What is a Leg-Lifter to Do?

How about this creative (accused) thief:



RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- A Rubidoux man is accused of stealing dozens of fire hydrants in Riverside and San Bernardino counties for scrap metal.

Brian Burian, 45, was arrested at his home after investigators identified him as the man who had been selling the metal hydrants to a scrap dealer in Colton, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's department.



Investigators said Burian used a five-to six-foot-long "valve key" to shut off the water, removed the bolts holding the 80- to 100-pound hydrants down and hauled them away -- all in broad daylight.

Workers with the West Valley Water District in San Bernardino, which had 25 hydrants vandalized, helped crack the case by staking out an area where the thefts had been taking place, officials said. On Tuesday, the workers followed a suspicious truck to Burian's home...

A scrap yard can be charged with a felon for buying a fire hydrant or parts of one. But, in this case, the parts had been cut up so as to make them unrecognizable, Deputy Roger Young of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department told the Press Enterprise.

"A layman wouldn't be able to tell it was a hydrant," he told the paper. "It was just pieces of brass and bronze."

Investigators say since early April, 45 hydrants in the two inland counties have been reported stolen or vandalized for their metal.

The hydrants can weigh 80 to 100 pounds each and can sell for about $1.60 a pound. Replacing them can cost public agencies between $1,000 and $1,800 each...
Congrats to water department officials for cracking this case, but I think it would have been solved anyway in this manner:

• A significant amount of male dogs in Riverside become confused and depressed after their favorite places to urinate vanish.

• In response, these dogs seek to ease their pain by leg-lifting more frequently on the lawn statues and garden gnomes of area residents--which results in an increased rate of dead flowers and plants due to the repeated sprays.

• Angry gardeners throughout the county then overwhelm neighborhood police stations with complaints about the "leak and runs."

• In response, police commanders assign extra patrols to the areas impacted, and while on a stake-out of suspected inconsiderate relievers Bubba the wiener dog and Seamus the Irish Wolfhound, authorities observe Mr. Burian allegedly attempting to pilfer fire hydrants.
So what do you think?

Do you like my more comprehensive explanation or the simplistic one reported in the article?

On second thought, I don't want to hear the answer to that one.

Perhaps the above interpretation is the result of being delirious and ready for Saturday and Sunday after a full week of scooping an inordinate amount of poos from our happy, but busy new yellow-lab mix/Humane Society special.

Have a nice weekend everyone.
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The fire hydrant photo is from here, and the defendant's image is from this site.

Award Talk

Many thanks to Ann T. and Creepy Query Girl for presenting me with some undeserved recognition.

First...



I don't think I have ever stopped by Ann T.Hathaway's blog without learning something.

She regularly writes on poetry, crime issues, and a range of other diverse and interesting topics. Recently, she discussed a significant encounter in military history that occurred on the Kokoda Track in New Guinea--it is an educational three-part series and worth the read.

Ann T. presented me with the Honest Scrap Award; which I accepted and blogged about after winning back in November.

I don't want to be redundant, so you'll have to go read this post if you want to know things like why my parents were married in Somalia.

Second...



Creepy Query Girl, who gave me the Prolific Blogger Award, is a teacher and writer living in France. Though I am new to her blog, she has kept it interesting and humorous with topics ranging from how authors can develop stories that connect with readers to studying for the French driving exam.

In a funny and insightful post, she described her inner narrative voice while writing to be "Julie Andrews."

After much thought, I think my inner reading voice is something like John Hillerman (Higgins from the old show Magnum PI if anyone remembers)--I have no idea why the English accent, but I am sure there is some unflattering psychological explanation.

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

To accept the Prolific Blogger Award, you just have to:

1) Link back to this post; and,

2) Select and notify 7 other bloggers for the award.

In any event, here are seven great bloggers that I pass this award to:

Faith Looks Up

Little RV on the Hillside

Mountain Mom

Marina Demchuck

Drowning Tennis

Musings of an Abstract Aucklander

Always Elizabeth

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Happy Thursday everyone and I'll be back to regular posting tomorrow...

Networking...For Your 3-Year-Old?

Most of the following conversation was recently overheard at the Mrs.’ workplace…__________________________________________________

PROFESSOR POMPOUS: So Rachel... Are you all settled into your new home?

NEWBIE HIRE: We are. Thanks for asking. Now, I just need to find a preschool for my daughter.

PROFESSOR POMPOUS: Wonderful. Ruby is 3-years-old, right?

NEWBIE HIRE: Yes, four in November.

PROFESSOR POMPOUS: Well, the Academy of Brilliance is just a few blocks from here. I sent both of my young men there, Augustus and Mortimer, and they are now competent in three foreign languages.



NEWBIE HIRE: Wow, I’ll have to look into the Academy then.

PROFESSOR POMPOUS: You should remember that the most important element in selecting a preschool is your child’s ability to network with others-—she’ll make connections that will benefit her socially, professionally, and academically for years to come.

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

In celebration of Professor Pompous’ ludicrous wise declaration, I developed an essentials list for parents wanting maximize their three-year-old’s preschool “networking” experience:

• Arrive early to preschool and observe which parents drive the expensive vehicles. Then, engage these moms and dads with small talk so that your child can easily socialize with their kids.

• Encourage your three-year-old to pursue play opportunities with children who have prestigious last names. Children of Roosevelt, Vanderbilt, or Rockefeller lineage are appealing targets for long-term relationships.

