Showing posts with label murder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label murder. Show all posts

01 March 2020

Tales from the Wood


Just two
Friends
Sexual
‘Cement’ their love
Killing
Five victims… or twelve… or seventeen or eighteen
… numbers unknown.
Catherine Wood

Gwendolyn Graham
Made it a game. Made it fun. Tried to spell out ‘m-u-r-d-e-r’ with victims’ names. Couldn’t spell worth nuthin’.

Made up for spelling in sing-song verse– Love ya forever and a day… for each killing.

You no tell, I no tell… forever. Until one cheats.

Gwendolyn Graham, Catherine Wood.

Wood sought revenge on Gwen. Cathy, the manipulator, the planner, the convincer of police and prosecutors, she testified convincingly against her former inamorata.

This unfolded in the latter 1980s, back when female serial killers didn’t exist, never mind two working in concert. So why should we care now?

One of them, Wood, the one incarcerated here in mad, mad, mad, mad Florida, won parole. Graham remains locked away forever.

Has justice been served?

Wood initially imparted the tales of the killings to her ex-husband. Not knowing what to think, he brought in police which, oddly enough, may have been part of Cathy Wood’s revenge plan.

She and other witnesses told authorities a number of stories:
  1. All Gwen’s fault. Gwen thought it up. Gwen planned the murders. Gwen picked targets. Gwen executed victims. Gwen took souvenirs. Gwen bullied Cathy to serve as reluctant lookout. Gwen guilty. Cathy not so much.
  2. Nobody killed nobody. Catherine Wood made it all up as a mind game to punish Graham.
  3. Cathy Wood planned and killed at least the first woman, then involved Graham in a calculated move to bind Gwen Graham to her forever.
  4. Wood planned and executed all five to a dozen or more murders to implicate Graham. The goal was revenge for cheating on her, a plot that spun out of control.
  5. Graham herself contends she’s innocent, a victim of Wood’s hatred and thirst for vengeance. She might be right… or not.
Here’s Nancy Grace going breathlessly verklempt about it.


Remember the case? What’s your opinion? Do weigh in.

02 December 2019

Patio Writer


As I recall, I first encountered Joseph D'Agnese when I read his first story in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and rated it the best story I read that week.   We had a chat and later shared a lunch with our editor Linda Landrigan.  Yes, that was name-dropping. Suffer.

Joe has a new book and I asked him to tell us about it. But first, let's talk about the man himself.  

Joseph D'Agnese is a journalist, author, and ghostwriter who has written for both adults and children alike. He has won a Derringer Award for his short mystery fiction, and one of his stories appeared in the Best American Mystery Stories 2015 anthology. D'Agnese lives with his wife in North Carolina. Joe has been called “The Meryl Streep of Short Fiction,” but prefers to think of himself as The Susan Lucci. Visit him at josephdagnese.com  -Robert Lopresti



PATIO WRITER

by Joseph D'Agnese

Once upon a time I wrote a novel, and it was awesome. At least my parents and I thought so. And why wouldn’t we all think that? I was all of 15 years old.

My parents did not actually read the book, and never would. Neither of them had finished high school. They were, as people are fond of saying, not big readers.

But for some reason, they thought it was wonderful and perhaps a little strange that their son preferred sitting on the patio banging away on a manual typewriter, instead of doing things his brothers or other kids did. All summer long, when it came time for dinner, my mother would scoot me off our picnic table in the Jersey suburbs so we could fire up the grill and eat dinner al fresco. She would say things like, “You’re gonna ruin your eyes!” “What is this, your office?” and “How long is this thing going to be?"

The story in question had something to do with a bookseller who solved mysteries in his spare time. He had a bookshop in New York City, and a nephew who was a professional gumshoe who helped investigate. The nephew narrated; the uncle solved the mystery. A complete Nero Wolfe rip-off—er, dynamic. Aside from the fact that I’d never set foot in a Manhattan bookstore in my life, I figure the story was about as clever as a kid my age could make it. A kid who obsessively read mysteries, that is.

In my defense, I also had a summer job of sorts. When I wasn’t reading or writing, I worked for my dad, who was a pattern maker in New York’s Garment District. (Astute readers will recall that my very first story to appear in AHMM was set in that world.) Dad brought home extra work to make a little money on the side, and I helped him out nights and weekends in his shop in the garage.

I used my meager earnings to make two photocopies of the manuscript, which I presented to my parents. I have no idea what my mother did with her copy. My father tucked his into the plastic gray briefcase he took with him to work every morning, and showed it off to friends when they lunched in greasy spoon diners that catered to the men of New York’s Fashion Avenue.

School started up and I had tucked away my Olivetti until my next big writing season. My father returned home from work one night and announced with utter seriousness, “Next week, you’re coming to the city with me. An editor wants to talk to you about that book of yours!”

What the hell was this now?

If you’re looking for tips on how to break into the competitive literary market, pay attention. Apparently growing tired of lugging around the MS, my father had slipped it to the ladies coat buyer for Montgomery Ward, a woman whose sister happened to work as an assistant to an editor at some publishing house in New York City. A firm my father kept calling The Bantam.

