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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

German Police Find Presumed Dead Woman Missing 30 Years

     In 1984, when 24-year-old Petra Pazsitka, a computer science student attending college in Braunschweig, Germany, failed to show up at her brother's birthday party, her parents reported her missing. The police in this northern German city launched a massive hunt.

     About a year after the student's disappearance, the missing persons case was featured on a popular German television crime show. The public exposure did not create any tips that led to Pazsitka's recovery.

     Not long after the airing of the TV segment, a man named Gunter confessed to the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl from the neighborhood where Pazsitka had disappeared. This man also confessed to kidnapping and murdering the missing college student. But after Gunter was unable to lead homicide investigators to Pazsitka's body, the suspect took back his confession and that case was closed.

     In 1989, five years after Pazsitka's disappearance, she was officially declared dead even though her body had not been recovered.

     In September 2015, police in Dusseldorf, Germany were called to an apartment to investigate a burglary. At the scene they spoke to the victim tenant, a 54-year-old woman who identified herself as Mrs. Schneider. Investigators, when they learned that Mrs. Schneider didn't possess a driver's license, social security card, passport, or bank account, or any other form of personal identification, turned their attention on her.

     As it turned out, Mrs. Schneider was Petra Pazsitka. After staging her disappearance 30 years ago, Pazsitka lived in several German cities under numerous assumed names. She paid all of her bills with cash and didn't drive a car.

     When detectives asked Pazsitka the obvious question of why she had voluntarily disappeared, causing a massive police hunt as well as pain and suffering for her family, she said she had wanted to start a new life. She offered no explanation beyond that. Her father had since died. When asked if she wanted to reunite with her mother and brother, she said she did not.

      

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Free Speech Intolerance, Cultural Paranoia and Political Correctness Run Amok: The American University

     On Tuesday, September 25, 2015, a student at the University of Delaware saw pieces of metal hangers dangling from tree limbs by pieces of string. The concerned student, obviously finely tuned to such things, interpreted the objects as miniature nooses, symbols of the lynchings that occurred during the early decades of the 20th century. The sighting came the day after a Fox News contributor named Katie Pavlich delivered a talk at the school. Pavlich's appearance created an uproar among members of the student body and faculty who objected to Pavich's earlier condemnation of the Black Lives Matter Movement. (Most universities and colleges do not take kindly to people who deviate from left-wing orthodoxy. The views of these apostates are considered toxic to the ivory tower environment where any idea outside progressive thinking could adversely affect the mission of political and cultural indoctrination. Examples of this are everywhere.)

     The president of the university, calling the suspected nooses a "deplorable act," and a "hateful display," sprang into action by launching a hate crime investigation. (The school must have a hate crime investigation department or committee. Are these trained investigators? Are they like the religious police in the middle east?) Without waiting for the results of that inquiry, President Nancy Targett issued the following statement: "We are both saddened and disturbed that this deplorable act has taken place on our campus. This hateful display stands in stark contrast to Monday night's peaceful protest and discussion [pertaining to the Katie Pavilich appearance]. We ask everyone in our community to stand together against intolerance and hate." Targett called for a student rally to impress the point the follow afternoon. (Question: If a student studying for an exam skipped the rally, is that student a part of the problem?)

     While the university president wrung her hands over the offending symbols of racism, Delaware students expressed outrage and concern on social media.

     On Wednesday, September 23, the day of the scheduled student rally, the hate crime police determined that the objects that had been hanging from the trees were the remains of lanterns left over from a previous social event.

     When the inconvenient truth hit the fan, President Targett, rather than apologizing for her knee-jerk reaction, proclaimed that the "incident," and her response to it, revealed just how sensitive the campus was to the potential issue of racism. Moreover, it showed a need for "continuing dialogue" on the subject.

