Odd Suspensions

Police officers make the news for a variety of reasons.

Obviously, not all of them positive.

But is it always bad when officers who are given suspensions, take their case to reporters?

Not in every situation, as this story details:

Even before the NYPD was embroiled in a dustup over dirty dancing, four cops got caught up in a Fourth of July football-throwing fiasco, the Daily News has learned.

Two of the officers are fighting the discipline raps they received for tossing around a football with a young boy at a Bronx housing project - charging oversensitivity from police brass jeopardizes community relations.

"I don't think throwing a football to a 7-year-old boy is misconduct," said Officer Catherine Guzman, a 17-year veteran of the force. "It was the Fourth of July, it was 96 degrees out and we were interacting with the community.

"Everybody was happy," she added.

That is, everybody except Deputy Chief James McNamara, the commanding officer of the Bronx Housing Bureau. He witnessed the football tossing and gave the cops a dressing-down worthy of Vince Lombardi.

"He was irate and berated us in front of everyone," Guzman recalled. "He said, 'What are you doing? Do you realize you are on overtime?'"...

The four officers involved in the 2010 football-throwing incident at the Webster Houses were slapped with command disciplines, and two accepted a penalty of two vacation days.

But Guzman and Officer Mariana Diaz are appealing the ruling and taking their case to the department trial room.

Suspended for throwing a football with a seven-year-old boy in your zone?


Police officers simply can't be effective crime fighters if they are seen as faceless storm troopers who never have positive interactions with the community.  Under most circumstances, throwing a ball with a child "on the clock" is not something that should be discouraged.

With it now in the media, I think police administrators will be highly scrutinized by the public for this apparent case of injustice against the pigskin throwing officers.

I'd expect the charges to be reduced or even dropped.


Have a good weekend everyone.

On Steve Bartman

On Tuesday night, I watched the ESPN documentary Catching Hell directed by Alex Gibney.

The film debuted at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival, and it was excellent.

The show's premise is to explore how society typically tries to simplify failure.  Rather than see all of the miscues that contribute to not succeeding, people tend to focus on one shortcoming or perceived shortcoming to create a "scapegoat."

"Catching Hell" focuses on two such scapegoats in baseball history--one being that of Chicago Cubs fan Steve Bartman.

In October of 2003 at a Cubs playoff game, Bartman, along with seven other fans reached out to catch a foul ball that was hit near the stands. 

Bartman's hand was closest and interfered with Cubs outfielder Moises Alou causing the player to miss the ball--and what would have been an out.

What happened next to Steve Bartman, in the short and long term, was shameful. 

Television coverage and announcers singled out Bartman.

A near riot at the stadium ensued.

His face invoked anger among fans.

Talking heads like ESPN and ABC's Michael Wilbon spoke of "hatred" for Steve.  Really, hatred...

He received multiple death threats.

Then Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (the same character who was later impeached and convicted of a range of crimes) fueled the fires by trying to be funny in announcing that there would be "no pardon" for the young man.

The press published Steve Bartman's name and home address--police then had to provide 24 hour security at his residence.

His life was forever altered.

Even almost ten years later, Bartman lives the life of a hermit living and working in the Chicago area. 

His friends say that he put the incident behind him, but to preserve his family's privacy, he won't even apply for a credit card--trying to prevent some still angry fan from tracking him down.

All this for simply trying to catch a foul ball at a game.

Something almost anyone else in the same situation would have done. 

Strange how life is.

One unsung hero from this sad tale was Erika Amundsen who worked security during the game.  She helped Steve escape the angry mob at the stadium and hid him in a secured area until the game ended.

She then helped him to change his appearance, and led him away from the stadium where she tried to secure a cab--so that Steve could get home. 

When Steve was recognized on the streets, the pair fled to Erika's nearby apartment where she allowed him to take refuge until the early hours of the morning. 

She risked her personal safety and offered her own residence to someone that she had never met--a person who could have been a serial killer for all she knew. 

But, she just saw him as a person in need.

Erika was finally able to get a vehicle to shuttle Steve home.

With the show detailing her compassion and courage, I hope that Erika's actions are now recognized and rewarded.

It is not something that many folks would have done.

In any event, the documentary is moving and well worth your time.

Though if you are a sports fan like me, it will have you reflect on priorities and how low on the list that sports should actually be.

