Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 NFL Outlaws of the Year

Role models for our sons and daughters
by Robert A. Waters

Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver

A few NFL players are so out-of-control they need a special set of guidelines just to survive.  The so-called "Dez Bryant Rules," instituted by the Cowboys, would be funny if they weren't so serious.  There's a midnight curfew--you know, the kind parents place on teenagers--and a rule that forbids Bryant to drink alcohol.  There's bi-weekly counseling and a personal security detail. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, Dez can't visit strip clubs, those seedy joints where slutty crack-heads dance on poles.  After Dez beat up his mother, Jerry Jones figured he'd better come up with something or his star receiver would be toast.  While NFL teams aren't known for drafting choirboys, Bryant's off-the-gridiron college record should have raised red flags.  He's been in trouble almost since the day he was born.  If Dez is convicted of pummeling his mom, he could face a year in the clink.  Meanwhile, Dallas continues to be the laughingstock of the NFL, both on and off the field.

Jovan Belcher, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker (posthumously)

It wasn't enough to shoot his girlfriend once.  Or twice.  No, Belcher was really mad, so he pumped fifteen rounds into her body.  He and Kassandra Perkins had been out partying most of the night while Belcher's mother baby-sat their three-month-old daughter.  At some point, the couple argued, then separated.  The football star took up with a tall blonde, and Perkins attended a Trey Songz concert.  Belcher got home first.  When his girlfriend finally appeared, he smoked her.  Then he drove to Chiefs Stadium and spoke with coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli.  As he heard police sirens approaching, Belcher blasted himself to Hell.  News reports claimed the troubled linebacker had questioned whether he was the father of his and Perkins' daughter, although his mother denied it.  It is known that the couple had been in counseling. 

Josh Brent, Dallas Cowboys nose tackle

At least Dez hasn't killed anyone.  Yet.  But Josh Brent has.  Driving like a maniac down a residential street, he clipped a curb and flipped his car.  He was so drunk he walked away unscathed.  But his passenger and teammate, Jerry Brown, wasn't so lucky.  Brown, on the Cowboys' practice squad, died of massive injuries.  After testing Brent's blood for the presence of alcohol, police arrested him.  A few days later, in a surreal moment, television cameras showed the happy, smiling suspect on the sidelines.  Like Dez, Brent doesn't learn from his past actions.  In 2009, he was convicted of DUI and sentenced to 60 days in jail.  In fact, he'd just completed his probation for that crime.  If convicted of manslaughter, Brent's football career will be gone with the wind. 


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mystery of the Lost Babysitter

Unsolved after 60 years
by Robert A. Waters

The disappearance and probable murder of fifteen-year-old Evelyn Hartley defies logic.  The studious, disciplined, straight-A student simply vanished, leaving behind the child whom she was babysitting and wide smears of blood all over the house and yard.

The Wisconsin State Journal summarized what happened: "It was on [the night of October 24, 1953]...that the daughter of Prof. and Mrs. Richard Hartley was abducted while babysitting at the home of Prof. and Mrs. Viggo Rasmusen. The Rasmusens had gone to the homecoming [football] game where more than 8,000 saw La Crosse State College demolish River Falls 34-6."  Still others attended a Central High School gala and pre-Halloween bash.

The screams of Evelyn died among the festivities of the night.

At 7:00, Evelyn put twenty-month-old Janis in her crib.  Police speculated that someone attacked Evelyn a few minutes later.

Evidence at the scene indicated that an intruder had removed a window screen from the side of the house.  He climbed through a basement window, up a set of stairs, and likely assaulted Evelyn in the living room.  The teenager had turned the radio on to a local station, and it's possible that she did not hear the invader until it was too late. 

In the living room, a violent struggle ensued.  Furniture was knocked over, and blood swaths covered the walls.  One of Evelyn's shoes and her broken glasses lay on the living room floor.   Her second shoe was found in the basement.

It was obvious to investigators that the assailant snatched Evelyn from the living room, dragged her back through the house, and down into the basement.  He then took her outside, carrying her to the street, where a waiting car likely drove off with the girl.

In the book, Getting Away with Murder: 57 Unsolved Murders with Reward Information, Ed Baumann and John O'Brien wrote: "Stunned neighbors watched from their yards that Saturday morning [as] police discovered an ominous trail of blood leading from the Rasmusen home.  The crimson splotches cut a zigzag path for a distance of one block, leading past homes and garages.  A hideous red smear defiling the side of a neighboring house bore mute evidence that someone bleeding badly had lurched against the wall."

