Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Zack C. Waters Receives Prestigious Award

Dr. Ben Brotemarkle presents the Charlton Tebeau Award to Zack Waters
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My brother Zack recently received the Florida Historical Society's Charlton Tebeau Award for the best general interest book in 2010 on a Florida historical topic. A Small but Spartan Band is the first book to systematically describe the role Floridians played in Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. The book, published with co-author James C. Edmonds by the University of Alabama Press, is a riveting account of the hardships and heroism of a relatively small group of Southern partisans who fought for their country, the Confederate States of America.

Zack is a native Floridian. He graduated from the University of Florida, then obtained his law degree from Memphis State University. He taught for many years and is now semi-retired.

Zack and I are currently working together on a historical true crime book.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wild West Train Robber Killed by Engineer

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A few years ago, my brother and I published a book entitled, Outgunned! True Stories of Citizens Who Stood Up to Outlaws--and Won. The book described a dozen cases from the Wild West through the Prohibition-era in which the good guys took on the bad guys and came out on top. The following story, similar to those in our book, came directly from an old newspaper. Notice the decidedly politically incorrect way of looking at things from a bygone era.

Sterling Evening Gazette
September 7, 1896

Locomotive Engineers Do This Sort of Trick.

Sacramento, Cal., Sept. 7. — An attempt was made Saturday night to hold up the overland express eight miles west of this city. Engineer Ingles killed one of the robbers, and then pulled out and the train reached this city. Sheriff Johnson and posse went at once to the scene on a special train. The body of the train robber was found lying near the track. In his hand was grasped a loaded pistol.

The man's name is thought to have been F. J. Morgan, and he probably came from San Francisco. Engineer Ingles, in speaking of his adventure, said: “After passing Swingle station, a man climbed over the tender, and looking over the coal board commanded me to throw up my hands. I could see from his attitude and his tone that he meant business, and I also got the impression that he was an old hand at the business. He told me to stop the train, which I did. As I stopped the train another masked man climbed up the bank and asked the train robber on the cab if everything was all right.

“The young fellow answered: ‘Yes, all fixed.’ The man on the engine then ordered me to pull the train up two car-lengths further. He told my fireman to go back with the masked man who had climbed up the bank and uncouple the express car from the rest of the train.

Engineer Makes a Good Thug.

“Burns and the masked robber started back along the train. The conductor and brakeman came out on the platform of one of the cars to see where the train stopped. The masked robber shot at them twice with his revolver and with a string of oaths ordered them back into the train. At the sound of the shooting the robber with me on the engine stepped to the side between the cab and tender and looked back. He turned his back to me. That was my opportunity and I lost no time in taking advantage of it. I reached down into my locker, got my revolver and shot him in the back. I shot again and he pitched forward from the engine to the earth and rolled down the bank.

“As he fell his revolver went off. Then I pulled the throttle wide open. I had business in Sacramento right away and I got there. The fireman was back on the train. I fired all the way in myself and kept poking coal into her all the way. We got in thirteen minutes late. Fireman Burns says that the robber who was guarding him jumped from the train when he heard the shooting and the train commenced to move.”

Monday, May 23, 2011

The End of the World

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Doomsday never came
by Robert A. Waters

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son but only the Father.” Jesus Christ.

Doomsday prophets we have with us always.

Respected meteorologist Albert Porta once predicted that on December 17, 1919, “the conjunction of 6 planets would generate a magnetic current that would cause the sun to explode and engulf the earth.” As a respected scientist, Porta’s pronouncements gained credibility among many. Suicides and mass hysteria led up to the non-event. But as soon as the hullabaloo died down, a disgraced Porta was summarily fired from his job. In his final years, the failed prognosticator took a job as a small-town newspaper reporter and faded into well-deserved oblivion.

In April, 1961, the insufferable Bertrand Russell predicted that if the great super-powers of the day didn’t change their policies, “it is in the highest degree improbable that any of you present will be alive ten years hence.” (I would have been seventeen-years-old at the time and I don’t remember this prediction, but then again, I don’t remember much about Russell except falling asleep while trying to wade through some of his ponderous philosophical treatises for yet another useless college course I took. I never liked him after that and was glad to see that he was as spectacularly wrong on this matter as he was on just about everything else.) An article in the Kingston Jamaican Gleaner summed up his history of foretelling the future: “Lord Russell is in the habit of predicting the imminent end of the world. Last time he gave it two years and demonstrated surprise, but little gratitude, when it lasted longer than that.”

Millenium Manor, or "Armageddon House," in Alcoa, Tennessee, was built in the 1930s for an end-of-the-world scenario that was, according to its creator, William Andrew Nicholson, to take place in 1969. The massive stone house was built to survive Armageddon and last another 1,000 years. Nicholson thought that everyone in the world would be destroyed except for him and 144,000 other righteous people. They would then live for 1,000 years before the return of Christ when they would be spirited into heaven and the earth incinerated. Nicholson died in 1965, thus cheating his critics of the chance to confront him. His house, however, built like a Roman fortress, still stands and probably will for several millennia.

