Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Day in the Life of Crime in America

Shine Thornton and his Wife, Mary
October 28, 2013
by Robert A. Waters

In Dallas, the trial of Matthew Johnson commenced.  Prosecutors started out with a bang—they played a videotape showing 76-year-old Nancy Harris going up in flames.  Johnson is alleged to have set Harris, a clerk, on fire as he robbed the gas station where she worked.  All he got out of it was Harris’ ring, a few dollars, and some cigarettes.  The surveillance video viewed by jurors showed Johnson pouring lighter fluid on Harris, then using a cigarette lighter to ignite it.  She died four days later, in torment from severe burns to nearly half her body.  If convicted, Johnson faces the death penalty, as he should.

In Ohio, Tanai Fortman pleaded guilty to sexually abusing her four-year-old daughter and filming the attacks.  Her boyfriend found the videos on her cell phone and turned her in to police.  Fortman claims she doesn’t remember the incidents, though she sent the vids to various “friends.”  She’ll serve fifteen years in prison, and register as a sex offender for life.  Many people wondered if fifteen years was enough for such a sick crime.

In Yorba Linda, California, a homeowner shot and killed a zonked-out intruder.  Paul Michael Bracamontes spoke of being a zombie and wanting to get a gun so he could kill people.  (Instead of being one of the “walking dead,” he ended up just plain dead.)  The homeowners, a man and wife, awoke to Bracamontes screaming in their backyard.  While his wife called police and held their two children, the husband armed himself.  Bracamontes then kicked in the sliding glass door and died in a hail of gunfire.  The intruder was a stranger to the family.  Police called the shooting an obvious case of self-defense.

It was announced that more than two dozen of Jerry Sandusky’s victims will split 59 million dollars from Pennsylvania State University.

Two men suspected in yet another Craigslist murder were arrested in Los Angeles.  Markell Thomas and Ryan Roth are accused of killing Rene Balbuena in a robbery gone bad.  Balbuena and his fifteen-year-old son met the two in response to an ad that the killers placed on Craigslist.  After pulling guns on Balbuena and his son, Thomas and Roth opened fire.  Police said the two are members of the “Bloods” gang, and had pulled the same type of robbery at least seven times.  Craigslist crimes have become commonplace in the last decade.

In Massachusetts, a judge ruled that Michael Skakel will get a new trial.  This is the first step in freeing yet another Kennedy.

Also in the Bay State, Mike Pouncey was served a subpoena after the game between the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots.  Pouncey, a former friend of Aaron Hernandez, will be questioned about a little thing called gun-running—oh yeah, and don’t forget murder.  Hernandez should be the poster boy for the old saying that “some people can’t stand prosperity.”

Finally, a Mississippi World War II veteran named Lawrence “Shine” Thornton was buried today.  Four punks mugged the 87-year-old man near his home in Greenville.  Thornton died of his injuries.  He received the name “Shine” after whistling the song “You Are My Sunshine” while in high school.  Thornton worked for 37 years Delta Electric Company.  Then, after the company closed, he became a local legend by creating “Maria’s Hot Tamales,” named after his Sicilian-born wife.  During World War II, Shine served in the Pacific as a Fireman First Class aboard the minesweeper, USS Herald.  So, four cowards slaughtered one of the few remaining soldiers from the Greatest Generation.  As Mark Collie sang, “Another old soldier fades away.”

So it went on October 28, 2013. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Sucker-Punch Game

Cowardly gangs attack at random…
by Robert A. Waters

Most people in St. Louis breathed easier when a homeowner shot and killed Demetrius Murphy.

Police suspected that Murphy and his gang had attacked up to 300 innocent people while participating in the so-called “Knockout Game.”  In this “game,” a group of young hoodlums would approach an unsuspecting victim and attempt to knock him out with one punch.  As the victim lay on the ground, he would be kicked and beaten until the assailants grew tired.

In one notorious case, Matt Quain and a neighbor, Jon Kelly, were walking home one night.  Kelly recalled what happened to his friend: Murphy’s gang “came out of the shadows and popped him. One guy hit him once.  He dropped like a rock.”  Quain suffered numerous injuries, including a shattered jaw and other facial fractures.

However, he considers himself fortunate to be alive. Had not Francis Slay, the mayor of St. Louis, and his bodyguard, Blaise Peluso, happened by, Quain may have suffered more severe wounds.  Peluso noticed Quain lying unconscious in a pool of blood and stopped to help while the attackers slipped away into the shadows.

A 13-year-old girl identified the assailant as Demetrius Murphy.  Unfortunately, all charges were dropped after the witness suddenly refused to testify.

Murphy walked, but his violent nature would catch up to him.  Two years later, as he attempted to burglarize a residence on Tennessee Avenue, the homeowner shot him.  (In typical cowardly fashion, Murphy died begging the homeowner not to shoot him again.)  The shooter was not charged because he acted in self-defense.

The so-called “Knockout Game” should be called the “Sucker-Punch Game.”  Groups of mostly young African-Americans generally target whites or Asians, delivering vicious assaults when the victim least expects it.

