Blogging Caesura

Real-life stuff is piling up on me, and I don't like being an uncommitted blogger, so I am going to take a little writing break.

I still should be able to do some visits and commenting to your blogs while away though.

I hope to be back soon!

A Message in a Dream

Back when I was policing and in the field, my dreams while sleeping often revolved around the job.

Victims needing immediate help and for whatever reason I could not get to them.

People attacking me and "the fight was on."

Lots of violence.

Being well removed from those uniform days, I don't have police dreams so much anymore.

But evidently, my mental anxiety is still job related, just much less serious.

For instance, the other night, I had a dream.

I was speaking to a large class of students. Everyone was attentive (that is a definite dream indicator) and the room was quiet except for my voice.

I had covered everything that I wanted to say in 20 minutes. Unfortunately, I was scheduled to lecture for an hour.

Yikes.

My mind raced as I tried to figure out what the heck I was going to talk about for the next 40 minutes.

Fortunately, I woke up before the problem was resolved.

It is funny the messages that we receive in dreams.

For me, the jobs have changed and the opposed risks are much less, but the message is still loud and the same:

Preparation.

No matter the endeavor, success requires preparation, preparation, and more preparation.

I think I have some work to do, and then maybe I'll go back to dreams of running barefoot on a tropical island.
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I hope you all have a good weekend. 

No Hands No Arms No Problem

Tom Willis of California has been getting lots of attention lately.

And every bit of it is deserved.

Tom is the driving force behind "The Pitch for Awareness," a program to inform about the abilities of those with disabilities.

Through the initiative, he has been traveling across the United States throwing out ceremonial first pitches at Major League Baseball games. Also while visiting the cities, he conducts a fun program for children to help them better understand those with physical challenges.

So, how is a guy throwing a baseball impressive?

Tom throws the ball the 60 feet and 6 inches with his foot.

He grips the baseball with his toes, winds up, and tosses it with his foot to the catcher.

You see, Tom was born with no arms.

Yet, he has never let his obstacle slow him down.

Tom does home repair and uses tools.

He washes and then folds his laundry.

And he is licensed to drive a car--his is modified so that he can steer with his left foot and use his right for braking and acceleration. You can go here to his website and see the pictures.

His take home message?

Never underestimate what someone can achieve if they put their mind to accomplishing a goal.

So, you can click here to see Tom throw a baseball, and yes, it is amazing.

But be sure to watch the short clip below after a San Diego television station did a story on Tom. I think the 214 seconds about this inspirational individual is even more worth watching.



If you have trouble viewing the video above, you can click here to go to YouTube and watch it there.

Thanks for giving us lots to think about Tom.

Vickie Ellington Missing and the Linda Reed Case

This is Part V of the Vickie Ellington missing person case.
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Case Summary
On the afternoon of Thursday, January 27, 2011, Vickie Ellington pulled her Chevrolet Suburban into the Wal-Mart parking lot in Louisville, MS. Reportedly, the fifty-three year old business owner and grandmother was going to meet someone there.

Video cameras from several stores show Ms. Ellington park in the front lot and exit her vehicle, but walk away from Walmart--towards a McDonalds and Taco Bell across the street. She then walks out of range from all the cameras and vanishes.


Vickie Ellington has not been seen since.
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Last time, I outlined what investigators would look for in supporting or dismissing this theory: that Vickie Ellington voluntarily walked away from her life as a grandmother, mother, and business owner in Attala County, Mississippi.

And though that argument can be made, from what has been released about the case, there is not much evidence to support a voluntary walk-away.

But, is there a missing person example where someone seemingly disappeared without a trace and was later found to have chosen to start a new life elsewhere?

Certainly and here is one from not too far away.

Linda Reed Vanishes
Linda Gale Reed, then sixty-five-years old, was reported missing by her husband on April, 30, 2012.

An investigation indicated that the previous day, she was seen on video leaving a Walmart in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. Ms. Reed was alone at the time and left the parking lot in her GMC Envoy.

Everyone was especially worried about Ms. Reed after her vehicle was found abandoned yet undamaged in a wooded area near the Interstate and not far from the Walmart.

Her purse, keys, and cellphone were located inside the vehicle.

Why would Ms. Reed leave?

The missing woman had a good job.

She was integrated into the community, and was married with a family who cared about her.

With the presented scenario, crime theories were prevalent.

Were authorities dealing with a kidnapping?

The woman's husband believed so.

He organized searches with the help of Texas Equusearch--one of the best finders of missing persons.

He also told the media: "she (Linda Reed) wouldn't have left her friends, family and me…"

But sadly, she did.

In October of that year, Copiah County Sheriff Harold Jones made a startling announcement to the media.

He told reporters that the missing woman was suspected of embezzling thousands of dollars from the petty cash fund of her former employer, Moore's Fabrications--a place she had worked as a bookkeeper since 1999.

Two weeks later, Linda Reed was found in Texas and arrested.


Apparently, she staged her disappearance and fled to Longview, Texas. She was able to find work as a bookkeeper there, and had led her new boss to believe that she was maintaining a low profile due to domestic problems. Eventually, her boss became suspicious, researched his new employee, and contacted authorities after seeing her missing person story.

This article describes the mixed emotions of her family when Ms Reed returned: the disbelief, the relief, the confusion, and the pain.

How her grandson had: "buried his grandmother in his mind months ago."

A few months later, Linda Reed pled guilty to embezzlement.

How did she pull off the disappearance?

Did she have any help?

Why would she do this to her family?

The details will likely never be released to the public, but it serves as an interesting model: we never know everything about an individual's life.

The things that people are involved in like financial problems, relationships, life pressures, etc., can be a well guarded secret.

Secrets that family and close friends may not know anything about.

And sometimes disappearances that seem to best fit a crime theory, are explained by an individual's hidden thoughts and actions.

Actions that direct them away from their current life; a choice.

As in the case of Linda Gale Reed.*

*Note: Nothing has been released that indicates that Vickie Ellington was involved in anything similar to that of Linda Reed. My purpose with this post, was to show an example of a similar case where information was later revealed that helped the public understand what would motivate an individual to voluntarily start a new life elsewhere. 
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Next time, I'll examine the Ellington case in terms of crime theories. 

For all of my posts on the Ellington case you can click here, or for more Missing Person Monday posts, go here.

Guest Post, Spies, and Kicking Sand

Today, I am pointing interested persons to Momma Fargo's blog--The Boogie Man is My Friend-- as she graciously allowed me to temporarily take over there as a guest writer.

The topic?

Missing persons and digital footprints.

Feel free to look around while you are there, she is an entertaining writer.

Click here to see my guest post.

As for the rest of the week, I'll be away from the home base--first, visiting the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. with the kids, and then playing in the sand on the beaches of South Texas.

Have a good week all.

Happy Anniversary from My Gift Consultants

What does a husband get when he brings his elementary school-aged "gift consultants" with him to pick up some extras that will be used to help recognize his upcoming wedding anniversary?

Well we bought flowers…

 A card…

And these are now part of the offering…


Yes, Happy Anniversary to my wife from me, the kids, Olaf the Snowman from Frozen, and his helium-filled red butterfly friend!

At least she enjoyed the performance she went to the other night--it was the primary gift.
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Enjoy your weekend everyone. 

Try Extreme Couponing Rather than This

It is really a good thing that the vast majority of convicted sex offenders follow the law and update law enforcement with their current addresses.

