Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Grand Canyon Nightmares
by Robert A. Waters

About a dozen people die each year while visiting America's most cherished natural wonder, the Grand Canyon. Steep cliffs, narrow trails, and rugged terrain can lead to fatal falls, but plane crashes, suicides, and homicides also account for many deaths. The Canyon is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and up to 6,000 feet deep. With millions of visitors each year, it is likely safer vacationing in the Grand Canyon than driving your car to get there, but don't tell that to the families of those who died.

Colleen Burns, an Orlando, Florida resident, was enjoying her visit to the famous park when she plunged off a ledge and fell 400 feet. She'd been hiking with friends, and posting pictures of her vacation on Twitter. As she moved aside on a squeeze-box narrow trail to let another hiker pass, Burns lost her footing. The coroner ruled that her death was accidental, due to “blunt trauma” caused by the fall. Burns' heartbroken family stated that she had been in a good spot in her life. She worked as a marketing director for Yelp, and was a booster of her adopted hometown. Her father, Jim Burns, spoke for many when he said: “I never realized how many deaths occur at the Grand Canyon.” Just a few weeks before, 23-year-old Californian Jamerson Whittaker also died from a fall in another section of the park.

A Japanese tourist, Tomomi Hanamure, aged 34, was brutally murdered by Randy Redtail Wescogame on an Indian Reservation just outside the Grand Canyon. The long-time ne'er-do-well saw Hanamure hiking alone and offered to guide her to a series of remote waterfalls in the Canyon. Instead, he robbed the tourist, then bludgeoned her and stabbed her to death. Wescogame had been in trouble with the law since he was eight-years-old. By age thirteen, he was addicted to methamphetamine. He had committed dozens of violent crimes by the time he murdered Hanamure, but had served almost no jail time. While Japanese media highlighted this crime, most American news organizations ignored it. Wescogame pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

In 2009, the United States Forest Service reported that Gheorghe Chiriac committed suicide by driving over the edge of the Canyon. Park rangers reported that “a car had been driven up onto the curb of the loading area between the El Tovar Hotel and the Kachina Lodge. The tracks indicated that the car then veered left, traveling through the grass behind the Kachina Lodge until it reached the Thunderbird Lodge where it veered right and [drove] into the canyon.” Chiriac's car was located 600 feet below, and his body found nearby. After investigating, the Forest Service ruled his death a suicide. One of the most bizarre deaths on record was that of Richard Clam. While taking a helicopter tour over the Canyon, Clam unbuckled his seat belt, opened the chopper's door, and leaped into the abyss. Forest rangers found his remains 4,000 feet below. After gathering bits and pieces of Clam's body, the Forest Service ruled his death a suicide. In 2001, a cherry-red plane flown by a single pilot disappeared in the Canyon. Four years later, hikers discovered the mangled plane between two giant boulders. A skeleton sat in the cockpit, a macabre ending to someone's lonely life. After investigating, the Forest Service determined that the pilot was a lovelorn soul who intentionally killed himself.

More than 100 helicopter flights each day transport visitors over the Canyon for spectacular views. Since 1980, about 30 have crashed in the Canyon. In 2011, a tourist helicopter crashed near Lake Mead, killing the pilot and all four passengers. In 2001, a family from New York died when a Eurocopter AS350 crashed into a ridge-line high in the mountains.

The most infamous air crash occurred in 1956 when two jetliners collided, killing 128 people. A TWA Lockheed Super Constellation and a United Airlines Douglas DC-7 Mainliner had both wandered off course and ended up in exactly the same air space, directly over the Canyon. At the time, air traffic control was in its infancy, so the pilots had little real direction. After crashing, both planes plunged 21,000 feet. All passengers and crew aboard both planes died. The crash fueled demands for greater air safety, and soon afterward the Federal Aviation Agency (later renamed the Federal Aviation Administration) was formed.

