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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Yoselyn Ortega: The NYC Nanny From Hell

      Kevin Krim grew up in Thousand Oaks, California where he was a high school football star. The Harvard graduate met his future wife Marina at an Italian restaurant in Venice Beach. They were married in 2003. Marina had grown up in Manhattan Beach, California. Kevin worked in Los Angeles, then took a job with Yahoo in San Francisco. The couple, in 2009, moved to New York City.

     In October 2012, the Krims, now with three children--Lucia, age 6, Nessie, 3, and 2-year-old Leo, lived on Manhattan's upper west side in a second-floor, 3-bedroom apartment in the LaRochelle Building on West 75th Street. The $10,000 a month apartment is a block from Central Park, and not far from the Museum of Natural History, and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Marina, a stay-at-home mother, kept a daily online journal of her children's daily lives.

     Two years ago, the Krims hired 48-year-old Yoselyn Ortega, a nanny who had been referred to them by Ortega's older sister Celia who, as a nanny herself, med Marina and Lucia at a ballet lesson. A naturalized U.S. citizen from the Dominican Republic, Yoselyn lived in Manhattan's Hamilton Heights neighborhood then moved to an apartment on Riverside Drive in Harlem a few miles from the Krims. She lived with her son, sister, and niece.

     The Krims became very close to Ortega (they called her "Yosi"), and in February 2012, accompanied her to the Dominican Republic where they visited her family. Whenever the Krims left town for an extended period with the children, they bought Ortega a flight back to her native country. Recently, according to the nanny's relatives, she had been seeing a psychologist. Members of her family have said the nanny was having financial problems. For extra money, she had been selling cheap cosmetics and jewelry to residents of her tenement building.

     On Thursday afternoon on October 25, 2012, Marina took 3-year-old Nessie to a swimming lesson. She left Leo and Lucia in the apartment with the nanny. At 5:25 that evening, when Marina and Nessie returned to the apartment, they found the place dark. Marina assumed that Yoselyn Ortega had taken the two children out for a walk.

     Marina and Nessie returned to the lobby, and from the doorman, learned that Ortega and the children had not left the building. Marina re-entered the apartment, and when she walked into the bathroom, saw Leo and Lucia lying in the bathtub covered in blood. The children had been slashed and stabbed with the bloody kitchen knife lying on the floor next to Ortega who was bleeding from a wound in her neck. (The nanny had also slashed her wrists.)

     Several neighbors heard Marina scream, "You slit her throat!" Later the distraught mother was heard saying, "What am I going to do with the rest of my life? I have no children."

     Paramedics rushed the unconscious nanny to the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Medical Center where she underwent emergency surgery. Marina was taken to St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital for sedation. Kevin Krim, returning from a business trip to San Francisco, was met at the airport with the news of his children's deaths. He was also taken to the hospital where they sedated him.

     On Friday, October 26, detectives were unable to question Ortega who was hooked up to a respirator. The nanny was expected to survive her wounds. Investigators believed Ortega murdered the children, then stabbed herself in the neck about the time the victims' mother entered the apartment.

     Yoselyn Ortega is the youngest of six siblings who grew up in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic. Her sister Celia emigrated to the United States in the early 1980s after graduating from accounting studies at Santa Ana College in Santiago. Yoselyn later joined her older sister in America. She worked as the manager of a print shop in Manhattan, then after separating from the father of her son, returned to the Dominican Republic. After awhile, she returned to New York City. According to family members, she loved the Krim children. Before the murders, she had been acting strangely from some kind of emotional stress.

     Prior to her hospital-bed arraignment on November 28, Yoselyn Ortega's attorney asked the judge to bar the press from the hearing on the grounds his client was too "pathetic" to be seen. Judge Lewis Stone denied the request. "There are things that become uncomfortable with respect to the press. That is the cost that we must bear in connection with the civil liberties." he said.

     In a June 2013 Rikers Island jail interview of Ortega by a reporter with the New York Daily News, the inmate denied killing the children. "I didn't do that," she said. "Those are all lies." The brief interview ended abruptly when Ortega said, "My lawyer told me not to talk. I'm not supposed to say anything."  Later that month, a Manhattan judge at Ortega's competency hearing, ruled that she was mentally fit for trial. Ortega's attorney, Valerie Van Leer-Greenberg, appealed that decision.

     In August 2013, before the same Manhattan judge, Dr. Ankur Saraiya took the stand and said that while Ortega "had suffered some brain damage when she slit her throat, it was not enough to interfere with her fitness." The judge reaffirmed his initial finding that this defendant was mentally competent to stand trial.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Radcliffe Haughton: The Wisconsin Hair Salon Mass Murder-Suicide

     Radcliffe F. Haughton, a 45-year-old former Marine who lived in Brown Deer, Wisconsin outside of Milwaukee, was estranged from his wife Zina. He resided with their 13-year-old daughter. Zina Haughton and her 20-year-old daughter from another marriage worked as hair dressers at the Azana Salon and Spa in Brookfield, Wisconsin located across the street from the massive Brookfield Square Mall eleven miles west of downtown Milwaukee.

     Radcliffe had moved to the Milwaukee area ten years ago from Cook County, Illinois where he had grown up in the Chicago suburban communities of Northbrook and Wheeling. When he departed Illinois he left behind a history of arrests for disorderly conduct and domestic violence. In Brown Deer  he became known to the local police who arrested him several times for similar offenses.

     In January 2011, Zina called the police when Radcliffe threw her clothing out a window, and poured tomato juice on her car. Officers came to the house and set up a perimeter. They saw him through a window holding a rifle. He refused to come out of the house. After a 90-minute standoff, the officers left the scene without taking him into custody. He was later charged with disturbing the police, but the charges were dropped after he agreed to anger management counseling.

     On October 2, 2012, police officers were called to a gas station in Brown Deer where they found Zina Haughton barefoot and badly bruised in the face. She reported that she had been assaulted by her husband who had threatened to kill her. Officers went to the house where they spotted Radcliffe through a window. Again, he refused to come out of the dwelling. Instead of arresting him for physically abusing his wife, the police departed.