For instance…

Over 500 registered sex and/or violent offenders reside in Cascade County, Montana.

A few weeks ago, officials from the Great Falls Police Department and the Montana Department of Justice collaborated to bring 40 of those offenders back into compliance--by obtaining valid home addresses.

So, 89% of registered sex offenders there were doing what they were supposed to and disclosing residential information to authorities.

And after the extra enforcement, the updated total of offenders in compliance was about 97%.

Nice work.

But, can you imagine the public outcry if compliance was only like 6 out of 10? That 40% were unaccounted for?

Yikes.

Still, officials are looking for the 20 other missing MT sex offenders.

Well, which is less than comforting.

Closer to my world, I was studying local registered sex offenders for a project at work.

Evidently, I spent so much time reviewing the names, case information, mugshots, etc., that I told the Mrs. I saw "Ricky" a few weeks ago at the local recycling center.

Spotted him chatting with another fellow next to the bin for brown glass.

I recognized Ricky as a Level 2 registered sex offender from a neighboring town.

The Mrs. was less than impressed with my story.

As such, I have a request for my blogger friends:

Please remind me to talk less about the residuals of my crime projects with family, and more about back to school sales, extreme couponing, and/or local wildlife sightings, ok?

It will sure make my home life easier.

Thanks.

The Ellington Case as a Voluntary Disappearance

Before I get to today's post, I want to thank blogging friend and Simon and Schuster author Stephanie Faris for nominating me for an award.

She picks creative and relevant topics to discuss and it is worth making her blog a regular stop

Also, Stephanie's second book, 25 Roses will be released in 2015. You can read about her works on Amazon by going here

Ok, here is more on the Vickie Ellington missing person case--this is Part IV.
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Case Summary
On the afternoon of Thursday, January 27, 2011, Vickie Ellington pulled her Chevrolet Suburban into the Wal-Mart parking lot in Louisville, MS. Reportedly, the fifty-three year old business owner and grandmother was going to meet someone there.

Video cameras from several stores show Ms. Ellington park in the front lot and exit her vehicle, but walk away from Walmart--towards a McDonalds and Taco Bell across the street. She then walks out of range from all the cameras and vanishes.


Vickie Ellington has not been seen since.
-------------------------
In the last two posts, I described how investigators would explore the possibility that Vickie Ellington committed suicide. And, based on the published information, this did not appear to be a conclusion that authorities were favoring.

Another possible explanation for the woman's disappearance is: she vanished voluntarily.

What information might support the idea that Ms. Ellington chose to walk away from her life in Attala County, Mississippi?

Let's take a look.

Investigating Voluntary Disappearance as a Theory
Of the three theories I mentioned in this case (suicide, crime victim, or voluntary walk-away), the most common explanation for a missing person is the latter: he or she left voluntarily.

And that is what family members and all involved hope for.

The stress of the days/week/years had been building, and a person just needs to get away.

More often than not they do return.

And sooner rather than later.

Depending on the situation, it is often not even a criminal matter to take a break from your life. As long as the individual does not do specific things to try and convince others that he/she was the victim of a crime, it is viewed by law enforcement as "no harm, no foul."

This is the case with Ray Gricar, the missing district attorney from Pennsylvania. If he left voluntarily and is located tomorrow, despite the thousands of hours and unfathomable cost invested by authorities, it does not seem that Mr. Gricar would charged criminally with anything.

Even when a missing person does intentionally mislead police, the charges and sentence are usually minor.

For instance, Jennifer Wilbanks, called "The Runaway Bride" by the media after staging her disappearance in 2005, only pled guilty to filing a false police report after her actions were discovered. Once she met the conditions of the plea (probation, paying the fine, etc.), the charge was expunged from her record--in terms of the courts,  considered not to have existed.

So, in exploring "voluntary disappearance," investigators would examine the same characteristics discussed in my post on a suicide theory--evaluating aspects like that her spouse had died, she was raising a young grandchild, and that she had gone through a career transition.

Several factors remain unclear.

Was Ms. Ellington having relationship problems (family, professional, or romantic)?

How were her finances?

Did she indicate mounting personal and/or professional stressors to others?

But from the information released, it does seem like Ms. Ellington wanted to disappear.

Fortunately, most of the time when individuals choose to vanish, they leave some trail.

Detectives find evidence of planning like: withdrawals of money, indications of travel intentions, map searches on computers, etc.

Investigators can then explore the logistics of a disappearance.

Did the individual have help?

Did he or she obtain fraudulent identification?

What vehicle could have been used?

What other modes of transportation are available in the area?

Finally, canvassing areas where transportation could have been obtained hoping to find leads amounts to good old fashioned investigation and sometimes to the closure of cases.

In other words, diligence and a little luck reward authorities with an explanation.

Assuming that investigators covered these bases and the case is still open, we have to assume that nothing much supporting a voluntary walk-off theory was uncovered either.

But are there any cases similar to Ms. Ellington's where initially indications left everyone confused, but investigators eventually learned the missing person had chosen to start a new life elsewhere?

Oh yes, and I'll discuss the background and motive in one example disappearance next time.
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For all of my posts on the Ellington case you can click here, or for more Missing Person Monday posts, go here.

Need One More Fantasy Football Team Owner

What do Chuck from Incessant Ramblings, Pat Hatt of It's Rhyme Time , and Lisa of the Mommy's Nest all have in common?

Well, besides being awesome bloggers?

They participate in my NFL fantasy football league every year.

And guess what else?

We need one more team owner, and it could be you!

This is the league's fourth season, we play for free as in fun/bragging rights, and use NFL.com.

Never played before?

No problem--we welcome players at any experience level.

If you are interested or want more details, just email me at theslamdunktrove@gmail.com or holler at me on Twitter at: slamdunktrove .
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Note: For those experienced players who want details about the league: it is 10 teams, redraft, standard scoring, and standard starting lineups except instead of the traditional 2 running backs and 3 receivers, we use 2 running backs, 2 receivers and one flex player who can either be another running back or receiver. 

Kimchi

A recent conversation at work about odd smells reminded me of an exchange that happened back in my policing days.

I was working plain-clothes, had an office, and a shared break room--with a refrigerator, snack machine, and microwave--typical office environment.

One day, I walked into the break room to retrieve my bag lunch, and knew I had made a poor decision.
ME: Hi Captain. Uh, what has you busy over there?

Then IT hits me. Not again. Fermented cabbage. I briefly cover my face as the stench coming from the Captain's direction overpowers me, but quickly regain my composure before he turns my way.

CAPTAIN: Dinner! And this Kimchi has been calling my name all week.

Sensitive that this is one of my bosses, yet curious as to why he insists on peeling paint off this police facility's walls with his lunch concoction, I jokingly interrogate. 

ME: Wow, that stuff is powerful. I am surprised the chief does not make you eat that outside. Does your wife like Kimchi as well?

CAPTAIN: No, she hates the stuff. She won't let me eat it at home. She insists that bring it here.

I laugh, make a mental note to remove the Captain's wife from my Christmas card list, and then excuse myself to search in vain for an air pocket untarnished by the boss' Korean delicacy. 
Darn bosses.

Do you have a memory of anyone stinking up your office area with a food choice?

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Note 1: Since the Captain was a good "ole country boy" who drove a pickup and enjoyed auto racing, I failed as an investigator in never establishing how he discovered Kimchi--obviously not via his spouse. 

