was recently exemplified by this story of Tanya Rider, a missing woman from Washington state, who was rescued after being pinned in her car for 8 days.   Evidently, Ms. Rider had driven off the road and crashed in an area obscured by trees.  She was taken to the hospital in critical condition after her ordeal (revised 12/18/2010).*

With Mr. Emigh's case, my prayers are with the missing man and his family.

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*Note: Thanks to JJ from Phila for sending me the link to Ms. Rider's story, and for reader Sue who pointed out that Ms. Rider has recovered since the story is from a few years back.

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UPDATE: Authorities report that contact was made with Mr. Emigh on 12/17/2010 after his vehicle was spotted at a Wal-Mart in Cleveland, OK.  A police spokesman stated that Emigh was safe, but has "a medical issue that will be dealt with privately."

Bad Underwear

In an effort to diversify my post topics, today I delve into a recent fashion study released by ShopSmart Magazine:

...Women own an average of 21 pairs of underwear, and many say an ill-fitting or ugly pair can ruin their day, a new survey shows.

"We know that bad hair days can affect women's moods, but who knew that bad underwear days could also ruin their day," says Lisa Lee Freeman, editor in chief of ShopSmart magazine, from the publisher of Consumer Reports.
Their research center conducted a telephone survey of 1,008 women 18 and older about intimate apparel.


Almost half of women (47%) say they feel sexier and more confident wearing a nice or special pair of panties. "The first thing we put on in the morning does make a difference in our day," Freeman says...

27% say their mood is affected by wearing an ill-fitting or unattractive pair of undies...

So uncomfortable undergarments can affect a person's mood?

Wow.  Who knew?

With that kind of thought-provoking question, the study's authors should have applied for federal government funding like officials in Blue Springs, MO did a few years ago to study the "local goth culture"--they were awarded $273,000 for that "essential" research.

Am I really blogging about bad underwear?  Can you tell it is a Friday?

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Have a great weekend everyone.

Tiffany Hartley

Recently, an emailer asked me for my opinion on the David Hartley case.

In October 2010, David's wife, Tiffany Hartley, stated that they were jet skiing on the Mexican side of Falcon Lake when the pair were attacked by armed men in boats.  Ms. Hartley said that her husband was fatally shot in the head, and she escaped to the US side of the lake.  No sign of Mr. Hartley has been found.


The report started a firestorm of political stories--since it dealt with the hot-button issue of the unsecured border between America and Mexico. 

I have not read enough to form an opinion yet, but investigative blogger Peter Hyatt posted detailed arguments as to why he is suspicious of Ms. Hartley's statements on the disappearance of her husband.

The obvious question is: why the heck would people who were informed about the dangers of that area go jet skiing there? 

Character on Display

After my son's first basketball scrimmage with another local squad, a young man from the opposing team approached him.

Addressing my son by him name, the kid stated:

"Great game. I have seen you play before, and you put on a clinic today--offense, defense, and ball-handling."

My son thanked him for the compliments, they exchanged pleasantries, and then both went their separate ways.

Prior to that brief chat, my son told me that he had seen the nice opposing player at school, but did not know his name since they are in different grades. He said that they had never talked before.

I had seen the "nice kid" before on several occasions. I remember that he is usually the last person to be picked up very late in the day from the school's after care program.

Often, he has the longest school day of any of the students—still garbed in his blue uniform after the sun has set when many of the other third graders are at home in their second hour of X-Box.

I also know that "nice kid" is adopted and happens to be of a different race from anyone else in the school.

Despite all of the challenges, this 8 or 9 year-old initiates conversation and offers compliments and encouragement to someone he does not even know.

They say that children reflect the character of their parents.

I was impressed.

Nicely done mom and dad.

Kari Swenson: Survivor, Part V

For a summary on Kari Swenson's ordeal go here, or for other posts in the series, you can go here.
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PART V: CONCLUSION

Why discuss such an old case?

Here are three observations as to why missing person/crime victim Kari Swenson's ordeal is relevant: 

1. Kari Exemplifies the Traits of a Survivor

Just because I am shot, does not mean I am going to die:  "If you get shot you die" is the biggest victimization fallacy created by television and movies. In reality, if you are shot, you are probably not going to die. You are more likely to die if you stop thinking and concede defeat.

Refuse to Quit: Kari was wounded and left to die in the wilderness. She crawled, pushed and pulled herself while looking for one of the rescuers' radios. She found a blanket that helped her body fight the onset of shock. Over four hours later, when authorities found the camp, she was still conscience and able to weakly call for help. She never gave up.

Be Creative: Kari made numerous attempts to help anyone tracking the kidnappers including dropping personal items, feigning exhaustion, and stomping her cleats to leave identifiable footprints.

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2. On “Mountain Men”

As seemingly ludicrous as "mountain men" being responsible for an abduction seems, it did happen in this instance. Don and Dan Nichols, Kari's kidnappers, did not have the felonious criminal history that would have indicated that such a crime was in their plans.

Knowing history and then applying it to other abductions, hearing folks discuss "mountain men" as potential suspects in a case like the disappearance of then six-year-old Morgan Nick from Arkansas, does not seem as far-fetched.

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3. School Shootings and Missing Persons

Former Sheriff Johnny France described a contentious meeting with Kari's family while authorities were still searching for the Nichols. France recalls being verbally blasted by Kari's father (Dr. Bob Swenson)—the victim’s family was angry that law enforcement had not initiated the ground search for Kari until the morning after she had been reported missing.

France explained that an evening search would have been dangerous for his personnel--especially since they used lots of volunteer searchers, but the family did not accept France's argument.

According to France, Kari’s family wanted nothing to do with the sheriff, and during the criminal trials never thanked him for his work in the case.*

The exchange reminded me of reading a law enforcement training text in the 1990s.

The author posed this question concerning a school shooting (from a responding officer’s perspective):

You and several officers arrive at a school and hear shots and screaming inside, what do you do?

The authors advised not to rush into the building but to wait and attempt to establish communications and gather additional intelligence. Then, an informed decision could be made as to what specialized units (SWAT, hostage negotiators, etc.) should be called so that entry could safely be made.

The authors argued that running into a school building could result in officers being shot—which further complicates the situation.

In sum, the authors recommended caution.

