Sunday, July 16, 2017

Florida: Land of Sinkholes, Lightning, and other Killers

Five Reasons Not to Move to Florida 
by Robert A. Waters 

In this blog, a native Floridian will tell you what politicians won't.  Here are five reasons you should never ever even consider moving to Florida.  The politicos, Chambers of Commerce, and newspapers will lie to you...but don't believe them.  Your life may depend on it. 

Florida is the Serial Killer Capital of the World 

Long-time Gainesville residents are still haunted by Danny Rolling, a Louisiana drifter who liked to torture coeds, decapitate them, and place their grinning faces where they would be seen by first responders.  After Ted Bundy escaped jail in Colorado, he fled to Tallahassee where he brutally assaulted four coeds, killing two.  Then he kidnapped a child from her school and did even more horrible things to her.  Florida routinely makes the top 3 list of states with the most serial killers per capita, and usually it's number one.  Aileen Wournos Bobby Joe Long Gary Ray Bowles (the Gay Killer) Christine Falling (the Babysitter from Hell).  Christopher Wilder.  These are just a few of Florida's own serial killers.  The fact that it took cops so long to catch all these predators is scary.  Move to Florida at your own risk. 

Florida is the Sinkhole Capital of the World 

Imagine lying in your bed when suddenly the floor collapses and you sink to the bottom of the world.  This happened to Seffner, Florida resident Jeffrey Bush when a sinkhole swallowed him.  His remains were never recovered.  Each year in Florida, sinkholes gulp down homes, automobiles, cattle, even people.  A sinkhole in Pasco County gobbled up two homes and a boat, endangering dozens of lives and causing mass evacuations.  Atlantic magazine reports that "Florida has more sinkholes than any state in the nation."  The scary thing about sinkholes is they often cave in with no warning.  So if you ignore my advice and move to the Sinkhole State, be prepared to dole out thousands extra for insurance since your regular homeowner's policy doesn't cover these weird geologic phenomena.  Better yet, stay up north and enjoy the brisk winters and snow-covered peaks. 

Florida is the Lightning Capital of the World  

The Orlando Sentinel reports that "Florida is hailed as the lightning capital of the country."  Most every afternoon from April to October, heavy clouds purple up and dump torrents of rain onto the ever-growing cities and ever-shrinking country-sides.  With the rains come killer lightning bolts.  A woman was struck and killed as she waded in Daytona Beach Shores.  A farmworker in Manatee County died after being struck.  A man walking down the sidewalk in Largo was killed when lightning struck him.  The Sentinel writes: "Dubbed 'Lightning Alley' by meteorologists, the thunderstorms between Tampa and Titusville generate hundreds of thousands of bolts that cause billions in damage each year."  Recently, a pregnant woman in Fort Myers lost her baby after being struck by lightning.  If you ignore my advice and pack up your belongings to head south, maybe you could stop in Georgia.  I hear Atlanta's a great place to live, and at least it's not the lightning capital of the world. 

Animal Predators Inhabit Florida 

You've heard all the stories about non-native pythons devouring native wildlife in the Everglades.  These stories aren't made up, they're true.  It's only a matter of time before some child is killed and eaten by one of the these creatures.  Florida is also home to other deadly snakes, including rattlers, coral snakes, and water moccasins.  Then there are alligators.  A young boy playing in a Disneyland pond was taken by a gator.  Every year, these prehistoric beasts claim several lives in the land of fun and frolic.  Sharks roam the Florida coasts, killing at will.  Sometimes, though, a lucky victim might escape with maybe just a missing arm or leg or half a face(Okay, I know sharks are mammals, but mammals are also animals.)  Anyway, you get the point.  Much of Florida's wildlife is predatory, and these hungry stalkers don't care whether you're a human or a rat—they just want to eat.  So good luck if you move to Florida.  