     Two days later, when Zina Haughton approached her car in the hair salon parking lot, she discovered that someone had slashed her tires. The next day, the police arrested Radcliffe and charged him with disorderly conduct and destruction of property. That day, Zina acquired a temporary restraining order against him. The 42-year-old embattled wife also petitioned the court for a permanent protection decree. In her request for a permanent injunction, Zina said that Radcliffe was convinced she was cheating on him. In a jealous rage, he had threatened to kill her by setting her on fire. He had also promised to kill her if she reported his threats to the police. She said she feared for her life. On October 18, the judge issued an order requiring Radcliffe to avoid contact with his wife for a period of four years. (What good are restraining orders against husbands who are insanely jealous, outraged, violent, and out of control?)

     On Sunday morning, October 21, 2012, Radcliffe Haughton pulled up to the two-story, 9,000-square-foot building that housed the Azana Salon and Spa. He alighted from the taxi cab at 11:09, and walked into the salon armed with a .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun. Once inside, he opened fire on the helpless occupants.  Haughton shot seven women inside the salon, killing his wife, and two other women identified as Cary L. Robuck, 35 of Racine, and 38-year-old Maelyn M. Lind from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

     Amid the chaos of women fleeing for their lives as Haughton walked around the salon firing and reloading his pistol, he set a small fire in the building.

     When police officers and SWAT units rolled up to the scene, women were running out of the smoking salon. Haughton escaped out a back door, but when he came around a corner of the building, he saw the police and re-entered the building.

     The four wounded women Haughton had shot, but didn't kill, were rushed to the Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa. All of the victims were expected to survive their gunshot wounds.

     At four in the afternoon of the deadly rampage, the police, during the course of a careful search of the building, found the shooter. Radcliffe Haughton had locked himself in a room, and with the pistol he had used on his victims, shot himself in the head.

     As is often the case in murder-suicides, some of the people who knew Radcliffe Haughton told reporters that he was a nice and friendly guy. These folks were shocked that he could do such a thing. In reality, these people were probably mere acquaintances who didn't know the man that well. Moreover, you can never be sure what is going on in a person's mind, or what he or she is capable of. There seems to be something going on in modern society that is producing more and more of these murder-suicide rampages. They are in the national news for a couple of days then, except for the victims and their families, are forgotten until the next killing spree.

UPDATE

     The following are excerpts of Zina Haughton's testimony at the October 4 hearing in which the abused wife of 20 years petitioned the judge for a temporary restraining order:

"My husband thinks I'm cheating on him. He woke up angry that morning. He was screaming. He told me I wasn't going to work that day unless I gave him all the pass codes to my phone, unless I showed him my bank statements on line for the day of May 29, the evening he thinks I cheated on him. [That evening was] the scariest night of my life...he ran into the basement, and he came upstairs, and he pulled a gun from behind his pants, and it accidentally went off in between me and my daughter's head, about two inches from both of our heads....I never went to the police. The police were randomly called by people who overheard fights, and I've always sent the police away because I never want--I'm not a vindictive person. I love my daughter. I loved my husband. I never wanted to see him taken away, and I never wanted him--I never wanted him to be taken away, but things have gotten so bad. I just--we need to separate. We need a course before you hurt me. Even if it's an accident, I don't want to die. I just don't want to die."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dexter Lewis And The Fero's Bar & Grill Mass Murder Case

     At 1:48 in the morning of Wednesday, October 17, 2012, a Glendale, Colorado police officer on routine patrol spotted flames coming out the back of Fero's Bar & Grill that was situated in a strip mall five miles south of downtown Denver. Firefighters, upon entering the structure to combat the blaze, discovered five corpses.

     One of the four women found dead at the fire scene was 63-year-old Young Fero, the owner of the establishment. The South Korean native assumed sole proprietorship of the 28-year-old business following her divorce from its co-founder, Danny Fero. Fero's Bar & Grill catered to regular patrons and people staying at local hotels. The bar featured a weekly poker game, pool tables, and Japanese food. It had not been a particularly busy place.

     A spokesperson with the Denver Police Department, at a press conference later in the day, announced that on-site evidence indicated that the fire had been intentionally set fifteen to twenty minutes before the bar's regular 2:00 AM closing time. The bodies of the five victims showed signs of physical trauma unrelated to the blaze. As a result, investigators were operating on the theory that the victims had been murdered before someone set the place on fire. Detectives believed the murders had been committed in the commission of an armed robbery and the fire started to cover up the crimes.

     Besides Young Fero, the bar's owner and operator, the other victims, all patrons, were: Daria M. Pohl, 22; Kellene Fallon, 45; Ross Richter, 29; and Teressa Beesley, 45. There were no other innocent people in the bar during the robbery, murders, and fire.

     On October 18, the day after the arson-murders, the Denver police arrest three men in connection with the case. Dexter Lewis, 22 and brothers Joseph Hill, 27 and Lynell Hill, 24, were each charged with five counts of murder and one count of aggravated robbery and arson.

     Dexter Lewis, engaged to a woman who was seven months pregnant, had been arrested in May 2009 in Jefferson County, Colorado on several counts of assault on a police officer. He pleaded guilty to felony menacing. The other charges were dropped. That year, Lewis also pleaded guilty to felony robbery and was sentenced to three years in prison. When arrested on October 18, 2012 in connection with the Fero's Bar & Grill mass murder case, he was out on parole.

     Police in Arapahoe County had arrested Lynell Hill in August 2011 on charges of misdemeanor assault, reckless endangerment, and harassment. Hill pleaded guilty to harassment involving physical force and in return received a deferred nine-month sentence that allowed him to stay out of jail as long as he stayed out of trouble.

     Joseph Hill, on his Facebook page, called himself a "singer song writer" who is just a ..."great person to know, if you're genuine." Hill, who apparently thought a lot of himself, went on to say, "I'm very hardworking and dedicated and very ambitious as well. I'm chasing my dreams."

     The Denver Medical Examiner's office ruled the manner of the five deaths as criminal homicide. All of the victims had been shot to death before the fire.

