Blogger Holiday

Kids bringing home colds.

Parents wiping noses, and then battling their own coughs and sniffles.

Snow flurries and colorful lights.

Early dismissals from school.

Yes, it must be close to Christmas. 

As such, I'll be taking a blogger vacation until after the holidays.

I'll be back posting on Monday, January 2, 2012, but hope to visit lots of other blogs until then.

Thank you for stopping by in 2011, and Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Holidays to all.

War Horse: The Inspiration

I was able to grab and read my son's newly purchased copy of the book War Horse.

It is excellent (well developed characters, integrated historical research, and suspenseful), and is the story of Joey, a beautiful bay-red foal with a distinctive cross on his nose, who is sold to the army and thrust into the midst of the the first World War.

I am always interested in learning how authors develop a book idea.

The story behind the story.

Finishing War Horse in 1982, Michael Morpurgo's creative journey is an interesting one.

As a teacher, he decided to write books because he had difficulty finding works that interested his students.

Like: "if you want it done, do it yourself."

Reminds me of two other authors (J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis) who were similarly motivated.

Years prior to that, Morpurgo listened to the stories of World War I veterans in the Devon Village of Iddesleigh (Britain).

A seed was planted--he wanted to create a story that would help others understand World War I, but target it to a children's audience.

Morpurgo wrestled with idea, but no approach seemed to work.

Until he observed this:

Then one evening he was at the farm he and his wife run in Devon, where poor children come to work with animals...

He was passing through the stable yard when he saw one of the children, a troubled boy who had a bad stutter and had not uttered a word in school in two years, standing head to head with a horse.

“He started talking,” Mr. Morpurgo recalled.

“And he was talking to the horse, and his voice was flowing. It was simply unlocked. And as I listened to this his boy telling the horse everything he’d done on the farm that day, I suddenly had the idea that of course the horse didn’t understand every word, but that she knew it was important for her to stand there and be there for this child.”

That became Joey’s role in “War Horse” — observer and witness as much as protagonist.

The book was a limited success, but in 2007, the work was adapted to a play that was a hit in London.

In 2010, the production moved to New York City, and a movie-version of the project premieres this Christmas Day.

I wonder if Mr. Morpurgo ever dreamed that the famous director Steven Speilberg would be moved to tears after seeing the play version of his work, and quickly purchase the rights to put his idea on the big screen?

Not bad for a farmer, teacher, and author with an idea.

A creative idea that he would not let slip away.

And that is the story behind the story.

This is the trailer for War Horse...

The Death of Nikki LaDue January: Part XV

On my last LaDue January case post, super blogger and writer Stina Lindenblatt from Seeing Creative asked if the case was closed and could it be reopened.

Yes, Ms. LaDue January's case was closed and labeled a suicide after a brief investigation. Authorities do not like to reopen cases, but it does happen if information is received that places considerable doubt on the initial cause of death determination.

Unfortunately, appeals to local and state officials to take a second look at this death case have been unsuccessful.

Case Summary

In July of 2002, the body of Nikki LaDue January was found seated on the balcony of her condominium in Pass Christian, Mississippi.  Officers stated that she had a single gun shot wound to her right temple area.

A Sterling .380 caliber pistol was partially under her left thigh on a chair, her right leg was propped up against the table in front of her, and a cordless phone on the table was covered in blood.

There were two different brands of cigarettes and two different lighters on the table in front of her.

A bullet was located in a chair on the next balcony, and a shell casing was later found by a maintenance man in the condo's pool.

Ms. January had apparently been deceased for several hours, and her five-year old son was found in the residence unharmed.

Authorities at the scene quickly classified the death as a suicide. 


Two primary reports by law enforcement exist that describe the death scene of Nikki LaDue January.

I previously covered, Sgt. Willie Davis' (the first responder) report, and now I'll focus on the lead investigator, Detective Tom Pustay of the Pass Christian Police Department.*

*Note: Det. Pustay no longer works in law enforcement, and is currently serving a multi-year prison sentence for the sexual abuse of a minor.

The following are excerpts from Det. Pustay's report.


"On Monday, July 29, 2002, I received a call to go to Gulf Palm Villa Condos Unit 303 in reference to a suicide."

Unlike first responders, investigators are less likely to arrive at a fluid homicide scene. Along with contacting the detective, the dispatcher or person at the scene would provide him/her (him in this case) with a summary of the situation. The "it looks like a suicide" theory would have been introduced as soon as the detective was told about the case.

As with anyone, it sometimes can be difficult to think outside the box when a theory, backed with supporting evidence, is initially proposed.


"There is post mortem lividity in her legs and the palms of her hands."

Post mortem lividity or livor mortis is the reddish purple discoloration of the skin due to the settling of thickened blood.  In a body found supine or face-up, one expects to see livor mortis in the posterior parts of the body--while the opposite is true: face-down, lividity in the anterior parts.

Livor mortis can help investigators determine if a body has been moved after death.


There was a Sterling .380 caliber pistol serial number B064298 partially under her left thigh on the chair. I secured and cleared the pistol.

Pistols at a crime scene should be "secured" immediately. When a pistol is "cleared" is dictated by the situation.  Unless the firearm presents an immediate danger, like when it is in an area hostile to police, it should not be handled and cleared until it is being photographed and then processed.  During the clearing process, an investigator would then note the number of rounds, whether the safety was on or off (if applicable), if a bullet was found in the chamber, the type of load, etc.

Strangely, these specifics about the bullets, load, and gun were not included in this report.  One has to review the coroner's summary to learn that the pistol's safety was evidently found "off" and the hammer back.


I'll be back next time to discuss Det. Pustay's notations on blood spatter at the scene.

The spatter appears to be one of the many problems encountered in matching information contained in the reports to the other evidence available in the case.     

All posts on this topic can be viewed by clicking here: Nikki LaDue January.

Unexplained Phenomenon

After several years of testing my craftiness as a Dad playing indoor hide-and-seek, I recently had a startling revelation.

For some unexplained reason, it is not comfortable trying to access places of household concealment like it used to be.

Has anyone else experienced this?

I mean the feeling that the best places (e.g. under the beds, in the backs of junk-filled closets, inside curtain-covered windows, etc.) have shrunk over the years since I started hiding in similar spots in my childhood home.

It is crazy.

Like our house is getting smaller.

Could the beds in our home have somehow moved closer to the ground so that my body does not fit underneath?

I am not sure if you all have a sensible explanation, but I am favoring that alien invaders armed with shrink rays are responsible.

Any ideas?

Wait, maybe I don't want to here them.


Have a good weekend everyone.

Juniata College Admin: Explaining to Do?

I usually take Wednesday off from posting, unless something really bothers me. 

Like this story.

It looks like officials at Penn State are not the only administrators that have some explaining to do regarding the activities of accused child molester and former coach Jerry Sandusky:

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Jerry Sandusky continued to coach football at Juniata College despite being denied an official coaching position there, CBS 21 News Sports Director Jason Bristol has learned.

Two Juniata College football players tell CBS 21 News that Sandusky was actively involved with the Eagles program in 2010, even though his volunteer coaching application was rejected because a background check revealed he was being investigated at a Clinton County High School...

