Out

A couple of weeks ago, my father was hospitalized unexpectedly in Texas. 

Since then, the old Marine has been waiting on a few issues to be resolved so that his doctors could perform heart surgery--which they were able to do today.

Dad is conscious and is evidently ordering the staff to remove all of "these (insert string of curse words) tubes." 

Also, my laptop has decided to stop working today, and is headed to the repair shop. 

As a result, I'll be away from blogging for a little while...

On Phylicia Barnes

This is for Missing Person Monday...
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A recent article by excellent crime writer David Lohr features the missing person case of North Carolina teen Phylicia Barnes:


Authorities in Maryland are stepping up efforts to locate Phylicia Barnes, a 16-year-old North Carolina girl who disappeared while visiting relatives in Baltimore. But a local police official said the national media need to take note of the case. 

"We are doing everything we can," Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told AOL News, noting that more than 35 detectives are working on the case, as well as two teams from the FBI. 

Phylicia Barnes, a 16-year-old North Carolina girl who disappeared while visiting relatives in Baltimore, may have met with foul play, police say.

"We would really like the national outlets to help us out here, so if somebody sees her in Missouri, they are able to alert authorities quickly," Guglielmi continued.


"It has been incredibly frustrating for me. We've been pitching this since the 29th [and] have not gotten any traction. This case is no different than the Natalee Holloway case. The only difference is Phylicia is from North Carolina, she went missing in Baltimore and she is African-American."

Guglielmi added, "I just think if we could get America just to see her picture -- that is all we are asking -- maybe that will lead detectives to a break and save this young lady's life." 

Phylicia lives in Monroe, N.C., but was visiting relatives in Baltimore. She was last seen around 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 28, when she left the apartment of her 27-year-old half-sister, Deena Barnes. According to relatives, Phylicia told her sister she was going shopping. 

What happened to the teenager next remains a mystery, police said. 

"Time is working against us," Guglielmi said. "She has been missing 10 days. ... This is not a runaway. We suspect some type of foul play..."

Previously, I blogged about racial disparities in the coverage of missing persons cases in this post: Missing and Not White: Does Race Matter?

Unfortunately, I do believe race can play a role in the level of publicity of these cases, but argue that it is more complex and includes multiple factors.

With the disappearance, Phylicia's mother, Janice Sallis, said that she felt deceived after hearing that large groups of men congregated at the apartment where her daughter had been staying--but the apartment's resident, Deena Barnes, denied that accusation.

The family organized a search in Baltimore Saturday, but nothing new was reportedly discovered.

My prayers are with Phylicia--who is a track star and honor student.

Failing as a Friend

I think this sad story from across the pond offers an "Exhibit A" of Friend Fail:

...Forty-two year-old Simone Back announced her intention to commit suicide in a status update on Facebook--and not one of her over 1,000 Facebook friends reached out in person to help.


According to the Daily Mail, Back, who committed suicide on Christmas Day, wrote in her Facebook status, "Took all my pills be dead soon bye bye everyone."


What followed was a series of callous posts from some of Back's Facebook friends. The Telegraph writes, "Some of the Facebook friends posted messages calling her a liar and one said it was 'her choice'. Seventeen hours later, police broke down the door of her flat in Montague Street, Brighton, and found her dead."


Back's mother told the Daily Mail that none of her daughter's online friends attempted to help her in person. The Daily Mail explains,


While some Facebook friends from out of town begged online for her address and telephone number so they could get help, none of those who lived closer did anything to help.


Miss Back's friend, Samantha Pia Owen, said: "Everyone just carried on arguing with each other on Facebook like it wasn't happening. Some of those people lived within walking distance of Simone."
Since it was Christmas, I'd guess that many of her 1,000 friends probably did not see her suicidal post on Facebook.   

In any event, can you imagine someone reading that message and then taking time to respond with a comment that mocks the victim? 

Really?

I'd hope that this awful example of failure to render aid (not in a legal sense but by lack of common sense) causes those folks involved to do some serious personal reflection and soul searching--as they still have time to make positive contributions in this world, unlike Ms. Back.

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I hope everyone has a good weekend.

Low Priority Domestics

This sad story was in the news during the holidays.
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A 2009 criminology graduate from the University of Texas Arlington and a new officer became the second member of the Arlington (TX) Police Department to die in the line of duty this year:

ARLINGTON -- A rookie police officer was fatally shot as she apparently tried to protect an 11-year-old from an armed man who burst into an apartment as the officer was taking a domestic assault report, police officials said Wednesday.


Jillian Michelle Smith, 24, an Arlington native, was killed Tuesday night within 20 minutes of responding to a lower priority call from a woman who wanted to report the assault, officials said.




The assault suspect (Barnes Samuel Nettles) had left the apartment but returned while Smith was inside taking the report, Arlington police spokeswoman Tiara Ellis Richard said at a news conference Wednesday...Officials said it is not unusual for a lone officer to respond to a Priority 3 call...

It is important to understand that with domestic violence reports where the suspect is not on the scene, the person in question returning while one officer is there is not unusual either. 

Then, the officer has to deal with the usually confrontational individual while finding time to notify dispatch that another unit is needed at the location.  Whether the back-up officer is close or not is a different issue.