I Like

Last week, the Mrs. showed me an in-class assignment that "Sissy" our kindergartener had completed.

The teacher asked each student to: "Complete the following sentence and then draw a picture that represents what you like."

The top of the paper had this sentence, and the bottom was her corresponding crayon drawing:

I like _________________________.

So, how does Sissy finish the sentence?

With this:

I like my hair                     .  

And then she drew a picture of her playing outside her home in pig-tails.

Yes, she is evidently geeked about her long brown hair.

A glam girl spreads her wings, and leaves the nest.

And no, I would not have answered the same way.

I'd need to alter the sentence to something like: "I miss my hair," and then it would be representative of my current situation.

The Death of Nikki LaDue January: Part VIII

This is second half of my post on the 911 call from the Nikki LaDue January case.

You can read Part One here

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. 


D) The 911 Call  (Part Two) 

As discussed last time, the family produced a reenactment of the call, and it can be listened to by going to this post.

In cases that are quickly closed, as in Nikki LaDue January's death, follow-up is deemed unnecessary.

As such, actions like reviewing audio from the 911 call may not occur until well after the determination has been made--if at all.

If authorities had reviewed the call audio prior to classifiying the death as a suicide, I believe several parts of the conversation would have been of interest to them:  

--The Caller: "Terrified" but Had Limited Information--

Family friend Nancy Burge, the woman who made the call to police, stated that Phil January (Nikki's husband) had asked her to call 911.  She said that she was unsure exactly what had happened inside, but that "somebody I am concerned about, I am terrified, committed suicide"  (1:29).

Why was she terrified?  Allegedly and prior to her death, Nikki had been staying at Nancy's residence because she (Nikki) was afraid to be by herself in the condo.   

Nancy also told authorities that Nikki was on the balcony, and that she could see Phil (also on the balcony) from where she was.

--The Caller: "He Came in Tonight"--

Referring to Phil, Nancy stated that "he came in tonight" (3:01).  It was believed that Phil had just arrived at the condo that morning after driving from Louisiana.  With the husband and Nikki arguing on the phone a few hours before she was discovered deceased, it would be imperative for investigators to have definitive timelines for the activities of various persons from the previous night and the morning in question.

--The Caller: "Just Take Him Out to the Car"--

Nancy tells someone to "just take him out to the car" (2:30)--evidently referring to Nikki's five-year old son.

Who was at the scene?  Did anyone else enter the condo?

When authorities respond to a death scene with a child as a potential witness (and, as in this case, may be the only witness), I believe that it is imperative that an investigator speak to the young person.

Obviously, speaking to a child is not always immediately possible due to circumstances involving the death, the child's age, etc., but it is essential as children tend to be the most honest witnesses that authorities can hope to find. 

In this case, the decision was made to not speak to Nikki's son about the death--he has never been interviewed.

Also, removing the child from the scene (as Nancy describes) is a reasonable action, but authorities need to know where he is so that plans can be made to speak with him. 

In addition to asking if anyone else was at the condo, information that the investigator would hope to glean from an interview would include:

--What did mom tell you before you went to sleep?

--Did mom say if you all were staying the night at the condo? 

--Was the door unlocked when you let Nancy inside?

--The Dispatcher: Calling the Condo--

The dispatcher closes the exchange by obtaining the condo's phone number, and then stating that he will call there directly.

Remember the bloody phone that was photographed on the table in front of the deceased?

After authorities disconnected with Nancy, the dispatcher tried unsuccessfully to reach Phil inside the condo. 

Evidently, the portable phone was inoperable. 


In sum, certain parts of the 911 call are unusual or incomplete, and the tape of the call would be helpful to detectives investigating this case--generating several follow-up activities and questions. 

If it had not been closed.

But back to the dispatcher's inability to call into the condo.

Was that blood-covered telephone not working because the battery was dead, or is there another explanation?

I believe it was the latter, and I'll explain why next time.

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

At the Accident Scene

Another example of the most frequently apprehended type of criminal: The Moron...

Tampa, Fla. -- A Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputy was injured in an altercation with a man who tried to steal a pickup truck from a witness at the scene of a crash that killed two people.

Authorities say 20-year-old Colby Wade Cardoso stopped his vehicle early Monday near the crash site on U.S. Highway 301 and tried to start a truck belonging to a witness.