Was I familiar with The Bantam? I was, Dad, highly freaking familiar. I had a ton of paperbacks published by them.

This news took me aback. This was not supposed to happen. The book was for private consumption only. My youngest brother, for example, had recently announced he might just read this book of mine, if he could squeeze it in between homework and clarinet practice.

I was simultaneously terrified and elated at the prospect of real-life editors reading my book. When that day arrived, I donned an ill-fitting jacket and tie and ascended an elevator with my dad at The Bantam offices at 666 Fifth Avenue.

The editor was lovely, and told me just what a kid who thought he sorta, kinda, maybe wanted to write needed to hear. My work was wonderful for a writer my age. My characters fun and funny to be around. Oh sure—there were a few implausibilities that made the book unsalable, but I had to keep plugging away. I should read widely and keep writing. I should learn what I liked. And learn how to edit myself. Learn the difference, if I could, between commercial and literary work. The editor’s name was Linda S. Price, but the hour she gave me that afternoon was absolutely priceless.

As I rode back to Jersey with my dad on the bus, a shopping bag of Bantam books at my feet, I felt the world had opened up just a bit. Although those of you who are writers will understand that I ignored all the positive things she said to me, and dwelled only on the negative. What the hell was an implausibility?

That manuscript went into my bedroom closet and was joined by others I cranked out on the patio over the remaining summers I was in school. Then, one day, when I was out of college and working in publishing in New York, I dug out the bookshop mystery and read it.

Guess what? The characters and scenarios were delightful, but the thing was positively riddled with implausibilities. The savvy 26-year-old me—who now worked in cosmopolitan Manhattan—snickered at the stupidity of 15-year-old me.

Still—I liked the characters. And the plot could work. I became convinced that I knew just how to fix it. So I rewrote the whole thing and shopped it around to the very same editors I’d met during my first big job hunt. No takers.

Versions 1 and 2 disappeared into a file cabinet, where they stayed thirty years, until I dug them out earlier this year.

Did I really want to do this again?

I did. So much so that I scanned those brown pages to make a modern digital file to work from.

This time, 54-year-old me stood up for the 15-year-old in ways that the 26-year-old could not deign to. In the course of the third rewrite, it became completely obvious to me that my amateur sleuth was never intended to be a man but a woman. In fact, the sleuth spoke just like an old elementary school principal of mine. She was the first Italian-American woman I’d known who’d completed college. She used words like unmitigated gall and enunciate. The 15- and 26-year-old writers had been blind to this connection, but I like to think the 54-year-old appreciated this truth for what it was—another gift from the grown-ups in his past.

My mother is no longer with us, but my father who is knocking on 90 had little trouble recalling our visit to The Bantam when he called to say he’d gotten the proof I’d dropped in the mail to him.

“What the hell am I going to do with this?” said the man who spends most of his day watching NCIS reruns and not-so-terribly historic programs on the History Channel.

“You could try reading it,” I suggested.

“Yeah, right,” he said. “You got a clear head, kid.”

So after three rewrites and 40 years, Murder on Book Row is finally out in the world. I reserve the right to clear up any lingering implausibilities when I rewrite it at age 80.

21 November 2019

Cold Ads, Cold Cases


Unfreakin' believable:  This is South Dakota's latest ad about the drug wars:

"Meth:  We're On It"

Check out the posters here!  Argus Leader

Apparently, the idea is to say that meth addiction is everywhere, and people of all ages, etc., are on meth, and we need to fight it together.  On the other hand - I know my first reaction was, "What?"  If it works, great...
but is it just another version of the 2015 ad, "South Dakota, We're Better than Mars"?


Or the memorable South Dakota ad campaign that tried to cut down winter accidents with the following slogan:


And they swore that it was all about jerking the steering wheel, not, uh, something else.

Let's just say that I have ceased to believe that any Don Drapers are here in South Dakota.  Granted, he was a true s.o.b., but the ads were good.
BTW, the State of South Dakota's total budget for anti-meth initiatives in 2020 includes $1 million for meth treatment services and more than $730,000 for school-based meth prevention programming.  But this ad campaign "Meth:  We're On It" has already cost $449,000, which could perhaps be used for more... treatment?  Or something?  
Meanwhile, a lot of the news over the last week or so has been a cold case from 1974.  Ellabeth Lodermeier disappeared on March 6, 1974 from her Sioux Falls home, and hasn't been seen since. Seven months later, three of her credit cards were found at a railway station in Manitoba, Canada, but police said this was a red herring.  Then in 1992, Lodermeier's purse and pocketbook were discovered near the Big Sioux River, but nothing came of that.

Ellabeth Mae Lodermeier
Ellabeth Lodermeier
Then, in December, 2018, the Argus Leader ran an investigation piece on her disappearance, and that led to some brand new leads.  (Read here)  So last week, a team of dogs was out searching.  The police have called the results, "promising", but nothing more.

