Wednesday, December 21, 2022

A Serial Killer in Jacksonville?

The Vanishings

By Robert A. Waters

Jacksonville, Florida. 1974. With a population of slightly more than 500,000 souls, murders were not rare, but the abduction and killing of pre-teen children was almost unheard of. Then, within the space of three months, as summer edged into fall, five children went missing. Two were later discovered deceased, three were never found. Cops had little evidence. Investigators couldn't figure out if there was one serial killer, two serial killers, or several random murderers. After nearly fifty years, the crimes have never been solved.

Kidnapped on a bicycle

It started with nine-year-old Jean “Jeanie” Marie Schoen. On July 21, 1974, the child walked to Hannah’s Food Store on the corner of Pearl Street and 19th Street, just two blocks from her home. Her uncle had given her money to buy him a pack of cigarettes. Jeanie sported blonde hair, green eyes, and a missing front tooth. She loved life and wore a perpetual smile. After Jeanie purchased the cigarettes, she decided to walk to "The Hangout," a nearby arcade store.

Once there, she found the manager mopping the floor. He directed her to leave until it dried. Jeanie found one of her playmates and they wandered to a nearby laundromat.

After fifteen minutes, her mother, concerned that Jeanie hadn’t returned, sent Jeanie's brother to locate her. He came back empty-handed, so she directed her own brother (the uncle who had sent her out for tobacco) to look for Jeanie. He also found no trace of the girl.

The family never saw Jeanie again.

At the laundromat, things spun out of control. Her friend claimed she saw a man grab Jeanie and force her into the rest room. She and the stranger came out a few minutes later and Jeanie was crying. The stranger then picked her up, propped her onto the seat of his bicycle, and pedaled off. Within seconds, the two had vanished.

Witnesses described the kidnapper as a white male, with blondish hair styled like Elvis Presley.

A weird story. Whoever heard of using a bicycle to abduct a child? Yet witnesses confirmed the incident.

Jeanie’s broken-hearted mother, Pam Schoen, searched for her lost child until she died. "I don’t have life or death," she told reporters. She stated that never knowing what happened to her baby was the hardest part of living. She died at age 57, still hoping…

Two sisters abducted from home

A week and a half later, on August 1, Lillian Annette Anderson, 11, and her sister, Mylette Josephine Anderson, 6, vanished from their residence, never to be seen again. Like the earlier abduction of Jeanie Schoen, bizarre elements of the case stymied detectives. Annette and Mylette had been left home alone while their mother and older sister went to check on a sick relative. Their father, Jack, a commercial fisherman, was at work.

Jack called the house at 7:00 p.m. and spoke to the girls. He told them his outboard had stopped working and he planned to fix it before coming home. Jack heard the dog barking in the background, but the girls told him everything was fine. Concerned, he called back at 7:20. However, his daughters did not answer. When he arrived home a few minutes later, the girls weren’t there.

Jack found the dog locked in a back bedroom. The only thing missing (other than the girls) was a doll Mylette carried everywhere. Detectives suspected the sisters were snatched in that 20-minute window between calls.

The Pumpkin Hill area where the Anderson family lived was rural. An old cemetery, dotted with washed-out gravestones, sat behind the house, but most of the area was wooded. Hundreds of searchers combed the surrounding forests and swamps for days, but never found a clue.

Jack and Elizabeth Anderson barely survived the aftermath. Grief, guilt, and loss tormented them until they died. They never found out what happened to their beloved daughters.

The "sexual pervert" theory

September 27, 1974. Virginia Suzanne Helm disappeared. On October 2, 1974, pine-cone hunters found her body partially buried in a wooded area near Beachwood and Beach Boulevard. Virginia had been shot in the head with a .22-caliber bullet. Although she wore only a blouse when found, the coroner stated he saw "no sign of rape." A sheriff's department spokesperson informed reporters that child molesters don't always rape their victims. He called it the "sexual pervert theory."

Virginia had walked to a convenience store to buy soap for her mother. The store was just two blocks from her home. She never returned.

Three days after Virginia disappeared, a couple driving on New King's Road spied a red Volkswagen bug beside the highway. They stopped to offer help and saw a disturbing sight. According to newspaper accounts, "The couple got out of the car to see if the man driving needed help. They noticed a young girl in the backseat of the car. The girl's knees were on the floorboard and her hands were on the seat as if she was trying to get up. Her pupils were dilated and she was looking back and forth rapidly and she appeared to be scared."

The car roared away so fast the couple could not get the license tag number. They contacted investigators and told them they were sure the girl was Virginia. Deputies flooded the area with patrol cars, but never found the red VW.

After Virginia's remains were located, lawmen conducted a determined search of the area, hoping to locate the other missing children. Their searches came up empty.

Virginia's killer has never been identified.

The skeleton on the beach

On October 16, twelve-year-old Rebecca Ann Greene went missing after having walked to a neighborhood food store five blocks away from her home. A clerk told cops she had seen Rebecca purchase several soft drinks, then leave out a side door. On her way home, however, the auburn-haired, blue-eyed girl vanished into thin air.

Three years later, a skeleton washed up on the shore of Little St. George Island, in the mouth of the St. John's River. A picnicker spotted the remains among driftwood and seaweed. Duval County Medical Examiner Dr. Peter Lipkovic identified the remains as Rebecca. According to a story in the Fort Myers News-Press, "Lipkovic said he is still unable to determine the girl's cause of death. By the looks of the bones, he said, the girl had been dead for six months to several years."

The coroner scoured her remains for clues, finding a single foreign hair.

Like the parents of the other missing girls, Ed and Reba Greene were devastated by the loss of their daughter. They moved to Georgia but never stopped looking for her. The News-Press reported that "members of the Greene family were certain about a year ago they had located Rebecca when they were watching the telecast of a church revival in North Carolina and saw a girl in the audience who looked like Rebecca." Investigators determined the girl at the revival was not Rebecca.

Who murdered the five girls?

Throughout the decades, much speculation has centered on various suspects in these murders. 

A serial murderer named John Paul Knowles confessed to abducting and killing Mylette and Annette Anderson. While it has been confirmed that he committed at least 18 murders in the southeastern United States, cops said his confession to the sisters' killings was dubious since he did not know all the facts. A few years later, Knowles was shot to death during an escape attempt.

Theodore Bundy has been named as a possible suspect, but no evidence was ever found to corroborate his involvement.