Note 2: For some in the South, the noon meal is referred to as "dinner" and the evening meal is called "supper." The Captain was eating a "lunch" despite calling it "dinner."

Enjoy your weekend everyone. 

Solitary for 28 Years

Twenty-eight years.

I can't think of anything that I have done the same for 28 years in a row.

Kenny Whitmore can though.

Whatever your opinion of punishment for those convicted--whether you are "hard core retribution" for crimes committed or more "rehabilitation-oriented"--Kenny Whitmore's story is worth discussing.

Nicknamed "Zulu" and serving a life sentence for 2nd degree murder conviction from the 1970s, Whitmore is being held in the largest maximum security prison in the US: the Louisiana State Penitentiary--better known as "Angola" or "The Farm."

In this case, life means life and Whitmore will never be released unless something changed with his conviction.

Inside the prison, he is considered a security risk due to his affiliation with the historically violent Black Panther movement, and an attempted escape in 1986.

After the incident in '86, prison officials moved Whitmore to solitary confinement.

He has no contact with other inmates, and eats his meals in his cell.

Whitmore leaves his estimated 6 foot by 9 foot cell for only one hour per day--to go to just another place that he is alone.

That has been his routine.

For the last 28 years.

Wow, 28.

Sadly, there are lots of inmates who have committed violent crimes including murder.

Lots that have gang ties.

And, even a fair number have escaped or tried to escape during their incarceration.

But 28 years in solitary?

With the offense that got him there being 28 years ago?

It sounds like authorities will have to make their case to the public as to why this man is dangerous and needs to be secured in such a manner.

Warden Burl Cain said that he is debating an end to Whitmore's restrictive confinement, but still considers the inmate a safety risk, so he is hesitant.

In an interview for a published article, Warden Cain was not able to make a convincing case for his confinement choice of Whitmore.

I expected him to describe an inmate who is perpetually violent; one that threatens others throughout the day.

Painting a picture of an offender who needed to be kept away from everyone for the last 30 years.

But he did not.

Perhaps, he will later.

Or, maybe the first try was his best shot.

Sadly, I am not sure what expectations Cain should have for anyone locked in solitary for that long that is returned to general population at the prison.

I can't imagine many people retaining much of their sanity after losing all social contacts for almost three decades.

Tim The Man

No Missing Person Monday post this week as I have several projects that are not quite ready for publication. 

Instead, I'll start Monday off with a positive story
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If you are ever around Albuquerque, New Mexico and looking for a bite to eat, don't miss the chance to stop in at Tim's Place.

They serve breakfast and lunch, and oh yeah, lots of smiles and hugs.

Their customer "hug counter" is currently at over 42,000.

Your greeter will likely be the restaurant's owner: Tim Harris.

"Tim The Man" and his family run the place.

Born in 1986, Tim has Down Syndrome, but he does not let that challenge define his life.

Instead, he is known as a former homecoming king, fisherman, sailor, college graduate, motivational speaker, restauranteur, and Special Olympian.

His story has been featured by People Magazine, and on CBS, CNN, as well as other known news outlets.

But enough of me trying to sell you on the benefits of a meal at Tim's Place, I'll let this short clip do it:



Note: If the embedded video is not working for you, click here to watch it

It always a pleasure to see someone with a passion.

An individual, with the support of others, who was able to achieve a "dream" goal.

Thanks for inspiring us Tim.
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Hat-tip to SB for the post idea.

Long

Long.

Often a word with a negative connotation.

Long day at work.

Long line.

Long trip.

But can the term ever be welcoming?

My Australian blogging friend, Sean Fraser, is currently busy doing good work.

He is helping an old friend with a terminal illness.

Last week, he posted a photo with a brief description of a visit that he and the friend had made.

It is entitled: The Road Home.

They went to this farm property pictured below.


After I commented, Sean emailed me some additional details.

The farm was owned by Sean's friend; a place that the friend treasures.

But life brought changes and now the sale of the farm has been finalized.

Sean noted the following while pushing his friend's wheelchair on the grounds:

...I wheeled him around what was once the fulfillment of his long dream to have a farm. We pushed the hills, looked up at the blue sky and felt the cold winter wind wrap around us. It was a great day but I know neither he nor I will ever be there together again. 

In reflecting on Sean's post, I thought about his reference to "the long road home."

How most of us, depending on our beliefs, are either blessed or lucky to walk a long road home.

From birth to death.

I envisioned how Sean's friend would want that last farm visit to be a long one.

To be able to fully absorb the sights, the sounds, the smells; to remember what made that dream a reality.

I equated it to how we wouldn't mind a long lunch with a beloved family member or friend.

Or to close our eyes and savor for the longest time a spoonful of homemade ice cream.

A long moment to see our childhood home or our grandparents house just as we remember it, for the last time.

In this context, long transforms.

That word with the "baggage" becomes a gift that cannot be valued.

One to cherish.

Long is welcomed with open arms.
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Thank you to Sean for allowing me to use his insights, and my prayers are with him, his friend, and their families during this difficult time.

Note: Hopefully, you have experienced that blogging can mean so much more than casually dropping a comment on another writer's page and hoping for a returned favor. That there are people out there like Sean, who genuinely care and make connecting with others around the world very much a blessed experience.

Several years ago, Sean visited New Zealand and thought to stop by the shop of author and jewelry maker Judith Sleavin--whom I admire. He thought of me and I wrote about his gracious gesture here.

To visit Sean's blog, The Dolls Point Blogger, you can go here.   

Fruitland Park Police and the KKK

A policing story getting lots of national attention involves the Fruitland Park Police Department in Florida and alleged connections with the white supremacist group: The Ku Klux Klan.

Here is a summary of what is being reported:
  • In 2009, Fruitland Park Officer James Elkins resigned after his estranged wife, Pamela Elkins (now Pamela Ellingsworth), made his Klan ties public. 

  • Last week, Officer George Hunnewell was fired and deputy chief David Borst resigned from the Fruitland Park Police Department after accusations were made that they had connections to the Klan as well

  • George Hunnewell's ex-wife, Ann Hunnewell, stated to investigators with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that in 2010 she and George had been working undercover to infiltrate a local chapter of the KKK. She said that the undercover operation had been commissioned by then Fruitland Park Police Chief James Isom to learn more about now fired officer James Elkins' activities. Ms. Hunnewell stated that she and George joined the KKK only as part of the investigation and reported all information to Isom. She said that she and her then husband never participated in any function or activity beyond their initiation, but added she has no documentation to verify the undercover work.

  • Former Chief James Isom, who is no longer permitted to be a police officer in Florida after he pled guilty to a criminal charge in 2010 that is unrelated to this issue, provided a sworn statement to authorities to the effect that he never organized an undercover operation of the KKK involving George or Ann Hunnewell. 

  • The allegations against former deputy chief David Borst appear to be hearsay. He vehemently denies the accusations against him, and told authorities that he resigned his position to protect his family from embarrassment.
Who is lying?

How integrated is/was the KKK into this small 13-member Florida police department?

Confused?

I sure am.

I am not sure the Fruitland Park Police Department will be able to regain the trust of the people. It sounds like they may need to shut the place down--as the agency will now likely be bombarded by challenges to past criminal investigations and new civil litigation.

As to the story--rather than depending on media translations of official reports, I always try to find the originals so that I can examine them myself.

For those interested, I did find the released report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement about their investigation. In it, the testimony provided by Pamela Ellingsworth and Ann Hunnewell (or Ann Garner) is detailed.