This is quite different from what the public demands from police in contemporary school shootings--entry is made into the school as soon as possible to try to save lives and prevent violence. Officers don’t wait for SWAT.

A similar transition was made in responding to missing persons.

Historically, police required citizens to wait a specific amount of time (e.g. 48 hours) before a missing persons report could even be filed. In most circumstances, investigations did not start until well after this mandated time.

Now it is more common to see authorities initiate investigations in the early stages of someone disappearing.

Would Sheriff France have started the ground search on the evening of Kari’s disappearance if the incident occurred today?

After authorities knew she went running on a path in the early afternoon, and found her car parked next to the trailhead, would authorities have pursued the missing persons case more aggressively, because that is what society now demands of law enforcement?

Certainly, the pressure to search immediately for a missing runner would be much greater in 2010 versus 1985—where, as with the response to school shootings, caution now takes a backseat to action.

I think it is a change for the better.

*Note: It is my understanding that the family’s anger was directed at France, and not other law enforcement involved. I will be reading the family’s perspective in a different book to get a better understanding as to their complaints about Sheriff France.

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Previous posts in this series can be found here.

Tis the Season

Citizens must be extra vigilant in reporting possible crimes to ensure safe communities.

Ok... uh, maybe not this vigilant:
November 14, 2010


HUDSON (OH) -- A Sullivan Road resident called police to report a "suspicious package" on his front porch Nov. 2 at 3:20 p.m.


The resident said he observed an unknown person leave the package and called police, according to the police report.


The officer said he could see the package was clearly labeled with the Amazon.com logo and asked the man if he had ordered anything from the firm recently.


The man reportedly said "Why yes, I did."


The officer told the resident his order had arrived. The resident then said he was comfortable opening the box. The officer then left the scene, according to the report.


I wish all calls to police ended in such a warm, happy, and humorous way.

Note: I got the idea for the above post from this site.

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Have a good weekend everyone.

The Spirit of Lassie in Austin

Lassie fans would be proud of this dog:

(AUSTIN, TX)...Paul Horton, 57, wound up at St. David's Rehabilitation Hospital after he failed to negotiate a seemingly little jump from the trail to a paved road near Lake Travis.


"I had probably done that 100 times, 200 times," said Horton.


But on the morning of Oct. 30, he did not.


"I went over the handle bars and landed on my head on the concrete ... and life changed," said Horton.


Life changed because he was now paralyzed from the chest down. Horton lay motionless for 45 minutes. With no one in sight, he realized his 4-year-old golden retriever was still by his side.


"I expected him to behave like Lassie and run down to the police station and tap out my location in Morse code or something," said Horton.


Yogi did not do that, but did something just about as impressive. Horton's neighbor, Bruce Tate, recalls walking down Mountain Trail with his wife when they were met by Yogi.


"Yogi is a quiet, happy dog, he's never noisy at all, but he was barking furiously to get our attention," said Tate.


The Tates followed Yogi throughout the wooded area and down the hill. When they saw Horton, they called 911. To this day, the Tates wonder what would have happened if Yogi had not interrupted their walk.


"I don't think we would have seen Paul without Yogi," he said. "I think Yogi saved his life."

Yea for Yogi!

I'd like to think that our big dog would help save me if anything happened on our nightly strolls. In reality, I think the pooch would leave me to suffer at the first sight/smell of a pizza delivery guy or an attractive female canine.

I'll be sure to bring my cell phone just in case.

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For more on Yogi that includes video footage, you can go here.

On the death of Tina Smith

Just wanted to mention this on an Amber Alert in Virginia.


Brittany Mae Smith (Photo Credit)

Authorities in Roanoke County, Virginia issued an Amber Alert for 12-year-old Britanny Mae Smith after her mother, Tina Smith also known by Tina Dyer-Smith, was found dead in their home.

Law enforcement were called to Ms. Dyer-Smith's residence after she did not show-up for work.

Authorities believe the death is a homicide, but are awaiting autopsy results.

Police would like to speak to the victim's friend/ex-boyfriend, Jeff Easley, and think that the missing girl may be with him.

Tina Dyer-Smith's MySpace page is revealing.  Her last two posts were:

12/3/2010:  "looking forward for now on"

11/24/2010: "you will look back and regret but you sealed ur fate"


Jeff Easley is listed as one of her MySpace friends, and authorities believe he is driving a 2005 Silver Dodge Neon.

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My prayers are with the missing child and her family.

Why I Only Sing in the Shower

During my lifetime, I have experienced plenty of lousy days. 

I have messed presentations and speeches up so badly that I just wanted to crawl under a rock and hide for weeks. 

So, I can imagine how Mike Eli of the Eli Young Band must feel after inadvertently providing footage for Fail Blog with his botched singing of the The Star-Spangled Banner prior to Sunday's Kansas City Chiefs football game:




Update: Sorry folks, it looks like the embedded video got pulled from YouTube, but you can still watch it here on Yahoo Sports.

 I do have one bit of advice for Mike and the band.

Don't leave this tweet or this Facebook post at the top of your page for more than a day referencing just prior to your walk off the plank:
  

"Sitting at Arrowhead stadium waitin to sing the national anthem at the chiefs/broncos game."

When you tweet, blog, or Facebook something and it stinks, if you can't delete the message, post an apology, and then cover it with 5 or 6 new topic messages.

I mean push that bad entry to page 3 or at least to the bottom of your current page. 

Otherwise, you give unnecessary opportunities to lots of commenters just visiting the blog to bash you over the goof.

Yes, if I ever have a lousy post, I'll try to cover it as quickly as possible with you know brilliant posts...er...uh...ok..any posts in hopes that others will not see my poor effort--which will then be displayed at the bottom of the homepage or not at all.

Not that I have had a lousy post or two or three or anything during my blogging career...

Kari Swenson: Survivor, Part IV

This is part IV in my series on the disappearance of Kari Swenson.

For my other Kari Swenson posts, you can go here.
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Summary of Previous Posts:

Twenty-two year old student Kari Swenson enjoyed running trails on her breaks from the Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana. On July 15, 1984, she encountered two men while trudging along a mountain path. One of the men grabbed and punched Kari, and then the two restrained her with nylon cord. They then led her off of the marked trail and into the wilderness. The kidnappers eventually set up camp where Kari spent the night chained to a tree. She learned that they planned to make her become the “wife” of the younger of the two "mountain men."

