Tuber of the Week #43: Dream Proposal

Do women and men think about things differently?

Um...well...ok, a definite "yes" to that one:



The Mrs. and I both got a laugh out of the commercial.

Though my execution of the marriage proposal (on a Valentine's Day carriage ride through big city where I used to live) was much better than Mr. "Go Tigers" in the video, the Mrs. is still critical of my overall engagement request.

The question: "What took you so long?" is her usual starting point.

The Death of Nikki LaDue January: Part V

Last week, I looked at the gun in relation to the victim's body.

In this post, I want to discuss another item at the scene: a cordless telephone.
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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. 

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B) The Telephone

Near the end of Pass Christian Police Department detective Tom Pustay's investigative narrative, a report where he describes the death scene of Ms. LaDue January, he makes the following curious statement:

"...There is a cordless phone on a table that is covered with blood.  It is unknown how it got there or how the blood got on it..."

As the report continues, a reader expects the detective, who has introduces a seemingly out of place bloody phone, to clarify that initial statement.

He does not. 

Strangely, no additional information about the phone is included in Pustay's report, but he photographed it (shown below).


Blood Covered White Phone (Photo Credit)

The family allowed me to review a second police report on the case--that of one of the police first responders that morning: Sgt. Willie Davis.

Sgt. Davis' description of the scene does not mention the bloody phone on the table.

So, two detailed reports of a death scene thought to be a suicide, and an object that was evidently covered in blood and lying on a table about five feet from the body, is barely mentioned.

But, why is the phone important?

Remember, the pathologist hired by the family to examine Nikki's body stated that death occurred "immediately or very rapidly after immediate loss of consciousness."

So, a bloody phone on a table would have been either placed there by the woman immediately as she was dying or, and here we go again, moved there by someone else. 

Now, the phone was evidently moved once by Nikki's husband, Phil January.

According to documents provided by Nikki's family, Phil stated that he initially saw the phone "in the middle of her lap." 

Mr. January evidently added that the phone was covered in blood (as in the photo), not near Nikki's hand, and was in an area of her lap that had no blood stains.

In addition, the family states that Phil was also confused by the source of the blood on the phone, spoke with Detective Pustay about it, and was concerned over the investigator's dismissal of the detail. 

When authorities arrived it was said that the phone's battery was dead.

In sum, a woman's death is declared a suicide.  The gun believed to be used in the death is found in a chair partially under one of the victim's legs.  A portable phone covered in blood, is seen on a table in front of the woman--but it is unknown how the blood got there.

It is reasonable to argue that the gun was moved and later placed between the victim's legs.

The telephone was moved at least once before the body was photographed--and it is likely that the item was relocated twice prior to police arriving.

That said, this renders more questions than anything:

--How did the phone get covered in blood?

--Was she holding the phone at the time of death?

--Who moved it (how many times) and why?

This "open-and-shut suicide" case appears to be anything but that.

I'll have more next Tuesday--including another strange item photographed on Ms. LaDue January's table, but not mentioned in police reports.
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All posts on this topic can be viewed by clicking here: Nikki LaDue January.

Fired for What?

Firing employees based on a a policy violation without considering the entirety of the situation has always bothered me.

Refuse to let people use common sense, and you are often left with a mess.

Here is a prime example:

A school bus driver on Long Island is fighting to regain his job after being fired last week for being a Good Samaritan, apparently against company policy.

George Daw claimed he was terminated because he helped three Nassau County police detectives during last Monday's hail and rain storm.

"I felt this was something anyone would do under the circumstances," said Daw, 58.

Daw was driving a mini-bus carrying a teenage passenger and a bus matron last Monday as golf ball-size hail and torrential rain pelted New Hyde Park. On Hillside Avenue, Daw came upon on a stalled unmarked police car carrying detectives, according to Detective Lt. Raymond Cote. The car had been filling with water.

"They're saying, you've got to help us, you've got to help us," said Daw. "You've got to get us to the third precinct. We're police officers."

Daw did just that, pushing through the flood waters to pick up the detectives and deliver them to their precinct.