Meanwhile, before her disappearance, Lodermeier had filed for divorce from her husband, Gene.  A lot of people - including her family - believe that he killed her.  But he died back in 2013, in prison for grand theft.  Nonetheless, he spent the rest of his life under suspicion, which he bitterly resented.

Personally, I'm in awe of cold case law enforcement.  Starting all over again, to solve a crime, to find a person, etc. - takes a certain kind of dedication, and more puzzle-solving abilities than I have.

(That's part of the reason I love New Tricks so much - they solve cold cases - along with the fact that I think they're one of the greatest team shows I've ever seen.  Each and every one of them contributes, and who finally figures it out changes with the episodes.)  
One of the big cold cases that was solved in South Dakota was back in 2014, when South Dakota police finally found the bodies of two high school students, Pamela Jackson and Cheryl Miller, who had vanished on their way to a party in 1971. For over 30 years, people believed they had been kidnapped and murdered. One man was even indicted for the charge - a convicted rapist in prison - based on a supposed confession to another inmate. Later, it was proved that the "confession" had been faked. Nonetheless, his family had to put up with a lot of harassment from law enforcement - including digging up the family farm - and neighbors.

And then, in 2013, Brule Creek water levels dropped significantly, and there were the wheels of the girls' Studebaker. "was in third gear, with the keys in the ignition and the lights on. One tire was damaged. ... Miller's purse was found, [then AG] Jackley said. Inside it was her license, notes from classmates and photographs."  (Argus Leader)  It was simply a tragic accident.

Missing girls press conference

Which is easier to deal with?  Tragic accident or horrendous crime?  If you were family or friend of someone who'd gone missing, which would be easier to live with?

I was thinking about that, and decided that, with a crime, the question would always be, "why couldn't we have seen it coming?" or "why couldn't they have caught the criminal back then?" Or simply statement:  "It isn't fair that they got away with it!"

And it isn't.  Life isn't fair - and the fact that we actually recognize it is, to me, one of the major proofs of the existence of God - and that's why I'd plump for a tragic accident.  The heart's still broken, but at least it's free of vengeance.













05 February 2019

I Am Not a Crook – Or: A friend will help you move. A really good friend will help you move a body.


by Paul D. Marks

They say write what you know, but we can’t always write what we know because that would severely limit what we could write. I don’t think George Lucas or Robert Heinlein ever went to outer space before they wrote about it. And most of us here are crime writers or readers, but how many crime writers have actually lived a life of crime? Aside from speeding or maybe smoking a joint or a little underage drinking, not exactly heinous felonies. How many of us have committed those?

I’m no goody two-shoes (does anyone say that anymore?) but I also haven’t lived a life on the lam from a criminal past. As RT mentioned recently, I may have had homicidal fantasies, but I only carry them out on the page. I did, however, get a ticket for jaywalking once.

As I’ve mentioned before, I like to watch the Murder Channel, the Discovery ID Channel, 24/7 Murder, Mayhem and Betrayal. And one of the things that strikes me in many of the cases they cover is how, not only the main bad guy can so easily kill—and often someone they had once loved,—but how easy it is for them to find friends who will help them carry out their deeds before, during or after the fact. Someone to join you in the fun of murder, or join you afterwards to help you dispose of the body, lie to the cops, etc. Think about your circle of friends. Is there anyone you could turn to to help you kill someone or bury the body afterwards? I know I travel in certain circles, but I don’t think anyone I know would be willing to do that…except maybe the guy I wrote about last time, Brian McDevitt. But since I never tested him on it I can’t say for sure. But you know what they say, a friend will help you move. A really good friend will help you move a body. I’m not sure I have any really good friends… But so far I haven’t needed one. I guess I’ll find out if the time comes 😉.


And though I may not have murdered anyone, my life of crime began at a very early age. When I was around eight, I’m guessing, I stole a couple pieces of candy from a market. Once we got outside my dad noticed them in my hand and made me take them back. It was humiliating but it taught me a lesson—crime does not pay.

When I was in my late 20s, I was approached by a couple—no not for that. They wanted me to marry a friend of theirs from Lebanon so she could become a citizen. They would pay me and at the time I could have used the money, badly. I told them I’d think about it. But I didn’t really need to. I knew I wouldn’t—couldn’t—do it…because it was both wrong and illegal. Nonetheless, I went home and got back to them a day or two later with my negative response. They weren’t happy, but I could live with myself.

But I did commit a crime while down in San Diego. A buddy of mine and I wanted to go to Belmont Park, a small seaside amusement park. We didn’t want to pay, so we hopped a fence on the back side, climbing over barbed wire, and jumped into the park. Nobody caught us. Not exactly in the category of mass murderer, but still illegal.