Unaware of the kidnapping but searching for Kari, two rescuers wandered into the area of the camp, and during the confusion, the younger attacker accidentally shot Kari in the chest.  One of the rescuers was also shot and killed and the attackers fled the scene--leaving Kari wounded and alone.  More than four hours later, law enforcement found Kari at the camp, and rescuers were able to airlift her to a local hospital. 

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PART IV

Aftermath


Don Nichols (father)

Don was convicted of kidnapping, deliberate homicide, and  aggravated assault in 1985, and received an 85 year sentence.  Don was eligible for parole in 2007, but his application was denied. Prior to the decision, Kari’s father Bob, a Professor Emeritus, encouraged a letter-writing campaign that likely had an impact on the Nichols’ parole board. Dr. Swenson wants Nichols to serve another 15 years at least.  Don's next opportunity for parole will be in 2012—the convicted man would be 81 years old then.

Dan Nichols (son)

During Dan’s trial, his defense attorney successfully portrayed the kidnapper's father as a controlling abuser of his son—a dad who had robbed Dan of a normal childhood. Obviously, testimony from multiple sources showing Dan to be concerned about Kari’s injuries and ecstatic when he was later informed that she had survived the shooting, helped his argument. Dan was convicted of lesser felony charges and sentenced to 25 years. He served 8 and was released in 1991. Reportedly, Dan’s still lives in Montana and works in construction.

Johnny France (sheriff)

Focusing on the victim, I did not discuss Sheriff Johnny France much. In tandem with another sheriff (the crime occurred on the border of two counties), France led the investigation and search for Kari. He was credited with single-handedly capturing Don and Dan Nichols as the kidnappers camped on snow-covered ranch land. Ironically, France used a similar ruse, the “don’t move you’re surrounded” bluff, to get the Nichols to surrender—a tactic that got rescuer Al Goldstein killed.

France’s popularity rocketed initially, and led to appearances on national television and a $50,000 contract for book rights to the story. Critics assailed France for appearing to profit from the incident--something the sheriff downplayed.

Combined with criticism from other law enforcement (that France was a show-off) and from Kari’s family (that France should have initiated the ground search earlier), France’s star-shine began to wane. As a result, a majority of local residents voted for France’s competitor in the following election, and Sheriff Johnny was defeated. France left law enforcement, focused on his private business interests, and still resides in Montana.

Kari Swenson

One would think Kari’s brush with death, would have resulted in an extended rehabilitation process. Just four months after the shooting and her hospitalization, Kari resumed serious physical training for the biathlon. Despite having to shelve her skiing workouts after a few weeks due to the intense pain (Kari admitted that she pushed herself too fast), she was able to win a race, and qualify for the 1985 World Championships. Competing at only a 75% to 80% level of what Kari felt she could perform prior to the shooting, she finished 26th at the international completion.

Kari competed again, but focused her energies on veterinary school. She still managed to offer analysis as an Olympic commentator during the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, and served as a technical consultant for the made-for-television movie about her terrifying encounter in the Montana wilderness—performing many of the skiing scenes herself. Now a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Kari still lives and works in Montana.
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On Kari

Of all the sports stars and celebrities that society expects us to admire, shouldn’t we hear more about inspiring survivors like Kari Swenson?

A person could very well have accepted his/her fate lying in the woods: "I am shot through the lung. No one knows I am here. I am going to die.”

Kari refused to quit. Her story is one that embodies tenacity-exhibited through her powerful will to live and triumph over evil despite facing enumerable odds.

In a few years, when my sons and daughter are older, should I impress them with one of the many brilliant game performances by athletes or celebrities or should I emphasize the courage of a virtually unknown woman named Kari Swenson who embodied tenacity?

My decision is an easy one.

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I’ll have one more planned post on this series—what does Kari’s incident have to do with school shootings?

I’ll try to answer that question next Monday.
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Previous posts in this series can be found here.

A Polyester-graph?

Before I go with my scheduled entry for today, I wanted to thank Hilary over at The Smitten Image for recognizing my post Dodgeballered as one of her Posts of the Week


Her blog is always interesting and she takes fantastic photographs. 

What is it with all of the talented Canadian photographers?  I will have to start drinking some of their water and hope I can capture some of that creativity.

In any event, here is something to ponder...
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This is from Tuesday's Philadelphia Inquirer:

...The admitted rapist of an 11-year-old girl stunned a Philadelphia courtroom this afternoon when he retracted his guilty plea, called himself the Anti-Christ, and yelled "You'll know I'm telling the truth if you give me a polyester-graph."

Jose Carrasquillo, 27, pleaded guilty in August to sexually assaulting a girl in Kensington when he was in a drug-fueled rage.

Judge Rami Djerassi denied Carrasquillo's request to withdraw his guilty plea. Instead, Djerassi sentenced him to 30 to 66 years in prison...

Nicely done by Judge Djerassi.

I am at least comforted that society will not be at risk from this convicted man for at least the next decade, and that he will have lots of free time to study the Bible and its teachings on the Anti-Christ as well as invent a "polyester-graph" to help him in the future.
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Have a super weekend everyone.

Talented Photographers

It's time again for National Geographic's annual photo competition and a writer for the site Boston.com selected 47 of his favorite images.

All of the photos are fantastic (go here to see a comprehensive list), but here are my top two:


Photo and Description by Sean Heavey: A supercell thunderstorm rolls across the Montana prairie at sunset.

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Photo and description by Amy Helene Johansson: Unsafe Journey. A woman is riding between the railway carriages of a local train heading north from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Her luggage is tucked under the carriage in front of her. It is the month of Ramadan, a fast which culminates in Eid-ul-Fitr, a three-day celebration. Tens of thousands of people leave the city to go to their home village and celebrate with their families. Trains are packed and many who fail to get tickets before they sell out or can't afford buying them at the black market ride on the roof of the train or, like this woman, finds a quiet spot between the carriages.
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Even after viewing many of the 2010 entries, I still like Gemma Collier's entry from "The Land of the Long White Cloud" that I featured in a post last year the best--her image was awarded an honorable mention in the 2009 English Edition Viewers' Choice contest. 

