Saturday, August 31, 2013

Street-Corner Justice

Johnny Calderon, Jr. and Gerald Allen
A few feel-good stories…
by Robert A. Waters

A recent story making headlines shows the battered faces of Johnny Calderon, Jr. and Gerald Allen.  While allegedly attempting to rob two University of Virginia students, the thugs ended up being laid out by their intended victims.  Now Allen is in the hospital, and Calderon resides in the Jacksonville, Florida jail.  He wants to get out, though—his attorney says that since the botched robbery he has panic attacks and won’t pose a danger to anyone else.  Let him sweat it out in jail, I’d say.

When Javon Sanchez Booker attempted to rob a Charlotte, North Carolina convenience store, he learned a lesson about preying on people.  Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to put it to use.  According to police, Booker’s intended victim pulled a gun and dispatched the thug to Hell.  Not much else to say on this except lots of future victims will likely be spared.

Syracuse, New York police began searching for Robin Gutheridge after he allegedly robbed the Chase Bank Branch.  When he was seen entering an apartment complex, officers fanned out looking for him.  Soon screams from a trash compactor on the ground floor sent cops to investigate.  Turns out Gutheridge had been attempting to hide and fell 210 feet down the garbage chute.  Fortunately, for him, he landed on a pile of trash.  Now he lies in a hospital eyeing a bleak future—maybe 20 years in the slammer.

A Texas father, on learning that his five-year-old daughter had been snatched by a sex offender, took matters into his own hands.  He found his child, naked and screaming, being assaulted by Jesus Flores.  The father then attacked Flores, beating him to death.  Texas authorities refused to charge the father.  Many dads say they would do the same.

In Tobyhanna Township, Pennsylvania, four intruders began shooting up the home they invaded.  “Where’s the money at?” they shouted at frightened residents.  They got no money, but did score a couple of cell phones.  In the melee, one robber got more than he bargained for—a cohort accidently shot Jehova Maldonado in the head.  The suspects were quickly arrested.  When he gets out of the hospital, Maldonado will be charged with robbery, burglary, trespassing, aggravated assault, conspiracy, theft, and possession of instruments of crime.

Sometimes you wonder why these people don’t simply go out and find a job.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Death in the Afternoon

Danzele Johnson
Crimes and Consequences
by Robert A. Waters

Elkhart, Indiana
October 3, 2012

At 2:30 p.m., Rodney Scott, who was taking a nap, awoke to the sound of a loud bang.  In a police affidavit, he stated that his house felt as if it were “shuddering.”  Arming himself with a 9mm handgun and his cell phone, Scott rushed downstairs.  There he encountered Blake Layman, 16, Jose Quiroz, 17, Anthony Sharp, 18, and 21-year-old Danzele Johnson.  (Another conspirator, Levi Sparks, 17, waited on the porch of a house across the street to act as a lookout.)

Scott, on seeing four strangers in his residence, opened fire.  Two intruders fled into a bedroom, while a third ran into the kitchen and out the back door.   Amid the chaos, Scott called 9-1-1.  As he attempted to hold the two intruders who had run into the bedroom for police, Quiroz bolted from a closet and jumped out a window.

Officers of the Elkhart Police Department responded to the scene.  Chasing down Quiroz, they arrested him.  Inside the home, they discovered Johnson’s body.  They also found Layman, who had a bullet wound to his leg—he was transferred to a local hospital, treated, released, and then arrested.

In custody, Quiroz was soon replicating canary-speak.  According to police reports, he told investigators that the robbers “did not believe anyone was home and the homeowner had some gold they could steal.”  Describing the break-in, Quiroz stated that Danzele Johnson kicked in the back door and the others followed him inside.  He said Anthony Sharp carried a .22-caliber pistol, and that he and Layman armed themselves with steak knives from the kitchen.

Investigators ruled that Scott had acted in self-defense and would face no charges. 

However, that was not the case with Quiroz, Sharp, Layman, and Sparks.  Since Johnson had died as a result of the botched burglary, prosecutor Curtis Hill charged the four surviving home invaders with murder.  In Indiana, suspects can be charged with felony murder if someone (even a cohort) is killed during the commission of a felony. 

