Sunday, August 31, 2008

Into the Abyss of the Missing


[Six-year-old Crystal Ann Tymich, dressed exactly as she was when she disappeared off the face of the earth]

From the files of the FBI’s Missing Persons website.

Into the Abyss of the Missing
by Robert A. Waters

Crystal Ann Tymich. On June 30, 1994, Crystal Tymich and her three brothers were playing in the yard behind their house. They lived in a middle-class neighborhood in the City of Angels. When their grandmother called them inside to watch the movie, “The Lion King,” Crystal stayed behind as the three boys ran toward the house. Her brother Jeff later recalled: “We were throwing peaches over the roof to see who could throw them the furthest. Then my brothers left, and I ended up following them. And then we noticed my sister was no longer behind us.” Just that quick, she went missing. A massive search ensued but the girl was never found. Ten years later, a tip led police to search the house across the street. Bones were found in the attic, but they turned out to be from animals. Jeff Tymich feels that someone who wanted a child took her. “I have a strong feeling she’s [still] alive,” he said.

Trenton Duckett. Trenton has been missing since August 27, 2006. At about 9:00 p.m., Trenton’s mother Melinda called police and reported that her two-year-old son had been abducted from her Leesburg, Florida home. Investigators discovered a slashed window screen and the child missing. Melinda’s behavior was suspicious. Trenton’s sonogram, toys, and photographs were in the trash. According to police, Melinda refused to take a polygraph and “lawyered up,” refusing to cooperate. Also worrisome was the fact that investigators couldn’t create a true timeline for Melinda or Trenton for the 24 hours before he was reported missing. Local and state police as well as the FBI spent months searching for Trenton. The search was further complicated when Melinda committed suicide. Two years later, no resolution seems to be in sight.

Asha Jaquilla Degree. One thing seems certain. Early on the morning of February 14, 2000, while the rest of her family slept, nine-year-old Asha Degree got up from her bed and walked out of the house. She lived on Oakcrest Street in Shelby, North Carolina, but was seen by two motorists at about 4:00 a.m. walking along Highway 18. She has never been seen again. Three days later, Asha’s pencil, a marker, and her Mickey Mouse hair-bow were found at a business on Highway 18. Searchers found nothing else. Then, eighteen months later and twenty-six miles away, Asha’s book bag was discovered near Highway 18. The bag was wrapped in plastic. Investigators concluded that Asha decided to run away, and was picked up by an opportunist who murdered her. Her parents, however, think she might still be alive.

Sofia Lucerno Juarez. Four-year-old Sofia walked out of her home sometime between 8:15 and 9:15 p.m. on February 4, 2003. She hasn’t been seen since. She asked her mother if she could go to the store with her mother’s boyfriend who was already outside and leaving. Sofia’s mother gave her a dollar and the child left. The boyfriend returned less than an hour later and said he had not seen Sofia. Her mother then called police. Her mother, her mother’s boyfriend, and her natural father have all been eliminated by police as suspects. It is believed that she was abducted as she walked to the store. A convicted sex offender from her neighborhood was questioned extensively, but was never charged. No sign of Sofia was ever found.

Like so many others, these children fell into the abyss of the missing.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Linda Raulerson's Murder Revisited


[Above photo shows enhanced view of Linda Raulerson's killer.]

This crime needs to be solved. It’s been more than a month since Linda Raulerson, clerk at Joy America Foods in Lake City, Florida, was mercilessly executed. I’m outraged by this murder, and disheartened that no discernible progress has been made in solving it. I hope the killer is caught soon and that the state will extend the same mercy to him as he showed to his victim.

July 22, 2008. 8:30 p.m.

A white sedan drives into the parking lot. It stops directly in front of the store. The driver gets out, walks inside. He wears a dark jacket with a hood and shuffles purposefully to the counter.

Linda Raulerson stands behind the cash register.

The man pulls a gun, a mid-sized revolver.

With no warning, he pulls the trigger. The explosion rocks the tiny room. Raulerson screams.

“Open it up,” the robber yells. “Open it up.”

Raulerson attempts to speak, but fear strangles her voice and the words are unintelligible.

“Hurry up.”

“Give it up.”

Raulerson opens the drawer, pulls out wads of cash, and hands the money to him.

“Pick it up.”

The robber’s voice is thuggish, threatening as he waves the pistol at Raulerson. The clerk dutifully pulls the last few bills from the drawer and stuffs them in his hand.

“Pick it up, pick the black thing up.”

The robber is too stupid to know that the “black thing” is called a cash drawer.

Raulerson hands him the last bit of cash.

“Pick it up, pick it up.”

“Okay,” Raulerson says and holds the drawer up so he can see there’s no money left inside.

“Gimme da money.”

Raulerson, perhaps thinking he’ll leave, responds, “There.”

The robber raises the gun and fires a second time. This is the shot that kills Raulerson. She lies on the floor for approximately fifteen minutes until customers come in and find her. Dead.