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Note: I got the idea for this post from the blog Other People's Ideas.

Dodgeballered

Setting: Sitting in the family car with the three children after a visit to a “kid fun” place that features about 100 trampolines. The business has three separate areas all with trampolines—a free bounce section, a foam block pit (for jumping into), and a dodgeball area. 

Sissy just turned four-years old and her older brother is now in 4th grade.

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ME: Sissy, did you like doing all that jumping today?

SISSY: Oh yeah.

ME: Last time you hung out with your brother more in the dodgeball section. Why did you jump so much with Luka and me? Are you mad at big brother?

SISSY: No. But…

ME: But what Sissy?

Sissy frowns and exhales...

SISSY: Daddy, I got dodgeballered.

ME: You what?

SISSY: When I went into the dodgeball area with “Big Brother” I got hit by 100 balls all at once.

ME: You got “dodgeballered” by 100 balls? Yikes, that must have been awful.

I did a great job of not laughing at the thought of a preschooler confidently stepping into the unkind world of dodgeball only to be showered by numerous well aimed projectiles. "Big Bro" did confirm Sissy’s story, but downgraded the stated “100 dodge balls” to an estimated 5 or 6.

The term “dodgeballered” now has a place in the comedic history of the Slamdunk family.

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Ahh, the memories of playing dodgeball during elementary school gym time; this Interntet image resembled me only I had much smaller shoes back then. 



Kari Swenson: Survivor, Part III

This is the third post in my series on the disappearance of Kari Swenson.

For my other Kari Swenson posts, you can go here.
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Summary of Previous Posts:

Twenty-two year old student Kari Swenson enjoyed running trails on her breaks from the Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana. On July 15, 1984, she encountered two men while trudging along a mountain path. One of the men grabbed and punched Kari, and then the two restrained her with nylon cord. They then led her off of the marked trail and into the wilderness. The kidnappers eventually set up camp where Kari spent the night chained to a tree. She learned that they planned to make her become the “wife” of the younger of the two mountain men. Unaware of the kidnapping but searching for Kari, two rescuers wandered into the area of the camp, and during the confusion, the younger attacker accidentally shot Kari in the chest.

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PART III

Shot in the chest, Kari tried to focus on the movement and voices around her, but everything seemed to be a blur. The blond man with the mustache, a rescuer, was leaning over her looking at the wound. The elder Don Nichols was behind them both—he was aiming his rifle at the man offering aid.

The mustached man (Jim Schwalbe) hollered back into the clearing: “Al, call for help. We need some help!

Trying to regain control of the situation, Don Nichols ordered, “Shut Up!

Drop your guns. You’re surrounded by 200 men. You can’t get away!” a new voice was heard from the trees.

The old man began swinging his rifle back and forth trying to identify the location of the second intruder.

The blond rescuer stood and backed away from Kari. Trying to diffuse the situation, he stated to the Nichols: “Everything is cool. Nobody is going to get hurt. We don’t want any more gun play.

Kari watched as Don Nichols took cover behind an adjacent tree. With precision, he sighted the rifle and fired.

The shot silenced everyone. After a few moments, the blond rescuer ran away from Kari into the forest shouting for his now dead friend.

Don Nichols’s fatal rifle shot had struck rescuer Al Goldstein in the head.

The two kidnappers looked at Kari’s wound, unchained her, decided it was hopeless, and began hurriedly packing their gear.

You’re just leaving me here. Aren’t you? At least let me have the sleeping bag,” Kari said.

Her attackers did not respond. After a few moments, Danny Nichols grabbed the bottom of her sleeping bag and pulled. Kari landed on the forest floor with a painful thud.

In a blur of movement, her attackers were gone—leaving her bleeding and alone.

She could hear the squawking of the dead man’s radio somewhere in the distance, but she was unable to move far.

In agony, she crawled three feet toward the remains of the camp’s fire, and realized that the bullet had passed through her lung--the gurgling sounds coming from her chest terrified her.

Kari knew shock would kill her soon, and she had to find warmth.

Far off to her left, she saw a boot (the body of the deceased rescuer), and much closer to her right she spied what looked like a pack. It took great strength for Kari to reach the backpack and then root through the contents.

Disappointed that she did not find another radio, Kari pulled out a sleeping bag from the pack, and wiggled inside. The bag also contained a canteen with lemonade and a candy bar.

Kari fought to stay awake and tried not to think about dying in the clearing.

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When Kari was first reported missing and the search began, no one considered the scenario that she had been kidnapped—the accepted notion was that she had encountered a bear or wild animal on the trail or had become lost while running.

Authorities would not learn about the abduction until the mustached-man found help after he had fled the Nichols camp.

By then, one rescuer was dead, and Kari was seriously wounded.

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Since I am focusing on Kari’s story with this series, I’ll summarize the end of the story.

Aided by the escaping rescuer, authorities identified the site where Kari had been shot, and in a few hours a team led by the two sheriffs in charge of the investigation heard her weakly calling for help.

Kari had lost a tremendous amount of blood, but rescuers were able to get her to an open area where she could be flown to a hospital via helicopter.

Even after surviving her ordeal in the woods, Kari’s helicopter almost crashed after clipping some branches in the thick woods while trying to fly from the scene.
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Next week, I’ll discuss the aftermath of Kari Swenson’s kidnapping.

You can read any of the previous post about Kari Swenson by going here.

Note: For this series, I used law enforcement's version of the incident recorded in the book Incident at Big Sky as well as several other available articles.  The book also uses statements from the victim, and notes from one of the kidnappers who kept a journal. 

Dad

Setting: The family visits a large shopping one-stop-for-all-box-store--the type that is now so common in the States.  "Sissy" is the know-it-all four-year-old sister that enjoys annoying her 4th grade "Big Brother" and seemingly mom and dad as well.
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THE MRS.: Take Sissy and Big Brother and let them pick out ice cream treats. 

BIG BROTHER:  Yes!  I want a Nutty Butty.

SISSY: I want a Nutty Butty too!

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THE MRS.: Open Sissy's treat for her.

ME: Here you go chickie.

Sissy starts chomping on the cold snack.

SISSY: Yum...  Wait...Uh, I don't like nuts.