Quiroz pled guilty to second degree murder and received a sentence of 45 years.

Family members of the remaining suspects started an aggressive campaign to get the murder charges dropped.  A petition by the family of Blake Laymen laid out their case: On October 3rd police contend that five teenagers broke into the residence of Rodney Scott, operating under the belief that he was not home. When Scott heard noises he armed himself with a gun, called 911, and confronted the teenagers. He fired shots at them. In response, the teens attempted to escape from the home, including one who jumped through a window to avoid being shot. Scott injured one teen and killed the oldest member of the group –21-year-old Danzele Johnson.

As a result of this incident, the prosecutor of Elkhart County, Curtis Hill, is holding all of the surviving teens responsible for felony murder. Felony murder is treated exactly as first degree premeditated murder except there is no requirement for the prosecution to prove the person charged had any intention of committing murder.

The problem here is that these teenagers did not commit murder. Their friend was killed as a result of the alleged break in, but these teenagers are being held accountable for this death as though they planned it and committed it themselves. The consequences for this could be as harsh as life without any possibility of parole.

This is not justice.

As the family of 16-year-old Blake Layman, who is facing the charge of felony murder and was himself wounded by one of the gunshots, we are asking that some common sense and reason be applied in this situation. Blake has no criminal record. He and the other teenagers involved are not throwaway children. They did not commit a murder. They should not be facing a charge of murder. The only message this sends is that communities place no value on children and teenagers and are completely unwilling to impose appropriate consequences for mistakes that are made. Exposing these teenagers to life sentences, as adults (which they are not), is not the answer. The adult prison system is not equipped to rehabilitate and this is proven based on many studies, conducted over many years.

We, the undersigned, are asking that Prosecutor Hill reconsider his stance on this case and drop the charge of felony murder. Felony murder is an outdated, archaic, and unconstitutional law. A number of states have abolished it completely for these very reasons…

These teenagers deserve a second chance and felony murder is NOT the appropriate charge.

Even though the petition garnered nearly 2,000 signatures, it was a tough sell.  Prosecutor Hill never wavered in his determination to try the suspects for murder.

Last week, on August 21, 2013, a jury found all three defendants, Blake Layman, Anthony Sharp, and Levi Sparks, guilty of “felony murder.” (When sentenced, they face long prison sentences.) Family and friends sobbed and screamed in disbelief.  Defense attorney Vincent Campiti called it “a shocking verdict.”

Hill replied: “The verdict, I believe, was appropriate.  It was a very difficult case, a very important case because it does send a message to those that committed the crime.”

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

“The Great Philadelphia Lawyer”

Documentary of a song
by Robert A. Waters

Okay, I realize there’s a limited audience for this story.

I grew up listening to country music when I was a boy.  Back then it was called hillbilly music, and it wasn’t always pretty.  But the lyrics were real and genuine, unlike today’s pseudo-country garbage.  This song, “The Great Philadelphia Lawyer,” pokes fun at shysters—the term itself, Philadelphia Lawyer, is a “disparaging label for an attorney who is skillful in the manipulation of the technicalities and intricacies of the law to the advantage of his or her client, although the spirit of the law might be violated.” (The Free Dictionary)

The words of the song were penned by Woody Guthrie.  The tune mimics an old murder ballad called “The Jealous Lover.”  Rose Maddox first recorded “The Great Philadelphia Lawyer,” and, in my opinion, her version is the best.

The Maddox family had been sharecroppers in Boaz, Alabama during the Depression.  Rose was eleven when the family packed up and moved to California.  In a radio interview, she described the journey: “Cotton prices failed in Alabama.  So we left for California, the Land of Milk and Honey... We only had $35 when we left there, and a dream of going to California.  That was my mother’s dream.  Hitchhiking.  All of us.  Five kids.... The brakemen helped us get on the right trains and they got us food from the caboose.  Sometimes the brakemen locked us in the boxcars and told us to be quiet.... We got to Los Angeles, California, in 1933.”