     In reality, this "incident" reveals how politically oppressive student life has become on some university campuses. Most students, I would imagine, simply want to improve their lives through higher education. They are not incurring serious debt to be told what to think, what not to say, or how to live their lives. After residing four-years in a bubble where no one can be offended and free speech is out the window, real life must come to these students as a tremendous cultural shock.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Ralph Wald Murder Case

     In March 2013, Ralph Wald, a 69-year-old retired Army Lieutenant Colonel who fought in Vietnam, lived with his wife Johnna Flores in Brandon, Florida. The couple had been married since October 2012. She was 41.

     On Sunday, March 10, 2013, just before midnight, Wald got out of bed for a drink of water. En route to the kitchen he saw Johnna on the living room floor having sex with a man he didn't recognize. Wald immediately returned to his bedroom where he picked up his .38-caliber revolver. Back in the living room a few moments later, he shot his wife's sex partner in the stomach and head. The man died on the spot.

     After shooting 32-year-old Walter Lee Copley, who turned out to be one of Johnna's old flames from Riverview, Florida, Mr. Wald called the police. To the dispatcher he said that he had just shot a man he caught "fornicating" with his wife in their home. After the call, Mr. Wald laid down his gun and waited for the authorities to arrive at the death scene.

     Deputies with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office took Mr. Wald into custody that night. The next day, Hillsborough County Assistant State Attorney Chris Moody charged Ralph Wald with second-degree murder. A judge denied the murder suspect bail.

      The Wald case went to trial in Tampa, Florida just eleven weeks after Mr. Copley's death. Prosecutor Moody, in his opening remarks, told the jury that the defendant, who suffered from erectile dysfunction, killed the victim in a jealous rage.

     Defense attorney Joe Episcopo argued that his client thought Mr. Copley was an intruder raping his wife. Under Florida's stand your ground self-defense doctrine, the defendant had no duty to retreat from his own home.

     On the second day of the three-day trial, Johnna Flores took the stand for the defense. She testified that when her husband shot Mr. Copley she was "black-out" drunk from too much cognac. As a result, she had virtually no memory of the shooting.

     The defendant followed his wife to the stand. According to Ralph Wald, he and Johnna had planned to see a therapist regarding their sexual problem. "In fact," he said, "she would joke a lot with me that we were a perfect couple. She didn't want to do it, and I couldn't do it." The witness said he hoped to salvage his marriage. "I love my wife," he said.

     Prosecutor Moody, in his closing argument to the jury, said this about Mr. Copley: "It's a personal insult to conduct that kind of activity in a man's home, his castle. It cuts to the quick. It's brazen. That kind of deep and personal insult when you find another man having sex in your living room and you can't have sex yourself. This would make you want to lash out--and the defendant did."

     Defense attorney Episcopo, in addressing the jurors, said, "This was a military man trained to know what to do with the enemy. You take your gun and you kill the enemy."

     On May 30, 2013, the jury, after just two hours of deliberation, found the defendant not guilty. Ralph Wald embraced his two lawyers as his wife Johnna cried tears of joy.

     Members of Walter Copley's family who were in the courtroom when the verdict was read were not happy with the outcome of the case. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Disturbing Campus Sexual Assault Study

     On September 15, 2015, the Association of American Universities (AAU) published the results of their massive campus sexual offense survey of 150,000 students at 27 of the nation's top universities. The AAU findings were shocking. In the student bodies surveyed, between 20 to 28 percent of responding female undergraduates reported that during the past year they were victims of sexual offenses that included rape. Between 20 and 35 percent of the respondents said that sexual assault constituted a serious problem at their schools.

     Roughly half of the complaints involved the crime of rape. Other forms of sexual misconduct included sexual harassment and non-consensual sexual contact.

     The survey response rate fell between 18 and 53 percent, depending on the university.

     The published survey results came from the following 18 schools: Brown, Case Western Reserve, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Iowa State, Ohio State, University of Florida, University of Michigan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Oregon, University of Texas at Austin, University of Virginia, Washington University in St. Louis, and Yale.

     In addition to the above universities, nine other schools participated in the survey. The data from those studies will be published later.