The Grand Canyon can be a wild, unforgiving habitat. But it is also an exhilarating natural wonder. Scientists theorize that humans roamed its trails 10,000 years ago. In this era when most people live in cities and see little of nature, Grand Canyon National Park can be an eye-opener.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Crimes and Misdemeanors of NFL Stars
by Robert A. Waters

The 2016-17 National Football League training camps kicked off a couple of days ago just as a published study attempted to portray most players as non-violent teddy bears. The author stated that “only” 27% percent of the crimes committed by players are violent.  Listed below are just a few recent crimes, misdemeanors, and indiscretions committed by NFL stars.

Rolando McClain has been in the league for six years and been in trouble almost since day one.  Chosen number 8 in the 2010 draft, McClain, who currently plays with America's team, the Dallas Cowboys, has been arrested three times. In addition, last year he was suspended for four games because of substance abuse violations. This year, he re-offended and will sit out ten games for the same reason. Despite these offenses, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones signed McClain to a contract that gives him 40 million dollars in guaranteed money. Now Jones is squirming because he sees that money going down the drain. Due to an alleged addiction to “purple drank,” a mixture of Sprite, cough syrup and codeine, it's unlikely that McClain will play a single game this season. In fact, some pundits are comparing him to one of the NFL's biggest busts, Jamarcus Russell. The former Raiders quarterback signed a guaranteed contract worth millions and was released after bloating up to 300 pounds amid allegations of purple drank addiction.

As if the Cleveland Browns didn't have enough problems with perennial bad boy Johnny Manziel, now running back Isaiah Crowell has been forced to apologize for posting an online picture of a Jihadi John look-alike slitting the throat of a kneeling white police officer. The caption read: “They give polices (sic) all types of weapons and they choose to kill us...” Later, a lawyer-vetted apology and retraction appeared, and the offensive picture was removed. As training camp began, Crowell was said to have been welcomed back into the good graces of Cleveland fans. (Too bad he's not playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, whose partisans have been known to boo Santa Clause.) While Crowell's action was not violent and not a crime, it was despicable and he should be severely punished by the Browns and the NFL.

Montee Ball, who played for the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots, was recently arrested on a non-violent charge of “bail-jumping.” Having previously been charged with domestic battery, he went to a bar and began drinking. According to a police report, this violated his bond, resulting in his arrest. In the original incident, police reported that after he and his girlfriend argued at a Madison, Wisconsin motel, Ball picked her up and threw her across the room. The woman sustained a bruise to the back of her head and a cut leg that required stitches. Soon after this incident, the Patriots released Ball.

Legal difficulties seem to follow former San Francisco 49er Ray McDonald around like the plague. The eight year veteran was first arrested in 2010 on charges of drunk driving. In 2014, he was arrested for domestic violence. His then-girlfriend, however, refused to cooperate with police and the charges were dropped. His troubles finally caused the 49ers to release him—the general manager of the 49ers said McDonald's release was due to a “pattern of poor behavior.” He quickly caught on with the Chicago Bears. But, true to form, in 2015, McDonald was arrested in San Jose, California for “misdemeanor domestic violence and child endangerment.” Police stated that McDonald “physically assaulted the victim while she was holding a baby.” Three days later, he was rearrested for violating a restraining order against the woman. In addition to these problems, in yet another case he has been charged with “rape by intoxication,” meaning that he is accused of sexually assaulting a woman while she was drunk. In any other profession, these arrests and controversies would spell the end of a career. But the NFL is a parallel universe with its own rules, and, like a cat with nine lives, Ray McDonald could once again take the field as his adoring fans cheer him on to victory.