Deputies say Cardoso ran when the truck didn't stop and was pursued by 53-year-old Deputy Carl Luis. The deputy caught up with Cardoso and tried to detain him. Cardoso violently resisted, hitting the deputy in the hands and neck. The suspect, who tried to take the deputy's gun, received upper body injuries.

Both were taken to the hospital. Cardoso now faces multiple charges, including resisting arrest with violence.


Trying to steal (allegedly trying I mean) a truck at the scene of a double fatality? 

A scene crawling with law enforcement and other emergency responders?


I wish the deputy a speedy recovery.


Have a good weekend everyone.

Star Wars and Tourism

Well, the revolution ended earlier this year and the despised dictator has been deposed. 

And what is one hope for Tunisians try to start anew?

Capitalize on the country's place in the Star Wars saga:

TATOUINE, TUNISIA – Residents of the town that sprouted the Rebel Alliance in the "Star Wars" saga say they hope their country's own revolution, combined with Friday's Blu-Ray re-release of the classic movies, will bring a much-needed economic boost to this North African nation.

The original 1977 "Star Wars," later given the expanded title of "Episode IV: A New Hope," put this scruffy, sprawling desert oasis on the map when the surrounding region was used for principal photography.

The director, George Lucas, even took Tatouine's name as inspiration for the sandy, twin-sunned home planet of lightsaber-wielding hero Luke Skywalker. The spelling and pronunciation are slightly different in the films than in real life: Tatooine ("Tatoo-een") versus Tatouine ("Tat-ween").

Today the town is a casual stop-off point on desert tours for curious French and German tourists and foreign journalists streaming into Libya to cover the fall of yet another toppled Arab dictator, Muammar Qaddafi...

There are no dedicated tour companies serving the "Star Wars" sets, which are connected by some 600 miles of poorly-signed, potholed roads and open desert.

Four-wheel-drive off-road trips briefly take in the occasional site along the way, such as the subterranean Skywalker homestead at Matmata - once a home for members of the Berber tribe - and the alien-infested Cantina at Adjim on the island of Djerba. The spaceport of Mos Espa was built to scale for "Episode II: Attack of the Clones" in 2000, and the huge set remains intact at Oung Jmel, 24 miles from the southwest town of Tozeur...

With the universal popularity of Star Wars, William Shatner excluded, I think Tunisia may have a potential tourism gem.

I mean if New Richmond, Ohio can make the Cardboard Boat Museum a success, while Georgia Southern University can promote their hosting of the U.S. National Tick Collection, the combo of Tunisian desert and Star Wars sounds downright appealing to me.

Song of the Wild Goose

I don't claim to be a mind-reader.

As such, the following is just based on a true story.

Note: The term Chillisquaque in the post below is pronounced "Chill-ih-squaw-gey."


I never thought it would be like this.

The tall and slender woman with a weathered face thought as she stood on her raised front porch taking deliberate sips from a mug.

Printed on the side of the mug was "Grandma."

Steam from the coffee floated in front of the woman's eyes as she listened to nearby geese verbally greet the sunrise with their unmistakable chorus.

She continued her thoughts.

What does the local tribe call the geese singing?



Meaning "Song of the Wild Goose" or something like that?

Yes, beautiful.

Across the street and past several reflective lawns thanks to the morning dew, she can see the white marble headstone.

She had just planted flowers in front of her husband Tom's resting place.

To the side of Tom's grave, was a single American flag and a metal marker that signified his service in the Vietnam War.

Tom, I hope you can see how fast your grandkids are growing.

She missed her husband, but was relieved that his suffering had recently ended after a long battle with kidney disease.

She took another sip of coffee and this time noticed the "Grandma..." label.

Grandma huh?

She shook her head.

The woman never much felt like a grandmother.

Practically, she was the only "mom" that the sleeping nine-year-old granddaughter and six-year-old grandson had ever known.

Years of substance abuse had rendered their birth mother incapable of caring for the two children, and they have been living with "grandmother" for years now.

A recent court proceeding had changed her title from "grandma" to "custodial guardian" or acting mom, but the kids would not notice the difference.

She was the one who loved them and cared for their daily needs.

Even though this was grandma's second time around--having raised four children already.

The geese sang again.


And, good morning to you my friends, she whispered.

She took one last glance at Tom's grave, smiled, and entered the soon-to-be-bustling home.