     The Hill brothers pleaded guilty to the murders in December 2013. A month later, the judge sentenced Joseph to five life sentences and Lynell to 70 years in prison. As part of the plea agreement, the brothers agreed to testify against Dexter Lewis. In May 2014, the prosecutor in the Lewis case announced his intention to pursue the death penalty.

     In August 2014, lawyers representing Dexter Lewis were in court presenting arguments in support of having the upcoming trial moved out of Denver. The defense attorneys also urged the judge to exclude statements their client had made to the police after his arrest.

     On September 30, 2014, Denver District Court Judge John Madden denied 32 pre-trial motions that had been filed by the defense including a request to sequester the jury. The judge also denied the defense petition to query members of the jury pool on how they felt about the death penalty. (The last time a Denver jury sentenced a defendant to death was 1986.) Judge Madden did not rule on the motion to exclude the incriminating statements Lewis had made to the police. He set the trial for January 20, 2015.

     In November 2014, Lewis' attorneys were back in court, this time seeking more time to prepare their defense. Public Defender Chris Baumann claimed his legal team needed more time to interview potential trial witnesses. "We have gone to nine cities in seven states so far," he said.

     Judge Madden, in December 2014, granted the defense request to delay the start of the Lewis trial to July 20, 2015. Lewis faced 16 felony counts that included first-degree murder, arson, and robbery in the October 2012 massacre of the bar's owner and his patrons.     

Gregory Lacy, LaQuron McLean, Seven Adopted Children, a Corpse, and A Lot of Questions

     Gregory Bernard Lacy, 60, and LaQuron D. McLean-Lacy 43, lived with seven adopted children in a two-story house in a Perris, California subdivision of newer homes near the Ramona Expressway in Riverside County. During the early morning hours of July 22, 2012, sheriff's deputies responded to the Lacy dwelling in the Mar Ranch subdivision. Someone had reported shots being fired in front of the house.

     The Riverside County deputies, upon rolling up to the residence, found 46-year-old Calvin Lynch dead in the front yard from a single bullet. While Lynch, from Moreno Valley, California, had presumably been murdered, there have been no arrests in connection with his death. Moreover, the authorities have released no information regarding the dead man's connection to the occupants of the house, the results of his autopsy, or if there are any suspects in the fatal shooting. We don't even know if the police have the murder weapon, or what had transpired just before the shooting.

     In searching the Lacy/McLean home that night, deputies discovered that the first-floor had been converted into a home strip-club complete with a stage and an erotic dancer's pole. In the kitchen, officers found a quantity of ecstasy pills. The police also learned that the couple's seven adopted children were all under eleven years old.

     Four months after Calvin Lynch was found death in the Lacy/McLean front yard, Gregory Lacy and LaQuron McLean were arrested on charges of child abuse. The children told the police and child protection agents that their adopted parents had beaten them with their fists, clothes hangers, and other objects. The kids were frequently locked into rooms, and often went without food. One of the girls accused Mr. Lacy of sexual assault. The children also reported being in the house during the all-night stripper parties.

     Gregory Lacy, charged with lewd acts on a child under ten, and one count of felony child abuse, is being held at the Robert Presley Detection Center in Riverside under $1 million bond. McLean, charged with two felony child abuse offenses, was incarcerated under $50,000 bail. The children are in protective custody. Both of the defendants have convictions for driving under the influence. Lacy was once arrested for driving without a license.

     Who are these people? And how did they end up with seven adopted children? Why did it take four months after the discovery of the strip club setup to bring the child abuse charges? Some of the other questions raised by this case include how Lacy and McLean (I don't know if they are married) managed to run a suburban strip club in the middle of a subdivision. Weren't there complaints about the noise, traffic, and the children's exposure to these all-night events? And why weren't there any arrests associated with the discovery of the ecstasy pills? What in the hell was going on in this house? 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Heather Kowalczik, Robert Rodriguez, and The Boy Buried in Their Backyard

     In July 2010, Heather Kowalczik and her boyfriend Robert Rodriguez, the father of two of her children, moved from upstate New York to East Farmingdale, Long Island. The couple took up residence in a rented house with 6-year-old Alex, and Robert, Jr., age 9. The pair also came to Long Island with Justin, a 17-month-old boy fathered by another man.

     A Suffolk County Child Protection Services (CPS) agent, pursuant to a routine welfare check, visited Heather on October 3, 2012. During the visit, the CPS worker noticed that Justin, who would now be about three years old, wasn't in the dwelling. When asked where the toddler was, Kowalczik said he was with relatives. When the CPS agent pressed for details, the mother's vagueness led the social worker to suspect foul play. For that reason, she reported her suspicion to the New York State Police.

     Two days after the CPS call, detectives with the state police paid the 29-year-old mother a visit. When the officers insisted that she tell them where to find Justin, Kowalczik told them the boy had died in August 2010 shortly after she moved to East Farmingdale. She said her 30-year-old boyfriend, Robert Rodriguez, had buried the child in the backyard next to the back fence line. The mother said she had not reported Justin's death because she feared retaliation from Rodriguez. Later, to a reporter with the New York Post, Kowalczik said, "He [Rodriguez] was pretty much keeping watch of me. He hit me in the head, smacked me in the face if I'd say anything."

     On October 6, the police recovered Justin's remains. The boy had been buried in a three-foot grave. The police searched the Kowalczik/Rodriguez house, seizing, among other things, a shovel, a post-hole digger, a video camera, and a photograph album. CPS workers had already taken custody of Alex and Robert, Jr.

     The Suffolk County Medical Examiner's Office has not released information regarding the cause and manner of Justin's death. Because the child's remains have been severely altered by the passage of time, the forensic pathologist didn't have much of a corpse to work with. Perhaps the postmortem examination will determine if the child had died a natural death, or had been killed.