A talented player, New York Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson is quickly weeding himself out of football. Although he made Rookie of the Year in 2013 and the Pro Bowl in 2014, he was suspended for four games in 2015 for failing a drug test after testing positive for marijuana. But then in July, 2015, Richardson was charged with resisting arrest along with a multitude of traffic offenses. St. Louis police stated that he was involved in a road race while driving his expensive Bentley. When police attempted to pull him over, he fled. Driving up to 143 miles per hour and blowing though a red light, Richardson finally stopped. Cops found a gun and smelled marijuana in the car. They also found three passengers, including a 12-year-old boy. Richardson plea bargained the case down to resisting arrest, speeding, and running a red light. He received two years of probation and 100 hours of community service. (I wonder what you or I would get for those offenses.) Speaking of his alleged marijuana addiction, Richardson told reporters that he will now stay off the drug because he risks losing lots of money if he continues toking and smoking.

And so it goes in the NFL. Our heroes commit crimes and misdemeanors with few consequences. And we settle back in front of the tube and cheer them on.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Self Defense Files 8

Anthony Gonzales
Victims fight back with guns -- no mention in the national press
by Robert A. Waters

A homeowner in San Bernardino, California discovered Timothy Mackay in the living room of his home. reported that Mackay held a large hunting knife: “Police said Mackay refused to leave even after several requests by the homeowner, and then began waving the knife, advancing toward the man.” The intended victim retrieved a handgun and shot Mackay in the abdomen. When officers arrived, the wounded man was still clutching his knife. After he recovers from his injuries, Mackay will be charged with numerous offenses. Police said the homeowner acted in self-defense and will not be prosecuted.

In Sultan, Washington, Steven N. Sheppard broke into the home of an elderly couple. reported that “the husband told deputies that he was watching TV when he saw Sheppard on the back porch of the home. Sheppard entered the home by breaking down a door and then struck the [homeowner] on the head before stabbing him.” The homeowner's son recounted what happened next: “He stabbed my stepdad with a big knife, six inches long and two inches wide, ’cause he wanted the car keys. My mom hears what’s going on, comes out and sees the guy standing over my stepdad, and there’s blood all over the floor and his guts are coming out.” The woman then ran to her bedroom and retrieved a gun. She fired, hitting Sheppard four times. The intruder died at the scene. The stabbing victim was reported to be in serious condition with abdominal wounds. The homeowner will not be charged.

Alexander Gonzales was recently charged with attempted home invasion, burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon, and drug trafficking. But that's the least of his worries—Gonzales was shot in the face by the homeowner. A grisly mugshot posted by police tells the story. Armed with a large knife and possibly high on methamphetamine, Gonzales forcibly entered the back door of a Las Vegas residence. There he was confronted by a homeowner who shot him twice, once in the forehead and once in the shoulder. Police later learned that the suspect had unsuccessfully attempted to break into two neighboring homes. Gonzales is recovering from his wounds at a local hospital. The homeowner will not be charged.

In Gwinnett County, Georgia, 73-year-old Hilda Douglas heard the doorbell ring followed by the sound of glass breaking. She ran to her bedroom, locked it, and called 911. She also retrieved her gun. On the 911 tape, Douglas is heard shouting at the intruder: “Get out now while you're still alive. Go. Get out now. Get out now.” As the intruder, identified as Jaime Lewis, advanced toward her, Douglas opened fire. He ended up in the hospital being treated for a gunshot wound to the chest. A police spokesperson told reporters that “everybody has a right to defend themselves from imminent physical harm or death. This lady believed that was what was going to happen to her and she acted appropriately. She hit the suspect and he fled the house after that.” Lewis, lucky to be alive, faces numerous charges related to the home invasion. Douglas will face no charges.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Review of Morgue: A Life in Death

Morgue: A Life in Death
by Vincent DiMaio and Ron Franscell
St. Martin's Press, May 2016

Review by Robert A. Waters

Morgue: A Life in Death is the one of the best true crime books of the year. I highly recommend it to all connoisseurs of true crime as well as to anyone interested in pathology, forensics, or the medical field in general.

Humans have always wondered what happens to the soul after death. Dr. Vincent DiMaio admits that he can't answer that question. But as a long-time medical examiner, and now consulting pathologist, he can usually tell why someone died.

