Monday, September 30, 2013

REVIEW: The Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Pennsylvania

The Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Pennsylvania by Ron Franscell and Karen B. Valentine
Globe Pequot Press, 2013

Review by Robert A. Waters

Ron Franscell and Globe Pequot Press have united to create an intriguing series of true crime books.  Each book digs into the criminal past of a state or section of America “where seemingly idyllic places reveal secrets.”  This time, with co-author Karen B. Valentine, Ron explores Pennsylvania.  GPS coordinates allows the reader to visit the sites where the crimes occurred.

There’s the story of Ira Einhorn, the “peace-loving” hippie who murdered his girlfriend in Center City and fled to France.  After 20 years of fighting extradition, prosecutors finally succeeded in getting the pompous killer returned to the United States.  He is now serving life in prison.  His victim, Holly Maddux, had made the mistake of believing that Einhorn was a profound leftist thinker instead of a psychopathic con-artist.  She is buried in her native Texas.

There’s the mother who murdered eight of her babies, and got away with it for 30 years.  In Kensington, Marie Noe’s bad luck at keeping children alive was chalked up to “crib-death.”  It took decades before cold case investigators revisited the strange deaths, and got Noe to confess.  In yet another bizarre twist to this case, the disturbed killer was sentenced to house arrest instead of prison.

The Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Pennsylvania describes hundreds of such cases.  The kidnapping of little Charley Ross made national headlines in the 1870s, long before Charles Lindbergh, Jr. was abducted.  Charley, aged 4, was snatched off a street in Germantown.  The abductor demanded a ransom, but the instructions were so confusing and poorly-written that Christian Ross, Charley’s father, couldn’t decipher it.  The child was never recovered.  A few years later, two burglars were shot by residents as they attempted to flee from a home they’d broken into.  The robbers turned out to be gangsters Gil Mosher and Joseph Douglas.  Both were mortally wounded.  With his dying breath, Douglas claimed that he and Mosher had taken part in the kidnapping of Charley Ross.  Was the confession true?  They both died before they could tell police where to find the body.

One area of the Keystone State that is a must visit for true crime aficionados is Center City.  Here are just three sites that deserve a look:

Eastern State Penitentiary still stands in that city, the “once-modern” prison that housed Al “Scarface” Capone, among others.  During the eight months of his incarceration, Capone lived like royalty, fawned over by guards and given comforts no other inmate would ever have.

Frank Bender’s sculpting studio can be viewed in Center City, the place where he created plaster casts of fugitives as well as unidentified victims.  His most famous case was that of John List, who murdered his entire family and fled to Colorado.  After establishing a new life, List settled into anonymity and re-married.  Years later, Bender created a bust showing the fugitive’s face in amazing detail—the killer was caught after a viewer of the television crime show, America’s Most Wanted, recognized him.

And Edgar Allan Poe’s home still sits in Center City.  It was there that he wrote many of his classic stories, including “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” as well as his well-known poem, “The Raven.”  The story of Poe’s strange and tragic death is told in Ron’s book, The Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Washington, DC.

I could go on and on, but I need to stop.  I strongly encourage anyone with an interest in criminal history to order this book.  It’s a keeper.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


“Lie Detector” costs lives…
by Robert A. Waters

Gary Ridgway has made headlines again.  Convicted of murdering 49 women, the so-called Green River Killer now claims eighty victims.  However, had the polygraph been reliable, he could have been stopped early in his killing career.  After finding the fourth victim, police gave Ridgway a “lie detector” test—he passed and was eliminated as a suspect.  Years later, after DNA linked him to several of the murders, he confessed and led police to numerous gravesites.

Four-year-old Kali Ann Poulton might be alive today if the polygraph was accurate.  New York State Police administered the test to Mark Christie after he became a suspect in the murder of Viola Manville, 74.  Christie passed and was eliminated as a suspect.  Years later, Christie kidnapped and killed Poulton, and also confessed to murdering Manville.  Unfortunately, another man failed the lie detector test and was convicted of Manville’s murder.  It’s crazy—the real killer passed while an innocent man failed.

Aldrich Ames, the notorious spy, passed two lie detector tests during the ten years he delivered secrets to Russian intelligence officers.  Because of his betrayal, at least a dozen CIA and FBI intelligence agents were captured, tortured, and eliminated by the KGB.  If only one polygraph had been accurate, many of those agents would still be alive.

The lie detector test is so inaccurate that it’s not allowed in most courtrooms.  Dr. Drew Richardson, former Supervisory Special Agent of the FBI Laboratory, said: “Polygraph screening is completely without any theoretical foundation and has absolutely no validity…the diagnostic value of this type of testing is no more than that of astrology or tea-leaf reading.”

When Jessica Lunsford went missing, the first thing the FBI did was to put her father and grandfather on the machine.  The tests were “inconclusive,” leading investigators to suspect them of murdering her.  While Mark and Archie Lunsford were being grilled by investigators, the real kidnapper, John Evander Couey, was committing unspeakable acts on Jessica.  When finally tracked down, he told investigators where to find the body.  Mark and Archie were cleared, too late.

