Monday, April 29, 2013

Help Find Jessica Heeringa

On Friday night, between 10:55 P.M. and 11:15 P.M., Jessica Heeringa vanished from the Exxon Mobil gas station at 1196 E. Sternberg Road in Norton Shores, Michigan.  Police investigators have announced that her disappearance is being treated as an abduction.

That Friday, the station was scheduled to close at 11:30. 

At 10:55, Heeringa made a transaction.

Twenty minutes later, a customer called 911 to report that no clerk was in the store.  Police reported nothing had been stolen, ruling out a robbery.

The fact that there are no surveillance cameras in the store is hampering the investigation.

Heeringa is five feet one inch tall, and weighs approximately 110 pounds.  She has blond hair and blue eyes.  She sometimes wears wire-rim glasses.  At the time of her disappearance, she may have been wearing a blue-collared shirt with a “Sternberg Exxon” logo on it.

Police wish to speak to a white male seen driving a silver mini-van, possibly a Chrysler Town & Country, near the store in the time-frame in which Heeringa disappeared.

Anyone who may have witnessed suspicious activity near the Exxon Mobil gas station is asked to contact Silent Observer at 231-722-7463.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Four Miles High and Falling

 American airman survives free-fall
by Robert A. Waters

High above Saint Nazaire, France, Sergeant Alan Magee, a ball-turret gunner from New Jersey, began his fall out of the sky.  On January 3, 1944, while engaged on a bombing mission, his plane took a direct hit from enemy flak.  Magee later described the hectic scene: “We were hit by anti-aircraft guns, but what knocked us out of the sky was a [German] Focke-Wulf FW 190 shooting our wing off.  The last thing I remember was that I was at 20-some thousand feet trying to get out of a burning plane.”

During the dogfight, exploding shrapnel shredded Magee's body.  Worse, flying metal tore a large hole in his parachute, making it inoperable.  

“Snap! Crackle! Pop!” began to spin. (The B-17’s nickname was a tribute to Captain Jacob W. Fredericks of the 360th Bomb Squadron, who’d worked at Kellogg’s Cereal before the war.)  The wounded plane, now out of control, suddenly erupted in flames.  Seven of its ten crew members died instantly. 

Magee had a choice.  He could be roasted alive, or he could dive out of the plane.  22,000 feet up, he jumped.

All around him, gunfire and explosions rocked the sky.  “Snap! Crackle! Pop!” had been one of 17 American bombers sent to destroy a major U-boat port at Saint Nazaire.  Two dozen German planes met them head-on.  During the battle, seven B-17s were shot down, and 85 American airmen killed.

Magee stated that as he fell from the sky, he asked God for divine intervention.  He remembered telling his Maker, “I don’t wish to die because I know nothing of life.”  Shortly after his prayer drifted toward the heavens, he lost consciousness. 

Falling at 120 miles per hour, Magee’s chances of survival seemed non-existent.

But after two minutes of freefalling, the airman plummeted onto a skylight at the Saint Nazaire train station.  The glass shattered, somehow cushioning his landing.  He ended up in the rafters, alive but severely injured.

Magee woke up in the Hermitage Hotel.  Afterwards, the airman always stated that when he awoke, he thanked God for being alive.  A German doctor, amazed that he’d survived, examined him and found 28 shrapnel wounds, a punctured lung and kidney, a nearly severed arm, and a broken leg and ankle.  He also had massive facial injuries.

The doctor said, “We are enemies, but I am first a doctor and I will do my best to save your arm.” True to his word, the doctor provided excellent care, and did indeed salvage the American’s arm.

After spending two and a half months in a German hospital, Magee ended up as a prisoner of war.  He was liberated in May, 1945, and later received a Purple Heart and an Air Medal for meritorious conduct. 

Magee worked in the airline industry until he retired.

In 1995, the old soldier and his wife flew back to France, this time to be honored by the citizens of Saint Nazaire.  The railroad station still stood, and Magee got to see the skylight that miraculously saved him.

He died at age 84, in San Angelo, Texas, the recipient of one of the most unfathomable feats in World War II.