Rose’s father found work in Modesto, and the family settled there.  With her brothers, Rose began playing music on local radio stations.  Eventually, they landed a recording contract.  Because of their success in hillbilly music, the Maddox family was able to rise from the grinding poverty they’d experienced for much of their lives.

The “Great Philadelphia Lawyer” tells the story of a great man who falls in love with a married woman.  The lyrics drip with dead-pan humor, as well as dark, raw, emotions.  The climax is understated to the extreme.

If you like this sort of thing the way I do, enjoy!

The Great Philadelphia Lawyer
By Woodie Guthrie

Way out in Reno, Nevada
Where romance blooms and fades,
A great Philadelphia lawyer

Was in love with a Hollywood maid.

“Come, love and we’ll go ramblin’
Down where the lights are so bright.

I’ll win you a divorce from your husband

And we can get married tonight.”

Wild Bill was a gun-totin’ cowboy,
Ten notches were carved in his gun

And all the boys around Reno

Left Wild Bill’s maiden alone.

One night when Bill was returning
From ridin’ the range in the cold,

He dreamed of his Hollywood sweetheart

Whose love was as lasting as gold.

As he drew near to her window,
Two shadows he saw on the shade.

It was the great Philadelphia lawyer

Makin’ love to Bill’s Hollywood maid.

The night was as still as the desert,
The moon hangin’ high overhead.

Bill listened awhile through the window

He could hear every word that he said

“Your hands are so pretty and lovely,
Your form is so rare and divine.

Come go with me to the city

And leave this wild cowboy behind.”

Now tonight back in old Pennsylvania,
Among those beautiful pines,

There’s one less Philadelphia lawyer

In old Philadelphia tonight.

