Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Woman Kills Intruder in Self-Defense

Jesse Edward Theis

Burglar had just been released from jail
by Robert A. Waters

At 4:00 a.m., on October 21, 2011, Donna Hopper, 66, of Redding, California awoke to the sound of someone ringing her front doorbell. She grabbed her phone, walked into the living room, and asked who was there. A man outside answered, “Jeff.” Hopper asked him what he wanted and he said, “I’m coming in.” The frightened widow ordered him to leave.

Jesse Edward Theis, 37, was the stranger on Hopper's porch. He'd just been released from the Shasta County Jail a few hours before. Police suspected that he had attempted to break into a local car dealership and were already searching for him.

In a recent interview with CBS News, Hopper described what happened.

“I have a metal security screen door and he started pounding on that door. I called 911 and went down the hall the gun [a .38-caliber revolver] out of the bedroom. And when I was getting the gun the spare bedroom window was right next to the front door and he beat on the window with both hands and broke the window. And I just remember coming into the doorway and firing two shots wild.

“He walked around my house across toward my garage [and] over toward my next door neighbor and she’s alone also. We both lost our husbands. I remember telling the operator, ‘He’s left.’ Then right away he came back. I’m looking at him trying to see what he looked like and I remember he had red hair and a beard and all of a sudden he put his knee on the window sill and tried to climb through the window and I just pulled the trigger again. I looked for a white shirt. I was afraid to look at his face. And I just shot the white shirt.

“And I remember my [911] dispatcher, she says, ‘Donna, take a deep breath.’ That’s all I remember her telling me all night. I thought I was screaming on the telephone and they said, ‘No, you weren’t.’ In my ears I’m screaming. The police came. They told me, ‘Don’t go out the front.’ They had me go out the back door over to the gate and took me to my neighbor’s.”

Theis was hit in the chest. The bullet penetrated his left lung and he bled to death at the scene.

He had a long criminal history that included arrests for selling drugs, indecent exposure, resisting a public officer, vehicle theft, and burglary. Theis, who seemed to be unable to stay out of trouble, had spent three years in the state prison.

After investigating the incident, the Shasta County prosecutor concluded that Hopper was justified in shooting Theis. “It’s clear that Ms. Hopper was in fear for her life when she fired the shot that killed the intruder,” Deputy District Attorney Josh Lowery said. “Therefore, the intruder’s death was a justifiable homicide under California law.” He called the shooting “a textbook example of self-defense.”

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Mysterious Disappearance of Olga Mauger

Vanishing Act
by Robert A. Waters

Olga Mauger was a raven-haired beauty. She was twenty-one years old when she married oilman Carl Mauger. Three weeks later she disappeared, never to be seen again.

On September 17, 1934, with the temperature near freezing, Carl and Olga had gone elk hunting in the Twogwotee Pass near Dubois, Wyoming. Olga reportedly knew the ravine-filled country like the palm of her hand. She’d hunted and trapped there since she was a child.

An article by Pat Frank written in 1947 described their trek into the mountains: “On this crisp fall day in 1934 they set out together after elk. Olga wore tan breeches, high laced boots, and in her belt was a small hatchet, and she carried a bag of sandwiches. They hiked
far into the wilds, always climbing towards the Great Divide, seeking a game trail.”

The story Carl told was that as they hiked the rugged mountains, Olga became tired. She decided to rest while Carl climbed a ridge so he could “spot” elk. When he returned twenty minutes later, she was gone. He called and searched for her, then organized a posse to continue looking in the mountains. Her sandwich bag, minus the food, was found near the last place she was seen.

Shortly after Olga went missing, a snowstorm swept in from the west, hindering the search. Even so, hundreds of law enforcement officials, volunteers, and Indian trackers scoured the area for days. After the snows cleared, they went back and searched again. But the missing woman was never found.