That quick.

Just so a junkie can huff another hit of poison into his lungs.

Here’s what we know about the killer: He’s black, probably between 5’ 10” to 6’ 2”, with an average build. At the time of the robbery, he wore a dark sweat-shirt with a hoodie. He wore a baseball cap underneath the hood. He had on long blue jean-type shorts and white sneakers. He also wore a shirt with stripes and had sunglasses on. The killer drove a four-door 1993-95 Buick Regal. It was white with dark trim.

Here are some things we can surmise about him. (1) He’s a drug addict. Most convenience store robberies are for drug money. (2) He’s spent time in jail and maybe prison. Addicts end up being arrested over and over because they commit crimes to fuel their habit. (3) He’s robbed convenience stores in the past since he looked too comfortable with what he was doing. (4) He killed Raulerson because he thought she could identify him. Either he knew her (maybe he was a customer in the past) or had been caught before when a clerk identified him. (5) He told others about it. This guy doesn’t look any too bright, and he’ll have to brag about his bad-ass crimes. (6) Eventually, one of his friends will get busted and give him up.

But here’s hoping it doesn’t take that long. If he's not caught soon, he's going to kill some other innocent soul.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bigfoot on Ice


[Bigfoot lies in the freezer as Matt Whitton, Tom Biscardi, and Rick Dyer pose for the media]

Okay, this ain’t robbery or rape or murder. On the scale of crime, it might rate a two. But I gotta say it’s one of the funniest things I’ve seen in years.

Not long ago, a coupla good ole Georgia boys with some time on their hands and a video-camera thought they’d have a little fun. Matt Whitton, 28, and Rick Dyer, 31, of rural Clayton County decided to stake out a claim as “Sasquatch detectives.” They started by setting up a website called BigfootTracker.com. Then they began video-taping forays into the wild purporting to search for Bigfoot. Finally, they claimed to have found Bigfoot’s corpse.

Their YouTube appearances eventually attracted millions of viewers. In one segment, the two interviewed the alleged killer of a Bigfoot. An ex-con whose face was shaded from the camera called himself Robert. He stated that he was illegally hunting in the north Georgia woods when Sasquatch happened by. Since he was a convicted felon, he wasn’t supposed to have a gun. On top of that, it was out-of-season. But here was Robert sitting in a deer stand somewhere in the north Georgia woods when he fired a shot and watched Bigfoot high-tail it into the woods. “I don’t know whether I hit him or not,” he said.

After the interview, Whitton and Dyer claimed that they rushed to the spot where the ex-con shot at Bigfoot. And lo and behold, they found the corpse of a primate. According to them, he had a “thirty-ought-six bullet” in his body. Step right up, folks, here’s real-live proof that Sasquatch actually exists.

This was so obviously a spoof it’s hard to believe anyone took it seriously.

But lots of people did. By this time, the alleged Bigfoot trackers were starting to garner loads of publicity. They began advertising their services: for $ 499 they would book “tracking expeditions” into the north Georgia woods. And they were selling tons of t-shirts and caps on their website. They even had a 24-hour tracking hotline. Things were looking up. Off-camera, the good old boys were snickering and trying to come up with new ideas.

They shot a couple pics of Bigfoot lying in a freezer and released them to the world. The photos created a sensation. Suddenly the national media was proclaiming that Bigfoot was the real deal. Notwithstanding that the face of the creature shown in the pictures was obviously a dime-store ape-mask.

Whitton and Dyer were really having fun now.

Their tracking dog “Duce,” which looked to be a cross between a mini-German shepherd and a flea-bitten mongrel, was featured on YouTube. He wouldn’t hurt Bigfoot, they claimed. He’d “take him down but not kill him.” In another segment, they said Duce “would take [Bigfoot] down and get him to submit so we can get him in the net.” Duce looked like he might weigh 20 pounds if the scales were skewed. Since most Sasquatches are said to weigh 400-500 pounds, it’s amazing that some people were still snookered.

Whitton claimed that the Bigfoot they’d found was a male. According to him, that meant there were Mama Bigfoots and Baby Bigfoots and other Papa Bigfoots. (Kinda like the Three Bears.) Since no one else had yet been allowed to see the actual corpse of Bigfoot, Whitton claimed that he and Dyer were keeping the dead creature on ice until scientists could examine it.

By now, other Bigfoot websites were becoming skeptical (or maybe jealous) of the fantastical claims that were making Whitton and Dyer famous. So the good ole boys upped the ante by interviewing a noted scientist that nobody else had ever heard of. Dr. Paul Van Buren flew into the Atlanta airport from Texas. This interview was so obviously a hoax that it’s difficult to believe anyone took it seriously. Dr. Van Buren stumbled over a few words like “cryptozoology” and “biological comparison,” all the time trying to keep a straight face. After viewing the supposed corpse, the doc stated, “It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen before.”