These assaults can be deadly.  Elderly St. Louis resident Hoang Nguyen died from a brutal attack, and his wife was severely injured.  Alex Murphy, A.K.A “The Knockout King,” was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Hoang Nguyen
My advice: be careful out there.  If you’re comfortable with guns, get a concealed carry permit and never forget your weapon. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Where is Abigail Hernandez?

Six days have passed since Abigail Hernandez vanished.  The fifteen-year-old North Conway, New Hampshire student was last seen on Wednesday, October 9.  Did she voluntarily run away, did she meet with an accident, or was she abducted?  So far, no one knows.

Abigail left Kennett High School at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon.  Police believe she made it home.  Four hours later, someone used her cell phone near Cranmore Mountain, a ski resort about two miles away.  Since then, there has been no activity on her phone.

One of the most methodical missing person’s searches in New Hampshire history is currently taking place.  In fact, the search has been so thorough that the remains of two missing hikers have been discovered by searchers.  But so far, nothing has been located that points to Abigail.

Abigail turned fifteen on Saturday.  Police reported that she is good student who ran on the track team.  She is 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs 118 pounds.  Abigail has brown hair and eyes. She was last seen wearing black stretch pants, tall brown boots and a grey sweater.

As a footnote, another strange disappearance occurred about 75 miles from North Conway.  On February 9, 2004, Maura Murray vanished mysteriously on a lonely stretch of road near Haverhill, New Hampshire.  Her disappearance has never been solved, and foul play is suspected.

If you have information on either case, call the FBI at 1-800-225-5324.


Friday, October 11, 2013

10 Brutal Murders on the Home Front during World War II

Murders on the Home Front
by Robert A. Waters

During the Second World War, not everyone who died a violent death perished in battle.  As the conflict raged, numerous war-time murders ravaged America.  Because almost all able-bodied men were serving in the military, many local police investigators were less than competent.  In addition, with troops constantly moving from town to town, killers often had the advantage of anonymity.  Here are ten little-known murders that occurred during that chaotic period.

10 – The Unsolved Murder of President Roosevelt’s Nurse

On August 28, 1943, Maoma L. Ridings, a corporal in the Women’s Army Corps, was murdered in Room 729 at the Claypool Hotel in Indianapolis.  That afternoon, she took a bus from nearby Camp Atterbury, stopped at a liquor store where she bought a bottle of whiskey, and registered at the hotel. Around 2:30, she ordered soft drinks and ice from room service.  At 8:00, a bell boy delivered more ice and said that, in addition to Maoma, he noticed a “woman dressed in black” lounging on the bed.  The hotel’s cleaning staff discovered Maoma’s body early next morning.  No one admitted to hearing the cries of the woman as she was being slashed to death with the broken whiskey bottle she’d bought.  At the time, Indianapolis teemed with military personnel and war workers, and the killer was never caught.  The death of Maoma Ridings briefly made national news because she’d once been a nurse to President Roosevelt on his visits to her hometown of Warm Springs, Georgia.

9 – Death of a WAC

In 1943, 2nd Lt. Naomi Kathleen Cheney, a Personnel Officer in the Women’s Army Corps, was found beaten to death in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  At about 8:00 p.m., the pretty Alabama native left an armed forces hospital and began walking home.  Along the way, an assailant dragged Naomi into a wooded area and viciously attacked her.  The WAC died from a basal skull fracture and other facial injuries.  There seemed to be no motive for the crime.  She’d only been in the area for five days, and journalists were quick to report that she had not, in the jargon of the day, been “criminally assaulted.”  Local authorities and military police investigated, but never developed any real leads.  A faceless killer got away with the crime.

8 – Murder at the National Cathedral

Catherine Cooper Reardon met her demise between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. on March 1, 1944.  Reardon, a librarian at Washington’s Great National Cathedral, had complained to her supervisor about the shoddy work of a handyman named Julius Fisher.  When word got back to him about her complaints, he decided to take revenge.  After an exchange of words, Fisher slapped the librarian.  When she began screaming, Fisher struck her with a stick, stabbed her, and strangled her.  Then he heaved Reardon’s body into a dump pit.

Fisher was black, and in later confessions said he snapped when Reardon used a racial epithet as they shouted insults back and forth.  (He didn’t mention this in initial police interrogations, leading prosecutors to discount the claim.)  In 1946, Fisher was executed in Washington DC’s electric chair.  This murder later became the basis for a story by novelist Richard Wright.

7 – Blood Feud

In Littlefield, Texas, on October 27, 1943, five-year-old Jo-Ann Hunt ran next door and told a neighbor that her mother and father had been killed.  Police found Dr. Roy Elwin Hunt and his wife, Mae, lying side-by-side in bed, tied tightly together with rope and coat hangers.  Hunt had been shot, his wife bludgeoned to death.  There was a suspect: eighteen months earlier, Dr. William Newton had been convicted of attempting to kill Dr. Hunt, though the conviction was soon overturned.  Bad blood between the two resonated all the way back to medical school, when both dated a co-ed who eventually became Newton’s wife.  The murders officially went unsolved, though investigators suspected Newton of hiring a hit-man to carry out the crime. 

