Sunday, September 30, 2012

Peterson Tragedies: Murders, Suicide, Disappearance, Accidents, Mysteries

Kathleen Savio (2004) and Stacy Peterson (2007)
Kathleen Savio, third wife of Drew Peterson

Earlier this month, on September 6, Drew Peterson, a former police officer in Illinois, was convicted of murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004. Initially Kathleen’s death was declared to be an accidental slip and fall in the shower. However, her body was exhumed and re-examined after Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy, disappeared in 2007. After the re-examination of Kathleen’s body, the forensic evidence led to a change in the cause of Kathleen’s death. It was ruled a homicide. Drew Peterson was arrested. 

At Peterson's trial, a new law (dubbed “Drew’s Law”) allowed the introduction of hearsay evidence – specifically the words of the victims. Peterson will appeal this as a violation of his constitutional rights. No one has been charged in the disappearance of Stacy, as no body has ever been found.

Drew Peterson with fourth wife, Stacy, before she went missing n 2007.
Laci and Conner Peterson (2002)

The surname Peterson has become almost synonymous with murder after Drew Peterson’s reign of terror. But even before Drew, there was another monster --  Scott Peterson. Remember him? He was the smug husband of 27-year-old Laci Peterson, who went missing on or about Christmas Eve, 2002. She was 8 months pregnant with their son, whom they planned to name Conner if he had been allowed to be born in February of 2003. Like his mother, his life was cut short by a depraved narcissist.
In January of 2003, stories surfaced of a number of affairs in which Scott had been involved. Finally and tragically, Connor’s body washed ashore on April 14, 2003, from an inlet off the San Francisco Bay. Scott had admitted from the start that he had gone boating on that body of water on the day that Laci disappeared. Part of the torso of Laci’s body washed ashore the next day, a few miles from the home that Laci shared with Scott. Scott was arrested on April 18 at a golf course where he was preparing to play a round with his father and brother. He had cut and dyed his hair blond, and in his possession were items that led police to conclude that he was planning to flee the country.

After a six-month trial and jury deliberations, Scott Peterson was convicted of the murder of Laci and their unborn child in November of 2004. He was sentenced to death and sits on death row in San Quentin.

Kathleen Peterson (2001)

Although Laci Peterson died before Kathleen Savio and Stacy Peterson, she was not the first female with a husband with the surname Peterson who has died of suspicious causes since the turn of the millennium. A year before Laci went missing, Kathleen Peterson, a telecommunications executive, died in her home in Durham, North Carolina, of a supposed fall down the stairs. It was December 9, 2001, and her husband, a novelist and news columnist, reported to police that he found her body at about 2:40 a.m. Although many of Kathleen’s injuries were caused by the fall down the stairs, there was also blunt force trauma to her head that possibly caused her death. These suspicious injuries led a grand jury to indict Mike Peterson on December 21, 2001.

During the investigation, it came to the attention of authorities that another lady friend of Mike Peterson had died of a stroke 16 years before Kathleen died. Coincidentally, this other lady friend's body was found at the foot of a staircase in the house in Germany where she died in 1985. A neighbor stated that she had seen Mike Peterson hurriedly leaving the dead woman’s home around the time the woman reportedly died. The body had been brought back to the U.S. and was buried in Texas. Authorities exhumed her body and determined that she also had a fractured skull and lacerations to her head, and that she did not die of a stroke.

On October 10, 2003, Mike Peterson was convicted of the murder of Kathleen Peterson. He was subsequently sued civilly by Kathleen’s loved ones. Peterson has appealed his case several times. The latest news I found on the case is that on December 14, 2011, just over 10 years after Kathleen’s death, a judge ordered a new trial in Michael Peterson’s case.

Kathleen, Matthew, Christopher and Albert Peterson (2012)

Now to this week. Twenty miles from where I live, in a suburb near Dulles Airport, another Kathleen Peterson lost her life under unspeakably tragic circumstances. Sometime between last Sunday evening and Monday morning (September 23-24), Albert Peterson (age 57) shot and killed his wife, Kathleen (age52), their son Matthew (age 16), and their  son Christopher (age 13). Then, reports are, Albert took his own life.

Albert and Kathleen Peterson
Christopher Peterson, 8th grade student at Rachel Carson Middle School
Matthew Peterson, Sophomore at Westfield High School
When the children did not show up for school Monday or Tuesday morning, and Kathleen and Albert did not report to work, police were dispatched to their home in Herndon, Virginia. There they found the horrific murder/suicide of the family.

Law enforcement roped off the corner lot while they investigated the crime scene on Tuesday.
One of the first reports of the tragedy that I have seen came out on Tuesday afternoon, September 25, around 3:00. This report has comments from a neighbor who mentions that the father, Albert, often sat on porch, waved to people entering the neighborhood, and even put his snow plow on his truck to help clear the neighborhood when it snowed. Their house is one of the first that you see when you enter the neighborhood from West Ox Road.
The neighborhood is in proximity to Dulles Airport, 20 miles northwest of Washington, DC.

The Peterson home is in a close knit neighborhood off of West Ox Road.

The house stands sentry at the entrance to the development.

 Although police did not officially announce the names of the deceased, the address was known to everyone in the neighborhood, including their Methodist pastor. He issued a message that afternoon to his congregants online and arranged a prayer vigil for the following evening. He issued a second message two days later to comfort the grieving family, friends, co-workers, teachers, and fellow students.