Friday, August 16, 2013

FBI Requests Public’s Assistance Concerning Israel Keyes

Mary Rook, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for the state of Alaska, requests the public’s assistance in developing information concerning the travels of suspected serial killer Israel Keyes, deceased, in order to identify additional victims. Anyone with information concerning Keyes is encouraged to contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.
Based upon investigation conducted following his arrest in March 2012, Israel Keyes is believed to have committed multiple kidnappings and murders across the country between 2001 and March 2012. Keyes lived in Washington from 2001 to March 2007, at which time he moved to Alaska. While living in Alaska, Keyes worked as a general contractor but traveled extensively. In a series of interviews with law enforcement, Keyes described significant planning and preparation for his murders, reflecting a meticulous and organized approach to his crimes. It was not unusual for Keyes to fly into an airport, rent a car, and drive hundreds of miles to his final destination. This was the case in the murder of Bill and Loraine Currier, where Keyes flew into Chicago, rented a car, and drove across several states before arriving in Essex, Vermont. After the murder of the Curriers, Keyes continued his travels on the East Coast before returning to Chicago and then to Alaska.
Keyes admitted responsibility for robbing several banks during this time frame, two of which investigators have corroborated. Keyes used the proceeds from his bank robberies to pay for his travel, along with money he made as a general contractor. Keyes also admitted traveling to various locations to leave supplies he planned to use in a future crime. Keyes buried caches throughout the United States. The FBI has recovered two caches buried by Keyes—one in Eagle River, Alaska, and one near Blakes Falls Reservoir in New York. The caches contained weapons and other items used to dispose of bodies. Keyes indicated the other caches he buried throughout the U.S. contain weapons, money, and items used to dispose of victims.
Investigators believe that Keyes did not know any of his victims prior to their abductions. He described several remote locations that he frequented to look for victims—parks, campgrounds, trailheads, cemeteries, boating areas, etc. Keyes also told investigators that prior to the Currier case, his victims’ disappearances received little if any media coverage. Based on his own research, Keyes stated that one of his victims has been recovered but authorities ruled the death accidental. Investigators have not identified this victim or where this crime occurred.
Keyes admitted to murdering four people in Washington; he killed two people (independent of each other) sometime during 2005 and 2006 and murdered a couple in Washington between 2001 and 2005. It is unknown if these victims were residents of Washington or if they were vacationing in Washington but resided in another state. It is also possible Keyes abducted them from a nearby state and transported them to Washington.
Additionally, Keyes admitted to investigators that in 2009 he murdered a victim on the East Coast and disposed of the body in New York state. Based on Keyes’ statements, investigators believe Keyes abducted the victim from a surrounding state and transported him/her to New York.
The timeline below is an outline of Keyes’ travels and whereabouts throughout the United States from 2001 to present. Due to Keyes’ pattern of traveling significant distances by car, the locations are grouped by region rather than specific states.
October 5, 2004 to October 16, 2004: Eastern U.S.
April 20, 2005 to April 25, 2005: Washington, British Columbia
May 10, 2006 to May 15, 2006: Western U.S.
September 1, 2006 to September 7, 2006: Alaska
October 21, 2006 to October 23, 2006: Western U.S., Mexico
November 8, 2006 to November 16, 2006: Alaska
February 5, 2007 to February 8, 2007: Southwest U.S.
March 1, 2007 to March 9, 2007: Washington, Canada (drove to Alaska)
April 24, 2007 to May 4, 2007: Western U.S., Mexico
August 26, 2007 to September 6, 2007: Western U.S.
October 29, 2007 to November 2, 2007: Western U.S.
November 12, 2007 to November 13, 2007: Western U.S.
April 12, 2007 to December 17, 2007: Midwest and Western U.S.
May 1, 2008 to January 8, 2008: Western U.S.
January 28, 2008 to February 15, 2008: Southern U.S. and Western U.S.
May 11, 2008 to May 17,2008: Western U.S.
July 3, 2008 to July 7, 2008: Western U.S.
September 16, 2008 to September 24, 2008: Western U.S.
October 24, 2008 to November 5, 2008: Southwest U.S., Midwest U.S. and Western U.S.
December 5, 2008 to December 7, 2008: Hawaii
December 11, 2008 to December 25, 2008: Mexico
February 23, 2009 to February 27, 2009: Western U.S.
April 1, 2009 to April 14, 2009: Eastern U.S., Western U.S.
September 11, 2009 to October 03, 2009: Southern U.S.
December 17, 2009 to December 29, 2009: Southern U.S.
January 11, 2010 to February 25, 2010: Western U.S.
March 1, 2010 to March 10, 2010: Western U.S.
April 24, 2010 to April 30, 2010: Western U.S.
May 19, 2010 to July 18, 2010: Midwest U.S. and Western U.S.
July 18, 2010 to July 22, 2010: Southwest U.S.
October 15, 2010 to October 25, 2010: Midwest U.S., Eastern U.S.
June 2, 2011 to June 16, 2011: Midwest U.S., Eastern U.S.
September 15, 2011 to September 25, 2011: Western U.S.
February 2, 2012 to February 18, 2012: Southern U.S.
March 6, 2012 to March 13, 2012: Southwestern and Southern U.S.

If you have information for law enforcement, please contact 1-800-CALL-FBI.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Unsolved Short Family Murders