You can access that report by clicking on this link and being redirected to a television station's site.

Investigating the Ellington Case as a Suicide

Part III of the Vickie Ellington missing person case…
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Case Summary
On the afternoon of Thursday, January 27, 2011, Vickie Ellington pulled her Chevrolet Suburban into the Wal-Mart parking lot in Louisville, MS. Reportedly, the fifty-three year old business owner and grandmother was going to meet someone there. Video cameras from several stores show Ms. Ellington park in the front lot and exit her vehicle, but walk away from Walmart--towards a McDonalds and Taco Bell across the street. She then walks out of range from all the cameras and vanishes.



Vickie Ellington has not been seen since.
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Investigating Suicide as a Theory

Last time I discussed how authorities would want to learn as much as possible about the potential stressors in Ms. Ellington's life at the time of her disappearance.

Were there factors that would support a suicide theory?

Here are some aspects that investigators would explore:

Raising her Grandchild
As mentioned above, Ms. Ellington was fifty-three years old and a grandmother at the time of her disappearance. In the information that I found, she had four grandchildren, but had primary custody of one of them--an elementary school-aged boy. Raising children is certainly hard work. Raising children the second time around as a grandparent certainly requires a special person.

Death of a Spouse
In December of 2008, Ms. Ellington's husband, Drury "Denver" Ellington, passed away. He was under hospice care at time of death, and was only 51 years old.  I have a friend, also a grandmother, who is currently raising two grandchildren--taking over for her daughter who has substance abuse problems. This grandmother's husband recently died as well. She calls being a parent again (and this time alone) the most challenging experience that she has ever faced.

Employment Changes
Sometime between 2009 and 2011, Ms. Ellington sold part of her business "Attala Discount Drugs," and then closed the gift shop portion of that operation. She remained owner and operator of another store in Kosciusko: Attala Fitness and Tanning--which held a "grand reopening" ceremony in March of 2010. Also, in her husband's obituary, he was listed as an owner of both businesses.

With her husband and business partner gone, did she have to make a decision as to what she could handle herself? How were the pharmacy and gift shop performing in terms of profitability? What about the fitness center?

It is unclear what drove Ms. Ellington's business decisions, but certainly entrepreneurs can have very stressful lives.
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Now, Ms. Ellington had possible sources of stress like these, but seemed to be handling the responsibilities well. Authorities have not released any information that would indicate suicide as a possible reason for the disappearance.

And again, the area where she disappeared was searched thoroughly and no body was found.

So, is there anything that authorities would want to know more about in evaluating a suicide theory?

A few days after the disappearance, a local television reporter interviewed Ms. Ellington's adult son, Adam.

As a disclaimer, I realize that editing and comfort level of the individual in front of a camera should be taken into account in judging every interview.

But still, his comments are odd.

On the video, the reporter's question to Adam was edited out, but it was something like: "What do you think happened?"

You can watch her son's response by clicking here (specifically: 046-057) or I typed his response below:

"I know she had a bunch of plans for the next, at least the first half of this year, and stuff that she wanted to get done, so I doubt she would do anything to herself. Umm. So, I mean I don't know what happened to her, but I certainly wasn't expecting her to disappear."

Not the answer I was expecting from a son about his mom's disappearance.

He seems to deflect the question about suicide.

And, what does he mean that she had plans for the "first half" of the year and that he did not think she would do something to herself?

Is there more that he wanted to say?

Strange and worthy of some follow-up work by detectives.

In sum, nothing released by authorities would indicate that this missing person case is suicide.

So, I'll move on.

Next time, I'll examine what investigators would do to explore a second possible theory: Vickie Ellington chose to disappear.

And, remember this peculiar interview with her son,  I will use it again in discussing another potential explanation in this missing persons case.
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For all of my posts on the Ellington case you can click here, or for more Missing Person Monday posts, go here.

Using MMA to Combat Drowsy Driving?

The following post will likely doom any hope that I had of becoming a famous spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration…
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Recently, researchers asked drivers how they combat fatigue when behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Understandably, the most common answer was to drink a caffeinated beverage.

Other popular remedies when tired were: roll down a window, sing, eat, slap yourself, and splash water on your face.

Hmm.

A very vanilla list.

I think their recommendations need some spice.

Having worked a 3rd shift for many years and driven lots of long car trips, I feel qualified in offering my two-cents to make their list better resonate with the average driver:

1) Roll Down a Window
I advocate not only rolling down a window, but hanging as many body parts as possible out the window while driving and still safely operating the vehicle: hand, arm, elbow, ear, and nose to name a few. Nothing like a blast of cold air to the noggin to refresh.

2) Splash Water on Your Face
Don't just use a a couple of drops, I recommend a water sprayer. A big one. I mean a few blasts from one of those kid super soakers and you are drenched and downright uncomfortable. Sleep is no longer on your mind. Note: This tip works better if the vehicle being operated is a rental--the soaked interior will be someone else's problem.

3) Drink Caffeine
Researchers recommend consuming your favorite caffeinated drink. But why stop at one? Heck, bring a 12 pack of soda, iced tea, or get multiple coffees that can be chugged. After a few drinks, I am not only wired, but I am focused on finding a convenient bathroom. Drink and pee. Drink and pee. The cycle will go on for hours with no time for fatigue.

4) Slap Yourself
I take this one up a notch as well. Slap yourself to start with. Move to punches and then start pinching--squeezing yourself to the point of self-mutilation. You'll arrive at your destination in one piece, but you may need to have a comprehensive story concocted that explains why you look like the losing contestant in a Mixed Martial Arts or MMA fight.

5) Eat
Don't eat a full meal or something filling. Candy, gum or snacks are better, but for the best results, stuff a wad of salted sunflower seeds (still in the shell) in your cheek. This will keep you busy for hours as you work the mechanics of shelling the seeds in your mouth and then (neatly? hahaha) disposing of the outer shells. Warning: You will want to brush your teeth thoroughly and dispose of the cup full of sucked on shells so as not to see yourself drop several rungs on society's social ladder.

So, on your next long trip, don't let drowsiness ruin your adventure.  Use one or more of my tips so that you arrive safely at your destination.

Don't follow my suggestions?

Tsk-tsk.

You may end up like the participants featured on this video:



Note: for a comprehensive list of tips to combat drowsy driving, go to the National Safety Council's  site here.
-------------------

A special thanks to the funniest sleepy dogs for being the star of this post. 

Enjoy your weekend everyone.

Change the Facebook Status to Dork

With some help from me, my teenage son broke Author Clarissa Draper's Dancing Men cypher challenge--a concept that she based on an idea by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. She was promoting her new book The Electrician's Code at Carol Kilgore's place. Both authors are worth a look for sure. 

It is impressive what teens can accomplish when they put their minds to it; I mean as long as it does not involve waking them before 10 am on a summer's day.

Anyway, here is a crime fail in the news…
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I have not featured a crime story from "The Gopher State" since discussing "Diaper Thieves" awhile back. Fortunately, this St. Paul felon delivers with an extra helping of humor:
SOUTH ST. PAUL, Minn -- Police didn't have to work hard to catch a man who broke into a Minnesota house.

First the burglar failed to log out of Facebook after checking his profile on the homeowner's computer. Then he agreed to meet up with homeowner James Wood in an effort to get back wet clothes he'd left behind…South St. Paul police said the burglar took credit cards, cash and a watch...