     On October 9, the owner of the East Farmingdale house evicted Kowalczik and Rodriguez. Robert Rodriguez has retained a lawyer, and is not cooperating with the police. While he is considered "a person of interest," no one in this suspicious death case has been charged. Even if Justin wasn't murdered, his mother could be charged with not reporting his death. And if Rodriguez buried the body, he could be charged with abuse of corpse. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Philadelphia Cop Jonathan Josey Sucker-Punches Aida Guzmani: "To Serve and Protect?"

     On Sunday, September 30, 2012, Philadelphia police were out in force to provide security for the city's annual Puerto Rican Day Parade. A group of officers, just off the parade route, were putting a man into handcuffs when someone nearby threw water or something like silly string on them. Lieutenant Jonathan Josey, in reaction to this harmless act, grabbed 39-year-old Aida Guzmani whose back was to him. Josey turned her around, punched her in the face, and then hit her in the back of the head. The mother of three collapsed to the ground with blood running out of her nose and mouth. Other officers slapped handcuffs on the stunned Guzmani, lifted her to her feet, and hauled the bloodied woman off. She was charged with disorderly conduct.

     A witness to officer Josey's assault recorded the event on her cellphone, then posted he 94-second video on YouTube where, over the next couple of weeks, it was seen by millions of viewers. It's hard to imagine anyone who has watched the video concluding the officer Josey's actions were justified. The Philadelphia Highway Patrol Lieutenant's attack on Guzmani seemed unprovoked, and entirely uncalled for.

     The day after officer Josey decked Aida Guzmani, he was placed on "restricted status," meaning assigned to a desk until internal affairs officers completed their investigation. But as more and more online viewers witnessed this egregious overreaction, the Philadelphia's police commissioner and the mayor came under increasing pressure to act more aggressively against this officer. A week or so after the incident, the police commissioner suspended Lieutenant Josey "with the intent to dismiss." The department also dropped the disorderly conduct charges against the women he slugged.

     In response to growing public outrage of Lieutenant Josey's gratuitous brutality, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, in publicly apologizing for this officer's indefensible behavior, used the words "appalled," "sickened," and "ashamed." This apology did not sit well with members of the Philadelphia Police Department. (Cops never apologize, and don't look kindly on people who do it for them.)

     So, who is this female-punching, 19-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department? In 2006, Josey, pursuant to some puerile contest sponsored by the Philadelphia Daily News, nominated himself as the city's sexiest man. In support of his quest for the title, the cop submitted a photograph of himself in a pair of red shorts, a shot that featured his pierced nipple. According to Josey's sexiest man resume, the officer described his most outstanding character traits as charm, and a "magnetic personality." (Really.) This charming and magnetic law enforcement hunk wanted to make it known that he was in search of a "sexy, sexy, sexy" woman. How ironic.

     In 2007, the city settled a lawsuit against officer Josey brought by a man who claimed the officer had inappropriately kicked, punched, and threw him against a wall. In March 2010, Josey shot and killed a man who was robbing a 7-Eleven store. The department cleared him of this shooting, and no criminal charges were filed. During his career, Officer Josey has been the subject of 13 complains for both verbal and physical abuse. (Who knows, in the Philadelphia Police Department, this may be a good record.)

     Shortly after the police commissioner announced Lieutenant Josey's dismissal, John McNesby, the president of the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), announced that the organization would be holding a fund-raiser for their fellow union member. The proceeds would go for Josey's living expenses.

     FOP President McNesby, said this to a reporter: "It was inappropriate for the city to apologize to this woman [he couldn't bring himself to utter her name] and drop the charges until the [internal affairs] investigation was completed." (Perhaps the FOP could have held-off the fund-raiser until the facts were in.
     Police officers have become increasingly thin-skinned and militant. They don't like outside interference and criticism by people they think have no idea what it's like to enforce the law. Police officers also hate civilian cellphone cameras. Had the Josey-Guzmani incident not been caught on video, one of Philadelphia's most sexy men would still be in uniform.        

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Matthew Sofka: The Philadelphia Wedding Brawl

     Matthew Sofka, a 26-year-old from Westfield, New Jersey, had attended his brother Michael's wedding in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia on Saturday, October 8, 2012. That night, after the wedding reception held at a nearby restaurant, members of his family who were staying at the Sheraton Society Hill, were partying in the hotel bar. Guests from another wedding that day were also in the lounge having late night drinks. Early Sunday morning, when Matthew Sofka arrived at the hotel bar, more than fifty post-wedding drunks were in the midst of a wild, barroom brawl.

     This massive display of drunken violence in the city of brotherly love was caught on video by Max Schultz, a 15-year-old in town on a birthday sightseeing trip. ( I'm sure the barroom scrap will make a bigger impression on the boy than his visit to the Liberty Bell. His video, portraying the fight from above, and at a distance to give it panoramic scope, has been seen by at least a million people on YouTube.)

     The Philadelphia police were on the scene swinging their batons and firing their stun guns when Matthew Sofka arrived at the bar, and allegedly jumped into the fray. Before the police brought the wildly swinging wedding celebrators under control, Sofka had been struck by a police baton, and tasered. During the melee, a 57-year-old uncle celebrating the marriage of the other bride, suffered a heart attack in the hotel parking lot. A short time after Vincent Sanutti's collapse (I presume he was in the bar when the fight broke out), he died at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

     While no one has been charged in connection with Mr. Sanutti's death, the authorities have charged Matthew Sofka with assaulting officer Sean Dandridge. The defendant has denied punching and kicking the Philadelphia cop. ( I presume the police have the assault on video.) Two other belicose party animals have been charged with disorderly conduct. No one seems to know what started the fight, but I sure it was over something really stupid. Sofka's paid his $25,000 bail and was released from custody. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Jerry and Dorothy Sandusky: The Pedophile and His Enabling Wife

     Just when you think you've heard the last of Jerry Sandusky, the convicted Penn State child molester, he pops back into the news. The current burst of media attention involves a letter his wife Dorothy, aka "Dottie," wrote to John Cleland before the judge recently sentenced her husband to thirty to sixty years in prison.