Police questioned everyone in the neighborhood.  Several people claimed to have seen a man and young woman walking through yards as they made their way to the street.  The girl, staggering, was being led by the man.  Because of the revelry going on in town, neighbors thought the couple was inebriated and paid no attention to them.  Another witness claimed to have seen the man and woman enter a waiting car, driven by a second man, and drive away.

As news media gathered from all over the Midwest, the small police department worked feverishly to solve the case.  Cops discovered footprints leading from the Rasmusen home to the road.  Several tracking hounds followed the prints, described as having been made by tennis shoes, but the dogs lost the scent at the street.

Weeks later, a road grader spotted a "well-washed" denim jacket in a ditch.  After several days, he turned it over to the police.  One thousand feet away, searchers located a pair of heavily-worn tennis shoes.  Investigators thought the shoes matched the footprints found in the yard.  The jacket, possibly belonging to a steeplejack, may have been worn by one of the kidnappers.  But these leads eventually dead-ended.

Six months later, the La Crosse County Board hired a full-time professional investigator to work the case.  For more than four years, Alma M. "Joe" Josephson, a former insurance investigator, doggedly pursued the killer.  One of his first acts was to order a mass lie detector test--all male high school and college students were to be tested. Hundreds of men and teenagers came forward to take the polygraph, but no one stood out.

Josephson described his theory of the events that took place on the fateful evening Evelyn went missing:

"There had to be two men, based on a very obvious deduction.  One man forced his way into the Rasmusen home by tearing off the screen and entering through the basement window.  He crept up the stairs and surprised the frightened girl in the living room.  We know that because his shoes left mud on the carpet.

"There was a struggle and Evelyn's eyeglasses were knocked to the floor.  Her shoes, one left behind on the living room rug and the other found in the basement, fell off as the intruder dragged her, kicking and screaming, through the house.  When they reached the basement, she was grabbed around the waist and shoved up through the window and out into the yard.

"Why didn't she run?  Simple.  The second man was waiting outside to pounce on her.

"The individual with the size 11 tennis shoes--the one who had gone inside the house to get the girl--picked her up and slunk between houses and garages with the semi-conscious girl slung over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.  The blood on the jacket shows that.  The second individual, meanwhile, doubled back to get the car and bring it around to meet his accomplice.

"As the man in the size 11 sneakers neared the road, where he might be seen, he put his burden down, held her around the waist, and semi-dragged her upright at his side."

According to Josephson's theory, the abductor placed Evelyn into the back seat and climbed in beside her.  With that, the kidnappers sped away.

While this theory may or may not have been accurate, it didn't help identify who took the babysitter.  Or why?

After four years, La Crosse County cancelled Joe Josephson's contract.  He left the area, a defeated man.

In the end, no real suspects ever emerged.

Serial killer Ed Gein has often been mentioned as a possible perpetrator.  He allegedly had been in the area that day.  But no evidence was ever found to tie him to the crime.

Someone got away with murder, and the mystery of the lost babysitter remains.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Surviving Another Apocalypse

Bell Rock

New Age Lies
by Robert A. Waters

December 21, 2012 faded out with barely a whimper.  The child-sacrificing Mayan priests, who couldn't even save their own culture, got it wrong.  Or more likely, New Age prophets misinterpreted the Mayan calendar.

So now the "Save-Your-Ass" mantra has begun.  It goes something like this: There never was an apocalypse, just a new cycle in the Mayan calendar that will usher in a kinder, gentler era. 

Yeah, right.

So does anyone feel stupid?

Like those administrators in the U. S. who shut down their schools?  Or the doomsday preppers who spent tens of thousands to build and stock shelters?  Or Peter Gersten, the face of New Age nonsense, who at the last moment canceled his much-anticipated leap of faith from Bell Rock into a cosmic portal?

All my life, I've heard these doomsday predictions by pseudo-religious leaders, mad scientists, and insane people masquerading as bloggers and YouTubers.  I have to admit--the Mayan Apocalypse was sexier than most.  You had the Planet Nibiru hurtling close enough to Mother Earth to destroy it.  You had other rogue planets heading for a colossal cosmic collision with our doomed planet.  There were disastrous sun spots and planet alignments and pole shifts, all coinciding on December 21.  A recipe for disaster unlike anything we've ever seen.  

Only thing is, the Mayan Doomsday apocalypse was just another lie.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Guest Post by Ron Franscell

Bath Elementary School Bombing in 1927, 45 Dead
We'll always have mass murders
by Ron Franscell

This is America, dammit, and we have a God-given right to fool ourselves.