A full day of school and after-school activities awaited this acting mom/grandma, and she was ready to help these children excel.

The Death of Nikki LaDue January: Part VII

Last time, I wrote about the victim's feet and how they add to the litany of details that make this death case unusual.

Today, I want to discuss the 911 call.


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. 


C) The 911 Call--an Introduction (Part One of two on the 911 call)

Regular readers of my missing persons and crime posts know that I tend to bore with my repeated use of the disclaimer: "The public (me included) knows less than 1/2 of the details of an investigation."

As such, it is generally irresponsible for me to make strong judgments about witnesses, authorities, evidence, leads, etc.

Generally that is.

The death of Nikki LaDue January presents an exception to this rule.

Since authorities declared the case "Closed," they have released much more about the investigation.

The family obtained photos from the scene.

They have reports from the responding sergeant, the lead investigator, and the county's coroner.

In contrast to most cases, much is known about the investigation into the death of Nikki LaDue January.

Using these documents, the family learned what actions were taken as well as what was not done.   

Most importantly, the released information allowed the family to understand the rationale of authorities who had declared the death of Nikki LaDue January a suicide.

Not that knowing the basis for a determination has been comforting--as the documents leave many questions about Nikki's death unanswered.

One other case aspect obtained by the family was a recording of the 911 call made that resulted in the Pass Christian Police responding--the initial call reporting that Ms. January's body had been found.

As with many 911 calls, the audio is not the best quality.  The dialogue between Nikki's friend Nancy Burge and the police dispatcher is sometimes difficult to comprehend.

Rather than just post the original hard-to-decipher 911 call, what do the family and representatives working with them do?

They make/obtain a written transcript from the original call, and use it to create an audio recording of that 911 call--one that matches the conversation and the emotional/non-emotional responses of the participants.

The audio was then inserted into a video, and a simulated timeline was added.

The video is below.

This week, I wanted to let folks listen to the call (again this is a reproduction).

What things catch your attention?

--Nancy's (the caller) relatively calm presence?

--She stating that "he came in tonight"? (3:01)

--Nancy telling someone to "...just take him out to the car"--evidently referring to the dead woman's child? (2:30)

--The dispatcher obtaining the condo's phone number, and then stating that he will call there directly?

--Something else?

Simulated Timeline and 911 Call from Nikki LaDue January on Vimeo.

About this video: now that is innovation.

I'll talk more about the 911 call next week.


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

What Not to Do at 430 AM

On things not to do at 4:30 a.m. :

If you're going to mow your lawn at an odd hour in Oklahoma City, you might make sure all of your neighbors think it's a reasonable time first.

Phil Gage, 40, of Oklahoma City, ran into trouble Friday when he mowed his yard at 4:30 a.m., drawing complaints from at least one neighbor.

City officials said a man arrested last week after a neighbor complained about him mowing his lawn at 4:30 a.m. is charged with violating the city's noise ordinance.

A section of the ordinance prohibits noise that “annoys or disturbs a reasonable person of normal sensitivities.”

It will be up to the city's municipal court system to decide if such a person would be annoyed by Phil Ray Gage, 40, mowing his lawn in the early hours of Aug. 26.

His first appearance in court is scheduled for Sept. 26, a court spokesman said...

...Gage's house has a lawn in slightly better shape than many of the other drought-ravaged lawns on his middle-class street in the 2500 block of NW 33...

Where was this officer on Saturday mornings when I was a really sleepy high schooler, and our next door neighbor would power-up his monster riding lawn mower to work on his yard at a dreadful waking hour?

Where is the justice for my lost slumber?


Say it again?

I slept until noon back then?

And, he started mowing after 10 am on Saturday mornings back in the good ol' days?

Well...er...uh...yes...I guess it was around ten am, but...but... it was still way too early.

Ok, nothing to see here move along.

Note: As always, there is more to the story, but it is unrelated to the theme of my post.  Here is the officer's report--it does contain very offensive language, just so you know.


Have a good weekend everyone.

Just Lightly Tether the Child

I was glad to hear that missing child Joshua Robb was found:

An 8-year-old autistic boy who ran away from school to look for his mom and dad was found in relatively good shape more than 24 hours after he went missing, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"He's drinking water ... eating ... it's elation ... relief," San Bernardino County sheriff's Lt. Rick Ells told reporters.