Obviously with domestic disputes, things can get dangerous quickly.

Police agencies could insist that two officers be dispatched to any domestic call, but that is expensive and cost drives decision-making no matter what the career.

In other words, it won't happen.

In the meantime, Smith's sworn colleagues and other officers in the US will continue to be dispatched alone to "low priority" and other domestic calls--keeping one eye on their written report and the other eye on the front door and windows.

Blogging and Brett Favre

The insights available via blogs to news junkies like myself is astounding. 

For instance, Mike Florio, attorney and football commentator for the website Pro Football Talk, offered 16 questions on their blog related to the most recent lawsuit filed against superstar Brett Favre by massage therapists Christina Scavo and Shannon O'Toole--and similar to the Jenn Sterger allegations, this case involves accusations of sexual harassment and inappropriate text messages.

In the current case (the legal document is here), the husband of the text recipient allegedly decided to confront Favre and demand an apology--one that reportedly was never given.  

Florio makes a number of interesting observations about the case which was filed in the State of New York, including this one:

Should the case be removed to federal court?


If the plaintiffs filed the case in state court, they presumably want to be in state court. Generally speaking, plaintiffs prefer state court and defendants prefer federal court, where the judges aren’t elected and the procedures are more complicated and formal — and there are more hurdles and other obstacles that can be thrown in the path of the plaintiffs and their lawyer.
Well said.

In general, Florio thinks this lawsuit has quite a few obstacles for the plaintiffs to overcome. 

If you want to learn about civil litigation, criminal law, policing, writing, fashion, etc., reading blogs daily is time well spent.

Cowboy Cookout

Note: I did not receive any company perks for the following post.  The products listed are for the sole purpose of retelling a story to make fun of me--always an easy target.
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Inside a store, I am busy minding the little crew as they entertain themselves by looking at rotating and revolving product displays.

I notice a canned item on nearby shelf and read the label:

Cowboy Cookout is prepared with Beef, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Green Beans, and Granny Smith Apples. 
Yum.

Interested, I look at another labeled product on the same shelf:
Venison Holiday Stew is prepared with Venison, Red Jacket New Potatoes, Carrots, Zucchini, Sugar Peas, and Red Apples.
Wow.

With appetite awakened, I reached for a third can, but my mouth-watering reading was interrupted by the Mrs.:

Are you through reading the organic dog food meals so that we can go?

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I am not sure I would buy this high-end stuff from Merrick Pet Care for our household's canine version of Pacman, but the descriptions of their gourmet dog delicacies sure put me in a dinner mood.

Would You Give Your Real Name to Ensure Safety?

Happy belated New Year to everyone.

I'll start off my regular installment of Missing Person Monday with a follow-up on the case of Donna Jou.

A few months ago, I posted this on the case: When So-Called Closure is Anything But.
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Case Summary


In June of 2007, nineteen-year-old San Diego State University student Donna Jou was last seen leaving her residence with a man named John Steven Burgess.  Burgess had responded to an ad that Jou had posted on Craigslist--where she was offering her services as a math tutor.   

Burgess, who was using an alias, was a registered sex offender who fled to Florida before police could talk with him.  He was later arrested there on unrelated charges and extradited back to California.  More than a year later, Burgess pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter and concealing Jou's body after confessing to authorities about the case. 

Burgess claimed that Jou died of an accidentally drug overdose at his home, he panicked, and disposed of the body.  No evidence to corroborate Burgess' story has been found, and he is eligible for parole this year (2011).  Jou remains a missing person--though sadly presumed dead. 

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Hoping to improve user safety on Craigslist, Donna Jou's father, Reza Jou, now advocates this:

...Amazingly, in the aftermath of Burgess' conviction, Jou found a solution to that problem in the form of a blog posting from a businessman named Karim Pirani, the president and founder of SafeList.com, a website that requires users to submit to questions to confirm who they are before gaining access to the site's core features. 


Pirani came up with the idea not because of a personal tragedy but because he saw a market disconnect with sites like craigslist.org. 


"If you see a must-have item on eBay, what do you do?" Pirani asked rhetorically. "You look up the seller's ratings, then you can buy through PayPal, which gives you a certain amount of protection. Craigslist has no PayPal, so a transaction is like Russian roulette. People are nonchalant where they should be vigiliant." 


To become a verified user of SafeList, individuals must submit themselves to a series of questions based on their personal life history that the system pulls from a comprehensive public database. They must correctly answer these questions within 240 seconds. 


In additon, failure to respond correctly will keep the person at the basic user level, and SafeList will also report any convicted felon or sexual predator that attempts to register on the website to law enforcement.
I like the concept of SafeList and applaud Mr. Jou's efforts, but have doubts about what I grasp about their methodology. 

With so many databases that would need to be tapped to accurately capture a person's criminal history, I am not convinced that using one "public database" would suffice.  Some folks that lie about their identity are quite skilled, and simply registering as a brother, cousin, or friend would seemingly be no problem for them.

Further, I am not sure how reporting a "convicted felon" trying to register on a website to authorities would be beneficial--unless it was a violation of the convict's parole.

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What do you think?

Would you like to use a Craigslist-type website that verifies your identity to buy and sell things and services?