The bodies of dead children hadn’t even been cleared from the classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary before various lobbies began trumpeting their end-all solutions to mass murder—just as they have since 1949, the dawn of mass murder’s modern era.

Not all of these fixes are bad ideas, but they simply won’t halt mass murder.  At best, we can hope to thwart some massacres and save some lives, but determined, angry killers will still exist and occasionally wreak havoc.  At worst, we could surrender a lot of freedoms--and still not stop these horrific, frustrating massacres.

Since 1900, America has suffered about 150 public mass murders. Some are now code words for national tragedy: Columbine, Texas Tower, Luby’s, Sandy Hook.  The death toll has been less than 1,000 people, accounting for less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all murder in America in the same period.  Statistically, we have much bigger problems.

Yet mass murder grabs us by the throat every time.  It’s partly because it often happens in familiar, “safe” places … a McDonald’s restaurant, a church, a shopping mall, government offices, schools, festivals.  And its victims are almost always innocents who, like us on any ordinary day in any ordinary place, were not expecting to die.  We can easily imagine being in their place.

Plus, we’re always flummoxed by the enigma of mass murder.  Too often, nobody’s left to explain why it happened.  And in those rare times when we’ve gotten answers, they are historically confusing, irrational, and disappointing.  We spend a lot of energy trying to explain the unexplainable.

Mass murderers tend to be angry young men who are retaliating against personal rejections, failures, slights both real and imagined, and a perceived loss of independence.  They are usually loners but not necessarily unsociable.  Most are disturbed, but not necessarily psychotic.  Their crime is usually triggered by a major loss or disappointment, such as a break-up or job loss.

The revenge-oriented mass killer is trying to get even with specific people, particular categories or groups of individuals, or society at large. He is trying to regain some measure of control over a life he sees spiraling out of control.

So we know plenty about mass murderers … but we have not yet developed any science that can foil a murderous rampage that leaves no trace until too late. Sadly, most mass murderers -- right up until they kill -- do nothing that would cause a reasonable society to identify and restrain them.

The default “fix” has always been gun control.  Ignoring that seven of the 10 deadliest mass murders in American history were not committed with guns, this isn’t as much a rational debate as an uncivil war. The trenches are dug deep and the battle lines shift by inches, not miles.

Yes, we should be more pro-active about preventing lunatics and criminals from owning guns. But we already know that will be an uncomfortable process in a country where even being scanned by an airport machine is considered an intolerable intrusion by many.

And taking away guns won’t remove the root causes of mass murder, merely limit one of the killers’ tools, which have also included fertilizer bombs, knives, fire, poison, water, cars, boats, crossbows, and woodworking tools.   A determined killer might be slowed down, but not stopped by  more gun laws, but even if guns were outlawed completely, determined killers have always found ways to kill.

More/better/cheaper/quicker mental health care?  Certainly.  But very few of America’s most prolific mass murderers – or the people around them -- believed they had mental-health issues. Few would have voluntarily sought help, and the mere suggestion that they were crazy would have exacerbated their feelings of rejection, failure, and loss of control.

Fortifying schools?  That might have stalled Adam Lanza, but most school massacres have been done by students who were already inside, not monsters from the outside.

A crappy economy, desensitization to violence in the media, and deteriorating civility are also contributing factors.  “Fixing” those things poses more daunting challenges than mass murder.

Another unique obstacle is our collective social ADD.  When the next massacre happens, we’ll be shocked.  In time—maybe a week or two—we’ll be distracted.  Soon enough, we’ll forget altogether.  Time erodes feeling and creates indifference.  Americans are condemned to be shocked, to grow complacent, then to forget … then to be shocked all over again.  It keeps us from the long, arduous work of solving a complex problem.

Is it not fascinating that one of America’s deadliest public rampages—a madman’s 1927 school bombing in Bath, Michigan, that killed 45 people, mostly children—is all but forgotten in the Twenty-first century?

Yes, we owe it to the innocent dead to seek answers.  We should devote ourselves to saving as many lives as possible while protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding people.  It’s a delicate balance that won’t lend itself to 144-character Tweets or glib Facebook updates.

But no matter what “fixes” we introduce, we should not fool ourselves that we have ended mass murder.

Journalist Ron Franscell is the author of DELIVERED FROM EVIL, a vivid exploration of the lives of 10 mass-killing survivors. He lives in San Antonio.

Monday, December 17, 2012

On Hiatus for a Few More Days

I have a deadline (January 1, 2013) for turning in the manuscript for my latest book.  My brother and co-author, Zack, and I are busy with editing, referencing, and all the other things that go into getting a book published.  I'll be up and writing my blog again shortly after the first of the year.  Many thanks to all the readers who drop by here occasionally, and I wish you all a great holiday season.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Mysterious Vanishing of Lindsey Baum

Young girl disappears without a trace
by Robert A. Waters

Lindsey Baum was terrified of the dark.

