Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Murder of Linda Slaten

32-year-old cold case still unsolved
by Robert A. Waters

September 1, 1981 dawned like every other day in Lakeland, Florida.  Many of the 47,000 residents filtered from their homes and headed to work, school, or the many recreation sites in the area.
On North Brunnell Parkway, outside Apartment 31 in a federally-subsidized living complex, Judy Butler noticed a screen had been removed from her sister's bedroom window.  Investigating, she discovered the body of Linda Slaten.

Officers from the Lakeland Police Department soon arrived.

In a separate bedroom, Slaten’s sons Jeff, 15, and Tim, 12, slept soundly.  Officers rushed them from the apartment.   

Slaten lay on the bed, half-clothed.  She’d been raped, and a wire coat hanger placed around her neck and twisted tight.  Her death must have been horrifying.

The crime went down on a slow week for news.  Even so, local newspapers only used the homicide as filler for the back pages.  Slaten, unemployed and living in the projects, mattered little to the rest of the community.  The Lakeland Ledger reported the story on page 29 of 29.

Few suspects emerged during the investigation.  Police interviewed those who knew Slaten, including a boyfriend, but no one stood out.  The case quickly went cold.

Raised by their grandmother, the loss felt by Jeff and Tim overwhelmed them.  While they were teenagers, the brothers grew up thinking LPD had a crack team of detectives working the case, and that it would be solved.  Later, they learned that little had been done after the initial investigation.  Linda Slaten was just another in a long list of unsolved murders in the area.  Jeff and Tim eventually contacted a detective and got the case jump-started.

By 1997, DNA had advanced so that items collected from the crime scene could be tested.  After obtaining a profile of the killer’s DNA, detectives checked several people close to Slaten, including her ex-husband and boyfriend.  All were cleared.

Investigators placed the DNA profile in state and national databases, hoping for a cold hit.  So far, there have been none.

Who murdered Linda Slaten?  32 years later, it’s still a mystery.

Could the killer have been someone she knew? 

Could he have been an opportunistic predator who noticed the pretty young woman as he passed by her bedroom window? 

Did Slaten have a stalker, someone who watched until the time was right, then stole in for the kill?

At the time, it’s thought that one or more serial killers were plying their gruesome trade in the area.  For instance, in 1980, Cynthia Clements, 19, was kidnapped from the convenience store where she worked, her brutalized body found weeks later.  Because of evidence discovered at the scene, detectives who worked the case are convinced her killer had committed sexual homicides many times before.  “Once he gets started doing this type of thing, it usually progresses,” an investigator said.

In 1982, the remains of sixteen-year-old Leandra Hogan, found in nearby Hillsborough County, bore the marks of a serial killer. 

These, and other cases, have never been solved.

With DNA, there’s always a chance that the killer of Linda Slaten will be caught.  Here’s hoping he makes a mistake and his DNA profile pops up in some database. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

An Act of Kindness

NFL player replaces stolen Christmas
by Robert A. Waters

In this era when criminals and convicts dominate the National Football League, it’s nice to see a player give back.  Indianapolis Colts right guard Mike McGlynn did just that when the Grinch stole one family's Christmas.
It started on Black Friday when Lori Diehl, of Shelbyville, Indiana, set off on a shopping trip.  Lori’s family includes her husband, Matthew, and three children.  Matthew has Hodgson’s Lymphoma, having undergone twelve treatments of chemotherapy.  Lori and Matthew are both teachers, but they’re currently on leave because of his illness.  Money in the family is tight, so this Christmas, family, friends, and members of the church Lori attends chipped in with gift certificates to several area stores.

After shopping at K-Mart, Target, Kohl’s, and Sears, Lori stopped at Menard’s.  When she came back to her mini-van, she found it had been broken into, and all her gifts stolen.  Police arrived on the scene, and a local television station reported the story on the evening news.

Megan McGlynn happened to be watching the broadcast, and she told her husband.  The next day, Mike donated $500 to cover the cost of the presents.

“He truly was wonderful,” Diehl said. “We were just amazed. He was exceedingly generous.” 

The player even spoke to her young son.  “He (her son) was over the moon excited,” Diehl said.

The NFL needs more players like Mike McGlynn.

Friday, November 23, 2012

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Nadia Bloom
The Rescue of Nadia Bloom
by Robert A. Waters

The doubters, naysayers, and skeptics stormed from the sidelines when a Good Samaritan rescued little Nadia Bloom.  Joy Behar ridiculed the rescuer, bloggers accused him of everything from kidnapping to child-rape, and letters to editors across the country denounced him.

