Sunday, April 27, 2014

Search for Skeegie Cash

The search for James Bailey “Skeegie” Cash, Jr. began in a driving rain.  Throughout the first day, June 2, 1938, thunderclaps rocked the sky and torrents of water drenched southern Florida.  More than 2,000 farmers, World War I veterans, Seminole Indians, FBI agents, local lawmen, and everyday citizens plowed through miles of swamp, desperate to locate Skeegie.  Crop-dusters and military planes flew precision patterns over the Everglades and divers worked grottos, lakes, and rivers.

A five-year-old boy, treasured by his parents and well-known to his small community, had once been anonymous to the rest of the world.  But on Saturday night, February 28, an unknown kidnapper snatched Skeegie from his home.  As newsmen flocked to Princeton, Florida, the boy’s parents paid a ransom of $10,000, then waited for their son's return.  After two days, it became obvious that Skeegie would not be coming home alive.  Finally, the largest search in Florida history began. 

The Kidnapping and Murder of Little Skeegie Cash: J. Edgar Hoover and Florida’s Lindbergh Case by Robert A. Waters and Zack C. Waters describes this poignant story of a grieving father and mother caught in the heart-killing grip of a monster's mad plan. 

Order the book from University of Alabama Press or  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kidnapped and Murdered: Five-Year-Old Skeegie Cash

My brother Zack C. Waters spent decades researching A Small but Spartan Band, about Florida’s Confederates in the War Between the States.  This book is now a classic in the genre.  He has also published a novel, and is currently working on another Civil War book.

Zack and I are co-authors of The Kidnapping and Murder of Little Skeegie Cash: J. Edgar Hoover and Florida’s Lindbergh Case.  This poignant true tale is set in rural Florida in the late 1930s.  Within a few months of the execution of Skeegie's killer, World War II erupted in all its tragic fury and the Cash case was largely forgotten.

Zack and I researched 4,000 pages from the original FBI files.  We were also able to obtain nearly a thousand pages of court documents, beginning with the trial of Franklin Pierce McCall, his appeals, and his execution.  We also gained access to a previously unknown archive of material about the local sheriff who fingered the suspect.

The kidnapping and murder of James Bailey “Skeegie” Cash, Jr. led to tragic consequences for all involved—except J. Edgar Hoover.  The FBI had nearly run out of money and Hoover needed a successful case that would pressure politicians to allocate additional funding.  He found his case in the kidnapping of Skeegie.  In his usual head-on, bullying style, Hoover flew down to the swamps of south Florida and turned disaster into a victory for himself and the Bureau.

Zack and I would like to invite everyone to purchase this book and read it.  It would also make a great gift for the crime reader in your family.  (NOTE: While the book is well-researched, it is written in a readable dramatic true crime style.)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Death for the Boston Bomber

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces execution if convicted of the Boston Marathon bombings.  Massachusetts has no death penalty, so the United States Department of Justice will try the suspected terrorist.  I’m no fan of our bloated, corrupt Federal government, but they’re right on this one.  If Tsarnaev is found guilty, he deserves nothing less than death.

The mutilated bodies of three victims were located in the wreckage after the attacks.  Krystle Marie Campbell, 29; Lingzi Lu, 23; and Martin Richard, 8, died of horrific injuries.  Just days later, Sean Collier, 27, an MIT police officer, was shot to death in his police cruiser.  Investigators claim that in addition to the bombings, brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar killed the campus cop.  (Tamerlan later died during a shootout with police.)

Krystle, 29, a native of Medford, Massachusetts, lived in Arlington at the time of her death.  She was near the finish line with a friend when the first bomb detonated.  An employee of Jasper White Summer Shack restaurants, Krystle managed the catering division.  Her family stated that she worked 70 to 80 hours a week.  Krystle’s grandmother, Lillian, said, “She was so cute.  She was just full of life.  She loved being around people.  She was a people lover, even as a little girl.  She always had a lot of friends around her.  She loved music, and she loved life, Krystle did.  She was always bouncing and always happy.”

There was no reason for Krystle Campbell to die at that moment in time.

Lingzi Lu, 23, was a graduate student at Boston University.  Born in China, Lingzi always dreamed of immigrating to America.  She seemed happy in her adopted country.  Seeking a career in international business, Lingzi had just completed a difficult statistics course and applied for several internships.  She was an only child.

There was no reason for Lingzi Lu to die at that moment in time.

Martin William Richard, 8, became the face of the murder victims.  In the aftermath, Martin’s innocent smile, blown from his lips by a home-made bomb, graced newspapers and television sets across the country.  Every member of Martin’s family suffered extreme injuries and psychological damage from the explosion.  Their child’s brutalized, lifeless body will haunt Martin’s mother and father for life.

There was no reason for Martin Richard to die at that moment in time.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Police Officer Sean Collier sat in his cruiser when the terrorists allegedly shot him dead.  The popular cop loved the outdoors, and belonged to a hiking club.  A “technological geek,” he fit into the campus culture.  A memorial to his life is currently being erected on the MIT campus.

There was no reason for Sean Collier to die at that moment in time.

In addition to the dead, hundreds suffered horrendous life-changing injuries.

The Tsarnaev brothers had every opportunity America has to offer.  Many people are threatened by freedom, and maybe this was part of their motive.  Or maybe Islamist extremists won’t be satisfied until they’ve destroyed the freedom that makes this country great.  It was said that the brothers had become increasingly radicalized in the year leading up to the attacks.

Whatever the motive, if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is convicted, death is too good for him.  But it’s all our system has to offer to express our repugnance for the acts that took four innocent lives.      

Sunday, April 6, 2014

New York Boy Kidnapped, Murdered

On February 24, 1938, twelve-year-old Peter David Levine disappeared from New Rochelle, New York.  While walking home from school with a companion, Peter stepped into a store to buy candy.  He was never seen alive again.

The New Rochelle Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched a massive search.  Soon Peter’s father received a note demanding $60,000 in cash for the return of his son.  He could raise only half, and offered that to the kidnappers.

On May 29, after weeks of silence, Peter’s torso washed ashore behind a home on Long Island.  An Associated Press story described the scene: “One hundred local police and G-men searched nearby shores today for the remnants of the body of kidnaped 12-year-old Peter Levine, whose wire-trussed, headless torso was yielded up last night by the waters of Long Island Sound…”

The night before Peter’s body was found, another kidnapping occurred.  James Bailey “Skeegie” Cash disappeared from his Princeton, Florida home.  For two weeks, the cases ran simultaneously in newspapers across the country.  The difference between the modestly wealthy parents of Peter Levine and the “obscure country merchant” father of Skeegie was stark.  But both parents did all they could to bring their sons home.

The inside story of these cases is told in a dramatic new book by Robert A. Waters and Zack C. Waters.  While the Levine case was never solved, the Cash abduction reached a horrifying conclusion in the swamps of the Everglades.  The Kidnapping and Murder of Little Skeegie Cash: J. Edgar Hoover and Florida’s Lindbergh Case breaks new ground in the history of child abduction.