In October of 1974, a man driving a pickup truck snatched a seven-year-old girl. He took the child to a remote area in the woods and fondled her. Then he severely beat her and left the girl for dead. Somehow, she survived and found her way out of the dark forest by following a power transmission line.

Earl Taylor Higginbotham was convicted of the kidnapping and assault of the young girl. Investigators did everything possible to connect their suspect to the five previous abductions and murders, but concluded he was innocent of those crimes. Higginbotham died in prison.

What happened during that murder season? 

Will we ever know?

Monday, December 12, 2022

Execution Date Set for Mississippi Killer Thomas Edwin Loden, Jr.

The Stranger

Written by Robert A. Waters

Note: Some content in this story is graphic. Just a warning!

On June 22, 2000, at 10:30 p.m., sixteen-year-old Leesa Marie Gray left Comer's Restaurant in Dorsey, Mississippi to drive home. A part-time waitress and high school junior, Leesa felt edgy. A strange man had come into the cafeteria around noon and tried flirting with her. He stood well over six feet tall, looked to be in his mid-to-late thirties, and had a hard face with weird-looking green eyes. Leesa ignored him, and after he ate a cheeseburger, the stranger left.

Unincorporated, the community of Dorsey lies in Itawamba County, Mississippi with a population of about 4,000. Tupelo, the birthplace of Elvis Presley, is about 20 miles away.

At 9:00 that night, Thomas Edwin Loden, Jr. returned to the restaurant and ordered another cheeseburger to go. The day before, he had driven from his home in Vicksburg to visit his ailing grandmother. Years before, Loden had grown up in Dorsey, attending the same high school as Leesa Marie.

As she left for the night, Leesa saw the strange man leaning against his two-tone green Ford Econoline van. He gave her the creeps, so she scurried into her car and sped off. Out on the highway, she suddenly felt and heard the tell-tale sign of a tire rim grinding against the asphalt. Oh no, she must have thought. A flat tire. Leesa pulled off the road, less than a half-mile from her home.

Court documents report that "when Leesa did not return home from work as expected, her mother, Wanda Marie Farris, became worried and began making phone calls in an attempt to locate her daughter. Mrs. Farris called Comer's Restaurant cook, Richard Tallant, who told her that as he was driving home, he had seen a car on the side of the road with hazard lights flashing. [After the call], Tallant immediately returned to the abandoned car, saw that it was Leesa's, and drove to Mrs. Farris' home. They discovered that one of the tires on the vehicle was flat, the doors were unlocked, and Leesa's purse and cell phone were inside the car. They called the Itawamba County Sheriff's Office, and an investigation began into Leesa's disappearance."

During questioning, Tallant stated that he had recognized Thomas Edwin Loden, Jr. in the restaurant earlier that day. The cook informed detectives that Loden had driven 400 miles to visit his grandmother who owned a farm nearby. Loden, he said, had made inappropriate comments to the attractive blonde high schooler.

Detectives quickly drove to the home of Rena Loden, grandmother of the suspect. In the driveway, they noticed Loden's van and a beige Oldsmobile 88 Regency that belonged to Mrs. Loden. They learned the suspect was in the house asleep. At the time, they had no warrant to search the home or the vehicles, so they left. Investigators soon located two witnesses from the restaurant who identified Loden's van as the one seen on the premises that night.

Deputies returned shortly with a search warrant. In the house, investigators found a pair of shorts stained with blood. Inside the Olds, they located a "rope fashioned into a handcuff style knot."

Detectives towed the car and van to Highway Patrol Headquarters in New Albany.  There "Leesa's body was found pushed under a fold-down seat in Loden's van. Along with other evidence, a JVC camcorder was recovered from the van, and a VHS compact video cassette was removed from it. Footage from the video depicts Leesa Marie Gray being forced to engage in fellatio on Loden, Loden vaginally raping her, and anal penetration of Leesa with his fingers." In addition, the killer used a cucumber to repeatedly assault the teenager. According to court documents, "footage depicts Loden twisting the breast of an unconscious Leesa in an apparent attempt to bring her back to consciousness." *

The coroner ruled that Leesa's death had been caused by suffocation and manual strangulation.

Cops, stunned by the brutality of Loden's crimes, expanded their search for him.

In a bizarre twist to an already strange case, a passerby found Loden lying in a ditch beside the road and called 911. Using a broken beer bottle, the suspect had carved the words, "I'm sorry," across his chest. He also had superficial cuts to his wrists. After treatment for his injuries, detectives questioned Loden. He initially denied having murdered Leesa, but the evidence against him was so strong he later admitted he "may have" done it, although he claimed not to remember.

Loden had never had any serious run-ins with the law. After graduating from high school, he joined the United States Marine Corps. He worked his way up to gunnery sergeant and at the time of his arrest had spent four years as a Marine Corps recruiter. He fought in Operation Desert Storm. Standing six-feet-four inches tall, and weighing nearly two hundred pounds, Loden could have easily subdued Leesa.

In an article form the AFA Journal, Rusty Benson writes, "Loden stepped outside [the restaurant], pretending to tend to something in his van. It was parked next to Leesa's 1992 opal green Honda Accord. A perfect plan and perfect execution, he must have thought, as he knelt down between his van and Leesa's car, out of view of anyone who might happen along. Then he buried the business end of a utility knife deep into Leesa's passenger side tire. The blade broke off. He probably figured she would be a few thousand feet down the road toward home before the tire completely deflated and forced her to stop. He was right." Investigators later found the blade wedged between the threads of the flat tire.

Addicted to hard core pornography, Loden had likely acted out a violent sexual fantasy on the innocent girl. Leesa Marie Gray had endured more than four hours of extreme sexual torture before being killed.

Pleading guilty to murder, rape, kidnapping and sexual battery of Leesa, the court sentenced Loden to death. For more than twenty years, he has fought justice through appeal after appeal, but Mississippi has now set a date for the killer's execution: December 14, 2022. 

It can't come too soon.

*(The court stated that a copy of the videotape had been placed in a vault to be protected from public scrutiny.)

NOTE: Thomas Edwin Loden, Jr. was executed at 6:12 p.m. on December 15, 2022.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Richard Allen's Defense Team Releases Statement in the Delphi Murder Case

I don't know whether Richard Allen is guilty or innocent of the murders of Liberty German and Abigail Williams. But I do think the defense should have as much right to speak publicly about the case as the Sheriff and prosecutors. I'm publishing the recent defense press release for your information.