If Whitton and Dyer had shut down BigfootTracker.com at this juncture, there would have been no crime. But by then they’d made contact with a real Bigfoot tracker named Tom Biscardi. The CEO of Searching for Bigfoot, Inc., he had a less than sterling reputation, even among Sasquatch true believers. He’d once been accused of faking a film that supposedly showed a real Bigfoot in the wild.

But Biscardi sincerely wanted to find a real Sasquatch. Through an intermediary, he raised $ 50,000 and handed it over to Whitton and Dyer in exchange for the remains of the primate they claimed to have found. In return, the two trackers forked over a freezer that held the body, appeared with Biscardi at a nationally-televised press conference, then promptly disappeared.

When the corpse turned out to be a rubber ape costume stuffed with road kill, Whitton and Dyer were suddenly wanted men. A couple of days later, they reappeared and admitted the whole thing was a hoax. There’s little doubt that they’ll soon be charged with fraud. Here’s hoping they plead the charges down, repay the fifty grand, and walk away with smiles on their faces and a great story to tell their grand-children.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this farce.

All I know is it kept me laughing for a few days.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Most Dangerous Job in the Universe


[Lydia Alvarado]

August 16, 2008 was just another day in small-town America. Like she normally did, Mindy Daffern, 46, worked the counter of the convenience store she owned in Scotland, Texas. Mindy, a wife, mother, and grandmother, was well-liked in her community.

At 3:00 in the afternoon, a man walked into the store. A customer just like any other. He wore a t-shirt, a baseball cap, and held a paper cup. He handed the cup to Mindy. She took it and filled it for him.

It was then that normalcy crashed and burned. A surveillance video clearly shows the man, later identified as Wallace Wayne Bowman, Jr., pulling a pistol out of his pocket and shoving it in Mindy’s face. With little fan-fair, he marches her out of the store. The only car in the parking lot, a Ford Explorer, can be seen backing out of its parking space and disappearing from the camera’s range.

As soon as police viewed the video, they recognized Bowman, 30, who had previously served time for sexually assaulting a twelve-year-old girl. Within hours, his Explorer was located outside a motel about 40 miles from Scotland.

After his arrest, Bowman led cops to Mindy’s body. The cause of death hasn’t been released yet.

A recent study by police in Dallas, Texas highlighted the extent of danger convenience store clerks face every day. So far in 2008, 3,700 crimes have been committed at the stores. According to CBS Channel 11 News in Dallas, “The crimes range from robberies and thefts to shootings and murder.”

The Dallas Convenience Store Crime Task Force made several recommendations to reduce the crimes. These include the use of digital surveillance cameras, 24-hour video recording, drop-safes, and silent burglar alarms.

I’ve got news for the Task Force. While these measures might help cops solve more of the crimes, they won’t stop the drug-addicted thugs who target convenience stores.

While authorities and store-owners search for answers, the carnage goes on.

A couple of weeks ago, Linda Raulerson was gunned down by an unknown robber in Lake City, Florida. [See my blog “Another Convenience Store Clerk Murdered.”]

On August 18, store-owner Mohammad Nasir Uddin and two customers were shot during a robbery in St. Petersburg, Florida. Two robbers rushed into the Central Food Mart and opened fire, hitting Uddin in the head. He died the next day. A homeless man, Ronald Hayworth, and customer Albert Barton were also hospitalized with life-threatening wounds. Suspect Khadafy Mullens and a teenage accomplice were arrested and charged with murder.

In Lake Park, Georgia, Daymon Heard is accused of murdering Jay Patel, owner of Triangle Food Store. Police arrested Heard on a drug charge in Jacksonville, Florida. At first, investigators thought he may also have been the killer of Linda Raulerson, but later concluded that he could not have committed that crime. Heard has been charged with Patel’s murder.

By all accounts, Lydia Alvarado was a pillar of her Roswell, Georgia community. She owned the Azteca Grocery on Alpharetta Street. An article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution described her: “Alvarado, a graduate of Roswell High, was the fifth of six children in a Mexican-American family, and moved with her family from Chicago to the northern suburbs of Atlanta as a teen. She opened her store in Roswell 15 years ago, said her older brother, Arthur Macias. She had a reputation for being generous with patrons.”

Lydia had a husband and two daughters. Her close-knit family keeps asking the question all crime victims ask: why? “We have to know why,” her sister said. “Why did they have to kill Lydia?”

Police are asking the same question. “She was shot early on when they came in,” said Roswell police lieutenant James McGhee. “Clearly she had her hands up and was backing up, cooperating with the demands.”

It took six months, but police arrested Samuel Alfonso Boyce, David Alberto Luna, and Joel Augusto Boyce Douglas for the murder of Lydia Alvarado. They’ve been charged with felony murder, aggravated assault, and false imprisonment.

“[Alvarado] helped people who were needy,” Arthur Macias said. “She even gave credit to people who were unable to pay for their food.”