Wood posted his phone number on the burglar's Facebook page, hoping someone would call. The burglar himself texted Wood and agreed to meet with the homeowner, thinking he could negotiate for his clothes. 

When Wood spotted the burglar, he recognized him from Facebook and called police... 
And who says that we Americans import everything and rarely have anything worthy to export?

This crime tale ran in newspapers from India to Great Britain.

Yes my friends, we Americans can still manufacture our own excellent stupid criminal stories--products that put smiles on faces and are otherwise enjoyed by news readers from around the globe.

U….S…..A...!!!

U….S…..A...!!!!!

More on Vickie Ellington, Missing

Part II of the Vickie Ellington missing person case…
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Case Summary

On the afternoon of Thursday, January 27, 2011, Vickie Ellington pulled her Chevrolet Suburban into the Wal-Mart parking lot in Louisville, MS. Reportedly, the fifty-three year old business owner and grandmother was going to meet someone there. Video cameras from several stores show Ms. Ellington park in the front lot and exit her vehicle, but walk away from Walmart--towards a McDonalds and Taco Bell across the street. She then walks out of range from all the cameras and vanishes.


Vickie Ellington has not been seen since.

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

Exploring Theories

With missing persons, multiple theories will be evaluated in an attempt to explain the disappearance. In Ms. Ellington's case, it did not appear that she was suffering from a medical issue that required immediate assistance and she was not lost, so at least three explanations would be explored:

  1. She left on her own volition to start a new life somewhere else;

  2. She was the victim of a crime; or,

  3. She took her own life.

Today, I will examine #3 or the possibility of suicide.

Initially, authorities would want to know as much about the person's mental health as possible.

Had the individual been depressed or discussed suicide?

Were there any previous attempts and/or was he or she under the care of a psychiatric professional?

Were purchases made (tools, medications, etc.) that could indicate planning?

In death cases when the cause is unknown and being investigated, some agencies will use an approach called the "psychological autopsy."

A psychological autopsy is an organized and analytical approach used to evaluate the likelihood that a decedent took his/her own life.

The process involves trying to reconstruct the person's life and mental state prior to the incident.

For missing person cases, I think the thoroughness gleaned via psychological autopsies are beneficial in examining a suicide theory.

The process would include in-depth interviews with friends, family members, and business associates, subpoenaing medical records, and using digital forensics on the person's electronic devices.

Also, searches of the person's residence would be imperative. Specifically, establishing if a person's room looked as to be expected (e.g. clean people maintain tidy rooms), household chores had been planned, efforts had/had not been made to care for pets if something happened, etc.

Now, the most persuasive argument against suicide in this case is: there is no body.

Authorities have video of Ms. Ellington walking from her truck and then disappearing from cameras.

Professionals and dogs thoroughly searched the area within days after the woman was last seen.

In addition, remember that this was January, so foliage would have been minimal; making it easier for search teams to access the woods and fields adjacent to the Walmart.

But they found nothing.

Then…

With no body, are there other aspects that would also seem to further refute the notion that she took her own life?

Or…

Was there anything revealed about this case that would at least make someone explore a suicide argument?

I say "yes" to both questions; and with the latter, most puzzling is a comment made by one of Ms. Ellington's family members.

I'll provide specifics next time.

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For all of my posts on the Ellington case you can click here, or for more Missing Person Monday posts, go here.

Ashanti Floyd Converts a Musical Curmudgeon

I think my children would describe me as a musical curmudgeon.

I mean once I defined curmudgeon for them.

The elementary school kiddos ask me to listen to this or that contemporary tune, along with the question: "Dad, do you like it?"

My answer is almost always. "No. I like OLD stuff. I listen to sports talk and news when I get a chance, what do you expect?"

"But, dad this is great!"

"Blah!" I reply with a smile.

But they never give up.

And recently, they found a modern song that I did not poopoo: Wake Me Up by Sweedish music producer Avicii which is sung by Aloe Blacc.

In the song, I hear soulful vocals, a pleasant melody, and dashes of bluegrass.

Though I enjoy the song with vocals, I my favorite version of it is done by Ashanti Floyd--also known as the Mad Violinist.

Floyd was inspired by his mother to try violin at age three. Now considered a top violinist, he also plays over 30 other instruments. This musician has performed live with legend B.B. King, toured, and appeared countless times on television and stage.

Floyd is also one of the first alumni of the Javacya Arts Conservatory in Florida; a nonprofit that teaches music and life skills to children and teens.

And when Floyd's schedule permits, you'll also find him volunteering at the Conservatory as the Artist in Residence to help kids develop a passion for music.

Here is the Mad Violinist performing Wake Me Up (if the video below does not load, click here):



So thanks to Ashanti Floyd and Aloe Blacc for preventing me from permanently being labeled a "musical curmudgeon."

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Have a super weekend everyone.

Controversy: Jill White vs. Facebook

I don't usually publish posts on consecutive days, but I wanted to comment on this…

--------------------------------
Recently, photographer Jill White from North Carolina posted a picture to Facebook of her daughter on the beach.

In the photo, Ms. White's two-year-old daughter is standing in front of a very young friend. The friend is pulling the bottom portion of the daughter's bathing suit and the young girl's buttocks are exposed.

Ms. White thought the photo was "cute." She stated that it reminded her of a famous 1953 Coppertone sunscreen advertisement featuring a dog pulling down the swimsuit of a young girl similarly exposing her bottom.

She posted the image to Coppertone's Facebook page, but someone complained and Facebook representatives investigated.

In an email, Facebook officials gave Ms. White two options: delete the photo or change her account status to private so that only people that she had approved could see her postings and photos.

She ignored the email and she was banned from the site for 24 hours.

After the ban, Ms. White modified the bare-bottom in the photo by putting an emoticon over it. She then reposted the image of her daughter on the beach.

In several news stories, Ms. White argues that the first image is not a violation of Facebook's terms of service, is not even indecent, and that she is "outraged" at the actions levied against her.

My take?
  1. Ms. White's posted picture showing her daughter's exposed butt is a clear violation of Facebook's Terms of Service (Yes, I did read it).

  2. Facebook's demands were reasonable: remove it immediately or set your account to private. If private, she could then moderate who was able to view the photo. 

  3. I am sure that this national notoriety will be beneficial for Ms. White's photography business (any publicity is good publicity), but the more she argues "outrage" the less informed she appears. 
----------------------

What am I trying to say specifically with #3?

From a policing perspective, Ms. White's posted photo could be very appealing to those interested in pornography.

This seemingly innocent image of her 2-year old daughter's exposed bottom and the young friend could be very easily manipulated, even just a little, and promoted as child porn.

The altered image could then be exchanged worldwide for decades.

When users post photos of children (especially images involving compromising positions) to Facebook/Instagram/blogs or whatever social media, they have to understand that those pictures could be used for the unthinkable--pornography or cyberstalking to name two.

Realizing this and wanting no part of it, Facebook has a clearly defined policy about nudity.

And though Facebook's actions are to protect the organization legally, they are at the same time deterring predators that sadly stalk the Internet looking for children.

Facebook made the right call here, and Ms. White would be wise to end the debate.

Note: You can view the images described in the this controversy, by clicking this news article. 

Vanished: Vickie Ellington

Ok, finally getting to a new missing persons case…

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

On the afternoon of Thursday, January 27, 2011, Vickie Ellington pulled her Chevrolet Suburban into the Wal-Mart parking lot in Louisville, MS.

