Thursday, February 27, 2014

The War to End All Wars

Dead British Soldiers in World War I After Gas Attack
North Carolinian Dies in World War I Gas Attack
by Robert A. Waters

On May 8, 1919, the Lumberton Robesonian reported that “private George E. Galloway, son of Mrs. D. W. Galloway of Fairmont, is said to have been the first North Carolinian killed in the war with Germany.  He died in France on the 27th February, 1918, as the result of being ‘gassed’ by Germans in the French trenches the day before.  Private Galloway was 22 years old and volunteered 10 days after the United States entered the war with Germany.  He sailed from New York August 4, 1917, and was among the first American soldiers to see service at the front.  Young Galloway was a fine specimen of manhood and was something of an athlete.”
Galloway served in General John J. Pershing’s 1st army division.  According to the Robesonian, “[Galloway] entered the firing line in France in February, 1918.  He was injured in a surprise attack by the Germans a few days later on February 26, and died the following day.”
During the same attack, Helmer E. Royett of Harlan, Iowa, and Sid Coleman, of Cord, Arkansas, also died from exposure to mustard gas.  Several other American soldiers were severely wounded by the toxic fumes.
In 1919, the Fairmont, North Carolina Chamber of Commerce dedicated a tablet that read: “In Memoriam Private George E. Galloway, Fairmont, N. C. the first North Carolina soldier killed on the battlefields of France.”  At the top of the tablet was a gold star.
On July 30, 1934, Camp Galloway was dedicated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The story reminded me of a Wilfred Owen poem.  Owen, a British writer, fought in the trenches, engaging in hand-to-hand combat on several occasions. Owen was killed in action on November 4, 1918, just a week before the end of the war.  He was 24.
This poem is a response to those who see war as “glorious.”

“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime. . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.”

Thursday, February 20, 2014

New Book

The Kidnapping and Murder of Little Skeegie Cash: J. Edgar Hoover and Florida’s Lindbergh Case
By Robert A. Waters and Zack C. Waters
University of Alabama Press

In a long-forgotten story, Robert A. Waters and Zack C. Waters describe the 1938 abduction and murder of five-year-old James Bailey “Skeegie” Cash.  Using 4,000 pages of FBI files and court documents, the authors bring to life the drama of the abduction, the payment of a $10,000 ransom, the hunt for Skeegie and his kidnapper, the arrest and confession of Franklin Pierce McCall, and the killer’s trial and execution.

Hundreds of reporters swarmed into the small farming village of Princeton, Florida, south of Miami and on the edge of the Everglades, and for thirteen days held a nation enthralled as the spectacle played out.

But this is much more than the story of a missing child.  J. Edgar Hoover, Congress, and even President Franklin D. Roosevelt became personally involved in this case.

Soon after the execution of McCall, World War II broke out, and the case faded into oblivion.  But now the authors have brought to light one of the most important cases in FBI history.

Praise for The Kidnapping and Murder of Little Skeegie Cash.

“In a tale clear and gripping, Robert Waters and Zack Waters have deftly chronicled a crime that was as significant to FBI history as all the public enemies that came before.  The crisp narrative exposes J. Edgar Hoover’s bold political machinations and an urgent grassroots effort to save a missing child.  This is true crime at its best: unembellished, dramatic, and authoritative.”  Ron Franscell, best-selling novelist and true crime author.

“Robert Waters and Zack Waters have crafted a masterpiece of detective work and analysis.  The Kidnapping and Murder of Little Skeegie Cash highlights one of the most infamous criminal episodes in Florida history.  It is also another in the damning indictments of Hoover and his tenure as head of the FBI.  It is an excellent read.” Nick Wynne, Executive Director Emeritus of the Florida Historical Society.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Great Gold Grab

“Some will rob you with a fountain pen…”
by Robert A. Waters

In 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed an executive order directing the Federal government to confiscate almost all gold coinage legally owned by private citizens.  With the sweep of a pen, it became a crime to own the coins.