A story by the local CBS station on the afternoon that the bodies were found mentions a neighbor who says the the father was on heart medication and that his personality had recently changed. Oddly, the only story that I have seen that includes pictures of the parents is from a British website. Notably, and this is quite striking, this is one of the only stories that mentions a concerned friend saying that s/he was concerned that Albert Peterson might commit suicide.

In addition, this story states that Albert Peterson feared Obama winning a second term, and he did not want his children stuck with the country if Obama wins again. No other major news sources have dared to reveal this fact. However, one neighbor does say that Albert tried to commit suicide before.

My husband and I drove out to the location of this tragic event today (Saturday, 9/29).

I feel such a sadness for the people who knew the Petersons. I was reminded of being in Ottawa on 9-11-2001, and the need I felt to be with other Americans who were feeling the same despair that I was. I just felt the need to be connected to the grieving people. I cannot explain it. The possibility that this man was so despondent over the path this country is headed down is compelling, heartbreaking. I get close to despair at times also. I hope that, if this IS part of the reason for this tragedy, it is not suppressed. It is scary to think that this happened so close to where I live, in a community similar to my own.

The pickup remains in front of the home, and the champagne colored minivan is in the driveway.
Mourners have left flowers around this tree...
... and around the mailbox.
May the Petersons rest in peace.

We also know from the stories that Albert Peterson was a defense contractor. This week the Obama administration asked defense contractors not to issue pink slips before the November election. This is intended to prevent 100s of employees from getting notices they will lose their jobs on January 1. Employers are required to give 60 days’ notice to anyone whose job is being terminated. With cuts in defense spending from Obama’s policies set to take place January 1, 2013, that places the 60 day notice requirement right at Friday, November 2, which is the Friday before the national election. Again, if this has anything to do with this tragic event, then it needs to be made clear.

In closing, I find it ironic that I came across this "reflection" on a website I have never visited before this evening. 

Dear Ones,

I come today offering my love and protection.  
I offer my protection, because I see much fear among you.  
Do not let fear get a foothold in your life, 
as once you allow it to take hold, 
it becomes where you focus your energy 
and that only increases the fear. 
It is important to realize that the more you fear, 
the more that fear is projected into the world 
and the greater the number of people living in fear, 
the more this energy encompasses the world you live in.

This reflection was written by a woman who calls herself a "certified advisor." Her name is Kathleen Peterson.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Man Who Killed, Boiled Wife Found Guilty

David Viens, the man who killed and boiled his wife in his Lomalita restaurant in October of 2009, was convicted today by a jury in California. His sentence has yet to be handed down. California does have the death penalty, but that would be too good for this monster. Maybe slow-simmering him over a fire for four days would even things up.

Convicted murderer David Viens
Rest in Peace, Dawn...

Florida Man Impregnates Girlfriend's Young Daughter

This story is about a week in the life of a Florida woman, her 11-year-old daughter, and the woman's boyfriend.

Boyfriend Gregory Johns
On Saturday, August 25, the 11-year-old. daughter complained of stomach pains. The woman took her to a doctor, who examined the girl and told  them that the girl was not really sick, but pregnant. Now, most mothers of 11-year-old children have a pretty good idea of the people with whom their children hang out. This mother did not have long to wait to learn the identity of her daughter's baby's father. When she got home and told the boyfriend, Gregory Johns, what the doctor said, he immediately asked for her car keys so he could go to the store for some smokes. She complied, handing over the keys, and Johns left, never to return to their house.

Now, Johns was not a saintly man. Indeed, not many of us are. Johns has been in jail 10 times over the last 25 years, so the mother knew he had criminal tendencies. I have not seen his entire list of past crimes, but the one named include aggravated assault, armed robbery, burglary, and a recent drug charge. Florida obviously does not have the three-strikes-you're-in-for-life law.

Johns' earlier mug shot
The police were notified, and the sexual battery against the child (AKA "rape") was determined to have happened in early June. That means the child was almost 3 months pregnant when she got the pains that led to the discovery of her pregnancy. Police put out BOLOs for Johns, and reports of sightings came in, with police narrowing the search area to Madeira Beach and Treasure Island, west of St. Petersburg, on the Gulf coast.

Over the course of the next week, Johns broke into the home of a 78-year-old woman, tied her up, and held her hostage for 12 hours. He had a gun and he robbed her.  He reportedly called his girlfriend and apologized for having rraped her daughter. What a guy, right? That was August 28. On August 29, Johns held up a couple at knife point and robbed them. At that location, he apparently dropped a note that he had written to his girlfriend, again apologizing for his actions. He also said that he would not go back to jail.   All this time he was still using his girlfriend's car.

Then, a week after he left with the girlfriend's car, John's was located. Through an anonymous tip, Johns was tracked to a motel called, appropriately, Trails End, on Treasure Island.

That was Saturday morning, September 1 of Labor Day weekend. Police went to the location to take Johns into custody. When they entered his he hotel room, Johns was in the bathroom. They announced their presence, and Johns rushed out of the bathroom brandishing a knife and ran for toward police. Both officers filed about 5 rounds each , and Johns' trail ended. Classic suicide by cop.

The officers were placed on routine administrative leave pending an investigation into the shooting.