McDonald’s Incident 1: Also, in San Diego, but another time, another person—my brother this time. We went to McDonald’s. They gave him too much change. A twenty instead of a five. I made him return it. Not a crime, of course, but it ties in with the next point:

McDonald’s Incident 2: Up in LA this time. They short-changed me. I pointed it out. They made me feel like a liar, a thief and criminal. They made me wait while they closed that register and rectified. They found they were wrong and I was right. They gave me my change but never apologized. This happened shortly after the first McDonald’s incident, so I felt like a sap for being honest that time. But I’d probably do it again.

Rear-ender: I was on my way to teach a class. Occasionally I taught one-night screenwriting seminars. I was sitting at a red light and I see this huge Ford pickup barreling down on me. I tried to pull over, but couldn’t in time. He clipped me, sent me through a lamppost and destroyed my car (see pix). I was lucky to get out alive. Luckily I wasn’t hurt more. And all I wanted from his insurance company—and everyone knew and admitted that he was 100% in the wrong—was to have my medical paid, real replacement value for my car, not the bluebook value—I proved to them that these cars were going for more than Bluebook. And for them to pay for my rental car. His insurance company lied to me over and over. They also tried to screw me more ways than one. I had tried being honest and straight with them. But I realized the error of my ways: not getting a lawyer and finally got one. And I’m sure that whatever settlement we got was more than what I would have settled for initially…because I am an honest person and didn’t want to screw them. But they wanted to screw me…so I screwed back, legally.


I probably shouldn’t say this, but since it’s from my wilder and younger days, and I don’t do it anymore: I used to carry a very sharp knife with me. And when people would block me in a parking place one way or another, well, let’s just say they had a hard time driving home…after I slashed their tires. I never felt bad about it. It shouldn’t take me ten minutes to crawl into my car or work my way out of a parking place. It was sort of instant justice.

I may have done some other things, heated arguments and sometimes fights, but nothing major. Never stole (except for the candy when I was a kid), murdered, burgled, robbed. But I write about people who do. And, of course, I did pull a gun on the cops that time...and lived to tell about it… But for that story you’ll have to check out my website: https://pauldmarks.com/he-pulled-a-gun-on-the-lapd-and-lived-to-tell-about-it/ 

So………..do you know anyone who would be willing to help you move the body?

~.~.~

And now for the usual BSP:

Colman Keane interviewed me for his blog, Col's Criminal Library. Check it out:

http://col2910.blogspot.com/2019/02/questions-and-answers-with-paul-d-marks.html


Please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks and check out my website www.PaulDMarks.com

31 January 2019

What We're Best at Being Bad At


Ah, the nuances of our various United States.  And, thanks to the Internet, we have more memes and statistics and sites than ever before to show everyone what we're good - and bad - and very VERY bad at.

According to the Reader's Digest, South Dakota is Best at Retirement — Everyone’s golden years are more, well, golden in South Dakota, where a combination of low taxes and happy residents makes it the best state for retirement according to Bankrate. And we're Worst at Child Mortality Rate — Unfortunately, the younger generation in the Mount Rushmore state isn’t faring so well. With 47 teen and child deaths per 100,000 people every year, it’s leading the nation in child mortality.  So - give birth somewhere else, but come here to retire.  Interesting...

How does this compare to other states I've lived in?

Well, California is Best at diversity, and Worst at quality of life. I'm surprised at that, because I remember California as wonderful - and I don't think it was all youth and hormones...

But it beats North Carolina (where I went to graduate school for a while at Chapel Hill), which is Best at Millenial Living but Worst at STDs. Please folks - start using condoms!

Georgia is Best at onions - specifically Vidalia, and I can attest to their sweetness.  It's Worst at flu prevention.

Tennessee is Best at Fast Wi-Fi - apparently the state's internet is 50 times speedier than the national average, and God only knows how they got that - and Worst at childhood obesity rates.

But let's move on to crime.  What's the most famous unsolved crime in every state?  (see MSN to look up your state.)

In South Dakota, it's the murders of 30-year-old LaDonna Mathis and her two sons, aged 4 and 2, shot dead on September 8, 1981, in Mount Vernon in Davison County, South Dakota. The father, John Mathis, was shot in the arm, but survived. He said a masked man had carried out the attack, but investigators considered him the prime suspect. He was acquitted a year later when a jury found him not guilty, mainly because the prosecution had no witnesses, no murder weapon and little physical evidence.  "As I look back, I would have recognized that at that time there was a myth, a myth that parents could not harm their children, No. 1," then-Attorney General Mark Meierhenry said. "No 2., that sometimes myth overwhelms reason. Because it's what we all want to believe."

NOTE:  The Argus Leader has a whole different set of top five unsolved mysteries - look them up HERE.

BTW, there are lots of gruesome stories on this website, but the weirdest one is from Vermont:
Between 1920 and 1950, as many as 10 people mysteriously disappeared in a patch of woods surrounding Glastenbury Mountain in southwestern Vermont. Native Americans consider Glastenbury Mountain “cursed” and used it strictly for burying their dead. They believed the land to be cursed because all four winds met in that spot. There is also mention in native American folklore of an enchanted stone which is said to swallow anything that steps on it. Some have also reported UFO activity and Bigfoot sightings in the area.  Author Joseph Citro coined the term "Bennington Triangle" in 1992.  Well, sounds like a new movie franchise to me.