The players' stories were then verified by another, independent Juniata College football player who was not previously aware of their claims...

Sandusky is charged with 40 counts of child sex abuse and prosecutors allege he met his victims through The Second Mile, a charity he founded in 1977 to help at-risk children. Sandusky, 67, denies being a pedophile and has vowed to fight the charges...

Sandusky's presence in the press box wasn't a one time thing, either. The players say he was there during every game of the season--even at home games, despite the school's former athletic director reiterating to the head coach that Sandusky was to have no connection with the team.

Juniata College said it has no documented evidence that Sandusky was in the team's press box, except for a sighting at Franklin and Marshall College on September 25, 2010.

Both players can't understand why.

"How do you not know he's here?" asked the second player in amazement. "It's not like the press box is some closed-off area. You just turn your head (around) and look up (into the windows) see all the coaches in the press box."

The players say Sandusky would wait in the press box until after the game and would leave once the stadium had cleared.

Juniata College spokesperson John Wall said that Juniata College senior leadership gave then-head coach Carmen Felus "three distinct orders" that Sandusky was not to be associated with the program. He added those officials were not fully aware of Sandusky's involvement in the program until the following semester.

Wall said that the school followed proper protocol and the "breakdown" in communication falls on Felus.

CBS 21 News has repeatedly tried to contact Felus, who is now the co-offensive coordinator at UT Martin in Martin, Tennessee.

The school's former athletic director Larry Bock, who is one of the top volleyball coaches of all-time and now heads the program at Navy, confirmed he reiterated the college's stance to Felus after the F&M incident in September 2010. He recalled that he never spoke to Sandusky directly -- Felus told him he would do it...

So, let me understand this.

College officials learned that volunteer coach Jerry Sandusky failed a standard background investigation conducted on anyone wanting to work with young people.

They then forbade Sandusky from working for the team, yet he evidently continued to assist behind the scenes.

Then the athletic director received a report during the season that Sandusky was still working with the team, reminded the head coach of the previous ruling, but Sandusky secretly continued his association through the entire 2010 season?

Wow, talk about colossal failure in oversight.

Why bother with the background check then?

Here are three actions that should occur immediately based on the serious allegations:

1) Juniata College should launch a public internal investigation

Having a spokesperson insist that administrators followed "all protocols" and blame a former coach is simply not adequate considering the charges facing Sandusky. The College's liability is already under scrutiny.  Meanwhile, at least some of their current student athletes are fearful (they insisted on being anonymous when talking to the reporter) and evidently have much more details regarding Sandusky's involvement with the team--that is when college officials stop making excuses and get around to asking about it.

2) The NCAA should initiate an immediate investigation

The governing body and the public need to know why an individual who had failed a required background check was permitted to have contact with Juniata College's student athletes for at least several months.

3) The University of Tennessee at Martin should immediately place Coach Carmen Felus (the former Juniata coach) on administrative leave

Felus's former employer insists that he was solely responsible for allowing Sandusky to continue working with the team despite orders against it. If he did ignore the results of the required background check, he should face harsh disciplinary action from the NCAA--depending on the outcome investigation, I'd be comfortable with banishment from coaching.

Also, I would recommend that the Naval Academy place current coach Larry Bock, Juniata's former athletic director, on administrative leave as well until his involvement in this scandal can be determined.

In sum, the horrific allegations of child sexual abuse at Penn State and Syracuse should be a wake up call for other institutions that may have failed to or failed to adequately protect students and/or children.

The NCAA should be taking action and investigating sooner rather than later at places like Juniata College; an institution where an individual who should not have had been a volunteer coach was permitted to do so.

College and university administrators should be held accountable for management of these volatile situations.

The institutions that did act appropriately should be championed, while corrective and/or punitive action should be taken against those where skeletons are found hidden in closets.

To the NCAA and Juniata College: Please do the right thing today.

Marie Hanson Update

I have been holding this post for awhile, and needed to publish it.

As such, I'll be back with the series on Nikki LaDue January next week.


Missing person Marie Hanson's remains were found by authorities on October 9, 2011.

Her body and jewelry were located buried in Skamania County, WA--about 1/2 mile from where she was last camped at the Rainbow Gathering's annual event.   

Initial information from the autopsy was inconclusive as to a cause of death, and full toxicology reports were not available yet.

As one would expect, determining how the woman died is essential in clarifying the reported suspicious behaviors of the man and his girlfriend that Ms. Hanson attended the event with.

Because, if authorities cannot categorize the death as a crime, it will likely be closed (pending any additional information) and forgotten--similar to what was done in the missing person and then death case of Sgt. Patrick Rust.   

So, though the "missing person" portion of the case has ended, the family's pain continues as they wonder whether someone got away with murder.

Picking Up Butch

Today (well technically this weekend), I am guest blogging over at police officer Momma Fargo's place.

Initial feedback from the post is that I am making people cry.

Making people cry? 

I have not been accused of that since the incident that led to the Mrs. revoking my permissions to choose my own wardrobe color combinations: After a particularly bad shirt and short selection, a teary-eyed Mrs. declared something about me being "fashion clueless."

Well anyway, you are welcome to jump over to Momma Fargo's blog here and read my guest post on the topic of youth motivation

I call it Picking Up Butch; after an inspirational tradition at one college in Vermont.

Hope to see you there, and not crying, of course.

Idea Thieves

Recently, the Mrs. has been frustrated with those in authority at her work who steal ideas and claim them as their own.

I tell her not to worry for three reasons:

1) Fountains versus Showers

Creative employees are fountains of ideas while the intellectual property thief is like a passing rain shower.  The person who developed the idea will likely have two or three more waiting in the wings.  After the initial concept is in place, a fresh direction can then be pursued.

In contrast, the idea thief will ride the one "shower" initiative for as long as possible, and then be dependent on swiping another idea to continue impressing others.

2) Implementing is a Different Story

Initially, the idea thief will bask in the glory of something unique, but when it is time to implement the concept, he/she may struggle.  When one did not develop a concept, as in the case of the idea thief,  he/she will likely not have the same attachment, understanding, or passion necessary to transform the plan into action.

3) And the Veil Will be Lifted

Sooner or later, the idea thief will be discovered.  Good supervisors learn who is dedicated, who is a team-player, and will eventually identify an employee solely interested in performing the least amount of work to gain individual recognition. In general, executives want to surround themselves with the best--the sooner those of questionable character are weeded out the better. 

So, I told the Mrs. to hang in there and keep churning out the good ideas.

And with patience, one will be rewarded in watching the idea thieves fall from grace. 


Have you ever had this problem: when someone else was taking credit for your hard work and creativity? 

Lacey Gaines Remembered

On December 7, 2009, Lacey Claire Gaines, a 20-year-old mother of one, was found murdered inside the kitchen of her Justice, IL apartment.

Reportedly, police found no evidence of forced entry, robbery, or sexual assault.

The victim was found strangled--an electrical cord wrapped around her neck and her throat cut.

Thankfully, her young son was visiting a relative at the time of death.

