Wednesday, July 31, 2013

FBI Publishes Details about the Murder of Samantha Koenig

Serial killer Israel Keyes [pictured above] abducted Samantha Koenig from a coffee shop in Anchorage, Alaska.  Caught in Texas, he confessed to murdering the eighteen-year-old barista.  This summary of his confession was recently published by the FBI.

“The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Anchorage Police Department, after speaking to family members, are able to release additional details of the kidnapping and murder of Samantha Koenig.  These details are being provided both to fully explain the courage and resolve Samantha displayed in the final hours of her life, as well as in the hopes that the release of additional details will help investigations of other murders committed by Israel Keyes.

“Prior to February 1, 2012, Keyes had selected the Common Grounds coffee stand located on Tudor Road for the site of abduction.  He did this after considering other coffee stands, but chose Common Grounds because of its location and because it was open later than other coffee stands.  Keyes had never met or seen Samantha Koenig before.  He approached the coffee stand just prior to closing time, wearing a ski mask and ordered a coffee.  Samantha made the coffee and handed it to Keyes; he then pulled out a gun and demanded money.  Samantha complied and then Keyes forced himself inside the coffee stand and tied Samantha’s hands with zip ties.  He asked where her car was, and she told him that she did not have a vehicle.  Keyes then forcibly walked her out of the coffee stand toward Tudor Road.

“Samantha broke away from Keyes and tried to run away.  Keyes chased her and tackled her to the ground.  He put one arm around her and pointed a gun at her body with the other hand; telling her that she needed to cooperate, that the gun had very quiet ammo and that she should not do anything to make him kill her. They walked across Tudor Road into the parking lot between the IHOP restaurant and Dairy Queen, where Keyes’ white truck was parked.  Keyes had previously prepared the truck for the abduction by taking the mounted tool boxes off the bed of the truck, as well as removing the license plates.  Keyes then bound Samantha in the truck and drove away.

“Keyes drove around town, explaining to Samantha that this was a kidnapping for ransom.  Samantha told Keyes that her family did not have much money, and that Keyes was not likely to get much in ransom.  Keyes explained that they will raise money for the ransom by seeking the public’s help.  Keyes convinced Samantha that if she cooperated, she would be returned to her family unharmed.   Samantha believed Keyes, and tried to talk to him in an effort to convince him to release her.

“At some point on the drive, Keyes realized that Samantha did not have her cell phone, which was necessary for his plan to demand ransom money by sending a text message from her phone.  He drove back to Common Grounds and re-entered the coffee stand, leaving Samantha bound in his truck.  He retrieved the cell phone and got back into the truck and drove away.  Keyes drove to another part of town where he sent two text messages from Samantha’s phone. The first message was to Samantha’s boyfriend, and the second to the owner of Common Grounds.  The text messages made it appear that Samantha just had a bad day and was leaving town for the weekend.  Keyes then took the battery out of Samantha’s phone.

“Keyes asked Samantha for her debit card.  Samantha told Keyes that she shared a bank account with her boyfriend, and that his ATM card was in the truck that they shared.   Samantha told Keyes where her house was, and gave him the pin number to the ATM card.  Keyes put Samantha in the shed in front of his house, bound her, and turned the radio up in the shed so no one would hear her if she screamed.  He also told her that he had a police scanner and would know if she attempted to alert the neighbors.

“Keyes drove to Samantha’s house and retrieved the ATM card from her truck.  While he was at Samantha’s, he was confronted by her boyfriend, who yelled at him and then went back in the house to get help.  Keyes ran back to his truck and left the area before he could be found.  He drove to an ATM machine to test the pin number provided by Samantha.  He then returned to the shed.

“Keyes then sexually assaulted Samantha and asphyxiated her.  Keyes left her in the shed and then went back inside his house, where he packed for a pre-planned cruise that he was taking from New Orleans.  He left early that morning (February 2) for the cruise.

“Keyes returned to Anchorage on February 17, 2012.  He then began preparing a ransom note that demanded money be placed in the account connected with the ATM card.  He went into the shed and retrieved Samantha’s body, taking steps to make it appear that she was still alive, and took a Polaroid picture of her tied up.  The photo also showed Keyes’ arm holding the Anchorage Daily News from February 13, 2012.  He photocopied the photo and, using a manual typewriter he purchased, typed a ransom demand for $30,000 on the back of the photo.