There will no be no need for a trial in this case. No jury will have to debate life or death for Gregory Johns in this case. But sadly, the debate over life and death is being argued -- over this innocent 11-year-old girl and the innocent life growing inside her. It is my prayer that the mother and her daughter will receive appropriate counseling, and that they will not be pressured to abort this child. I am adding this little girl and her mother and the baby to my prayer list.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

KY Woman on Trial for Shooting Lawyer Husband

When a jury in a murder trial deliberates for only two hours, it can mean several things. One is that the defendant is not guilty because the prosecution failed to prove the case. Another is that the evidence is so convincing that every juror was ready to convict from the moment deliberations began. Yet another possibility is that the jury is hopelessly divided and tells that to the judge.

This third option happened last week in a trial in central Kentucky. After deliberating for two hours, the jury of nine women and three men came back to say they were deadlocked. Although the judge sent the jury back to deliberate further, two hours later they were back again, declaring that they were at an impasse that could not be resolved. The judge had no choice but to call a “hung jury,” based on their inability to reach a unanimous decision one way or the other.

The late Larry Gilliam, Esq.
The case involved the death of a lawyer named Larry Gilliam in London, Kentucky. On trial for his murder was his wife, Lisa Gilliam. Lisa said that Larry had committed suicide, but the Commonwealth saw it differently. They will now have to try Mrs. Gilliam again if they want to convict her of murder.

It was a week into the new year of 2011, January 7 to be precise. At 2:00 in the afternoon a shot rang out from the law offices of Larry Gilliam. His wife of 44 days, Lisa, claims that she was in another office in the building when she heard the shot. She ran to her husband’s office and found him behind his desk, gun in hand, with a bullet hole in his chest.

Two months later, Lisa was indicted for Larry’s murder. She voluntarily surrendered to authorities.
Lisa Gilliam mug shot, March 22, 2011.
Lisa’s trial was originally scheduled to begin on July 23, but due to a prosecution witness delivering a baby just when the trial was set to begin, it was continued until September 17.

Lisa, it turns out, was not Larry Gilliam’s first wife. Nor was she his second, third, fourth, or fifth wife. Like Henry the Eighth, Larry had six wives. And one of those former wives, Colleen, was still receiving alimony from Larry.

Gilliam in trial last week.
According to the theory put forth by Lisa’s defense team, Larry was despondent over a number of events and circumstances in his life. He was in debt to the tune of $500,000, for starters. He also was in arrears on child support, and had been ordered by a judge to pay a lump sum of $2300 toward the arrearage. If he did not, he would go to jail for contempt of court. Witnesses testified that Larry had filed for bankruptcy that very morning. Moreover, Larry’s marriage to Lisa was also on the rocks. The two of them had had an argument that very morning, and it had gotten physical, with Larry shoving Lisa against a wall. After that, Lisa went back to work waiting for Larry to calm down. Larry then bundled money into rolls, left notes on the rolls of bills, and shot himself in the chest.

Prosecution witnesses refuted the claims that Larry was suicidal. He had just put down a cash deposit on a trip to the Bahamas the week before. He was indeed filing for bankruptcy with his cousin as the bankruptcy attorney that morning. He had filed for bankruptcy before, so the procedure would not have stressed him out that much.  

When prosecution witness Dr. Kristen Rolf came to the stand, the forensic pathologist for the state Medical Examiner’s Office said she performed an autopsy on Gilliam on Jan. 8, 2011. She said to Steele the bullet entered his left chest. The bullet path traveled the left-hand side of his body, and went through the heart, and caused a bruise to his left lung. It exited the body on the diaphragm and spleen, below the ribs. She concluded the gun was pressed against the chest, and a drug test was performed, which turned out negative.

 When cross-examined by Foster, Dr. Rolf said the wound from the gun was a close contact wound, and that “most close contact wounds end up being suicides.”

When Steele asked about who handled the gun during the time of the shooting, Dr. Rolf replied, “I can’t tell you who’s holding the gun, because I’m not there.”

The oddest thing about the case that I have read is where the police found the gun that killed Larry – it was in Lisa’s desk. If there was an explanation proffered at the trial, I have not heard it mentioned. There were no discernible finger-prints on the gun, and the forensics expert says he was not asked to run a DNA test on the gun. Lisa did not take the stand in her own defense, so there was probably no one to ask about how the gun got from the dead man’s hand to the accused wife’s desk.

It remains to be seen whether the Commonwealth will try the case again. A new pretrial date has been set for October 19, at which time the prosecution has to affirm that it plans to proceed. If not, in the opinion of some, Lisa will have gotten away with murder.

Final note: One thing that came about in this trial was a request by defense attorneys to have Lisa Gilliam's polygraph results admitted as evidence. I am still looking for the outcome of that motion.


Man Goes on Trial in Seventeen-Year-Old Murder Case

On October 23, 1995, eight days before Halloween, in Marietta, Georgia, Delta flight attendant Karmen Smith was brutally attacked and strangled in her rented basement apartment. The killer then sat around and waited. Hours later, Smith’s 5-year-old son, Nicholas, came home from school. This innocent blond-haired child then was viciously stabbed 18 times and left for dead. Against all odds, Nicholas survived the senseless assault.