On April 9, 2010, the ten-year-old Winter Springs, Florida girl went for a bicycle ride.   Wandering into the swampy Lake Jesup Conservation Area, she became lost.  For three days, police and volunteers used machetes to chop through the heavily-canopied forest in a desperate search for Nadia.  Finally, on the fourth day, as hope was fading, James King found her.

King then used his cell phone to call other searchers to the spot where he’d located Nadia.  Because of the impenetrable terrain, a helicopter couldn’t land, so rescuers loaded her on a gurney and hacked their way back to a waiting ambulance. Transported to Arnold Palmer Hospital, Nadia was treated for bug bites, scratches, and a blood infection.  Six days later, she was released.

James King, a church-going military contractor, claimed that God led him to the missing girl.  After several interviews on national television, a hurricane of suspicion descended upon him.  A feel-good story suddenly turned into a nightmarish blur of accusations.   

Here’s a sampling of the vitriol.

advocateForThe Abducted wrote: "That is about the creepiest thing I have ever heard.  Creep factor at a 10 on the scale!  Hopefully they will interview this guy again.  (I have heard they plan on it) And, check Nadia out to see if she has been violated in any way while she is in the hospital…I feel this guy drugged this girl and had her held captive elsewhere for purposes such as molestation (remember Elizabeth Smart and her sick religious captors) and then took her to that spot waist high in swamp water, possibly to finish her off, and possibly she came out of her drugged state, and he re-thought his plan.  Then he thought he could be the ‘hero’.  Wonder if there was a reward.  He drives an old suburban...Her parents should be aware that this is highly unlikely ‘God told him’ to walk 3 hours in alligator infested swamps to find there (sic) alive daughter.  I will bet anything - the truth will come out soon!  That guy is a creep and this is another attempted child abduction."

Local authorities checked out James King’s story.  They concluded that the rescuer was who he claimed to be: a concerned volunteer who searched in a different area than the main searchers. 

King’s continued claims that he walked through the swamp praying that God would lead him to the girl rankled many.  Skeptics seemed to take his comments as a personal affront.

A blogger wrote: “This guy and his ‘give glory to the Lord’ routine are sickening.”

An Internet critic named TOMSUTTON wrote: “what a bunch of BS. This guy obviously held her till yesterday after abducting her friday. Then he finds her and say ‘THE LORD LED ME TO HER!!!’ Dumb jesus freaks.”

Joy Behar, on ABC's “The View,” said, "Who needs an Amber Alert now?  You know you don't need an Amber Alert anymore.  Why doesn't God tell every other person where to find all these other missing children?"

King, to his credit, shrugged off the criticism.  “It doesn’t affect me at all,” he said. “I just take it in stride.  It doesn’t affect who I am.  They can believe what they want to believe.”

Personally, if I was lost in the woods, I’d love to have James King searching for me. 

The sideline-sitting naysayers have proven how useless they are.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Evil and Incompetency

The violent career of Scott Malsky
by Robert A. Waters

Scott Christopher Malsky is the monster you see in horror flicks.  Today, he sits in a Florida prison doing life.  He’s lucky he didn’t get the death penalty.

In July, 1993, Pauline Farrington lived on Ednor Street in Port Charlotte.  Seventy-nine-years-old, she’d been a widow for many years.  After no one heard from her for several days, a neighbor checked her home.  Farrington lay in her bedroom, stone-dead.  Police determined that she’d been raped, stabbed, and strangled to death. 

Malsky, 17, quickly became the prime suspect.  He lived a few doors down from the victim, and already had a long history of deviancy and violence.  At the time, however, investigators were unable to conclusively link their suspect to the murder.

Malsky left Florida and headed back to his home state of Massachusetts.  In New Bedford, two prostitutes claimed he raped them.  In two separate trials, Malsky was acquitted.  A prosecutor implied that the juries did not believe the victims because of their “occupations.”

After his acquittals, Malsky split Massachusetts, ending up back in Florida.  A walking time-bomb, it didn’t take him long to explode once again.  He abducted fourteen-year-old Jennifer Wolfgang from Punta Gorda.  Beating her with a baseball bat, he raped her, stabbed her 40 times, dumped gasoline on her, and set her on fire, leaving her for dead in a Florida swamp.  Eighty hours later, Wolfgang emerged on a rural road where she was rescued by a passing motorist.  Despite numerous injuries, the teen survived and identified Malsky as her attacker.

This time, the much-tattooed suspect would not escape punishment.  His victim testified against him and Malsky received 25 years in prison. 

