Thursday, September 30, 2010

An Atrocity in Fort Wayne

A recent composite of what April's killer may look like

The Bizarre Case of April Marie Tinsley
by Robert A. Waters

For twenty-eight years, a killer has stalked the streets of Fort Wayne, Indiana, taunting police and threatening children. As far as investigators know, he’s murdered only one child--April Marie Tinsley. There’s plenty of physical evidence, including DNA, and it should be easy to convict him if he’s ever caught. Like the BTK Killer, he enjoys publicity. That could be his downfall.

April 1, 1988 was cool and stormy in Fort Wayne, Indiana. When eight-year-old April Tinsley came home from school, she asked her mother if she could play outside with friends. With a piece of Easter candy in her hand, April headed out the door.

A report on the FBI website describes what happened next: “April was abducted about 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon as she walked to a friend's house through her south-central Fort Wayne neighborhood. Her disappearance prompted an immediate, massive search by 25 police and 50 neighborhood residents. A witness reported seeing a white man in his mid-30s pull April into a light-blue pickup, but neither was found.

“Her body was found three days later at the bottom of a ditch along a rural DeKalb County road. The case stalled, but in May 1990, a teenage boy saw a man draw the message ‘I kill April Marie Tinsley. I will kill again’ on a barn near the intersection of St. Joe Center and Schwartz roads. In [2004], a series of hand-written notes were left on mailboxes and bicycles threatening further killings such as Tinsley's. The notes contained misspellings and grammatical errors similar to the message left on the barn.”

April had blonde hair cut short, blue eyes, and was a petite youngster. Her abduction and murder enraged the community. Investigators determined that the note scrawled on the barn was indeed written by the killer. Unfortunately, the teenager who saw the man couldn’t identify him.

Of the four messages found at residences in and around Fort Wayne, three were left on bicycles belonging to young girls and one was left in a mailbox. Each was written on yellow lined paper and placed inside baggies. Some had Polaroid pictures, while at least one contained a used condom. (The semen was tested for DNA and matched the profile obtained from April’s body.)

One note, placed in the basket of a child’s bicycle, read: “Hi Honey I been watching you I am the same person that kidnapped an rape an kill April tinsley you are my next viteam if you don’t report this to police and I don’t see this in the paper...”

Some investigators believe the killer’s grammatical and spelling errors were purposely written to make them think he was illiterate.

In April, 2009, twenty-one years after the murder, a multi-agency task force began to reinvestigate the case. The Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI issued a profile of the killer.

According to the profile, the killer is a white male who would now be between forty and fifty years old. He is attracted to pre-pubescent girls. Although he may be married, his attraction to these types of children will never be satiated. According to the profile, the killer may go to places where young children congregate. He may make inappropriate comments about young girls (i.e., “She sure is sexy, isn’t she?”). He may collect items related to little girls, such as toys and photographs. He may live or work in Fort Wayne or surrounding counties. The killer is probably in the low to medium-low income bracket. He may have owned or borrowed a Polaroid camera in 2004. In the same year, it is believed he was driving a forest-green pickup truck with a matching camper shell that had dark tinted windows.

One of the photos sent to a child in 2004 showed the lower portion of the killer’s body. He was circumcised and had hair on his lower legs.

It’s obvious that this killer is deranged. Yet he’s been smart or lucky enough to evade capture for 22 years. Anyone who has any knowledge of this case or knows someone who fits the FBI profile is asked to call 1-866-602-7745.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Kid on Florida's Death Row

Randall Deviney
The Bad Boy of Bennington Drive
by Robert A. Waters

The screams coming from the home on Bennington Drive in Jacksonville, Florida were loud enough to cause all the dogs in the neighborhood to start barking. Several neighbors called 911 and police soon arrived. Shortly after 10:30 p.m. on August 5, 2008, responding officers made their way into a house of horrors.

They found sixty-five-year-old Delores Futrell lying on the floor of her home. She’d been beaten, stabbed repeatedly, and had her throat slashed. Her clothes had been cut off her body, and her empty wallet lay on the floor. The bloody scene shocked even the cops--it was obvious that a frenzy of rage had overtaken the killer or killers. Neighbors, stunned and saddened to hear that one of their own had been murdered, began an all-night vigil outside the well-tended townhouse.

An eighteen-year-old ex-con named Randall Deviney quickly aroused the suspicions of Futrell's relatives. He lived on Byner Drive, a few houses down from the murdered woman. As the stunned family grieved outside Futrell's home, Deviney rode back and forth on his bicycle. Even though he knew the family and had been be-friended by Futrell, he seemed hyper and would not stop to speak. To many in the crowd, it seemed as if Deviney was attempting to listen to the conversations of bystanders in an attempt to gain information.

Finally, he approached two of Futrell's daughters. He asked if Futrell had been raped, further heightening their suspicions.