"I felt they were in danger," explained Daw.

Daw's employer, Educational Bus Transport of Copiague, didn't agree.

After Daw filed a report about what happened, he was terminated from his job of nine months.

Company paperwork supplied by Daw showed he was fired in part because he violated policy prohibiting drivers from picking up unscheduled passengers...

So canning a worker who was helping stranded motorists during a hail storm is the type of media story that you want to link your firm to Mr. and Mrs. bus company executives?

Forget that those helped were police detectives.

What if the stranded driver and passengers were elderly folks or a parent with two small children?

Would the employee still have been fired? They still would have violated the same company policy, right?

I hope Mr. Daw finds a much better job--one with wise executives who will recognize and reward his willingness to help someone else in need.

The Nightmares of Frank Bender

My condolences to the family of forensic artist Frank Bender. Mr. Bender passed away in his hometown of Philadelphia on July 28 at the age of 70.

During his career, Bender worked with numerous law enforcement and families by creating clay head sculptures to help identify unclaimed bodies.  He also created time-forward sculptures--predicting what fugitives look like who have not been seen in years.

In February of last year, I wrote about Frank's last work--a 3-D sculpture of an eight-year old boy's head whose body had been found in North Carolina, but was never been identified.

Frank, battling cancer, agreed to do the work at no charge.

A film about his life is scheduled to be released next year: "The Recomposer of the Decomposed."

In reading more about the former Navy man and photographer, I saw this in the NY Times:

...Interviewers often asked Mr. Bender whether his life among the dead gave him nightmares. Yes, he replied, but not in the way you think. For years, he explained, his dreams had been peopled by the dead, and by sinister men.

The sinister men invariably attacked him, Mr. Bender said, and whenever they did, the unnamed dead rose up in his defense.

Wow.

Now that is a strong confirmation that your life work was valuable and truly an investment in helping victims and families who could never repay you.

Tuber of the Week #42: Growing Up

With a daughter who starts kindergarten this week, I am several years away from the scenario depicted in the following video.

I have been told by parents "who have been there," that time flies and young children will become a distant memory sooner than any mom or dad wants.



Well done commercial by Carmichael Lynch in Minneapolis and the folks at Subaru.

Interesting tidbit with the video--the actor portraying the concerned father is Andy Lyons.

The two girls in the video are his real-life daughters Georgie (the younger) and Lanna Lynch (the driver).

The Death of Nikki LaDue January: Part IV

Before I start the next post in this series: when writing on crime, I prefer to speak in probabilities.

I was not at Ms. LaDue January's condo the morning she was discovered.  I did not speak to anyone at the scene.  I do not have access to all the investigative reports and do not know everything that authorities and the family know.

Smarter and more experienced folks have examined this case.

As such, I'll describe my observations as more likely or less likely or something to that extent.
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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. 

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On the family's site, they identify multiple issues that warrant clarification, but rather than repeat their discussion in the next few posts, I'll offer perspective on some of the specifics concerning Nikki's death.


A) The Gun

In the photo taken by Detective Pustay, the firearm believed to have killed Ms. LaDue January is seen on the chair partially under her left thigh.  The family, several readers, and I am sure most anyone else who has examined this case, has asked, "how did a gun, allegedly used by someone to commit suicide, end up in that unusual position?" 


Photo Credit

Why would the gun not be on the floor beside or somewhere behind her?

Questions about the handgun become even more disturbing after learning the pathologist hired by the family to examine this case concluded that death occurred "very rapidly" due to a gunshot to the head.  The professional believed that the gun was in contact with her skin when fired. 

Again, if Nikki died almost instantly, why is the gun between her legs?

As regular contributor Sue stated in a comment last time: "My husband and I tried to re-enact this and couldn't at all come up with how the gun was found *under* her left thigh, partially or completely, inside or outside, whether she was standing or seated during time of impact."

I am with you Sue--I'd describe it not as impossible, but certainly as highly unlikely.