“After preparing the note and photo, he placed it in Connor’s Bog Park, under a memorial flyer of a dog named ‘Albert’.  Then, using Samantha’s cell phone, he texted her boyfriend, in substance, that the ransom note was ‘under Albert’ in Connor’s Bog Park.  The note was recovered by APD.

“In the days that followed, Keyes dismembered Samantha’s body and drove out to Matanuska Lake, where he cut a hole in the ice and put her body in the lake.

“Meanwhile, Samantha’s father James Koenig deposited reward money, which had been generously donated by members of the community, into the account connected with Samantha’s ATM card.   The plan was to attempt to catch the perpetrator by tracking any withdrawals.  ATM withdrawals were made in Anchorage, and then in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.   Authorities were able to determine that the perpetrator of these withdrawals was driving a white Ford Focus.  The FBI and the Texas Rangers tracked the ATM withdrawals as they occurred.  Ultimately, Corporal Bryan Henry, of the Texas Highway Patrol, pulled over a white Ford Focus matching the description.  Keyes was driving.  Henry, along with Texas Ranger Steve Rayburn, obtained enough information during the traffic stop to search the Ford Focus.  Samantha’s cellular telephone was found in the car, and the ATM card was found in Keyes’ wallet.”   

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Vanished Woman Found Alive 52 Years Later

Lucy Ann Johnson
More cases…
by Robert A. Waters

One reason prosecutors hate to try cases where no remains have been found is that the “victim” can always reappear—alive.
Lucy Ann Johnson is a case in point.
The British Columbia housewife went missing in 1961, but her husband, Marvin, didn’t notify police until four years later.  That delay made investigators suspect he’d killed her and hidden her body. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police conducted various searches, eventually digging up his back yard in an attempt to find Lucy.
Authorities wanted to arrest Marvin for the murder, but just didn’t have the evidence.  Even so, the beleaguered husband lived under a cloud of suspicion until his death in the 1990s.
Lucy had a history of estrangement from her family.  Born in Alaska, she moved away when she was eighteen and, according to police records, “did not maintain contact with her family.”  She married Marvin in 1954 and had two children.  Marvin worked on a tugboat, though he was unemployed at the time of her disappearance.
As the decades rolled on, no one from her family or community heard from Lucy.  Marvin said he thought she was dead.  Their son died, but their daughter, Linda Evans, continued to wonder what had happened.
Finally, after the RCMP listed Lucy as a “missing person of the month” in their newsletter, Linda placed ads in newspapers across Alaska.  A daughter from Lucy’s new family contacted Linda with the information that her mother was living in Yukon.  Authorities confirmed this report—Lucy was now 72.
Brenda Heist went missing for eleven years before contacting authorities.  She later informed police that she left her home in Pennsylvania with several homeless people.  They ended up in Florida.
Heist stated that an impending divorce and the pressure of having to care for her three children caused her to leave.  For eleven years, she lived under several aliases, stole identification cards, forged checks, and violated her probation.  She occasionally worked as a house cleaner.  Heist finally admitted her real identity, but not before she had been declared dead in 2010.
While Heist’s mother was forgiving, her daughter was not.  Her husband, who was considered a suspect in her disappearance, also declined to meet with Heist.
People who vanish, then reappear, often cause more problems than they could ever imagine.  Take the case of Eric Myers.
In 1991, the married father of five flew off into the California sun and disappeared.
Police assumed that he’d been murdered by persons unknown.
Myers was eventually declared dead, and his two daughters collected on a life insurance policy worth $800,000.
But the former husband was alive and well all along.  He’d gone underground, and had begun living with a man Myers called his husband.
In 2007, he made a “miraculous” entrance back into the lives of his family.  While Myers’ parents (and Liberty Life Insurance Company) welcomed him, his wife and children were emotionally devastated.  The insurance company immediately sued his daughters to recoup their money—several years later, the case is still making its way through the courts.
How many other vanished souls are still living under the grid?  And how many innocent spouses have been convicted of their murders?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Killing Crackers

Murder victims James Kouzaris and James Cooper
“No political value…”
by Robert A. Waters

In the broad scheme of things, the murders of James Cooper and James T. Kouzaris didn’t matter much—at least, not to America’s race hustlers.  The unprovoked attack on two innocent Englishmen never made national headlines or caused politicians to quiver with outrage in front of the television cameras.  The victims were white Brits, the killer African-American, so the narrative of bigoted whites preying on blacks didn’t fit.