Deviney liked being known as a bad-ass, a punk with a mean streak. He’d attended Ed White High School, but majored in misconduct instead of academics. To say that he was a poor student was being generous. A former teacher described the young hoodlum as a budding sociopath. “[Deviney] was just defiant and disrespectful, without conscience and remorse,” the teacher said. “He thought he could behave however he wanted. School was nothing more than an inconvenience to him, and if any teacher got in his way they could expect a tirade of foul language...”

Deviney should have been in prison when Futrell was murdered. He’d been released after serving one year of a three-year stint in the state penitentiary. His arrest record included aggravated assault, sexual battery, grand theft, armed robbery, trafficking in stolen property, and other crimes. Shortly after being released, Deviney committed yet another robbery. Instead of putting him back in prison, however, a judge let him back out on the streets. Four months later, Futrell was dead.

With a blanket of tattoos covering his body, Deviney looked like a walking advertisement for cheap prison art. He’d had little nurturing as a child. Indeed, both his parents had been imprisoned for murdering their sixteen-month-old son. They admitted during his trial that they were unfit parents. Deviney’s childhood was plagued with messy divorces, domestic violence, abuse, and drug use. “With his family, he never had a chance,” said his lawyer, Melina Buncome-Williams.

It was the same argument always used by the defense when the evidence against their client is overwhelming. While attempting to make the killer into a victim, attorneys never mention the millions of individuals raised in dysfunctional homes who live productive lives and don't murder old defenseless ladies.

The real victim, of course, was Delores Futrell. She’d worked as a dialysis technician before retiring, and had four children, seventeen grandchildren, and more great-grandchildren than anyone could count. She was described as a “spiritual person” who cared deeply for others. She loved cooking and tending her garden.

Futrell suffered with multiple sclerosis. Because of her condition, she had trouble maintaining her balance. She also had little strength or stamina, leaving her vulnerable.

As Deviney grew up, Futrell attempted to help the struggling teen. She baked cakes and cookies for him and his brother, paid him to perform odd jobs around the house, and counseled him on the direction his life was taking.

Early in the investigation, detectives questioned the violent ex-con. With no evidence to prove that he was the killer, however, they released him. Then, three weeks after the crime, a DNA profile came back from the lab. Skin from beneath the fingernails of Futrell had been matched to Randall Deviney.

He was arrested and charged with the murder of the woman he used to call his "godmother." Deviney confessed, stating that as she once again attempted to counsel him on going straight, he “snapped” and killed her. He informed investigators that he beat the defenseless woman until she was helpless. When she didn’t die, he retrieved a fillet knife he’d brought to the scene and cut her throat. Futrell was still alive, so Deviney stabbed her repeatedly until she died.

It was a horrible death that demanded the ultimate justice.

In 2010, the bad boy of Bennington Drive was convicted and sentenced to death.

“He picked the easiest prey,” said prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda. “This was the classic case of why we need the death penalty. It’s horrific. An innocent elderly lady is savagely murdered in her home. What other sentence could there be?”

Judge Mallory Cooper stated her reasons for sentencing Deviney to death. “Delores Futrell struggled to survive and scream for help,” Cooper said. “However, her struggle to escape the defendant’s attack was to no avail. There is no doubt that for each of her final breaths, she was acutely aware of her impending death.”

After the verdict, Futrell's daughter, Helen Futrell-Stewart, spoke to reporters. “I am left with a hole in my heart,” she said. She stated that the family was glad the trial was over and they were happy the killer received death.

If there ever was a case that deserves the death penalty, it's this one. There's no question about the guilt of the killer. According to witnesses in the courtroom, he had absolutely no remorse, and would joke with his defense attorneys while the jurors were outside. It seems obvious that Deviney has a rage to kill, and would certainly murder again if released. And Delores Futrell's family is crushed with the weight of Deviney's horrific act.

Lethal injection is too easy for this cold-blooded killer.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Heroes For Our Sons

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Sordid tales from the NFL
by Robert A. Waters

Some reasons for the popularity of Tim Tebow are his decency, wholesomeness, and traditional stances on moral issues. In a football league loaded with thugs, the Denver Broncos quarterback is a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, there are few Tebows in this league. The following is a list of players who have brought shame to themselves and disgrace to their profession. Those included in this list are just the tip of the iceberg, of course. I could have added hundreds more. But these are some of the people our children have looked to as role models.

Ben Roethlisberger -- Recently, Big Ben was suspended by the NFL for his out-of-control behavior off the field. Although he was never charged, his latest episode with a co-ed in a Georgia nightclub got him booted for six games (later reduced to four). As a franchise player and one of the high-profile faces of the NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell seemed disgusted by his behavior. “There is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville,” Goodell said, “that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans."