According to her sister, Mrs. Emma Moorhead, Olga regretted marrying Carl almost from the minute he placed his expensive diamond ring on her finger. They’d met at a dance in the booming oil town of Midwest, Wyoming just a few weeks earlier. Carl had brought Ella Tchack, his girlfriend of six years, but once he laid eyes on Olga, he was smitten. The strangers danced, holding each other close and whispering soft, romantic phrases of love. Ella stormed out, but it didn’t matter to Carl. He and his new flame left the dance together.

In a letter Olga wrote her sister a few days before she vanished, the new bride said she wanted to commit suicide. No reason was given.

Searches continued sporadically for more than a year. While the rugged wilderness may have claimed her, those who knew Olga well thought that was impossible. Everyone said she could handle herself in the wild.

Cops eventually concluded that Olga had disappeared of her own accord. She may have realized, the theory went, that Carl Mauger wasn't the man she wanted to spend her life with. A case of buyer's remorse set in and she decided to start over someplace else.

Emma told reporters that she’d found the following passage from the “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” scrawled by Olga in one of her journals:

“Like one that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round, walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.”

What happened to Olga Mauger? The answer will likely never be known. Despite her familiarity with the mountainous terrain, did she accidently fall into a ravine where she remained forever undiscovered?

Did the reluctant bride somehow walk out of that rugged forest, hail a driver on some lonely road, and willingly vanish?

Or did something more sinister happen, something kept secret through the ages?

Carl Mauger waited for seven years, then divorced Olga. After marrying his long-suffering girlfriend, Ella Tchack, it was said they moved to California and lived long and happy lives.

In 1947, Pat Frank ended his story with the following paragraph: "Olga? She may be anywhere. She may be the stenographer in the next office--the one with a few gray hairs among the dark tresses."

Thanks to Unsolved - In the News for alerting me to this story.

ADDENDUM: The following information was provided by my author friend Ron Franscell.

Carl Mauger
Born 26 Feb 1906
Died March 1978
Age 72
Died in Redding (Shasta Co.) Calif.

Ella Mauger
Born 15 Dec 1905
Died 19 Mar 1998
Age 92
Died in Redding (Shasta Co.) Calif.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Jennifer Wesho Murder Solved

Killer escapes justice
by Robert A. Waters

On August 6, 1989, the body of Jennifer Wesho was found in a heavily wooded area behind her home near Sand Pillow Mission, Wisconsin. Nine-year-old Jennifer had disappeared the day before. An autopsy revealed that the child had been raped, beaten, burned with cigarettes, and strangled to death.

Jennifer was a member of the Snake Clan of the Ho-Chunk Nation. Once known as the Wisconsin Winnebago Tribe, these Native Americans have inhabited the area for centuries.

There was little progress in the case until eight months later when Dion Funmaker was arrested. Investigators assured the public that he was the killer. When questioned about why Funmaker had been charged, Jackson County Sheriff Richard Galster said: “We would just not pick out someone at random just to satisfy the family.” He informed the media that inmates in the Jackson County Jail had fingered Funmaker, even though the suspect had no prior criminal record.

Three weeks later Funmaker was set free. An Associated Press article reported that "in April 1991, police arrested Dion W. Funmaker of St. Paul and charged him with first-degree intentional homicide. But the charge was dismissed and Funmaker was released 22 days later because some information in the investigation had been kept from prosecutors that indicated two other people may have been involved in Wesho's death." Even though he had an airtight alibi, Funmaker remained on the list of suspects.

DNA had been found underneath the fingernails of the victim as well as on her clothing and a beer bottle located near the body. In 2007, analysts matched the DNA to Christopher Thundercloud, a friend who had attended a family party on the day Jennifer disappeared. (No reason was given as to why it took four years to make a public announcement.)

Christopher Thundercloud

Thundercloud had been interviewed about the crime but was never a suspect. Jennifer, wearing a white blouse and pink shorts, was last seen walking with him.