Reportedly, the fifty-three year old business owner and grandmother was going to meet someone there.

Louisville is over a 30 minute drive from Koscuisko, MS, where the fitness center she owned was located.

Video cameras from several stores show Ms. Ellington parking in the front lot, exiting her vehicle, but walking away from Wal-Mart--towards a McDonalds and Taco Bell across the street.

Without carrying her purse, she then walks out of range from all the cameras and vanishes.

Vickie Ellington has not been seen since.


And even worse, her case has gone cold.

No information has been released in years--other than a local Mississippi news site annually posting short notes online saying basically "nothing new" around the anniversary of Ms. Ellington's disappearance.

After she vanished, authorities told the media that Ms. Ellington's planned meeting with the friend did not happen. In other words, police talked with whomever the missing woman was supposed to meet that afternoon, and do not believe that he/she has anything to do with the mystery.

At the time of her disappearance, Ms. Ellington was juggling several responsibilities.

Her husband had recently passed away, and she was also acting as a "single parent" in raising an elementary school-aged grandson--of whom she had custody.
-----------------------------------

What may have happened to Vickie Ellington?

Where was she going when she left her parked SUV at the Wal-Mart?

What is strange about this mystery?

I'll take a look at this forgotten case over the next few weeks.
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For all of my posts on the Ellington case you can click here, or for more Missing Person Monday posts, go here.


In this Situation? Do Not Write the Citation

Authorities in Cologne are trying to wipe the egg off of their faces.

Administrators are now apologizing after one of their officers fined a handicapped man for having only one hand-brake on his bicycle.

After a late March encounter in the city, the officer declared that Bogdan Ionescu's bicycle was illegal according to German laws.

But Mr. Ionescu had a persuasive reason for having only a brake on the left handlebar of his bicycle: he has only one arm.

He had a modified bike to better suit his needs.

The handicapped defendant tried to explain to the officer that in addition to his one hand brake, the cycle was also equipped with a rear foot brake, but the officer still decided to cite Mr. Ionescu €25.


Local citizens were outraged by the incident.

National and international media ran the story, and calls in support for the one-armed bicyclist rang loudly from around the world.

Understandably, police administrators decided to refund Mr. Ionescu's money and issue an apology.

It was also reported that Wolfgang Albers, the city's chief of police, will personally apologize to the cyclist.

Glad to hear that they are getting it right.
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When a community entrusts a police officer to protect and serve, honesty and integrity are at the top in terms of the desired attributes.

A characteristic also highly sought for an individual in law enforcement is common sense.

And common sense should direct an officer to use discretion--in this case, choosing not to cite a one-armed bicycle rider with functional brakes who uses his leg muscles to get to and from work.

It is not that much to ask of any government official.

In whatever the country that you call home.
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Happy 4th to my American friends, and I hope you all have a good weekend. 

Announcements

Monday's post focused on the possible connection between a deceased female found in Pennsylvania in 1976, and a missing woman from New Jersey.

After reviewing the information, one of the case contacts does not believe that the two sets of teeth are a match, but with the circumstantial information discussed, he will submit a formal request to conduct a DNA comparison of the two women's samples to eliminate the possibility.

As some readers wisely noted on Monday, whatever the results, the news will not be good.

On a lighter note, the site How-to-Become-a-Police-Officer.com recently announced their:


The site was developed to educate people about careers in policing, and they conducted an analysis of the most widely visited police blogs.

Congrats to blogging friends Raindog at Raindog Blue (#12) and Chief Scott Silverii at Bright Blue Line  (#27) for appearing on that list.

Raindog and the Chief always have something interesting posted, and it is well worth your visit. In addition, Chief Silverii has written several non-fiction and fiction books on crime and policing--you can view his works on Amazon by going here.

Congrats also to the Houston Police Department Recruiting who ranked #5. I used to read their blog regularly, but with changes in personnel there, the site is now used more for public service announcements rather than posts that engage readers.

Somehow this blog finished #9 on their list.

How did that happen?

I mean my regular descriptions on non-law enforcement posts like "Cowboy Cookout" AKA me getting hungry reading dog food labels as well as "Awkward" which describes the challenges of changing twins' diapers in the men's restroom should be enough to scare any visitor away.

In any event, thanks to all those who stop by my blog and allow this location to become something other than a place that I entertain myself.

Murdered and Unidentified

Planned on introducing a missing person from Mississippi today, but going with these two cases instead.  
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Case #1: "Beth Doe," found murdered on 12/20/1976, White Haven, PA, NamUs UP# 8913

Playing on the banks of the Lehigh River at around 4:30 pm, then 14-year-old Kenneth Jumper, Jr. made a horrible discovery: the body of a young woman. Also found was her full-term unborn fetus.

The remains had been placed in three suitcases and evidently tossed below to the river from an Interstate bridge. The mother had been strangled and then shot.

Authorities were unable to determine name of the mother, and so "Beth Doe" and "Baby Jane Doe" were buried in a pauper's field not too far from where the remains were found.

Graves of Beth and Baby Jane Doe (Courtesy Norman Houser)

In 2007, police exhumed the body of "Beth Doe" in hopes that modern science would provide additional leads.

Sadly, the identity remains a mystery--the case is unsolved.

Case #2: Jan Cotta, Missing from Wall Township, NJ, 6/26/1973, NamUs #5978



Jan Cotta was 19-years old and pregnant when she was last seen on her family's property in New Jersey. Authorities initially considered her to have disappeared by choice, but have considered multiple theories over the years. Reportedly, she referred to the unnamed father (but did not name him) in a letter prior to vanishing, but police were unable to identify him.

The case of Jan Cotta has remained open for more than 40 years.

Similarities:
  • Females in the appropriate age range 

  • Ms. Cotta was characterized as having poor teeth, while Beth Doe had several fillings and some missing teeth

  • Both listed at 64 inches and having brown hair

  • Ms. Cotta was reportedly pregnant at the time of her disappearance, and though it was 3 years later, the found decedent was pregnant.

  • Both described as having a mole on the left side of face

  • Wall Township, NJ to that part of I-80 in PA is about 141 miles

  • Police believe the suitcases were tossed from the Westbound side of the bridge--consistent with someone driving away from NJ/NY

  • Authorities in the Cotta case believed her baby's father was from NY, and some of the body parts in PA were found wrapped in a NY newspaper

  • Though an article written after the unnamed woman's body was exhumed in 2007 theorizes that she may have been of Polish or Czech decent, the case details on her at the PA Missing site include that she is perhaps of Mediterranean heritage. "Cotta" originated in Spain and Portugal
Differences:
  • Ms. Cotta's eyes are listed as blue, while Beth Doe's are shown as brown.

  • When comparing Ms. Cotta's provided picture and the various attempts to reconstruct Beth Doe, you don't get the overwhelming feeling of confidence that you are looking at the same person. I do understand that there are lots of variables in play though.
Has the possible connection between Jan Cotta and Beth Doe already been investigated?

Probably, but it is worth an email to the case managers--which I sent.
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For other Missing Person Monday posts, go here

And thanks to Norman Houser for allowing me to use his photograph. You can read about his trip to the final resting place of Beth and Baby Jane Doe by going to his blog: The Pennsylvania Rambler

Always Bring this on a Run

Your sense of awareness.