On April 16, 2011, at 2:00 a.m., Cooper and Kouzaris left the Gator Bar in Sarasota, Florida.  Falling-down drunk, they headed up the street, presumably to have breakfast at a nearby IHOP.  The two friends missed a turnoff leading to the all-night restaurant and ended up in The Courts, a notorious, gang-infested housing project.

Sixteen-year-old Shawn Tyson spied Cooper and Kouzaris stumbling through the “hood” and decided to rob the “crackers.”  He made a brief call to a friend, then crawled out his window carrying a .22-caliber pistol. 

Tyson had a history of violence—just eight days before, he’d been arrested for shooting out the windows of a passing car.  Released by mistake, the troubled teen now confronted the lost tourists.

According to court documents, Tyson demanded that Cooper and Kouzaris give him money.  When they answered that they had none, he replied, “Since you ain’t got no money, I’ve got something for your ass.”  As the tourists begged for their lives, Tyson opened fire.  Four rounds hit Cooper—a wound to the chest proved fatal.  Kouzaris, shot twice in the back, died on the grimy street.

Tyson bragged about the murders to several acquaintances.  Ignoring the code of silence prevalent in many low-income neighborhoods, his friends quickly turned him in.

As he sat in jail awaiting trial, the suspect made incriminating remarks to his half-brother. 

This partial transcript is from a phone call recorded by jail officials:

Brother: Yeah, I don't know what them crackers talkin’ about. S***, like. You was in the house, like.

Tyson: I know... that’s what I keep on... these crackers talkin’ about that somebody say they seen me out there or some s***.

Brother: Them crackers trippin’, man.

Tyson: Hell yeah.

Brother: S***, you’re safe, though. You know what I'm sayin’ like? You ain’t got no guns or nothin. Like f*** them crackers talkin’ about.

Tyson: Only thing is, they found the bullets, though.

Brother: Huh?

Tyson: They found the bullets.

Brother: Oh. Damn!

Tyson: That’s the only thing that’s gonna f*** me up.

In addition to the bullets, blood found on Tyson’s clothes matched the DNA of Cooper.

A jury quickly found the killer guilty, and a Florida judge sentenced him to life in prison.  It was only because of his age that he didn’t receive the death penalty.

After the trial, friends and families of the victims criticized President Obama for a lack of sympathy.  Paul Davies, a friend of the family, spoke to reporters: “We would like to publicly express our dissatisfaction at the lack of any public or private message of support or condolence from any American governing body or indeed, President Obama himself.  [The father of James] Kouzaris has written to President Obama on three separate occasions and is yet to even receive the courtesy of a reply.  It would perhaps appear that Mr. Obama sees no political value in facilitating such a request or that the lives of two British tourists are not worthy of ten minutes of his time.”

For the next few decades, Shawn Tyson can think of his bloody deeds while languishing behind prison walls.

Unfortunately, the Cooper and Kouzaris families will also have to think about those deeds.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Lac-Megantic Disaster