DiMaio has been called on to help solve numerous mysterious deaths, from the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman fiasco to the 125-year-old shooting of Vincent Van Gogh. The results of his examinations of events surrounding these and other cases are artfully described by celebrated true crime writer and novelist, Ron Franscell.

Sandwiched between Martin/Zimmerman and Van Gogh, the authors delve into many intriguing cases. DiMaio consulted in the case of Phil Spector, and in the exhumation and re-examination of Lee Harvey Oswald's remains. The reader will gain much “inside knowledge” in these and other cases.

Morgue begins with a brief biography of Dr. DiMaio's amazing life. A second chapter recounts the modern-day history of coroners and medical examiners. Then the authors charge straight for the reader's throat with a chapter about the shooting of Trayvon Martin. A little-known detail not covered by the media may have been a deciding factor in the jury's acquittal of Zimmerman. Throughout the book, each succeeding story ratchets up the suspense.

In addition to being a page-turner, Morgue is one of those rare books that actually teach the reader something useful.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Amber Alert for Carlie Marie Trent

NOTE: Carlie Trent has been found alive and returned home.  Gary Simpson is under arrest.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Skeegie Cash

Teasers from The Kidnapping and Murder of Little Skeegie Cash: J. Edgar Hoover and Florida's Lindbergh Case by Robert A. Waters and Zack C. Waters

I spent years researching the Skeegie Cash case. It was a labor of love. Fortunately, I was able to drag Zack, my award-winning co-author and brother, away from his beloved Civil War genre to assist me with the writing of the book. Here are a few passages that show our writing style. Hope you enjoy.

“At about nine o'clock in the evening, Vera Cash gave five-year-old Skeegie a bath, then dressed him in white and rose-colored one-piece pajamas. Placing her child in his crib, she read to him from the Miami Herald. Stories about Adolph Hitler's occupation of Austria and Josef Stalin's latest Five-year Plan might portray human suffering on a grand scale, but Skeegie normally went to sleep quickly when his mother began reading.”

“In 1938, the Depression still festered, like a sore that wouldn't heal.”

“By now, Hoover was seething. He'd come to this one-horse town to make a statement to his detractors, and now his best leads had dried up.”

“After stalling for a long as possible, [Sheriff Coleman] slammed the lever down. A loud bang sounded, followed by the crackle of electric static. Twenty-four hundred volts roared through McCall's body. The smell of burning flesh flooded the room and a smoky haze drifted toward the ceiling. No sound came from the prisoner, but the audience gasped as they watched him straining against the straps.”

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

10 Facts about Slavery that aren't Taught in School

10 Facts about Slavery that aren't Taught in School

Human slavery is as old as time. It is still practiced today in many variant forms in countries all across the globe, including the United States. In this age of political correctness, some of these facts reveal inconvenient truths. I've listed a few sources I used for this article, and invite anyone who has an interest in this subject to check my statements for accuracy.

1 – Human Slavery has Likely Existed Since the Beginning of Time.

The Code of Hammurabi (1760 BC), refers to slavery as an established institution. In the Bible, Joseph's jealous brothers sold him into slavery. The Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians for 400 years and finally freed by Moses in his famous Exodus. In the New Testament book of Philemon, the apostle Paul enjoins a Christian slave-owner to treat his runaway slave, Onesimus, like a brother. In the book of I Corinthians, Paul tells the church that “bond and free” Christians are to be treated equally. Roman society, which flourished in Biblical times, was built on the backs of slaves. The famous Roman Coliseum, for example, was constructed primarily by slave-labor from captive Jews.  Beginning in 793 A.D., Vikings from Scandinavia captured thousands of Irish and Scottish civilians, enslaving them.  The women were used for sex and as domestic workers while the men were used for manual labor.  The Viking culture was built on slavery.

2 – Millions of White Europeans were Enslaved by Muslims.