• Avoid children with traditional sounding nicknames as it may be an indicator of low status: Jenny, Becky, Johnny, Ricky, Charley, etc., are certainly children to be shunned.

• Any preschooler who is required to wear color-coordinated knee and elbow pads and protective head gear prior to entering the school’s playground should be befriended immediately.
Simply follow this sage advice on networking, and your three-year-old son or daughter will be assured the nickname "Boot Licker" success in their future endeavors.

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

Thanks for indulging me in this attempt at humor.

It was a therapeutic exercise, in contrast to the post that I wanted to write which amounted to simply calling Prof. Pompous offensive names and recommending a tarring-and-feathering for folks that act like her.

Some parents are simply unbelievable, eh?

Part III: Christine Walters Missing Person

I continue with my series on the disappearance of Christine Walters.
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Case Summary

On November 12, 2008, twenty-three-year-old Christine Lindsey Walters was transported to a nearby hospital after being found nude and confused on the doorstep of a rural home in Arcata, California.

Evidently, Christine would not disclose any details to police as to her previous whereabouts, but did contact her mother in Wisconsin stating that she had been involved in a "ceremony", and believed that someone was following her.

She was treated medically, allegedly tested negative for drugs, and released from the hospital.

Christine, with the help of her parents, rented a room at a local hotel. Once she was settled, her parents then began arranging for a flight back to her home in Wisconsin.

On November 14th, Christine retrieved some paperwork at a local copy center that her mother had faxed to her. Workers described her behavior as paranoid.

Christine left the copy center and has not been seen since.

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

In post one, I reviewed the details Christine's case, and in post two, I discussed why police have been encouraged that the missing woman will be found and why I believe her parents have been unfairly criticized.

Today, I want to offer suggestions, based on what is available publicly, for future activity in the investigation and explore a few case oddities.

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

The Fax from Her Mom

Has the faxed information sent by Christine's mom been located? Was it recovered with her backpack at the Green Life Evolution Center or with items in her hotel room?

If the paperwork is also missing, it can be assumed that Christine was going to use it to obtain new identification information.

If she believed someone was following her (whether this was reality or not), it is understandable that she would not go retrieve her backpack or other personal belongings so as not to risk being seen.

Her Social Networking Accounts

Since she used her MySpace account to contact an old friend prior to vanishing (as reported by journalist David Lohr), it may be helpful to determine if her Facebook account was active at the time in question as well.

Just to be sure, I did locate a Facebook account for her.

Who are her listed friends and are any of them connected to the part of California where she went missing?

Photographs

In the albums section of her MySpace page, Christine proudly displays multiple "counter-culture" photos of her with friends on July 5th (I am assuming this was 7/5/2008). It would seem that she enjoyed modeling for photo opps, and that her life in California up to November 2008, prior to vanishing, would likely include additional appearances in similar photos.

In contrast, not much seems to be known about Christine's time in California.

I would hope that her friends would submit any images of Christine during the fall of 2008, so that they can be studied by her family and others interested in her disappearance.

Identifying and speaking directly with as many people as possible from her time in Golden State could provide useful information.

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

Here are two additional suggestions...

1) If it has not been done already, I think the parents will want their daughter's medical records subpoenaed so that they can review any health issues that may be pertinent to her case (especially if she had been treated previously at an emergency room in California).

The private investigator hired by the family or someone else may also use this information to reinterview the intake folks at the hospital where she was treated and released.

2) She is not currently listed in the US Department of Justice's NamUs database for missing persons, and her information should be entered immediately to provide greater visibility to the case.
I'll complete my discussion on this case next time.
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To view all posts in this series on Christine Walters Missing Person go here, and the photo was used from Christine's MySpace.

On the Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow

I am violating my personal goal of only four posts per week and I apologize to the 95% of my readers who could care less about the National Football League (NFL) draft, but I had one observation after the first round was conducted last night...
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Whether you are a Tim Tebow hater or supporter, he certainly is worth a gamble of being drafted somewhere--there are plenty of lousy NFL quarterbacks on rosters and can he be any worse?



I understand the criticism that Denver Broncos General Manager Brian Xanders and Head Coach Josh McDaniels are receiving for drafting Tebow in the mid-first round.

Personally, I did not expect to see him taken until the second round, but I think the Broncos management should be congratulated for making some great business decisions.

They traded back in the first round, obtained an additional pick later, and still drafted Tebow or "their guy." This is important considering the Bills were likely maneuvering to select Tebow in the late first round.

Now, contrast this to what the Jacksonville Jaguars' management did yesterday.

They selected Tyson Alualu with the 10th pick. Alualu may turn out to be a great player, but in almost every scenario, he would have still been available later in the first round if not even fallen to the second round.

In 2007, the Dolphins made a similar blunder with Ted Ginn, Jr., after their management fell in love with the guy's skills and selected him at #9 overall.

Ginn most certainly would have been available later in the draft, but the Dolphins failed to realize this and trade back. After three so-so years in Miami, the Dolphins gave away their former prized player for a measly 5th round draft pick a few weeks ago.

In sum, the Jaguars selected "their guy," but did not get him at a value price. The Broncos, in stark contrast, landed "their guy" and picked-up a good something else--a true bargain.

Even if Tebow is a total bust, the Broncos made a great short-term economic move considering all of the extra publicity, ticket sales, and team gear that will now be demanded.