Victim Genevieve Breton
What happened?
by Robert A. Waters

The normally quiet town of Lac-Megantic sits in Quebec, Canada.  Tracks from the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway cut through the heart of the mostly French-speaking village.  With a population of 6,000 souls, life in Lac-Megantic rambled on like a slow-moving freight train.
Early Saturday morning, on July 6, many residents lay sleeping in their homes while others partied at the Music-Cafe Bar, about twenty yards from the rails.
It was then that an un-scheduled runaway train came barreling down the mountain.  Seventy-three tanker cars, all carrying oil, derailed in the middle of town.  Explosion after explosion rocked the village, and smoke, darker than the night, plumed into the sky.  With much of the town suddenly in flames, survival seemed to be a matter of luck.
Those in the bar suffered the worst of it.  Many died instantly.
In addition to the raging fires and toxic smoke, oil from the cars that hadn’t exploded spilled into the streets.  Thick, black crude began oozing into the nearby Claudiere River, a tributary of the St. Lawrence.
Local firefighters and police rushed to the scene, followed by investigators from the Quebec provincial police.  The Transportation Safety Board of Canada began an investigation.
A week after the disaster, thirty-seven bodies had been found.  Another thirteen were missing.  Thirty buildings in the historic business district had been destroyed.  The scene reminded many of bombed-out villages in wartime.  Hundreds of investigators scoured the scene for more victims, while others attempted to determine the cause of the disaster.
Officials from Rail World, Inc., the parent company that owns the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, said the train had been transporting oil from North Dakota to a refinery in New Brunswick.  The cars had been parked seven miles away, when they suddenly began rolling downhill.  (Investigators said an engineer who had been responsible for setting the brakes took a short-cut and only set some, but not all.)
Within minutes, the runaway train hurtled toward Lac-Megantic.
While criminal charges will likely be filed, and issues of safety discussed, it’s important to remember the innocent victims of this horrific tragedy.  While space doesn’t allow me to even name them all, here is a brief bio of several who met death in all its sudden happenstance.
Genevieve Breton, an aspiring singer and college student, was getting ready to leave the Musi-CafĂ© Bar with her boyfriend when the building exploded in flames.  She was killed instantly.  Breton had appeared on Star Academe and was recording her first album.
Bianka Charest, 9, and Alyssa, 3, along with their mother, Talitha Coumi-Begnoche, were asleep in their apartment near the tracks when the train hit.  Three lives were randomly cut short.
And ninety-three-year-old Eliane Parenteau-Boulinger, who had owned a grocery store before retiring, was mowed down in her home near the tracks.
And the list of dead and missing goes on.  Many had been so badly mangled and burned that the coroner had to use DNA to identify them.  Relatives crowded into churches and the local school to mourn.
Lac-Megantic, a small village made up of people living normal lives, could never have foreseen a runaway train smashing their dreams away.  The town, and its residents, will never be the same.