Authorities believe that Ms. Gaines knew her attacker, but no arrests have been made and the crime remains unsolved.

Information regarding this case can be sent to:

Detective R. Plotke
7800 S Archer Rd, Justice, IL 60458
Ph: 708-458-2191, Email:

As the holidays traditionally bring families together, please remember those who have empty places at their tables.

Loved ones who are noticeably absent.

My prayers are with the family and friends of Lacey Gaines on this day--the anniversary of her death.

A Teaching Moment?

Is this what is referred to as a teaching moment?

MURRAY, Utah (AP) — At 7-foot-6, former NBA center Shawn Bradley needs just about everything custom-made, from clothes and chairs to countertops and doorways.

It's why he was bummed when his custom-build Trek road bicycle, complete with an 80 centimeter carbon fiber-aluminum frame, was stolen last Friday...

A random search of a residence by state probation and parole officials turned up the bike Thursday afternoon in the town of Murray, where Bradley has a home, police said. Joshua Carter, 34, was arrested on suspicion of possession of stolen property and felony theft, Murray police Sgt. Brian Wright said...

So, you, Mr. Thief, stole a custom bicycle owned by someone who is almost 8-feet tall?

I am certain police knew they had the right address when they encountered Mr. Carter using a step ladder to reach the top of the Trek, and saw him pounding on the bike seat with a wrench screaming: "Of all the bikes to jack in this city, and I gotta pick one that belongs to Goliath."

The Death of Nikki LaDue January: Part XIV

One corrected programming note--tonight's episode (December 5, 2011) of Disappeared featuring the Brianna Maitland missing person case, will be shown on Investigation Discovery at 9 pm ET/PT rather than the 10 pm that I stated last week.

You can see the trailer here.

I hope it generates much discussion and new leads.

Ok, now for my next post on the death of Nikki LaDue January.

Case Summary

In July of 2002, the body of Nikki LaDue January was found seated on the balcony of her condominium in Pass Christian, Mississippi.  Officers stated that she had a single gun shot wound to her right temple area.

A Sterling .380 caliber pistol was partially under her left thigh on a chair, her right leg was propped up against the table in front of her, and a cordless phone on the table was covered in blood.

There were two different brands of cigarettes and two different lighters on the table in front of her.

A bullet was located in a chair on the next balcony, and a shell casing was later found by a maintenance man in the condo's pool.

Ms. January had apparently been deceased for several hours, and her five-year old son was found in the residence unharmed.

Authorities at the scene quickly classified the death as a suicide. 


I have dedicated lots of time on this case to discussing the evidence.

Evidence captured by the investigator's photos: a handgun, the victim seated on a stool in the corner of her balcony, blood, etc.

Scene details recorded by law enforcement in official reports--including the bullet's estimated trajectory and a mysterious bloody phone.

And have discussed important statements by witnesses; ranging from the victim's mother who said that her daughter had an aversion to going barefoot (yet was found barefoot) to a responding sergeant writing that the victim's husband said that he had been a police officer for several years in Texas (yet this was oddly not able to be verified).

But the confusing evidence is not as problematic as what I feel is the lack of professionalism shown in processing the death scene--no measurements, no sketches, little collection of evidence, missing evidence, and the limited usefulness of the photos (one image that includes the detective's camera case) to offer some examples.

This makes testing alternate theories to suicide nearly impossible.

But what if someone used mathematics to help recreate the scene--as well as derive some of those lost measurements?

Would that be sufficient to then test the theory that Nikki LaDue January ended her life that morning in July so long ago?

Well, a guest writer named "The Logical Engineer" over at the victim's blog has done this and offered his/her informed opinion.

He/she reviewed the police reports, the photos, and the independent coroner's report.

Here is an excerpt from the resulting post Math=Murder! :

...Nikki would have had to hold the gun at an awkward 30 degree angle to the side of her head (wrist bent forward, with the gun tilted slightly downward by around 10 degrees (even more awkward).

Keep in mind that the gun has a 3.5” barrel length and her hand would be this distance away.

Keep in mind that the gun used was a double action only gun (DAO), with a reported notoriously long and heavy trigger pull.

Keep in mind that Nikki would have to have done this with her head turned more than 50 degrees to the right.

Get a protractor and try to mimic these angles . . . they are uncomfortable (un-natural) and would have made pulling the trigger difficult at best!

One additional note to the author's above discussion of trigger-pull--evidently Nikki was also recovering from arm/hand surgery related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in the weeks prior to her death. This surgery could have impaired her ability to pull the trigger; certainly making it more logical for her to choose another method of suicide that did not rely on finger strength.

In sum and with the information provided and inferred, The Logical Engineer argues that it is difficult to believe that a Ms. LaDue January would choose to commit suicide in this manner.

He/she even offers a different theory.

One that involves homicide.

The post is technical, but is an important part of this sad story.

It offers a foundation for others to challenge/enhance.

In this continuing tale of a deceased mother prematurely labeled by authorities as a suicide.

You can read The Logical Engineer's full post by going here.

All posts on this topic can be viewed by clicking here: Nikki LaDue January.

Seasoned Rather than Old

The following is an excerpt from a conversation between my wife and our kindergarten-aged daughter.

THE MRS: Now Sissy, your father will be there tomorrow to watch your school's musical to honor grandparents. I am sorry, but I can't make this one. Are you ok with that?

SISSY: Sure mommy. Since daddy does not have any hair, everyone will think he is a grandpa anyway.


On second thought and with a "when dealt lemons, make lemonade" attitude, perhaps I can capitalize on this.

Hmm.  Since I am now eligible for the senior citizen discount, anyone want to join me for lunch, I'm buying?


Have a good weekend everyone. 

What Should I Have Been Thinking?

What should have I been thinking when I read the following?

A Bronx cop allegedly fudged crime stats by undervaluing a stolen iPad – effectively downgrading a felony case into a misdemeanor.

Police Officer Damian McIntosh, assigned to the 52nd Precinct in Bedford Park, underpriced the stolen electronic tablet, it was revealed today during an NYPD departmental trial held at police headquarters...

Well, that law enforcement in some jurisdictions are pressured to limit the number of felonies reported so that their town/city appears to be more of a safe place to live and work.

Instead this is going through my mind:

The item in question is an iPad made by Apple and the officer's name is really McIntosh?

What are his supervisors' names: Sgt. Granny Smith and Lt. Honeycrisp?

Yes, it is official, I need to be going to bed much earlier.


Happy Wednesday everyone...

Brianna Maitland Update

The Briana Maitland missing person case is one that I have spent countless hours researching and writing about. 

Unfortunately, the case remains unsolved.

I am happy to announce that Investigation Discovery will air an hour-long episode of Disappeared about Brianna Maitland on Monday, December 5, 2011, at 9 pm.*

*Note: I corrected the time to 9 pm.

Producer Christopher Gidez and his associates have produced many quality programs regarding those missing and I am proud to have conversed with him multiple times as he studied this sad yet fascinating disappearance.

I was also thrilled to hear that two regulars here, guest blogger BobKat and content provider P., were able to make significant contributions to Mr. Gidez in his telling of Brianna's story.