The boy, Joshua Robb, took off from a playground at his elementary school in Twin Peaks just after 11 a.m. on Monday, outrunning teachers who chased him and vanishing into San Bernardino National Forest, officials said.

"He's rather quick and this kind of behavior where he runs off is typical," the San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Bachman told the Associated Press at the time.

Joshua is "severely autistic," officials say, and he doesn't respond well to loud voices or people calling his name...

The article included a troubling aspect of Joshua's home life:

...Joshua's parents had recently lost their house to foreclosure, according to local reports.

He was taken into protective custody after a realtor called social services to report that the boy had been restrained while the family moved out of their home, according to NBC Los Angeles.

"We had to lightly tether him while we were moving stuff out of our house," the father, Ron Robb, said...

"Lightly tether", huh?

When I hear an excuse like that, I immediately imagine other scenarios when a child was "lightly" tethered.

So that one could squeeze in 30 minutes of Farmville?

When one needed an hour nap?

During that fun cookout the family hosted?

When the big game was on Sunday?

I think I can make such a proclamation--having a child on the spectrum, who may or may not respond to his name being called, is unpredictable, and who has running speed similar to my observations of the Roadrunner from the old Looney Tunes cartoon, I believe there is no substitution for "watching" such a child.

Watching means attentive with eyes on the little one.

When I am watching our youngest, I can't be blogging, enjoying the television, napping, or whatever. I best be in the room with him and cognizant of his actions--so that I am not trying to portray, to a national audience, poor parenting involving an inhumane restraint as a viable child-care approach.

Happy Anniversary from a Clueless Husband

What does a predominantly clueless husband say when his wife greets him with "Happy Anniversary" on the morning before he thinks is the actual celebration day of over a dozen years of marriage?

I mean after giving his best deer-in-headlights immitation?

And, conducting a couple second brain search through multiple mental databases to test his strong feeling that: "Man, isn't the 8th on Monday?"

Well, this scatterbrain husband enthusiastically responds as predicted:

"Happy Anniversary, ma'am," and I quick step to the next room to retrieve the prepared gift.

The exchange made for a good laugh a few hours later when the Mrs. confessed that we were celebrating our anniversary a day early.

As any husband does, I'll just save the memory of this minor mishap for later to cancel out one of my future screw-ups--hopefully it will be enough.


With the flooding we have been battling this week, I did not have time to write a post for the Nikki LaDue January series. 

For anyone wanting more information on the case, blogger True Crime Diva recently posted thoughts on it.

I'll talk more about that case next Monday.


Thanks again to everyone for their prayers and kind words.

Our family dodged a bullet last week as the flood waters reached within five yards of our porch before receding.  The high water damaged many of neighbors' homes so we spent much of the weekend helping them and cleaning up.

The kids continued to make the most of incident.  Big brother got his fishing rod out and tried to hook a big one by casting his line from our porch into the liquid filled yard and street. 

Little Luca called the high water his "beach" and drew chalk starfish, crabs, and beach blankets on the little space of driveway  that was not submerged--though he was not actually allowed to touch the muddy water.

Sissy, played with the neighbor's dog and sat on their truck's tailgate sipping lemonade.

Since we moved most of our stuff to the second floor, while waiting and watching, the Mrs. declared the day "a cleaning day" after discovery all of the yuck that was hiding behind the furniture that we had moved (I tried to be invisible as best as possible after this declaration was made).

And me?

I realized that, though going without a shower for a few days has been fun and reminds me of some teenage guy summer camp that I attended many years ago, the green cloud of funk that follows me wherever I go is probably close to burning holes in the ozone, and will limit my future positive social interactions with folks unless an intervention occurs. 

Just be glad this blog does not include a smell-o-vision app.

Note: I had no idea there was a history of smell-o-vision, and that someone cleverly wrote an article on top movies they would like to see with this concept.

Anyway, we hope to have our services restored this week sometime--and I'll be first for an appointment with the bar soap.

Rain Rain Go Away

Thanks to everyone for the encouragement and kind words via the email and post comments yesterday.

Still busy pumping water here, but at least the kids and dog are having fun with the new and unplanned "backyard swimming pool."

Splish, Splash.

Older boy even asked: "Hey dad, if we run out of toilet water can we fill the bowl with Pepsi? Will it still work then?"

Give a young mind a day off from school, and he really has no idea what to do with himself.

