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.

_________________________

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.

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

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.
_____________________________________

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.

----------

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.

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

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.

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

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.
_____________________________________________________

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.
__________________________________________________

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!

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

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...

_____________________

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.

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

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.

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

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.
__________________________________

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."
_____________________________

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.
_____________________________________

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.

----------
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.

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

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.

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

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!"

_____________________________________________________

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.

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

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. 
-----------------------------

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.

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

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.
___________________________

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."

_____________________________________________________


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.

-----------

Thanks to JJ from Phila for the information.
___________________________

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.   
___________________________________________

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.

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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.

Any Advice for Me?

Around 1944, my father, then a young underachieving school boy, decided he would skip school.

Like a precursor to Ferris Bueller's Day Off, dad's plan was to dork around in his home city of "The Big Apple," then go watch a movie, and be home before anyone noticed.

He said that things were going as planned, until he walked near the theater and heard a "Hey kid. Come here."

Scared and not knowing what to do, he did as the man asked, and was quickly surrounded by a group of well-dressed adults.

Before he knew it, he was sitting next to a well-known actress/performer or other personality of the day and participating in an outdoor photoshoot.

It turned out that the actress/performer was promoting the War Bonds cause for the US during World War II, and little truant dad had been selected as the young smiling face that they needed for a series of photographs.

Unlike Ferris, dad's delinquency became public knowledge when his picture and name were published in the New York Daily Mirror the following day. 

As one can guess, his photo was a big topic of conversation in the neighborhood and he was busted by his parents--busted in more ways than one.

I have always wanted to find a copy of that old news photo for dad and have it framed.

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Question: Can anyone think of a better approach to locating this photo rather than just randomly looking through every weekday edition of the Mirror during the school year of 1944?

Also, we believe the incident occurred in 1944, but Dad is unable to remember the actress/performer's name who he was photographed with.

I am open to suggestions and thanks.

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Have a good weekend everyone.   

Lock Your Doors or Else

Why does the following story remind me of college and living carefree in the dorms?

Oh yeah, when I did not realize the importance of locking the doors at your residence

...Madison police said an 18-year-old Chicago man walked into an unlocked West Gorham Street apartment in the middle of the night, took off his socks and pants and then used the toilet to such an extent it took two hours to clean. 

The nastiness was reported to police a week ago during the night on Oct. 9-10, said police spokesman Joel DeSpain. 

"The 19-year-old resident and his friends were aghast to see and smell what had transpired while they slept," DeSpain said. 

The resident first came upon the stranger when the stranger walked into his room and turned the light on. 

He then heard the man go to the bathroom and leave the apartment a few minutes later," DeSpain said. 

In the morning on Oct. 10, the apartment dwellers realized something was amiss.  

The stranger's cell phone and identification were found in the bathroom, along with his socks, pants, and night deposit. 

A roommate left the door unlocked...

And the mess left behind took two hours to clean? 

Maybe it looked something like this...

Note: This is not the bathroom from the story--just an image in case you needed help visualizing.

Anyway, I am thinking the culprit of this act is probably on the banned list at several local establishments that specialize in the all-you-can-eat buffet.

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The photo was used from here.

Halloween Haiku?

The following is a conversation from yesterday that the Mrs. recounted for me.

The setting is outside of school at pick-up time.

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STARLA: Hi. Did you take the kids out for Halloween?

THE MRS.:  Yes, we stopped by to see a few of the neighbors and... 

Starla interrupts midsentence.

STARLA: Well, we took our little ones to many of the professionals in our upscale subdivision, and I had them do something memorable at each stop.

None of the parents listening takes the bait in asking what was so memorable, so Starla continues nonetheless.

STARLA: Yes it was memorable, I say.  I had the boys recite a haiku before receiving any treats.

THE MRS.: That must have been quite a sight.


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My thought?

Doesn't mandating a child to recite a haiku prior to receiving candy on Halloween remind you of one of those crazy local laws like it's illegal in Alabama to operate a motor vehicle while blindfolded or it is/was against the law to shoot a buffalo in Texas from the second story of a hotel?

Maybe the "Halloween Haiku" is illegal somewhere in the world.

I'm just saying...

Missing Child: Zahra Baker

Zahra Baker's case has been in the news quite a bit this month, and though I have read many of the articles on it, I have not had a chance to post on her disappearance until now...
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Case Summary


On October 9, 2010, the family of 10-year-old Zahra Baker called police in Hickory, NC and reported her missing.     

After an initial search, authorities began focusing on Zahra's father Adam Baker and step-mother Elisa.

The case then took several strange twists. 

Police released that there had been a call for fire services at the Baker's residence prior to her being reported missing. A ransom note then appeared--one that Elisa allegedly confessed to writing.  Cadaver dogs then evidently hit on both parents' vehicles.

There were reports of abuse involving Zahra.

In addition, authorities had difficulty finding anyone who had seen the missing girl in over a month.

Unfortunately, these factors led authorities to begin examining the case as a homicide.

The missing little girl was born in Wagga Wagga, Australia,  and had moved with her father to North Carolina several years ago when he remarried.  She had lost her hearing and a leg after a previous battle with cancer, and walked with assistance from a prosthetic.

Zahra's body has not been located, but police believe they have found her mattress and other relevant clues.

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Last Wednesday (OCT 27), authorities announced that they had found a prosthetic leg consistent with the one worn by Zahra Baker in a "brushy" area near a home where the little girl's step-mother had previously lived. 

Unfortunately, confirming that the prosthetic device was indeed Zahra's will be difficult:


...When investigators found an artificial limb Tuesday, the police chief said they would have to match the serial number to Zahra's medical records.


However, a prosthetic expert said that's not so easy.


“That's kind of a long-shot because all the prosthetic parts are not identified by serial numbers,” said Randy King, an Orthotist/Prosthetist.


“Some feet are, some feet are not. So you're chances are probably pretty slim.”

This article states that the child's leg was fitted in Australia, and police are trying to obtain her medical records with the hope of identifying the serial number on her prosthetic--which adds complexity.

So, police have some type of number recovered from the prosthetic leg, and it remains to be seen if they can positively link the find to Zahra.

Meanwhile, the search continues for a missing little girl who deserved a much better life.
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For a comprehensive list of articles and thoughts on Zahra Baker's case, Valhall has done an excellent job creating a resource and you can visit that site by going here.

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Update: In contrast to the comments about serial numbers and artificial limbs made above Randy King, authorities today confirmed that the prosthetic limb recovered belongs to Zahra Baker.

With the find, police had information as to where to look, and I would not be surprised if they find additional evidence in the case very soon.