Let me explain...
-----------------------

I don't usually listen to tunes while I am running. I prefer to be lost in my own thoughts, yet still conscious of my surroundings.

Absorbing the sounds of nature to the staccato strikes of my feet.

Likely the result of working with too many crime victims who were accosted while hiking/walking/running on trails or in neighborhoods.

Also, it is beneficial to hear that distracted driving roaring up on you.

But when I do listen to music while pounding pavement, I keep the volume low.

I am not sure if Hong Nguyen had headphones with her when she was running this week, but we as a society owe her a debt of gratitude for being aware.

Ms. Nguyen of Vietnam is on a 5-day trip to see family in Texas, and on Tuesday she decided to go for an early morning run in Houston.

It was her first jog since arriving and she chose what authorities described as route not well traveled.

While running, she heard strange sounds. She stopped and began to look around.

The sounds were cries--like that from a human and not from an animal. The noise was coming from some high weeds in a field near where she was standing.

Ms. Nguyen sifted through the brush and was startled to find 8-month-old Genesis Hailey strapped to a car seat and abandoned. Crying.

Genesis Hailey

Four hours earlier, Houston Police had launched an Amber Alert for Genesis after the vehicle she had been a passenger was stolen from a convenience store.

Two hours after the car theft, police located the abandoned vehicle, but there was no sign of the missing child.

Ms. Nguyen contacted 911 immediately, and Officer Albert Pizana arrived and wrapped the child in his uniform shirt.

Genesis was then transported to a local hospital where she was released in good condition to her mother.

Reportedly, she suffered ant bites during her ordeal (those Texas ants enjoy me too when I am there).

Thank goodness that Ms. Nguyen was there listening, and courageously took action.

My message?

Go outside.

Hike. Bike. Run. Walk.

Listen to tunes or listen to nature.

But, always be conscious of your environment.

You never know when you will be called to save a life.

As Hong Nguyen, 8,000 miles from home, saved baby Genesis on a June morning.

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Have a super weekend everyone. 



Uber for Marijuana Delivery


Recently, University of Washington students Josiah Tullis and Megh Vakharia won the "Audience Choice Award" for their entrepreneurial idea at a conference sponsored by TechCrunch.

The students' company is known as Canary, and it is an on-demand service that allows Washington residents with medical marijuana cards to get cannabis delivered to their doorstep.

The concept is also being called: The Uber for Marijuana Delivery.

Customers would be able to select the dispensary of their choice and make transactions using Canary's phone app--they can even add chips and other munchies to their bill.

Canary simply acts as the "middle man" by employing the drivers.

Regarding their proposal, I hope the business plan does not involve delivery vehicles with sleek Canary logos, colors, or labels.

I hope it does not include drivers with quasi-uniforms or otherwise employees being readily identifiable.

Considering the content of their deliveries, drivers and their vehicles should be inconspicuous and not shout: PLEASE ROB ME!

As this idea would seem like a magnet for armed thugs.

In researching the topic, I found that Tullis and Vakharia want the transactions to be completed electronically so drivers will only be caring product and not cash.

Still, what robber would not be attracted to a delivery truck pulling up to a residence with high grade 420 and a seemingly endless assortment of Doritos?

Allegedly, Desmond Pulliam sure was.

Long Beach Police (CA) arrested him in April for a string of robberies targeting marijuana delivery drivers.

And he is not the only one.

With an entrepreneurial idea like this, I would expect the specifics involving security and safety of employees to be a lengthy section in the young men's business plan.

Since they have the munchies angle already covered. 

Honest Politician

As of yesterday I'm back, but battling the "back from vacation syndrome."

Do you mean my current schedule does not include time watching the waves crash with my feet in the salt water?

That can't be the sound of my alarm--is it really time to wake up?

Where is that phone charger? The kids' Kindle plug?

Maybe you can relate.

No surprise in that I did not finish my Missing Person Monday post.

As such, I'll delve into the disappearance of Vickie Ellington in a few days.

While away, a friend sent me a well-written article about the American Civil War, and a quote grabbed my attention.

Simon Cameron was President Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of War in 1861 and was considered one of America's first political bosses.

If one had political aspirations, Mr. Cameron was a powerful individual who made things happen--interesting that he was orphaned at age 9, had limited schooling, and worked his way to wealth (well working and creating controversy).

Anyway, Cameron had this gem to say about political figures of the 19th century:

"An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought."

No matter the time, politicians still make easy targets for humor.

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Enjoy your day, and if you see my phone cord laying around, just holler at me. 



Vacation

Off watching the waves with sand on my feet, and maybe running past some of these fellows. Back in a couple of weeks.

Wild Spanish Mustangs, Outer Banks

Remembering William

I enjoy finding things unknown to Google. In looking over 19th century newspapers for a project at work, I found this forgotten poem.

The author was a 15-year-old girl lamenting the death of her baby brother.

Her full name is lost in history, but she was identified as "Kittie L."

The poem was printed as follows:

In the parlor lone and dreary
Little Willie sleeps tonight
At his side I’ll sit and watch him
By the taper’s flickering light.
He is fair—this baby sleeper—
Auburn ringlets shade his face,
And his dimpled face is radiant
With a smile of pleasant grace.

Willie’s fairy hands are folded
Peacefully upon his breast,
Willie’s dark eyes shine no longer,
They are closed in happy rest.
Strange that little Willie slumbers
In this parlor, cold and dim!
Why not lay him in his cradle,
Murm’ring low some evening hymn?

Here it is so dark and lonely!
When he wakens, he will cry,
Starting up in baby terror,
Finding only shadows nigh:
Wrap him warmly in his blanket.
Bring him to the nursery bright,
Do not leave our pretty baby
All alone, this weary night!

Yet these words are vain and idle,
And my tears fall down like rain,
For I know, by many a token,
Willie can not wake again!
For his sleep is still and perfect
In its deep and silent flow,
As when upon his couch he rested
And his face in healthful glow.

Tiny limbs have lost their motion,
Ruby lips like coral show,
And his eyes are closed for ever
In the sleep we all must know!
Never more shall Willie nestle
In his downy cradle bed,
From this room he goeth only
To the chambers of the dead!

Like a tender little pilgrim
Fleeing from some angry strife,
Yester-night our baby Willie
Yielded up his precious life.
It may be heard the angels
Calling to him from the sky,
“Come up hither, little Willie!
To the heavenly saints on high.”

----------------------------------------
Thank you for sharing "Kittie," and I am proud to be the one to introduce your work to Google.

In a strange coincidence, I held this poem for several months before retyping it. After finally typing the document the other day, I went back to my history research project and guess what was on page one of my next issue to review?

A second poem about young Willie's death--this time the author was listed as "anonymous."

I'll add the second poem later.

Funny how things happen.  

Homeless Not Worthless

Eric Ledbetter, an employed but homeless man, lives in the woods behind the Woodland Hills Church of Christ in Tennessee's capital city.

A few Thursdays ago, Mr. Ledbetter helped police in Nashville apprehend two burglars:

...As Ledbetter made his way to the church the night of May 15, he noticed someone else had gotten there first. "By the time I got up there, I saw the window was already broken out," Ledbetter said.

"I didn't hear anything, but I saw the window. After a while, I heard some glass moving," he said. "Next thing you know, I see somebody moving around in there."

Burglars had broken in and ransacked part of the building. Ledbetter caught them in the act. He says he grabbed his phone, called 911 and waited until police arrived.