NOTE: Two of Sgt. Magee’s fellow-crewmen survived the crash.  Lt. Glen M. Herrington, navigator, lost his leg in the dogfight, but parachuted to earth.  Upon landing, he was captured by the Germans.  He later became one of the first USAAF men to be repatriated.  He died in 1987.  S/Sgt. J. I. Gordon also bailed out and was captured.  He disappeared somewhere in the brutal German concentration camps—he is still missing.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Who Knows Why?

Krystle Campbell
On the trail of Boston bombers
by Robert A. Waters

Just look at the dead: Krystle Campbell, 29, the hard-working manager of a steak house; Lu Lingzi, a Chinese graduate student majoring in finance; and Martin Richard, an eight-year-old boy.  Place them in a mall, or on a beach, or inside a church, and they would have fit in.  But with a blast of shrapnel, three vibrant lives drained onto a Boston street.  

If the FBI is right, two smarmy-looking college students launched a grisly assault on the Boston Marathon, and on the country that took them in, gave them freedom, and a chance. 

So why did Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his brother Dzhokhar, 19, choose to attack the United States?

Their uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, has a theory.  “They’re losers,” he said.  They were not “able to settle themselves and hating everyone else who did.”

He may be onto something there.  So many perpetrators who commit mass murders are loners, unable to relate to others.  Foul spirits lost in the shadows, they have few if any meaningful relationships.  Led by resentments, they can easily careen off the tracks of sanity. 

But I don’t really care about the creeps who commit these mass killings.  Many millions of people have trouble relating to others and never harm anyone.  And anyway, Dzhokhar, at least, smoked pot with other students and listened to rap music.  He had a girlfriend, and friends in the college he attended.  He wasn’t a lone-wolf.

He and his brother came from Chechnya.  For decades, Russia has attempted to exterminate the Chechens, leaving their cities rubble-strewn and uninhabitable.  These bloody wars have left many Chechens scarred, but Tamerlan, Dzhokhar, and their families had the good fortune to gain political asylum in America.

Speaking of his nephews, Tsarni said, “They don't deserve to even exist on this Earth, that is what I think.  I just wish they never existed.  I'm wordless.  I'm shocked.”

Now Tamerlan is dead, wounded in a shootout with police, killed after his brother drove over him in a desperate attempt to escape.  Few Americans will grieve his passing.

Dzhokhar, wounded by police, gave up after hiding out for nearly twenty-four hours.  In typical American fashion, he was taken to the hospital instead of the gallows.

And I’m glad.  We need to determine why he and his brother turned on the country that gave them respite, even if it makes little difference to the wounded souls and grieving families. 

But when it’s all said and done, Dzhokhar, if he’s found guilty, should be executed.  It’s shameful that Massachusetts has no death penalty for crimes such as these, but at least the Feds occasionally execute terrorists.  Ten or twenty years from now, maybe Dzhokhar will get the needle, a ridiculously small price to pay for the pain and suffering he’s caused.

Whatever the case, let’s pray for the dead and for the survivors.  And let’s pray for our country.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Are These the Boston Bombers?

Today the FBI released these photographs of suspects in the Boston bombings.  If you have information concerning either of these suspects, call the FBI at 1-800-225-5324.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Two Unsolved Murders in the Florida Keys

25 years and still counting

NOTE: The following information comes directly from the website of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
Patty Lanza, 4 years old, murdered on Little Torch Key in 1988

Patricia Lanza was just four years old on July 2, 1988 when she was murdered. Patty had attended a fourth of July party with her mother at a home on Gato Road, Little Torch Key. She was last seen by her mother at 10 p.m. Her body was found nearby the following afternoon. She had been raped and hit in the head, then her body was thrown in some bushes off the side of the road.

Several hundred people have since been interviewed in relation to the case. A man who was at the party admitted to being with Patty, but said she was alive when he last saw her. He was arrested shortly after the crime on charges of false imprisonment, but the charges were later dropped for lack of sufficient evidence. He died the following year of natural causes. His DNA was later tested and he was excluded as a suspect in the crime.

No one has ever been arrested for her murder. Anyone with information about this case should contact Major Crimes Detective Geni Hernandez at 305-809-3040 or 305-797-0046.
Lisa Sanders, 20 years old, murdered in 1988 on No Name Key
Lisa Sanders was just 20 years old when she was brutally murdered on No Name Key December 16th, 1988. Lisa lived on Big Pine Key. She was a small woman, just 4’10 inches tall, 106 pounds when she died.