Strangely, the family includes a statement that Nikki's husband, Phil January, described the gun as "sitting beside her on a small padded wicker stool with rod-iron railing."

Whoa.

Scene photos and the detective's report describe the gun in one place, but the person who discovers Ms. LaDue January's body allegedly says the .380 was in another spot.

So, the gun was very likely moved. 

How many times though?  Once?  Twice?

Who Knows.

But why?

Here are three possible reasons:

Note: This list is not comprehensive as there are other possible explanations (panic, deceit, etc.).

1) An Accident

Death/violent crime scenes are often chaotic.  Family and friends inadvertently contaminate the scene and evidence.  First responders performing their life-saving duties enter and exit the area.  As such, the gun could have been accidentally moved by family, friends, or initial responders.  But this seems less likely: first responders are trained to do whatever it takes to keep from disturbing a scene; and would have been especially cautious due to the post mortem lividity visible (she was obviously deceased) in her legs and the item in question was a gun.   Family or friends could have moved the gun without intent, but you'd think that this would be included in statements--I did not see it. 

2) On Purpose: Safety

If someone else was in the condo when the woman died, and knew about her five-year old being asleep in another room, an unknown person could have relocated the gun to prevent the son from finding it.  Whether the death was a suicide or something more, it is reasonable to argue that the gun was hidden partially under the body for the safety of others.      

3) On Purpose: A Message

In Stacy Horn's excellent work on the NYPD's Cold Case Unit entitled "The Restless Sleep," she details the unsolved strangulation murder of Jean Sanseverino.  At the time of her death, Sanseverino had multiple dating relationships, and was separated from her husband.  She was found deceased in her bed.  One key piece of evidence was feces.  Sanseverino's killer wiped human waste on her--not the perp "accidentally had a bowel movement during the incident," but the person intentionally wiped lots of feces all over her body.  Detectives theorized that this was done by someone she knew to send a message.  Similarly, could a handgun placed in the crotch area of a deceased woman be construed as some type of message?  I say reasonable again. 

In sum, the gun was apparently moved.  If the case is ever reopened, follow-up interviews with those at the scene may shed some light as to the when and the why.

I'll have more next Monday.
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All posts on this topic can be viewed by clicking here: Nikki LaDue January.

Snow Cones and Trigger Pull

After my trip, I had a post scheduled, but instead wanted to comment on this hot-button story from California.
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Hey Dad, mom took us to a cool event this evening. We got free hot dogs, balloons, and while mom was at the snow cone machine, I dry-fired an AR-15 rifle!

Young children attending a festival in Santa Rosa's South Park neighborhood Saturday were allowed to handle weapons used by the city's SWAT team, causing some to question the appropriateness of such a display at a family event promoting safe communities.

Photos taken at the event show a Santa Rosa police officer talking with a group of youths as a young boy holds a fully-automatic assault rifle while looking through its sniper scope. Another shows a boy perhaps as young as 5 years old grabbing the grip of a riot gun on a table covered with gear beside the city's SWAT command vehicle.


Photo Credit: Attila Nagy
The images, which were circulated by email among a group of concerned citizens, were forwarded to Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Marsha Vas Dupre, who said she was “alarmed and devastated” by the display and questioned the judgment shown by police.

Attila Nagy, who snapped the photos and circulated them, said he's in favor of community outreach by the police, but thinks they'd get a better response if they left their military-grade arsenal at home...

But police and event organizers defended the display as a successful community outreach effort that is in line with the department's efforts to demystify law enforcement generally and its SWAT team in particular.

“We encourage our cops to get out of the car and interact with the community,” Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm said...

I am surprised that the agency's legal advisor hasn't stopped this unique show-and-tell.

There is a good reason why DARE and other education-based officers do not bring caches of weapons to school as part of their curriculum--it is called liability.

Law enforcement agencies that choose to educate teens about firearms by letting them handle them should, at the least, have clearly gained parental consent.

I don't see parental approval being part of this traveling demonstration.

In addition, I would want to personally verify that the gun was unloaded before allowing my kiddos to take a look.