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cold Case Playing Cards


In 2003, a United States-led coalition of democratic nations invaded Iraq. Iraqi leaders including Saddam Hussein were deemed war criminals. In order to help soldiers identify these leaders, sets of playing cards were distributed to American troops. The cards contained the photographs of Iraq’s fifty most wanted war criminals. Within a year, most of those shown on the cards had been captured.

This success led a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigator to create a set of playing cards to solve cold cases. Two sets of cards portraying photographs of 100 crime victims along with information about the crimes were distributed to tens of thousands of prison inmates. Within months, an inmate snitched out a prisoner who had bragged about killing the three of spades, Thomas Wayne Grammer. Since then, three more solves have been attributed directly to the cold case cards.

Here are four unsolved cases shown on the cards.

On October 22, 1966, Dr. Robert Sims, his wife Helen, and their 12-year-old daughter, Joy, were murdered in their Tallahassee home. Investigators surmised that more than one person entered the house and that those individuals were known to the family. The assailants shot and killed the mother and father then spent time molesting Joy. She was gagged with a stocking, raped, and stabbed seven times. This case, even more than Ted Bundy’s later murders at Chi Omega sorority, rocked Florida’s capital city. It is said that Tallahassee lost its innocence because of this crime. Even worse, the murders were never solved. Today, if the killers are still alive, they would be in their mid-sixties.

On the night of May 9, 1990, 11-year-old Robin Cornell was in bed sleeping when someone broke into the Cape Coral condominium she shared with her mother and a roommate. Robin’s mother was out at the time and her roommate, Lisa Story, was also in bed (in another room) sleeping. The intruder used a pillow to smother each victim. After the murders, he sexually assaulted both Robin and Lisa. Before leaving, he stole several items from the home and left behind a pair of socks and car keys. He also left behind his DNA. It has been eighteen years since the murderer left the Cape Coral condo and vanished into the night.

It was like Tiffany Sessions stepped off the face of the earth. On February 9, 1989, the University of Florida student left her Gainesville apartment to go for a jog. She was never seen again. With no crime scene and no forensic evidence, cops have spent years spinning their wheels. They once thought a convicted murderer named Michael Knickerbocker might have abducted and murdered Tiffany. But the inmate died denying his involvement. Another time they dug up a “grave” in a rural area but found nothing. It has now been nearly 20 years and the case is still as cold as ever.

On May 27, 1984, Marjorie Christine “Christy” Luna, 8, walked about four hundred yards from her home to Greenacres Grocery near West Palm Beach. She left the store at 3:30 p.m. with a box of cat food. She has never been seen since. Two violent sexual predators lived within close proximity to her home. Both have spent many years in prison for sexual crimes. Police have tried unsuccessfully to link each predator to the child. Next year will be the 25th anniversary of Christy’s disappearance.

The cold case playing cards may yet help solve one or more of these crimes.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Interview with Drew Kesse


Jennifer Kesse disappeared from Orlando, Florida two and a half years ago. Her parents as well as friends and relatives have worked tirelessly to find her. The local and national media have high-lighted the case numerous times. Police have tracked down thousands of leads. But she remains missing. Someone knows something. Crimes don’t happen in a vacuum. There are several tip-lines listed below. Some can be called anonymously. Make that call and help the Kesse family heal!

Are there any new developments in the case that you can talk about?

We wish we could say there are. However, Jennifer as well as the suspect (i.e., the person who parked her car and walked away) still remain “vanished.” We’re told by police that there is still a lot of work to be done and there are promising directions. But this investigation has been very tough on everyone including all law enforcement involved.

I'm impressed with your website. How was it developed and how do you keep it up?

Jennifer’s website http://jenniferkesse.com/ was created by a total stranger from the east coast of Florida, who, when he first saw Joyce (Jennifer’s mother) and myself on TV asking for help in finding Jennifer, thought that someone would try and buy the website address under Jennifer’s name and try to sell it to us and profit. He set up the basic site and we have worked together to try and keep it up-to-date and factual. And we try to keep as much detail as possible onsite so if anyone has any questions they can go there for up-to-the-minute news as well as any events we may be planning.

The guestbook on the site has also been great to have. So many people care and help with awareness. The Internet is an extremely powerful tool for getting information around the world very quickly and we take advantage of that as much as possible. Jennifer was abducted and she may be anywhere in the world by now. We’ve been contacted through the guestbook by people in over 60 countries, so it works for awareness.

Since Jennifer’s disappearance, the webmaster has started his own missing person’s website. If someone goes missing, he will set up a website free of charge and monitor it for the family or turn it over to the family so they can run it. Visit http://www.someoneismissing.com to find out more.

Joyce and I write monthly letters to post on Jennifer’s website. We send them to our webmaster and he posts them and archives the letters so people can read what we have written all along about Jennifer’s case.

Please note that anyone can print a flyer off the website. They are all printable.