In 2003, while the rapist was serving time, cops tested evidence found at the scene of the Farrington homicide. DNA matched Malsky.  He admitted killing the elderly widow and plea bargained a sentence of life in prison without parole.

A few months later, residents of south Florida were shocked to read that Malsky would be eligible for parole after 25 years. 

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that “the fatal stabbing of Pauline P. Farrington happened in 1993, two years before the passage of a state law that denies parole to criminals sentenced to life imprisonment.  Malsky's prison sentence, the state discovered, should have been guided by pre-1995 statutes.  Life prisoners then were granted eligibility for parole after serving at least 25 years of their sentences.  In 1995, state lawmakers passed the Stop Turning Out Prisoners legislation, which required that inmates serve at least 85 percent of their sentences -- effectively ending ‘early release.’ Prisoners given life terms would get no parole.”

It’s frightening to realize that Malsky might actually get out of prison someday.

And what’s almost as frightening is the fact that the bureaucrats we hire to save us from such people are incompetent.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Victim Bludgeoned, Strangled, and Burned to Death

22 years later and still no justice for Marlys Sather
by Robert A. Waters
Marlys Sather worked for a living.
Chadwick Willacy, her crack-head next-door neighbor, stole.

On September 5, 1990, their lives intersected in a violent encounter.  At around noon, Marlys unexpectedly returned home from work.  As she walked through the door, she saw Willacy burglarizing her house.

Court documents describe what happened next: “Willacy bludgeoned Sather and bound her ankles with wire and duct tape. He choked and strangled her with a cord with a force so intense that a portion of her skull was dislodged. Willacy then obtained Sather's ATM pin number, her ATM card, and the keys to her car; drove to her bank; and withdrew money out of her account. Willacy hid Sather's car around the block while he made trips to and from the house. He placed stolen items on Sather's porch for later retrieval, took a significant amount of property from Sather's house to his house, and then drove the car to Lynbrook Plaza where he left it and jogged back to Sather's home. Upon his return, Willacy disabled the smoke detectors, doused Sather with gasoline he had taken from the garage, placed a fan from the guest room at her feet to provide more oxygen for the fire, and struck several matches as he set her on fire.”

When she didn’t show up for work that afternoon, Sather’s employer notified her family.  Her son-in-law entered the house to check on her, and located her body.  He immediately called police.

Willacy’s fingerprints were found on the following items: a fan that lay at the feet of the victim; a gas can; and a tape recorder inside the residence.  Several witnesses testified that they saw Willacy driving Sather’s car to the ATM machine she often used.  The suspect’s wife called police and informed investigators she’d found a “check register” belonging to Sather in a trash can inside their home.  After obtaining a search warrant, officers found other items belonging to Sather, as well as clothing that contained Sather’s blood.

Cops arrested Willacy.  After he confessed to being inside the home when Sather was slain, investigators charged him with first-degree premeditated murder, burglary, robbery, and arson.

An autopsy revealed that Marlys had died of smoke inhalation.
Willacy was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death.  Two years later, his conviction was overturned on a technicality.  Once again, the killer was convicted and sentenced to death.

Over the last 20 years, Willacy has had dozen of appeals, all turned down for one reason: the evidence of his guilt is overwhelming.

This case meets my criteria for putting a killer to death: obvious, undeniable guilt, and a heinous murder.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Unsolved Murder in Louisiana

The Cruel Death of Stephanie Lynn Hebert
by Robert A. Waters

Thirty-five years ago, an unknown killer abducted a child from Waggaman, Louisiana. 
On a blazing hot summer day in 1978, six-year-old Stephanie Lynn Hebert left her home to play with a neighbor.  Late that afternoon, her parents, Donald and Joyce Hebert, reported her missing. 

The New Orleans Times-Picayune described the child: “Stephanie, whose 6th birthday is June 30th, was last seen wearing pink shorts and a pink checkered top, her father said.  Also, she was barefooted and wearing blue framed glasses, he said, adding that she had blond hair, is about four feet tall and weighs about 45 pounds.  Last month she graduated from kindergarten at Live Oak Manor Elementary School near her home.”

An ice cream vendor told detectives from Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office that she’d sold cotton candy to a child and an older woman sometime between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m.  The vendor claimed the little girl looked like Stephanie.  (Despite a massive search, the two were never located.)

Thousands of searchers scoured the surrounding countryside, including a heavily forested area near the missing girl’s home.  Helicopters buzzed overhead, focusing on the nearby Mississippi River.  Investigators, including FBI agents, meticulously searched the Hebert home while Stephanie’s parents met with reporters to plead for their child’s return.  Psychics opined on where to locate Stephanie, but those avenues proved unsuccessful.