Because, you know, at least one law enforcement officer was sure he was demonstrating gun safety to students with an unloaded firearm--when, well, ouch.

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Have a good weekend everyone.

More Awkward

Continuing with the recycled posts while I am out of town...
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What trouble can left alone dad get into with two little ones in need of diaper changes while we are visiting a local recreation area?

Wait this is me, so the answer is plenty of course.

Fortunately, in this previous post entitled "Awkward," the kids have me feeling a little uncomfortable, but it is nothing compared to the experience of a local education director caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Bonus with that post--I also publicized images of famous urinals.

Now that is classy stuff.

More Snitches Get Stitches

I am out of town most of this week, so I'll offer a couple of recycled posts.

That is an advantage of multiple years of blogging--an author does have options if he/she wants to pick a post from the past.

In any event, thanks for your patience...


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Last week, I saw where authorities in the UK are reaching out to officials in Boston for ideas in combating England's gang problems--which have been a driver in the recent rioting there.

Among other suggestions, I hope that leaders relay the findings of a 2007 Boston-based study on the theme Snitches Get Stitches; emphasizing the importance of police in developing and encouraging open communication with young people in relation to intelligence gathering.

What is Snitches Get Stitches and why did authorities in New Mexico catch grief for a newspaper help wanted ad seeking new confidential informants?

You can find the answer and more by clicking on this post from early 2009.

The Death of Nikki LaDue January: Part III

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 Investigator

The lead detective for the Nikki LaDue January case was Pass Christian Police Department investigator Thomas Pustay.

At the time, Detective Pustay had over 20 years of law enforcement experience.

He was contacted by officers at the scene and arrived at Ms. LaDue January's condo the morning she was discovered deceased.

Pustay spoke with the initial medical and police responders.

He interviewed the Nikki's husband, Phil January, as well as her friend Nancy Burge who also had entered the condo.

He examined the death scene, collected some items, and took photos.

He coordinated with the county coroner in processing the incident.

And most importantly, Det. Pustay weighed the evidence for a short time and determined that Ms. LaDue January committed suicide.

Though police agency policies vary, generally there is less work for a suicide versus a homicide.

No intensive canvassing for witnesses.

Limited tests and forensic work.

No follow-up search warrants of cell phone records, computers, or other electronic equipment.

No thorough background check of the victim to identify persons of interest in her past or in the present.

In this alleged suicide, no diagrams were completed to record the precise location of items in relation to the body.

No initial autopsy was conducted.

So, little was done at the LaDue January death scene--as it was ruled just another incident involving someone taking their own life.

But what happens when the investigator's integrity is later shown to be lacking?

In 2005, the married Thomas Pustay was convicted of  two counts of touching of a child for lustful purposes and three counts of sexual battery.  Prosecutors stated that the former detective began abusing the victim (a family friend) at age 9, and it lasted for 7 years.

Pustay is now serving 40 years in a Mississippi prison.

Former Detective Thomas Pustay (Source: MS Dept. of Corrections)

One item of note from the article on Pustay's conviction is his admission of lying to police investigators.

So, it is understandable for Ms. LaDue January's family and those examining the death case to question the credibility of this lead detective.

A detective who has shown a pattern of dishonesty and poor judgment.

And, a detective leading an investigation where the quality of the evidence saved was questionable--not to mention at least one item that was collected and then apparently misplaced.

The family's site includes detailed questions that seem to be unanswered in this case.

Next time, I'll take a look at some of those issues and offer my own observations.

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

Ha, I Fooled Ya

Though I enjoy executing a good practical joke from time to time, I have my share of failures. 

Fortunately, my bad luck is nothing in comparison to this:

VILAS COUNTY, WI - Vilas County Deputy Sheriff Ty Peterson is a 12-year veteran with the department and the Vilas County Sheriff's Department says he allegedly shot a 20-year-old female relative Monday night.

Vilas County Sheriff Frank Tomlanovich says he's never encountered an incident like this during his law enforcement career.

Tomlanovich says Peterson was doing chores around the house when he thought he was being attacked by a cougar, one which Peterson had seen earlier in the day.