Well, we expect to lose power (including Internet) overnight sometime, so have a nice weekend everyone, and I hope to be back next week.

Accidental Discharge

Note: The rain continues to fall here, flood waters are rising, and the our humble abode is beginning to resemble a houseboat. That said, I may or may not be a very active blogger over the next few days--I'll be focused on bailing water instead.

I saw this sad story from Georgia last week:

Tiffany Bishop (Photo Credit

JACKSON, Ga. - The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking for answers after an apparent accidental shooting at a Butts County firing range that left a probation officer dead.

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Tiffany Bishop, a staff member at the Georgia Diagnostic Prison in Jackson was killed on Wednesday after an apparent accidental discharge of a gun during a classroom training exercise.

John Bankhead of the GBI said, "For whatever reason, the instructor's weapon discharged and hit a probation officer who was in the class, and that probation officer has died."

Bishop, 24, was transported to an area hospital but officials said she died on the way.

The GBI and the Department of Corrections continue to investigate why the instructor used a live firearm in the training session...

Previously, I blogged about the DEA agent who was careless with his firearm and shot himself in the foot in front a classroom of children.

Sadly, these mistakes happen and are even committed on occasion by a firearms instructor.

Though my agency's trainers harped on gun safety, even placing posters up in the range house (where officers cleaned their guns after practice shooting) to recognize the bullet holes in the walls (yes, plural) that resulted from previous accidental discharges, it always seemed to be viewed with just humor by personnel.

Missed in the jokes was that it only takes one lackadaisical moment with gun training to alter so many lives forever.

My prayers are with the family of Probation Officer Tiffany Bishop.

Tuber of the Week #44: Forgot Something?

Thief Checklist:

1) Get-away-car with tinted windows CHECK

2) Get-away-car driver CHECK

3) Tinted license plate cover CHECK

4) Easily accessible target location CHECK

5) Comfortable and stylish clothes CHECK

6) Hat to pull over face CHECK

7) Running shoes CHECK


It seems like I am forgetting something...

I think it is important, but I am drawing a blank...


How could I forget to include a BELT!

I can't make a clean get-away while sagging!

Argh, I'll update the thief list to include something to hold my pants in place next time.


Don't worry, an alert Polk County (FL) Sheriff's deputy later nabbed our bungling thieves after their failed attempt to acquire two 18-packs of Bud Light beer.

The Death of Nikki LaDue January: Part VI

Last week, I wrote about a blood-covered phone found near Ms. LaDue January, and this time, I'll continue discussing the scene...

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. 


B) Feet

Each of us has likes and dislikes.

Characteristics about us that may be odd, but denote our uniqueness.

As such, at a death and/or crime scene, it is important for investigators to be cognizant of a victim's preferences.

For instance, if I was found dead at my dinner table and a plate with a medium-rare steak was in front of me, the specific meal would not mean much to someone who does not know me.

But, detectives speaking to family members would quickly ascertain that the Mrs. and I prefer steaks as close to well-done as possible (yes, our motto is "burn it")--indicating that the food found in front of me was likely not mine.

I am also very routine-oriented.  If I were to go missing, the Mrs. could match the time and date that I was last seen to wherever/whatever was on my schedule, and provide authorities with specifics about what I was doing just prior to disappearing.

Ok, enough about me.

The same approach would also apply to the death of Nikki LaDue January.

In correspondence written by Nikki's husband (Phil January) to authorities in which he is dissatisfied with the investigation and asks questions about the scene and circumstances surrounding his wife's death, he makes the following statement:

"...Also out of character was the the fact that the new shoes that she had purchased that day were in our living room and she was barefoot.  She never went barefoot for any reason."


What if other family members verified this observation? 

One relative agreed and described Nikki's preference for shoes as an "idiosyncrasy" that she had developed later in life.  The relative added that Nikki would only go barefoot when she had to--bedtime, shower, at the pool, etc. 

Phil stated Nikki's new tennis shoes, that he referred to previously, were located in the living room.

None of the crime scene photos show shoes on the balcony, but the entire balcony was not included in the shots--nor was the area near the balcony door.

Yet, she was found dead wearing no shoes or socks on her balcony.

Death Scene of Nikki LaDue January

Near a phone that was almost certainly moved more than once prior to police arriving.