That night, she attended a party with friends at the end of No Name Road on No Name Key. Her friends last saw her leaving on foot about 9:30 p.m.

Her parents reported her missing the following day and a short time later, her body was found lying beside a dirt road near a gravel pit on No Name Key. She had been beaten, stabbed and dragged behind a car by a rope tied around her neck.

Since that time, hundreds of people have been interviewed by detectives and her case continues to be investigated but no one has yet been charged with the crime. Major Crimes Sgt. Linda Mixon has been assigned to this case. Anyone with information about it can contact her at 305-797-0089.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ill-Fated Robbery of the Apache Limited

Wannabe outlaws subdued by passengers
by Robert A. Waters

In 1937, Wisconsin-born Henry Lorenz Loftus, 22, and Canadian Harry Dwyer Donaldson, 27, longed to see the Wild West they’d read about in the pulp magazines.  Slaving away in a Brooklyn, New York factory, the friends dreamed of riding the range, gunfights, and rescuing fair damsels in distress.  After saving nearly $200, they quit their jobs and boarded a train for the border town of El Paso.

Rattling along the tracks, Loftus and Donaldson fantasized about adventures to come.  But when they disembarked, the friends found El Paso not so much different than Brooklyn.  The wannabe cowboys were disappointed to find paved roads, automobiles, telephone wires, and thriving neon-lit businesses.  Undeterred, they spent $140 on horses, saddles, pistols, and hand-tooled leather holsters.  Traveling across the border to Juarez, Mexico, Loftus and Donaldson purchased black sombreros and fancy Mexican boots.  Now, dressed like dime-novel cowboys, the friends paraded around El Paso, much to the amusement of local residents.

While townspeople laughed at the northern “drugstore cowboys,” the Southern Pacific passenger train, nicknamed the Apache Limited, made its daily run through the city.

On November 24, 1937, at 11:20 p.m., the Limited headed out of El Paso, bound for Los Angeles.  Jim Velsir, a brakeman on the train, described what happened next: “These two fellows got on the train at El Paso with tickets for Hermanos, N. M.,” he said. “They were in the first day coach.  We were about 40 miles out when they pulled out their guns and ordered everyone to put up their hands. Everyone did.”

While Loftus covered conductor W. M. Holloway, Donaldson began moving down the aisle collecting valuables from passengers, including cash, watches, and jewelry.  Loftus then moved to the engine room and ordered brakeman Velsir to stop the train. 

Back in the passenger coach, Jose A. Rodriguez of El Paso “made a sudden move,” and Donaldson took a shot at him.  The bullet hit Rodriguez’ pocket watch, saving his life.  However, the shot caused other passengers and crew to react. 

Roger Moon, Southern Pacific yardman, swung from the hip and knocked the gunman down.  As Donaldson was being beaten senseless by about twenty passengers and crew, Loftus rushed back to help his partner.  He, too, was tackled by W. L. Smith, a Southern Pacific employee traveling as a passenger.  Struggling on the floor of the coach, Loftus shot Smith.  Several passengers, including two sisters, Margaret and Beatrice Breton, disarmed Loftus and beat him until he stopped struggling.

The enraged crew and passengers lashed the robbers to seats, and tended to the mortally wounded Smith.  The train continued to Deming, New Mexico, where Loftus and Donaldson were arrested.  Donaldson had been beaten so badly he could hardly speak.  The El Paso Herald-Post reported that “a bloody bandage draped his forehead.  His jaw was swollen twice its size and his mouth was bruised out of shape.”  Loftus had a broken nose.

They quickly confessed to their crimes, and both provided written details corroborating accounts of the crew and passengers.

Deputy Sheriff Jack Robertson decided to have a little fun with the city dudes.  “So you thought you'd come out here and get tough, huh?” he said.

Loftus responded: “Well, we just decided on this stunt after our money got low.  We wanted to go on west to California.”

Describing the area where the attempted holdup occurred as “sandy wastes” near the Mexican border, Robertson asked, “How do you think you could have gotten away in that sand with your high-heel boots?”

“We hadn't thought of that,” Loftus said.

W. L. Smith’s distraught wife explained to reporters that her husband had taken the Apache Limited to California so he could visit his seventeen-year-old daughter, who was ill.  “I hadn't thought of his bravery until early this morning,” Mrs. Smith said. “It's wonderful to think that he would ‘go after’ those criminals to save others’ lives and protect property.”