As Richard (Rick) Allen's attorneys, we have received multiple requests from local and national media for interviews and comment since the unsealing of the probable cause affidavit. It would be virtually impossible to comply with the requests and to continue to focus on the merits of Rick's defense. Therefore, we offer up these thoughts:

We do not want to try this case in the media and we intend to adhere to the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct that provide guidance on pretrial publicity. However, the police and prosecutor's office have conducted many press conferences over the five-plus years of this investigation and following our client's arrest. On the other hand, Rick's ability to assert his innocence has been reduced to only one short, post-hearing press conference. Accordingly, we feel it appropriate, necessary, and within the bounds of our rules of professional conduct to make a few comments concerning the probable cause affidavit and Rick's innocence.

*  Rick is a 50-year-old man who has never been arrested nor accused of any crime in his entire life. He is innocent and completely confused as to why he has been charged with these crimes.

*  The police did not contact Rick after Libby German and Abby Williams went missing, rather Rick contacted the police and voluntarily discussed being on the trail that day. Like many people in Delphi, Rick wanted to help in any way he could. Rick contacted the police to let them know that he had walked on the trail that day, as he often did. Without Rick coming forward, the police probably would not have had any way of knowing that he was on the trail that day.

* Rick volunteered to meet with a Conservation Officer outside of the local grocery store to offer up details of his trip to the trail on the day in question. Rick tried to assist with the investigation and told the police that he did recall seeing three younger girls on the trail that day. His contact with the girls was brief and of little significance. Rick does not recall if this interaction with the Conservation Officer was tape-recorded but believes that the Conservation Officer scribbled notes on a notepad as Rick spoke to him.

* After Rick shared this information with law enforcement officials, he went back to his job at the local CVS and didn't hear from the police for more than 5 years.

* The next time Rick heard from the police was in October, 2022. This was approximately two weeks before a contested Sheriff's election and within days of a federal lawsuit filed against the Carroll County Sheriff's Office by its former second in command, Michael Thomas.

* In the lawsuit, Thomas claims that he (Thomas) "had made suggestions and offered assistance in the investigation of a high-profile child homicide investigation" but those suggestions and offers were rejected by the Sheriff. Thomas further claimed that the Sheriff and others in the department feared the disagreements with Thomas would become publicized as a result of the political campaign for Sheriff.

* Thomas claims in the suit that he was ultimately demoted and replaced by Tony Liggett, who later won the 2022 election for Sheriff. Furthermore, Thomas feels he was also removed from high profile cases.

* Rick was ultimately arrested on or about October 28, 2022.

* In the 5+ years since Rick volunteered to provide information to the police, Rick did not get rid of his vehicle or his guns and did not throw out his clothing. He did not alter his appearance; he did not relocate himself to another community. He did what every innocent man would do and continued with his normal routine.

* The probable cause affidavit seems to suggest that a single magic bullet is proof of Rick's guilt. It is a bit premature to engage in any detailed discussions regarding the veracity of this evidence until more discovery in received, but it is safe to say that the discipline of tool-mark identification is anything but a science. The entire discipline has been under attack in courtrooms across the country as being unreliable and lacking scientific validity. We anticipate a vigorous legal and factual challenge to any claims by the prosecution of its conclusions concerning the single magic bullet.

* On Rick's behalf, we argued to have the PCA unsealed. Rick has nothing to hide. As importantly, we were hoping that we could receive tips that would assist us in proving up his innocence. Not surprisingly, we have been inundated with tips from a variety of sources, all of which will be vetted by our team. Although it is the burden of the prosecutor to prove Rick's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the defense team looks forward to conducting its own investigation concerning Rick's innocence. We appreciate those who have reached out to support his cause.

* The prosecutor mentioned, at the last hearing, his belief that others may have been involved in the killing (sic), yet there was no mention in the PCA about a suspect involved in the killing (sic). The defense is confused by such discrepancies in the investigation and will be in a better position to respond as more discovery is received.

* Rick Allen owned a Ford Focus in February of 2017. His Ford Focus is not, in any way, similar to the distinctive look of the PT Cruiser or Smart car that was described by the witnesses. It seems that CCSD is trying to bend facts to fit their narrative.

* At this point in time, we have received very limited information about this case and look forward to having something more to view than that which was offered in the sparse PCA.

Moving forward, it is our intent to scrutinize the discovery, as it is received, and give the necessary attention to the volumes of tips that we are receiving. To the extent we continue to discover information that points to Rick's innocence, we will offer up this information to the public, so long as we are not prohibited from doing so as a result of the recent request by the Prosecutor for a gag order or by the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct.

Attorneys from the law firm of Hillis, Hillis, Rozzi and Dean published the briefing.


Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Perverted Killer Died in California's Gas Chamber

The Girl He Killed

By Robert A. Waters

On the evening of August 19, 1952, sixteen-year-old Kathryn Knodel sat in her Redlands, California home watching television. Her stepfather, Erwin Knodel, was at work and her mother at a swim meet with her other children. Marie Knodel later told detectives that when she left the house, Kathryn wore "white twill shorts, a plaid shirt and had her hair tied in a pony-tail with a piece of red ribbon." When Marie returned home around 9:30 p.m., Kathryn was gone.

Marie thought she heard Kathryn talking and laughing with neighbors next door, so she didn't worry. At midnight, she left to pick up her husband from his job. When they returned, Marie checked on her daughter but couldn't find the teen. Even though it was early morning, the parents began knocking on doors in search of Kathryn.

An hour later, after awakening numerous grumpy neighbors, they had located no one who'd seen the girl.

While the Knodels continued their futile quest, Fred Lacy, a roofer, drove toward his home on Highway 99 from Indio to Palm Springs. Just before turning onto Ramon Road, he spied a half-naked body lying across the white line of the highway. Court documents state that he "did not stop but continued to Palm Springs where he reported the matter to the police department. The police proceeded to the spot described by the witness and found the body of a girl, quickly identified as Kathryn Knodel. The body was clad only in a brassiere and plaid blouse; it was lying on its back with the arms folded underneath. At that time, rigor mortis had begun to set in."