Tomlanovich says it looks like a practical joke that went terribly wrong.

 
Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson
"He'll be either eligible to return to work or should some other action be necessary, we'll take those steps," Tomlanovich says.

Tomlanovich says Deputy Peterson is the department's K-9 officer and has a clean record with the department.

Glad everyone was ok after this incident.

Hopefully, the victim will reserve her talent in performing wildlife impressions for the next Western Washington Predator Hunter Association's seminar on "Cougar Calling" or something.

In any event, she may have inadvertently discovered a new career path.
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Have a good weekend everyone.

Cupcake Dilemma

I was at home with the kid crew last week and in an upstairs bedroom helping Sissy with something when my extra sensory parent ears sounded an alert.

I jumped to attention and listened as I heard the developmental specialist who works with our younger son say,"Hold on Luca.  Stop.  Daddy will clean that up."

Down the stairs in record time, I arrived to see Luca sitting on the kitchen floor eating a cupcake.  White icing was smeared on his shirt and in a few small piles on the tile. 

The plastic plate with the cupcakes that was on the table was now upside down on the floor.  All cupcakes were lost--victims of the dirty floor.

Well, except for the one that Luca was consuming.  He was obviously unconcerned whether his cupcake was edible or not ,despite it going for a roll under the dining room table.

The specialist looked at me and said:

"Sorry.  He reached for them and they all fell. I was trying to clean them up when he started eating one."

"Should I stop him?" I thought to myself.

"Can I see any obvious piles of dog hair hanging from it?"

"Does the five second rule apply to cupcakes?"

I looked at Luca and he was lost in dessert merriment.

With no new cupcake to offer (all of them spilled), I decided that trying to take it away from the little boy was going  to be a losing battle. 

With me being the big loser.

Luca won the day.

I know who was the most disappointed after I cleaned up the mess: our big dog "Yellow Buffalo" who was unfortunately outside at the time the plate of sweets hit the floor; otherwise he would have devoured all of those cupcakes before I Luca or I realized what had happened.

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So what do you think?

Should I have taken the dirty cupcake from the kiddo and offered a substitute treat?

Can I avoid the "bad parent" label by using this as a teaching moment and proactively working to explain why one should not consume desserts off of the floor?  

Tuber of the Week #41: Soul Surfer

Does the term "tenacity" need any better illustration than the positive attitude displayed in the following video about a child from the New York City area (Kendall Curnuck) battling a potentially terminal illness?

I don't think so.

Just seeing her strength and then watching her dream of Hawaii while practicing surfing in her front lawn certainly diminishes anything that I consider a problem in my own life.




I am just glad that sports star and woman of faith Bethany Hamilton refuses to follow Charles Barkley's proclamation from years ago--that of "I am not a role model."

The Death of Nikki LaDue January: Part II

Continuing with this strange case...
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Case Summary


Photo Source: Facebook Group

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--so most of the items present were not processed, no autopsy was conducted, no blood was collected, and so on.
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Additional Case Details*

  • Less than a month before Ms. LaDue January's death, her husband Phil had secured a new job in Louisiana and was already there, while Nikki was organizing the move from Mississippi. 
  • The night prior to her death, she went out with a friend named Eric Hunsicker and they went to a club and a bar.  Her son was with a sitter (the sitter later told police that Nikki seemed fine when they spoke).  Reportedly, Nikki became visible upset after making a phone call at around 8 pm and left to retrieve her son.  Eric stated that he talked to Nikki by phone at about 12:30 am and she asked him to tell no one about their time together.
  • On the morning of the woman's death, Phil was to arrive with a U-Haul to load their possessions.  Nikki's friend Nancy Burge was also going to help that morning, and then Nikki, her young son Zack, and Nancy were going to Florida for a week to visit the Nikki's family.
  • Allegedly, Nikki told others that she did not plan to go to Louisiana to join her husband, but was going to stay in Florida with her son and start a new life.  
  • The gun found at the scene belonged to Phil.  It is unknown if the recovered gun was used in Nikki's death (not tested).  According to the family's site, 18 of the phone calls to Nikki's phone between 11 pm and 2 am on the morning of her death were described by Phil as part of their argument. He allegedly told police that he may have said some hurtful things that could have caused her to search the condo for his handgun.
  • A coroner's report lists alcohol, cocaine, and amphetamines in her system, but the levels are unknown. 
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So, let me summarize:
  1. Unusual death scene involving a wife and mother
  2. No suicide note found
  3. Small child left alone in condo for hours
  4. Couple that was scheduled to move, and wife may have been having second thoughts
  5. Married woman who had gone out with another man prior to dying
  6. Husband and wife allegedly arguing over the phone prior to her death
  7. Woman's body was found to contain drugs and alcohol, but at unknown levels
  8. Authorities rule death a suicide onsite--little evidence collection and no autopsy 