On February 21, 1938, Loftus and Donaldson pleaded guilty to second degree murder.  Each expressed remorse for killing Smith.  After the judge sentenced each man to 50-75 years in prison, they were transported by automobile to the New Mexico Penitentiary in Santa Fe.  There the robbers served out their time, ending the sad yet comedic saga of the “drugstore cowboys.”


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Connecticut’s “Mad Dog” Killer

Joseph Taborsky
Sentenced to death and set free to kill again
by Robert A. Waters

Joseph Taborksy could never quite get it right. A hardened criminal with a cocky attitude, he even got a second chance after being sentenced to death.  Walking out of prison on a technicality, “Mad Dog” Taborsky informed the press that he was done with crime. 
Even as a youngster, Joe was an incorrigible little brat. His first recorded crime was the theft of a bicycle.  Released with no time served, he pilfered another bike.  He eventually served a few months in a reform school for theft, but it didn’t help.  Throughout his teens, Taborsky, a part-time boxer, learned to bob and weave through the justice system, escaping punishment time and again.

Born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1926, Joe came from a middle-class family.  His father, a door-to-door salesman, worked hard to keep his family afloat while Joe’s mother kept house.  In addition to Juvie Joe, there was Albert, dull of intellect and certifiably insane.

At 18, while serving a short sentence in the local jail, Joe escaped.  After being re-captured, he finally did hard time—three years in the state penitentiary.  Upon his release, he fled to Seattle, Washington.  True to his nature, Joe began burgling houses and, in 1947, served a short sentence for his crimes.  Returning to Connecticut, the career criminal did a six-month stint in the Hartford City Jail for carrying an illegal weapon.  In the next few years, he racked up arrests for burglary, robbery, and other offenses.  In most of those cases, he avoided prison.

Then, according to the North Adams Transcript, Joe hit the big time.  “In January 1951, [Joseph] Taborsky arrived on the public scene with a spectacular burst of notoriety. His mother, Mrs. Esther M. Taborsky, called police and said her son Albert would like to talk to officers. Albert said he and Joe parked near a liquor store one day and Joe got out with a gun. When he returned, Joe said: ‘The guy jumped me and I had to shoot him.’ The store operator turned out to be Louis I. Wolfson, whose murder police had been trying to solve for months. A month later, Joe was found guilty of first degree murder and his execution was set for Nov. 7, 1951.” Albert pleaded guilty, testified against his brother, and drew a life sentence. 

In 1955, Joe received a stroke of luck that might have turned his life around.  During his incarceration, Albert had been committed to an insane asylum.  Because of this, Joe’s attorneys appealed his death sentence, alleging that a crazy man’s testimony couldn’t be used in court.  The justices agreed.  Suddenly, the prison doors swung open and a grinning Joseph Taborsky was released once again to prey on society.

On December 15, 1956, cops found Edward J. Jurpiewski and Daniel J. Janowski murdered in their rural service station. Then Samuel H. Cohn was killed in his liquor store.  Next, Bernard J. Speyer and his wife, Ruth, died.  They happened to walk into a shoe store as it was being robbed.  Finally, the bandits stuck up a pharmacy and killed John M. Rosenthal.  Most of Taborsky’s victims were forced to kneel on the floor, then shot in the head.

With the bodies piling up, cops finally got a break.  The shoe store owner had been beaten but survived—he told detectives that the killer had pretended to be a customer and asked for size 12 shoes.  Investigators looked through their crime files and came up with the name of only one offender who wore that size shoe.  Joseph Taborsky.    

“Mad Dog” and his partner, Arthur “Meatball” Culombe, confessed to murdering six people.  In total, their deadly heists netted only a few hundred dollars.  At trial, Culombe, called a “mental defective” and “moron,” got life in prison.  Taborsky was once again sentenced to death.

This time the sentence would be carried out. On May 17, 1960, Taborsky was strapped into Connecticut’s electric chair.  As the switch was thrown, his body snapped back, then he went limp.

He donated his remains to Yale Medical School and his eyes to a New York eye bank.  If he hoped to make up for the number of ruined lives that followed in his murderous wake, he failed.  Nothing could atone for the innocent victims he killed.