John Dillinger mug shot.jpg
John Dillinger
The most notorious crime for each state is almost always entirely different (see Insider) than the "most famous unsolved" one, with the exceptions of the murder of Jon Benet-Ramsay in Colorado, and the murder of TV star Bob Crane in Scottsdale, AZ in 1978.  But they are indeed all notorious - I'd heard of most of them, including the 1924 murder by Leopold and Loeb of their 14 year old cousin, Bobby Franks, the 1954 Clutter murders which was the source material for Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood", and Jeffrey MacDonald, who was accused and eventually convicted of the 1970 murders of his family at Fort Bragg.  BTW, Mr. MacDonald has consistently declared his innocence (but then so do so many), but has consistently been refuted, denied, etc.  However, in 1997 DNA testing was done on some hair from the crime scene, some of which matched no one in the MacDonald family.  So far this evidence has not been enough to get him a new trial.  That happens more often than you'd think.  

Meanwhile, in South Dakota, it's when John Dillinger robbed the Security National Bank in Sioux Falls on March 6, 1934.  He got $50,000, which would be almost a million dollars today.

Now it's very appropriate that a bank robbery would be our most notorious crime, because when it comes to crime statistics, South Dakota is best known for its larceny.  61% of all our major crimes are monetary, and if you're surprised, you haven't been paying attention to my past blogs on EB-5, Gear Up!, and Maria Butina:  61% larceny and theft, 14% burglary, 14% aggravated assault (combine drinking and winter, and a lot of stuff happens around the bars or at home), 7% motor vehicle theft, and the remaining 4% rape, robbery, and murder/manslaughter.  (MuniNetGuide)

I looked over the charts, and while the numbers do change, the actual proportions of crime look almost the same for all the states. But you feel it a bit more in a state like this.  South Dakota has a current population of around 870,000, which means that each and every South Dakotan will either experience crime, commit crime, or feel the effects of crime upon them or someone they know. You know that whole "Six Degrees of Separation" rap? Here it's Two Degrees. At the most.

It's like when Carl Ericsson, 72 years old and holding a serious grudge, came to Madison, SD one night in 2012, and went literally from door to door, looking for someone on his grudge list who was home.  (Yes, he had a list.)  Fortunately for all but one, the only one home was a very popular retired teacher, Norm Johnson, who Ericsson shot twice in the face.  Johnson died that night.  I knew Johnson - he always was the host of the annual Spelling Bee, and I was one of the AAUW women who judged it.  I also knew him from substitute teaching at the high school when we first moved up to Madison.  I didn't know Carl Ericsson, but I knew his brother (who was also on Carl's grudge list), and all of his brother's family.  And that night the deputy who lived next door to us knocked on my door and asked me to babysit his kids while he went to join the other law enforcement looking for the shooter.  This was before anyone knew who the shooter was, or where he was, or who he was looking for.  The deputy gave me a gun in case the shooter came calling, and I sat there while the kids slept for a few hours.  Safe, but listening for footsteps on the sidewalk, and/or a knock on the door.  Everyone in Madison (population 6,000+) knew either Ericsson, Johnson, or both.  It resonated in a way that you almost never see on TV.

But back to embezzlement.  Besides grifting on the state level, there's also one heck of a lot of small potatoes embezzlement here in South Dakota, much of it fueled by gambling addiction and/or medical bills.  $500 from the local VFW; $1,500 from a doctor's office; $2,500 from a nursing home.  Interestingly, besides the public humiliation, the punishment is more a slap on the wrist:  the main penalty is to pay the money back and do community service; rarely is there any jail time.  Perhaps that's why it's so common...

hi-grain_766852540621But every once in a while it gets bigger than video lottery.  Just recently, up in Kingsbury County a family-run grain elevator has gone bankrupt because the family was hedging commodities and lost as much as $15 million of other people's money. Now that's serious gambling. And the farmers who trust them are in a world of hurt.  The farmers hauled their grain to the elevator, waited for prices to go up and the grain to be sold, and then waited, waited, waited for their checks...  Besides the fact that the grain elevator pocketed the money, while grain purchasers have to post bonds to guarantee that they'll pay the grain producers - but this company only had a bond of $400,000.  That's going to resonate for a long time.  Maybe longer than murder.  (KELO-TV)

Anyway, that's all from South Dakota, where we talk like Mayberry, act like Goodfellas, and the crazy just keeps on coming.

 

PS - In a sea-filled flavor of things to come, Madison, SD is taking up shrimp farming!  Tru Shrimp, from Ballaton, MN, has announced plans to build its first commercial shrimp harbor in Madison. "The facility is expected to employ 60, produce 8 million pounds of shrimp annually, and have a $30 million impact on a five-county area."  (Madison Daily Leader)  Because nothing says shrimp harbor like the plains of South Dakota... I see a real story coming here, folks, and I will keep you posted!