In April, 2011, Jackson County District Attorney Gerald Fox held a press conference to announce the results of the DNA tests. "The locations where we found his DNA would suggest...that he killed her to shut her up from screaming or telling what he did to her," he said. "Because her fingernails had his DNA under it, he was doing something to her that she didn't like."

Unfortunately, Thundercloud will never be punished in this lifetime. He died of natural causes in 2006. Many in the Wesho family attended his funeral, still thinking he was a friend.

Christopher Thundercloud was described by neighbors as an alcoholic who was drunk most of the time. In fact, when he'd been questioned by police he claimed he couldn't remember where he was at the time of the murder because he'd blacked out. He later moved to California.

After being considered a suspect for two decades, Dion Funmaker was finally off the hook. Former District Attorney Al Moeller recently stated that "if things hadn't come out after the fact to blow apart the credibility of some of our witnesses, there's a good chance" Funmaker could have been convicted of a murder he did not commit.

His attorney, Michael Devanie, said: "He's just lucky that he [has] not been in prison all these years."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Murder of Hank Williams

Last Ride down the Lost Highway
by Robert A. Waters

Now that Dr. Conrad Murray has been convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson, it’s time to revisit a similar case from nearly 60 years ago. The “Hillbilly Shakespeare,” as the media sometimes called Hank Williams, lit up those old tube radios like no one before or since. He also lit up his body with alcohol, cocaine, morphine, chloral hydrate, and heroin. Hank died at the age of twenty-nine, just a few days after Christmas in 1953. Unfortunately, the bogus doctor who fed him the drugs that may have killed him was never prosecuted.

Hank Williams was one of the most influential American musicians who ever lived. He inspired country, folk, and rock artists for generations. Born dirt-poor in Alabama, Hank grew up hawking peanuts and shining shoes on the streets of Montgomery. It was during the Great Depression and everyone, young and old, worked to support the family. In fact, the first song he wrote was called “WPA Blues.”

By the time Hank was thirteen, he’d learned to drink whiskey and play the Silvertone guitar his mother had bought him. He joined a medicine show for a while. Then, still in his teens, he landed a radio gig at WSFA in Montgomery, quickly becoming the most popular act in the city.

Hank married Audrey Sheppard Guy, and formed a band called the Drifting Cowboys. The group toured the South, playing mostly in honky-tonks where tips were few and bloody fights numerous.

In 1947, Hank and Audrey drove to Nashville where he auditioned with a recovering alcoholic named Fred Rose, co-owner of Acuff-Rose Publishing Company. It was a smart move. Not only did Rose polish many of Hank’s songs before he published them, he tried to help the rising star kick his growing dependency on booze and drugs.

Within a few months, Hank had signed a deal with Sterling Records. He and his band recorded several songs and had his first hit on the “hillbilly” charts with “Move It on Over.” After switching to MGM Records, the mega-hits soon flooded the airways. Hank’s songs weren’t stylish or trendy or politically correct: many were sad word-sculptures cut from the stone of memory; others were humorous yet touching stories about relationships gone awry; still others, like the classic “I Saw the Light,” leaned on his fundamentalist religious upbringing.

As Hank’s popularity grew, his personal life sank into an abyss of relentless suffering. He’d been born with an undiagnosed disease called spina bifida occulta which kept him in constant and excruciating pain. In addition to his back ailment, there was no peace in his home. Audrey and his mother Lily hated each other. Both were aggressive, calculating, and determined. (This wasn’t all bad. Lily had encouraged Hank to study music and bought him his first guitar. Audrey had brow-beat a reluctant Hank into auditioning for Fred Rose which resulted in his profitable song-writing contract.) Still, for country music's first super-star, life was miserable.

Hank and Audrey eventually divorced. Near the end of his life he married a raven-haired Louisiana beauty named Billie Jean Jones.

In the last year of Hank’s life, a con-man and thief became Hank's personal doctor. Toby Marshall, a convicted robber and forger who’d bought his medical diplomas from a traveling salesman, promised to help Hank get off drugs and alcohol. One of Hank’s band members, Tommy Hill, described the daily routine as they toured the country playing one-nighters: “Me and a bunch of the pickers talked about how [Hank’s manager] Clyde Perdue and Toby Marshall were just in it for what they could get out of Hank cause he was making pretty fair money. But Hank never saw any of it. You see, if Hank took one shot of whiskey, he was drunk, so they’d get a six-pack and allot him so many beers after he woke up until the time of the show and that kept Hank happy. Then the doctor would give him a shot so he’d lose all his beer, throw it all up, then they’d put black coffee down him, let him do the show, then give him a six-pack and put him to bed. Same thing every day. I said, ‘They’re killing him.’ The booker and the doctor.”

One of Marshall’s favorite “treatments” for addiction was a sedative called chloral hydrate. The drug is known to be lethal, especially when mixed with alcohol.

In the last week of 1952, the South was iced in. But the bookers had lined up a show in Canton, Ohio for New Years day and were determined that Hank would make it. On December 30, he climbed into the back seat of his 1952 Cadillac as Charles Carr, a hired driver, began the long trip from Alabama to Ohio.

Carr and Hank stopped to spend the night in Knoxville, but the singer was ill. Dr. Paul H. Cardwell arrived at the hotel and administered two shots of morphine mixed with Vitamin B-12. Toby Marshall, in Canton awaiting the arrival of Hank, spoke with Carr on the phone and ordered him to leave immediately for Canton, regardless of Hank’s condition or the weather. It was the middle of the night and the roads were iced up. Inside, the car was freezing. Investigators later estimated that the temperature in the back seat may have dropped to zero.

Hank died somewhere between Knoxville and Oak Hill, West Virginia. When Carr stopped for gas, he found country music's greatest star lying face-up on the back seat.

Even though a local physician ruled the death a heart attack, many who knew Hank speculated that he died from a combination of drugs, alcohol, and hypothermia. An autopsy revealed alcohol in his system, but the doctor didn’t test his body for drugs.

Hank’s songs had affected millions of fans and there was an outpouring of grief throughout the country. While Lily, Audrey, and Billie Jean fought over his money, he was buried in his hometown of Montgomery.

Three months later, Toby Marshall's house of lies came tumbling down. In March, 1953, Fay, his estranged wife, died in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The death was suspicious since she appeared to be in good health. Cops began an investigation and found that Marshall had written Fay a prescription for cafergot, a medicine designed to relieve migraine headaches. During the probe into Fay Marshall's death, local police discovered that Hank Williams had also been Marshall's patient.

Since Marshall lived in Oklahoma City, state officals there began an investigation into the doctor's background. Detectives learned that he'd prescribed chloral hydrate, a powerful sedative and heart depressant, to Hank nine days before his death. The prescription he wrote was for 24 grains of chloral hydrate (24 capsules) and was dated December 12, 1952. When the bottle was found, it was nearly empty. The likelihood is that Hank had taken the drugs right up to the time of his death. Marshall, who had already served time in Oklahoma for forgery and was currently on parole, was forced to admit to investigators that he'd obtained his medical degrees fraudulently. He also admitted that he'd previously been convicted of robbery in California and had served two years in San Quentin.

Oklahoma authorities toyed with charging Marshall in Hank’s death but couldn’t prove that the singer had taken drugs while in the state. One investigator said “if Marshall furnished Williams with this chloral hydrate [in Oklahoma] and the chloral hydrate was a contributing factor in his death, then we could file a case of manslaughter against Marshall.” In the end, the fake doctor had his parole revoked and served the remainder of his sentence in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary before being released.

Authorities in New Mexico also wanted to make a case against Marshall. Fay's body, which had not been autopsied, was exhumed and examined. However, there wasn't enough evidence to try the con-man so the case was dropped.

In 1954, Marshall was arrested in Oklahoma City for vagrancy, possession of barbiturates, and attempting to pass a bogus check. He’d registered at a motel as a doctor.

Three years later, the bogus physician was convicted in Denver of dispensing habit-forming drugs without a prescription. He served six months for that offense.

Because of the uncertainty about where Hank died and the fact that the West Virginia coroner ruled his death a heart attack, charges against Toby Marshall were never filed.

In today’s world, an investigation into the singer's death would have been more aggressive and Marshall likely would have been prosecuted.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Parolee Accused of Murdering Young Girl

Kelli O'Laughlin

Why wasn't John Wilson, Jr. in prison?
by Robert A. Waters

Everyone who ever met John Wilson, Jr., 38, knew he was a hardened felon. He’d spent seventeen of the last twenty years behind bars. But 8 years into an 11 year sentence, he was released on parole.

Wilson should have been in prison when, according to court documents, he stabbed fourteen-year-old Kelli O’Laughlin to death.

The felony complaint from the Circuit Court of Cook County reads: “On October 27, 2011, Indian Head Park police in response to a 911 call arrived at the residence located in the 6300 block of Keokuk, in Indian Head Park in Cook County, Illinois, and observed that Kelli had been stabbed in the back, neck, and chest. The victim was transported to Adventist Lagrange Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced dead...”

“Investigators from the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force have now determined that on October 27, 2011 the victim came home from school at approximately 3:40 p.m. That upon entering her home; the defendant confronted the victim, stabbed her multiple times and then dragged her body from the family room to the kitchen. A Chicago Cutlery carving knife with a blade length of approximately 8” was found next to a large blood pool in the family room. This knife had been part of the knife block set on the counter in the kitchen prior to the murder.”

Police reported that the murder was the result of a burglary gone wrong. Wilson allegedly broke into the home and was ransacking it when Kelli arrived home. After murdering her, he was traced through a cellphone he stole from Kelli. DNA was found on items he left at the scene and matched to his profile. He was also identified by several residents who noticed a suspicious character hanging around the neighborhood.

Records from the Illinois Department of Corrections show that Wilson was released on probation in November, 2010.

Wilson's prison record reveals an intractable thug with no regard for the laws of society. (The criminal history shown below doesn’t include unsolved crimes or juvenile crimes--Wilson was arrested the first time when he was 10 and had joined a street gang by the time he was 12.)

Here are some of his major convictions and sentences:

1991: Violation of the Controlled Substances Act. 5 years.
1991: Receiving, possessing, and selling a stolen vehicle. 5 years.
1993: Violation of Controlled Substances Act. 1 year.
1993: Aggravated vehicular hijacking. 7 years.
2001: Aggravated battery of a peace officer. 2 years.
2002: Felony Robbery of a School or Place of Business. 11 years.

The 2002 crime that got him 11 years was one of his typical strokes of genius. Wilson intentionally ran his bicycle into a car driven by a woman. When she got out to check on him, he choked her, then snatched her wallet. The crime netted him $63.00 and, since he was a multiple recidivist, eleven years in prison.

Even his family knew he was dangerous. Shaun Dantzler, his older brother, said: "My little brother is crazy. I told the judge this in Skokie. I told him this already. My little brother has a serious problem." Wilson's grandmother, Ruthie Dantzler, added: "If he did it, throw the book at him."

On the other hand, Kelli O’Laughlin was loving, athletic, and enjoyed playing sports. "She would hang out with everybody," a classmate said. "You could really connect with her." She had a bright future in front of her.

Why was John Wilson out of prison?

All the explanations given by criminologists to justify the parole system make no sense. Convicted violent offenders should serve every second of his or her sentence.

Had that happened, Kelli O’Laughlin would still be alive.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What Happens to Surviving Kidnap Victims?

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Psychology of Kidnapping
by Allison Gamble

Kidnapping is one of the most psychologically damaging crimes of all. Victims typically take many years to heal from the psychological wounds inflicted upon them, and some never completely recover. Kidnappings cause deep emotional and mental scars that leave victims to battle through issues of trust, independence, love, sex, respect, and a litany of others.

When it comes to kidnapping, in terms of forensic psychology, there are generally a few main motivations. First and foremost is sexual gratification. Often a person will kidnap in order to hold the victim prisoner as a sexual slave. In extreme cases, kidnappers may torture and kill their victims when they no longer have any use for them. These types of cases are incredibly disturbing and often leave a lasting impact on the psyche of society. Kidnappers may also commit their crimes for ransom. Unlike sexual kidnappings, ransom kidnappings require the abductors keep their victims from harm. Sadly, even in ransom kidnappings, the abductor may have no real intention of ever returning the victim.

The psychology behind kidnapping often leads back to a need for power over an individual. As sexual kidnappings also include rape, battery, and homicide, the abductor is typically not simply perpetrating the act for physical gratification. Sexual kidnappers are thrilled by the psychological aspect of the act, as they hold complete power over their victims. A kidnapper's mentality is that once they have another human being in their possession, that person has to rely on them for everything, including food and water, and it is this power that drives many kidnappers to commit these gruesome acts.

Ransom kidnappers may have some of the same motives, but are usually more concerned with the financial gains of their crimes. Regardless of the motive, a person who commits the offense of kidnapping often has disordered thinking, either as a result of a mental disorder, a personality disorder, or a combination of both.

The most unfortunate aspect of kidnappings, however, is the psychological effects it has on victims. People who have survived kidnapping often go on to battle issues of trust for the rest of their lives, as being deprived of freedom and being held against their will can erode trust in humanity as a whole. Some victims may even become distrustful of family members, believing their families didn't do enough to get them back or to protect them from being abducted in the first place. This can begin a vicious cycle of disordered thinking within victims' lives, leading to difficulty in relationships both personal and professional.

Furthermore, kidnapping victims may have psychological disturbances in other aspects of their everyday lives. Trouble sleeping is one of the most common reported psychological impacts of kidnapping, as the victims are afraid to fall asleep and let their guard down, lest they be taken again. Sexual effects are also likely in cases of kidnappings that involved sexual abuse. Survivors may find it hard to trust their partners or to allow themselves to be vulnerable. Victims of abduction may need many years of therapy to overcome the sexual damage of kidnapping, and to form healthy sexual relationships.

In terms of news coverage, the general public may be receiving a skewed vision of the reality of kidnappings and their effects. Unfortunately, the news media only choose to focus on a few select kidnapping cases, leading the public to believe kidnappings are uncommon and only take place among white, affluent communities. The reality is that kidnappings occur in all communities, and each case needs to have as much attention as any other. By only hearing reports of affluent or middle-class kidnappings, the public may tend to forget that in poorer neighborhoods and low-income areas, adults and children are abducted on a regular basis.

In terms of healing from the psychological strain of being a kidnap victim, psychologists typically recommend cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT involves allowing the victim to change their way of thinking, replacing negatives for positives, until they have reached a point in which their worldviews are different. An event such as a kidnapping can cause very deep negative connections to be made within the mind of a victim, and these connections need to be rewired in order to reach a point of normalcy once again.

In order to help defeat kidnappers and abduction attempts, it is imperative for parents and society as a whole to be more vigilant as to where their children are, as well as continue to educate them about avoiding dangerous situations. In the age of the Internet, this is even more important, as predators use this technology to gain access to children everyday. Moreover, the news media should to take more responsibility in their coverage of kidnapping cases, giving equal time to low-profile cases. Only when we all recognize the dangers that exist in all communities can we begin to eradicate the dangers our children face.

Allison Gamble has been a student of psychology since high school. She brings her understanding of the mind to work in the weird world of internet marketing.