Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Review of A Daughter's Deadly Deception: The Jennifer Pan Story

A Daughter's Deadly Deception: The Jennifer Pan Story

By Jeremy Grimaldi
Dundurn, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: 2016

Review by Robert A. Waters

In the early morning hours of November 8, 2010, Hann Pan awoke to a pistol against his head. He was lead downstairs where he found another gunman holding his wife, Bich-Ha. Three robbers demanded money, big money. The Pans had a little over $2,000 in the house and gave it to the masked intruders. Then a volley of shots rang out. When it was over, Bich-Ha lay dead and Hann, debilitated by gunshots, stumbled out of the house to get help.

A third family member, 24-year-old Jennifer Pan, survived the shootings. She'd been tied to an upstairs railing, and called 911 after the robbers left.

At first it seemed to be a random home invasion. But police investigators would soon uncover a dark plot so twisted it almost defied belief. Jennifer had left the door open for the killers, then had played victim for the cops when they arrived. However, she hadn't planned for her father to survive. After several days in a coma, Hann awoke and revealed his daughter's part in the plot.

Hann and Bich-Ha were Vietnam immigrants. Both worked hard and expected their children to do the same. Their son was a successful university student, and, until recently, the Pans thought Jennifer had been studying to be a pharmacist at the University of Toronto. But all was not as it seemed.

With this book, Jeremy Grimaldi has taken his place as one of Canada's premier true crime authors.

In A Daughter's Deadly Deception, the reader is carried into a world of “tiger parenting,” in which Asian children are pushed by their parents to succeed, regardless of the cost. The reader encounters love, betrayal, and finally, cold-blooded murder.

I highly recommend this book to my American and Canadian readers.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Suphan Cobra Escapes

Searching for Ocala's Cobra
by Robert A. Waters

My hometown of Ocala sits dead-center in the middle of Florida. It's a one-time small town hoping to go big-city. Some of us would like to build a wall around the city so we can vet the tens of thousands of people who move here each year. But local politicians, like national politicos, want to keep our borders open. They see green while some of us see smog-choked traffic jams and a depleted aquifer.

Ocala rarely makes national headlines. But on Monday, March 12, just ahead of the one cold snap this year, local and national media began reporting that a cobra was missing from an Ocala home. Not just any cobra, but a suphan cobra. Only two-feet long, with gold and brown camouflage (like the leaves in my yard), the suphan's poison is deadly.  CNN, Fox News, CBS and most other outlets breathlessly reported the event. 

Brian Purdy, the cobra's owner, called to report the snake MIA. Soon the neighborhood was swarming with police, EMTs, and wildlife officials.  WTVM reported that the snake “got loose while [Purdy] was at work and an apprentice was taking care of the reptile. He says the snake jumped at him when he lifted the cover of its cage, and then slithered away. After the owner and apprentice could not locate the snake, they called wildlife officials to help.”

Authorities, out of their element and wisely unwilling to put their own lives at risk, called in snake experts from around the state. Inside the house, they found a gaboon viper, an African bush viper and two large venomous lizards. Purdy has a license to own the reptiles. For a week now, experts have repeatedly searched the home and surrounding areas, but the suphan still has not been located.

Fortunately, suphan cobras are warm-blooded and unlikely to stray far because of the cool nights.  But officials state that they will strike if they're disturbed. The weather is beginning to warm up again, and authorities are afraid the snake will be on the move.

Neighbors are understandably jittery. Dogs and children are locked away as residents tip-toe from their homes to their cars.

The Washington Post reports that one expert described how it feels to be bitten by a cobra. “Snake bites are generally very painful and cobra bites really hurt,” he said. “It’s usually almost like a burning pain, which evolves into a deep aching pain that makes you crush your eyes. It’s real deep and real hard, right around the bite area, but the burning pain is right around the fang punctures.”  Another expert stated that a bite from a two-foot suphan cobra could kill an elephant.

But not to worry. Anti-venom expert Jeffery Fobb from Miami Dade Fire Rescue stated that protocols are in place in case someone is bitten. The good thing,” he said, “is we're located on an air field and there is an air field next to the nearest hospital to the incident in Ocala. So a fixed winged aircraft can fly the [anti-venom] up there. We already have it packaged and ready to go in case there is an emergency.”

For real? Why isn't the anti-venom already here? Miami is 300 miles from Ocala.