It has been awhile since I wrote on the Maitland case, so for anyone interested, you can go here for my series.

This is the show's trailer...

Also, the following is a summary of the case:

On March 19, 2004 around 11:30 pm, 17-year-old Brianna Maitland left her dishwashing job at the Black Lantern Inn (now called the Montgomery House Bed and Breakfast) in Montgomery, VT.

It has been reported that Brianna had been invited to stay for a late dinner with coworkers, but she stated she was tired and had to work early the next day at a second job.

Maitland’s apartment was in a neighboring town and she was supposed to be headed there that night.

When she did not arrive that evening or the next day, her roommate was not specifically worried and had assumed she was staying back at her parent’s house. After not hearing from her for several days, the roommate called Maitland’s parents and it was then that they realized that she was missing.

Unknown to the family at the time, Maitland’s four-door green 1985 Oldsmobile had been found abandoned at an old abandoned farmhouse property--a location about a mile from the Black Lantern Inn.

Ms. Maitland's Car on the Morning of March 20, 2004

State police towed the vehicle on March 20 thinking it was related to a hit-and-run collision.

The Oldsmobile was found with minor rear end damage backed into an old barn on the property. Inside the vehicle were two of Maitland’s uncashed paychecks. Further, some of her belongings were found on the ground outside the car.

The family and investigators reported that she left behind her contact lenses, clothing, medicine, driver’s license, and other personal effects.

Authorities and volunteers searched the area of the farmhouse and other places in the region multiple times, but Brianna was never found.


If you have an opportunity to watch, I think the Disappeared episode on Brianna Maitland will be worth your time.

My prayers are with Brianna's family in hopes that new information will be produced.

Syracuse University the next Penn State?

I'll be back next week with my series on the Nikki LaDue January case.

If you want more on that case, blogger Holliston over at Cold No More is offering analysis and interviewing some of Nikki's friends.

In the meantime, I offer this.


Late Sunday evening, it was announced that Syracuse University had terminated the employment of associate head basketball coach Bernie Fine as authorities continue to investigate allegations of child molestation against him.

Fine, who is 65-years-old, was in his 36th season at his alma mater, and had been placed on administrative leave after two alleged victims came forward.  The two, adults now, had previously served for years as ball boys for the team.

When a third victim contacted police and an alleged tape recording between one of the victims and Laurie Fine (Bernie's wife) surfaced (excerpts from the transcript are here), university officials decided to act and fire Coach Fine.

Now, Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim, and ardent supporter of Fine, has egg on his face.

When the charges initially surfaced, Boeheim immediately criticized the two reported victims calling them "liars" to the media.

Boeheim's poor decision may be the equivalent of former Penn State president Graham Spanier's public relations blunder when Spanier insinuated that the victims in the Jerry Sandusky case were all lying in his media release.

As an administrator, issuing a statement that characterizes victims as "liars" is never a prudent move; especially silly when tempered speech should be used at the start of the investigation with so many unknowns.

In addition, an institution would not want to discourage other potential victims who might speak with authorities (as Boeheim's comments were seen as doing).

When will these folks learn the old adage: it is better to be thought of a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt?

Happy Thanksgiving

Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds. ~Theodore Roosevelt

I'll be away from the blog until Monday.

I hope everyone enjoys the weekend.


Lucky Charms

I am very disappointed that General Mills prints only limited nutritional information on the boxes of their top-selling Lucky Charms cereal.

Don't they know that I have a preschool-age son who carefully picks and then eats the colorful marshmallows out of his morning cereal--leaving just the bland oats floating in milk?

I want to know:

What is the nutritional value of 15+ mini-marshmallows?

You know, so that I can use reason to prevent this from happening in the future.


You don't like my tone in this post? 

Do I sound like a disgruntled father who just ate a slightly used bowl of Lucky Charms cereal minus the best part: the sweet marshmallows?

Yeah, ok I confess--I am busted.

Rebecca Zahau and Nikki LaDue January

On July 13, 2011, Adam Shacknai reportedly found Rebecca Zahau (also known as Rebecca Nalepa) hanging from a balcony at the home of her boyfriend Jonah Shacknai in Coronado, CA. He stated he cut her down, and immediately contacted authorities.

Ms. Zahau was found nude with her hands and feet bound, and a blue t-shirt was stuffed into her mouth.

Sadly and only two days before at the house, Jonah Shacknai's young son Max was severely injured after what appeared to be a fall from the home's second floor banister. Max passed away in the hospital on July 16.

With Ms. Zahau's death, police launched a comprehensive investigation.

The scene was secured and evidence was collected.

Precise measurements were recorded regarding the placement of the body, and other items related to the death scene.

Potential witnesses were identified and interviewed.

San Diego Medical Examiner Jonathan Lucas performed an autopsy.

Forensic and toxicology tests were conducted.

Investigators analyzed phone records, reviewed messages, and conducted forensics on two computers found in the home.

And after about two months of investigating Ms. Zahau's death, officials from the San Diego County Sheriff's Department classified it as a suicide.


Ms. Zahau's family does not believe that their loved one took her own life. They maintain a website entitled Justice for Rebecca in the hope that new information on the case will be produced.

In the meantime, the family paid for a second autopsy to be conducted by distinguished pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht. Dr. Wecht stated that he found evidence of blunt trauma to Ms. Zahua's head, and believes the death should be classified as undetermined.

This weekend, the family's attorney, Anne Bremner, announced that a computer forensics report produced for police as part of the investigation indicated that one of the computers found at the house contained evidence that Asian pornography including bondage had been viewed the day before Ms. Zahau's death.

The computer analysis also found no indication that Ms. Zahau had researched anything related to suicide prior to her death.

What does all of this mean?

Well, Sheriff Bill Gore is open to any new information. Investigators can then take possible leads and compare them with the detailed case files to see if they support or contradict what is believed to be true regarding the case.

What is the complete opposite of the comprehensive Rebecca Zahau investigation?

The case of Nikki LaDue January of course.

New information in the January case cannot be compared to Pass Christian Police's investigative file.

The file contains no autopsy report. No detailed measurements related to the locations of the body, the gun, shell casings, or bullet fragments.

No forensic or toxicology reports.

Not even the gun or other key pieces of evidence can be located for testing.

So, despite frustration with the results of the Rebecca Zahau investigation, the family can still hope that a fresh set of eyes from the State Attorney's Office would result in a different classification other than suicide.

For those wanting a fresh set of eyes for the Nikki LaDue January case, they know that a comprehensive case file does not exist.

That a classification change is only possible if the case is reopened--so that new information could be developed to compensate for what was not investigated previously.

Opposite indeed.

All posts on the LaDue January case can be viewed by clicking here: Nikki LaDue January.

Diaper Thieves

There are certain things new parents should not have to worry about:

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The cooing and cuddling with a newborn is among the most precious memories any parent can have. But for Megan McGinnis, that peaceful moment was terribly interrupted when her little girl of only a week became a victim of crime.

“We were like, ‘Why are my dogs in the house?’ And then the door was open and then I saw all our stuff gone … our TV, everything,” McGinnis explained.