For example:

Tebow's jersey is already selling at $79.99 on NFL.com and he has not yet been assigned a number.
_____________________________________

Ok, I'll be back to regular post topics on Monday. Have a good weekend.

Little Comedian

After a week of covering serious topics, I think I am due a detour.

The following is a recent conversation between my almost four-year-old daughter and me...


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

Me: All right, do you need a potty break before I drive you to the park?

Preschool Smarty: No. May I let Charlie in?

"Charlie the Dog" stands in the backyard repeatedly shaking his fur on this dry and warm sunny day.

Me: Yes, that would be helpful.

Preschool Smarty: Ok, but I will need a towel.

Me: A towel? Why?

Preschool Smarty: We were playing a game outside, "Princess Garden," and I was watering all of my beautiful flowers and plants.

Me: Hmm. What was Charlie doing?

Preschool Smarty: I made him be one of my plants.

After getting a closer look at the poor pooch, I am guessing he had 4-5 watering cans dumped on his head and backside.
-----------------------------------

Note: "Charlie the Dog" is a Humane Society special and the adopted new member of the family. He is around two years old and is a 70+ lbs. yellow-lab mix.

Evidently, he was an outside dog (though he is potty-trained), but is getting used to secrets of the inside dweller--like where the little ones drop lots of great food and which couch is the most comfortable.

Guest Blogger MommaFargo: Sex Offender Island

Here is Part II of an opinion in response to a question posed by a Adoc2be:

What should be done to protect society from dangerous sex offenders?

About today's Guest Author:

MommaFargo describes herself as "a 40-something female police officer and mother workin in a 'big city' in the west..." For several years, she investigated sex crimes for her agency, and has graciously agreed to share some of her insights on sex offenders in the following post.

MommaFargo's blog writing offers plenty of adventure, wisdom, sarcasm, and humor--a combination that makes reading about life in law enforcement so very appealing.

Her home on the Internet can be found at: The Boogie Man is My Friend.

So, here goes...

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What To Do With Sex Offenders

My solution? Sex Offender Island.

Think about it.

Over the years, I have debated this question in my mind over and over. I firmly believe they can never be rehabilitated. Professionals will tell you the same. At least the ones that are honest with you and not trying to give you political window dressing and rehab fluff.

Dr. Veronique Valliere is a professional I highly regard as one on top in her field…trying to deal with sex offenders while at the same time, sharing her knowledge to educate the public and law enforcement. If you ever have the opportunity to see her at a conference or share a few beers with her as I did, you will learn a whole library worth of information in just a few hours.

Like her…several sex offenders will tell you the same about themselves…they can’t be rehabilitated. I think, secretly, in their mind…they hope for that. But what tells us the most about whether our systems are successful in this battle…is history and the offender him- or herself.

No one single sex offender hit home more with reality than one I put away for over 20 years. He even said that wasn’t going to be long enough. His criminal career started out in the 80s when he was labeled the mysterious unsub on the west coast…The Columbia River Rapist. Stalking young children, raping and sodomizing them, and then beating them with shovels until almost dead…his MO. I read the case file. Even worse…he told me the story.

Once captured…he blamed police…for planting his DNA inside the children’s vaginal and anal cavities. That was his defense. He was sent to prison. Then he was released, changed his name legally, and moved to my town.

I first met him in 2004. 100 more children later…I took over the case that was long ignored by law enforcement and DFS…he had been reported over and over. No one could prove anything. My DFS partner and I worked his case for several months, traveling the globe.

Finally…arrest and search warrant day. We went toe to toe. Only he had grown wise to the system and was much harder to crack. He changed his MO to avoid capture. He befriended parents. He groomed children. He slipped into church and school functions. He took kids out of town. The violence still inside his mind plagued him…he took out his anger in private…avoiding the injuries to his victims, but instead displaced onto his wife and children. He sodomized his own sons. He beat his wife. He beat his kids.

Incredibly…he succeeded in his activities. He became several personalities. It worked….for over 15 years. That’s how they think. All of them. Some, worse than others.

The criminal mind fascinates me. Often when I get a confession, I delve into what drives them, what’s inside their mind? They are all the same. I could cut and paste their brain activity and thoughts and the next guy would say…“that’s me.”

So how do we fix them? We can’t. They cannot be rehabilitated. What they have told me is they can somewhat function in society with very high supervision and a tough monitoring system.

Another child molester told me what worked best for him was his weekly psychiatrist visits, monthly polygraph tests, ankle bracelet with GPS, and probation and parole home visits, and a work release job away from children. The address registration is just part of that. Then there is the flyer notifications to neighbors. That’s a lot of tax payer dollars. He has not had any reports, complaints, or victims come forward for 10 years.

Now, do I believe he has re-offended? Yes, at least in his mind. Over and over. And inside his mind he is planning the perfect opportunity. If it lands in his lap…so to speak…it will happen. He knows that. He told me he struggles to live everyday without bad thoughts and he can’t. He worries every day he will offend a child. And he will someday if the perfect opportunity comes his way.

Would you want to risk that being your child? Absolutely not.

Sex Offender Island. Sounding better all the time, isn’t it?

I’m a cynical and sarcastic cop…and wishful thinker. But it isn’t something that will happen unless Martial Law takes over the land.

So, in the meantime, while we are all waiting…LOL…the best things I can suggest is a very precise and detailed monitoring system for these offenders and at the same time trying to make them productive enough in society to pay for their own system. First and foremost…innocent people need to prevail over the criminal, for once.