PPS - Leigh Lundin's tid-bits from Florida have made me feel that I need to provide aid and comfort to him in regard to a certain Mr. Sardo.  (Leigh's post)  Here in South Dakota, on January 11, 2019, an Ipswich man was convicted for fulfilling his dream of having sex with underage twins - in this case, two calves.  He tried to claim that the laws against bestiality were unconstitutional, but the judge didn't buy it.  (Story Here)

27 January 2019

On the Subject of Murder


by R.T. Lawton

You've seen the large print headlines of your local newspaper. You've heard the news from your television commentators. Someone, or even several people, were murdered. Maybe the victim was shot down in the street. Or maybe multiple bodies were found in a house. Police are investigating. If you're lucky, these murders didn't happen to anyone you know. But, if you live in a large city, these type of local headlines seem to occur with a growing frequency. And, regardless of where you live, it appears that people are going crazy.

How the hell did we get to this point?

According to Dr. David Buss (author of The Murderer Next Door), an evolutionary psychologist, who examined over 400,000 FBI files of murderers, "the vast majority of murders are committed by people, who until the day they kill, seem pretty normal." Now that's a scary thought. The world was so much more tidy on my end when I could consider psychological misfits and stone cold street criminals as the prime candidates for being the guys that kill. So now, I have to watch out for Uncle Benny who takes umbrage at me kidding him for still wearing a bow tie after all these years? And what about Neighbor Jim who thinks my grandkids took a shortcut across the corner of his lawn? Am I destined to be doomed by Joe Everyman? What is pushing that normal everyday person over the edge and converting him into a killer?

I'm glad you asked. Conveniently for us, Dr. Buss, besides examining those 429,729 homicide files in the FBI system, also conducted a fantasy homicide study with 5,000 subjects, 175 of which were actual murderers. (Guess for these latter few, it wasn't just a fantasy.) Out of this total group, 91% of the men and 84% of the women had had at least one homicidal fantasy. These were vivid fantasies, often going into great detail. That's a lot of people thinking about murder and how to do it. No wonder bodies keep piling up in novels, and the mystery genre is doing so well.

Fortunately, most of the study participants got their homicide fantasies worked out in other ways to resolve whatever the original problem was. What seemed to separate the non-killers from the killers? Fear of being caught and sent to prison was a common response. However, when asked if they could commit the murder without being caught, most men thought the chances of them going forward would increase about fourfold. So, it appears that if you have caused someone to suffer mentally and/or socially and are still alive to read today's post, you may owe your life to the cost/benefit ratio of committing murder these days. Perhaps, television shows like CSI, where the investigators identify the criminals within an hour by forensic science, have had a positive influence to help keep down the murder statistics to some degree.

In the doctor's fantasy study, public humiliation was the leading factor for especially violent and detailed fantasies when disposing of the tormentor. Now, think of the teen bullied at school, or the guy who lost his job and blames his boss or coworkers. You've already seen those headlines. Seems like a certain amount of social cost and psychological pain to a person's pride and reputation can make for that person taking a bent towards revenge, where the next step may be a giant one called murder.

Under the right circumstances, it appears that most people are willing to kill. And, it's not all for pride and reputation. You've probably heard lots of people say that they would kill to protect their children or themselves from being killed. How about you? How far would you go to protect family and/or yourself? Depending upon the laws in your state, the act of killing another person under certain circumstances may not make you a murderer, but the act itself does make you a killer.

So now, let's go one step further. Have you had your own homicidal fantasies towards someone who has seriously tormented you? If so, then I hope those thoughts worked as some kind of therapy for you, and you could then put those fantasies out of your mind and get on with your life before doing something stupid.

Dr. Buss thinks we can maybe design environments that prevent the stimulation of those feelings which lead to murder. I don't know exactly what the doctor has in mind, but us showing a little kindness to those we cross paths with just might help some with the daily grind of living that we all get caught up in. A few kind words, a compliment here and there, a helping hand. See if we can make this a better world without so many dark headlines. Maybe we can save a few lives and not even know it.

Of course, authors can still murder people, as long as they only do it in books.

08 September 2018

Some Updates


by Libby Cudmore

Libby Cudmore
I wanted to update you all on a couple of cases I wrote about back in January. It’s been a quiet year at the paper with only a few tragedies and both of them accidents – a teenager drowned after his boat capsized in a storm and a toddler drowned in a lake after getting away from his family during a picnic. They’re a different kind of heartbreak. But the summer, thankfully, has been murder-free, thankfully. It’s a considerable upgrade from where I was this time last year.

In August, Tobias Rundstrom-Wooding, one of the two men accused of raping and killing 11 year old Jacelyn O’Connor, plead guilty and got 20-to-life, likely life. “He showed no remorse,” Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride told me in an interview after the sentencing. “I asked the judge to recommend that he never be released.”