What happened to the snake?  Did it escape from the house and die in the cold weather?  Did one of the large poisonous lizards eat it?  Or is it hiding in some cubby hole waiting for the activity to clear?

Here's hoping the snake is found and no one gets hurt.

Then Ocala can settle back into its nice, cozy old-fashioned ways, and the media will disappear.  I, for one, can't wait.

(One other thing: that part about building a wall around the city is a joke so don't send me nasty emails about it.  The rest of the article is true.)

Monday, March 6, 2017

Review of Gosnell

Gosnell: The Untold Story of America's Most Prolific Serial Killer
Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer
Regnery Publishing, 2017

Review by Robert A. Waters

Enter the three-storied maze of rooms filled with ghosts. You'll find jars of baby feet; pyramids of trash bags containing fetal remains; skeletons of cats that died from thousands of attacking fleas; floors with walked-on feces; bloody walls; and urine-stained furniture. You'll enter room after room, chamber after chamber, and nook after nook flooded with the foul stench of death.

But most of all, you'll encounter the memories of children who lived a few moments, or a few hours, then were snipped into eternity. (“Snipping” was Dr. Kermit Gosnell's term for using scissors to cut the spinal cords of infants who survived his abortion attempts.) Another term he liked to use was “ensuring fetal demise.”

Gosnell tells a sordid story that most of us can't imagine.

In 2013, Gosnell was convicted on three counts of first degree murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter. The involuntary manslaughter charge was brought when he killed Karnamaya Mongar, who came to him for an abortion. The procedure was badly botched, and she died a few hours later. Gosnell attempted to cover up the death (as he had at least two others), and was successful for a time due to the indifference of the Pennsylvania Department of Health and other social service systems. The three first degree murder charges were for babies born alive and murdered by Gosnell or his staff.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell littered his Philadelphia abortion clinic with cast-offs, employees barely living above the flatline, to coin a phrase. For instance, Lynda Williams was bipolar, a drug addict, and had only an eighth grade education, but she became Gosnell's “anesthesiologist.” Assistant district attorney Joanne Pescatore said Williams “was in charge of mixing the concoctions and giving the anesthesia to patients while the doctor wasn't there.” In reality, she rarely used Gosnell's cheat sheet that told her which drugs to use, but administered what she thought was necessary. None of his other employees were qualified for the positions they held.

This proved fatal to Mongar, an immigrant from Bhutan. Williams administered numerous doses of Demerol, anesthetics, and other drugs in an attempt to sedate the frail patient.

In addition to the Women's Medical Society abortion clinic, Gosnell ran a pill mill, selling prescription drugs to dealers. (This, in fact, was the reason for the initial criminal investigation of his clinic.) He and his staff illegally sold Xanax, OxyContin, promethazine, and Percolet to drug dealers.

When cops busted Gosnell for drug crimes, they learned that he had been killing live babies for thirty years. Because the statute of limitations for infanticide is only two years in Pennsylvania, and because he destroyed much of the evidence, Gosnell was charged with only seven murders.

As the case unfolded, Big Media attempted to ignore it. Several reporters later admitted that the crimes did not fit their “narrative.” Finally, a storm of emails, blogs from the right-wing press, and the writings of a few respected columnists persuaded the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, and others to give in and cover the case.

After his conviction, Gosnell was sentenced to life plus 30 years in prison. Eight members of his staff received lesser sentences, including his wife, Pearl, who sometimes helped at the clinic.

Despite the sensationalistic title of the book, this is not a hastily-written pot-boiler. The authors studied thousands of pages of court documents, including the damning grand jury report. They interviewed cops, attorneys, prosecutors, some of Gosnell's employees, and even Gosnell himself. The doctor has shown no hint of remorse, and insists that history will vindicate him.

Whether you're pro-abortion or anti-abortion, I highly recommend this book.

Friday, February 24, 2017

A Blood-Soaked Patch of Asphalt

Defending the Law
by Robert A. Waters

At 4:15 in the morning, on Interstate 19 near Tonopah, Thomas Yoxall pulled up to a horrific scene. Arizona highway patrolman Edward Andersson lay on his back with Leonard Penuelas-Escobar on top of him, pounding the trooper's head into the asphalt. To make the scene even more surreal, Anderson's patrol car sat beside the road with its emergency lights pulsing.