ME: You ordered a Nutty Butty and you don't like nuts?

Sissy continues with the frown, so I carefully remove all of the frozen nuts with my hand, and give her back the now nutless Nutty Butty.

Since my hands are covered in chocolate and nuts, I excuse myself to find a garbage can.

Moments later, I return to the family.

THE MRS.:  Sissy needs to go to the bathroom.  Will you take her?

ME: You just started on your nutless Nutty Butty and you need to potty now?

SISSY: I have to go.

I give a head-shake and exhale.

ME: Ok, this way.

We enter the family restroom. I acheive my goal of touching nothing while holding the ice cream, while little daughter does her business.

Mission accomplished, she works on the Nutty Butty some more while we walk and then rejoin the family.

SISSY: All done. Thanks.

Sissy then hands me the partially eaten cone.  The melted ice cream gets on my hands again.

I just smile and think, I really can't picture my dad being this accommodating. 

He did have only sons though...

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Have a great weekend everyone.

Searching for Jenni-Lyn Watson

Despite it being Thanksgiving and not a Monday (I try to reserve my posts on disappearance cases to Missing Person Mondays), I wanted to comment on the Jenni-Lynn Watson missing person case.

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Summary


Twenty-year old Mercyhurst College student Jenni-Lynn Watson was last seen by family members at her parent's home on the morning of Friday, November 19, 2010 in Liverpool, New York.  Her purse, keys, and wallet were found in the home, but not her cell phone.  She was reported missing by her parents Friday evening after no one had heard from her. 

On The Search

Using cell phone records, authorities have focused their search to a large wooded area north of Syracuse on Tuesday and Wednesday--using specialized search units and discouraging individual search efforts:

After announcing that they were suspending the search late Tuesday, Onondaga County Undersheriff Warren Darby asked that people not go searching for her on their own, stressing that potential evidence could be compromised, the station reported...

Based on their assessment of the case, authorities chose to keep the public out of the ground search for Jenni-Lyn. Family members of the missing woman made statements in support of allowing law enforcement conduct the search without any potential interference.

This may be a decision that police regret.

After 48 hours of not finding anything, authorities issued a press release on 11/24/2010 stating that they will be asking for help from citizens with the search in the near future.

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I understand the importance of maintaining evidence in a case and realize police know much more than what is printed in the news, but it would seem that there was an outside chance that this is still a life-saving search (referring to the victim's cell phone records)--the type that would trump anything related to crime scenes and/or evidence.

With time being an enemy in a disappearance, it is reasonable to argue that using hundreds of volunteers with adequate supervision to scour a specific area would be superior to using a few dozen well-trained but stretched thin searchers.

Certainly, waiting 48 to 72 hours or more to then call for citizen help will be a difficult development for the Watson family to comprehend.

My prayers are with the family and their daughter.
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It should also be noted that untrained citizen searchers have found their share of useful information in missing persons cases as well.

Ladies Love It

Whether you are a fan of tattoos or not, it is difficult to argue that the following example of body ink under the nose was anything but a bad idea...


Despite the tattoo's proclamation, I don't think "ladies love it."
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Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the States. 

I am blog working on Black Friday, so while others search for that amazing bargain, I'll have something ready to go for your reading entertainment.

Angry about this Foreclosure

When a mortgage firm goes through the time-consuming legal maneuvers required to foreclose on a home and then resell it, I'd predict that employees would at least take a few steps in the name of due diligence.

After reading this story from Florida, I have been proven wrong again:

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- A man who bought a foreclosed Florida home may have found the former owner's body when he discovered a corpse in the garage.

Brevard County Sheriff's Major Andrew Walters said the man went to the home in Cape Canaveral on Thursday. That's when he found the remains inside a car in the garage.

Walters said it's unclear how long the body had been there, or how the person died. An autopsy is underway.

The body is believed to be that of a woman. Investigators think it may the home's previous owner, because she hasn't been seen for a while. She went through foreclosure earlier this year.

Mortgage lender Wells Fargo sold the home Wednesday. Neighbors told authorities that the woman had "disappeared" some time ago.

Now, I am not an expert in Florida real estate law, but as part of a foreclosure process, I believe there should have been a formal eviction--a step that would have included the removal of personal property from the residence and other structures named in the foreclosure documents.

This action would have involved lots of people wandering through all parts of the house.

You know, so when representatives from Wells Fargo took possession of the home and then prepared it for sale, they could have taken care of any minor problems involving the property--like if it had been used as a puppy mill or served as a busy meth lab or even if it FEATURED A DECOMPOSING BODY LYING IN PLAIN VIEW INSIDE A VEHICLE; a car that should have been towed a long time ago.

*Note: Several of the other articles on the story noted that the body wearing a dress was found in plain view in the passenger seat of the car. 

Instead, a woman who may be the previous owner of the home is found dead in the garage by someone who purchased the residence. A woman whose "issue" was that she was elderly and lived a solitary lifestyle and apparently had no one to report her missing.

Further, a woman homeowner who was current on her mortgage payments the last time any of her neighbors saw her.

In this article, television reporters for WESH in Orlando have started asking the difficult questions about what went wrong in this foreclosure process and found, at the least, billing discrepancies involving the subcontractors used in their supposed attempt to track down the missing former homeowner Kathryn Norris.

It is no wonder that last month, the National Association of Attorney Generals opened a joint investigation into the actions of banks and mortgage companies involved in foreclosures in the fifty US states.

I expect more information to be released by authorities as some of those involved in the foreclosure of Ms. Norris' home scurry for rocks to crawl under.

Kari Swenson: Survivor, Part II

This is the second post in my series on the disappearance of Kari Swenson.

Ms. Swenson’s solved missing person case offers rare perspective in which a reader can hear from the victim, law enforcement, and those convicted.

For my first post, you can go here.
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Post One Summary: Twenty-two year old honors student Kari Swenson enjoyed running trails on her breaks from the Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana. She was considered one of the United States’ best competitors in the biathlon. On July 15, 1984, she encountered two men while trudging along a mountain path. One of the men grabbed and punched Kari, and then the two restrained her with nylon cord. They then led her off of the marked trail and into the wilderness.

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PART II

The young kidnapper, Dan Nichols, led the procession with the restrained Kari walking beside him, and Dan’s father Don in the rear.