Eleven years and counting….
by Robert A. Waters

In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Joseph E. Duncan murdered a mother and father so he could kidnap their two young children.  Escaping with his victims into the Montana wilderness, Duncan spent months torturing and raping Dylan and Shasta Groene.  Eventually, the serial killer shot-gunned Dylan to death.  Shasta was rescued and Duncan, convicted of several murders, received the death penalty.
In a more recent case, James Lee DiMaggio is accused of murdering the family of sixteen-year-old Hannah Anderson.  After kidnapping Hannah, DiMaggio fled to Idaho where he died in a shootout with police.  Hannah, still alive, was rushed to a local hospital for treatment.
Did someone murder Michael and Mary Frances Short in order to abduct their nine-year-old daughter, Jennifer?
It was on August 15, 2002 that investigators learned the child had gone missing.  Her parents lay dead in their Bassett, Virginia home, shot to death as they slept.
So where was Jennifer?
An FBI flyer described her: “Jennifer appeared to be a happy little girl experiencing a normal childhood.  She was an excellent student and actively involved in organized sports.”  She had no known enemies, and lived in a quiet, if modest, home.
Her parents owned a company that moved house trailers.  An employee of M. S. Mobile Home Movers who stopped by the house to check in for work discovered the bodies.  Michael Short, sleeping in the garage, had been murdered by a single small-caliber gunshot to the head.  He likely never knew what hit him.  Mary lay in her bed, also executed with a head-shot.
There was no sign of forcible entry, although the telephone line had been cut.
On September 25, Jennifer’s skeletonized remains were located 50 miles away in Rockingham County, North Carolina.  She, too, had died of a single gunshot wound to the head.
In eleven years, few clues have surfaced.  Police have investigated several possibilities.  Did the family have unknown enemies who wanted them dead?  Since their home had recently been put up for sale, did someone posing as a customer murder the family?  Michael sometimes hired day laborers, including illegal immigrants, and paid them in cash—did a former employee commit the murders?
One scenario is that a pedophile targeted the family, and that the object of the murders was to abduct little Jennifer.  If so, she was likely sexually assaulted before being killed.
The FBI released the following information about a possible suspect: “During the early morning hours of August 15, 2002, an unidentified male was observed sitting in a vehicle along U.S. Highway 220 in the vicinity of the Shorts’ Oak Level, Henry County, Virginia, residence. Investigators are seeking information regarding this individual and/or vehicle.  The unknown vehicle…is described as a 1998-2002, white, single-cab, two-ton flatbed stake body truck with wooden rails. Below is an artist’s depiction of this vehicle.”  A composite sketch of the occupant of the vehicle is also shown below.
If you know this person, or have any information about this case, please call the FBI at 1-800-225-5324.

Suspect and Truck Seen Near Short Residence

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Should the NFL Babysit Players?

Millionaire thugs play football and kill people
by Robert A. Waters

Maybe Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is onto something.  After the troubled career of Dez Bryant culminated in his arrest for beating up his mother, Jones hired a “live-in” baby-sitter to keep him out of trouble.
That might be an alternative the National Football League could consider for its overpaid and under-virtuous minions.
Many who followed the University of Florida during the Tim Tebow era knew Aaron Hernandez would one day land in jail.  It was precisely because of “character issues” that the talented tight end slipped from first round to the fourth round in the 2010 NFL draft.  Trouble seemed to hang around Hernandez like smoke from a marijuana cigarette.
According to several NFL scouts, the former Gator failed numerous drug tests while in college.  “He’s either dumb or addicted,” one scout said.
Now that North Attleboro police have arrested Hernandez and charged him with the first degree murder of Odin Lloyd, maybe a babysitting service for players is in order.  Former Denver Broncos general manager Ted Lundquist seems to agree.  “It's better to have a system in place that can monitor or check that guy, a security firm that is part of these guys’ lives, not just vetting them,” he said.  “The [NFL is] tied to the hip with these guys.  I think that investment is well worth it.”
The league, of course, minimizes the wrong-doing of its hired guns.  A spokesperson recently cited FBI statistics to show that arrest rates for NFL players is less than the general public.  But Jeff Benedict, author of Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in The NFL, refutes that argument: “The danger of doing comparisons with the general public is [that] if you look at these people and their backgrounds, how many of those guys who have been arrested in the FBI numbers have been to college, make a lot of money like NFL players do, and live in safe, good neighborhoods?  The issue is why any of these guys are doing this when they have all these good things going on in their lives.”
Exactly.  The public looks at Aaron Hernandez’ mansion, his seemingly endless supply of expensive automobiles, and his $45 million contract—then people wonder why he can’t stay out of trouble.  Why in the world would you go around shooting people, as Hernandez is alleged to have done?
In the last year, dozens of NFL players have been arrested, some for horrendous crimes.
So as the new 2013 NFL season begins, watch your favorite team and root for your favorite players.
But don’t get too enamored with any particular guy.
He just might end up in the slammer.