I'll continue with the case next Monday and start with the lead investigator in the case, Tom Pustay, who is now as far removed from policing as a living individual can be.

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

*Note: This information was sourced from here.

Why Police are Paranoid

Police officers are paranoid, and for good reason:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A Metro police officer stabbed a homeless man in the leg Friday morning after the man attempted to reach for his gun in the bathroom of a well-known Nashville bakery.

Police spokesperson Don Aaron told Nashville's News 2 Officer Marty Crowder entered Provence Breads and Cafe located on the corner of Church Street and Sixth Avenue downtown around 10 a.m. to use the restroom.

Aaron described the bathroom as "small" with only one urinal and one stall.

As Crowder was using the urinal, Aaron said the homeless man, identified as 43-year-old James Collier, entered the restroom, locked the door behind him and cornered the officer.

Crowder asked the man to step back but he refused.

Moments later, Collier reached for Crowder's department-issued gun and a scuffle ensued. Officer Crowder pulled out a knife from his vest and stabbed the man in upper thigh in an attempt to protect his weapon...

Both Collier and the officer were taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center...

Well done by the officer in winning the struggle.

When I worked as a police officer in uniform, where possible, I carefully selected my restroom stops.

I tried to limit it to agency facilities like booking, the station, or the city's gas facility; as well as a kind overnight employee at the local convenience store (named "Floyd" if anyone remembers he was the topic of a guest post entitled Failing Floyd: A Life Lesson I wrote over at Raindog Blue's blog last year) would let me use the company's bathroom--which was for one person and locked.

It is stories like this one that support an officer's paranoid little voice that is constantly telling him or her to be suspicious of anything and everything.

As such, they are prepared when a pit-stop transforms into a life-and-death struggle.

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I hope everyone has a relaxing weekend.

Inspiring

I am not a poet.

I do have respect for those with such talents, and the blogging world offers some excellent poets.

Three of my favorites are Brian at WaystationOne, Jinksy at Napplenotes, and Joanny at LiveDreamLove.

So, instead of me struggling to create a verse that touches the soul but getting stuck on "violets are blue...", I offer the following from another odist, Eugene Peterson, that had the desired impact on me:

A beech tree in winter, white

Intricacies unconcealed

Against sky blue and billowed

Clouds, carries in his emptiness

Ripeness: sap ready to rise

On signal, buds alert to burst

To leaf. And then after a season

Of summer a lean ring to remember

The lush fulfilled promises.

Empty again in wise poverty

That lets the reaching branches stretch

A millimeter more towards heaven,

The bole expands ever so slightly

And push roots into the firm

Foundation, lucky to be leafless:

Deciduous reminder to let it go.

Fantasy Football: If Anyone is Interested

Note: To keep separate my blabbering on the NFL and fantasy football, I started a blog entitled: Slamdunks on Pro Football.
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Since I usually don't post on Wednesday, I thought I would use this opportunity to make an announcement on a topic that 95% of my blog readers have no interest: The National Football League/American Pro Football.

Specifically this: I am hosting a fantasy football league for the coming season; despite being beaten last year by my 4th grade son. 

Still confident and blessed with a short memory, I wanted to open up the league to include any reader of this blog who is interested.