Rewards still remain. Crimeline (1-800-423-8477) has a $15,000 reward for any information leading to the whereabouts of Jennifer Kesse. There is also a reward of $ 10,000 from our family for information leading to the whereabouts of the suspect who dropped off her car and walked away. (He is still unidentified.)

Family Tipline (407-722-2162) is a place where you may leave anonymous tips if you don’t wish to speak with authorities directly.

You may also contact Orlando Police at 321-235-5300 and ask for the Homicide unit.

The idea of putting the entire 48 Hours story on the website is innovative. Who came up with that idea?

When we do a television interview, we try to get the link onsite so as many people as possible can see them, even well after they have been aired. We have the “Dateline NBC” story online as well as the CBS “48 Hours” piece. We simply asked if we could get a link and the networks allowed us to post them.

Tell me about Jennifer's safety precautions while living in Orlando (i.e., safe phone, whistle, mace).

Jennifer is a very safe person. Whether she let her guard down or was taken by surprise, she always practiced personal safety. Before we had our children, Joyce and I were held up at gunpoint in our home in New Jersey. When Jennifer and Logan, our son, were old enough to start to understand “people danger” we started to teach them safety. Joyce and I always had discussions with Jennifer about safety from when she started to go to school up until she was taken. She carried mace at all times, as well as a whistle. She let people know where she was most of the time and she was not a risk taker when it came to safety.

Jennifer was well known for her “safe calls.” If she was out and did not feel she was in a safe place, she would get someone on the phone. In that way, she would have help if she needed it. She would call mostly at night, coming and going from stores in Orlando or even from a night out. If we got the safe call, we used to tease her and say, “What’s up, none of your friends around? Had to go down the list?”

Joyce and Jennifer also often spoke about what to do if certain things were to happen, like rape, abduction, car-jacking, etc. This was a result of watching many years of “Law and Order,” which we no longer watch. This is what makes this act even more unbearable. If someone wants to get you, they will. We’ve learned that the hard way. However, one still must be aware of their surroundings at all times.

How do you think the abduction occurred?

It’s a total mystery still. Personally, I think Jennifer was spotted by someone or a group who either wanted her specifically or any woman. I think she was abducted and trafficked out of this country. I know that seems far-fetched but that is what I feel happened. Joyce feels she was stalked and taken by someone who just had to have her and couldn’t. Ask us in five minutes and we will probably tell you another thought we have. It’s difficult not to even have a direction to go 2½ years later.

Do you think a worker at the condo was responsible? A stalker from work? Or maybe someone who had seen her out and about?

Too hard to say. We do believe Jennifer was most likely taken from in or around her condo building in Orlando, on her way to work that morning on January 24, 2006 at approximately 7:30-8:00 a.m. She was very uncomfortable with workers at her complex and expressed this several times to us. We simply don’t know at this time.

How do you keep your hopes up?

We (her family and friends) have total unconditional love for Jennifer. Jennifer was created from love by Joyce and myself and we have always loved and supported our children to the fullest while letting them grow personally. We are her parents! She is our child, no matter what age she is.

The fact still remains that not one item of Jennifer’s has been found, except for the car, or used since the hour she was most likely taken. This has even law enforcement stumped – Nothing! That is out of the ordinary if this was a random criminal act. So until someone can tell us what happened to Jennifer and we bring her home, for the good or bad, we will hold hope that she is still out there needing to be desperately found.

So many families that face similar circumstances break apart. How have you and your wife managed to keep it together?

Honestly, why should it break people apart? It has brought our family closer than ever. Joyce and I, this past July 29th, celebrated (not really) our thirtieth wedding anniversary. We are soul mates and we truly love each other and our children. We are, I think, smart, logical people who understand that something very bad has happened to Jennifer and she needs us, not a divorce. We are a by-product of the situation. We need more than ever to show unity and family security at this time in our lives for the rest of our family and Jennifer’s friends. If we were to break up, that would mean that Evil would have won twice, and that will not happen in this family or situation.

Is there anything else you'd like to say?

Yes, I would like to remind people that Jennifer Kesse is still missing by means of abduction and needs help desperately to be found. Please visit her website and pass it on to all the people you know and ask them to do the same. Awareness is everything in a missing person’s case. It works - we know it works.

Secondly, we want people to understand that there is still an abductor or abductors out there. They need to be found along with Jennifer. If we find the person who dropped her car off 1.2 miles down her street in broad daylight on tape and walked away, this will all be over very quickly. Two people (including the abductor) have fallen off the face of the earth in Orlando, Florida. Someone knows something and they need to step up to the plate now. If you do know something and don’t say anything, we hold you just as responsible for the abduction of Jennifer as much as the person(s) who took her!

Lastly, if I may get on my soap box for a minute: we need to start as a nation taking our communities back from the small percentage of criminals in our great country. They are ruining our neighborhoods and lives and we, the law-abiding citizens, need to stand up and not be intimidated. If you see a crime – report it! If you hear of a crime – report it! If you don’t, you are part of the problem. It’s not up to police to run our communities. We are a country of free people – not a police state. Police are there to support our communities and keep the peace. We run our communities, states, and country, we The People, so take a stand and be a part of the solution. It won’t be easy, but it will be the right thing to do!