AZCentral reported that “Penuelas-Escobar and 23-year-old Vanessa Monique Lopez-Ruiz had been involved in a rollover accident just before the attack. Andersson, a 27-year veteran of the department, had stopped to assist when Penuelas-Escobar ambushed him, shooting him in the right shoulder and chest.” Because of his wounds, the trooper was unable to pull his gun to defend himself.

Yoxall stopped his car, grabbed his handgun, and rushed to help. He yelled for Penuelas-Escobar, a former Mexican police officer, to stop, but the assailant continued his his bloody assault.

Yoxall opened fire, hitting Penuelas-Escobar twice.  After the assailant fell to the ground, Yoxall began to assist Andersson. But Penuelas-Escobar got up and came back to continue his violent assault.  It was then that Yoxall shot Penuelas-Escobar in the head, killing him.

During the chaos, a second passerby used Andersson's radio to call for help.

What prompted Penuelas-Escobar to attack the trooper?  When Andersson approached, Penuelas-Escobar was holding the fatally injured Lopez-Ruiz in his arms.  He had crossed the border illegally, and was allegedly addicted to methamphetamine.  Each of those factors may have played a part in the gunman's mind.

Andersson survived the attack, but must undergo additional surgeries to repair his gunshot wounds. 

Twenty years earlier, Yoxall had been convicted of a misdemeanor theft charge, but was able to get the conviction vacated. He later successfully petitioned the court to reinstate his right to own a firearm, which had been revoked because of the conviction.

At a press conference, Department of Public Safety Director Frank Milsted said, “I'm humbled to have met [Yoxall], to know what he did, because we're having this conversation about a hero and not an on-duty death.”

Yoxall said he does not consider himself a hero. “I'm an ordinary person,” he said. “I go to work, I do photography, I hang out with my friends and family, I read.”  

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Great Treasure Hunt

What Happened to the Ark of the Covenant?
by Robert A. Waters

The Ark of the Covenant is the most sought-after lost “treasure” in history. Treasure seekers as diverse as the Nazis and the fictional character of Indiana Jones have tried to hunt down this priceless artifact. A church in Ethiopia claims to own the Ark but won't let anyone see it. What really happened to it is unknown—however, some intriguing clues about the Ark's whereabouts dot the Biblical landscape.

In Exodus, God commanded Moses to build a physical manifestation of Himself (God) to be carried by the Israelites as they searched for a permanent homeland. The Ark held the stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. Constructed of acacia wood, and overlaid on the outside and inside with gold, it had two gold-plated cherubim on the top. There were also four rings of gold to hold wooden staves (also covered in gold) so the Ark could be safely transported from place to place.

As related in Joshua 6, the Ark was sometimes taken into battle. When attempting to capture the heavily walled city of Jericho, the Israelites carried the Ark as they marched around its walls. On the seventh day, they marched around the city seven times, holding the Ark and blowing trumpets. The walls collapsed, allowing Hebrew fighters to enter and capture the city.

In 1st Samuel 5-6, the Ark was captured by the Philistines. This turned out to be a disaster for these enemies of God. As soon as they brought the Ark back to their territory, the Philistines suffered a series of calamities similar to the plagues of Egypt. Finally, they had enough and placed the Ark on two mules and sent it back to the Israelites.

Lea Speyer, in Israel News, writes: “Eventually, the Ark came to rest in the First Temple, which was built by King Solomon. The Ark was placed in a special inner room known as the Holy of Holies, where the High Priest would enter once a year on Yom Kippur. The Ark was last seen in 586 BCE when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the First Temple. What happened to the Ark remains unknown until today.”

The Babylonian Empire may have captured the Ark after the death of Solomon. 2nd Kings 24: 13 states that “As the Lord declared, Nebuchadnezzar removed the treasures from the temple of the Lord and from the royal place, and cut up the gold articles that Solomon king of Israel had made for the temple of the Lord.”

Did Nebuchadnezzar take the Ark? Was it among the “gold articles” he captured and cut up? (Solomon did not make the Ark, and the scripture is clear that the articles taken by Nebuchadnezzar were “made” by Solomon.)

Could the Ark have been spirited away to keep the Babylonians from capturing it? It wouldn't be the first time the Israelites hid sacred objects from approaching armies. (The Dead Sea scrolls are just one example.) A book of Jewish history, the 2nd Maccabees, claims the Ark was moved to Mount Nebo by the prophet Jeremiah. There he placed it in a cave and walled up the entrance. When a group of Israelites attempted to find it, he informed them it would stay sealed up until the end of time.