More Crazed Killers on the Prowl (Unsolved Crimes in Florida) 

As you walk the ever more crowded streets of the Sunshine State, you'll likely brush against violent human murderers who have never been caught.  Thousands roam Florida's streets.  Listed below are a few unsolved cases: Nancy Bochiccio and her seven-year-old daughter Joey were abducted and murdered by a serial killer near the Boca Raton Town Center Mall; fifteen-year-old Laralee Spear was kidnapped and murdered as she walked home from DeLand High School; thirteen-year-old Jennifer Renee Odom was abducted after she got off her Pasco County school bus; University of Florida coed Tiffany Sessions disappeared while jogging and has never been found.  The list of unsolved murders and disappearances in Florida runs into the thousands.  Between the killers and the drug-runners and gangbangers, life can be hell for transplants.  All things considered, my advice is to stay up north and enjoy the winter sports.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Real Death Row Stories 

Bundy's Last Victim 
by Robert A. Waters 

The CNN series Death Row Stories "explores cases that pose hard questions about the U. S. capital punishment system."  In other words, it's anti-death penalty.  Here's a death row story of a different sort.

The morning was cool and rainy in Lake City, Florida.  A town of about 10,000 souls, Lake City had somehow escaped the wild growth afflicting the rest of the state.  The only notable thing that had ever happened there was the 1864 Battle of Olustee, when an invading Union army was repulsed by a rag-tag Confederate group of regulars, old men, and boys.   

On the cold morning of February 9, 1978, twelve-year-old Kimberly Diane Leach was beaming.  She'd just been elected first runner-up to the queen at Lake City Junior High School's annual Valentine's Day dance.  A straight-A student, she was popular and smart.  But as her class met in the gymnasium, Kimberly realized that she'd left her purse in her homeroom.  She asked her teacher if she could go back and retrieve it, and was given permission.   

Kimberly's homeroom was in a separate building, away from the gymnasium, and she had to walk across a field to get there. 

Kimberly was reported missing when she didn't show up for her next class.  There was little doubt that she'd been abducted, so lawmen quickly launched one of the largest searches in the history of Florida.     

Later that day, an EMT who had been visiting the school told detectives that he had seen a young girl leaving with a manThe child seemed upset, but the witness assumed it was only a father who had come to pick up his daughter.  The witness placed the time at around ten o'clock when the two got into a white van and drove away. 

A few days later, on February 15, serial killer Ted Bundy was arrested 300 miles away, in Pensacola.  Driving a stolen orange VW bug and presenting a fake name, Bundy was charged with several offenses, including automobile theft.  He was soon identified as the notorious fugitive, and arrested by Tallahassee police for the brutal murders of Lisa Levy and Margaret Bowman, two college students at the Chi Omega sorority house.   

Bundy was questioned by Lake City detectives about Kimberly Leach's disappearance, but refused to give out any information. 

The search for Kimberly lasted for two months.  Finally, on April 7, 1978, a state trooper found her body in an abandoned hog shed near the Suwannee River, about 40 miles from her school.  She was partially decomposed and partly mummified.  A bunched-up turtleneck sweater had been pulled around her neck, and the rest of her clothes scattered nearby.  Her throat had been cut and she'd been strangled.  In addition, she'd been sexually violated with a sharp object.  Semen stains had been found on her underpants. 

Medical Examiner Dr. Peter Lipkovic testified that Kimberly's death likely occurred during a brutal sexual assault.  Her positioning indicated that "at the time when death occurred...most probably sexual intercourse was going on." 

In the Time-Life book, Serial Killers, the authors write that "the coroner's inquest revealed a severe neck wound and massive damage to the pelvic region.  These facts, and the position of the remains when they were found, implied that the child had been on her hands and knees when Bundy slit her throat from behind, as if he were butchering a hog." 

In time, Ted Bundy confessed to more than thirty murders.  Each victim had her own story, and each family was radically changed by the grief caused by senseless loss.  Bundy was convicted in the Florida murders of Lisa Levy, Margaret Bowman, and Kimberly Leach and sentenced to death After unsuccessfully attempting to ransom even more confessions for life in prison, Bundy met his fate in Old Sparky, Florida's electric chair. 

Few Floridians mourned.  On January 24, 1989, at exactly seven o'clock, disc jockeys all over the state played the sound of bacon frying.  As if exorcising a demon from their midst, more than a thousand sign-holding demonstrators outside Florida State Prison at Raiford cheered when word came that Bundy was dead. 

This is one of many death row stories that won't be featured on the CNN television show.