The house in which Karmen and Nicholas Smith lived, 1580 Old Hunters Trace in Marietta, Georgia, was shared with the owner, a woman named Loretta Spencer Blatz.
Location of the murder: 1580 Old Hunters Trace, Marietta, GA 30062

Some time earlier in 1995, Blatz had filed stalking charges against a young man named Waseem Daker, a Canadian citizen who lived in Duluth, Georgia. Blatz said that after she received repeated harassing phone from Daker, she took her own phone off the hook. Daker then began making harassing calls to Karmen Smith, who lived downstairs. Although he was only 17 years old, Daker was tried and convicted of two charges of aggravated stalking and was sentenced to 10 years. The murder of Karmen Smith took place just before Daker went to prison on the stalking conviction. Daker was long suspected in the Smith murder, which was thought to be in revenge for Blatz having him prosecuted, but nothing could be proven. Without evidence against Daker, and no other suspects, the Smith murder case went cold for 14 years. This is how the assistant district attorney described the murder:
According to Evans: “The defendant didn’t flee. He waited in the house for a significant amount of time. The children returned home from school and went briefly into the downstairs part of the house and called out. The defendant had moved her body into the bed and covered her body with blankets. Because there was no response, the kids went upstairs to the babysitter. After some time, they went back downstairs. They saw a shadow move across the doorway. Nick Smith, thinking it was his mother, ran into the back room. … An arm reached out and grabbed Nick, and stabbed him 16 times. The knife blade broke off and was left at the crime scene. (His playmate) ran upstairs to her babysitter, and the babysitter’s boyfriend grabbed an axe and went downstairs. By that time, Daker had fled.

“They pulled Nick out and took him to a neighbor’s house. Nobody realized Karmen was dead inside. It wasn’t until police arrived, responding to a report of a child injured, that she was found in the bed. The handcuffs had been removed, and she was partially nude. This is a sexual homicide,” Evans said.

Finally, in 2009, the case was re-opened, and DNA was extracted from a hair that was found on the victim’s body. Under analysis, it was matched to Daker. He was arrested in 2010 and charged with malice and felony murder, two counts of burglary, false imprisonment, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and criminal attempt to commit aggravated stalking. Originally he hired an attorney to defend him, but it wasn’t long before that relationship ended and the attorney withdrew as counsel of record.

Daker, left, with one of his attorneys whom he fired.
After several postponement in the trial due to Daker not being able to cooperate with counsel, and new counsel being appointed and eventually dismissed by the defendant, the trial finally got under way last week. Daker, now 34 years old, is acting as his own attorney, contrary to the old adage He who represents himself has a fool for a client. At trial Daker gets to ask questions of his victim and the prosecution’s witnesses. Although this may make the defendant feel powerful and in control, the foolish thing about it is that the witnesses get to accuse him over and over again while giving testimony, saying things like “When you stalked me…” and “When you stabbed my mother…” and “While you were stabbing me 18 times with a knife…” The defendant/attorney cannot respond to those accusations unless he takes the stand in his own defense. It remains to be seen whether that will happen. Daker may also be unaware that the only two previous defendants in the county where his trial is taking place who represented themselves at trial were both convicted of murder.

Apparently the judge has about gotten her fill of the defendant after the delays in starting the trial and his insistence in acting as his own attorney. He does not know the rules of procedure or court etiquette and protocol, which slows things down immensely. She has given him much leeway, but his incompetence is a concern in that, if he is convicted, he could try to argue he did not have adequate legal representation. Despite the judge’s diligent efforts to cover all the bases and make sure the defendant knows the risks in representing himself, an appellate court could agree. A defendant has a right to represent himself, but that does not mean he is competent enough—mentally or knowledgeably—to do so.

The trial began within the last two weeks. Blatz, the victim of the stalking, testified on Wednesday, September 12, in a dramatic fashion, and even sparred verbally with the defendant as he questioned her about their relationship. She explained the relationship she had with Daker and how she had once insisted her get help when she found him naked in her bedroom. Earlier this week, prosecution witness Nick Smith, now 22 years old, was very emotional as he testified in court about that day 17 years ago when his life nearly ended and his mother’s did. Smith showed the jury the scars on his body that remain from the 17 stabs to his chest and one to his hand, the only obvious defensive mark. His testimony came on what would have been his mother’s 47th birthday. And the jury also heard and saw evidence taken from Daker’s computer after his 2010 arrest showing “disturbing photographs depicting women in various states of bondage and undress.” They also viewed pages from a book belonging to Daker showing how to kill someone and not get caught. And finally, the jury heard from the DNA expert that the one of the several hairs found under Smith's shirt had enough DNA to be identified as belonging to Waseem Daker.

Daker questioning Melody Fortin, the paintball club owner.
An interesting piece of the defense case, which came out yesterday in the first day of the defendant presenting his side of the story, is that Blatz was 30 years old when she began going to a point-ball club and playing the game with the defendant, who was 17 years old. The owners of the club said that Blatz was more obsessed with Daker than he was with her. Joseph Fortin testified that he told Blatz that she could not play anymore because he and his wife (the owners) were concerned about the relationship of the older woman and the teen. Even if this is true, it remains to be seen how it could have any effect on the defendant’s role in the murder of Smith.

This morning’s reports are that the former husband of the victim and father of Nick testified after being called by the defendant. He admitted that he and the victim had argued the morning of her death, but denied any involvement in her murder. The defendant is trying to show that someone else had a motive to kill Karmen Smith.