Funeral home personnel transported the corpse to the F. Arthur Cortner Mortuary in Redlands. There, Los Angeles "police chemist" Ray Pinker, on loan to Redlands PD, autopsied the remains. He determined that death had resulted from a skull fracture. He found six fracture wounds on top of Kathryn's head, possibly inflicted by a tire iron or some other hard object. Her jaw had been fractured in two places, and her face badly bruised. In addition, several teeth had been knocked out. 

Kathryn had been sexually violated--Pinker collected semen from her vagina. The chemist told reporters that her hymen had been torn. Oak leaves and red earth in her hair indicated the girl had been killed somewhere else, not along the dry desert road where she lay. Broken fingernails indicated Kathryn had struggled with her attacker. Evidence showed that the wound on the right back side of her head was the most severe. Pinker stated that it was the only single wound that could have caused death and "the girl might have survived had she received medical attention."

Thirty-seven-year-old John Chauncey Lawrance* quickly surfaced as the lead suspect. The brother of Marie Knodel, he visited often. Unlike his sister, he was well-known to local cops. He had deserted his common law wife after she became pregnant with their daughter. He owed a significant amount of child support and had been called into court recently. After agreeing to make payment, he was released. Lawrance had previously served hard time for armed robbery. At the time of the murder, he resided in San Rafael with a new girlfriend.

Four days after the crime, when Lawrance learned he was wanted, he turned himself in.

By the time he met with detectives, they knew a lot about his activities on the night of Kathryn's death.

Lawrance drove a distinctive 1936 Dodge, described as "dirty, rusted and faded." Witnesses reported seeing the car in various locations around the time the murder was thought to have been committed. At 11:30 p.m., his car got "stuck" on the railroad tracks in the nearby community of Garnet. Witnesses saw him struggling to remove a heavy bundle and dragging it about 30-40 yards down the side of the track. They watched him place the bundle in a wooded area then return back to the car where he persuaded a signal maintainer and fireman to help him dislodge his auto. Instead of going on his way, Lawrance drove alongside the track back to where he'd dragged the bundle. He was seen placing it in his car and speeding off.

As investigators checked out witness statements, they found blood in the drag marks beside the tracks. They believed Lawrance had taken Kathryn's body from the car so individuals helping him move the vehicle wouldn't see the dead girl.

Lawrance told investigators an unlikely story.

He had picked up Kathryn, he said, because she wanted to have "sexual relations" with him. He stated they had engaged in sexual acts twice before. After having sex this time, he said he had a flat tire. Katherine got out of the car and "squatted" beside him as he changed it. Lawrance stated that while he worked to raise the tire so he could replace it, the tire jack handle slipped, flew off, and struck Katherine in the head. She lay motionless just off the road, and he thought she was dead. Due to his police record, he decided to make the death look like a car accident. So he beat her with the jack handle and a thirty-pound rock later found near the crime scene with blood on it. He stated he took the body out to a lonely spot in the desert and dumped her onto the road.

The story was preposterous. Evidence showed Katherine had been raped and beaten severely. The girl had never shown any desire to hang around with the ne'er-do-well who sometimes visited her mother. The tear of her hymen, according to police chemist Pinker, proved that Katherine was a virgin before the night of her death. During trial, other medical experts agreed.

Investigators believed Lawrance had developed an obsession with the pretty young teen. He once attempted to give his old clunker to Katherine, but her mother wouldn't allow it. Some family members said he couldn't keep his eyes off her. On the night of the murder, he knew Katherine would be home alone and drove to the Knodel residence. There, detectives believed he either talked her into getting in his car or forced her. Lawrance then drove her to a secluded area and attempted to have sex with her. When she refused, cops said, he bludgeoned her to death. Pinker stated at trial that Lawrance likely had sex with Katherine after death.

The case fascinated Californians. Newspaper editors couldn't get enough, publishing numerous stories.

Kathryn's funeral was held at the Sacred Heart Church in Redlands. Three hundred people attended, including one hundred students from her high school. She was eulogized for having a zest for learning--in fact, he was a straight-A student. Kathryn had been a friend to many, said Father Casey, and no doubt rests in heaven. Meanwhile, her grief-stricken parents barely made it through the service without collapsing. She was buried at Hillside Cemetery in Redlands.

Police briefly suspected Lawrance may have committed additional murders, including that of Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia. No other victims, however, were found that could be linked to the Redlands killer.

Lawrance was tried, convicted and sentenced to death. He appealed his conviction, but in a long, detailed enunciation of the facts known, the California Supreme Court affirmed his guilt and death sentence.

The NAPA Valley Register described his execution: "John Chauncey Lawrence (sic), 38-year-old Redlands sex killer, went to death in San Quentin's apple green gas chamber today hysterically shouting and protesting his innocence to his last gasp. The slight, balding killer of his 16-year-old niece trembled visibly and his face was chalk white when escorted into the octagonal death chamber...He was pronounced dead at 10:12 a.m."

NOTE: Most media at the time spelled Lawrance's name "Lawrence," which was wrong. People v Lawrance, 41 CAL.2nd 291 vigorously describes the case and the killer's rejected appeal.

Monday, October 10, 2022

The Greenwood Park Mall Shooting

Elisha Dicken
The Kill Kit

By Robert A. Waters

On the afternoon of July 18, 2022, Jonathan Douglas Sapirman put in place his plan to slaughter dozens of innocents. He lived less than a half mile from his target, the Greenwood (Indiana) Park Mall. Before leaving his apartment, he flushed his cell phone down the toilet and placed his computer in the oven with a can of Butane gas. Turning the heat as high as it would go, Sapirman thought the ensuing fire and possible explosion would destroy his evil evidence.

Then he locked his apartment door and walked to the mall. Drivers on the highway may have seen him struggling with his heavy backpack as he trudged along, but no one knew he was toting a kill kit filled with guns and ammunition.

On reaching the mall, at 4:54 p.m., Sapirman walked directly to the bathrooms near the food court. Surveillance videos record him coming out one hour later. Investigators speculated that while in a rest room stall, he assembled and loaded his guns.

In addition to the Sig Sauer M400 rifle he used to shoot up the mall, police later found a second long gun and a handgun in his backpack as well as 100 rounds of ammunition. In addition, he wore a waist band holster containing several loaded magazines.

At 5:56 p.m., he stepped into the food court. From there, Sapirman had a panoramic view of dozens of people sitting at tables, standing in line ordering food, or merely wandering through the court.

Before anyone even noticed him, the blast of his rifle shattered the silence.