Monday, July 8, 2013

America’s Enoch Arden Case

Tragic Romance
by Robert A. Waters

On May 9, 1962, Daniel Schmidt died on an operating table at Fort Miley Veteran’s Hospital in San Francisco.  The former airman, only 31, expired as doctors performed open heart surgery.
More than 33,000 Americans had died in the Korean War and Schmidt, who survived the conflict, may have been its final victim.
On the bone-freezing night of January 15, 1953, Stardust 40, a B-57 from the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, flew 22,000 feet over western Korea.  Its official mission was to drop propaganda leaflets, but the flight carried some top brass, including Colonel John Knox Arnold, Jr. and Major William H. Baumer.  One of the lesser-important crew members was Airman 1st Class Daniel C. Schmidt, listed in the official records as an “aircraft observer” from Portland, Oregon.
As Stardust 40 ended its mission and turned to head home, 12 Russian MIG-15 jet fighters swept out of the sky in a surprise attack.  Heavy anti-aircraft fire from the ground shook the American plane.  Surrounded by the MIGs, and taking ground fire, Stardust 40 had no chance.  The battle was brief—after three engines caught fire, the crew bailed out.
The fourteen flyers landed in the Korean country-side.  Eleven were soon rounded up and transferred to China, while three were never found.
Back home, Daniel Schmidt’s pretty red-haired wife, Una, was informed that the plane had gone down.  She said she received notice from the air force that all the airmen were missing and presumed dead.  Two months later a son, Danny Walter Schmidt, was born.
In Apollo’s Warriors: The United States Air Force Special Operations during the Cold War, Michael E. Haas writes of the ordeal suffered by the airmen: “Kept handcuffed and chained in solitary confinement for months, the [Stardust 40] crewmen underwent grueling mental and physical torture.  Eighteen months after their internment and a year after the war was over, the Chinese broke their silence to announce the forthcoming trial on the charges of germ warfare.  In October, 1954, the crewmen were put through a highly publicized propaganda trial before a Chinese military tribunal and—surprise—found guilty.”  Each was sentenced to long prison terms.
Then, on August 4, 1955, the crewmen were released, in exchange for Chinese scientists held by the United States.
By then, Una had remarried.  “I thought Danny was dead,” she told reporters.  “I intend to meet my husband when he arrives from overseas.  We have a great deal to discuss, including the future of our son.”  Una moved out of the trailer she shared with her new husband, Alford Fine, and went into seclusion.  She hired an attorney to help her sort out the “nuptial tangle,” as the newspapers termed it.
Shortly after marrying her new husband, Una had learned that Daniel was still alive in a “red Chinese” prison.  She corresponded with him, and even sent pictures of Danny, Jr.  But she never informed him about Alford.  “I figured [Daniel had] gone through enough hell without me putting a little more on him,” she said.
After Schmidt returned back to the states, he refused to meet with Una.  Deeply hurt at what he perceived as her betrayal, he flatly rejected any attempt at reconciliation.  He did state, however, that he would seek custody of their son.  For several weeks, lawyers for both Daniel and Una used the news media to publicize their own version of events.
Finally, Schmidt’s mother spoke with her son and persuaded him to meet Una.  Once Daniel saw his bride, all bitterness was forgotten.  On August 25, the Associated Press reported that “a surprise reconciliation put Airman Daniel Schmidt and his wife Una on a belated honeymoon Thursday and wiped out his plans for a divorce…They promptly went into seclusion and were reported to be at an Oregon beach.”
Since Una had never annulled the marriage, the two were still legally bound.
Alford Fine, called the “forgotten man” by reporters, hitched his trailer home to his car and drove off into the sunset.  His grief must not have lasted long, since five months later he married again. Then the jilted second husband faded from history.
The glow on the rekindled Schmidt marriage soon wore off.  Daniel and Una divorced, and both remarried.
The star-crossed couple led anonymous lives until 1962, when newspapers reported that Daniel had died.  He’d never recuperated from the torture inflicted by the Chinese, or from the crushing blow of finding his wife had remarried during his forced absence.
Like her second husband, Una faded into obscurity.
Throughout the ordeal, newspapers referred to the poem, “Enoch Arden,” written by Lord Alfred Tennyson.  The poem related the story of a shipwrecked sailor who returned home 10 years later, only to find that his wife had remarried.  Like Daniel C. Schmidt, Enoch Arden also came to a tragic end.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Zack A. Crumpton, my grandfather, in his World War I uniform
Ode to America on Independence Day
by Robert A. Waters

I thank God that I was born in the United States of America.
You see, I could have been born during the Dark Ages.  For five hundred years, after the fall of Rome in 480 A.D., Europe descended into famine, plague, wars, and the intellectual domination of barbarians.  Life as we know it didn’t exist.  Back-breaking labor from dawn to dusk became the lot of the peasants.  Death by sword, disease, or constant toil cut most people down before they reached 35 years of age.
I could have been born during the era of the Black Death.  In the 1300s, 75-150 million people across the planet perished, a number so staggering as to defy imagination.  No medicine could cure the plague, no religious incantations stave it off.  Carcasses littered cities and villages and country-sides like flies.  Once the Black Death ended, survivors were emotionally scarred for life.
I might have been born a kulak in Russia during the “Red Terror,” when Lenin and Stalin murdered tens of millions.  Or I could have lived in countries ruled by Hitler or Pol Pot or Fidel Castro.
But I was one of the fortunate few.
I grew up in the United States during the 1950s.  All my family—parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents—were Christians.  While it has become fashionable among some to denigrate Christian faith, I can’t imagine life without God.
I grew to manhood when education was available for the masses.  So instead of slaving day-to-day in searing-hot fields, I’m thankful that I was able to attend college and work in air conditioned buildings.
I’m grateful for the medical advances that allowed me to live a healthy life.  Without modern medicine, I would have died when I was 57.  Open heart surgery saved my life.  I’m grateful that physicians through the ages developed advanced knowledge of the human body and the tools to fight off disease and afflictions.
America, land of freedom, land of dreams, a country where life slides by in monotonous, yet eventful days.  Our freedoms were earned with the blood of strangers, those who cared enough to die for people they would never know.
America, where we can live the way we want, as long as we don’t harm others, where we can choose our own paths.
I’m thankful for this country, and for those who came before and paved the way so that I could live a life filled with wonder and joy.
I thank God that I was born in the United States of America.