With a handgun that was recovered in a highly unlikely place--under her leg. 

Now, we can't eliminate every scenario that would send Nikki out on her balcony without shoes; or every situation in which that medium-rare steak would be in front of me.


If an investigator is looking for only one reason to be suspicious of an apparent suicide, learning that a victim never went without shoes yet was found dead in his/her bare feet is certainly enough to question the stated premise.

In this case, the bare feet are just one of a litany of characteristics that scream: "Let's slow down, process this scene, and see what direction the evidence leads."

Unfortunately, the "scream" went unheard.


Oh, and last week I mentioned a strange object located on a table that was photographed at the scene by the investigator, but not listed in any of the police reports.

About that unidentified object?

It was later determined to be the detective's camera case that was placed on a table and inadvertently included in the series of scene photographs.

I'll cover another aspect of the case next week.

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

Domestic Violence? Still Gonna Tow Your Car

Last week, I wrote about a bus driver who was fired for policy violations after aiding three police detectives who had car trouble during a fierce storm that had caused flash flooding in the NYC area.

The bus driver's treatment by company officials was disturbing, but kind blogging friend Miss Caitlin S. from Candyfloss and Persie provided me with a story about an incident from December 2008 with an even larger dose of injustice that had to be righted:

WILSONVILLE, Ore. (12/10/2008 AP) - Neither a bloody face nor a deputy's plea could stop a tow-truck driver from doing what he's paid to do.

The Clackamas County Sheriff's Office said a Wilsonville woman fled her apartment Monday night after getting assaulted by her boyfriend. With blood running down her face, she got in her car and sped across the parking lot to her grandmother's place, where she called 9-1-1.

The 25-year-old provided a statement to the responding sheriff's deputy and then stepped outside to find her car getting towed. The tow driver would not leave the car without making the woman pay a "drop fee."

"I explained to the tow driver that the woman was the victim of domestic violence," Deputy Wes Hall told The Oregonian newspaper. "I told him there was no place to park, so she left the car with its four-way flashers going, because she was trying to get away."

The deputy's arguments failed to persuade.

The driver, who works on commissions, was completely within his rights to tow the car or charge a drop fee to leave it, said Charles White, general operations manager for Retriever Towing. The amount the woman paid has not been disclosed, but White said the fees run as high as $160...

Yes, Mr. White, the driver was within his legal rights to tow the domestic violence victim's auto. You know the one she used to flee her attacker and call police as blood dripped down her face?

But Mr. White, sometimes there is a significant difference between what is legal and what is right.

And, doing what is within one's legal rights may not be good for business.


Guess what happened that day--in just a few short hours after this story was publicized?

WHAM.  Six hundred electronic complaints.

POW.  Dozens of irate phone callers.

SMASH. The loss of one towing contract and other customers vowing to evaluate their relationship with the company.

By that evening, the media reported that company officials had reversed their decision about the incident, refunded the victim's $165, and "pledged to make a $500 donation to Rafael House of Portland, a shelter for battered women and children."

We, the public, can make a difference in correcting injustices.

We may not be able to always rationalize with the culprits, but they certainly understand the real and potential loss of cash flow.

I am glad management at Retriever Towing decided to do what was right.

Thanks again to Miss Caitlin S. for the post idea.

Note: Again, this story happened back in 2008, but I thought it was still relevant to my point.


With the holiday weekend, I'll be back on Tuesday with my next post on the Nikki LaDue January case.

Happy Friday and Labor Day to everyone. 


While trudging through Burlington and battling heavy rains earlier this month, Big Brother, Sissy, and I had a wet walk with our umbrellas to the dock where our Lake Champlain sight-seeing boat awaited us.


ME: What's that son?

BIG BROTHER: I said Three, Dad.

ME: Ok, I'll play your game, three what?

BIG BROTHER: I was just counting the number of public parking lots that are closer to the dock than the one where you parked our car.

ME: Ahh.  Your mother's son.

BIG BROTHER: Wait... Dad, look! 

(points to an orange "Park Here: First Two Hours Free" sign ahead and across the street)

BIG BROTHER: Four!  Now it is Four!

SISSY: What did Big Brother say, Dad?

(I balance the umbrella handle between my shoulder and neck and use both of my hands to cover my ears)

ME:  Lalalalalalalalalalalalalala!

Responding to criticism in a childish manner?

Works for me.