(I am writing this to Warren Zevon’s “Play it All Night Long,” on the 15th anniversary of Zevon’s death. There ain’t much to country living/sweat, piss, jizz and blood. I listened to this song a lot in the days following her death)

30 August 2018

Safety: A Woman's Perspective


by Eve Fisher

You'd have to be under a rock for the last month to not know/hear about the tragic story of Mollie Tibbetts, the Iowa college student who went missing a few weeks ago, and whose body was found in an Iowa cornfield, stabbed to death.  Her killer turned out to be an illegal immigrant from Mexico.  President Trump, Senators Chuck Grassley, Joni Ernst, Tucker Carlson and most of Fox News wasted no time weighing in about how the "broken immigration system" led to the tragic murder of an innocent young girl, and that we need to build a wall NOW.
NOTE that all of these ignored the fact that her killer had been living and working at a local Iowa dairy farm for years (which farm later admitted they hadn't used the E-verify system), and before that had gone to high school in the same town.  
And the pundits didn't even bother to hide the fact that they're going to use Mollie's death as a major campaign talking point:
"Personally, I don't believe that the Cohen and Manafort story really moves the meter in one direction," said Fox News contributor, former GOP congressman Jason Chaffetz. "But what will touch the hearts, what does touch people's emotion, is what happened to Mollie Tibbetts because they can relate to her and she was murdered. All the polls are showing that the No. 1 issue is immigration." (quote)
This despite the fact that the Mollie Tibbetts case is a murder investigation, not an immigration issue.  And nothing they do to him, or to "secure our borders" by walls or anything else, will make women any safer in America.  Because here's the deal:  Women are kidnapped, raped, beaten, murdered all the time in America.  90+% of the time by Americans.  Most of the time it doesn't even make the news.  And the silence around that is overwhelming.

Image result for men are afraid that women will laugh at them. women are afraid that men will kill them

The same week that Mollie Tibbetts' killer and body were found was the week that Chris Watts was arrested in Colorado for killing his pregnant wife Shanann and their two preschool daughters Bella and Celeste.  But once someone said "illegal immigrant," Chris Watts - who premeditatedly killed his entire family - was off the news.  (NYT

The Watts Family
And in the Watts case, the pundits certainly weren't being very hysterical about the perpetrator.  Before the Watts family murders was drowned in the dark hole of racial hysteria, a motive appeared:  Apparently Shanann found out that her husband was having an affair with a co-worker.  And so a psychologist on Fox News made it seem (almost) perfectly logical that he killed her and the children:  “Most [murders] were done — 60 percent were done — by rage, the other 10 percent they don’t know the cause, and the other 30 percent were spousal revenge. I’m pretty surprised he didn’t kill himself, too. Oftentimes, it goes in a pattern,” said Mowder, who said in this case, there could be another reason for the murders. “I think he had a vision of another life with this other woman — carefree, no responsibilities,” she said. “Two children and another on the way, that’s a big responsibility.”  (Fox)

So, the husband was overburdened and couldn't cope, so of course he killed them all?

It could be worse:  I was in a church, once, where the pastor said from the pulpit that Nicole Simpson deserved what she got because she was an adulterous woman.  I got up and walked out, but a lot of people were nodding their heads.  (In case you've forgotten, the Simpsons were divorced when Nicole was murdered, and even if they weren't - adultery is an unacceptable reason to slash someone's throat.)
Nia Wilson

And I doubt that many of you heard about Nia Wilson, an 18 year old black woman who was stabbed to death by a white man on July 24, 2018, as she stood waiting on the platform of a Bay Area Rapid Transit train.  Her sister, Lahtifa, was also badly wounded.  The attacker was John Cowell, an ex-felon, transient, perhaps schizophrenic, an Aryan Brotherhood member, who apparently laid in wait for the "right" people to attack.  Nia was a student, too, who planned to become a paramedic - or maybe a music producer.  Like Mollie, she had her whole life ahead of her.  (NYT2)

And then there's Tyler Tessier, currently on trial for killing his pregnant girlfriend, Laura Wallen, back in September of 2017.  He took her out to a rural, grassy hill in Maryland - supposedly to show her where they'd build their dream home - and then shot her in the back of the head and buried her.  (Washington Post)  Because, as Ms. Mowder said above, a child on the way, "that's a big responsibility."

Tell you what, if you want to do a really depressing Google Search, google "man killed pregnant girlfriend" or "man killed entire family" and see how many hits come up.

Here in South Dakota, we had Scott Westerhuis, who (after being informed that his embezzlement was going to catch up with him) in 2015 shot his wife and four children, torched his house, and then shot himself.  But nobody ever says we've got to have strict background checks or psychological testing on potential and current domestic partners.