Christopher Hitchens wrote: “How many know that perhaps 1.5 million Europeans were enslaved in Islamic North Africa between 1530 and 1780?” For centuries, the so-called Islamic Empire (a loose federation of countries now known as Egypt, Algeria, Tunis, and Libya) enslaved millions of white Europeans. In fact, the Empire grew wealthy due in part to the slave trade. Pirates from these and other Arabic countries raided coastal villages in Europe (France, Spain, Portugal, England, etc.) in search of slaves. They also captured thousands of ships, selling the cargo and enslaving the crews. It is estimated that about 2.5 million Europeans were enslaved by the Empire from 1450 to 1830. Conditions endured by these victims were brutal to the extreme—women were used as concubines while many men were forced to become eunuchs. The Barbary Wars, fought in the early 1800s by the Americans and some European allies, effectively ended the practice of enslaving and ransoming crews of American ships. In 1830, France conquered Algiers, making it a colony and ending the rampant slave trade there.

3 – Africans Traded Slaves to Arabic, European, and American Slave Traders.

From prehistoric times, slavery thrived in Africa. The practice likely began when warring clans captured rivals, enslaving them. For thousands of years, slavery was a major part of the African economy. Beginning in the 7th century, clans and wealthy families sold hundreds of thousands of slaves to Arab traders. In addition, Islamic pirates captured millions of Africans and sold them into slavery. In the 12th century, Europeans began to trade for black slaves that were carried back to Europe. Beginning in the 16th century, English ships transported African slaves to the New World. Soon New England slavers established their own slave routes to and from Africa. These slaves were not hunted down by whites, but obtained through trading with local clans and warlords. In “Slavery in Africa,” Donald R. Wright states that “West and west central African states, already involved in slave trading, supplied the Europeans with African slaves for export across the Atlantic.” Today, UNICEF reports that slavery still exists in Africa.

4 – Millions of “Indians” Were Enslaved by Whites.

Christopher Columbus took Indians (natives misnamed because he thought he'd found India) back to Europe where they were enslaved. The Spanish conquerors of South America captured millions of Indians and used them to perform manual labor. In Florida alone, Hernando de Soto seized thousands of natives which he used as slaves. In the 1600's, New England colonists enslaved hundreds of troublesome Pequot Indians who objected to encroachment on their territory. Since these Indian slaves were considered “dangerous and revengeful,” many were transported to the West Indies and exchanged for “Negro” slaves, thought of as more compliant. John Winthrop, governor of Massachusetts, kept American Indians as slaves, and doled others out to those who requested them. Winthrop also helped write the first law making slavery legal in the United States.

5 – Agriculture was a Driving Force for Slavery in the South.

As the fledgling United States began, all Southern and Northern states codified their laws so that individuals could legally own slaves. (Georgia was the last Southern state to do so since James Edward Ogelthorpe, one of its founders, opposed slavery.) Approximately twelve million Africans were brought to the Americas, but most were shipped to Brazil and the West Indies, where sugar plantations were plentiful. The 1793 invention of the cotton gin, a machine that sped up the process of removing seeds from cotton fiber, jump-started slavery in the South. According to the 1860 census, one year before the start of the War Between the States, 8% of Americans, including southerners and northerners, owned slaves. The total number of slaves in America in 1860 was listed as 3,950,528. Of 31 million Americans, nearly 400,000 owned slaves. At the time, 476,748 free blacks were listed. The vast majority of southerners did not own slaves, and many opposed the institution.

6 – Thousands of Freed Blacks Owned Slaves.