Within seconds, Sapirman had killed three people and wounded two others. Victor Gomez was first. He had been walking toward the rest room when the shooter encountered him. Pedro Pineda, 56, and his wife, Rosa Mirian Rivera de Pineda, 37, were eating when Sapirman gunned them down at their table. Sapirman also shot an unidentified woman in the leg, and a twelve-year-old girl suffered minor wounds when a bullet fragment ricocheted off a wall and struck her in the back.

He was just getting started.

As the horror of what was happening seared into the minds of customers and staff, panicked people began fleeing the scene.

What Sapirman didn’t expect was resistance. After all, the mall, owned by the Simon Property Group, was a "gun-free zone." It even had signs at the entrance warning shoppers not to carry weapons inside. Fortunately, one other customer decided to ignore that warning. (Police later stated that Elisha Dicken, 22, was carrying legally because of Indiana’s recently passed “constitutional carry” law.)

Standing with his girlfriend in front of Blondie’s Cookies, Dicken yelled for her to drop to the floor. Pushing her down, he then turned to face the shooter who was 30-40 yards away. Dicken pulled his Glock 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol from his holster and steadied himself against a nearby column for support. Fifteen seconds after the shooter had begun his murderous campaign, Dicken took aim and fired ten rounds at him.

Caught by surprise, Sapirman fired one last shot into the food court, then turned to flee. But before he could make it back to the safety of the bathroom, he stumbled and fell.

The coroner later discovered the killer had been hit with eight rounds. Of the ten shots Dicken had fired, only two missed the target. When police arrived, Sapirman, who had shot 24 rounds, lay dead.

Little is known about Jonathan Douglas Sapirman. He had no police record and, unlike many mass shooters, had little presence on social media. Approximately a month earlier, he’d quit his job at a local warehouse. He seems to have holed up in his room at Polo Run Apartments until he received an eviction notice for failure to pay rent. Police suspect he was smoldering, maybe planning his revenge on humanity. He did, however, keep in touch with his family and seemed “cheerful” in the days leading up to the shootings.

Investigators and politicians of the community hailed Dicken as a hero. Greenwood mayor Mark Myers told reporters that [Dicken] "acted in seconds, stopped the attacker and saved countless lives."

Speaking about Dicken, Greenwood Police Chief James Ison spoke to reporters. "I will say his actions were nothing short of heroic," the chief said. "He engaged the gunman from quite a distance with a handgun. [He] was very tactically sound as he moved to close in on the suspect, he was also motioning for people to exit behind him. He has no police training and no military background."

Mall administrators issued the following statement to the press: "We grieve for the victims of yesterday's horrific tragedy at Greenwood Park Mall. Violence has no place in this or any other community. We are grateful for the strong response of the first responders, including the heroic actions of the good Samaritan who stopped the suspect."

Even though numerous local officials told reporters Dicken saved "countless lives," anti-gun groups weren't so kind.

A spokesperson for the Brady Project, commenting on the shooting, wrote: "We need sensible gun laws, not vigilante safety."

William Quartermaine wrote that "the shooting and deaths of three innocent victims along with the veneration of Dicken for murdering the shooter points to the deep social crisis and reactionary political developments in the United States." (My italics.)

NOTE: Sapirman's scheme to black out his computer content worked. Because of heat damage, cops were unable to retrieve any data from his laptop. 

Monday, September 12, 2022

The Dari Mart Murder

"We were all into evil..."

By Robert A. Waters

On April 10, 1994, just before 11:00 p.m., four teens entered the Dari Mart convenience store on Royal Avenue in Eugene, Oregon. Michael James Hayward, 19, Jason Van Brumwell, 18, Johl Dawson Brock, 19, and Daniel Rabago, 16, looked like regular customers.

Employee Frances Wall, 28, was in the back while Donna Ream, also 28, stood at the counter. It was closing time and they were putting the finishing touches on their day. Wall had a husband and four children waiting at home. She loved music and gardening.

In State vs Hayward, the court affirmed that the young men carried "a dumbbell bar, a thin metal bar about two feet long with one pointed end, a chisel-type hammer and a knife." The teens had smoked joints and listened to death metal music all day. Rabago later testified that "we were all into evil and we were all pretty much deathers." He described a "deather" as an individual with a lot of hate inside and one who embraces "the morbid things of life." Running out of weed, the teens decided to rob a store so they could purchase more.

Court documents state that "Hayward, followed by Brock, went to the back of the store. Brumwell and Rabago remained in the front. Brumwell, holding the dumbbell bar over his head and emitting a deep growl, ran toward Ream, who was standing behind the check-out counter...Ream jumped back in fright. Brumwell said he was just joking and asked her to give him money in the cash register. Ream did so."

Brumwell and Rabago walked toward the back through a maze of aisles, past shelves filled with candy, pastries and other groceries. There they encountered Mrs. Wall stocking the cooler.

The court described what happened next: "Hayward struck Wall in the back of the head with the pointed, thin metal bar, knocking her to the ground. Wall attempted to protect her head from more blows by putting her arms in front of her face. [Hayward] struck her on the head with the bar five or six more times, striking her as hard as he could. The blows shattered Wall's skull. Brock left the store, drove his car some 50 yards away and waited for the others to come out. Meanwhile, Brumwell handed Rabago the dumbbell bar and told him to watch Ream while he joined Hayward in the back room. At some point, [Rabago] shoved the pointed bar completely through Wall's skull. She died at the scene."

Hayward, Brumwell and Rabago then forced Ream into a back room. There they used the dumbbell bar to strike her repeatedly. Medical staff later said she'd been hit 50 times. As she continued to try to defend herself, Brumwell asked, "Why don't you just die, bitch?" Brumwell then shoved the bar into her mouth, knocking out several teeth.

The court stated that "sometime during the attack on Ream, the young men heard the bell that rings in the back room when someone comes in the front door. They stopped beating Ream and left the store. Ream threw herself against the bathroom door to close it. When she heard a boy's voice in the front of the store, she called to him to call the police. Then Ream ran from the store to a house across the street and collapsed on the floor when the residents let her in. A large portion of her scalp was torn off by the blows to her head, a disk in her neck was herniated, she lost almost half of the blood in her body, and she suffered permanent damage to her arms and hands. Nonetheless, Ream never lost consciousness, and some months later she was able to identify photographs of her attackers."

Meanwhile, the teens escaped with $30 in cash and 200 Oregon lottery tickets.