Because he was a juvenile at the time of the murder, Daker is not eligible for the death penalty. The most he  can get is life in prison. The jury could get the case this afternoon, if the defendant does not testify. If he does, it could be a long rest of the week for the Court and the jury.

[UPDATE 9/28/12: Daker convicted after less than 6 hours deliberation.

Jurors have found Waseem Daker of Georgia guilty of killing a flight attendant, Karmen Smith, in 1995 and stabbing her then-5-year-old son Nick 18 times.
Jurors at the trial in Marietta, Ga., started deliberations at 9:21 a.m. and came back with a verdict at about 3 p.m.
Daker was found guilty of felony murder, burglary and aggravated battery and stalking.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Even Lawyers Get Victimized

Today was one of those days when I just have to laugh or I will cry. I was as frustrated as I have ever been, at least since last week.

I wrote about my frustrations with having my credit card stolen last week. In that case, I was a victim. I did what I could to gather the evidence and then I turned it over to the police in Fort Wayne, where the thieves used my credit card information to defraud merchants and strip me even further of my belief in mankind's inherent goodness. I had to admit I was not in control of the investigation, and I made peace with the fact that nothing will ever come of my many hours on the phone trying to get answers.

Today I had my second go around with civil authorities in another personal situation, where I am a victim again. Back on September 1, the Saturday before Labor Day, I was shocked to receive in the mail a notice from the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles. It said that on Friday, June 27, 2012, my car 4-door Toyota was parked at an expired meter down on 3rd Street Southwest in D.C. The notice said that I had failed to pay the original ticket within 30 days, so it had automatically doubled from $25 to $50.

I immediately pulled out calendars and accessed my blogs and my emails to see what was going on that day. It took only seconds to figure out that I was at my office in Maryland that entire day. Indeed, it was the day before my family and I drove to Kentucky for vacation, so I had taken meticulous notes and answered numerous emails throughout the day. Indeed, at the time that my car was supposedly parked in D.C., at 1:07 p.m., I was at my desk, writing a posting (during lunch hour) for my other blog. I had a telephone conversation with a client within that hour also. And at 2:30 that afternoon we had a staff meeting in my office, so I knew I was there all day. It made no sense to me how this mistake could happen.

I was so baffled that for that night and the next I was unable to sleep as I mulled all of it over in my head. I wanted answers. I wanted to know how the officer made a mistake. I even questioned whether I was forgetting a trip downtown -- an impossibility since I never drive in the District other than my set path across northwest D.C. to get to my office. But that route is miles from the location where the notation placed me on that Friday afternoon.

So on Labor Day, I convinced my husband to drive me downtown to the location where the notice said my car was parked -- the 400 block of 3rd Street Southwest. We Googled the route to get the quickest route and, since it was a holiday, made it down there in 20 minutes.

Google nap showing the 400 block of C Street, SW.

The location was near the Ford office building, which houses offices of members of the House of Representatives. It is close to the U.S. Capitol.

Looking south on C Street. Ford Building is on left, not in picture.
There is no parking without a permit on that section of the east side of the 400 block of 3rd Street outside the Ford Office Building. It is also right across the street from the Federal Center SW Metro Station. So if I had wanted to go to that area of D.C., I would have taken the Metro rail down there rather than driving to that location. Only insane people drive in D.C. on a work day if they do not work down there.

So, not knowing precisely where the meter was, we narrowed it down to a batch of about 10 meters since they were the only ones on the east side of the street. I got out of the van and walked from meter to meter, checking out the numbers clearly plastered to the outside of each meter. Then, I found the one on the citation.It was a pay by phone meter that did not accept coins. No wonder the person who stuck me with the ticket did not put money in. S/he probably did not have an phone-linked account. My husband does, but I do not.

This is the meter that I was supposedly parked at.

Right where this SUV is parked, by the 13'5" sign, is where the cop says I was parked at an expired meter.

Hmmmm. When I saw what is located in this building across the street, I wondered....
When I was Googling the area, the map showed that at 425 Third Street SW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20024 is an organization called Judicial Watch. I have donated to Judicial Watch in recent years, in support of all the wonderful legal work that they do to defend our Constitution and to protect our God-given rights. Could I have driven down there and just not remember it? No. I might me crazy, but I don't forget!

The notice said that you can admit the infraction and pay the ticket, or admit with an explanation, or deny and ask for a hearing. So, over the past three weeks, I have been gathering evidence for my defense. That consisted of preparing affidavits for my boss and a co-worker to sign stating that I was at work that day. I prepared an affidavit for my husband to sign saying he did not drive the car that day. I had some email printouts and copies of my blog postings showing the times that I transacted them. I had several more sleepless nights as I worried about the situation. Last week, of course, I was enveloped by the credit card fraud, so that distracted me for a few days.

Jump forward to this week. Yesterday, I took the day off to help my boss move into a new abode. So when I got to the office this morning and looked at the file on my desk containing the ticket, I thought I had better refresh my recollection on when I had to reply. Wouldn't you know it, TODAY was the 60th day. If I did not go for a walk-in hearing today, I could not contest the ticket. So, I had my co-worker go to the bank with me to get our affidavits notarized. My husband had taken his on the military base on Saturday to get it notarized. Then, after having to wait for my colleague to walk back to the office to get an ID to prove who she is (although she does not need it to vote in this socialist state), I set out to take the Metro down to Judiciary Square Metro. Since I did not have my Smart Card with me -- due to my not knowing I would be taking Metro today, I had to buy a paper ticket. Recently paper ticket prices were increased a dollar each direction from the posted prices. So my round trip cost me $7.40 ($3.70 each direction). Arriving there in a timely manner, I then walked a block to 301 C Street, NW, in D.C.