The alleged thieves, police say, are Chelsea Bomar and John Quinton. Quinton admitted to police he has broken into several other churches in the area and a local business. 

At Woodland Hills, the couple allegedly stole a flat-screen TV and a computer monitor and were coming back to take more when they were caught...
Nice catch by a man who sleeps under the stars.

Asked about his plight, the homeless man stated that he had suffered a run of bad luck and had moved to the area from Virginia.

It is often easier to identify people on the streets as "just the homeless" without recognizing that each individual has a story: The homeless population is heterogeneous.

The abused.

Those who made poor choices.

Certainly, mental health and/or substance abuse are often catalysts as well.

And some who suffered their share of bad luck.

But each has a story.

Friend of the blog and health care professional "Monica" recently shared a series of tweets about a young homeless male veteran in her California community.

She and others have been trying to talk him into getting help.

Monica has involved the mayor's office, but the soldier is not currently interested.

They are not going to give-up though.
----------------

A working guy down on his luck helps capture two burglars.

A young soldier walks the streets suffering.

The heroin addict lies in an alley focused on his next fix.

A registered sex offender lives in a tent off the beaten path to comply with court-ordered residency requirements.

Each of the homeless has a unique story, and it is important not to forget that.

Vanished: Reny Jose

On March 4, 2014, Rice University senior Reny Jose was reported missing in Panama City Beach, Florida.


Now 21-years-old, the young man was staying with about 20 friends at a rented beach house--part of a spring break trip.

Originally from New York, he has 4.0 GPA and was expected to graduate this May with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Few details about Mr. Jose's disappearance have been released, but here are the key points:
  • He was last seen the evening of March 3 on Front Beach Road and was reported missing at 11:30 am the next day by friends.

  • Officials found his wallet, cell phone and clothes in a trash can near the house.

  • Reportedly, one friend told police that Mr. Jose may have taken LSD and spoke of harming himself. The family disputes this accusation, and police stated they have found no evidence to support a theory that the young man took anything and then drowned in the ocean.

  • It was reported early in the investigation that police had ruled out foul play, but that assertion has not been reiterated in the latest reports. 

  • Comprehensive searches of the area yielded nothing (after his clothes were found).

  • The family told reporters that most of the other young people staying in the beach house left the area within 24 hours of the young man's disappearance--despite having paid for the accommodations for the entire week.
My suggestions for the family, if it were my loved one missing:

1) Hire a Private Investigator
Since the incident occurred in Florida, the witnesses returned to Texas, and the family lives in another state, it makes sense to have someone experienced and advocating for you in Florida.

If reported correctly, it is odd that a group of friends/acquaintances would leave the area without assisting in the search for Mr. Jose.

They had already paid for the house and someone was in need--why not stay and help?

Even if Mr. Jose was just an acquaintance, I can't imagine myself saying "Wow, bummer man. Good luck finding him. I still have 3 days of my spring break to enjoy."

Having someone who is not a police detective attempt to speak to the housemates may put people more at ease and glean new information.

2) Set a Regular Meeting Time with Investigators
Have investigators speak with you on a regular basis about the case. It may be by phone weekly, every 10 days, or whatever. It will be good for everyone to touch base, even if there is nothing really new to share.

3) Create a Separate Internet Presence on the Case
It is wonderful that there is a Facebook page for information on the case, but FB links names and identities to comments. Since the investigation has stalled, there is a need to offer people anonymity in developing new leads. Time is of the essence as with each passing day it will be more difficult for individuals to recall specifics about what they heard and/or saw.

Creating a website or other vehicle clearly separate from the investigating agency that organizes the case information, could encourage people to type an email offering a tip. With the site, contact information for police and/or for anonymous tips can be provided.

There is nothing wrong with giving individuals a place other than the police department to provide information about the case--some people are not comfortable talking with authorities ever.  Any useful details can then be forwarded to investigators.

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

The family is frustrated with the pace of the investigation. As such, they have been coordinating a petition to request Federal law enforcement assistance for their missing loved one.

My prayers are with Reny Jose and his family during this difficult time.

To read other Missing Person Monday posts, you can click here.






TTYLXOX or Something Like That

Last week, older boy became the proud owner of his first smart phone.
____________________________

ME: Hey guy, it is nice outside and mom wants to take a walk in a few minutes. Make sure you are ready.

Sitting on his bed and playing a game on his phone, my son responds.

OLDER BOY: Sure. Is everyone going?

ME: Yes, the whole clan.

He goes back to concentrating on the app.

OLDER BOY: Can you text me when we are ready to go?

ME: From downstairs? Ha!

I then walk downstairs and tell mom about her son's new found use for technology. Sissy (little sister) overhears the conversation.

SISSY: Can I text him? Please? Please?

ME: Hmmm. Oh yes, I think that is an awesome idea.

-----

With some help, here is the text she sent to older boy when it was walk time:

Time to go my BFF! :) LOL :D xox Sissy

Nothing like getting a digital smiley face with hugs and kisses from your elementary school little sister.

As such, our household is now modernized.

For better or for worse emoticon.
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Have a good weekend everyone.  

Your Employer: A Dumpster Fire

Last week, the consulting firm Manuel, Daniels, Burke International, LLC, released a report about the Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police Department (SCMPD) in picturesque Savannah, GA.

For the public, that means lots of yawning.

But that department is trying to regain public trust after years of internal problems, and Interim Chief Julie Tolbert certainly has her hands full.

As in most places, change takes time.

For the most part, the report focuses on a single branch of the police department (IAD), but one released statistic is shocking.

Well, shocking in dumpster-fire fashion.

Get this:

Through attrition, the SCMPD lost 107 officers in 2012, and another 121 officers in 2013.

In other words...

THEY LOST 228 OFFICER IN JUST TWO YEARS!

The agency's website lists that the SCMPD employs around 600 officers.

So, the SCMPD lost over 1/3 of its uniformed workforce?

Wow!

Dumpster Fire! Dumpster Fire!

Now, there are legitimate reasons that officers or any other workers leave jobs.

Things like maybe the workforce was older and they just had lots ready to retire.

Or, their government offered an early retirement package in 2012 and 2013 to reduce costs.

Perhaps, the 228 officers are shared winners in the latest Powerball Lottery.

Ok, maybe not. What is more likely?

It was just a super sucky place to work.

Unfortunately, I usually assume the latter reason until proven otherwise, and the consultants (via their study) found evidence with the crappy employer theory.

On Page 7 of the report, the consultants admit that it is unknown as to why so many officers left the SCMPD, as the agency did not keep such records (really?).

But, their interviews with current personnel indicated that "dissatisfaction with the climate of favoritism" played a role.

Oh favoritism. That is a morale killer.

As such, the consultants recommend that the agency initiate an exit interview program to better understand employee attrition.

Exit interviews?

Genius!

I see that the police department maintains national accreditation through the The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).

CALEA recognition is not easily attained.

Perhaps a good starting point for Chief Tolbert and agency reforms is to look at the CALEA standards that the SCMPD says it is meeting.

Are these required CALEA personnel and policy standards truly being met, or is it simply a game of smoke and mirrors to make the agency appear professional?

Currently, the dumpster fire continues in Savannah and the tax-paying citizens are the losers.

You can view the full SCMPD report by clicking here.
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Question: Exit interviews are effective and common sense dictates that they should be used regularly by employers. Have you ever participated in an exit interview when leaving a job?