Finally, on November 29, 1979, twenty-one miles from Waggaman, a hunter found the child’s skeletal remains.  Stephanie, tied to a tree, had been dead for approximately six months, likely since the time she went missing.  Ropes had been secured around her remains, and her clothing and eyeglasses lay on the ground nearby.  Animals had scattered many of her bones.

The child’s killer was never found.

Numerous questions remain.  Why did the kidnapper tie Stephanie to a tree?  Was she still alive when left in those lonely woods?  Did she succumb to the elements or animal attack?  

After 35 years, is the killer still alive? 

NOTE: Stephanie Lynn Hebert’s sad case lay cold, dormant, and forgotten for twenty-five years, until an amateur online sleuth began researching it.  Here's hoping the murderer will be caught, and will face the justice he so deserves. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Armistice Day Remembered

                     Zack A. Crumpton, far-right on second row

The Heroes of an Ancient War
by Zack C. Waters

This is my brother’s memorial to our grandfather, Zack A. Crumpton. Farmer, mechanic, patriot, Southern story-teller, and thinker, Grandpa made a lasting impression on all he met. 

The old men began arriving in the middle of the afternoon. I knew something important was happening, because my grandfather had changed out of his work clothes after lunch. He wore suits on Sundays, but I had never before seen him “dressed up” on a week day.

The day was November 11, and back then Americans called it “Armistice Day.”

The first time I saw the Armistice Day gathering there were 12 “buddies.” Why they had picked my grandfather’s ranch in north-central Florida for their mini-reunion I don’t recall, but it had become something of an annual event. My grandmother brought pitchers of lemonade and homemade cookies to the front porch and then quietly excused herself, leaving us “men” to our important discussions.

Being eight years old, I thought the men were incredibly old (though they were probably no older that I am now). One was missing an arm, his long-sleeved shirt neatly rolled up to the stump of his arm and safety-pinned in place. He spoke with a Northern accent and had either been a member of the “Lost Battalion” or had been part of the force that relieved the “Lost Battalion.”

Two of the men were occasionally shaken with coughing spasms. They sounded as if they were trying to retch up a lung, their gaunt bodies shaking like spastic puppets. My grandfather later explained that they had breathed mustard gas.

They all wore red plastic poppies in the button-holes of their coat lapels.

                                        Zack A. Crumpton

I don’t now remember the combat stories they told. I’m sure there were tales of machine-gun fire and battles fought across grassy plains dotted with red flowers, because I drew pictures of that scene in my notebook over and over, when I should have been listening to my math or science teachers. My lined paper was crammed with more violence and contorted bodies that any painting Otto Dix ever created.

My grandfather explained that he had been a lowly truck driver during the Great War, now generally known as World War I. He had carried ammunition to the front, and the dead and wounded to the rear, from places like Belleau Woods and Chateau Thierry. He was my hero, and I felt certain he was just being modest. I was pretty sure that when “Black Jack” Pershing had faced a particularly trying problem he stopped by the motor pool to ask “Old Zack” what to do. People in western Marion County often came to ask for his advice, so why not General Pershing.

More than anything, though, I remember the songs the old vets sang. Some were sentimental, some silly, and others heartbreakingly sad. I particularly loved this one:

“Goodbye Maw, goodbye Paw,
Goodbye mule with your old hee-haw.
I’ll bring you a Turk, and a Kaiser, too,
And that’s about all one old boy can do.”

It was the bawdy version of “Mademoiselle from Armentieres” that got my grandfather and me in trouble. The next day at lunch I innocently asked my grandfather what was the “clap”? My grandmother hit the roof. She shouted that I would never attend another of those meetings with a bunch of dirty-mouthed old men, but my grandfather must have calmed her down, because the next year I was back on the front porch humming along with their songs.

I missed the last Armistice Day reunion. I was busy with teenage concerns (girls, sports, and food), but my grandmother said there were only four vets at the last meeting. My grandfather was blind by then, and one of the other doughboys was in a wheelchair. Grandma said his “spinster” daughter complained the whole time about having to bring the old man “all the way out to Fellowship to grumble about the government and sing smutty songs.”

So the next November 11, no one showed up. I think my grandfather knew they would not come. Still, he sat on the front porch in his Sunday suit with a red poppy in the lapel, sipping lemonade and keeping a lonely vigil. The hero of an ancient war spent the afternoon humming tunes that only the dead could hear.