Just ten, the child had begun to experience the troubles that often come with life.  Her parents had recently divorced, and the separation upset her.  She lived with her mother in McCleary, Washington, while her father, a National Guardsman stationed in Tennessee, prepared to leave for Iraq.  On June 26, 2009, Lindsey had a spat with her brother, then left home to visit a friend.  Later that evening, at around 9:15, she left to go home.

Within blocks of her residence, the young girl disappeared.

As with many missing children, police at first thought Lindsey may have run away.  However, she had no history of such behavior, and she left her cell phone, money, and clothes behind.  A  check of her computer revealed no suspicious activity.  As the days wore on with no trace of Lindsey, investigators searched homes in the area, checked out registered sex offenders, and mounted searches in nearby forests.  No trace of Lindsey has ever been found.

When she disappeared, Lindsey Baum stood four-feet, ten inches tall and weighed about 90 pounds.  She had colored fillings in her teeth.  Her hair was dark blonde, and she wore a bluish-gray hooded shirt, jeans with the knees cut out, and American Eagle brand shoes.  Beneath her outer clothing, Lindsey a red, white, and blue mismatched bathing suit.

If you have any information about this disappearance, call Gray’s Harbor Sheriff’s Office at 866-915-8299.  A reward of $30,000 is being offered.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"Delia's Gone"

Blind Willie McTell
The True Story of Delia Green
by Robert A. Waters

Many folk songs are based on real events.  However, as in "Delia's Gone," the truth can get lost along the way.  Fortunately, Robert Winslow Gordon, who worked as a song collector for the Smithsonian Institute, tracked this murder ballad to Savannah, Georgia.  There he obtained records of the court case.  (Thanks to the website Murder by Gaslight for much of the information in this story.)

On Christmas Eve, 1900, two lovers, Delia Green and Moses "Cooney" Houston, both 14, attended a party at the Savannah, Georgia home of Willie and Emma West.  The lovers got into an argument, and Green called Houston a "son of a bitch."  This so enraged him that he took a gun from Willie West's night-stand and shot Green in the groin.   As Houston fled, West chased him down, captured him, and turned him over to the police.

Delia died the next day.

At his trial, Houston claimed he brought the gun to the West home and placed it under a napkin.  Another party-goer found it, Houston said, and picked it up.  As he attempted to get the gun back, Houston claimed it went off accidently.  Unfortunately for him, numerous people witnessed the crime.  Willie West testified that the shooting had been a cold-blooded killing.

The jury convicted Houston, but recommended mercy (probably because of his age).  The young killer was sentenced to life in prison.

Houston served twelve years of his sentence before being paroled.  His crime-filled life continued until he died in 1927 in New York.

Shortly after the murder, local musicians began singing about "poor Delia." The refrain, "Delia's gone, one more time, Delia's gone," became the one phrase that stuck in all the various renditions of the song.  Georgia blues singer Blind Willie McTell, who wrote the classic "Statesboro Blues," had a version called "Delia" which was sung from Houston's point of view--this version blamed Delia for consorting with gamblers.

Blind Blake (Alphonso Blake Higgs) also claimed to have written the song.  The title of his version is "Delia's Gone."

Many country and folk artists recorded the song, including Bob Dylan, Peete Seeger, and others.  The lyrics to Johnny Cash's classic version is printed below.  Click the link to hear the song.

Delia's Gone
(As recorded by Johnny Cash)

Delia, poor Delia, Delia all my life,
If I hadn't of shot poor Delia, I'd have had her for my wife,
Delia's gone, one more round, Delia's gone.

I went up to Memphis and found poor Delia there,
Found her in her parlor and tied her to a chair,
Delia's gone, one more round, Delia's gone.

She was low-down and triflin', she was cold and mean,
Kind of evil made me want to grab my sub-mo-chine,
Delia's gone, one more round, Delia's gone.

First time I shot her, shot her in the side,
Hard to see her suffer, but with the second shot she died,
Delia's gone, one more round, Delia's gone.

Jailer, oh Jailer, Jailer, I can't sleep,
Cause all around the bedside I hear the patter of Delia's feet,
Delia's gone, one more round, Delia's gone.

So if your woman's devilish, you can let her run,
Or you can bring her down and do her like Delia got done,
Delia's gone, one more round, Delia's gone.

NOTE: Of course, I don't condone domestic violence in any way, shape, or form.