Roosevelt’s excuse was that hard times (i.e., the Depression) caused people to hoard gold.  Of course, there was no law against hoarding gold—in fact, it was a rational decision made by millions of Americans.  The fact that the government “reimbursed” the confiscated gold coins with near-worthless paper money made the scheme downright sinister.

There seems to have been little backlash, at least so far as the media’s role in cheerleading this massive theft from American citizens.  In fact, newspapers of the day cheered on FDR and his creepy henchman, J. Edgar Hoover.  An example is this September 3, 1933 article in the Charleston (WV) Daily Mail entitled “Where is that gold?”

Many excuses are offered by hoarders when Government agents seek by persuasive methods to get them to return their gold and avoid the possibility of prosecution.

“Yeah, I withdrew the gold,” said one, “but my ‘sweetie’ took it away from me and I haven’t seen it since.” Not an eyelash of the Justice Department agent quivered as this story was told. Only a: “Sorry to have troubled you—but would you mind giving me the name of your ‘sweetie’?” After some hemming and hawing the hoarder decided that he might as well tell the truth. So, stepping back inside the house, he reached behind the face of an old grandfather’s clock and produced the $500 in gold and soon it rested in the bank and he had a pocketful of greenbacks given in exchange.

“Not all excuses are quite as simple this one,” said J. Edgar Hoover, head of the Bureau of Investigation, “though, in the end, we have had little trouble in getting our man. The work is quite different from that of tracing down criminals. It is more of a gentleman’s job. About all that is necessary is to call on the party cited to us as hoarding gold, remind him that he is violating the law, explain to him the seriousness of the penalty and the fact that if he is prosecuted by the Government he will get a lot of undesirable publicity. Such a line usually brings desired results.”

The penalty for not giving government agents your gold was a fine of $10,000 plus ten years in prison.  That was enough to get most law-abiding citizens to comply.

After Roosevelt’s scheme was upheld by a “packed” Supreme Court, the government did what it does best: on a massive scale, it robbed the American people of almost all gold coins.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Child-Killer Outlived Half His Victim’s Family

Jimmy Ryce
Juan Carlos Chavez Executed
by Robert A. Waters

In 2009, Claudine Ryce (mother of Jimmy Ryce) died of cancer.

Juan Carlos Chavez lived on.

In 2012, Martha Ryce (sister of Jimmy Ryce) committed suicide.

Chavez lived on.

Finally, at 8:17 p.m., on February 12, 2014, Chavez was executed.

In September, 1995, Chavez kidnapped nine-year-old Jimmy Ryce at gunpoint.  He drove the child to his trailer and brutally raped him.  After the assault, Jimmy heard helicopters flying overhead as a search party looked for him.  Jimmy bolted for the door, but before he could open it, Chavez shot him in the back.  He then cut up Jimmy’s body and stuffed the remains in flower pots.  Placing the pots near his home, he covered the gruesome evidence with concrete.

Three months later, Chavez’s employer found Jimmy’s book bag in the killer’s trailer and called police.

Ted Ryce, Jimmy’s older brother, spoke eloquently after the execution: “Many people have asked why I decided to come today.  I did not come today to celebrate Juan Carlos’s execution.  In fact, I did not want to come.  So why did I come?  I came here to represent my brother Jimmy Ryce.  I came here for my sister Martha and my mother, Claudine.  I came here today because I believe in the justice that has been served on this day.  I am here to support that belief.

“I’m also here today as a symbol of strength to show you that in spite of all the terrible tragedies we’ve been through, my father and I still stand strong and strength is something that is sorely lacking in our country today.  Many people did not believe that Juan Carlos Chavez should be put to death for his horrible crime of raping and murdering my brother Jimmy Ryce.  I believe this comes from a place of weakness, not strength.  It comes from not being able to face the atrociousness of some men’s actions and punish them on a level commensurate with their crime.