6 – Stalked and Slashed to Death

On a sun-drenched day in 1942, eighteen-year-old Fidelia Briand walked along a path beside the Charles River in Boston.  Suddenly, a knife-wielding stranger rushed toward her.  Fidelia, pursued by her assailant, began to run.  Her screams alerted the neighborhood, and residents called police.  As the chase continued, three Boston College students raced to help.  After about a hundred yards, the frightened girl stumbled and fell to the ground.  Her attacker leaped on her, and stabbed her to death.  He then flung the knife into the river and fled.  While one BC student stopped to help Fidelia, the other two caught up with Harry Adams.  “Don’t hit me,” he cried.  Police quickly arrested him.  When asked why he attacked Fidelia, his reply was simple: “I wanted a woman.”

5 – Just Plain Evil

On March 10, 1944, Ernest Hoefgen’s long criminal career ended.  During his life, he’d committed at least three murders, including the one for which he was hanged.  Driving through Kansas in a stolen car, Hoefgen, an escapee from a Texas prison, picked up hitchhiker Bruce Smoll.  As they talked, the fugitive began to suspect that Smoll recognized him, so Hoefgen shot the hitchhiker in cold blood.

Bruce’s father, A. E. Smoll, watched the execution with little enthusiasm.  He told reporters he held no grudge against his son’s killer, but that Hoefgen was the “worst kind of traitor we have in the country.  He took the life of my boy, who was preparing to be a soldier.”

4 – Murdered for $28.00

On December 15, 1944, Phillip Heincy, 71, and his son, William, 45, boarded a train in Quincy, Illinois, and rode to Spirit Lake, Iowa.  After spending much of the day in local bars, they walked five miles to a resort owned by Robert Raebel.  They’d heard he kept a safe filled with cash in his home, and their purpose was to rob the wealthy business-owner.  As Robert’s wife, Esther, filled out Christmas cards, Phillip and William broke into the house.  They shot Robert, killing him.  Clubbing Esther with blackjacks, they took $28 from her purse, but found no safe.  Esther survived to identify the killers.  Each had long criminal records, and had served multiple prison sentences.  This time, they were sentenced to death.  Phillip and William Heincy became the first and only father and son to be executed in Iowa.

3 – The Lipstick Killer

As the war wound down, a murder in Chicago signaled the arrival of a serial killer.  On June 5, 1945, Josephine Alice Ross was found slashed to death in her apartment.  A bloody mattress indicated that the attack began on her bed, likely as she slept.  Every drawer in the room had been dumped out, and a few items stolen.  Police were stumped, though they suspected the murder was a burglary gone bad.  After the war ended, two more victims, Frances Brown and six-year-old Suzanne Degnan, died in a killing spree that ended with the arrest of William Heirens.  The University of Chicago student earned his moniker when he used Brown’s own lipstick to write a message to police: “For heavens sake catch me before I kill more. I cannot control myself.”  A brilliant student, Heirens was also a petty burglar known to cops.  Heirens confessed to all three murders and was sentenced to life in prison.

2 – Judge Murdered in Revenge

Before being executed, the Utah judge who sentenced Austin Cox to death wrote, “It is my opinion that the defendant has a mean, revengeful and surly disposition, and that he is dangerous to the lives of the people of this state.”  There was little doubt about that, just as there was no doubt as to his guilt in the murders of five innocent people.  On July 23, 1942, Cox seethed with rage because his wife, Wanda Mae, had divorced him.  Cox felt he hadn’t gotten a fair hearing, so he shot Lewis Trueman, the judge who’d presided over the divorce, as well as four strangers.  Wanda Mae survived only because Cox couldn’t locate her.  In 1944, the mass murderer died from a hail of firing squad bullets.

1 – Japanese Balloon Bomb Murders Six

During World War II, the Japanese government launched thousands of high-altitude bomb-laden balloons.  Drifting across the Pacific, some landed in America and Canada.  The only known casualties of these traveling booby-traps were Elsie Mitchell and five children from her church.  They’d gone to Gearhart Mountain in Oregon for a picnic.  Finding a balloon lying on the ground, they approached it.  When one of the boys touched the balloon, an explosion rocked the forest, killing Mrs. Mitchell and the picnickers.  Military personnel surmised that the bomb had fallen to earth weeks before, lying in wait for some unfortunate soul to activate it. 


Monday, October 7, 2013

Help Find Tiffany Daniels

On August 12, 2013, Tiffany Daniels vanished from Pensacola, Florida.  She was last seen leaving her job at Pensacola State College.  Tiffany's Toyota 4-Runner was found on August 20 at Park West near Fort Pickens.

Fort Pickens is the site of a military fort on Santa Rosa Island.

If you have any information about this case, contact the Escambia County Sheriff's Office at 850-436-9630 or the Pensacola Police Department at 800-435-1900.