Now, I will not go into all the details of the rest of the morning and early afternoon. Let's just say that I probably would have paid $25.00 to experience the "reality" of the D.C. Motor Vehicles Adjudication building. After waiting in line to get a ticket, I went to sit in  a huge room with 20 windows with drab-looking faces behind them and flashing boards that were eerily like Penn Station in New York and where a monotone sexless voice called out every few seconds "Now serving F-6-6-0 at window number 20..." "Now serving B-3-4-6 at window number 14..." and so on endlessly. If I had brought something to read, it would have been an impossibility. Luckily it moved pretty fast, and in 10 minutes I was called by number. I eagerly approached the window.

"Go to room 1147," was all the woman said as she took back the paper that the woman at the information desk had just given me. So I made my way through the crowd and out into the hall, looking at door numbers along the antiquated hallway. I found room 1147 and entered. I was the seventh victim contestant challenger respondent, and I took the last available seat in the room, other than the ones reserved for the respondent being heard and the judge hearing officer.

Seconds later a relatively young, slightly round woman entered the room through the same door I had just come through. Her name was Tonia D. (I Googled Ms. D, and learned she is 42 years old. I felt a little bad about my thoughts about her weight when I saw that she is on a website called "Black Girls Run" to try and lose weight. But, it is what it is. She put that out there, so I guess she does not mind. And I am in the same boat!)

She walked up to the desk and, after seating herself behind an over-sized monitor so I could not see her face, her voice pierced the uber-silent room. She launched into an obvious recitation of the boilerplate introduction that she must do 6 or 8 times daily.

Since I was the last to enter the room, I was the last to be heard. Listening to the first six people plead their cases and tell why they denied the charges, I had to laugh silently and shake my head. I know that Ms. D hears a lot of B.S. five days a week, so I had little doubt that I was not likely to escape her wrath. I was right. By the time I went on the record, she was not at all in a forgiving mood. When I told her I had affidavits stating that I was at work that day and that my husband did not drive the car that day, she was not impressed.

"That only shows where you were," she concluded. "It doesn't prove where the vehicle was that day."

I asked, "How can I prove a negative?"

She said "That's up to you. I can only look at what the officer wrote and what you produced as evidence. Someone else could have driven your car."

I said, "So they took my car without my knowledge, hot wired it, drove it downtown, got the ticket, threw it away, brought my car back, and parked it in the same exact spot in the parking garage where I had left it that morning?"

When she did not respond, it became clear that there was nothing I could produce that would satisfy what she was calling for: proof that my car was NOT in D.C. at the parking meter identified on the ticket that day. It made no difference that I can prove my whereabouts or that I testified that no one took my car. I cannot prove that no one took the car.

So I asked her, "Are you saying I am lying?"

She said, "I am saying all you have proved is where you were, not your car."

Here is what she wrote on my Hearing Record. "Respondent's vehicle has been properly identified by make and tag. Respondent's letters does not confirm (sic) the location of the vehicle, just that she was at work on the date the ticket was issued. The government has established that the respondent's Toyota bearing NA (sic) tag X-----8 (redacted) was parked in the 400 block of 3rd Street SW at an expired meter in violation of DC law. Conclusions of Law: Liable."

Excuse my legalese, but that is B.S.

D.C. is notorious for the number of parking tickets it dispenses. Last year in 2011 they issued over $92 million in tickets. That was up $12 million over 2010's total. They issue over 29,000 tickets a week. That is an average of almost 5000 per day, taking into account weekends are less heavily trafficked. After my experience this month, I wonder how many other phantom tickets have been issued. Did the officer really make a mistake? Or did he somehow get my tag number and car make while I was driving through in northwest D.C. and decide that I would make an unsuspecting victim? D.C. is so hard up for money that they have to get it from somewhere. The ROSA laws are another lucrative source, as I saw in the hearing room today also. But that's a whole other scam.

Even 7 years ago Ms. D was there adjudicating D.C. parking tickets. She has probably heard it all. But this time she heard the truth from ME, and she dismissed my sworn testimony. So, I can either appeal her decision or pay the reduce original amount -- $25. At least she did cut out the double fine penalty since she said I did not get the first ticket. I just shook my head. Apparently she believed me when I said I did not get the first ticket, but not that I did not get it because my car was not there. (Wow, a triple negative!)

I have not decided what I will do. I will not be allowed to submit any new evidence at an appeal, so that leaves me with only the affidavits. The ticket is prima facie evidence, and I rebutted it, but, despite what the hearing paper said, the burden of proof is obviously still on me to prove something that cannot be proven.

They count on people not wanting to take off from work to contest these infractions. I can afford  the $25. But if I do decide to pay it and save myself any more hassle, I can promise you I will send along a written note with the check and ask that it be given to the officer, R. Wright, Badge number 00399 in Dept. 15 to tell him/her that they can wreak havoc on people's lives by just a simple transposition of numbers or letters.