It took investigators seven months to track down the killers. Once the teens cashed in the winning lottery tickets, police identified Hayward (who had signed his real name on the back). Under interrogation, he cracked and led detectives to the others.

At trial, Hayward testified that although they weren't satanists, they believed that "God is weak and Satan is strong." He showed no remorse for his part in the brutal attacks on the women and was convicted of robbery, kidnapping and first-degree murder. In the liberal state of Oregon, jurors sentenced hm to death.

Daniel Rabago, a juvenile at the time of the crimes, turned state's evidence and testified against his cohorts. He pled guilty to two counts of felony murder and was sentenced to twelve years. He served only nine. Dan Wall, Frances Wall's husband, complained to reporters about the early release. He said his children, 14 and 12, were "fearful that [Rabago's] release will make it more difficult to get on with their lives."

Jason Brumwell was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to life without parole. Thirteen years into his sentence, Brumwell and a second inmate murdered another prisoner. For that crime, he received a death sentence. However, the courts overturned the verdict, reinstating his original life sentence. 

Johl Dawson Brock, the getaway driver, was released from prison in 2002, just eight years after the murder.

Monday, September 5, 2022

The Lost Son

The Bible has hundreds, if not thousands, of great stories. There's Samson, whose lust for a wicked woman caused his horrific downfall. There's the beautiful teen Salome, whose wanton dance for her stepfather caused an innocent man to literally lose his head. Then there's the "Prodigal Son."  This poignant tale was related by Jesus to his followers. While there is a moralistic message to most Biblical stories, they are so true to life they can stand alone if you happen to be a non-believer.

The Prodigal Son

"There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.

"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me one of your hired servants.' So he got up and went to his father.

"But while he was a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'

"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.

"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'

The older brother became very angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!

"'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and now is found.'"

NOTE: Hebrews considered swine to be unclean, so feeding pigs would be the worst job imaginable for a Jew.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Released Juvenile Slayer Kills Again

“The Sweetest Little Person…and a Time Bomb.”

By Robert A. Waters


On June 10, 1992, ninety-year-old Mary Haddon perished when a young teen bludgeoned her to death. Her quiet neighborhood on Chapel Hill Road in Durham, North Carolina was stunned by her murder. Well-known in town, she had friends in high places. With little money, Mary had talked tight-fisted bankers into financing her first home during the Depression. She paid it off quickly. She married, had a son and lived in Maine for a few years. After her husband died young, the South Carolina native relocated to Durham.

The Raleigh News and Observer reported that Mary “read poetry to relax and played a ferocious game of bridge.” Over the years, she worked hard and prospered. A philanthropist, Mary donated to (and founded) several local charities. She was so frugal that she drove a 22-year-old Oldsmobile Cutlass, its blue paint having faded over time. The car, reported the newspaper, was “an important weapon against isolation in her old age.” Barely five-feet tall, she kept herself trim and fit.

On the other hand, Gregory Devon Gibson’s grandmother once said he was “the sweetest little person…and a timebomb.” Even at the age of thirteen, she could see he was dangerous. While he impressed teachers with a high IQ and good study habits, Gibson had an inner compulsion to impress. An inveterate thief, he stole from friends, relatives, and strangers to support his habit of expensive clothes and high-end shoes. He talked tough, like a wannabe gangster, and, even in his pre-teen years, stole cars to take his companions on wild rides. Even though he compiled an impressive rap sheet, a criminal justice system that was soft on juveniles insured he would face few serious consequences.

On the night Gibson broke into Mary’s home, he intended to steal her car keys. But when the homeowner awoke and confronted him, Gibson used a hammer and garden mallet to beat her to death. Investigators found Mary’s frail body crushed and battered beyond recognition. Her mutilated face, splintered vertebrae, and shattered ribs stunned even the most hardened detective. After the murder, Gibson spent all night joyriding with his friends. They told police he showed no remorse for his crime.

Lawmen who arrested Gibson were surprised by the fact that he could not be tried as an adult. The News and Observer reported that “because Gibson was under 14, prosecutors had to try the case in juvenile court, and Gibson could only be detained until his eighteenth birthday. The case sparked outrage and legislators later lowered the age for adult prosecution to 13 for serious crimes such as rape or murder.”

Mary Haddon, who’d contributed much to her community, had been killed for the slimmest of reasons and her murderer would face no justice at all.


 Fast-forward to August 25, 1998. Gibson had served less than five years at C. A. Dillon Training School and been released. During the two years he was out, he’d racked up arrests for larceny, assault, domestic violence, and bank robbery. Because of a lenient juvenile justice system and judges who did not see his “dangerousness,” he was still on the streets. 

Sylvester Thompson, Jr. worked as a clerk at the BP convenience store on Chapel Hill Boulevard. He seemed lonely, with few friends. On that humid summer night, Thompson stood mopping the floor when, shortly before 11 p.m., Gibson walked in. Waving a gun, he forced Thompson to walk behind the counter. When the robber demanded money, Thompson pulled out the cash register tray and placed it on the counter. Gibson scooped the cash from the drawer. Then, without warning, he raised his pistol and fired twice, striking Thompson in the face.

A customer found the clerk face-down on the floor. After viewing footage from the surveillance tape, Detective T. D. Mikels said, “The clerk offered no resistance. This was just a very cold-blooded act. That’s the only way I know to put it.”

The business owner, Woody Dunbar, informed reporters that he was distraught at the murder. “I don’t need to hire people” he said, “and then not see them the next day because they got killed working for me.” He stated that Thompson was an excellent employee who worked the night shift seven days a week. Dunbar told reporters that several packs of cigarettes and the bloody store telephone lay beside Thompson. “I have a feeling he tried to call somebody because the phone was down there,” Dunbar said.

Since he had no car, Thompson hired a cab every day to transport him to and from work. He usually arrived an hour early to chat with co-workers on the afternoon shift.

Unlike Mary Haddon, a lonely man died a lonely death and was quickly forgotten.

Gregory Devon Gibson was not forgotten. Four days after Thompson’s murder, cops arrested Gibson in a seedy motel. Many in Durham, outraged by this second murder, demanded justice. Letters to the editors of local papers cried out for the death penalty. “Released at 18 with no supervision,” editors of the News and Observer huffed, “he committed more than 20 crimes in the next two years.”