     In her leniency plea to the judge, Mrs. Sandusky referred to Jerry as a "man of very high morals." While portraying the former football coach as a saint, Dottie labeled the ten witnesses who had testified against him last summer as ungrateful liars. The outraged wife blamed Jerry's sex offense conviction on a vast conspiracy comprised of dishonest criminal investigators, overzealous prosecutors, perjuring witnesses, and a tabloid news media. She also accused Penn State University officials of putting public relation concerns above honesty. She then laid into Matt, one of the Sandusky's six adopted children. Matt, just before the jurors began deliberating Jerry Sandusky's fate, publicly accused the defendant of repeatedly sexually molesting him.

     In 1987, Matt Hiechel, a troubled 8-year-old, met Jerry Sandusky through his charity, The Second Mile. The coach took the boy, who was living in a foster home, to football games, and spent a lot of time with him alone. At one point, Matt told his biological mother, Debra Long, that he didn't want to see Mr. Sandusky anymore. The boy's desire to be left alone by the coach did not end the relationship.

     In 1996, after Matt burned down a barn, Jerry and Dottie Sandusky took the 17-year-old into their home, and a year later, adopted him. In March 1996, Matt tried to kill himself by overdosing on aspirin. (He later described the suicide attempt as a cry for help.)

     During middle of Jerry Sandusky's trial, Matt told investigators that the defendant had repeatedly molested him, and that he was willing to testify for the prosecution. (He didn't testify.) In an audio-taped police interview, Matt said this about his relationship with the coach: "It just became very uncomfortable. With the showering, with the hugging, with the rubbing...."

     In her letter to Judge Cleland, Dottie wrote: "People need to know what kind of person he [Matt] is. We have forgiven him many times for all he had done to our family, thinking he was changing his life, but he would always go back to his stealing and lies. He has been diagnosed Bipolar, but he refuses to take his medicine."

     Mrs. Sandusky reminds me of Anna Hauptmann, the woman married to Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the man convicted in 1935 for the murder of the 20-month-old son of Charles and Anne Lindbergh. Following Hauptmann's electrocution in April 1936, Mrs. Hauptmann, in the face of overwhelming evidence of her husband's guilt, devoted her life to exonerating him. She did this, I think, because she simply couldn't live with the realization she had been married to a baby killer.   

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Alexis Wright and the Zumba Madam Case

     Alexis Wright co-owned and operated Purd Vida, a fitness studio in downtown Kennebunk, a seashore town of 10,000 25 miles south of Portland, Maine. The 29-year-old mother of one taught Zumba, an arduous Latin-inspired dance workout in rented space above a hair salon and flower store. The studio operated across the street from where Wright's business partner, 57-year-old Mark Strong, Sr., sold insurance and worked as a private investigator. The pair opened Purd Vida in early 2010, since that time grossing about $150,000.

     In September 2011, someone tipped off the local police that some of Wright's male Zumba students were getting more than a good dance workout. According to the snitch (or snitches), these clients were paying the instructor for sex, and there were a lot of these customers. The idea of a whorehouse operating in this quaint, upscale community was, for the media, and those with a taste for the prurient, a scandal made in heaven.

     On February 14, Valentine's Day 2012, officers with the Kennebunk Police Department, the Maine State Police, and the Drug Enforcement Agency, armed with a search warrant, raided Purd Vida. The officers seized a hard-drive that contained 100 hours of video-recorded sex acts featuring Wright, her business partner Mark Strong, Sr., and dozens of local men who may or may have also been learning how to do the Zumba. Some of the taped sex sessions had porn film-like titles. Members of the police raiding party also walked off with boxes of business records which included a list of 150 sex clients. In Wright's office, the cops found a massage table, and a video camera sitting on a tripod.

     In July 2012, the police arrested Mark Strong, Sr. on 59 misdemeanor counts of operating a house of prostitution. The York County prosecutor began issuing summons to men on Wright's client list which meant they would eventually have to appear in court to answer misdemeanor charges of engaging the services of a prostitute. (These court appearances would be matters of public record.)

     According to officials familiar with the Purd Vida investigation, some of Wright's clients were lawyers, cops, accountants, local politicians, businessmen, firefighters, and a local TV personality.

     On October 9, 2012, following their indictments, Alexis Wright and Mark Strong, Sr. were arraigned in a district court. Wright had been charged with 106 misdemeanor counts of accepting money for sex, and invasion of privacy. (The taped tricks must have been secretly recorded.) Both defendants were released on their own recognizance after pleading not guilty to all charges.

     Stephen Schwartz, an attorney representing two of the alleged johns who had received summons, filed a motion to stop the authorities from releasing the 150 names on Wright's client list.

     Laura Dolce, the editor of the York County Coast Star, promised to publish the names on the so-called "list of shame." In justifying the decision to publicize the list, Dolce said this to a CNN correspondent: "...many in the community...would prefer we not print the names at all. There are people in this community who had their names dragged through the mud for months because people believed they are on the list. We also believe that printing the names of those charged with engaging a prostitute is the fair thing to do...to help set the record straight, and put to rest the ugly rumors that continue to circulate throughout town." (Publishing the names will also sell a lot of newspapers.)

     After the district court judge denied attorney Schwartz's motion to suppress Alex Wright's client list, the attorney appealed the ruling to the Supreme Judicial Court. In speaking to reporters, attorney Schwartz said, "We believe very strongly that their names ought not be released. The mere releasing of their names will have devastating consequences in a case in which the government, we believe, will have a difficult time proving. We fully expect that they [Wright and Strong] won't be convicted, but the damage is done once the horse is out of the barn."

     If I had to venture a guess, I'd say that given the videotapes and the seized Purd Vida business documents, Alexis Wright and her partner will eventually cop a plea. As for the client list, I think, one way or another, this information will become public.

UPDATE

     On October 16, 2012, the judge cleared the way for the authorities to release the names, addresses, and ages of 21 suspected johns who have been issued summons to appear in court on December 5. Their ages range from 34 to 65, and all but two are from Maine. One is from Boston, and the other New Hampshire. One of the men accused of paying to have sex with Alexis Wright is 58-year-old James Soule, the former mayor of South Portland, Maine.