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Thanks again to MommaFargo for discussing a difficult subject as today's guest blogger.

Sex Offenders: What Do We Do with Them?

A few weeks ago, blogger Adoc2be asked what I thought should be done to protect society from felonious sex offenders.

Her question was in response to the sad and disturbing murder of 17-year-old Chelsea King--who was attacked on February 25, 2010 while trail running in San Diego, California.

Ms. King's body was found a week later in a shallow grave near a lake, and registered sex offender John Albert Gardner, III was charged with the heinous offense.

In this post, I'll offer my recommendations for dealing with potentially dangerous sex offenders and in a follow-up post tomorrow, police officer, blogger, and former sex crimes detective MommaFargo will provide her insights.

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At First Glance

If I had the "perfect" answer that would solve the complex issue of what to do with sex offenders, I would not be the lowly author of a free blog with a title that insinuates basketball discussions yet offers little to no content about sports (I am not a marketing guru, eh?).

The former police officer in me wants to lock all sex offenders up forever, as that is the only way to assure the public that they will not victimize children and/or adults in our communities again.

But alas, this is not a viable solution--economically or in considering that a good number of those convicted will only be incarcerated for a handful of years and then released back to the streets.

As a beginning, I'll examine what works/doesn't work now.

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The Latest But Not the Greatest

A) Housing Restrictions for Sex Offenders

Despite their popularity with the public, prohibiting sex offenders from residing close to parks, schools, and daycares has not shown to be an empirically effective tool in preventing sexual abuse.

One explanation for this is that perpetrators may be more interested in approaching their victims away from their own neighborhoods where they are less likely to be recognized.

Whatever the reason, housing restrictions have resulted in at least two undesirable results that may lead to new crimes--offenders who:

1) are unable to find anywhere to live in a community so they reside beneath overpasses or in makeshift tents --which makes them difficult to track;



2) cannot find housing for their work-release and are forced to serve longer sentences--meaning when they are released, they are subject to very little or no monitoring by the justice system.
B) Requiring Sex Offenders to Notify Authorities of Change of Address

I think the Federal Act that requires, among other things, registered sex offenders to notify authorities of where they reside is a sensible restriction.

It is certainly not a perfect system, as over 100,000 of these perpetrators are missing--in that they have not complied with the law.

C) Monitoring of Sex Offenders

Each state can be different in the type and frequency of monitoring. Parole officer visits can result in technical violations that send an offender back to prison, but wearing a GPS bracelet does not necessarily prevent a perpetrator from committing another violent crime.

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So What Do We Do with Sex Offenders?

Strategies in response to the "what do we do with..." should include these:

Better Identify Predators--Become more proficient at identifying sexual predators as opposed to grouping all sexual offenders into a category. Once predators are labeled (as best as possible) then focus justice resources on them.

Improve Monitoring and Offender Databases--Increase the technology and personnel used in monitoring those deemed high risk. Also, authorities need to know where all of these convicted perpetrators reside, so locating more of the missing 100,000 or so is essential.

Better Educate the Judicial Branch--Judges need to understand the value of recommendations provided by medical professionals regarding offenders (as what happened in the King case where John Gardner's psychiatrist considered the offender a high risk and recommended a maximum sentence but the judge for whatever reason did not follow it).

Use a Combination of Rehabilitation and Longer Sentences--In general, sex offenders have low recidivism rates. As a result, rehabilitation opportunities should be pursued where practical, and for those that the approach does apply to or fails, longer sentences should be pursued.

Create Loitering Statutes--Despite no clear link to preventing this type of crime, the public overwhelming supports housing restrictions. To make them more effective, I say replace the overly restrictive housing laws for sex offenders with reasonable ones that include anti-loitering statutes so that police can arrest persons "hanging out" in places that children gather.

Improve Prevention Practices--Sex offenders are more likely to select victims that they know. Society should place an emphasis on education--making adults and children aware of personal safety and providing kids with options for resisting attacks. Prevention should also include identifying and using whatever is effective in preventing young people from becoming sex offenders.

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In sum, no perfect solution exists to protect society from dangerous sex offenders. As a society, our actions should be based on practices that have been shown successful so as to reduce the number of sexual offenses and create better awareness among citizens.
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The photo was used from here.

A Happy Ending and an Observation

I'll have the third post in my series on Christine Walters: Missing Person ready next Monday.

Today, I'll go with a missing persons case with a happy ending and what similarities exist between it and two other active investigations.

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I was happy to see that there was a jubilant ending to the case of a missing child last week in Florida:

A missing 11-year-old central Florida girl with Asperger syndrome was found alive on Tuesday, four days after she disappeared into an alligator-infested swamp a half-mile from her suburban home.

Nadia Bloom was taken to a hospital in nearby Longwood, Fla., where she will be evaluated and treated for dehydration and insect bites, said Winter Springs Police Chief Kevin Brunelle.

Bloom was located early Tuesday morning in waist-deep water near Lake Jessup, (by volunteer James King) CBS affiliate WKMG reports.

"If I never believed in miracles, I sure do now," Brunelle said during an afternoon news conference.

Brunelle said Nadia told rescuers two things: "I'm glad you guys found me" and "I can't believe you guys rescued me..."




Assuming Mr. King's story is legitimate, the circumstances related to finding Nadia Bloom and the remains of Caylee Anthony have some commonalities.