Gibson should have been in jail when he was set free to murder Thompson. The Durham Herald-Sun wrote that “Gregory Gibson should still have been serving time on an assault-on-a-female charge when the slaying occurred, jail officials said, but due to a paperwork error, he was [released and was not] returned to the jail to finish serving the five-month sentence.”

Now 20, the Durham terror sat brooding in the county jail. For weeks, North Carolina newspapers followed the workings of the legislature as they passed a new law aimed at keeping juvenile rapists and murderers locked up until they turned twenty-one.

Then, on November 13, 1998, two-and-a-half months after his final arrest, Gibson supplied reporters a shocking finale. Viewing his future in a hardcore prison, with absolutely no chance of freedom ever again, Gibson twisted a sheet into a rope and hung himself. He died before guards found him.

In the 25 years since Gibson’s crime spree, there have been other notable crimes in Durham, including that of rogue prosecutor Mike Nifong, who attempted to imprison 3 innocent lacrosse players to life in prison for a fake rape. For a while, Nifong and accuser Crystal Mangum were household names not only in Durham, but nationwide.

Gibson’s crimes have largely been forgotten. Time moves on, of course, but no governing body has developed an effective system to deal with juvenile crime. They probably never will.  

Monday, July 11, 2022

Why Does Anyone Need an AR-15?

VIDEO shows store owner using “assault weapon” to save his life

By Robert A. Waters

More firepower

Hardcore. That’s how cops described a gang of violent thieves who terrorized Milwaukee business owners for years. Bouchard’s, just one of the companies targeted, was a high-end apparel shop. Despite spending thousands of dollars to crime-proof the business, thieves continued to strike. The store once lost $10,000 in merchandise in a midnight raid. In 2012, a Bouchard’s employee suffered gunshot wounds during a daylight robbery. Even though police knew who the thieves were, they never had enough evidence to charge them.

That all changed on July 3, 2015.

Owned by Palestinian immigrant Rami Murrar, Bouchard’s had installed surveillance cameras showing every square inch of the building, inside and out. The store’s front door was constructed of numerous heavy-duty steel bars and “unbreakable” glass windows. Concrete pylons, reinforced by iron girders, guarded the front entrance. As if that wasn’t enough, employees had taken to spending nights at the store in case of a break-in.

That night, Murrar sat at the front sales counter so he could view outside. At exactly 3:55 A.M., he spotted several men shuffling down the sidewalk across the street. In the glow of streetlights, he noticed they wore dark clothing and brandished handguns. It quickly became apparent to the store owner that another robbery was going down.

Murrar kept a Smith &Wesson M&P semiautomatic pistol beside his computer. But when he saw the group outside, he knew he needed more firepower. He quickly retreated to his office and retrieved an AR-15 style weapon, a YHM (Yankee Hill Machine Company) rifle loaded with 5.56-caliber rounds. While in the back room, Murrar activated a panic button to alert police of the situation.

When he returned to the counter, things had gone from bad to worse. On the sidewalk just outside the store, a dark minivan inched toward the entrance. In the darkness, its back lights flashed crimson and suddenly, the van charged directly toward the door. A loud bang shook the building as the back end of the vehicle smashed into the pylons, knocking them to the ground. Plowing over the downed concrete barriers, the van hit the door, but not hard enough to break the glass. It moved forward, then backed up again at a high rate of speed.

This time the vehicle crushed the glass--shards spilled into the store and on the sidewalk outside. However, the door’s steel frame, although battered, held. As the van pulled away, three intruders attempted to force the steel door open. Murrar noticed again that each of the robbers carried handguns.

The store owner later recounted his feelings to a reporter. “I believed they were going to kill me,” he said. “I was scared for my life.”

Swarming the door, the group attempted to ram through the iron railings.

Murrar shouted, “Get out! What are you doing?” He later told detectives he yelled so loud he thought he was going to lose his voice. The robbers paid no mind.

Three intruders backed off and rushed the door again, slamming it with their shoulders. As one robber kicked the bottom of the door aside and ducked down to come inside, Murrar fired one round. He thought that would be enough to warn them off.

It didn’t.

They continued trying to force their way into the store. Yelling hadn’t worked, a warning shot hadn’t worked, so Murrar leveled the gun and fired 4 quick rounds at the thieves. One bullet hit a padlock, showering sparks into the air. Three other bullets found their mark.

As the assailants fled, Deshuin Byrd-McWay fell to the pavement. He staggered up, then fell again. The other thieves hopped into a waiting getaway car and raced away.

Detectives wrote in an incident report that Murrar was in shock after the shooting: “[The shop owner] stated that after he fired the gun, he observed the suspects run past the window that faces south. Murrar then started looking for his cell phone to call 911. Murrar stated that he was looking right at his cell phone but it wasn’t registering that it was in front of him. He finally realized his phone was there and called 911.”

Murrar wisely called his attorney, John S. Schiro, to sit with him during his interview with police. (In fact, a detective had initially “detained” Murrar for “recklessly endangering safety.”) But she soon realized that this was a classic case of self-defense and interviewed him as a witness.

Ghost bullet

Almost as soon as cops arrived at Bouchard’s, they received information that a man had just been admitted to Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital with multiple gunshot wounds. While several detectives hurried to the hospital, others examined the crime scene. Investigators determined that Murrar had fired five rounds. Surveillance video had captured the entire episode as it unfolded. (Murrar later released the video to reporters.)

In addition to the shots fired by Murrar, a lone “ghost bullet” had been located at the crime scene. It was an unfired .22-caliber cartridge found inside the store. Some investigators believed it may have been dropped by one of the robbers.

The store owner told detectives that as soon as the thieves turned to run, he stopped firing. Again, video confirmed his account.

On the street in front of Bouchard’s, cops discovered an abandoned Chrysler Town and Country minivan. It was still running. Cops learned that it had been stolen shortly before the attempted robbery. Unfortunately, little evidence was found to identify the criminals who took it.

Six years in prison and seven years’ probation

At the hospital, Byrd-McWay lay in serious condition. He’d been shot in the right shoulder, left elbow, right hip and left hip. He was soon transferred to Froedtirt Hospital where he underwent surgery. After spending several days in ICU, the robber recovered enough to be moved to the county jail.