They walked for some time through the thick brush.

Kari observed that the two attackers were not leaving many tracks--avoiding areas of soft ground; though the men did not seem too concerned about being followed.

She knew that as the crew moved farther from any of the cleared trails that it would be difficult to follow the group.

Kari decided her best strategy was to stall—believing that her boss and others would begin searching for her around 5 pm when she did not show up to work the dinner rush.

Kari began digging her cleats, and breathing heavily. She asked to stop and rest, which the elder Don Nichols seemed relieved to accommodate.

During the stop, she reminded the men that searchers would soon be looking for her.

Don’s curt response was that he would shoot anyone that tried to follow them.

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THE MOTIVE AND THE FIRST ATTEMPT

What was the Nichols’ motive for kidnapping?

Don stated that they lived in these mountains and needed to find his son Danny a wife--Kari had been their choice.

Evidently, she had been a selection of convenience.

After Kari's encounter, a local woman, Mrs. Joel Beardsley, reported to authorities that she had been approached by the elder Nichols while floating on an inner tube at the lake on the day before the kidnapping.

At the time, she did not report the incident to police and just felt it was odd.

Mrs. Beardsley was relaxing in the water, away from her husband who was fishing nearby, when Don Nichols engaged her in a conversation about fishing from the shore.  She asked if they were surveyors, but Don said they were just carving their names on a tree nearby.

In hindsight, she realized that they were trying to lure her to their side of the shore.  The discussion stopped when Mrs. Beardsley's husband called for her.  As she answered him, the two men scurried up a steep bank and into the forest.

She relayed the encounter to her husband and he and several other fisherman found a tree with fresh carvings on it.  Two names were etched into the wood--names that would later tip authorities as to who they were searching for.

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THE CAMP

Once they started moving again, Kari tried everything she could think of to help anyone looking for her. She stalled, marked the ground with her cleats, and tried to drop her headband and watch, but each time she was scolded by the old man who yelled at his son to keep a better eye on their captor.

As it became dark, the men decided to establish camp. They chained Kari in a standing position to a tall pine tree, and made themselves a bed in the evergreen needles.  She was given a sleeping bag that covered from her hips down.

During a long and sleepless night, Kari worked the chain down the trunk of the tree so that she could sit.

At daybreak, the men moved their camp to a more concealed position. Voices the night before as well as what was thought to be a search aircraft added to the kidnappers anxiety.

After reattaching the chains to Kari, Don made her take off her bright red running shorts.

Fearing the worst if she removed her shorts, Kari initially resisted, but eventually complied.

The elder Nichols then covered the shorts with charcoal from their fire, nothing more, and allowed the victim to wear them again--the color dulled significantly.

A few moments later, everyone heard rustling from the edge of the camp. 

Kari saw a stocky sun-tanned man with a lumberjack shirt kneeling in the tall grass.  The Nichols scrambled to get their guns, while Kari began shouting: "They'll kill you.  Don't come near.  They have guns!"

Danny ordered the man to halt and aimed his pistol at the stranger.

Kari continued yelling her warning.

Holding his rifle, the old man told his son,"Shut her up.  Just shut her up."

Kari described Danny as "panicked" as he stumbled toward her with his pistol extended. 

Danny pulled the slide back on the semi-automatic handgun as if to menace her, when the gun discharged.

The bullet entered Kari's chest on the right side, and numbed her entire torso. 

Danny screamed: "I shot her. I didn't mean to shoot her. We need some help here!"

Kari tried to shout, but her voice was not loud: "Help me..."

Don immediately chastised his son: "Shut up Danny.  Everyone stay out of this camp!"

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I'll stop there and be back next Monday for the next installment in this series.

You can read any of the previous post about Kari Swenson by going here.

Note: For this series, I used law enforcement's version of the incident recorded in the book Incident at Big Sky as well as several other available articles.  The book also uses statements from the victim, and notes from one of the kidnappers who kept a journal. 

The Handprint

To end the week on a positive note, I offer a heartwarming story that recently appeared in the St. Petersburg Times.

Below is a summary of the article's introduction--I chose a summary to comply with the newspaper's licensing restrictions on reposting. 

You'll have to follow this link over there if you want to read the full article and see the images:

Robin Goddard and her family waited in front of the garden center hoping that the rain shower was finished.


It had not rained for days--and now was not the time.


But for this moment, sunlight broke through the clouds. 


Maintenance supervisor Carl Sass approached Goddard and asked the group if they were ready.


He received an acknowledgement, and with a video camera rolling, the family watched.


All eyes stared at a faded yet tiny handprint on top of a cement curb...


TO READ MORE GO HERE.

Now, this is a positive story, but I did neglect to tell that it was a sad one as well.

Ms. Goddard's experience and strength is the type of news that I wish was retold more often.

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Have a good weekend everyone.

Buffy, Pass the Infographic

Setting: The Mrs. is seated in our living room with our oldest son "Big Guy" who is now in 4th grade.   She is helping him review for an upcoming exam. 
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THE MRS.: Hey, do you know what an infographic is?

ME: Umm, I can guess.

THE MRS.: It is a map.  Big guy's social studies textbook continuously refers to maps as infographics.



ME:  Dandy. 

I turn and address Big Guy seated on the couch across from his mom using my best attempt at an English/aristocratic accent.

ME: Buffy, hurry out to the motor room and retrieve from the red Lamborghini--now pay attention lad, I said the red auto, not the green or the blue one--my best infographic so that I can plot a fortnight excursion to Biff's next polo match. 

Little guy stares at me without expression, while the Mrs. frowns then turns her attention back to the textbook.

THE MRS: Don't you have a blog to write or something?

ME: Yes, I do ma'am.  Oh yes, I do...

At least I appreciate my own attempts at humor.

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

Infographic for map?  Motor room for garage? 

Are there any odd terms that writers use that bother you--words that seems to complicate a description rather than enhance it?

Weighing Video Evidence

Warning: The following videos are not gory, but do contain images of a police shooting.

My intent with this post is not to focus on the controversy of the incident, but to show how video can be deceiving.

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When considering video of an incident, it is important to remember that the images recorded at a specific point in time may not be enough for the viewer to fully understand the situation.

Watch the following 90 second video...





