Monday, September 26, 2011

Writing against the Grain

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Has a recent mainstream anti-Stalin film been made?
by Robert A. Waters

In 1945, George Orwell, already a well-known English author, sent a manuscript to his publisher. It was entitled Animal Farm: A Fairy Story. The book was refused, in part, because of its excoriation of Comrade Stalin and the Soviet Union. A small publisher finally took it on and Animal Farm is now recognized as one of the great books of the English language.

In 1962, Aleksandr Solzhenitzen published a novel based on his own real-life experiences. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich describes twenty-four hours in a Siberian labor camp. Needless to say, the Soviet government didn’t take kindly to the book and the author was exiled. However, One Day is credited with finally opening the eyes of many in the West to the reality of Josef Stalin’s barbaric regime.

That reality, however, seems to have escaped American film producers.

Every year, several new movies are released documenting the atrocities of Hitler’s Nazi regime. Last year, I saw Valkyrie (terrible) and Inglourious Basterds (fair). Some of the other Nazi movies I've seen include Schindler's List (fair), Band of Brothers (fair), and Saving Private Ryan (outstanding).

But I can’t recall one recent mainstream film that delves into the savagery of dictator Stalin.

Surely there are movies to be made about a leader who murdered at least sixty million and maybe a hundred million of his own citizens. Stalin, an odious tyrant who may have been responsible for more deaths than any leader in history, once said, “The death of a man is a tragedy; the death of a thousand is a statistic.” He should know.

An artist in the Soviet Union responded: “Where else do they kill people for writing poetry?”

In the end, an estimate of those murdered by Stalin and his brutal regime is hard to determine. There were just so many, and the Soviets were poor record-keepers, particularly when the victims were nobodies.

It’s safe to say that Hitler murdered his millions, Stalin his tens of millions.

These days, political correctness is one of the tools used to silence opposition to “progressivist” schemes. Film makers who adhere to the doctrine are rewarded with Oscars and a cash flow to match. Fascist dictator Hitler is “in” as a subject for movies, but communist dictator Stalin is “out.”

Is there another Doctor Zhivago lurking in the mind of some independent film producer? If so, it might be worth millions, but you're liable to get blacklisted if you produce it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

1955 San Francisco Case Has Happy Ending

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Stolen Baby Returned
by Robert A. Waters

[NOTE: I obtained the information about this case from two sources: newspaperarchive.com and Kidnapped: Child Abduction in America by Paula S. Fass, Oxford Univeristy Press, 2006.]

September 19, 1955

Dr. Sanford Marcus sat alone inside a room police had commandeered in San Francisco’s Mt. Zion Hospital. Twenty-four hours earlier, his three-day-old child, Robert, had been snatched from the hospital nursery and detectives were using several rooms as a base for their investigation.

A reporter approached. Hesitant at first, he asked a few timid questions, but then found the doctor eager to talk. “I am convinced it’s not a kidnaping for ransom,” Marcus said. “I believe the baby was taken by some unfortunate woman who either lost her own child, or wanted one, and had this desperate urge for a baby of her own. We have no vindictiveness [toward her]. If she will come forward, I will not demand any prosecution."

His wife, Hanna, was lying sedated in a nearby hospital room. A Jew, she’d lost her parents and brother to Hitler’s gas ovens. At thirteen, she escaped from Germany and was placed in a youth hostel in England. She became a teacher, immigrated to America, and met Dr. Marcus at the nursery school where she worked. They had two other children and were ecstatic to add Robert to the family. But now tragedy had struck Hanna once again.

The San Francisco Police Department released a description of the child: “Robert Marcus is four days old, 19 inches in length, and weighs 6 pounds 6 1/2 ounces. He has a pink complexion and a small amount of brown fuzzy hair.”

A reward of $5,000 had been offered by the doctor for Robert's safe return. Newspapers published a formula recommended by Dr. Marcus so the kidnapper would know how to feed him.

Hundreds of cops fanned out across the area, working on the theory that a frustrated wannabe mother had pulled off the crime.

Tips poured in. One witness said a car stopped in front of her house and she saw a “heavy” woman holding a baby. The stranger spoke to her driver using a “Swedish” accent. The witness said that he replied, “I don’t like this business.” Dozens of other similar sightings kept officers busy chasing dead-end leads.

In the hospital, Dr. Marcus continued speaking with the reporter. “He's such a little baby,” the doctor said. “The little guy didn't even have his eyes open until the day he was taken. I was at my office when the hospital called to break the news. At first, I thought it was a practical joke. I actually called back the hospital to verify it. When it was verified, I asked that I be the one to tell [my wife]. It was my duty as her husband. She took it hard, of course. Yet, in her grief she tried to comfort me.”