Reggie Bush –- The 2005 Heisman Trophy winner no longer owns the trophy. The University of Southern California recently returned theirs, as did Bush. Why? Because, according to an NCAA investigation, Bush and his family illegally received nearly $300,000 in gifts and loans from a sports agent while still in college. In addition to Bush, the entire Trojan program was hit with severe sanctions as well. As Pete Carroll fled just ahead of the law to the more friendly confines of the NFL, the administration of USC crumbled. Now Reggie has “moved forward.” He’s a star in New Orleans, and has a Super Bowl ring to show for it. He has faced no real punishment at all for the havoc he caused USC, and probably never will.

Michael Vick -– Maybe Michael Vick has gained some measure of redemption. I hope so. Spiritual leader and former Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy advised the jailed star on how to rehabilitate his career and, more importantly, his life. So far, it seems that the former superstar has listened. After his troubled college career and his even more troubled NFL career, Vick ended up a pariah, having pleaded guilty to felonies related to dog-fighting. The sight of tortured animals being evicted from his Virginia mansion infuriated many. Vick served 21 months in prison and was forced to declare bankruptcy. After being reinstated by the NFL, however, he has worked hard to re-establish himself. Here’s hoping the former bad boy can redeem himself completely. But I wouldn’t count him as my son’s hero.

Chris Henry –- While I hate to speak ill of the dead, Henry ranks as an All-Star in the League of Those who Never Learn. Year after year, from 2005 to 2009, this Cincinnati Bengals star racked up arrest after arrest. Gun crimes, driving while intoxicated, providing alcohol to minors, illegal substance abuse, and assault were a few of the charges. He was suspended for two games in 2006 and eight games in 2007. In 2009, according to the Charlotte, North Carolina Police Department, Henry fell out of a truck while involved in a domestic dispute with his girlfriend. He died a short time later of head trauma. In what must have been a bizarre joke, the NFL honored Henry with a moment of silence before all its games on week 15 of the 2009 season.

Lawrence Phillips –- In 2005, Phillips, a sixth-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Rams, deliberately drove his car into a crowd of teenagers with whom he’d had a dispute. Previous charges for the troubled running back included domestic battery, child abuse, and a litany of drug offenses. Phillips never lived up to his potential in the NFL, and squandered most of the millions he received for signing with the Rams. He finally ended up playing for the Canadian Football League. In 2006, Phillips was convicted of seven counts of assault with a deadly weapon for trying to run over the teens. He is currently serving ten years in prison. Another role model we can do without.

Donte Stallworth –- The Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver was suspended for the entire 2009 season after killing a construction worker while driving under the influence of alcohol. Stallworth had just received a five million dollar bonus from the Browns and was celebrating at the posh Miami Beach Fountainbleu Hotel. After the accident, alcohol in his system tested well above Florida’s legal limit. For his crime, Stallworth was convicted and sentenced to thirty days in jail, two years of house arrest, and eight years of probation. A beleaguered Roger Goodell, who must sometimes think he’s managing Attica instead of the NFL, wrote to Stallworth: "Your conduct endangered yourself and others, leading to the death of an innocent man. The NFL and NFL players must live with the stain that you have placed on their reputations.” But suspensions in the NFL are not permanent, as fans know. So in 2010, our once-wayward hero signed a new contract with the Baltimore Ravens.

Fourteen players were suspended for one or more weeks at the start of the 2010 season. These included Brian Cushing of the Houston Texans who’ll sit out four games for substance abuse (i.e. steroids). Also suspended for four games is Santonio Holmes, arrested for possession of marijuana and domestic violence. Vincent Jackson will lose three games. The San Diego pass catcher has recently been arrested at least twice for DUI. When questioned about his character, Jackson had a classic response: “You know, I've done everything off the field right except [for] two bad choices.”

New England Patriots offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka was suspended for one game after being arrested for battering his wife. When she read his Facebook account and found out that he was flirting with another woman, she confronted him. Ojinnaka was accused of throwing her down the stairs in their home. Aqib Talib of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sat out the first game after punching a cab driver. LenDale White, another former USC player, was suspended for four games after violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

The dreams of Roger Goodell can’t be pleasant. He must wish he could shut down strip clubs and bars and drug labs across the country. Since he can’t, he must dread to hear the telephone ring.

If you want role models for your children, you might check some profession other than the National Football League.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Sammy Lynch is accused of murdering Evelyn Harbin

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Innocent Blood
by Robert A. Waters

“Someone took her life over a rock of crack.” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.

From the dope-house to the jailhouse is not an uncommon occurrence. (An addict once told me that since turning to drugs, she’d done everything she’d vowed never to do--that included prostitution, theft, robbery, and attempted murder.) According to investigators, Sammy Lynch murdered eighty-three-year-old Evelyn Harbin after she caught him breaking into her home. The long-time addict was allegedly there to steal items that he could sell or trade for drugs.