Marquise Hudspeth was the man shot, and the incident divided the town of Shreveport, LA in 2003.

The video offers convincing testimony that police shot an unarmed man in the back, right?

Now, watch footage of the same incident from a different vehicle's camera.






Some difference, huh?

The item in Hudspeth's hand that was mistaken for a gun was a cellular phone.

Obviously, one sample of video footage may not tell you everything you need to know.

You can learn more about the incident here.
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Note: The idea and videos for this post came from reading an article at PoliceOne.com.

Kari Swenson: Survivor, Part I

For this Missing Person Monday post, I am going back to the mid-1980s to discuss the case of Kari Swenson.

Unfortunately with many disappearances, there is a beginning of the story, perhaps a short middle, but no ending.

We grieve for the families and the persons involved, but never find out what happened to those reported missing—unanswered questions are all that remain.

As such, I like to discuss some of the investigations that have been solved; cases that allow for readers to better understand the actions of law enforcement, the perpetrators, and sometimes, as in Kari’s case, hear from the victim.

This is the first of my series on what became known as "The Incident at Big Sky."

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PART I

In January of 1985, Kari Swenson won the gold medal for the biathlon at the U.S. biathlon championships in Quebec City. Such an award is near the pinnacle of achievement for an athlete.

Kari’s inspirational journey prior to the medal podium is a story that needs to be retold.

In the wilds of Montana on July 15, 1984, twenty-two year old Kari Swenson's life changed forever.  

Just six months before she became a champion athlete, she was Kari Swenson, missing person.   

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

BACKGROUND

Between the lunch and dinner rush at the Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana, while most of her restaurant co-workers napped or rested, Kari Swenson ran.

Enjoying her summer break, the honors student from Montana State University would push herself on 10 km trail runs through the picturesque but rugged hills about 40 miles from Yellowstone National Park.

Earlier that year, Kari had placed 5th at the world championship biathlon in Charmonix, France—the best finish for an American in the post war era. She had set her sights on competing in the next Olympic games.

On this Sunday, she was trying a new trail that included ridges and passed along a small lake. Her boss and owner of the ranch, Bob Schaap, had told Kari about the grizzly bear warnings that had been posted earlier in the area.

Fearless, Kari replied that she would be excited to see such a sight in the wild.

Despite the ominous sign, bears would be the last danger that Kari needed to worry about.

THE ENCOUNTER

On the run, her cleats dug into the changing ground—dirt to rock to mud—as she gracefully followed the contours of the land. As wise trail runners do, her eyes focused on her steps, trying to ensure that she did not twist an ankle.

That day, the area was peaceful and seemingly untouched by human hands.

The mosquitoes and flies were thick in places, but she trudged forward--conquering the environmental challenges with each step.

As she passed near the end of the lake, two men suddenly appeared not ten feet away.

An older man stood to the left with one foot on the trail, while a younger man watched from the trees off to the right. Both men were bearded and dirty—not like the trout fisherman or hikers she was accustomed to seeing.

She slowed and could see backpacks and rifles leaning against an adjacent tree.

Startled but not terrified, Kari made the quick decision to simply run past them, but the older man moved and further blocked the path.

Stopping, she then decided that perhaps if she asked for directions, it would diffuse the situation and she could quickly return to her car.

After a short exchange, the older man grabbed her wrist and restrained her.

Kari struggled and screamed, but the attacker punched her in the face while the younger man tied her hands with a nylon cord. She was unable to break free.

After some more restraining, the kidnappers had developed a leash to drag Kari with them.

They led her up a slope, off of the managed section of the trail and into the wilderness.

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

I'll have Part II of Kari's inspirational story ready next Monday.

Note: For this series, I used law enforcement's version of the incident recorded in the book
Incident at Big Sky as well as several other available articles.  The book also uses statements from the victim, and notes from one of the kidnappers who kept a journal. 

Recently, I saw that Kari Swenson's mother also authored a book on the story that recorded more of Kari's perspective, and I ordered it as well.

Remains of Zahra Baker Found

My condolences to those who loved and cared about missing child Zahra Baker.

Evidently, authorities will confirm that her remains were recovered in Caldwell County, North Carolina.

Police will hold a press conference today at 4 pm for the formal announcement.

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Thanks to JJ from Phila for the information.
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Update: At the press conference, authorities stated that they believe they have recovered her remains, but are awaiting an official confirmation from medical professionals.

Napping on the Job

You may have seen this story in the news:

(SANDUSKY, OH) The Perkins Schools Board of Education voted Wednesday to fire a veteran teacher who continually arrived late to class and fell asleep on the job.


The board voted unanimously to follow the recommendation of a referee who found Carol Smith's conduct "totally unprofessional, inappropriate, unsafe, outrageous, flagrant and persistent and threatened the safety, security and welfare of the students."


Smith, 71, had been suspended with pay since April.


Allegations arose that she discussed pornographic magazines with a freshman history class. During an investigation, several students told administrators that Smith also arrived late to class and slept during a study hall period...


But by arriving late to class and falling asleep, Smith failed to supervise her students properly, Taich wrote, and the school is lucky nothing went wrong. 


"Leaving middle school and high school children unattended without adult supervision is an accident waiting to happen," he wrote. 


She testified during the hearing that she wanted to teach one more year before retiring because her pension would be $900 more per month once she reached 35 years. She said she has health problems, including a sensitivity to light that requires her to rest her eyes. 


Smith acknowledged falling asleep once while supervising in-school suspension at Briar Middle School in September 2008. Principal Stephen Finn issued her a written reprimand for sleeping during school on four separate dates that month. 


Administrators disciplined her three more times before the start of the 2009-10 school year for sleeping during work or missing class periods.

It's unfortunate that both parties were not able to work this out a couple of years ago, when supervisors were first made aware of Ms. Smith's apparent health-related issues after 30 years on the job.

On a lighter note, if administrators think that a sleeping teacher in the classroom is dangerous, I am not sure what they would call my driver's education instructor from high school--a guy who was apt to snoozing on the job. 

"Mr. Noodlebay" would take short naps while we practiced our driving around town.

I think his grading system was, if you operated the motor vehicle so that he did not have to wake-up and assist you, then you were awarded an "A".  Hit too many potholes or brake suddenly and cause Noodlebay's eyes to open, you could expect a low grade.