The missing girls were not found by police dogs, helicopters, or professional searchers.

They were discovered by concerned citizens looking close to the locations that each girl vanished.

In Bloom's case, she was recovered in a place that authorities had not yet searched--about 1/2 mile from her home.

Anthony's body was found by meter reader Ray Kronk in a wooded area with a water source that is 1/4 of a mile from Anthony's home. It was an location that authorities had searched multiple times.

Comments from police like: "Well, our dogs did not hit on a scent near there" or "we searched that area already" seem to mean little when investigating cold missing persons cases.

What about the cases of Brianna Maitland and Ray Gricar?

Is it worth searching areas again, especially those with water, for evidence?

In the Maitland investigation, authorities did just that late last year.

Related to Gricar, no such additional searches have been reported by authorities.

Perhaps, the effort in finding Mr. Gricar is currently focused on theories that he fled his life voluntarily and there is nothing more to find in the Lewisburg area where he vanished--despite a wooded area about 1/2 mile from the recovery of his car known as the Montandon Marsh.

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Photo was used from here.

Tuber of the Week #32: The Dating Game

Hello and welcome.

We have an exciting show of matchmaking tonight, and here is our first contestant.

Bachelor #1 is a successful photographer from California.

He has a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree from UCLA, and his IQ is estimated to be between 135 and 162--near genius level.

In his spare time, he likes to ride motorcycles and skydive.

Give a warm applause to Rodney Alcala.

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

Doesn't Mr. Alcala sound appealing?

Well, after interviewing him on an episode of The Dating Game in 1978, Cheryl Bradshaw evidently thought so and selected Bachelor #1 Alcala for a night out.

Reportedly, Ms. Bradshaw later listened to her intuition and decided not to go out with the smiling entrepreneur.

Good decision.

No, great decision.

Rodney James Alcala is currently on death row in California for murdering five women. Alcala is believed to have been actively pursuing his victims during the time he appeared on prime time television.

Content Note: The following video (edited to include only Alcala's portion) contains cheesy innuendo that was commonplace for "sexy" shows in the 1970s like The Dating Game. If that might be offensive to you, then you should skip this video. I think the film is a useful tool for those interested in studying the behaviors, phraseology, and gestures of a covert violent offender.



Authorities believe Alcala may have killed as many as 30 victims.

In effort to solve old missing persons and homicide cases, authorities in Orange County (CA) recently released hundreds of photos featuring mostly unidentified women. The images were found in a storage locker that belonged to Alcala.

I am certainly blessed to have met the Mrs. while walking my dog.

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I first saw this video here.

Places that You Don't Want to Visit

The creative bloggers over at Listverse always have something interesting to discuss.

Recently, they compiled a unique travel agenda entitled: Top 10 Places that you Don't Want to Visit.

I was disappointed to see that Centralia, the community "on fire" that I have featured in a couple of posts, was not recognized, but selecting an underground cavern on fire since 1970s in Turkmenistan is understandable.

Their list is comprised of the well known and the obscure--including The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Alnwick Poison Gardens (England), and The Zone of Alienation (Chernobyl of course).

My favorite site described is The Yungas Road in Bolivia.



In 1995, the passageway was named the "World's Most Dangerous Road"--a fitting label with it's 2,000 foot drop-offs, road width of only 10 feet, and very few guardrails.

Watching tractor trailers try to squeeze by each other there is not for the faint of heart.



One source estimates that between 200-300 people are killed annually on the road.

Now, that would be one lousy daily commute.

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Images were used from here.

For Your Safety: Can You Whistle and Run?

While researching a future blog topic that MommaFargo has graciously agreed to participate through a guest post, I read the following article on the sad and recent murder case of Chelsea King in San Diego:

The sound came from the bushes.



The small group of female cross-country runners at Trabuco Hills High School was training last summer on a dirt path in Mission Viejo when a man appeared and exposed himself, and then started chasing them...

He never stood a chance against the speedy teens.

But for girls' cross-country head coach Dennis Kelly, the episode was another reminder that danger, even during a supervised group run in broad daylight, can be just around the next switchback.

The killing of 17-year-old Chelsea King, which police believe was at the hands of a sex offender while she was running alone near Lake Hodges in San Diego County, has generated deep alarm and concern among Orange County runners, whose passion often takes them to remote areas.

"You can't constantly keep your eyes on everybody – it's impossible,"' Kelly said of training nearly 100 cross-country runners. He also is head coach of the girls' track and field team. "This news is pretty much the worst nightmare of any running coach."

"You can never assume that 'nothing will happen,' '' said Michelle Barton, an elite trail runner who coached the girls cross country team at Laguna Beach High School for three years...

Runners and cross-country coaches all agree on the cardinal rule of their sport:

Never train alone...

Of course, adult runners also are vulnerable to being attacked...

(Emphasis Added)...Another local runner, Michael Muenzer, 50, who participated in the search for Chelsea King's body, suggested that runners wear a safety whistle.

Barton, 39, of Laguna Niguel, urges runners – especially females – to always carry pepper spray and a cell phone.
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The guy in the story recommends a whistle for a trail runner?

Really?

The article discusses how these athletes would likely be in remote locations--and I am supposed to believe that a loud whistle is going to help fend off danger?

I was trying to envision someone running as fast as possible to avoid an attacker, while also coordinating their breathing to blow as loudly as possible into a whistle--it doesn't seem reasonable.