Thieves broke into the family’s St. Paul home around 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon. It happened just a short time after Megan and baby Bria had driven to a relative’s home.

McGinnis said they were gone only briefly, saying, “An hour, just an hour.”

By the time the mother and infant returned home, the burglars had carted off a big screen television, several electric guitars and a backpack filled with McGinnis’ college textbooks.

But the worst discovery was when McGinnis walked into the baby’s room. Ten large boxes of diapers and a closet full of baby clothes were all gone.

“This is what really hurts me — stealing stuff from my baby … really bad, because she’s my world,” added Megan, while fighting away the tears.

On Wednesday afternoon, the tears softened slightly when she and her grandmother visited the office of “Birthright,” a local non-profit that supports the needs of expectant mothers.

McGinnis was given an emergency supply of diapers, baby jumpers and blankets. The basket full of goods is just enough to help the family get by.

“It’s nice that we can help out,” said Mary Ann Gruba with Birthright.

Though the clearance rate for burglaries in the US is low (around 14% in the US annually), I sure would like for police to apprehend these diaper thieves.

When they do, I'll bring the tar if someone else can provide the feathers.


What can blogs offer us regarding the controversial Occupy Wall Street/Occupy (Insert City) movements?


So, what is it like for a student organizer in New York City?

MellyMac recently started a blog to share her thoughts. It is admirable to see someone explore their leadership potential.

What is it like for a veteran urban police officer?

It is just part of their job.

An excellent resource for the law enforcement view is the poetic and patient RainDog.  He wrote several short posts on the Occupy in his jurisdiction: Observation #1, Observation #2, and Observation #3.

I always appreciate RD's wisdom and compassion.

Finally, what is it like for a young person who works in a Seattle neighborhood that has been a home base for one of the Occupy groups?

This blogger offers insights.


In sum, blogs can offer unique perspectives often overlooked by the national media.

A Special Message for Dads

Sunday afternoon.

Mom is off on an afternoon shopping trip, while I am at home with the energetic kiddos.

Dad will need all of his patience.

His creative energies.

And his peace-making skills.

But it is Sunday--pro football is on television.

How can a dad mediate those complex child disputes and promote physical activity, yet still see a touchdown or two?

Hire a skilled negotiator?  A personal trainer?

Bribe the kids?


One retro tool provides a father with a much needed solution.

A one-size-fits-all remedy.

Oh yeah: Socker or Sock'em Boppers.




Three kids and three pairs of Boppers.

Dad sees some NFL action.

And the munchkins get some good exercise resolving their disputes.

Hospitals should issue these to new dads with instructions to open in three years. 

The Death of Nikki LaDue January: Part XIII

This post will finish selected statements recorded by Pass Christian Police Sgt. W. Davis in his report on the death of Nikki LaDue January...

Case Summary

In July of 2002, the body of Nikki LaDue January was found seated on the balcony of her condominium in Pass Christian, Mississippi.  Officers stated that she had a single gun shot wound to her right temple area.

A Sterling .380 caliber pistol was partially under her left thigh on a chair, her right leg was propped up against the table in front of her, and a cordless phone on the table was covered in blood.

There were two different brands of cigarettes and two different lighters on the table in front of her.

A bullet was located in a chair on the next balcony, and a shell casing was later found by a maintenance man in the condo's pool.

Ms. January had apparently been deceased for several hours, and her five-year old son was found in the residence unharmed.

Authorities at the scene quickly classified the death as a suicide. 


Note: The following statements appear in the order as recorded by Sgt. Davis.

STATEMENT #8 (in reference to a shell casing being found by a maintenance man in the condo's swimming pool)

"When reporting officer looked up at the condo's (sic) reporting officer noticed Nicole's balcony was just above the pool."

"Just above the pool" appears to be a relative term.  Those familiar with the layout of the Nikki's complex state that the swimming pool is three stories below and between 20 and 40 feet from the ledge of the balcony.    According to authorities, the deceased woman died near instantly after shooting herself once in the head while seated at the wall away from the balcony's ledge. 

As such, the ejected casing would have had to fly from the handgun, and with the assistance of a bounce or wind, fall the required distance away from the railing to reach the pool.

Add another to the list of occurrences in this case that would be listed as possible, but not probable.


"...She heard a loud popping sound at approximately 0130 and did not know what it was.  She stated that a few days ago she heard some popping sounds but that it was kids popping fireworks."

Sgt. Davis talked to this witness and another who stated that they heard a loud sound around 1:30 am.  He also indicated that the witness described it as a windy night/morning--a factor that could support the location of the metal casing described above. 

For follow-up activities, comparing Nikki's phone records to what was going on around 0130 would have been at the top of the list--but since the case was deemed a suicide, no follow-up work was conducted by police.

STATEMENT #10 (in reference to what Nikki's babysitter is alleged to have told police)

"...She stated that she baby sat Zachary last night for Nichole and that everything seemed fine except that Nichole seemed very energetic. She stated that Nichole dropped Zachary off at her house at approximately 1230 hours and returned later than she planned. She picked up Zachary, talked for a minute, and left. She seemed fine except for being energetic."

Remember the coroner's report indicating that Nichole's body contained amounts of alcohol, cocaine, and amphetamines?

Having someone describe Nikki hours before her death as "energetic" would certainly support authorities in their belief that she was under the influence of substances that would have impaired her judgment (thus, making her more likely to take her life).

A private investigator hired by the family reinterviewed everyone mentioned in the police reports--including the babysitter described by Sgt. Davis. She recounted what she told to police that morning in their very brief exchange, but did not characterize Nikki as "energetic"--rather as sorry that she was late in retrieving her son.*

Strangely, the babysitter denied that Nikki was more active than usual as well as ever saying "energetic."

What if the babysitter said "apologetic" but it was misheard by Sgt. Davis?

There is a big difference between "apologetic" and "energetic."

Recording a witness' statement accurately is essential.  When there is a mistake, it can make or break a case. 

In this investigation, the detective evidently digested Sgt. Davis' conversation with the babysitter as another factor that supported suicide, when in essence it did not.

*Note: A neighbor phoned the babysitter about Nikki's death and she drove to the scene that morning.  She stated that she spoke only briefly to an officer who was in his car (evidently Sgt. Davis), and provided him with her phone number and information.  She stated that no one contacted her for a detailed interview.

All posts on this topic can be viewed by clicking here: Nikki LaDue January.

More on the Penn State Scandal

Since Sunday's initial post on The Pennsylvania State University child sex scandal,  I have lots more to say--finding the time to research a post properly has been the issue on this fluid story.

Note: For more background on the case, you can go here.

As such, I am using Saturday, my usual blogging-day-off, for a follow-up.

First, I wanted to recognize JJ from Phila as he was the first person (that I am aware of including local and national media) to post the connection between former Penn State football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's arrest and the unsolved missing persons case of former District Attorney Ray Gricar.

Despite blogging being his unpaid side-job, JJ continues to provide fresh insights to Gricar's strange disappearance.

Second and in general with Penn State, when the allegations initally surfaced that involved football coaches, the athletic director (Tim Curley), a vice president (Gary Schultz), and the university's president (Graham Spanier), all of these folks should have immediately been placed on administrative leave (the VP retired and the athletic director were).