Just for the record, I avoided the road hazards and was given an "A" for the class. 

On Elizabeth Smart

An interesting revelation from the federal trial of Elizabeth Smart's accused kidnapper Brian David Mitchell:

Elizabeth Smart, whose 2002 kidnapping captivated Americans, told jurors Tuesday how a Salt Lake City police detective tried to see behind her veil but backed down when the man accused of kidnapping her said her face was hidden for religious reasons.


"I was mad at myself, that I didn't say anything," she said on her second day of testimony... "I felt terrible that the detective hadn't pushed harder and had just walked away."


...The close call happened months after her abduction.


The detective had approached a robed Ms. Smart sitting at a library table and asked if he could look under the veil she wore across her face.


"He said he was looking for Elizabeth Smart," Ms. Smart said.


Under the table, Mr. Mitchell's wife at the time, Wanda Eileen Barzee, squeezed Ms. Smart's leg — a sign, Ms. Smart said, that she should remain quiet.


Mr. Mitchell stood between Ms. Smart and the detective.


"He said that it was not allowed in our religion and that only my husband would ever see my face." she said.


The detective pressed.


"He asked if he could be a part of our religion for a day, just so he could see my face, just so he could go back (to the police station) and say, ‘no it wasn't Elizabeth Smart'," she said.


Mr. Mitchell remained cool and calm, stating again firmly that it would not be allowed. The detective gave up and left...
Police work resembles baseball. 

As an officer, sometimes you will swing and hit a home run on a case--catch the law-breaker, recover the loot, rescue the victim, etc. 

But, along with the balls that sail over the fence, there are times in every career you will strike out and miss a golden opportunity.

You feel horrible, but have to learn from your mistakes and better prepare so that you reduce the chances for an error in the future.

As a guest blogger for the talented Raindog this summer, I discussed one of my law enforcement strikeouts in a post entitled Failing Floyd: A Life Lesson.

Failure happens.

How we respond to it shows our character.   
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Note: I initially saw the article for this post on the blog: Because No One Asked.

Jake's Brother

"Get your brother Jake and tell him it's time to go," the bleary-eyed mother told her young son and then politely covered her mouth to hide a yawn.

As directed, the freckled-faced nine-year-old crept low through the entrance of the inflatable bouncer, and carefully stepped toward to the back of the enclosed area.

He passed three little girls jumping and singing--the tune inaudible as their mix of ponytails and pigtails moved rhythmically with each ascent and descent.

Older brother continued by a group of young boys who played tag and laughed while falling to the soft plastic surface.

Finally, he stopped in front of a five-year-old boy with close-cropped sandy-blond hair and wearing blue overalls.

The small child alternated between bouncing and spinning; smiling but looking at nothing in particular.

Unnoticed, older brother knelt on one knee beside the boy, gently took his hand, and said: "Hey buddy, mom said we have to go home now."

Instinctively and with no further conversation, Jake held his brother's hand as they meandered through the crowd of energetic kids.

After exiting, he slid on the little brother's navy blue shoes with the care of an experienced father; checking the tips of the footwear to ensure that little brother's feet were snug inside.

"Don't forget to strap Jake's shoes down," mom directed as she walked away.

With his shoes secured, Jake took his brother's hand and followed mom to the parking lot.

I stood for a moment under the warm sunlight, reflected on the touching scene I had just witnessed, and bowed my head.

Photo Credit: JoDee Luna

If there were more folks like "Jake's brother," I am certain this world would be a better place.

_______________________________________

Thank you to JoDee Luna for allowing me to use her photo. 

JoDee describes herself as an "educator by day and a creative eclectic at all other times. " 

Insight and inspiration are regulars at her blog, and visiting there is certainly worth your time.

Haunting Photos

For this Missing Person Monday offering, I examine four haunting photos involving persons who have vanished.
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Jennifer Kesse

On January 24, 2006, twenty-four year old Jennifer Kesse did not show-up for her job at an Orlando area real estate firm.  Her vehicle was recovered two days later at an apartment complex near her condominium, but offered no clues as to Jennifer's location.

After a lengthy investigation, authorities contend that Ms. Kesse is the victim of an abduction, and after exhausting all leads on the case, authorities were able to convince the FBI to take over.

Police were able to secure images from a security camera that show a person believed to have abandoned Ms. Kesse's car.

Other than saying the person photographed is between 5'3 and 5'5 feet tall, authorities have not been able to identify the individual.  
 
The following security photo is of the mysterious person of interest. 


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Brianna Maitland

Guest blogger Bob and I have written extensively on the Brianna Maitland case

In sum,  seventeen-year-old Brianna was last seen leaving work in Vermont around midnight in March of 2004. Her vehicle was found the next day crashed into an abandoned farmhouse less than a mile from her employer.  Initially, authorities thought the incident was a simple hit-and-run, and that Brianna had left voluntarily--which is now one of the least likely explanations. 

The public does not get to see many images of a scene thought to involve a kidnapping just as it looked when authorities arrived. 

This case offers a rare exception.

A group of young people driving past Brianna's car, snapped a couple of photos prior to police processing the scene as a traffic collision.

Below is what was seen on the morning of March 20th: 




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Michael Reinert

Ten-year old Michael Reinert was last seen leaving his home with his 11-year-old sister (Karen) and their mother, Susan Gallagher Reinert, in Ardmore, Pennsylvania on June 22, 1979.

Three days later, Susan's nude body was found in the trunk of her own car, which was in the parking lot of the Host Inn in Swatara Township, Pennsylvania.

There was no sign of Michael or Karen at the scene and an extensive search produced nothing. 

Eventually, two men were convicted of the murders of the Reinert family. One of those sentenced, William Sidney "Bill" Bradfield, died in prison, and in his belongings, investigators discovered the photograph shown below of what they think is a grave. 

Despite efforts to determine the location of the image, the photograph remains a mystery.


Could this photo be the burial location of missing children Michael and Karen Reinert?

Unfortunately, all of these case images have offered more questions than answers.
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Next Monday, I'll start a series of posts on Kari Swenson, a closed missing persons investigation.  The case includes the perspectives of law enforcement, the victim, and the perpetrator--something rare in disappearances.