Dr. Marcus and Hanna remained at the hospital for two more days. Finally, they left for home. Reporters said that the mother had a blank, drained look about her.

The search continued for more than a week with little progress .

Then, nine days after the child was abducted, San Joaquin Sheriff’s Deputy Osvaldo Vannucei attended a prize fight in Stockton. Two women were sitting nearby, taking turns holding a newborn baby. “I noticed her [Betty Jean Benedicto] right away,” he said. “She seemed to be intoxicated. She had a woman friend who was playing with the baby too affectionately. I just couldn't watch the fights.”

Vanuccei questioned Benedicto, who stated that the baby was a month old. Her husband soon appeared, and confirmed her account. But the deputy’s suspicions had been aroused, so he identified himself and demanded to see a birth certificate. After the boxing match, Vannucei followed the couple to a hotel where they were living. There they produced a certificate stating that the child had been born in St. Francis Hospital in Lynwood.

The document looked real, but Vannuccei drove to the sheriff’s department and called the hospital to make sure. Officials at St. Francis informed him that no babies had been born there on the date written on the certificate. By the time Vannuccei and other investigators returned to the hotel, the group had fled.

By now, Benedicto knew the gig was up. She confessed to her husband, who had been unaware the baby was stolen. Then they drove to a nearby Catholic church where Benedicto handed the baby to a priest. Police were called and little Robert was taken back to the station house.

The overjoyed parents were finally reunited with their son. He’d been treated well and during the nine days had gained nearly a pound. A newspaper report said that Mrs. Marcus smiled for the first time in days. Sanford Marcus predicted the family would “live happily ever after.”

The kidnapper was quickly tracked down and arrested by Stockton authorities. She confessed, describing the events that took place when she abducted little Robert Marcus.

Benedicto said she went to Mt. Zion hospital and asked a nurse for directions to the maternity ward. "I walked up to the nursery and there was a room just full of babies," she said. "Then I saw the name on the Marcus baby, both on the crib and on the leg beads. Marcus is my husband's name--Mark--and that gave me the impulse to take him. I took him when nobody was in the room. I wrapped him in his yellow blanket, I walked down the stairs. I was afraid somebody might see me [but] I saw only one person coming up the street. He smiled at me when he saw the baby."

Benedicto drove to her home in Stockton and told her husband she’d had a baby a month before but had to leave him in a Los Angeles hospital because he was too fragile to move. He finally improved enough so that she could bring him home, she said. Somehow, she convinced her husband to believe her.

“The next day I saw Dr. Marcus on TV," she continued. “He was a nice man. I changed to the formula he had advised. If Dr. Marcus had not said over and over that I loved the boy and that's why I took it--if he had said instead that I was a bad woman--I never would have given it up.”

The aftermath for Betty Jean Benedicto wasn’t pretty. The following brief article from the February 10, 1962 Oakland Tribune, describes her continued problems with the law: “Betty Jean Benedicto, who kidnaped the three-day old son of a physician from a San Francisco hospital in 1955, is back in San Francisco city jail for violation of probation.

“Mrs. Benedicto, 34, was returned to the Bay Area from Seattle where she served a jail sentence for stabbing her common-law husband, Amos Uganiza, 54, a commercial fisherman.

“Mrs. Benedicto had been living under the name of Francesca Mairo Uganiza. Her true identity was discovered after a routine fingerprint check which followed her sentence for the stabbing.

“The 200-pound woman kidnaped Robert Marcus, son of Dr. and Mrs. Sanford Marcus, from Mount Zion Hospital, Sept. 19, 1955. She
turned the infant over to a Catholic priest unharmed in Stockton nine days later.

“Mrs. Benedicto was paroled after spending eight months in jail. She was placed on five years [of] probation, but broke probation
when she left California.”

Friday, September 9, 2011

Self-Defense Files 3

Anthony Hauser
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Turning the tables
by Robert A. Waters

After being robbed two weeks before in the Orangeburg, South Carolina Days Inn where she worked, a hotel clerk asked her manager for permission to bring her gun to work. He consented and it paid off early on the morning of July 25. When the woman (whose name was not released) entered the hotel’s restaurant to begin preparing breakfasts for guests, she found a career criminal named Vincent Lee Carson hiding in the room. Before she could turn to flee, he grabbed her and placed a knife to her throat. After threatening her, he put the weapon down while he attempted to bind her hands with zip-ties. This gave the clerk the opportunity she needed to pull out her .22-caliber handgun and open fire. Carson’s violent career ended that day as a bullet rocketed into his heart. According to Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, Carson, at 250 pounds, was twice the size of the woman. “[The shooter] did not want to take someone’s life, but she was put in a position where she had absolutely no choice,” Lott said. “This had escalated beyond a robbery to a sexual assault, and we don’t know what would have happened beyond that. She did the correct thing — she protected herself.” Carson, who had a long criminal history in New York and New Jersey, was a fugitive wanted for another local hotel robbery a week earlier.