We need to be parents to our children, not their friends. We need to teach them self-respect as well as respect for others and their property. We need to educate our children. Knowledge is power. Use punishment when needed but with love, not hate and anger. Tell and show your children you love them. Be the role-models they not only want but need. We need to teach our children Civics in school again. Most children today are unaware of how our system of democracy works in our Republic. We are the greatest civilization that has ever lived and we are ruining it by letting a few bad seeds take away our society as we know it. You can make a difference. Take the first step and others will follow.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

"This Ain't Jesus, This is Satan"


Florida governor Charlie Crist recently asked for a list of death row inmates who have "served the longest or committed the most heinous crimes.” Richard Henyard [pictured] is one of five scheduled to die in the next few months. Unless one of his last-ditch appeals is successful, he will be given a lethal cocktail on September 23. “When you look at the horrific nature of this crime,” Crist said, “it lets you know that the penalty he will receive is certainly justified. [It is] unimaginable that any human being could carry out such a horrendous act.”

On Saturday night, January 30, 1993, Dorothy Reid Lewis walked out of Winn-Dixie in Eustis, Florida holding two bags of groceries. Her daughters, seven-year-old Jamilya and three-year-old Jasmine, walked by her side. As they headed toward their car, they paid no attention to the two teenage boys who began following them.

Lewis had seen tragedy in her life. Three years before, her husband had died. Her family and her strong religious faith were her greatest consolation. In fact, she’d bought the groceries so she could make her well-liked strawberry pretzel salad for a church potluck dinner the next day.

She placed the groceries in the backseat of the car, then opened the front passenger door. Her children got in. As Lewis walked around the back of her Chrysler Fifth Avenue, Alfonza Smalls, 14, edged up beside her. He lifted his shirt to show her the butt of a pistol in his waistband. “Don’t say nothin’ and get in the car,” Smalls ordered.

Lewis thought briefly about trying to escape. But she could never leave her children. She climbed into the back seat.

“Can I get my children back here?” she asked. Smalls nodded. Jamilya and Jasmine quickly crawled over the front seat and piled in beside their mother. Smalls got in on the passenger side and eighteen-year-old Richard Henyard climbed into the driver’s seat. Henyard started the car and began driving out of town.

Lewis whispered to the girls to jump out of the car if she opened the door. But it was going too fast and she never got the chance.

A court document describes what happened next: “The Lewis girls were crying and upset, and Smalls repeatedly demanded that Ms. Lewis ‘shut the girls up.’ As they continued to drive out of town, Ms. Lewis beseeched Jesus for help, to which Henyard replied, ‘This ain’t Jesus, this is Satan.’ Later, Henyard stopped the car at a deserted location and ordered Ms. Lewis out of the car. Henyard raped Ms. Lewis on the trunk of the car while her daughters remained in the back seat. Ms. Lewis attempted to reach for the gun that was lying nearby on the truck. Smalls grabbed the gun from her and shouted, ‘You’re not going to get the gun, bitch!’

“Smalls also raped Ms. Lewis on the trunk of the car. Henyard then ordered her to sit on the ground near the edge of the road. When she hesitated, Henyard pushed her to the ground and shot her in the leg. Henyard shot her at close range three more times, wounding her in the neck, mouth, and middle of the forehead between her eyes. Henyard and Smalls rolled Ms. Lewis’s unconscious body off to the side of the road and got [back] in the car.”

Henyard drove away from the scene. In the back seat, Jamilya and Jasmine were crying and calling for their mother. Henyard screamed at them, telling them to “shut up.” When the frightened girls continued to cry, Henyard stopped in a secluded area. Getting out of the car, he lifted Jasmine from her seat and shot her through the eye, killing her. Then he shot Jamilya in the head. Henyard and Smalls threw the lifeless bodies over a fence into a patch of tall weeds. Driving back to town, they began bragging to friends about their crimes.

After lying unconscious for several hours, Lewis awoke. She knew she had to get help, but was afraid to stop passing cars because she thought her assailants might be returning. She staggered along the side of the road, hiding in bushes every time a car passed. After walking a mile, she came to a house where the residents called police. An EMT unit quickly arrived and Dorothy Lewis was rushed to an Orlando hospital.

Henyard and Smalls drove the Chrysler around Eustis for more than a day. After learning that there was a reward for the killers of the two children, Henyard worked out a plot to get it. He went to the police claiming he’d seen the crime go down but insisted he wasn’t involved. Alfonza Smalls was one of the participants, he said. Cops spotted blood on his clothes and shoes and immediately became suspicious.

The blood was tested for DNA and matched all three victims. DNA from a rape kit performed on Lewis matched his semen. There was no doubt about his guilt. Henyard and Smalls were arrested, tried, and convicted of First Degree murder. Because he was only 14, Smalls was given a life sentence. Henyard received the death penalty.