With these persons on leave, university executives could have then started to manage the crisis.  Instead, the institution's leadership, through the board of directors, was not seen as doing anything until voting to dismiss President Graham Spanier and legendary Head Coach Joe Paterno on Wednesday night.

Rather than speculating as to what Joe Paterno knew or did not know, I selected several quotes/summaries of testimony by the folks involved in this situation to examine:

1) The President (now former)

"...With regard to the other presentments, I wish to say that Tim Curley and Gary Schultz have my unconditional support. I have known and worked daily with Tim and Gary for more than 16 years. I have complete confidence in how they have handled the allegations about a former University employee.

Tim Curley and Gary Schultz operate at the highest levels of honesty, integrity and compassion. I am confident the record will show that these charges are groundless and that they conducted themselves professionally and appropriately."

--An excerpt from Graham Spanier's initial statement

I think this statement will be used by journalism classes in the future as an example of "What Not to Say."

Dr. Spanier failed to grasp that by saying the charges are "groundless," he implies that those who testified to the grand jury are lying; including the young victims of the alleged abuse.

This is not the type of message the leader of a nationally respected institution should be providing on a case that centers around child sexual assaults.

Since these two administrators were charged criminally, the statement should have been limited to "this is a serious matter" and "cooperating fully with authorities" and "this university is initiating it's own inquiry."

2) The Head Coach (now former)

"If this is true we were all fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things, and we grieve for the victims and their families. They are in our prayers."

-- Coach Joe Paterno

Coach Paterno could be referring to "scores of professionals" involved with Sandusky at The Second Mile foundation.

But, what if he is saying that Sandusky had received professional counseling previously for what was characterized by others as multiple inappropriate behaviors around children?

3) The Graduate Assistant

No direct quote, but in sum from the Grand Jury's Report--then 28-year old graduate assistant Michael McQueary (now a full-time coach on the team) testified that he saw Jerry Sandusky molesting what appeared to be a ten-year old boy in the shower at a Penn State football facility. He fled the shower area, called his father, and then reported the incident to the head coach the following day.

Much has been said regarding what McQueary should have done rather than leaving. Instead of belittling his reaction, I'd encourage others to try to make a positive from his story in that they could prepare themselves mentally for that one moment in their lives when they need to take immediate action to save a life/stop violence--so that they shine.

Anyway, I would rather ask a question of Coach McQueary that I have not heard discussed:

After witnessing a graphic sexual attack in a facility shower, telling the person in charge, repeating the story to his bosses, and then watching nothing happen to the perpetrator, why would you want to continue to work for that employer?

This incident was allegedly observed in 2002, yet Coach McQueary is still employed by Penn State almost a decade later.

You evidently accepted that it was ok for the perpetrator, again a man that you saw victimizing a child, to continue using the team's facilities, have an office in the athletic buildings, and according to the Altoona Mirror's Cory Giger, bring young boys to Penn State football events as late as 2007.

When he is permitted to discuss the incident, I hope that someone asks Coach McQueary why on earth he would remain at a university that, based on his own awful encounter, failed so miserably at protecting the innocent.

4) The Athletic Director

Again summarizing a part of the grand jury report, resulting from the 2002 incident, athletic director Tim Curley stated that Sandusky had been prohibited from bringing children onto campus--but later admitted that the ban was unenforceable.

Attorney and sports guy Jay Bilas nailed this one.

He said that the university's so-called punitive action, in general, translates into we are not interested in what you are doing Mr. Sandusky, just don't do it in our facilities.

He also said (as the Penn State officials acknowledge) that, at the least, administrators knew an older man was showering in the football facility with what looked to be a ten-year old boy. How much more information do you need to take action?

So, Sandusky moved his football camps to another satellite PSU campus (where officials were unaware of the allegations), and he allegedly continued targeting children. For several years.


This is a sad story that touches the lives of so many.

I don't see how the non-profit involved in the scandal, The Second Mile, can survive--despite many years of good work.  I'd expect the agency to dissolve and try to reorganize under a new name.

Meanwhile, authorities are still searching for the identity of the alleged ten-year old victim from the 2002 shower scene; since Penn State officials failed to investigate or have others investigate as to who that young man was.

Dark days in Happy Valley indeed.

When I Dated and A New Book by Jessica Bell

Yep, this commercial pretty much sums up my dating life prior to the Mrs.:

Thank goodness she bailed me out all those years ago--and even lets me keep the sandwich.

And the drink.

And the cookie as well; unless it is chocolate chip. The line must be drawn somewhere.


Also, today I am helping author Jessica Bell with her book release. She is a talented Australian living in Greece. Must be quite an adventure.


Today is THE day to help Jessica Bell's debut, STRING BRIDGE, hit the bestseller list on Amazon, and receive the all-original soundtrackMelody Hill: On the Other Sidewritten and performed by the author herself, for free!

All you have to do is
purchase the
book today (paperback, or eBook), November 11th, and then email the receipt to:


She will then email you a link to download the album at no extra cost!

To purchase the paperback:

To purchase the eBook:

To listen to samples of the soundtrack, visit iTunes.

If you are
not familiar with String Bridge,
check out the book trailer:

Rave Reviews for String Bridge:

Jessica Bell’s STRING BRIDGE strummed the fret of my
veins, thrummed my blood into a mad rush, played me taut until the final page, yet with echoes still reverberating. A rhythmic debut with metrical tones of heavied dark, fleeting prisms of light, and finally, a burst of joy—just as with any good song, my hopeful heartbeat kept tempo with Bell’s narrative.
~ Kathryn Magendie, author of Sweetie and Publishing Editor of Rose & Thorn Journal

“Poet and musician Jessica Bell's debut novel String Bridge is a rich exploration of desire, guilt, and the difficult balancing act of the modern woman. The writing is lyrical throughout, seamlessly integrating setting, character and plot in a musical structure that allows the reader to identify with Melody's growing insecurity as her world
begins to unravel …
String Bridge is a powerful debut from a promising writer, full of music, metaphor, and just a
hint of magic.” ~ Magdalena Ball, author of Repulsion
and Sleep Before Evening

Jessica Bell is a brilliant writer of great skill and depth. She doesn't pull back from the difficult scenes, from conflict, pain, intensity. She puts it all out there, no holds barred, no holding back. She knows how to craft a scene, how to develop character, how to create suspense. This is an absolutely brilliant debut novel.
I look forward to reading her next novel, and next and next.” ~ Karen Jones Gowen, author of Farm Girl, Uncut Diamonds and House of Diamonds


Best wishes to Jessica, and I hope everyone has a good weekend.

Yes, They Will Steal Anything

I would not have predicted this theft:

ROCK HILL, S.C. -- A bizarre theft has Rock Hill police searching for 200 gallons of grease.

Police said thieves pried open waste containers behind the Wing King Restaurant on Wednesday and pumped out the used cooking oil.

It’s the second time in two days that a restaurant reported a similar theft in Rock Hill, police said.

The store’s manager, Mike Wilson, said he thinks someone is stealing the oil and trying to sell it by converting it to bio-diesel fuel.