The so-called “Grannis Vigil” took place between September 29, 1975 and July 16, 1976. It was in the little town of Grannis, Arkansas that approximately twenty-five residents quit their jobs, left their homes, and moved into a cramped residence to await the end of the world. They received quite a bit of publicity as they patiently awaited the return of Christ. For ten months they persevered, their homes falling into arrears and their cars being repossessed. Gene Nance, owner of the home where the watchers had gathered, eventually was evicted for not making his mortgage payments, thereby putting a screeching halt to the vigil. He and his followers blended back into Grannis society, their strange wait now just a footnote in local history books.

Lee Jang Lim, pastor of the Tami Missionary Church in South Korea, predicted that the destruction of earth would occur in September, 1992. Thousands fell for the shyster’s lies and seemed surprised when the old sphere kept spinning. A few weeks later, his followers were also surprised to find that Lim had $350,000 “in bonds due to come good in 1995.” He was arrested for fraud and mercifully disappeared from the public eye.

In 999 A.D., mass hysteria swept the earth. Many were convinced that at midnight on December of that year, the world would end. It was no different in 1999 A.D. As the doomsday clock ticked toward midnight on that last day of the year, millions cringed at the disaster that awaited planet earth. At one second after midnight, computers would crash, planes would fall out of the sky, and the world would go black as utilities failed. Chaos, anarchy, and crime would follow. Civilization would quickly become just a mere thought in the memory banks of the stragglers who survived. Y2K may not wipe us out, but it would certainly send us reeling back to the stone-age. On January 1, 2000, many awoke with hangovers and relief—the world had continued on as it has for thousands of years.

A few months ago, Harold Camping predicted that the “rapture” would occur on May 21, 2011. Five months later, the world would end. (Before this date, he’d also predicted that September, 1994 would be the end of the world.) An article written by a FOX News reporter summed up Camping's prognostication: “According to the Christian broadcaster, Judgment Day was supposed to bring a massive earthquake, powerful enough to throw open graves, followed by a slow death for all non-believers over the next five months across the globe. He went on to say only 200 million people will be saved and those left behind will die in earthquakes, plagues, and other calamities until Earth is consumed by a fireball on October 21.”

Next year, a long-suffering public will be afflicted with the “2012 Apocalypse,” supposedly predicted by the Mayan Calendar. According to believers, a cataclysmic series of solar storms and magnetic pole misalignments will bring about the end of time. While taking time off from sacrificing children to the gods, the great Mayan priests were allegedly able to see into the future for thousands of years. On December 21, 2012, the sayers said, earthquakes, mega-volcanoes, tornadoes, hurricanes and numerous other natural catastrophes will come together in a perfect storm of destruction, thereby sending the planet spiraling into the abyss.

So once again the end is near.

I’ve got a suggestion for those inclined to believe such prophecies of doom: keep paying that mortgage.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Life Without “America’s Most Wanted”

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Bad guys celebrate as AMW folds
by Robert A. Waters

Five million viewers each Saturday night aren’t enough, so “America’s Most Wanted” has been deep-sixed. To replace the beloved show, the FOX network is going to slug in some reruns. They also plan to have new two-hour episodes every three months.

AMW was born on February 11, 1988. That show caught its first bad guy a few days later, setting the stage for two decades of successful captures. The bad guy was an evil psychopath named David James Roberts. He also happened to be one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted fugitives.

Roberts was a career criminal who incinerated three innocent people, including a toddler, when he burned down a family’s home. He later kidnapped a woman and her baby, raped the mother, and left the infant by the side of the road. The child died of exposure. After the first AMW aired, viewers in Staten Island called in to identify Roberts. He was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to six terms of life in prison.

It’s safe to say that had Roberts not been arrested, he would have murdered again.

Over the years, the show has helped capture 1,150 fugitives. It has also found more than 50 missing children.

Two of the most sensational cases solved by viewers of AMW were the John List case and the Elizabeth Smart abduction. List murdered his entire family, then fled to Colorado where he became a mild-mannered accountant. Eighteen years later, AMW commissioned forensic sculptor Frank Bender to sculpt a bust showing what List might look like as an older man. List was captured after a viewer recognized him.

In 2002, Smart was abducted from her home as her family slept. One of the most intense manhunts America had seen at the time produced no results. When Elizabeth’s younger sister (who'd been sleeping in the same room) recalled that her kidnapper was a man who had worked on the family’s roof for one day, police didn’t believe her. He'd gone only by the name "Emanuel"--no one knew his real identity. AMW hired an artist to draw a sketch of the suspect based on the girl's memory. When it aired, the family of a drifter named Brian David Mitchell recognized him and called the show. Within a few weeks, a viewer of AMW saw Mitchell and two women walking down a street in Sandy, Utah. One of the women turned out to be Elizabeth Smart. It was one of most sensational rescues of a kidnap victim ever recorded. And it was all due to AMW.

“America’s Most Wanted” has been my favorite television show for many years. I'll miss it. But maybe now I can catch a few “Malcolm in the Middle” reruns. NOT!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Intended Rape Victim Kills Attacker

Israel Perez Puentes

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Intruder had a long criminal history
by Robert A. Waters

A few days ago, on May 11, in Duluth, Georgia, a woman lived through a nightmare and lived to tell about it.

As reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the woman, whose identity has not been made public, was taking a shower at 6:30 a.m. Suddenly the lights went out. When she opened the curtains to see why, she was startled by an intruder holding a knife. He attacked the homeowner, but she fought for her life. During the struggle, she fell backwards into the shower, injuring her back. As the life or death battle continued, she grabbed the shower rod in an attempt to fight her assailant off.

"She was telling him that she has money and please don’t hurt her," an official with the Gwinnet County Police Department said. "He forced her into her bedroom [and] once inside…she retrieved a .22-caliber pistol and shot him several times." It was reported by another news outlet that she in fact shot him nine times.

According to police, the assailant planned to rape the intended victim. After the intruder was shot, he ran out the back door and the homeowner ran to a neighbor’s house. Police found the assailant dead in the back yard.

The victim was taken to the hospital, treated for minor injuries, and released. Police said she would not be charged.

The dead man was identified as Israel Perez Puentes, 34, of nearby Alpharetta. WSBTV.com reported that he had been arrested six months earlier: “Police stopped Puentes that night and found tools to break into homes and a nine millimeter hand gun, according to the police report. Investigators also discovered Puentes had eight prior felony convictions in Nebraska, including four convictions for terroristic threats. The felony convictions made it illegal to carry a gun.”

A righteous shooting, so the cops would say.

This reminds me of a case that happened near Tampa a few years back. Maria Pittaras went to bed one night only to wake up with a man on top of her. He held a knife to her throat and attempted to rape her. Pittaras pulled a .38-caliber revolver from a nightstand and shot her assailant. He died on the scene.

Women with guns.

Rapists beware.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Baby Abducted As World War II Ends

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Janet Lynn Bramon was never found
By Robert A. Waters

On August 14, 1945, at 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time, President Harry Truman read a statement that was broadcast by radio to the cities and villages and farms of America. “I have received this afternoon,” he said, “a message from the Japanese government…of the unconditional surrender of Japan.”

World War II was over. Nearly a half-million American men had been killed and another half-million wounded. Men from every segment of society had bled their lives away on battlefields across the globe. The announcement of Japan's surrender triggered massive celebrations from a war-weary country.

In Los Angeles, crowds exploded into the streets. Businesses quickly closed. Cheers rocked the city for hours. Horns sounded throughout the evening and night. Sirens wailed in a wild celebration of victory. Confetti streamed from upstairs office buildings and covered the crowds. In the midst of the jubilation, strangers hugged and stoic men wept like babies.

It was the perfect time to commit an abominable act, and the abduction of eight-week-old Janet Lynn Bramon was just such a crime.

Exactly twenty-six years later, in 1971, the Los Angeles Times published segments of a letter from Charlotte Bramon. Her intent, she said, was to get the police to reopen the case.

As the nation celebrated the end of World War II, Bramon wrote, a nursemaid had stolen her baby. “She couldn’t have picked a better day,” Bramon said. “It was pandemonium.”

The babysitter, who went by the name of Marie Griffin, had been hired only three days before. As the celebration began, she simply took the child and walked into the street. The woman and the baby disappeared among the throngs never to be seen again.

Police launched a wide-ranging search, but never found the child or her abductor. Many of the cops who worked the case were of the opinion that the nursemaid had given a false name and that her purpose in taking the job was to steal Janet. The celebration following the end of the war gave her the perfect opportunity.

“For months afterward,” Bramon said, “I looked at babies, abandoned or with suspicious women, always hoping it would be little Janet.”

As the days and weeks and years wore on, Bramon continued to search for her missing child. The only consolation she had was that Janet Lynn was probably being well-cared for by her abductor. “The only thing I could ever think of,” she said, “was that if the woman wanted a baby that bad, she would take care of it.”

After being contacted by reporters from the Times, police stated that they considered the case still open.

“Maybe [Janet] died,” Bramon told reporters. “[But] she’s probably married and [has] kids.”

Whatever happened to little Janet Lynn Bramon? No one knows. It seems that someone got away with the perfect crime.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword

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FBI’s Most Wanted Man Killed
by Robert A. Waters

Last night, Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., was killed by Navy Seals. Holed up in his million-dollar compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan, bin Laden was given the opportunity to surrender. He refused.

In the firefight that followed, the terrorist leader was shot in the head. News organizations reported that a woman he used as a human shield was also killed, as well as three others.

In the last twenty years, bin Laden orchestrated the murders of thousands across the globe. In fact, one attack on innocents turned his former ally, Egypt, against him. In addition, Saudi Arabia renounced his citizenship. A man without a country, bin Laden continued his attacks on western civilians and values.

Reports stated that detainees from Guantanamo Bay alerted officials to the identity of bin Laden's most trusted courier. This courier eventually led the CIA to the terrorist's compound.

In Matthew 26, Jesus, a Jew, said: "All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."

Osama bin Laden stands as the ultimate example of that statement.

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