Henyard began committing crimes early on. When he was seven, he tried to burn down his god-mother’s house. From that point on, he became an inveterate thief. After several arrests, he learned that the criminal justice system was lenient with juveniles. He quit school at 16 and sponged off friends and relatives when he wasn’t stealing from them.

Dorothy Lewis survived her ordeal. Doctors attached four metal plates and 28 screws in her head. She lost her sense of smell and taste. She suffered severe depression and post traumatic stress. But Lewis was determined to overcome her adversity. She began taking college courses and earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree. For the last thirteen years, she has been a teacher in the Lake County school system. She re-married and has a small child. In addition to her job as an educator, Lewis is pastor of a church.

Recalling that dreadful day, Lewis said she begged Henyard and Smalls not to rape her in front of her girls. But they cursed her and continued their despicable acts. Once she was raped, she said, “I saw [Henyard] was going to shoot me, so I started fighting like a wildcat.” When asked how she survived, her sister called it a “miracle of God.”

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Foot Fetish in Vancouver


At this very moment, amid the plankton and flotsam, a tennis shoe floats in the ocean. And some bright morning, a little girl will run toward some beach near Vancouver, British Columbia and stop dead in her tracks. Even at her age, she’ll know. It’s another severed foot.

Is there a real-life Saw going on here? Can some maniac be chaining men and women in a dungeon near the ocean? In their desperation, are the victims chopping off their own feet in order to escape? Cops say no, but cops have been wrong before. After all, thousands of people go missing every year in British Columbia. And isn’t that where Robert Pickton spent twenty years murdering women? How many did he kill and feed to his hogs? Last I heard, it was sixty, give or take a couple. The cops had that case down pat, didn’t they?

Why aren’t the TV crime shows screaming about this case every day? I’m getting sick of hearing about the same missing white girls all the time. They come a dime a dozen. But sneaker-clad feet floating in on the tide? Now that’s an eye-popper. In fact, how often does this happen? I read where some expert said body parts wash up all over the place all the time. Maybe, but this is the first I’ve ever heard of it.

What are there? Six so far, plus one hoax?

Here are a few theories I’ve read about.

The infamous “airplane crash theory.” Every newspaper story about the severed feet mentions an airplane that crashed into the ocean not far from where the feet are washing up. Four people went down in that crash. One body was recovered and identified. But DNA from families of the crash victims doesn’t match DNA from the feet in the sneakers. So it’s obviously not them. You’d have thought reporters would have quit padding their stories with this theory long ago.

The “tsunami theory.” Let’s see, when did that happen? Four years ago. Where did it happen? In the Indian Ocean somewhere near Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand. According to my research, that’s about 7,000 miles away from Vancouver. And there are several continents between the two. Maybe there’s an unknown 7,000 mile current that skirts every land-mass in the world and brings only shoes and feet to Canada, but I don’t think so. Whatever goofy egghead came up with this one needs to take a serious geography course.

The old “bored and messing with cadavers theory.” Okay, there are lots of bored people running around. I’ll acknowledge that. But how many of them have access to human bodies? Fortunately, there aren’t a lot of Ed Geins in this world. Digging up the dead just ain’t a hobby that many people are going to take up. And even if they did, what are the odds that they’d have a foot fetish? Somebody must have been bored stiff to think of that one.

The “there’s no link between them theory.” Actually, there could be some truth to this one. DNA from one set of feet matched a man said to be depressed. The implication from cops is that he jumped in the ocean to commit suicide and somehow his feet ended up floating to Vancouver. That may well be. But it still begs a few questions. Why now? Why so many? How many others weren’t found and will never be found? Why this area and nowhere else? Where is the source of the feet? How did they become separated from their legs? Why just feet and not other parts of the body?

Now suddenly a hopper in a boot pops up on a shoreline just south of the Canadian border. So the FBI is getting involved. Let’s hope there’s not another Richard Jewel or Dr. Stephen Hatfill around for them to tunnel-focus on or they’ll be paying out millions more to a wrongly accused foot-snatcher.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Gang-Rape in North Georgia


[The Snodgrass home was used in 1863 as a medical facility during the Battle of Chickamauga.]

Krull Brothers Executed for Rape
by Robert A. Waters

On September 19th and 20th, 1863, a bloodbath occurred in northern Georgia. After the Battle of Chickamauga was over, 35,000 Union and Confederate casualties littered the field. Nearly 100 years later, history would be made again on that same battlefield. Two brothers, life-long criminals, would kidnap a woman off the streets of Chattanooga, Tennessee and drive her across state lines into the Chickamauga National Park in Georgia. There they would beat her nearly to death and rape her multiple times. Her life would be spared only because a park ranger happened upon the scene. On August 21, 1957, the brothers would be executed by the Federal government for the crime of rape even though the victim lived.