“People are doing everything they can to earn extra money, make extra money,” Wilson said. “One man’s trash is money for someone else.”...

Thieves stealing used grease from restaurants--stuff that the owner likely pays to have disposed?

What is next someone swiping my bags of collected dog feces?

Actually, I am all for that. I'll even leave my hand-held shovel so they can directly remove it from the lawn.


On a related note, if you need extra cash to pay for an upcoming wedding you can sell copper as scrap.

Just make sure it is your copper.

Unguarded: Careful What You Wish For

What if you could live the dream?

What if the dream was also a nightmare?

So is the story of Dan Herren.

Hometown Hoops Hero, Professional Basketballer, and International Sports Star.

Husband, Father, and


Unguarded; a film by Jonathan Hock.*

The documentary aired last week on ESPN, and I thought it was excellent.

The show follows Herren, from Fall River, Massachusetts, as he became famous and then struggled with addictions that nearly robbed him of everything that mattered.

The contrast is sharp: Herren as the celebrity adored by basketball fans to a guy pawning his children's toys for $30 so that he could shoot-up.

The show works on several levels.

Herren is candid about his failings, and he is a gifted speaker.

The director was able to weave cuts of the former star telling his life's story to a variety of audiences including school groups and persons under criminal court-supervision.

Herren's life also reminds us of how difficult battling substance abuse can be.

For someone with a dependency, rarely is there one incident, a rehabilitation, and then an ending where all is forgotten.

Reality is more like Herren's story in that addicition is a long and painful journey involving one step forward and two steps back--as loved ones watch a promising life spiral out of control.

A viewer could select many positive themes from Unguarded.

One that I most appreciated was that of dreams.

It is easy to look at celebs, sports figures, or even friends and wish that we had their life.

The money. The power.  The fame. Or the "ideallic" relationships and family.

But looks are notoriously deceiving.

As illustrated by Herrin's life, a "dream" as defined by perceived wealth may actually represent a nightmare.

When comparing your life to another, be careful what you wish for.


*Note: I took some liberties with the advertising quip for this show to make it best fit the post's message.

The Death of Nikki LaDue January: Part XII

Continuing with the statements recorded by Pass Christian Police Sgt. W. Davis regarding the death of Nikki LaDue January.

For those who have been reading this series, some of the information is redundant, but I feel it is important to consider what led authorities to label the case a suicide.  

Case Summary

In July of 2002, the body of Nikki LaDue January was found seated on the balcony of her condominium in Pass Christian, Mississippi.  Officers stated that she had a single gun shot wound to her right temple area.

A Sterling .380 caliber pistol was partially under her left thigh on a chair, her right leg was propped up against the table in front of her, and a cordless phone on the table was covered in blood.

There were two different brands of cigarettes and two different lighters on the table in front of her.

A bullet was located in a chair on the next balcony, and a shell casing was later found by a maintenance man in the condo's pool.

Ms. January had apparently been deceased for several hours, and her five-year old son was found in the residence unharmed.

Authorities at the scene quickly classified the death as a suicide. 


Note: The following statements appear in the order as recorded by Sgt. DavisHe spoke with Nikki's husband Phil (found the body), her friend Nancy Burge (entered the condo and then called 911), and others described below.


"Reporting Officer asked who did the pistol belong to that she used and he (Phil January) stated it was his. He stated that he was going to take it with him but she (Nicole) insisted that he leave it with her for protection, it puzzled him because she did not like guns."

Verifying that the gun found at the scene, the bullet found on an adjacent balcony, and the casing recovered from the complex's swimming pool (which I discuss in a moment) supported law enforcement's theory of suicide would have been invaluable in defending the decision by police to close the case.

But, as with the phone records, all this "extra work" was not performed since the case was quickly labeled a suicide.

Even more disturbing, all three pieces of evidence (gun, bullet, and shell casing) disappeared. It is unknown which items actually made it to the police property room or their disposition after being collected by authorities at the scene.


Mr. Phillip then contacted the child's natural father and he came and picked the child up at the scene. The child was not interviewed.

By not interviewing the child, I believe authorities missed an opportunity to learn if others had been in the condo that morning with the deceased woman, if the front door was locked or unlocked when it was believed that the child let Nancy Burge enter, what sounds if any he heard, etc.

In a previous post, guest blogger police officer Momma Fargo articulated the need to interview children at the scene of violent crimes--it may have made a difference as to what is believed to have happened to Ms. LaDue January.


Reporting officer was then approached by the condo's president...he was cleaning the pool this morning...0600 hours he found a shell casing in the he put it in the pool area drawer. Reporting officer and Coroner Hargrove retrieve the casing. Hargrove took a picture of the casing and the swimming pool where he found the casing.

Sgt. Davis also indicated in the report that the casing was collected.

Unfortunately, a description of the casing was not included.

Was it from a .380 like the one found at the scene?  Was it at least from a semi-auto handgun?

Where is the casing now? What happened to the coroner's photo?

Authorities have not answered any of these questions satisfactorily.


I'll stop there. 

Next week I'll discuss a statement made by Nikki's babysitter to Sgt. Davis and how a misunderstood term, can be used as support for a theory--when the correct word actuality means something entirely different.


All posts on this topic can be viewed by clicking here: Nikki LaDue January.

Sandusky Charges

Jerry Sandusky, a Pennsylvania football coaching legend, was charged with 40 criminal counts--some being sex crimes:

After a two-year grand jury investigation, sexual abuse charges have been filed against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Sandusky, the Nittany Lions' former defensive coordinator, is facing 40 counts, including felony charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse of someone under 16, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault of someone under 16, indecent assault of someone under 13, and corruption of minors, The Patriot-News reported Friday.

The offenses were allegedly committed between 1996 and 2005. The grand jury investigation began when a teen alleged inappropriate contact against the 67-year-old former coach in 2009.

When news of the grand jury investigation broke in March, Sandusky denied the allegations, saying he "steadfastly maintains his innocence."

Sandusky was an assistant coach at Penn State for 32 years before retiring in 1999. He was also once considered the logical successor to Penn State's legendary coach Joe Paterno, who broke the record for victories by a Division I coach when his team overcame Illinois last Saturday.

The Second Mile, an organization founded by Sandusky to help underprivileged kids...

Sandusky's old non-profit, The Second Mile, has been doing good work for years and it will be a difficult time for that organization as this story and their name are discussed nationally.

And, the org will want to put their statement about the incident on the agency's homepage as soon as possible.

Thanks to JJ from Phila for the story.

Two Homicides: Found in the Backyard

Note: A special thank you to Granny who has graciously commented and otherwise offered encouragement for many years.

Long time reader and online friend "Granny" from Central Arkansas has kept me updated on an unfolding pair of homicide cases there:

BENTON, Ark. (KTHV) -- Authorities say one of the bodies found buried at a Traskwood home is Joe Lee Richards, Jr. Homeowner Marissa Wright is under arrest.

Capital murder charges have been filed against Wright, 50, in relation to the disappearance of Richards. She was taken into custody without incident at a local hospital.