And that I will attest to a thousand times over under oath. And I guess I will be satisfied that for $25 I got fodder for my blog.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Texas Woman Cleared of Murdering Nephew

[UPDATE 10/14/12: After the TLC program broadcast on October 11, Access Hollywood did a followup interview. You can read about the latest on Mayra Rosales on this blog.
UPDATE 11/28/12: Mayra has a Facebook page where you can read more of her progress.]

On October 10, at 9:00 p.m. ET, if you are near a television, consider turning to TLC for a program that will blow your mind.The subject of the story is a woman who admitted to accidentally killing her nephew. It turns out that the woman falsely confessed to the homicide in an attempt to save her sister, who is the one who actually killed her own son.

But this is not a simple story of a woman willing to take a fall for her sister. Indeed, the woman who confessed is not capable of taking a fall. She is not capable of rolling over, or even lifting her arm. That's how police and the woman's own attorney knew she was not telling the truth. But it took two years to get to that point and have charges dropped against the defendant.

Mayra Rosales

Meet Mayra Rosales. She is from La Joya, Texas, which is about 250 miles south of San Antonio in the south of the Lone Star state, near the Mexican border. In early 2008, Mayra and her husband Bernie moved in with Mayra's sister, Jaime, and her three children. It was there, in March of 2008, that Mayra's 2 1/2 year old nephew suffered catastrophic injuries that led to his death.

The story that Mayra told police was that her sister had left Eliseo, Jr., in her care, along with her two other children. Mayra said that at some point she slipped and her hand fell on Eliseo, and he fell under the bed she was on. She called her sister to say his head was swelling. Eliseo died that afternoon at the hospital after being removed from life support.

Apparently Mayra's 20 year-old sister Jaime was no stranger to the family services department. She had signed a safety plan in April of the previous year saying she would not leave her children alone in Mayra's care because of Mayra's disability.

What was--and is--Mayra's disability? Mayra is obese. Morbidly obese. At the time of the death of her nephew, Mayra was age 27 and she weighed about 800 pounds.
Mayra Rosales in 2008

More recently, however, Myra has weighed in more than 200 pounds heavier, at 1032 pounds.

Mayra weighed in at more than 1/2 a ton.
During the investigation, an autopsy on Eliseo, Jr., revealed injuries inconsistent with what Mayra said happened. Skull fractures and other bruising revealed that blunt force trauma killed the infant. In other words, he was hit in the head--hard--more than once. There was also evidence that Eliseo had suffered additional injuries in previous weeks.

Mayra was arrested and arraigned at her sister's home, while lying in her bed. Her sister, Jaime, was also arrested and charged with child endangerment for leaving her children alone in Mayra's care, contrary to her safety plan. Mayra remained in her sister's home with her husband Bernie while awaiting trial.

Mayra and her husband Bernie. Some blame him for bringing Myra the food that sustains her weight.

Jump forward 18 months, to Fall of 2009. As Mayra's trial date approached and preparations were made to accommodate her in a local courtroom, Mayra had a change of heart. When she learned that her sister was pregnant with her fifth child, she finally realized she had to stop lying to protect her sister. The judge, Ricardo Rodriguez, Jr., dispensed an agent of the court to Mayra's location, equipped with a video camera. Her lawyer swore her in and she answered his questions under oath, explaining that she had seen her sister kick and beat Eliseo, Jr., that morning of March 18, 2008.

Armed with this revocation of Mayra's earlier confession, her attorney hoped to have the charges dropped. While the prosecution was deciding whether to charge Jaime with capital murder, it was learned that she had fled across the border to Mexico with Eliseo, Sr., the father of the dead child. That news came in February of 2010 when Jaime failed to appear in court.

With Jaime gone, the charges remained against Mayra, and she began to gain even more weight. Five months passed, and the strain took an even greater physical toll on Mayra. She had to be removed from the home through a hole cut in the wall and taken to the hospital.

With the walls removed, Mayra was able to be lifted and wheeled out of the house.

Mayra at a hospital where she lost about 144 pounds.
A specialist on the super morbidly obese was brought in from Houston by her attorney to consult on Mayra's condition in March of 2011. She was still gaining weight, and the doctor said that she had lymphedema, and he thought her condition was terminal. But before he could help her, Mayra had to clear herself of the pending criminal charges.

Jaime Rosales
Eventually, after being on the run in Mexico for a number of months, Jaime Morales was arrested again. Her boyfriend, Eliseo, Sr., was a member of a notorious Mexican cartel. He was not with Jaime when she returned and was not arrested. Police were there to take Jaime into custody. She said she came back to the U.S. because she would be better off in prison than with Eliseo, Sr. He was involved in human trafficking and had sold her to men also. Jaime agreed to plead guilty to causing injury to a child rather than be charged with murder. She was sentenced to 15 years, but she could be out within 3 years if she behaves in prison.

In the intervening time, Mayra had gone on trial for the murder. Despite her initial confession, Mayra's defense team argued that she could not have inflicted the wounds that resulted in Eliseo's death. That's because Mayra was too fat, and she could not lift her arms to swing an object to hit the child. Mayra was able to attend the court proceedings only because the wall of her home was removed and she was carried out by multiple firemen and EMTs. The judge agreed, and she was exonerated.

In August of 2011, Myra went to Houston where the obesity specialist worked so as to begin treatment.
Doctors found multiple skin infections in the folds of her fat. These had to be treated as if they were burns. She still had lymphedema. With the medication she began to take, her body sloughed off 12 liters of fluid per day. Over the course of 12 weeks, Mayra dropped about 280 pounds. By December of 2011, Mayra had lost about 450 pounds.