By all accounts, George Krull, 34, and his brother Michael, 32, of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, were thugs of the worst sort. Not overly bright, they’d been in and out of jails and prisons since their pre-teen years. Their mother had died when they were children. Wards of the state, they grew up stealing, robbing, and creating mayhem wherever they went.

Sunie Jones, 53, worked as a clerk in her brother’s drug store in downtown Chattanooga. Newspapers of the time described her variously as a businesswoman or a spinster. Regardless of the media’s portrayal, she would turn out to be a courageous woman who withstood what the FBI termed “vicious bestial indignities” and would later look her attackers in the eye and testify to the crimes they committed upon her.

And when, cowards to the end, they begged her to intervene and stop the government from executing them, Jones issued the following statement: “[George and Michael Krull] didn’t answer me when I pleaded with them that day in April of 1955. [So] when they begged me, I didn’t answer.”

On April 14, 1955, George, Michael, Edward Bice, and Paul Allen had been driving around Chattanooga all day drinking cheap wine. George and Michael were wanted by the law in several northeastern states and had decided to come south. Bice agreed to drive them to Chattanooga. Allen, who was Bice’s step-brother, was missing a leg. As they drove around getting drunk, the Krull brothers began bickering with each other.

Allen asked them to stop. According to an article in the Connorsville Daily Courier, “George put the blade of a knife to the leg of Allen, a paraplegic amputee, and told him he’d cut it off if he didn’t stay out of an argument brewing between George and Michael.”

Shortly after that, the brothers got out of the car. As Bice and Allen slowly followed, George and Michael walked along the 1200 block of Market Street until they noticed a parked car. Sunie Jones was getting out of the car when the brothers came up on either side. George put the blade of the knife against her throat and ordered her to move to the middle of the seat. He told Sunie that he would kill her if she screamed. Michael slid in on the passenger side, boxing her in.

With their victim between them, George began to drive aimlessly while Bice and Allen followed in the second car. The Jones car, which belonged to her brother, only had a front seat. The back seat had been removed, presumably to haul goods to and from the pharmacy.

The Krulls demanded money from their victim. She stated that she had none. Michael punched her in the face and again asked for money. Jones stated that she had none but that she knew a woman she could call who would give her a thousand dollars. That didn't impress the brothers. They hit the now-bloodied woman numerous times as they attempted to make her come up with some cash.

By that time, George had driven across the Tennessee state line into Georgia. He stopped at a grocery store and Bice pulled up behind. Michael got out of Sunie’s car and told Bice the woman had asked him to let her use a telephone so she could call her friend and get them the money. Bice wanted none of it. He told the brothers to get rid of the car and leave.

According to court records, “The two cars moved on and in the same direction. Bice and Allen, following [Sunie’s car], went on past Oglethorpe. Bice and Allen lost track of the other car which George Krull was still driving after it entered [Chickamauga Park].”

George drove to a secluded spot near Snodgrass Hill. Nearly a hundred years before, the Federals were ordered to hold that hill and the Rebels were ordered to take it. After three charges in which the Confederates were decimated, they finally struggled to the top, forcing the Federals to retreat to Rossville. The Snodgrass house, nearby, was used as a hospital for both sides. A soldier described amputated arms and legs being thrown out the window and forming a pyramid of bloody flesh on the ground.

Michael tore the bloodied Sunie Jones from the front seat and forced her to lie down in the back. According to her later testimony, Jones said, “He assaulted me for ever so long.” Then George took over. When he was done, Michael raped her again.

During this time, Bice and Allen, who had lost track of Sunie’s car, came up on it. At that time, as George was again raping Sunie, a park ranger who was patrolling the area saw the two cars and came to investigate. Leaving their battered victim, the four fled in Bice’s car.

George, Bice, and Allen were quickly captured. Michael Krull made his way to New York where he was arrested while trying to steal a car.

George and Michael were to be tried on Federal charges of kidnapping and transportation across state lines, rape, and interstate transportation of a vehicle across state lines. They were held in Rome, Georgia but quickly escaped. After they were re-captured, the trial was held in Atlanta due to the hostility of the Rome populace toward the suspects.

At trial, Sunie Jones described her ordeal in detail. Her testimony was so terrifying and so graphic that the suspects were quickly convicted. Both Bice, who received a five-year sentence as an accessory, and Allen testified against the brothers.

After numerous appeals, a fake suicide attempt by the prisoners, and an appeal to President Dwight D. Eisenhower (which he denied), the attackers wrote to Jones asking her to contact the parole board on their behalf. She refused and the Federal government rented the electric chair at Reidsville State Prison. On August 21, 1957, George was escorted to the chair by federal officers and two Catholic priests. He was pronounced dead at 11:34 a.m. Exactly twelve minutes later, Michael was pronounced dead.

Still refusing to accept responsibility to the very end, Michael Krull said, “It was all prejudice. When your local people commit rape they get just 10 or 20 years sometime.”