Two suspected members of the crime ring had taken Byrd-McWay to the hospital. However, none of the men would speak to police. There was little incriminating evidence at the crime scene, so no one except Byrd-McWay was charged. While he was in jail awaiting trial, however, recordings emerged of his conversations with a girlfriend. Byrd-McWay admitted to being one of the robbers and told his friend he initially thought he would die from his wounds. In language splattered with expletives and vile racist terminology, he showed he had no remorse whatsoever for what he’d done.

Byrd-McWay pleaded guilty to one count each of burglary and criminal damage to property. Court documents state that “on count one, the circuit court imposed an eleven year sentence, with six years of initial confinement followed by five years of extended supervision. On count two, the court imposed a concurrent two-year sentence, with one year each of initial confinement and extended supervision. Byrd-McWay was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $14,337.16.”

He has served most of his sentence and will be released soon. 

Rami Murrar was cleared of any wrongdoing

Murrar made several statements to the Milwaukee media. He told reporters that “there was a lot of guys out there, so I believe if they would have gotten through that door, I would’ve been dead, so that’s the reason I reached for my gun. I came here to make my living, not to have a shootout or shoot at somebody.”

His lawyer summed it up. Schiro said, “This was pretty clearly an exercise in self-defense and implementing the new Castle Doctrine which says, ‘You don’t have to let people break into your business.’”

Rami Murrar was cleared of any wrongdoing in the case.

In a final footnote to the case, Bouchard’s published the following Instagram post:


The video also shows the perfect example of dumb criminals. These are the steps:

 Steal a van

 Crash the stolen van into a store and make all of that loud noise when it’s quiet at night.

Don’t expect anyone to be monitoring or securing they’re (sic) small business.



Leave with nothing


The author used police reports, court documents, and media accounts to write this story. I have researched self-defense stories for nearly three decades. Please check out my latest book, Guns and Self-Defense, written with my son, Sim Waters. You'll find many more accounts of gun owners defending themselves from ruthless robbers, rapists, home invaders, and violent predators of all stripes. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Would Rick Monday be a Hero in Today's Woke World?

The Flag that Wouldn't Burn

By Robert A. Waters

It was just another afternoon in April, just another spring day and another baseball game. The Chicago Cubs, losers extraordinaire for decades, faced the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chavez Ravine stadium. Back in 1976, most games were played in the afternoon, and few were televised. Vin Scully, the famous Dodger radio announcer, called the game that day. The only drama should have been whether the inept Cubs would pull out a victory over the powerhouse team in the west (they didn’t). But this game would make baseball history in another way.

Rick Monday, centerfielder for the Cubs, had been Major League baseball’s first “bonus baby” after a sterling career at Arizona State University. Born in Arkansas and raised in California, Monday served six years in the United States Marine Corps Reserves while playing. He had lost friends in the Vietnam War and visited hospitals where he cried with “torn-up” soldiers and their families.

On this day, a slight breeze rustled in the outfield, something unusual for Dodger Stadium. At the bottom of the 4th inning, Cub pitcher Ken Crosby would face Ted Sizemore. In the outfield, during the break between innings, Monday and left-fielder Jose Cardenal warmed up by throwing the ball to each other.

Monday later recalled, “I don’t know if I heard the crowd first or saw the guys first.” (There were two, an adult and a young teen, and they had jumped over the left field fence and ran onto the field.) Both had longish, scruffy black hair—one was shorter than the other. At first, Monday thought they may be drunk. Or maybe they had run out on a dare. But then an awareness of what was actually occurring burned into him.

“When these two guys ran on the field,” Monday said, “something wasn’t right. And it wasn’t right from the standpoint that one of them had something cradled under his arm. It turned out to be an American flag. They came from the left field corner, then went past Cardenal to shallow left-center field.

“That’s when I saw the flag. They unfurled it as if it was a picnic blanket. They knelt beside it, not to pay homage but to harm it as one of the guys was pulling out of his pocket somewhere a big can of lighter fluid. He began to douse it.”

In the announcer’s booth, Scully cried, “Wait a minute, there’s an animal loose…two of them…all right…I’m not sure what he’s doing out there…it looks like he’s going to burn a flag…”

Monday continued, “So I started to run after them. To this day, I couldn’t tell you what was running through my mind except I was mad. I was angry and it was wrong for a lot of reasons.”

More than 26,000 spectators witnessed the drama unfolding on the field. William Errol Thomas struck a match, but the breeze quickly blew it out. As he lit another, Monday jogged past him, reached down and grabbed the flag. Without looking back, he trotted toward the dugouts. In frustration, one of the wannabe flag burners threw the can of lighter fluid at Monday. Reaching the Dodger dugout, he handed the flag to Dodger pitcher Doug Rau.

Scully exclaimed, “…Rick Monday runs and takes [the flag] away from him. I think the guy was going to set fire to the American flag. Can you imagine that?”

Suddenly, the crowd began to cheer. Then, as Monday recalled, “Everybody in the stands started singing ‘God Bless America.’ I was stunned. I stood there and got chills.”

Security officers quickly arrested Thomas and his teenaged son. The father was later sentenced to 3 days in jail or a fine of $60. His son was never charged. Thomas spent three days in jail, then was released and vanished into the mists of history. Some writers speculated that Thomas was native American and was protesting the history of Indian “persecution.” Others wrote that his wife had been locked in a mental institution against her will, and Thomas hoped to bring attention to that alleged injustice.

James Roark, a photographer for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, was later nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his picture of Monday sprinting away with the flag.

Since the game had not been televised, it was thought that no video existed of the incident. Then, eight years later, a Super 8 film showing the whole event surfaced. (A fan, whose name I haven’t been able to locate, had taped it.)

Today, Monday is more recognizable for this incident than for his excellent 19-year baseball career. The flag was given to him as a keepsake. He once said he’d been offered a million dollars for it, but it is not for sale. The former Cub later played for the Dodgers and became an announcer for the LA team. He now lives with his wife in Vero Beach, Florida. After his home was damaged by a hurricane, Monday moved the flag to a safety deposit box.


NOTE: The sad tale of James Roark, the man who took the famous photograph of Monday sprinting away with the undamaged flag, is a story in itself. The Examiner folded soon after this incident and Roark was never the same. He began drinking and wandered about the country for several years. He landed jobs in various restaurants, sometimes as a dishwasher, other times as a cook, but lost most because of his alcoholism. One night in Portland, Oregon, as he left Poor Richard's Restaurant to take the bus home from work, he was robbed by four thugs who beat him to death. Roark was 49. The killers got less than $2.00 and a bus ticket.