These are just a few erroneous results of polygraph exams. 

Why would anyone consent to take such an unreliable “test”?

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Media vs. Dr. Osler

Sir William Osler
A Death in Baltimore
by Robert A. Waters

On February 4, 1905, seventy-one-year-old Captain William S. Winder placed a pistol against his skull and pulled the trigger.  His body was found the following day.  An article in the New York Times reported that “among [Winder’s] papers was found a clipping of the address by Dr. William Osler of Johns Hopkins University, in which reference was made to the uselessness of men over sixty years old.”
The suicide victim had served in the Confederate army, obtaining the rank of Captain.  Although born in North Carolina, he lived most of his life in Baltimore, Maryland.  Like many who resided in the Border States, Winder’s sympathies were pro-Southern.  (One-third of Marylanders who fought in War Between the States donned Confederate uniforms.)
While the dead man lived in relative obscurity, Dr. Osler was one of the most famous and influential physicians alive.  Born in Bond Head, Ontario, in 1849, he graduated from McGill University in Montreal.  After teaching there for ten years, Osler took a job as professor of clinical medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Later, he became physician-in-chief at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.  It was when he retired (at age 56) from that institution that he gave a speech in which he facetiously claimed that anyone over the age of sixty-seven should retire.  After retirement, the elderly should spend a year “contemplating life,” then be “chloroformed.”  The remarks, while odd, were obviously made in jest. But headlines in hundreds of newspapers across America claimed that Osler had recommended “extinguishing” the elderly.  The famous doctor spent the rest of his life denying that he was serious in his remarks.
Osler moved to England where he became Regis Professor of Medicine at Oxford University.  In 1911, he became a baronet.  He died in 1919, at age seventy.
Meanwhile, according to the Times, “Winder was a bachelor [who] led a retired and lonely life for some years.  His sight had practically failed, and recently he suffered from insomnia.”  Facing the prospect of a miserable life in an old folk’s home, the veteran decided that Dr. Osler was right.  A bullet to the brain brought his human suffering to an end.

Friday, September 6, 2013


Austin Jones
Life for the clueless…
by Robert A. Waters

Austin Jones was on house arrest for home invasion, burglary with a deadly weapon, burglary, attempted burglary, and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person when he allegedly decided to go burgling yet again.  He ended up breaking into the Las Vegas residence of Ed and Ky Vidal.  Oblivious to the couple’s home security cameras, Jones left with a typical junkie’s haul—a water bottle filled with coins, a suitcase, and a gold ring.  When the Vidals returned home, they posted photos of the thief online.  It didn’t take long before Facebookers identified Jones, and now he sits in the slammer on still another charge of burglary.  Regardless of the consequences, some guys just never learn.

Hillsborough, New Jersey police allege that Shanique Monteagudo, Anthony Iafelice, and Keiaundra Drury operated a car burglary ring.  After breaking into at least 66 autos, their crime spree came to a screeching halt when the trio fell hook, line, and sinker for the old hidden camera trick. The homeowners (who’d set up a camouflaged surveillance videocam in the back yard) gave the film to cops, resulting in an easy identification of the suspects.  After obtaining search warrants, police confiscated 130 items thought to be from the car burglaries.  Now Monteagudo, Iafelice, and Drury each face 66 counts of vehicle burglary.  If convicted, they deserve exactly what they get.

Jeremy Thompson, a.k.a Jeremy Cannon, a.k.a the “Hand Grenade Robber” was captured by cops at the Atlanta Greyhound Bus Depot.  He’s alleged to have robbed a Wells Fargo Bank in Gwinnett County.  Placing a hand grenade on the counter, Thompson demanded money.  Clerks, with visions of body parts strewn all over the bank, were quick to comply.  However, a snitch let police know that the robber was boarding a Greyhound to Miami, and investigators arrested him.  Thompson made it easy to gain a conviction—he was allegedly carrying a fake hand grenade when he was cuffed.

Cops said that Paige Stacy had Xanax, heroin, hydromorphone, and syringes on her person when she broke into the Middletown, Ohio home of sixty-five-year-old Mable Fletcher.  When Stacy walked into Fletcher’s bedroom, the homeowner grabbed her pistol and fired at the intruder.  She missed.  Stacy picked up an iron and threw it at Fletcher, who then fired again.  This shot also missed, but Stacy pretended to be wounded and fell to the floor.  When the homeowner approached, Stacy lunged at her.  Fletcher fired again, missing once more.  Finally, the message filtered through to Stacy’s drug-fueled brain that she’d better leave.  A few minutes later, cops came upon her sleeping in the car of a neighbor.  Investigators suspect that she’d pilfered items from several automobiles, and had attempted to break into two homes in the area.  A police spokesman said she was lucky to be alive.  Stacy might not be so fortunate next time—lots of other Ohioans are better shots than Mable Fletcher.

And so it goes on the low end of the crime totem pole.