And when Robert Leroy Anderson was tried and convicted for kidnapping, raping, torturing, and killing women in South Dakota back in the 90s, nobody ever even mentioned psychological testing or regular searches of pudgy white men who work at meat-packing plants, and nobody brought up deportation.
NOTE:  in that case, the only person's immigration status that was ever brought up was that of one of his victims.  Yes, I'm serious - Larisa Dumansky was a Ukrainian immigrant, and when she first disappeared, a rumor went around that she'd either gone back home or dumped her husband because they had a green card marriage.  It took a while for people to accept that she'd been kidnapped and murdered.
Elizabeth Smart Speaks About Overcoming Trauma.jpg
Elizabeth Smart
And when Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped at 14 by a man who claimed to be purifying and restoring the true Mormon church - who kidnapped her and raped her daily for nine months - there was an almost unbreakable silence about the various Mormon (and other) polygamist compounds in America whose leaders routinely marry child brides, i.e., rape children, live off of government welfare, and drive off their male kids so they won't be their fathers' rivals for all the child brides.  There was no crackdown, and most of those compounds are still in existence, including in South Dakota.

Then there's Caroline Nosal, 24, shot and killed by a co-worker after he was suspended after she complained he was sexually harassing her. 

And Lakeeya Walker was 22 and pregnant, whose attacker choked and kicked her because she hadn’t thanked him after he held open the door.  


And let us never forget Jaelynn Willey, the 16 year old who was shot in the head by her ex-boyfriend.  Her killer was called by many news outlets "a lovesick teen" and a "heartbroken homecoming prince".

Look, there's a reason for women to be afraid in this country, but it sure as hell isn't because of undocumented immigrants.
  • It's because half of all female homicide victims are killed by intimate partners, and more than 98% of those partners are men.  (CDC Data
  • It's because 82% of women who have been raped were raped by someone they knew; only 18% by a stranger.  (See Rape Statistics here)  
  • It's because 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.
  • It's because 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • It's because 1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.  
And then there's the fact that women always, always, always have to be on their guard in public spaces, because way too many men have an unbelievable sense of entitlement about what they can say and do to women.  Mollie Tibbetts' murder unleashed a wave of reminscences:
A woman I know was 53 years old the last time she rejected a stranger’s advances, and it went badly. A man on the New York subway kept asking her out, complimenting her breasts and butt, though he used more vulgar terms. When she told him she wasn’t interested, he pivoted to yelling, “I’m going to f--- you up, you fat bitch,” until she asked the other passengers to take out their cellphones and document what was happening. This was just a few days ago.  (The Perils of Being a Woman Who's Just Asking to Be Left Alone
Alanna Vagianos wrote a series of tweets about the perils of running while female in America:
"I found out a few years after that first break in that my sister was almost abducted by a few guys in a van while she was on a run in college. Thankfully, she was able to fight them off. I've never seen her go on a run since."
"Yesterday, my friend told me her mom stopped running after dark & bought an elliptical machine after her best friend was kidnapped & murdered while she was on a run."
“The lengths that women have to go to protect themselves from being alone in public spaces is restrictive, exhausting, f***ing terrifying.” (Twitter)
Women hear these stories ― from our friends, from our mothers, from the news. We internalize the threat and act accordingly, going places in groups, or holding our car keys between our fingers when we walk through a dark parking lot, or looking down an alley before running past it to make sure no one is going to jump out at us, or wearing headphones without actually playing anything through them, or avoiding streets and places and activities altogether ― even activities that, as Vagianos put it, are “so integral to [our] well-being.”  (Emma Gray, HuffPost)
I understand.  I take long walks alone, and have for years.  But I'm older, I have my keys, a cell phone, and I, too, watch where I go.  And I haven't always been lucky.

I can guarantee you that every woman you know has a story.  Every woman you know has been afraid for her safety, her life at one point or another.

Incel movementBecause you can't avoid them.  The self-entitled assholes are out there.  "Why don't you smile?"  "What's the matter, you don't like me?"  "Quit being such a bitch."  "So, you're not going to talk to me?"  "Hey, I got something for you."  "You trying to ignore me?"  "Who the hell do you think you are?"

And now, of course, we're also dealing with the incel movement, which believes that women do not ever have the right to say no, and which has already provided the world with a number of mass murderers (see Wikipedia, The Guardian, The New Yorker).  Because life as a woman has never been dangerous enough.

What do women want?
We want to walk, move, sit, run, play frisbee, etc., in public and be left alone.
We want to get on with our day without having to pander to someone else's ego.
We don't want to have to smile, talk, laugh, or otherwise respond because of someone else's demand.
We want to live our lives with the freedom from even the thought of harassment, assault, rape, and murder that men consider normal.

BTW, I found very interesting is that on all the above posts I've cited, and quite a few more, there is always someone - yes, some guy - who commented, essentially, well, whatcha gonna do?  Round up all the white males and get rid of them?  A few reactions:
(1) Thanks, "some guy", for proving that we're touching a nerve.
(2) Thanks, "some guy", for letting us know that changing male behavior isn't a viable option in your world.
(3) Thanks, "some guy", for blindness to irony, considering that our President, Fox News, and most GOP politicians are calling for, basically, rounding up all the Hispanics and getting rid of them to solve the problem.
(4) Thanks, "some guy", for proving that the enemy is us.