On September 3, 2010, family members found the body of Evelyn Harbin lying on the floor of her Columbia, South Carolina home. Blood was everywhere. Harbin, a widow, was well-loved by family and friends. She lived in a quiet neighborhood, collected antique pottery, and went to church every time the doors opened. She was a retired cake decorator.

Sammy Lynch lived across the road from Harbin. Police told reporters that after he broke into the grandmother’s home, she confronted him. Showing no mercy, the brutal killer attacked Evelyn. According to news accounts, he broke her neck and stabbed her to death. He later mutilated her body in an attempt to cover his crime.

Leaving his victim dead on the living room floor, Lynch stole her flat screen television set and other belongings. Included among the killer’s loot were checkbooks and a handicapped parking sign. He also stole her Chevy Trailblazer.

Lynch became an immediate suspect because of his proximity to the victim and his lengthy criminal background. Since 1993, he has had numerous arrests for illegal drugs and burglaries.

Two days after the murder, detectives found Evelyn’s Trailblazer parked near an abandoned house behind Lynch’s home. In addition to items from the victim, the SUV contained belongings of Lynch.

According to Sheriff Lott, it didn’t take long for the suspect to confess to the murder and robbery. Lynch stated that after murdering Evelyn, he used her cell phone to call a dating service. It’s also thought that he went back into the home a second time to steal additional items.

Evelyn’s granddaughter, Gina Harbin, found the body. "You just can't accept this,” she said. “[You] just can't get over it. I can't sleep. I keep seeing her little face and how scared she must have been."

Sheriff Lott told reporters: “We’ve got a crackhead who was so desperate to go out and steal something so that he could get some more drugs that he took this lady’s life.”

“He had absolutely no remorse,” Lott added.

A neighbor, David Fox, echoed the feelings of many. "It takes a sorry individual,” he said, “[and] it takes a cruel person to do something like that to anybody, especially an elderly lady. He needs to be skinned one inch at a time."

Millions of crimes are committed by addicts each year. Heartbreak and destroyed lives follow in their wake. Sometimes the murder of innocent victims so enrages the public that the ultimate justice must follow.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Shooting Back

Ethel Jones shot a burglar in her home

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Grandma defends home and other self-defense stories
by Robert A. Waters

For many years, I've been fascinated by true stories of innocent people who successfully defended themselves against violent attack. In many of these cases, victims used guns to fend off murderous thugs. Check out my website for information about my books, two of which describe in detail stories of intended victims who defended themselves with guns. Below are brief summaries of a few recent cases.

A couple of weeks ago, Ethel Jones, 69, gained Internet acclaim by shooting a burglar inside her Decatur, Alabama home. According to news reports, Michael Bynum was already on probation for burglary when he tore the air conditioner out of a window and entered Jones’ house. It was 3:00 a.m. as the intruder made the rounds of each room shining a pen-light. Jones, awakened by the commotion, pulled a .38-caliber revolver from beneath her pillow and opened fire. Bynum ended up in the local hospital with a bullet in his belly. “I hope this will make people have second thoughts before they break into a home in our neighborhood,” Jones said.

In my hometown of Ocala, Florida, a drug-crazed woman allegedly broke into the home of an elderly resident. Alicia Kwasny, a stranger to the homeowner, ran through the house screaming that snakes were chasing her. After the frightened resident fired a warning shot with a .25-caliber pistol, Kwasny ducked into a bathroom where she refused to come out. An article in the Ocala Star Banner reported that she was bruised and bleeding and clad only in her underwear. She later told police that she’d been smoking crack cocaine and had taken a Roxy pill. Kwasny stated that when she uses that combination of drugs, snakes always chase her. When she comes down off her high, she might consider herself lucky the resident used restraint and didn’t shoot her.

A Harrisburg, Pennsylvania man was violently attacked by two alleged robbers while delivering Chinese food to a home in a dilapidated neighborhood. Newspapers reported that after demanding money, the assailants punched the driver in the face and hit him over the head with a bottle. The deliveryman then pulled out a handgun and shot one of his attackers. The robbers ran away, but soon a 16-year-old was transported to a local hospital with a gunshot wound to the shoulder. Investigators determined that the wounded teenager was one of the robbers. After being treated, he was summarily arrested. Police stated that the deliveryman acted in self-defense--he was not charged with any crime.

In Pulteney, New York, Stephen Boychecko confronted a daylight burglar. A police report states that Michael Peterson broke into Boychecko’s home at about 7:10 p.m. (Peterson was already on probation for another break-in, and was suspected of being a serial burglar.) The elderly homeowner and his wife were napping in their bedroom when Boychecko heard the glass breaking from a nearby bathroom window. The resident grabbed a handgun and shot Peterson twice. The burglar was hospitalized. According to investigators, he will be jailed as soon as he recovers. Police stated that the homeowner will not be charged.