At 10:00 p.m., in the dark parking lot of a St. Petersburg Applebee’s Restaurant, Lesley Tanner and her boyfriend Raven Smith got out of their car to go get a bite to eat. Smith has a permit to carry a concealed weapon and was toting a .380-caliber handgun. Out of the darkness, a masked man armed with a pistol rushed toward Tanner. As the assailant closed on her, Smith shouted for Tanner to “get down.” She crouched on the ground, allowing Smith a window to open fire. Four rounds hit the assailant, identified by police as Anthony Hauser. As he fell to the pavement, the robber begged Smith not to shoot him anymore. Tanner later spoke to reporters. “I saw orange flashes over my head,” she said. “And then my ears were ringing.” Hauser was taken to the hospital for treatment of his wounds and later arrested for attempted armed robbery. Police said he has a long rap-sheet. Smith, who had fired his gun at a shooting range but never at another person, was philosophical about the incident. “Maybe [Hauser] can learn his lesson and change his life,” he said. Smith will not be charged.

Peggy Melton, 68, of Powersite, Missouri, returned home to find a burglar pillaging her house. A permit holder armed with a handgun, Melton confronted Danny Waggoner, 24, in her bedroom. According to police reports, the thief threatened her with a shotgun. “I’m going to kill you,” he said. Before that could happen, Melton drew her gun and fired three times, hitting Waggoner in the chest with one round. The thief ran out the door and climbed into a pickup driven by his girlfriend, Courtney Simpson. Police quickly tracked down the suspects and Waggoner was transported to the hospital. Simpson has been charged with several crimes related to the break-in. But before he could be indicted, Waggoner escaped from the hospital and is still being sought by police. Cops say he’ll be charged when he’s caught. “Missouri law is pretty clear that the homeowner was acting well within her rights, at least as I read the incident,” Taney County Prosecutor Jeff Merrell said.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Sixth Avenue Krystal Murders

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You don't have to be smart to kill
by Robert A. Waters

In the early morning of August 24, 2011, two employees at the Sixth Avenue Krystal restaurant in Decatur, Alabama were murdered. Night manager Jeffrey Mark Graff, 50, and employee Jessie Jose Aguilar, 23, were found by another employee when she reported to work. The safe had been robbed, and the victims shot dead in the store cooler.

Three suspects allegedly confessed to the murders. Two were employees of the restaurant, Jordaan Creque and Cassandra Eldred. The third was Ezekiel “EZ” Gholston.

According to news accounts and police reports, the three drove to the drive-through window where Creque asked Graff if he could come inside and use the telephone. The restaurant was closed from midnight to six and customers could only order from the window, but since Creque was a co-worker, Graff complied. As soon as the door opened, Creque and Gholston rushed inside. Holding a gun on the employees, Creque ordered the manager to open the safe while Eldred, driving the get-away car, allegedly waited outside.

After taking the money, the robbers herded Graff and Aguilar into the cooler where they were executed.

A police spokesman told reporters that the trio admitted to ditching the weapon, a nine-millimeter handgun, in Wilson Morgan Lake. Following instructions from the suspects, it was recovered by investigators. Decatur Police Sgt. Rick Archer told reporters: “It was the gun we were looking for. It was where we were looking and where we thought it would be. But we’re not ready to say it was the one used in the Krystal shooting until it comes back from ballistics.”

Shortly after the robbery, Creque checked himself into Decatur General Hospital. He had light cuts on his arms and chest and told medical personnel he’d been forced to participate in a robbery and murder at Krystal. Police quickly arrived and found that the superficial cuts required “little or no treatment.” Investigators alleged that Creque later admitted the wounds were self-inflicted and that he’d cut himself in an attempt to throw police off the track. Detectives said he admitted that he was the triggerman and implicated his two cohorts.

Police found a large sum of money at Creque and Gholston’s homes. Cops said Eldred also admitted that Creque gave her $200 to act as the driver.

Graff, originally from Minnesota, had lived in Alabama for many years. He had helped build the Messiah Lutheran Church in Madison that he and his wife, Lois, attended. He was remembered as a loving husband, restaurant employee and owner, and handyman. He also kept the church organs in tune.

Jessie Aguilar had a fiancé and two daughters. Friends said he loved to hunt, camp, and fish.

It's obvious that the three suspects aren’t master criminals. In fact, it’s difficult to understand how even the dimmest bulb could have thought they could get away with such a plan. But you don’t have to be a genius to leave bodies lying around.

This is the kind of crime the death penalty is made for. If Jordaan Creque, EZ Gholston, and Cassandra Eldred are proven guilty in a court of law, I hope they're all executed.