     Mark Strong, Wright's business partner, issued a statement in which he said, "I never had sex with [Wright] for money. The charges against me are untrue. I will be vindicated in a jury trial."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

NYC Detective Hassan Hamdy's Road Rage

     Noel Polanco, a 22-year-old member of the New York Army National Guard, lived with his mother and worked at a nearby Honda dealership in the Astoria section of Queens. At 5:15 in the morning of Thursday, October 4, 2012, Polanco and two passengers were in his black Honda traveling on the Grand Central Parkway in Queens. Diane Deferrari, a bartender at the Ice NYC Bar, an Astoria lounge where Planco worked part time, was riding in the front passenger's seat. Seated in the back was Venessa Rodriguez, Planco's friend and off-duty police officer. (Officer Rodriguez was on restricted duty following a June shoplifting arrest.) The trio were coming from the Ice NYC Bar en route to the building where Deferrari and Polanco had apartments. While at the lounge, Polanco had consumed a beer, and had smoked a hookah (flavored tobacco filtered through a multi-stemmed water pipe).

     When Polanco encountered heavy, early morning traffic on the parkway, he began driving erratically. He crossed into the middle lane from the right, and in so doing, squeezed between two New York City Police Emergency Service Unit (ESU) trucks. (ESU is an elite SWAT-like paramilitary squad within the NYPD.) Polanco suddenly swerved into to the left lane and tailgated the car in front of him. After traveling a short distance, Polanco cut back in between the two police vehicles.

     One of the ESU officers, infuriated by Polanco's reckless driving, gave him the finger and shouted obscenities. The police turned on their sirens, ordering the wild driver to pull over. (The ESU officers had just raided and searched a drug site in the South Bronx, and were on their way to Brooklyn to break into another place.)

     Noel Polanco, in heavy traffic, brought his Honda to a stop alongside the parkway median. Two ESU officers approached the car. Detective Hassan Hamdy walked up to the passenger's side with his gun drawn. When Diane Defarrari lowered her window, Hamdy ordered the car's occupants to show their hands. Polanco complied with the order by placing his hands on the steering wheel. What happened next defies logic: Detective Hamdy, through the passenger's window, shot the unarmed driver in the abdomen.

     The ESU officer on the Polanco's side of the Honda pulled the severely wounded man out of the car and onto the parkway. Paramedics rushed Polanco to New York Hospital  Queens where an hour after he arrived, Polanco died.

     The fatal shooting of an unarmed man following a traffic stop on the Grand Central Parkway by an ESU officer comprised a major news story. While New York Police officers in recent years have shot very few people, over the past few months there has been a dramatic spike in the department's rate of police involved shootings. The killing of Noel Polanco by Detective Hamdy brought media scrutiny upon this officer which has revealed the following:

     In 1998, after four years in the Marine Corps as a sergeant in an artillery division, Hassan Hamdy joined the NYPD. The resident of Centereach, Long Island was not only assigned to ESU, he became a member of the Tactical Apprehension Team (TAT), a paramilitary unit that conducts predawn, no-knock SWAT-style drug raids. In 2001 and 2008, Hamdy was among several defendants in a pair of federal civil rights lawsuits against the city that the municipality had to settle for a total of $516,000. However, in May 2012, when TAT officers were in a neighborhood to conduct a drug raid, Hamdy and his fellow officers helped rescue five people from a burning apartment. Up until he killed Noel Polanco, Detective Hamdy had not fired his weapon in the line of duty.

     It seems unlikely that NYPD internal affairs investigators will find this fatal shooting administratively justified. On October 10, 2012, NYC Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced that a local grand jury will determine what happened in the Polanco shooting. In the meantime, the dead man's mother and her attorney will meet with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. Detective Hamdy's lawyer has said that Polanco didn't comply with his client's orders to raise his hands. Diane Defarrari, the front-seat passenger, has disputed this claim.

   

     

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Sentencing of Jerry Sandusky: Goodbye and Good Ridance

     Jerry Sandusky, the 68-year-old former Penn State football coach and founder of the Second Mile Charity for underprivileged kids who was recently convicted on 45 counts of sexually abusing ten boys, could have been sentenced to a maximum of 400 years in prison. Six of Sandusky's convictions carried a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years. That doesn't mean, however, that the judge John Cleland had to impose a minimum sentence of sixty years behind bars. The judge had the discretion of running these sentences concurrently--meaning simultaneously. He could also have imposed consecutive prison terms which means sacking them on top of each other. Theoretically, Sandusky could have received as little as ten years, but as a practical matter, any sentence more than 25 years would consist of a life sentence for this pedophile.

     On Monday, October 8, 2012, the day before his date with the judge, the Penn State radio station played a jailhouse taped statement by a defiant Sandusky in which he blamed his accusers, the investigators, his attorneys, the media, and the university for his convictions. He said, among other ridiculous things: "They can take away my life, they can make me out as a monster, but they can't take away my heart. In my heart, I know I did not do these alleged, disgusting acts. My wife has been my only sex partner and that was after marriage. Our love continues." (I think I'm going to be sick.)

     Only a hardcore sociopath could make a statement like this. The guy not only believes he hasn't victimized anyone, he sees himself as a criminal justice martyr. I'm sure in the vast pedophile community, Jerry Sandusky is a hero. It will be interesting to see what happens if he tries to sell this line of bull in prison where everybody is innocent, and has a tale of woe.

     On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, Judge John Cleland, after hearing from several of Sandusky's victims, and the sex offender himself, sentenced the Penn State pedophile to thirty to sixty years behind bars. When escorted out of the courtroom handcuffed and in his red jumpsuit, Sandusky smiled for the TV cameras.

     It will be up to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to determine where Sandusky will serve his time, and under what conditions. Just because he is a sex offender does not mean he will automatically be placed in administrative segregation for his own protection. At present, there are 6,800 sex offenders serving time in the state's prison system. Most of them live in the general prison population.

     When I visualize Jerry Sandusky's future as an imprisoned serial pedophile, I see a big, gray-haired guy in black and white striped overhauls breaking big rocks with a small sledge hammer. Sometimes I see him frightened and helpless, cowering in the prison yard, or looking furtively over his shoulder for a heavily tattooed guy armed with a homemade dagger.