Yes, Virginia, blacks owned slaves. This fact has been suppressed by historians because it does not fit the politically correct narrative. For example, in 1830, two South Carolina blacks (Justus Angel and Mistress L. Horry) each owned 84 slaves. In the 1830 census, 3,775 blacks owned 12,740 black slaves. In 1860, in Charleston, South Carolina, 125 free blacks owned slaves. In New Orleans, approximately 25% of slaves were owned by freed blacks. Antoine Dubuclet was a black sugar planter in Louisiana who owned more than 100 slaves. William Ellison, a former slave freed by his owner, became one of the largest and wealthiest slave-owners in South Carolina. He was also a slave-breeder, something looked down on by both blacks and whites. Ellison supported the Confederacy during the Civil War, and one of his sons, Buckner, fought in the 1st South Carolina Artillery. Buckner Ellison was wounded in action in 1863. From the early 1800s to the defeat of the Confederate States of America, thousands of freed blacks owned slaves.

7 – Slavery Existed in the Northern States Even After the Civil War.

Slavery in the northern states began long before the American Revolution. Many of those instrumental in the creation of the United States owned or sold slaves. For instance, Dudley Saltenstall, progenitor of many New England politicians and governors, made much of his money as a slaver. William Penn, who wrote Pennsylvania's then-liberal constitution, owned slaves. Slavery in many New England states was not abolished until long after the Revolutionary War. In the late 1700's, nearly twenty percent of New York City's population were slaves. The City Council passed a law appointing a place where “all Negro and Indian slaves” should be sold. This was near today's Wall Street Stock Exchange. While slavery became illegal in New York in 1827, it continued on. In 1857, the New York Journal of Commerce wrote: “Downtown merchants of wealth and respectability are extensively engaged in buying and selling African Negroes and have been, with comparatively little interruption, for an indefinite number of years.” Slavery was still legal in some northern states (i. e., Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri) until December, 1865, nearly a year after the end of the Civil War.

8 – Slavery in the United States of America Only Ended After the Civil War.

The 13th Amendment, ratified on December 6, 1865 (eight months after the end of the Civil War), abolished legalized slavery in the United States of America. NOTE: By the time of the passage of the 13th Amendment, slavery had already ended in the former Confederate States of America. Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, issued on September 22, 1862, applied only to Southern states. In fact, states that in 1863, “there were an estimated 800,000 slaves in border states and some 3 million more in Confederate states.” On April 8, 1864, during the war, the United States Congress voted NOT to ratify the 13th Amendment.  Slavery in the South ended on April, 1865, when the war ended, but legally continued in northern states until December, 1865.

9 – Many Famous Northerners Owned Slaves.

This is a partial list of a few famous northerners who owned slaves: Union General and U. S. President Ulysses S. Grant; Benjamin Franklin (bought, sold, and traded slaves); Cornelius Vanderbilt; John Hancock (bought, sold, and traded slaves); William Penn; President Martin Van Buren; President William Henry Harrison; President James Buchanan; John Jay, signer of the Declaration of Independence; and Union General William Tecumseh Sherman. Like President Abraham Lincoln, Sherman was vocal in his belief that blacks were inferior to whites.

10 – Slavery Still Exists in the United States Today. 

Slavery today is generally called “trafficking.” It occurs all over the world, including America. It can take many forms, including sex trafficking, labor trafficking, debt bondage, and, in some countries, organ transplant trafficking and military trafficking. In the United States, pimps routinely search out young white blond girls, called “snow bunnies,” because they bring more money from sex-hungry johns. By addicting these girls (many underage) to drugs, the pimps are able to control them and coerce them to do anything, including to sell their bodies. In addition to sex trafficking, many foreign-born individuals are smuggled into America and forced to labor for little or no pay. Chinese, Africans, Mexicans, individuals from the post-Russian countries, and many others also become victims of trafficking. According to recent data, an estimated 100,000 to 300,000 young people are trafficked in this country at any given time.  Many American-born victims are from poverty-stricken homes, or are runaways.

Recommended Reading

The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island by Mac Griswold.

Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged and Profited from Slavery by Anne Farrow.

Digital Collections/New York Public Library (Online). Many images and articles discuss the extensive slavery institution in New York.

“Slavery in Africa” by David R. Wright.

Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War that Changed American History by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger.