Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hillbilly Legends Never Die

The greatest music of all
by Robert A. Waters

Country music is littered with the corpses of singers who died young. Three of my favorites are Jimmie Rodgers, Johnny Horton, and Hank Williams. Between them, they created the music I grew up on and still love.

Jimmie Rodgers

For the first eight years of my life, I lived with my grandparents. My oldest and fondest memories are of my grandfather rocking me on his knee and singing the old songs. Two of his favorites were Jimmie Rodgers classics: “Waiting for a Train” and “Hobo Bill’s Last Ride.” Like Rodgers, my grandfather lived during the Depression, and knew what misery smelled like.

Jimmie Rodgers mixed blues, country, and jazz, as well as popular Tin Pan Alley songs to create a unique sound. While he’s best known for his yodels, Rodgers’ train songs came from his experiences of riding the rails. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 35. His last song, recorded in a studio in New York City, was called “Years Ago,” and told about how he longed for his boyhood days in Mississippi. Three days later, his lungs gave out and he was dead.

One of my favorite Rodgers songs is “Blue Yodel # 9 (Standing on the Corner).” The old acetate record has a hard-edged sound with Louis Armstrong literally blowing the lid off his trumpet while his wife, Lillian, plays back-up piano. The song just seethes with that 1930s New Orleans jazzy feel. The lyrics tell the story of a hustler, his moll, and her determination to get him out of jail. “She come to the joint, a .44 in each hand. She said, ‘Stand aside all you women and men, ‘cause I’m looking for my man.’”

Hank Williams

Hank’s short life and meteoric rise to fame and stardom became a metaphor for many Southern children when I was young--if he can make it big, we thought, so can I. His death also became a metaphor.

Hank was born into abject poverty in Christiana, Alabama. His mother bought him a cheap guitar and he learned music from the streets and the churches in the area. Unfortunately, he also learned to drink. During his teenage years, Hank began playing with local bands and gained a following. He married the former Aubrey Sheppard and went to Nashville where he signed a song-writing contract with Acuff-Rose. Soon he became the 1950s version of a super-star.

One of Hank’s songs, “Cold, Cold Heart,” recorded reluctantly by Tony Bennett, helped launch the pop singer’s career. Soon his songs were all over the pop charts. Guy Mitchell, for example, recorded a hit with, “I Can’t Help It,” and Frankie Laine and Jo Stafford scored with, “Hey Good Lookin’.” In the meantime, his songs dominated hillbilly radio stations.

While Hank’s music was heard everywhere, his personal life was a disaster. Constant, searing back pain from a form of spina bifida left him in unrelenting misery. Drug and alcohol abuse took its toll as he began missing shows. His marriage to Audrey was in shambles--both took consolation in one-night stands. In short, Hank’s life was hell. On January 1, 1953, he passed away in the back of a car while traveling to a show in Ohio.  For millions of later aspiring country music singers, the lyrics to a Larry Boone song rang true: "Everybody Wants to be Hank Williams (But Nobody Wants to Die)."

My favorite Hank Williams song is the religious spiritual, “I Saw the Light.” 

Johnny Horton

In the late 1950s, Johnny Horton had hit after hit. Many of his songs crossed over, jumping from hillbilly stations onto the pop charts. “Sink the Bismark,” “North to Alaska,” and “Battle of New Orleans” stayed on top for months. These songs cemented Horton’s popularity, but many country fans loved his “rockabilly” sound even more than the chart-toppers. Songs such as “Honky Tonk Man,” “Cherokee Boogie,” and “Ole Slewfoot” would influence musicians for decades.

Horton was a family man and a teetotaler. He also had a premonition of his own death. It came true the night of November 5, 1960, when he died on a bridge near Milano, Texas. An on-coming drunk driver bounced off the railings of the bridge and smashed head-first into Horton’s car. The popular singer, only 35, had practiced driving his car into a ditch to avoid such situations, but on the bridge, he was unable to avoid the pickup truck speeding at him. He died a horrible, violent death.

My favorite Horton song is “When It’s Springtime in Alaska (It’s Forty Below).” Unfortunately, I don’t care for the backup singers. However, the tune and haunting banjo licks ring true as the lyrics describe Alaska, the last Wild West left in America.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Live By the Sword, Die By the Gun

When Drugs Take Over Your Life
by Robert A. Waters

Thirty-six year-old Bongkuk “Steve” Pak [pictured] was shot dead while attempting to rob a Las Vegas restaurant. As he lay bleeding on the street outside, did he relive the glory days of his past? Did he remember the first time he smoked meth? Did he think about his wasted life?

An outstanding high school quarterback, Pak once achieved the unparalleled feat of throwing nine touchdown passes in one game. In that same year, 1994, he was voted MVP for the Las Vegas High School Wildcats. He was also a brilliant student, graduating with honors.

Pak played football for three colleges, including the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) Rebels. After he graduated, the former athlete worked several jobs before landing with the Clark County government, making approximately $50,000 per year. But in December, 2010, he entered a drug rehabilitation program and was terminated.

His downfall came as a result of the poison called methamphetamine.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “Pak was no stranger to Las Vegas police. He was arrested several times beginning in the summer of 2010. The more serious arrests came from accusations that included possession of methamphetamine, possession of drugs with intent to sell, domestic violence and violation of a restraining order.” He was also arrested for transporting drugs across state lines.

On the afternoon of August 21, Pak burst into the Dairy Queen at 2595 S. Maryland Parkway in Las Vegas. He wore black gloves, a gray knit cap that covered his face, and carried a Samurai-style sword.  There were no customers in the restaurant, which is why he’d chosen it.

A police report stated that "Pak went directly to the cash register and violently swung the sword into the cash register several times," leaving slash marks on the metal.

Michael Wehbe stood behind the counter while his brother, Christian, worked in the back. On hearing the commotion, Christian glanced at a surveillance monitor. Seeing the wild assailant attacking the cash register, he grabbed a 9mm pistol and ran to the front of the store. In a clear case of self-defense, filmed on several monitors, Christian shot the violent robber twice.

Pak stumbled outside and collapsed in the parking lot.

Carol Matteo [pictured],  his alleged accomplice, had driven him to the scene and cased several shops in the area. According to statements she gave investigators, Pak had decided to “jack” someone, presumably for drug money. She’d been in the Dairy Queen just moments before, making sure the coast was clear.

After Pak was shot, Matteo parked the getaway car and rushed to his aid. She was quickly implicated in the crime and charged with robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, and burglary.

Christian Wehbe was not charged. He said he thought the assailant might jump the counter and attack him and his brother with the sword.  Investigators determined that, given the circumstances, that was a valid conclusion.

Now let me take a moment to rant.

How many drug addicts have died at the end of a gun? Or a knife? How many more from an overdose? How many are serving long prison sentences, deprived of freedom? How many families’ lives have been destroyed by an addicted spouse or child or sibling?

If someone offers you the stuff, he’s not your friend. He’s your enemy. He's giving you poison, not hope.

Turn and run the other way.

Remember Bongkuk Pak, the guy who had it all before submitting his life to meth, the guy who bled out in the parking lot beneath a plastic DQ sign.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


The Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Washington, DC
By Ron Franscell
Globe Pequot Press, 2012

Review by Robert A. Waters

Washington, D.C. is where politicians and their hangers-on gather to figure out new ways to tax Americans into poverty. With so much vermin tramping its streets, there’s little wonder that the place is also the crime capital of the world.

The Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Washington, DC is the third true crime travel guide published by Ron Franscell and Globe Pequot Press. Each story lists GPS coordinates so the reader can go directly to the scene of the crimes. In addition to the nation’s capital, the book also includes crime and mayhem in Maryland, northern Virginia, and Arlington National Cemetery.

While there is plenty of political intrigue in D.C., there are also straight-out rapes, murders, kidnappings and weird misdemeanors. Franscell describes both notorious and little-known cases, such as what happened to the missing head of U. S Attorney General William Wirt or how a brothel madam ended up buried in the prestigious Congressional Cemetery.

One of the most brutal serial killers in history was born and bred in Washington, D. C. Franscell writes: “Albert Fish (1870-1936) was one sick puppy. Students of serial killers recognize him as one of the cruelest and twisted child killers in American history, a real-life Hannibal Lecter who often ate his victims after inflicting unspeakable atrocities.”

There’s a long chapter on the Lincoln assassination. Those interested have dozens of locations to go check out. It’s amazing that many of the historical sites, such as Ford’s Theatre, are still open to the public.

The Poe House and Museum is open to visitors in Baltimore. One of the world’s most influential authors, Edgar Allan Poe wrote the first detective stories and even penned a thinly disguised true crime book called The Mystery of Marie Roget. Poe famously died as he lived, drunk and incoherent, but left behind a body of work that has influenced authors ever since.

Still in Maryland, there’s the story of a mysterious serial killer named Cabin John and a mass murderer named Orphan Jones. In 1895, thirteen-year-old Sallie Dean was raped and murdered—her killer was pulled from the Caroline County Jail and promptly lynched.

History oozes from this volume.  If I ever travel north to the city of corruption, the one book I’ll take is The Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Washington, DC.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The 3 Most Evil People Electrocuted in Florida’s “Old Sparky”

Arthur Frederick Goode III

A serial killer, a black widow, and a pedophile
by Robert A. Waters

Ted Bundy

The definition of serial killer is “Ted Bundy.” He murdered 35 young women, almost all with long black hair parted in the middle. After bludgeoning them to death, he raped their corpses. While being tried for a murder in Colorado, Bundy escaped. He fled to Tallahassee where he lived incognito for several months before breaking into the Chi Omega sorority house and clubbing two women to death. He was finally caught after kidnapping and raping a twelve-year-old girl, then dumping her body in a hog-pen.

Bundy was the most hated man ever on Florida’s Death Row. Floridians even made up a poem about him: “Fry Bundy, Fry! Die Bundy, Die!” Okay, it wasn’t the greatest verse in the world, but it made its point. During his trial, the killer defended himself, adding yet another layer of notoriety to his growing legend as the country’s premier serial murderer.

Bundy was terrified of Old Sparky. He attempted to gain a few more days of life by claiming he could lead authorities to additional unknown murder victims, but the governor turned him down. At 7:00 A.M., as he was being led to the chair, many Florida radio stations interrupted their programming to play the sizzling sound of bacon frying.

Judias Buenoano

It was almost unheard of for a woman to get the chair, so you know Buenoano was evil. At first, when her husbands started dying, no one thought much about it. After all, they expired in their beds after suffering debilitating illnesses. But when her latest boyfriend’s car exploded with him in it, cops began investigating her background. They exhumed five dead ex-husbands and boyfriends. A boat-load of arsenic was found in the systems of each, as well as in a son who’d drowned. Cops also found bomb-making material in her home.

It was her son’s murder that jumped Buenoano from routine black widow serial killer to hated monster. Michael Goodyear joined the U. S. Air Force when he was 19 and made the fatal mistake of naming his mother as the beneficiary of his $100,000 life insurance policy. When he came home on leave, he contracted a mystery disease that left him paralyzed from the neck down. From then until his death, Goodyear could only walk or lift his arms with the aid of metal braces.

One nice sunny day, Buenoano loaded her son into a rented canoe on the East River in Pensacola. As soon as they rounded a bend where no witnesses could see her, Buenoano dumped her son into the water. The prosecutor stated that “[Michael Goodyear] had 15 pounds of braces on his legs without a life jacket. He was taken up the river in a canoe and basically pitched out.” Buenoano, as was her habit, quickly cashed in his insurance policy.

Before she was executed, Buenoano claimed to have found Jesus. But, unlike Karla Faye Tucker (another female killer who was executed), no one believed her. Only a few hardcore death penalty opponents could muster up the stomach to protest her execution—everybody else in Florida thought Old Sparky gave her exactly what she deserved.

Arthur F. Goode

An unapologetic pedophile, Arthur Frederick Goode III began molesting young boys before he was a teenager. Freddy, as he was called, was eventually admitted to a mental health facility in his home state of Maryland, but soon walked away. Gravitating south, he kidnapped a nine-year-old boy from his school-bus stop in Lee County, Florida. After savagely raping the child, Freddy strangled him to death.

The killer fled back to Maryland, where he kidnapped two more boys.  He murdered one of the children before being captured--the second boy later testified against Goode at his trial in Florida. Freddy was convicted and sentenced to Death Row.

While there, he wrote graphic letters to the parents of his victims. He granted many interviews in which he defended his actions, claiming his pre-teen victims enjoyed being sodomized. Freddy declared that he committed the murders to protest a culture that would not let him indulge in sex with children. In one interview, he stated: “There's nothing wrong with me. It's the damn people in society who are prejudiced against pedophilia.” While he awaited his date with Old Sparky, Goode attempted to recruit children as pen-pals so he could engage in his twisted fantasies.

It was said that the other prisoners and guards at Raiford hated him even more than they hated Bundy. That speaks volumes about old Freddy. On the day he died, Goode requested one last “session” with a young boy. This was denied, and the most hated man on Florida’s death row left the prison on a one-way trip to Hell.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Help Find Erika Megan Sharpton's Killer

Brutal Murder Stuns Peaceful Community
by Robert A. Waters

Beautiful, peaceful, family-oriented Coffee County, Tennessee is located in the southern part of the state. Hundreds of churches dot its towns and communities, and friendly people exhibit a laid-back lifestyle. Violent crime is rare.

Tullahoma, the county’s southern-most town, is advertised by the Chamber of Commerce as a “micropolitan city.” While less than 20,000 inhabitants live there, Motlow State Community College and the University of Tennessee Space Institute are nearby.

Twenty-four-year-old Erika Megan Sharpton (called Megan) planned to be a nurse. The Winchester Herald Chronicle reported that “in addition to studying nursing at Motlow College, Megan worked as a waitress at Yamato restaurant in Tullahoma and also worked at a nursing home to gain experience in her career field.”

On July 2, at about 1 A.M., a passerby spotted a brush-fire near the Awalt Bridge that spans Tims Ford Lake in Franklin County. Upon further inspection, he discovered the body of Megan Sharpton, half-consumed by flames. Investigators later determined that she’d likely died elsewhere. The autopsy ruled “blunt force trauma” as the cause of death.

Megan’s car, a 1995 Ford Mustang, was found several miles away, stopped in the middle of Three Forks Bridge in rural Bedford County. The Coffee County, Franklin County, and Bedford County sheriff’s offices are involved in the investigation, as well as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI).

So far, no one has been charged. Law enforcement officials have been tight-lipped about the case, revealing little information.

According to news reports, Megan’s boyfriend was working at the time of the murder and has been eliminated. Many reports have speculated that this may have been a stranger-on-stranger attack.

In fact, when she was murdered, Megan was on her way to act as a caretaker for an elderly patient.

Megan’s grieving family issued the following statement: “The world has lost its brightest star. The amazing Erika Megan Sharpton was torn from us on July 2, 2012. She was very loved by her family, her friends, and the whole community. We cherish the time we had with our Megan and are grateful for the breadth and variety of experiences we were able to share in her tragically abbreviated life.”

Franklin County Sheriff Tim Fuller said: “We are asking that anyone who saw her that day to contact the sheriff’s department or the TBI. We ask that anyone with information regarding Megan’s red Ford Mustang that was abandoned in the middle of Three Forks Bridge Road in Bedford County to contact the sheriff’s department. We regard this as vital information in this case.”

What happened on that sad night more than a month ago?

If you have information, please call the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office at 931-967-2331 or TBI at 1-800-824-3463.

If you wish to help the family set up a reward fund, send contributions to the attention of "Michelle" at American City Bank, 340 W. Lincoln St., Tullahoma, TN 37388 or stop by any of the American City Bank branches in Tullahoma, Manchester or Decherd. For additional information, call American City Bank's main branch manager Michelle Martin at 931-455-0026.

[NOTE: This case struck home with me because I lived in Coffee County for five years. I met my beautiful wife there, and obtained my bachelor’s degree from nearby Middle Tennessee State University. After moving back to my native Florida in the mid-1970s, my wife and I visited her parents in Manchester several times a year for as long as they lived. I still have friends in the area and consider Coffee County to be my second home.]

Friday, August 10, 2012

Do You Know This Woman?

Unidentified woman accused of molesting two young girls on video
by Robert A .Waters

Do you know this woman?

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released this photograph of a woman alleged to have been involved in child pornography.  Videos show the unidentified woman, along with an unknown male, engaging in sex acts with two female children.  The ages of the victims are 5-7 and 3-5 years of age. 

ICE has issued a "Jane Doe arrest warrant" for the woman.

"Jane Doe" is described by federal agents as a Caucasian female, 25 to 35 years old, with a medium build, dark brown hair and blue eyes, with a large mole on the back of her left thigh.

Her whereabouts are unknown, but investigators believe she lives in the United States.

According to the ICE website, "Homeland Security special agents in Los Angeles initially discovered the videos during a computer forensics examination of material in an unrelated child pornography case. The material was submitted to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the national clearinghouse for child sexual exploitation material. The center determined that the victims have not yet been identified or rescued."

Agents hope that the identification of "Jane Doe" will result in the rescue of the two children shown in the films.

If you know this woman, please call the ICE tip line at 866-347-2423.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Hills of Roane County

Murder ballad written by a killer
by Robert A. Waters

In 1884, Willis (Willie) Maberry murdered Thomas Galbreath in cold blood. The two had been friends, but during a quarrel, Galbreath “cut” Maberry with a knife. The wounded man, married to his assailant’s sister, vowed revenge.

Roane County, Tennessee lies in the eastern section of the state. The county seat is Kingston, where Sam Houston once worked before moving to Texas. Harriman (“the town that temperance built”) is nearby. Hardy, self-governing people populated the rural area in the late 1880s. Like many Southerners, they didn’t take kindly to acts of aggression.

One September afternoon, in a town called Old Oakdale, a small crowd gathered at the home of Tom Galbreath’s brother. Suddenly, a shotgun blast sent Tom reeling. He’d been hit “in the left side, on the arm, and the back of the neck and through the leg,” according to an article entitled, “The Killer Poet,” written by Jere Hall and Robert L. Bailey.

Several people saw the killer. Willis Maberry had hidden beneath the porch steps of a home across the street. Waiting in ambush until he had a clear shot, Maberry fired. Hall and Bailey wrote: “Lucy Galbreath was sitting inside the house peeling apples when the shot rang out. She rushed to the door, saw Maberry with a gun in his hand pointed at Tom and called to him not to shoot any more since he had already killed her pig. Maberry offered to pay Lucy for the pig, and did not shoot again. The pig died instantly and Tom died about 24 hours later. Some of the shots also went through a fence and Lucy's feather beds which were drying on the fence.”

Maberry quickly left Roane County, though he later claimed that he went to Tom’s funeral. For twenty-five years he wandered, working in St. Louis, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Nebraska. There seems to have been little effort to track him down.

In 1909, Maberry returned to Roane County. Family members stated that the fugitive came back to claim property he’d inherited from his recently deceased father. (He likely had remained in contact with some of his family during those years on the run.)

The sheriff arrested Maberry. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. Hall and Bailey reported that “while still being held in jail in Kingston, [Maberry] began writing a poignant poem which was entitled ‘Roane County Prisoner.’ He later finished the poem, [and] it was set to music and became quite popular after the turn of the century under the title, ‘The Hills of Roane County.’ Many Roane County residents remember hearing it played on the radio in the 1930s and 40s.”

After serving several years in prison, Maberry became ill and was released. He returned home to Roane County, but never regained his health. He is buried in Byington, between Kingston and Oak Ridge.

Unlike many folk songs which can have hundreds of different versions, this song has remained virtually  the same throughout the decades, with little variation.

The version I’m including here is by Tony Rice. One of the best guitarists in country music, he also has a fine, lonesome voice.

The Hills of Roane County
Written by Willis Maberry

In the beautiful hills in the midst of Roane County,
That's where I have roamed for many long years.
That's where my heart's been tending most ever,
That's where the first steps of misfortune I made.

Was about thirty years when I courted and married.
Amanda Galbreath would soon be my wife.
But her brother stabbed me for some unknown reason;
Just three months later, I'd taken Tom's life.

For twenty-five years this world I have traveled;
I’ve been to old England, to France, and to Spain.
But I missed my old home in the hills of Roane County.
I boarded a steamer and came back again.

I was captured and tried in the village of Kingston.
Not a man in that county would speak one kind word.
When the jury came in with the verdict next morning,
Was a lifetime in prison was the words that I heard.

When the train pulled out, poor Mother stood weeping,
And sister, she sat all alone with a sigh.
And the last words I heard was: "Willie, God bless you;
Dear Willie, God bless you, God bless you; goodbye."

In the scorching hot sands of this foundry Iʼm working,
More than just working my whole life away.
Theyʼll measure my grave on the banks of old Cumberland
As soon as Iʼve finished the rest of my days.

Well, the jury was great, but the judge he was better.
There’s better and worse although you may see.
Boys, when you write home from the prison in Nashville,
Place one of my songs in your letter for me.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Would You Take a Polygraph?

                                         Johnia Berry

Flawed and unreliable
by Robert A. Waters

William Safire called it “the hit and miss machine.” Even the American Polygraph Association admits to only an 85-89% accuracy rate, with an additional 13% inconclusive. Dan Vergano, of USA Today, wrote that “a 1997 survey of 421 psychologists estimated the test's average validity at about 61%, a little better than chance.”

The polygraph is alleged to measure an individual’s heart rate, pulse, breathing rate, and body temperature. If any of those increase significantly during a question, the suspect is thought to be lying.

The polygraph is so unreliable that the results are not allowed in most American courts, yet cops contend that they rely on it to weed out the innocent and gain confessions from the guilty. The real purpose of the junk science machine is to intimidate suspects into admitting guilt.

Possibly one of the most disturbing facets of polygraphs is that those who administer them seem to believe they can never be fooled. Unfortunately, the criminal justice system is littered with errors in determining who is lying and who is being truthful.

Connecticut pilot Richard Crafts murdered his wife, Helle, and fed her remains through a wood-chipper. He passed two polygraphs before investigators found remnants of her shredded body on the banks of a nearby lake. Crafts was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life in prison.

In Georgia, Fred Tokars passed a polygraph test, but was later convicted of hiring assassins to murder his wife, Sara Ambrusko Tokars.

Serial killer Gary Ridgway, who murdered at least 41 women, passed a polygraph.

Bill Wegerle, whose family was murdered by BTK serial killer Dennis Rader, failed two lie detector tests and was treated as a suspect for many years.

To look at how cops work, and how they use the “lie detector” test, let’s examine the case of Johnia Berry. The beautiful, vivacious 21-year-old from Atlanta attended East Tennessee State University in Knoxville. On the night of December 6, 2004, as she slept in the second bedroom of a friend's apartment, an intruder entered through an unlocked back door and stabbed Johnia 20 times.

He then attacked Jason Aymami, renter of the apartment. Jason was left with eight wounds, including a severe defensive wound on his finger. Aymami eventually fought off the attacker and ran from the apartment to a nearby store where he called police. Johnia also made it out, crawling along the floor and knocking on other apartments for help. No one offered assistance, and she died a short time later.

A fingerprint on a bloody knife found at the scene matched neither Johnia or Jason. Blood covered the wall and floors in Johnia’s room, Jason’s room, the living room, kitchen, hall, and on both the front and rear steps outside the apartment.

Police almost immediately suspected Jason, a conclusion based on their suspicion that this was a “crime of passion.” (Jason and Johnia were not lovers, but investigators concluded that he may have wanted a relationship with her.)  So many stab wounds to Johnia showed rage, cops said, and the so-called defensive wound on his finger might have been made when his knife slipped while stabbing his house-mate.

After he got out of the hospital, Jason agreed to take a polygraph. According to investigators, he failed. When confronted, Jason became angry that cops were focusing on him as a suspect. As he vehemently protested his innocence, detectives thought his reaction showed the kind of rage needed to commit a brutal murder.

Even though the fingerprint on the bloody knife didn’t match Jason, and a bloody shoeprint inside the apartment didn’t match his shoes, Jason remained a suspect for nearly two years. He was hounded by police and his name “leaked” to the press, thereby making him a pariah in Knoxville. He eventually moved back to his home state of Colorado.

Finally, in 2007, DNA tests proved conclusively that there was a third person in the room. Investigators matched the samples to Taylor Lee Olson, a convicted burglar who was out on parole. His fingerprints also matched those found on the bloody knife. So much for the crime of passion theory--Olson had no relationship with either Johnia or Jason.

According to his confession, Olson broke into the apartment hoping to find keys to a car parked outside. When Johnia woke up, he stabbed her so she couldn’t identify him. He then attacked Jason when the house-mate opened his bedroom door to check out screams coming from inside the house.

In 2008, Olson hung himself in his jail cell.

After this fiasco, the Knoxville Police Department brought in a group of expert polygraphers to read the results of Aymami’s “failed” test. Several said that the original polygrapher read it wrong.

Whatever the case, it doesn’t speak well of those supposed to be able to divine the truth from a mute machine.

So if I’m ever asked to take a polygraph, my answer will be a big, fat, resounding, “NO!” What about you?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Voices Crying in the Darkness

Cary Ann Medlin

Victims’ last words
by Robert A. Waters

Every time some killer is executed, the news media cycles his last words to the world, as if something profound can be fathomed. The final ranting of cold-blooded thugs means little, but the last words of those murdered speak volumes about the killer, the crime, and the victim.

In 1971, eight-year-old Cary Ann Medlin was abducted from Greenfield, Tennessee by serial flasher Robert Glen Coe. Taken to an isolated area and brutally raped, Coe then cut the young girl’s throat. In his confessions, Coe said that just before dying, Cary looked him in the eye and said, “Jesus loves you.” Coe was executed in 1999.

Jerry Terrell Jackson broke into the Williamsburg, Virginia home of Ruth Phillips. When the eighty-eight-year-old seamstress awoke and saw Jackson rummaging through drawers in her bedroom, she cried out, “What do you want? I'll give you whatever, just get out.” Jackson attacked Phillips, smothering her with a pillow while he raped her. He died by lethal injection in 2011.

In 1994, 79-year-old Grace Blackwell was kidnapped by Rodney Gray and forced to withdraw cash from her bank. At the drive-through window, she presented a blank check to the teller and asked her to fill the check out in the amount of $1200. Although the teller's view of the car's back seat was blocked, she heard Blackwell say, "I'm hurrying, I'm hurrying." The clerk called police, and a search was launched. But after leaving the bank, Gray had time to rape, shoot, and drive the car over the elderly widow. The state of Mississippi executed Gray in 2011.

In 2002, Julian Lewis, 51, and his twenty-five-year-old son C. J., were killed in a murder-for-hire plot. The “head of the snake,” as the prosecutor put it, was Julian’s wife, Teresa Wilson Bean Lewis. Hoping to collect $250,000 in life insurance, she hired two hit-men. Julian and C. J. were in their beds when they were blasted multiple times with shotguns. As he lay dying, Julian’s indictment of Teresa rang out loud and clear when he said, “My wife knows who done this to me.” The usual anti-death penalty groups protested that Teresa was mentally handicapped, but in 2011, she was executed by the state of Virginia.

The last words of Margaret Park, a Florida Wildlife Officer, were, “I’m hit.” Park found Martin Edward Grossman and Thayne Taylor target-shooting a stolen pistol in Pinellas County. Park confiscated the weapon and Grossman’s driver’s license. Since he was on probation for burglary, he likely would have gone back to prison. He and Taylor attacked Park, beating her. Park drew her weapon and fired an errant shot, then kicked Taylor in the groin, disabling him. Grossman wrenched her service revolver from Park and shot her in the back of the head, killing her. Her last words echoed on her police radio, sending officers to the spot where they arrested the assailants. In 2010, Grossman was exectuted.