     This, of course, is not how it will be for Penn State's famous child molester. Sandusky will probably be incarcerated in one of the state's minimum security correctional institutions. He will have his own dorm room where he can watch Penn State football on his $275, prison-issued, 13-inch TV set that will bring in 15 channels. (HBO and networks like it are excluded, as well as movies that are R-ratred.) He will enjoy two hot meals a day, full health care services (including a sex change operation if he wants one), and whatever medication he needs.

     The coach will be able to exercise daily, have a prison job if he wants one, buy things at the commissary, go to church on Sunday, and have regular visitors. If he wants, he can play cards and other table games with his fellow sociopaths, many of whom will be disgraced politicians and crooked bureaucrats. He'll probably make a lot of new friends, people, as compared to him, are pretty nice.

     Okay, Mr. Sandusky's life behind bars is not going to be that great, but it might be better than the lives he created for some of his victims. One thing is sure, this man has violated his last child. Perhaps that will be his greatest suffering. In the meantime, the scandal and legal mess he left behind for Penn State University will continue, for years.
     

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Crime Lab Crisis: Too Many Cases, Not Enough Money

     So far this year, forensic science auditors have reported serious quality control problems in crime labs throughout the state of Michigan, St. Paul, Minnesota, Houston, Texas, Raleigh, North Carolina, Los Angeles, California, and Boston, Massachusetts. Over the past few years, dozens of crime laboratories across the country have lost their accreditation or have been closed. There have been major problems in drug testing units as well as in the fields of toxicology, DNA analysis, latent fingerprint processing, and firearms identification.

     While there has been some budget cutting that affects street policing, SWAT operations, anti-terrorism programs, and drug enforcement, crime labs have suffered the most from economic austerity. The lack of adequate crime lab funding has created personnel shortages, diminished training, physical plant deterioration, and attenuated administrative oversight.

     Overworked, and in many cases under-qualified lab personnel have produced scientifically unreliable results which have put tens of thousands of criminal cases in jeopardy. Moreover, virtually every crime lab in the country is plagued with substantial caseload backlogs which has seriously eroded the nation's criminal investigative services. Detectives are gathering the physical evidence, but getting it tested is a problem. While investigators wait for crime lab results, criminals remain at large committing more crimes. Crime labs have been closed down because forensic scientists have been caught taking short cuts, lying under oath, and mishandling evidence. As a result, the nation's crime investigation services have become less productive.

     On August 30, 2012, in Massachusetts, after revelations that a forensic chemist had deliberately mishandled drug samples, and failed to follow testing protocols, the state crime lab was shut down. Between 2003 and 2012, this lab analyst had handled more than 50,000 drug samples involving some 34,000 defendants. Now all of these cases are in jeopardy.

     The crime lab problem in Massachusetts reveals how much damage a single forensic scientist can cause. It also shows the effects of a grossly imbalanced criminal justice system. The government spends an enormous amount of tax dollars catching drug dealers and their customers which in turn overloads our underfunded crime laboratories. While television series like "CSI" has created high forensic science expectations among the general public, American criminal investigation, as it is actually practiced, is becoming less scientific and more militaristic. In the relatively short history of American forensic science, the golden era lays behind us, and the future looks bleak.   

Rodrigo Carpio: The Tiny Terror of P.S. 330

     John Webster, a 220-pound former college football player taught physical education and health at P.S. 330 elementary school in Queens, New York. On April 26, 2012, the 27-year-old teacher filed an "occurrence report" with the school principal regarding an incident involving a first grade student named Rodrigo Carpio. According to Mr. Webster, the 40-pound student had "acted out" while walking to the cafeteria with his classmates. The boy had allegedly kicked the teacher in the knee and ankle.

     The 6-year-old's kicks had supposedly produced injuries so severe, John Webster has not been able to return to work. Moreover, he has acquired a lawyer, and is contemplating suing the city of New York, the state department of education, and his attacker's family.

     As reported by The New York Daily Post, Webster's attorney, Andrew Siben, said, "This young boy repeatedly attempted to hit Mr. Webster 20 times and landed two serious kicks, one to his right knee and one to his right ankle. With the kick to the knee, he sustained a meniscus tear that required surgery, and with the the kicks to the ankle, an avulsion fracture which might also necessitate surgery....What's truly sad is that Mr. Webster and teachers within the school were not afforded adequate security to prevent injury which ultimately happened to Mr. Webster."

     Attorney Siben, in speaking to a correspondent with ABC News, said, "This young boy [Carpio] was clearly a tiny terror." The student's parents took exception to the "tiny terror" label, but did acknowledge that their son was now taking medication to "help him focus."

     If elementary education has become a physically dangerous occupation for young, former college football players, we are all in danger. The fact that so many grade schoolers have to be drugged into civilized behavior is also not a good sign. When these kids grow up, they will have to deal with the police, and in those confrontations, the cops will be the ones who inflict the pain. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Eric Dean Lewis: The Secret Life of an Elementary School Principal

     Eric Dean Lewis, before settling in California in 1999, taught at elementary schools in West Palm Beach Florida and New York state. In 2005, before he became principal of Montague Elementary in Silicon Valley's Santa Clara, he taught at Zanker Elementary and four other Santa Clara County schools in the Milpitas (a town of 70,000 north of San Jose) Unified School System. In 2012, the popular 42-year-old principal of Montague Elementary lived by himself in a San Francisco apartment.

     In early September 2012, a member of a multi-agency drug task force received a tip that Lewis was selling drugs. An undercover agent with the Santa Clara County Special Enforcement Team, using the name "Anthony," made contact with Lewis on a dating site for gay men. In an email to the undercover cop, Lewis suggested that they get together and "blow some clouds," meaning smoke methamphetamine. The principal also promised to bring Anthony a "bomb," slang for meth.