Further, if bystanders hear loud whistles in the woods, will they even be concerned?

Or, would they respond to the whistling with curiosity--like: "I wonder what that noise is?"

I would rather equip my daughter with a personal handheld alarm that she can activate while running and screaming as opposed to a "loud whistle."

Screams for "help" accompanied by loud noises are less likely to be confused when heard by someone passing by.

Obviously, underage students are restricted in what they are permitted to carry, but for adults, I'd suggest the alarm, mace, an edged weapon (even a pen), a cell phone, or, for those who feel comfortable, a firearm--as any of those would be much better tools for runners who experience an attacker in the woods as compared to a souped-up version of something used to referee sporting events.
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The photo was used from here.

Part II: Christine Walters Missing Person

In my previous post on this case, I summarized the details of Ms. Walters' disappearance and discussed some of the woman's background.

Today, I'll address two questions related to the case...


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Case Summary

On November 12, 2008, twenty-three year old Christine Lindsey Walters was transported to a nearby hospital after being found nude and confused on the doorstep of a rural home in Arcata, California.

Evidently, Christine would not disclose any details to police as to her previous whereabouts, but did contact her mother in Wisconsin stating that she had been involved in a "ceremony", and believed that someone was following her.

She was treated medically, allegedly tested negative for drugs, and released from the hospital.

Christine, with the help of her parents, rented a room at a local hotel. Once she was settled, her parents then began arranging for a flight back to her home in Wisconsin.

On November 14th, Christine retrieved some paperwork at a local copy center that her mother had faxed to her. Workers described her behavior as paranoid.

Christine left the copy center and has not been seen since.

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

1) Why do authorities have more hope than not that Ms. Walters is still alive?

Of the unsolved missing persons cases he is currently working, Humboldt County Sheriff's Office detective Dan Paris is very hopeful about the Walters' case.

There are two reasons for the positive feelings--Paris has found no indication of criminal activity and told a reporter this:

...Walters was supportive of the environmental movement in the area, and Paris has seen a photo of a young woman with strawberry-blond hair being shown how to climb trees at a Southern Humboldt activist camp...
I think investigator's comments are revealing as to what else may be in the case file--likely more evidence of someone who associated with activists which gives credence to theories that portray Walters as a woman willing to walk away and start a new life.

2) Why do I believe the parents of the missing woman have been criticized unfairly?

I saw on an unnamed site where the family was being criticized for not taking a more active role in their daughter's life--arguing that her controversial lifestyle choices and then her hospitalization prior to going missing should have been acted on immediately by her mother and father.

First, I don't see anything that the parents did wrong. The missing woman was 23 years old, and certainly old enough to make her own decisions.

If an adult daughter wants to "go west" and search for the meaning of life, there is little a parent can do but offer support.

Second, at the hospital, since authorities decided she was not a risk to herself or others, they could not force her to seek a mental health evaluation. She was cleared medically, and released into the community--the parents could not have her detained anymore.

It wasn't until after her disappearance that a private investigator hired by the family found evidence that Christine was taking part in "tea ceremony" prior to being found nude.

This article from crime writer David Lohr discusses more on the ceremony and how hallucinogenic drugs associated with the ritual can cause some users to become paranoid.

Finally, the parents were navigating the logistics to fly her back to Wisconsin when she vanished and due to medical record privacy, they were not fully aware of the details (being found nude and acting paranoid) that had led to her hospitalization.

Next time, I'll discuss what seems odd to me about the case, and suggestions for the future.
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To view all posts in this series go here, and the photo was used from this site.

Was Mom Right or Wrong?

The Issue

What happens when a concerned mom, evidently without her 16-year-old son's permission, allegedly accesses his Facebook page, views his posts, and then generates several entries?

She gets arrested:

Arkadelphia, Arkansas - An Arkadelphia mother is charged with harassment for making entries on her son's Facebook page.

Denise New's 16 year old son filed charges against her last month and requested a no contact order after he claims she posted slanderous entries about him on the social networking site.

New says she was just trying to monitor what he was posting.

(Denise New, Arkadelphia)
"You're within your legal rights to monitor your child and to have a conversation with your child on Facebook whether it's his account, or your account or whoever's account. It's crazy to me that we're even having this interview."

New remains in shock after her son slapped her with the charge of harassment. In a document from the Clark County prosecutor, he alleges she hacked his account, changed his password and posted things that involve slander about his personal life.

(Denise New, Arkadelphia)
"I read things on his Facebook about how he had gone to Hot Springs one night and was driving 95 m.p.h. home because he was upset with a girl and it was his friend that called me and told me about all this that prompted me to even actually start really going through his Facebook to see what was going on."

Prosecutor Todd Turner won't comment on the specifics because of the son's age, but he did cite Arkansas' harassment law.

A person commits the offense if with purpose to harass, annoy or alarm another person without good cause, he engages in conduct or repeatedly commits acts that alarm or seriously annoy another person.

(Denise New, Arkadelphia)
"Oh yeah, I'm going to fight it. If I have to go even higher up, I'm going to. I'm not gonna let this rest. I think this could be a precedent-setting moment for parents."

New's son lives with his grandmother who has custodial rights, but New maintains she'd had a great relationship with him despite their living arrangements.

Her next court date is May 12th.
As long as parents have been parents, the activities of minor children have been monitored to some extent.