The contest will have ten teams, is open to beginners, and will be hosted over at NFL.com's Fantasy Football.

It is free and I'll provide the winner with a gift card (that is if you can defeat me)--details to be determined later.

If you are interested in playing, give me a holler at theslamdunktrove@gmail.com, and I'll send you the specifics.

For those who have no interest in this topic, happy Wednesday and I'll be back tomorrow with regular content. 

Urgent Call

Background: Our five-year old daughter, Sissy, regularly practices grabbing mom's cell phone and dialing her grandma, aunt, or anyone else on the Mrs.' programmed list who will chat with her.

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"That'll be $23.07."

"Sure," I reply as I pay the man behind the counter.

It is a good thing the little ones don't consume much pizza yet; soon, I'll realize the full fiscal impact of a family carry-out dinner.

"Here, you go sir.  Have a good night," the employee adds as he hands me the boxes and bags that comprise our order.

I get everything balanced between my arms, hands and chin, and turn to exit the restaurant.

RRRRRRRRingggg.; RRRRRRRinngggg.

My cargo shorts emit the annoying classic bell tone of my cell.

"What timing," I mumble knowing that I better answer it in case of an urgent message from the family that includes additional marching orders.

I place the pizzas on a side table, fish the phone from the third pocket I try amidst an unused diaper, Kleenexes, wipes, a folded sheet of paper about what I can't remember, keys, and wallet, and respond to the call with a hasty "Hello."

"You're stupid daddy."

"Uh, yes, hi Sissy.  What do you all need?"

"You are stupid."

"You just called to say that?"

"Yep."

"Ok, see you in a few." I end the call, grab my pile, and with little grace or dexterity, stumble to my car.

Yes, father and daughter bonding--treasured memories that will last a lifetime.

The Death of Nikki LaDue January: Part I

I wanted to dedicate some time in the following weeks to a "closed" death investigation from July of 2002--that of Nichole "Nikki" LaDue January.

I try to base my crime writings on news accounts and official documents, but since this case is dated, I am relying on one of the police reports and the family's website for this post.

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Nichole LaDue January (Photo Credit)

On Monday morning, July 29, 2002, officers from the Pass Christian Police Department near Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi, investigated a possible suicide on the third floor of the Gulf Palm Condominiums.

According to a police report, an investigator arrived and observed the body of a white female approximately 30 years old on the balcony of the condo.

She was seated in a chair facing the southwest with her head slumped back and to the right.

The investigator stated that there was a single gun shot wound to the right temple area of her head with an exit wound on the left side of her head.

Her eyes were blackened and she was dressed in shorts, a white tank top, and a sweater buttoned around her neck.

A Sterling .380 caliber pistol was partially under her left thigh on the chair.

Her right leg was propped up against the table in front of her.

A cordless phone on the table was covered in blood.

There were two different brands of cigarettes (Marlboro mediums and Marlboro regular) and two different lighters on the table in front of her.

A bullet was located in a chair on the next balcony to the north, and was believed to have passed through the victim's head, struck a screen door and then bounced to where it was found.

A condo employee found a shell casing in the pool--which is situated below the balcony and twenty-feet to the west.

The investigator also indicated that he believed that the victim had been dead for several hours.

The victim, Nikki LaDue January, was to be moving that day--separating from Phil, her husband of two years.*

A friend of January's arrived at 9:30 am and was let into the apartment by the deceased's five-year old son who told her that mom was sleeping.

The friend was unable to locate the Nikki (stated she did not look on the balcony), but the victim's husband, Phil, arrived a short time later and found the body.

Authorities concluded on-scene that the death was a suicide.

As a result, most of the possible evidence was not processed, no autopsy was conducted, no blood was collected, and so on.

But did Nikki LaDue January take her own life?

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I'll continue the discussion of this suspicious death next time, and all posts on this topic can be viewed by clicking here: Nikki LaDue January.

*Note: I had incorrectly stated that Ms. LaDue January was leaving for Louisiana the day of her death--it was modified to just say that she was moving.