     On September 20, Eric Lewis and the undercover agent met at a Caltrain station in San Francisco. After the agent purchased a quantity of drugs from the elementary school principal, Lewis was taken into custody and transported to Santa Clara County's Elmwood Jail where he was held in lieu of $25,000 bail. Officials in the Santa Clara school district placed Dean on unpaid administrative leave.

     If the drug arrest of an elementary school principal wasn't bad enough, the case took an even more disturbing turn when the police searched Lewis' San Francisco apartment. Members of the task force seized seven ecstasy pills, a small amount of meth, and four vials of GHB, a liquid date rape drug. Lewis also possessed a syringe without a needle, a device commonly used to dole out precise doses of a drug. Police officers also discovered miniature surveillance cameras hidden in a watch, a cigarette lighter, and a teddy bear. The searchers also seized three of the principal's computers.

     At his September 24 arraignment, Eric Dean Lewis was charged with drug-related offenses that exposed him to a maximum of eight years in prison. It's quite possible that the drug aspect of the case will turn out to be the least of the principal's problems. Those covert cameras and the date rape drug suggest something even more disturbing. What the investigators might find on this man's computers may end up defining the nature of this case.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Johnny Lewis: Drugs, Mental Illness, Murder and the Scientology Connection

     During his teenage years, actor Jonathan "Johnny" Lewis landed roles in various television series such as Malcolm in the Middle, Drake & Josh, Judging Amy, Boston Public, American Dreams, and The OC. In 2007 he appeared in the movie AVPR: Aliens vs Predator Requiem, and three years later in the film The Runaways. More recently, he played a series character in a motorcycle-gang drama called, Sons of Anarchy. In the final episode of season 2 his character was killed off. (He said because he wanted out of the contract.) At one time Lewis dated an actress named Katy Perry.

     In January 2012, a pair of residents of a town house in Northridge, California came home to find the 28-year-old actor inside their dwelling. (Lewis had once lived in the complex.) Before leaving the scene of his burglary, Lewis, out of his mind on drugs, beat the town house occupants with an empty Perrier bottle. Charged with burglary and assault, Lewis spent some time in the Los Angeles County Jail before being released on bail.

     Six weeks later, while out on bond, Johnny Lewis punched a man in the face at a Santa Monica yogurt shop. A week later, police arrested him while attempting to break into a home in that city. Once again he posted bail, and was released from custody. But in March, when Lewis failed to show up at a court hearing, the judge issued a warrant for his arrest. Police took him into custody a short time later, and put him back in jail.

     In preparation for his sentencing hearing on the Santa Monica attempted burglary case, a probation officer, in a report dated May 17, 2012, wrote: "The defendant suffers from some kind of chemical dependency, mental health issues, and lack of permanent housing. Given this, [Lewis] will continue to be a threat to any community [in which] he may reside."

     On May 23, Judge Mark E. Windham, relying on the above report, sentenced Johnny Lewis to 30 days of mental health and drug abuse treatment at the Ridgeview Ranch in Altadena, California. After completing the program as an outpatient, the judge presiding over the two assault cases sentenced Lewis to a period of probation. Not long after that, Lewis was put behind bars for some other offense. He made bail again, and on September 21 was back on the street abusing drugs and causing trouble.

     Johnny Lewis was renting a room in a sprawling, two-story house in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Los Felix Hills. His 81-year-old landlady, Catherine Davis, rented rooms in the Spanish-Style, bed-and-breakfast-like facility to young Hollywood actors. At ten o'clock in the morning of Wednesday, September 26, 2012, just five days after he had been released from jail, Lewis hopped a fence and attacked a painter working on the house next door. The owner of the home got into the fray, but Lewis was so high on drugs, there was nothing they could do to subdue him. The two men, fearing for their lives, took refuge in the house while Lewis tried to break into the place to continue the assault.

     When the mad actor returned to the Davis home, he broke into her living quarters, ripped her cat to pieces with his bare hands, smashed and ransacked the place, then beat the old woman to death. Neighbors who heard Catherine Davis screaming for her life, called 911.

     At 10:40 AM, when the police arrived at the scene, they found Johnny Lewis sprawled out dead on the driveway to the Davis house. Investigators believed that under the influence of drugs, he had fallen off the roof of the hillside dwelling. Inside, they found the beaten and strangled landlady, and her dismembered cat. Based on the dead actor's recent history, and the nature of his violence, detectives believed that Johnny Lewis had been high on PCP, crystal meth, or a new designer drug called "smiles," a psychedelic substance sold in the form of powder and pills.

     Jonathan Mandel, Lewis' attorney, told reporters that "Johnny Lewis had a lot of problems. I recommended treatment for him but he declined it. I give a lot of credit to his parents, they were really strong in trying to help him out. They really went to bat for him, but I guess they just couldn't do enough."

     Johnny Lewis' father, Michael, is a Scientologist who runs a Scientology clinic out in the San Fernando Valley. Mr. Lewis once wrote a screenplay with L. Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology founder, about the practice of Dianetics. Since Johnny Lewis' arrests for burglary and assault, and the drug-crazed murder of Catherine Davis, Scientology officials have distanced themselves from the young actor, claiming that he left the church years ago. His image, and references to him, have disappeared from the church's various websites.

     Members of the Church of Scientology are forbidden from consulting with psychologists and psychiatrists, or from taking psychotic medication. L. Ron Hubbard considered psychiatrists pill-pushing charlatans, and established his own programs for members suffering from mental illness, emotional problems, and drug and alcohol abuse. In lieu of modern psychiatry, Scientologists are treated with one-on-one counseling sessions, the ingestion of large amounts of vitamins, and sweating out their demons in high-temperature saunas.

     In 2004, Johnny Lewis went through a Church of Scientology drug program called Narconon. He spoke publicly about his treatment, and appeared on Narconon related websites. (These images have been scrubbed from the Internet.)

     Critics of the Church of Scientology, and there are millions of them around the world, have accused church officials with contributing to the deaths of mentally ill Scientologists by denying them modern psychiatric medication. While the media has generally refrained from emphasizing the Scientology connection to Catherine Davis's drug-crazed murder, the subject has come up, and will not go away.