Some moms and dads search bedrooms. Some read diaries. Some listen to phone conversations or monitor computer activity.

Whatever the tactic, parents try to protect their kids.

It will be interesting to see how this case plays out. Mom not having custody is likely an issue that will contribute to the DA's decision.

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More on the Story

Interestingly enough, a commenter over at the local television station's site, appears to be the mom charged and she is defending her actions and rallying others to her side:

"...even tho she has legal cust...that has never mattered b4. I hired an atty for him when he was hit by a DD...I signed all the paper work not his grandmother...they had no prob with me not being his guardian when he got busted with pot....

I delt with his atty for that and the same prosecutor that has filed this. It didnt matter that I wasnt his legal guardian when he was skipping school...I was the the school called.

They cannot pick n choose when i should be in his life and when I shouldnt. My son has had a long list of behaviorial problem for awhile now. He not only endangers himself but other kids as well.

Furthermore I didnt HACK into anything...he left his FB loggied in ON MY COMPUTER....and me having his password was a given if he wanted to use my computer. I HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO MONITOR HIM.....just b/c i dont have custody doesnt mean i dont care...and maybe if grandmother was doing her JOB I WOULDNT HAVE TO!"
Unfortunately, her explanation does not help her defense as she seemingly admits to the unauthorized access of the account.

In other comments, the same person describes the content of her Facebook posts, and requests that readers contact the DA and request that her charges be dropped.

I don't believe publicly listing your actions pertaining to an alleged criminal offense and then pleading with others to contact the DA in charge of your case is a wise move.

She should consult with an attorney about the charges and wait until her case is resolved to comment--then she is free to become a champion of parental rights.

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What do you think?

Was it ok if Ms. New searched her minor son's Facebook account?

How far do you think that parents should go with actions intended to protect their young sons and daughters?

Outta the Way Big Kid

Several months ago, while visiting relatives, the Mrs. and I took our little ones to a large indoor playland.

The facility was full of kid-style entertainment: fast and twisting slides, swinging ladders, foam bumpers, and elevated tunnels all provided endless fun for youngsters.



After the other two kids dove into the tunnels haphazardly, I began helping our youngest son up a challenging rope and net set of stairs.

With my ball cap on backwards, we were hand-in-hand slowly climbing when I felt a push from behind.

No, it was definitely a shove--that for an instant threw me off balance.

I regained my footing and turned to see the source of the unwanted contact.

I stood looking at two taller than average 12 or 13 year old boys.

The tallest one with a Mohawk looked at me with an annoyed frown and shouted:

"Outta the way big kid!"

The muscles in my face immediately contorted to form a scowl reminiscent of drill instructors assigned to Parris Island and I slowly replied in a deep-voiced Southern drawl:

"Son, don't put your hands on me again."

My message had the desired effect as I did not see the pushy fellow again that day at the playland.

Upon reflection, I should have offered the young guy a sincere thank you (after first delivering the directive of course), as I doubt that I'll ever be mistaken for a "big kid" again.

So, my belated appreciation goes to the overzealous teen for making me feel young again--if only for a fleeting moment.

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*Note: I did not serve in the Corps, but my father was a Marine drill instructor (DI) for a period of time in California. When necessary, he could morph his face and generate the scariest expressions to better communicate messages to us kids. He later confessed that as a part of the DI preparation, he would practice his frightening faces regularly in the mirror.

The photo was used from here.

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Prodigious Gift Fail

In relation to my post from a few days ago on an odd strategy police in England recently employed to decrease the number of residential burglaries, blogger Angelcel sent me this story also from the UK:

Police broke down a family's front door after mistaking their home for a drugs den - then handed them a bottle of beer as an apology.

Officers smashed their way into Kayleigh Hill and Anthony McVey's home in a dawn raid while they slept.

When 23-year-old ex-soldier Anthony went to investigate he was forced to get on the floor with his hands above his head - as his frightened children Kyle, two, and six-month-old Kiara screamed.

He said yesterday: "There were loads of police and they were shouting at me 'Stand back, put your hands behind your head, get on the floor, do not move'.

"I was naked at the time and so I said I was just going to put my boxer shorts on but they ran after me and held me against a wall.

"I was shaking, wondering what on earth they thought I had done. They asked me my name and when I told them they all looked at each other and realised they had the wrong place."

It later emerged the suspect had moved out of the flat in Dibden Purlieu, Hants, months earlier.

Police returned later in the day and gave Anthony and Kayleigh a single £1.79 bottle of lager and a bunch of flowers plus Easter eggs for the kids.

Kayleigh, 19, said: "They just said they were really sorry, that they felt guilty and that we were good people.

"I thought the bunch of flowers was OK but Anthony said it was funny about the beer because he doesn't drink.

"I'm really mad at them for frightening us the way they did when in fact they just got it all wrong."

Hampshire Police admitted its apology "could have been better".

A spokesman added: "It fell rather short. We put up a temporary door on the same day and we will repair or replace the original door."
Rather than discuss the mistaken entry (despite safeguards in the US, this still periodically happens here--and usually generates civil litigation against authorities), I was curious about the selected gift.

Do you think it was an executive decision made later at the pub to send a family, still recovering from being scared to death by police, one beer (to a non-drinker at that), flowers, and some Easter eggs?

I hope those responsible for the selection of presents are still running laps around the precinct building.

Authorities can take solace that their "gift" could have been worse: like perhaps deodorant for the husband and a bathroom scale for the Mrs.