Mayra in January, 2012.
A previous film of Mayra's story was made by a British filmmaker in the months leading up to her trial. It is divided into four parts. I have embedded the first one here. The links to Parts 2, 3, and 4 are below. If you miss the TLC show in October, you will at least be able to see Mayra's story here.

Part 1: Mayra Rosales 1036 3/4

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Man Kills Infant Daughter During Sexual Assault

I stopped watching TV cop shows several years ago because truth is stranger than fiction. Just when you think you have heard all the perverted things that people can do, along comes a story that is so disgusting and heinous that makes be shake my head and wonder what has happened to mankind.

Sutton's Bay, Leelanau County, Michigan
If I may reminisce for a moment.... About thirty years ago, I went with a college group up to Traverse City , Michigan. It was Christmas break, and we went for a week-long ski trip to a place called Sugar Loaf. We had a great time on the slopes and in the lodge, where the cozy fire and heated outdoor pool still bring a smile to my face. That was my one and only trip to anyplace in Michigan north of Detroit and Ann Arbor.

Sutton's Bay

The horrendous crime that I write about now occurred in Sutton's Bay, a small town about 25 miles north of Traverse City. It is located on Sutton's Bay, just off Grand Traverse Bay, which is an inlet off of Lake Michigan. The quaint town of Sutton's Bay has a school, a movie theater, a clothing store, and a main industry -- cherries.  According to the U.S. census, it covers 1.1 square miles and is inhabited by around 600 people. Whatever the exact number of population, it is one less than it was 13 months ago.

In August of 2011, 15-week-old Evelynne Deuman died. But she didn't just die. This newborn child was murdered. Murdered by a monster. Murdered by her father.A jury found him guilty this past week.

Beautiful and precious Evelynne Deuman.

This murder shattered the serenity of this tiny village where precious Baby Evelynne lived with her mother, Natasha Maitland, and her father, Steven Deuman. Reports are that nine or ten other people also lived in the trailer that the infant victim and her parents shared. The mother of this child was not involved in her death, and she was instrumental in convicting the baby's father. I hope that she was not married to him, as he will be going away for the rest of his life.

What is horrific about this case is the way that Steven Deuman killed his daughter. To put it bluntly, he stuck his penis in her mouth and suffocated her. From the sound of things, he wore a condom, which was recovered from the infant's mouth. The evidence that the jury heard was chilling. 
In August 2011, baby Evelynne Deuman was found in the bedroom of their mobile home bleeding from the nose, unconscious and not breathing.
Deuman wasted valuable time from the moment he found his baby daughter until he called an ambulance.

He later told her mother Natasha Maitland that she had choked on a used condom.

Throughout the trial, he maintained he put his daughter on the bed while he went outside for a cigarette. When he came back she was lying on the floor not breathing with the discarded condom in her mouth.

Subsequent tests showed the DNA on the outside belonged to the baby and on the inside belonged to Deuman.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Phil Green told jurors that Deuman killed the girl during the oral rape, and then he considered scenarios throughout the evening to suggest she died of an accidental cause.

He didn’t call 911, but told Maitland on the telephone that their daughter wasn’t breathing, wasting valuable time which could have saved her life.

He faces life in prison.

You can read more about the trial and what the father of the child alleged happened. His defense--that the child must have rolled off the bed onto the floor and she found a used condom that he and the child's mother had left on the floor--was preposterous and insulting. The jury didn't buy his cock-and-bull story. Not after additional witnesses testified that Deuman had also molested them when they were children. 

If the stories that you hear about men like convicted Deuman are true, he will not last long in prison. Even the most hardened criminals do not like child molesters. Jeffrey Dahmer and Fr. John Geoghan are proof of  that.

Rest in peace, Baby Evelynne.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Yet Another Man Succumbs to Evil

I recall from my days as a prosecutor that attorneys usually assume that a quick verdict in a murder trial favors the defendant. The theory is that the members of the jury know that they have the future of the defendant in their hands, and they do not take this lightly. They will not likely make a snappy judgment that could send someone to prison for years, or to the electric chair for that matter. Rather, they will meticulously sift through the evidence and weigh it carefully, making sure that they get the verdict right.

Naturally, there are exceptions to that commonality. One example happened yesterday in a trial in Joliet, Illinois. Four members of the Vaughn family were killed in 2007, and the one surviving member--the father--became the one and only suspect. It took 5 years to get the case to trial, but yesterday the jury took only 50 minutes to convict Christopher Vaughn of four counts of murder.

Blake, Kimberly, Abigayle, Christopher, and Cassandra at their home in Oswego, Ill.
The story of how this crime occurred is ghoulish at best and reprehensible by any standards. Even at his trial, Vaughn's attorneys tried to blame Abigayle, the wife and mnother, for the slaughter of the three children and for her own death. But the jury saw through it. Attorneys have to do what they have to do, but I'll bet his defense counsel went home and took long hot showers last night to wash the slime off their persons.

This beautiful family was destroyed, and countless other lives changed forever at their loss, because one man wanted to live a solitary life in the wilderness. Mr. Vaughn will most likely get his wish in prison and when he dies.

But at least for the latter, God's mercy and forgiveness surpasses all understanding. He might take comfort in that, if he is a believer.