“But we must be strong.  We must do what it takes to send a clear message to other child predators that if they go after children, if they kill children, that they will die at the executioner’s hands.  Today will bring no closure for my family.  As my father has stated, ‘Closure does not exist,’ but the justice served this day after a painful 19 years will end the chapter on this part of our life and now we look forward to moving on. Thank you.”

If you would like to read the whole sordid story, check out my book Sun Struck: 16 Infamous Murders in the Sunshine State.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Lust Killer Paroled, Murders Again

Did he also kill Tiffany Sessions?
by Robert A. Waters

On December 17, 1985, Paul Eugene Rowles walked out of prison.  Nine years before, Judge Leonard Rivkind had sentenced him to life in prison and warned that he should never be released.  His crime was typical of many “lust killers.”  He stalked twenty-year-old Linda Fida, waited for her husband to leave, then broke into her home and brutally raped her.  After torturing his victim, Rowles killed Fida by stabbing her in the breast.  He later admitted that this was a long-held fantasy.

Rowles should have been in prison when Tiffany Sessions disappeared.

He should have been locked up when Elizabeth Foster was murdered.

He should have been incarcerated when his final victim, a fifteen-year-old girl, was kidnapped and raped—had she not escaped, she would no doubt have been murdered.

Before Danny Rolling, Alachua County’s most infamous criminal case was the vanishing of Tiffany Sessions.  In 1989, the University of Florida co-ed left her apartment to go for a jog and was never seen again.  John Walsh, Dan Marino, and other celebrities joined the search for Tiffany.  Her parents kept the case alive for decades as they searched for her.

Unknown to investigators at the time, Rowles lived a short distance from Tiffany’s apartment.  A witness reported seeing a truck similar to one he drove following Tiffany as she ran.  But no one made the connection to the convicted killer who was supposed to be locked up.  (After Rowles died in prison, a cryptic note in his diary included the date Sessions disappeared, and the number “2.”)  Alachua County Sheriff’s Office recently announced that Rowles is the prime suspect in Tiffany’s disappearance.

Three years after Tiffany Sessions vanished, in 1992, Santa Fe Community College student Elizabeth Foster disappeared.  She’d told friends she planned to go to Bivens Arm Nature Park in Gainesville.  Eleven days later, Foster’s body was found.  In 2012, a cold case unit tested DNA found on Foster—it matched Rowles who was now serving 69 years for numerous sexual crimes.

So how did Rowles beat the system in 1985, after having served only nine years?  It was simple.  At that time, all prisoners (except death row inmates) were eligible for parole.  Rowles took a sex education course in prison and conned his instructors into thinking he was “cured.”  Ignoring Judge Rivkind’s admonition, the parole board released him.

In reality, Rowles fantasized about raping women.  At various times after his release, he was arrested for peeping, stalking, prowling, stealing women’s undergarments, and burglary.  How such a disturbed individual could walk the streets under the radar defies comprehension.

Had Rowles been executed, or given a true life sentence after his first murder, several families would not be suffering as they are today.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Child Molester Stopped Cold

Sex offender in child’s bedroom held at gunpoint by father
By Robert A. Waters

It must have been a scary sight indeed.

According to the Ocala (FL) Star Banner, the Jesse Smith family “had gone to dinner, and upon arriving home, Smith’s wife was getting ready to put their 7-year-old daughter to bed, deputies said.  Entering the child’s room, they saw a moving blanket on the floor…Both mother and daughter screamed, and the woman’s husband, who was in another room, came running with his gun and held [Paul Michael] Matheny at gunpoint...”

Hiding under the blanket, Matheny was lucky that Smith used some restraint and didn’t shoot.  Yet when deputies arrived, he resisted arrest.  “This is my house,” he kept repeating.  “I built it.”

Turns out Matheny had at least three convictions for “exposure of sexual organs.”

A .45-caliber Glock goes a long way in stopping a child molester.