Part XV: Ray Gricar Missing Person

I was out of town for the Easter holiday, so my second post on the Christine Walters case will have to wait until next week--my apologies.

In any event, there was a new development in the Ray Gricar missing person case that I wanted to mention...


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Case Summary

Ray Gricar was a district attorney in Central Pennsylvania who disappeared in 2005.



On the day he went missing, he told his girlfriend that he was taking a vacation day from work, and last spoke to her via cell phone while driving on a local highway. His car was found abandoned the next day in a town about an hour east of his home, and his laptop computer was later recovered submerged under a bridge near where his vehicle had been parked.

In addition, Gricar's hard drive was found months after the car and computer were recovered--submerged in the same river area.

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Case Update

Centre Daily Times (State College, PA) blogger on the Ray Gricar case, JJ in Phila, sent me the following link regarding the release of new information:

Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks-Miller confirmed...that a review board has been formed to investigate the disappearance of former District Attorney Ray Gricar in 2005.

According to investigators, the last confirmed sighting of Gricar was in a parking lot outside a Lewisburg antique shop on April 15, 2005.

Parks-Miller said she recently reviewed the entire police report before launching the new task force.

“I personally don’t think it was homicide,” said Parks-Miller. “I can tell you, what the public was told was the tip of the iceberg.”

Despite hundreds of tips and sightings reported to authorities, investigators are still unable to determine if the case is a homicide, suicide or if the former D.A. simply left the area of his own will...

Last April, a family spokesman said new information casts doubt on whether foul play was involved in Gricar's disappearance.

Bellefonte Police Detective Matthew Rickard said that before Gricar disappeared, he used his home computer to search for information on "how to wreck a hard drive" and "water damage to a notebook computer."

Gricar's laptop was later found in the Susquehanna River...

But a friend, Montour County District Attorney Bob Buehner, said at that time that he still thinks Gricar was murdered. He said Gricar could have done the research because somebody wanted what was on his computer.
When the information was released last year that Mr. Gricar had electronically searched how to destroy his hard drive before disappearing, I stated that this had reduced my confidence in believing that he was a crime victim.

Newly elected District Attorney Parks-Miller's comment that, after reading the case file, she now doubts that the Gricar disappearance can be explained as a homicide, is telling as well.

In the coming months, there will certainly be new information released to the public about the case--and I am guessing that it will further support non-crime explanations.

Though I have not dismissed any of the relevant theories as to what happened to Ray Gricar, I did update the "likelihood" percentages:

Left Willingly: 49%

Crime Victim: 44%

Suicide or Other : 7%
JJ continues to provide in-depth coverage of the Gricar disappearance and has some additional thoughts on what he would like to see authorities do in this case.

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Previous posts on the Gricar case are here.

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UPDATE 4/7/2010

To better clarify District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller's recent comments on the Gricar case, JJ and an anonymous commenter both provided this story.

At the link, Parks Miller states:

“I’m not going to substitute my opinion for an investigation that’s just being revived again,” she said. “The only thing I will say is that I believe homicide is the least likely, but we rule out nothing.”
A professional who has now studied the case file, and believes explanations other than homicide are more likely to explain Gricar's disappearance--now, as an outsider, that is meaningful to me.

So, Do You Really Want that Job?

In a difficult job market, it can be surprising what makes certain candidates appealing:

...So here's the deal folks: While I can't ask you about your health status nor if you have dependents, nothing prohibits you from putting that information on your resume if it is to your advantage - and it is, if you are in excellent health and have no dependents...
Former CEO and business analyst Karl Denninger makes that interesting observation after summarizing US health insurance from the employer perspective, and then explaining that a company is charged at different insurance rates for employees--based on a worker's age, physical condition, etc.

He then continues with this:

...Now consider the 20 year old kid. He costs me, the employer, $100 for health benefits (he pays the other half.) But the obese woman costs me $900 - nine times as much!

The law says that I cannot ask you certain questions when you come in for an interview.

For instance, I cannot ask if you have dependents, I cannot ask about your intention to have children (if you're a woman) and a whole host of other topics. It is explicitly unlawful for me to make such inquiries, as they evidence potential for me to engage in illegal discrimination in hiring.

But if you think this sort of decision-making doesn't go on - when the impact is over $8,000 per year between two employees in cost to the employer - you're nuts. It most certainly does.

Will this matter?

In this economy you better believe it....So if you're unemployed and have these cost-impacting facts in your favor, make...sure you list them.

An employer cannot ask about this, nor can you realistically discuss this in an interview, but absolutely nothing prohibits you from listing this as a "personal attribute" on your resume.

If nothing else, in a tie-breaking circumstance it will get you the interview you need to have a shot at the job.
Ignoring the author's perceived tone and instead focusing on the argument: Listing health details in the personal attributes section of a resume to increase the chances that an applicant gets an interview--I'd call that an innovative concept.

How about taking the strategy one more step?

For applicants who are married and are already covered with health insurance under the spouse's plan (provided the spouse has good benefits), the employment seeker could state in his/her resume that he/she is willing to accept the job without health insurance from the hiring company.

If a hiring decision had been whittled down to two very similar candidates, showing a business owner that employing one particular applicant would save the firm $8,000 per year in insurance costs would be very tempting for the decision-maker.

These are difficult times and tough questions.

What do you think?

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I first saw this article discussed here.