In 1989, Wright was arrested for murder but was turned into a state's witness against Frank Pilcher who is serving a life sentence for the murder of Jeff Rhoades.

In a press release from Benton Police, this investigation centered on Richard's missing person report filed in October of 2010. His family was concerned when he disappeared without a trace and leaving his personal belongings behind. Recent information recently let them to the home in Traskwood...

The second body was later identified Arkansas resident Randal Anderson--who sadly had not been reported missing by anyone.

Not many details had been released by prosecutors, so the public was just going to have to wait until the court hearings began to learn more details.

That is until investigative journalist Mara Leveritt became involved.

The murders reminded her of the unsolved murders of teens Don Henry and Keven Ives, also from Central Arkansas.

Two murders that she had detailed in her 2001 book, The Boys on the Tracks.

With Henry and Ives, the teens appeared to have been struck by a train. 

With the deaths appearing to be drug related and not appearing to be related to foul play, authorities classified the incidents as "accidental" and closed the cases.

And they stayed that way until the victims' parents had the bodies exhumed and independent autopsies were conducted.

Remind anyone of the Nichole LaDue January case?

Anyway, the fresh set of eyes came to a very different conclusion: these were not accidental deaths but homicides.

The police reopened the investigations, but unfortunately they remained unsolved.

So flash forward to now--journalist Ms. Leveritt filed a petition under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act to view the search warrants involved in the Marissa Wright arrest.

After being initially denied, her request was granted.

She examined the documents, and made them available.

And now, the public knows quite a bit about what is believed to have happened at Ms. Wright's home including:

1) How does a smaller person move a 6'2, 200+ lbs. man?

2) How did police learn about the homicides?

3) What did the accused woman do when she learned that authorities were serving search warrants on her property?

4) How do authorities believe the victims died?

The answers to all of these questions and more are available on Mara Leveritt's site here.


Why do I believe releasing information like this to the public important?


Defendant Marissa "Rissa" Wright is accused of two murders.

She was allegedly involved in another several years ago, but acted as a "state's witness" to testify for the prosecution.

It leads one to ask--how many others are there?

Since US law enforcement is comprised of 17,000+ agencies, it is difficult to share information adequately--though information exchange has improved greatly in the past few decades.

Therefore, the more information available to the public, the better the chance that someone will see a similarity to another unsolved case and perhaps link a detail to an action by Wright.

The more connections for law enforcement investigating unsolved missing persons or homicide cases, the better.


Update: A couple of days ago, a second individual, Jay Beeson, was charged in the death of Anderson.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Beeson is currently on federal parole from a 1991 2nd degree murder conviction.

Travel Tips: Endangering Public Safety

Last week, journalist and travel website owner George Hobica wrote an article for the Huffington Post based on tips from airline gate agents.

He relayed information about holding planes for late connecting passengers, upgrading tickets, and changing seats.

Oh, and he also included this about Federal Air Marshals:

Do you know who the federal air marshals are?

Yes, we call them FAMs. We typically board them first, and they are almost always sitting in an aisle seat in first class. They are not on every flight though. The flight crew's typically informed who the FAM is, but passengers can easily spot them since they're usually sitting on the plane already when everyone else boards. Kind of defeats the purpose in my opinion, but that is the procedure.


Now, I understand that everything is discussed somewhere online.

But, legitimate journalists should be held to high standards.

Is discussing how to spot an armed federal agent on an airplane helping or hindering public safety?

Is endangering the lives of others a responsible practice for a professional?

So what's your next article Mr. Hobica?

Is it:

--Where are the soft spots on ballistic vests worn by police officers?

--How to weaken a building's roof to maximize fire fighter losses at the scene of a three alarm blaze?

--What are two actions teachers are guaranteed to take during a critical incident at school?

I realize that there is pressure to attract readers, but not at any price.

Good grief.

On a positive note, I know administrators of these federal agencies are well versed regarding the intelligence available on their tactics. As such, any information that compromised the safety of air marshals would result in immediate program changes.

But still.

The Death of Nikki LaDue January: Part XI

As the series continues, I transition from discussing the case's evidence to examining the related statements.

Case Summary

In July of 2002, the body of Nikki LaDue January was found seated on the balcony of her condominium in Pass Christian, Mississippi.  Officers stated that she had a single gun shot wound to her right temple area.

A Sterling .380 caliber pistol was partially under her left thigh on a chair, her right leg was propped up against the table in front of her, and a cordless phone on the table was covered in blood.

There were two different brands of cigarettes and two different lighters on the table in front of her.

A bullet was located in a chair on the next balcony, and a shell casing was later found by a maintenance man in the condo's pool.

Ms. January had apparently been deceased for several hours, and her five-year old son was found in the residence unharmed.

Authorities at the scene quickly classified the death as a suicide. 


The following are selected statements recorded in the report by Sergeant W. Davis who was a first-responder with the Pass Christian Police Department.

It is one of the two known police reports that describe the death scene of Nikki LaDue January.

Sgt. Davis spoke with Nikki's husband Phil (found the body) and her friend Nancy Burge (entered the condo and then called 911).


Note: The following statements appear in the order as recorded by Sgt. Davis.


"Reporting officer asked if Nicole had any problems and Burge stated that Nicole had a cocaine problem."

One would expect this standard probing question asked at the scene of every potential suicide.  If the sergeant followed-up with Nancy on her statement about the drug problem and asked specifics about frequency of use, the deceased's mental state, money issues related to a supposed dependency, etc., it is not recorded.


"As reporting officer talked to Phillip in conversation Phillip told reporting officer that he was a police officer in Texas for twenty years."

A private investigator hired by the family was unable to confirm this employment claim.  In general, law enforcement agencies limit information on workers to verification of employment dates, and something similar to "will the agency rehire the individual: yes or no."  Also, if the agency's employment files are subject to open records laws, a person could be granted permission to view the personnel file of a current or previous employee.

In essence, whether an individual was a police officer in Texas for two decades should be simple to confirm--but it was not. 


"He stated that he had been gone for two weeks and he had just talked to his wife on the phone at approximately 0145 hours this morning."

If the death case was not closed so quickly, statements like this could be properly evaluated based on traditional investigative work. 

Review the police reports.  Collect phone records.  Digest what makes sense.

Unfortunately, Ms. LaDue January's death was classified a suicide, so no follow-up work was deemed necessary.


"Phillip stated that his wife Nichole had a cocaine problem and was addicted to pain pills, but he was trying to help her with her drug problem."

Since the deceased's death certificate lists cocaine and other substances in her body at time of death--though the amounts were not noted--gathering information on this topic is relevant.

How might have her judgment been impacted that night/morning?

Related to Mr. January's statement--Sgt. Davis recorded that Mr. January's help included moving Nikki to Louisiana away from drug suppliers in Mississippi. 

But with the revelation that Nikki evidently did not plan to move to Louisiana, and had planned to (again evidently) end the marriage, one wonders how the conversation went between them at 0145 that morning.


I'll have more on the recorded statements next time, including the explanation as to why the gun used was in the condo the morning Ms. LaDue January passed away. 

All posts on this topic can be viewed by clicking here: Nikki LaDue January.