Another theory asserts that the Ark was buried beneath the temple where it lies to this day. A writer in National Geographic magazine wrote: “[One] claim is that the Ark was hidden in a warren of passages beneath the First Temple in Jerusalem before the Babylonians destroyed it in 586 B.C. But that theory can't be tested...because the site is home to the Dome of the Rock shrine, sacred in Islam. Digging beneath it simply isn't an option.”

If the Babylonians took the Ark, why didn't it work its supernatural powers on them like it did on the Philistines? Did God, fed up with the continual transgressions of His people, allow the Ark to be destroyed?

Endless theories abound. One thing is certain: if the Ark of the Covenant is ever discovered, it will surpass even the tomb of Tutankhamen as the greatest archaeological find ever.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Rene Robert Murder

Should a Merciless Killer be Spared the Death Penalty?
by Robert A. Waters

Throughout history, many cultures practiced “an eye for an eye,” meaning that if an individual was murdered, the victim's family exacted revenge. Blood feuds from these original murders sometimes lasted for centuries. Once cultures developed civilized legal systems, the state became the arbiter of justice for victims of violent crimes. The death penalty was developed as kind of a social contract between citizens and the state, whereby an eye for an eye still applied, but was carried out by the state. In the following case, that social contract has been turned on its head, because the victim signed a document asking the state not to execute his killer.

If anybody loves Father Rene, they'll forgive me because he was a man of God, and forgiveness is forgiveness,” Steven Murray, 28, told reporters after leading police to the bullet-riddled body of Catholic Priest Rene Robert. Murray admitted slaying Robert, but blamed it on “mental problems.”

On April 12, Father Rene had been scheduled to perform a funeral service in St. Augustine, Florida, but never showed up. Since this was out of character, church officials contacted the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office and reported him missing. During the investigation, a neighbor informed detectives that he last saw Father Rene on Sunday, April 10. Robert's car, a 2012 blue Toyota with a Florida Special Olympics tag, was also missing.

Police soon spotted the vehicle and began pursuing the suspect. After a high-speed chase, deputies lost sight of the car on I-95 near Jacksonville. Murray, identified as the driver, appeared to be heading north, so the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office alerted agencies in Georgia and South Carolina to be on the lookout for the car. Late on the afternoon of April 13, the blue Toyota was discovered in Aiken, South Carolina.

The next day, St. Johns County Sheriff's spokesman Chuck Mulligan announced that Murray had been arrested. Mulligan told reporters that Murray's family had been friends with Father Rene, and “we believe Murray took advantage of [Father Rene's] kindness” as the priest attempted to counsel Murray. After being interviewed, the suspect led detectives to Robert's remains in rural Burke County, Georgia. An autopsy confirmed that the priest had died of several gunshot wounds.

The Daily Beast reported that Father Rene's fellow clergy described him as having been “intensely dedicated. His life's work was with people struggling with drug addictions and criminal histories. He would give money to recovering addicts and even lend them his car.” Like many Catholics, Father Rene adamantly opposed the death penalty. 

On the other hand, Steven Murray had a long history of petty crime. Over a ten-year period, he was arrested for offenses such as larceny, selling stolen property, giving false information to a pawn shop, firearms violations, and violation of probation. He had been out of prison for less than a month when he is alleged to have murdered Father Rene.

Sheriff David Shoar, a friend of the priest, issued the following statement: “I join many others within our community who were touched by Father Rene over the years and extend my condolences to his family and friends. He will be sorely missed. I am confident that all of the investigators will continue their hard work in seeking a successful prosecution of this heinous act.”

It was at this point that detectives located a document that ignited a fierce debate about whether Murray should receive the ultimate punishment, if convicted.

A Declaration of Life, signed by Father Rene, read: “Should I die as a result of violent crime, I request that the person or persons found guilty of homicide for my killing not be subject to or put in jeopardy of the death penalty under any circumstance, no matter how heinous the crime or how much I have suffered.”

In the coming trial, will the priest's wishes be upheld? While the prosecutor has already stated her intention of seeking capital punishment, Father Rene's family has publicly stated that they oppose execution.

When Father Rene signed the Declaration of Life form years ago, he likely never had an inkling that he would be murdered. But he let his wishes be known, and never changed his mind. Despite the brutality of the crime and the outrage of citizens in St. Augustine, it is probable that Steven Murray will never die from the prick of a needle.