     The crime of rape and other sexual offenses is especially intense on campuses due to the concentration of young men and women and the high use of alcohol and drugs. Making things worse is the fact that universities and collages are known for sweeping sex offense complaints under the rug in order to protect their enrollment numbers. Some schools, such as Columbia University, have been accused of fostering a culture of rape. Notwithstanding a federal law against college administrators not reporting campus sexual offenses, the problem persists. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Judge G. Todd Baugh Blamed 14-Year-Old Rape Victim

     Police in Billings Montana in 2008 arrested 49-year-old Stacey Dean Rambold, a teacher at the local high school. Rambold stood accused of having a sexual relationship with Cherice Morales, a 14-year-old student. A Yellowstone County prosecutor charged Rambold with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent. (By law, a person under the age of 16 cannot consent to sex with an adult. In some states the crime is called statutory rape.)

     In 2004, administrators at Billings Senior High School had warned Rambold against touching or being alone with female students.

     Cherice Morales, just before her 17th birthday in 2010, committed suicide. At the time of this troubled girl's death, the criminal case against her former teacher was pending. The girl's mother, Auliea Halon, sued the the school district for wrongful death. The case was quickly settled for $91,000.

     The Yellowstone County prosecutor, as a result of Morales' suicide, offered Stacey Rambold a deal. If he confessed to one count of sexual intercourse without consent, and promised to enter a sex offender treatment program, the charges would be dropped. Rambold accepted the offer.

     In August 2012, Rambold began skipping meetings with his counselors, and didn't tell them about unsupervised visits he was having with girls. In November, the head of the sex treatment facility kicked him out of the program. When Deputy Chief Yellowstone County prosecutor Rod Souza learned that Rambold had violated the terms of their agreement, he refiled the original charges against the former teacher.

     Rambold's attorney, Jay Lansing, told reporters that the girls Rambold had visited without supervision were members of his family. Moreover, his client had enrolled in another sex treatment program.

     On August 26, 2013, the Rambold case came before 66-year-old District Court Judge G. Todd Baugh. Before being elected to the bench in 1985, Baugh had served as a federal magistrate. Prior to that, he practiced law in Billings. The judge was currently running, unopposed, for his fifth term on the bench.

     In September 2011, Judge Baugh had sentenced a 26-year-old defendant to 50 years in prison for the rape on an 11-year-old girl. A year later he sent a man to prison for 25 years for possessing child pornography. Judge Baugh did not have a reputation for going easy on sex offenders.

     At the Rambold hearing, Judge Baugh dismissed the refiled charges against the defendant. The judge said that Rambold's being kicked out of the sex program did not justify the refiling of the 2008 sexual intercourse without consent charges. The remaining issue before the judge involved Rambold's sentence based upon his 2010 admission of guilt on the single count of sexual intercourse without consent.

     Yellowstone County Chief Deputy prosecutor Rod Souza proposed a 20 year sentence with 10 years suspended. Defense attorney Jay Lansing suggested that because Rambold had lost his job, his license to teach, his house and his wife, he had been punished enough. Attorney Lansing asked Judge Baugh to suspend all but 30 days of a 15-year sentence. The attorney pointed out that Mr. Rambold had continued his sex rehabilitation program with another treatment facility.

     Judge Baugh said that he had reviewed the videotaped police interviews of Cherice Morales. From this he had concluded that even though the victim was 35 years younger than her teacher, she was "as much in control of the situation" as the defendant. Judge Baugh said that the 14-year-old was "older than her chronological age." The judge considered this a major mitigating factor in the case.

     Judge Baugh suspended all but 30 days of Rambold's 15-year sentence. After spending a month in jail, the former teacher would be on probation for 15 years. He would also have to register as a sex offender.

     Upon hearing this sentence, the dead girl's mother, Auilea Hanlon, stormed out of the courtroom. When she spoke to reporters after the hearing, Hanlon said, " I guess somehow it makes a rape more acceptable if you can blame the victim, even if she was only fourteen."

     In a matter of  hours following the sentence, local citizens were signing an online petition that called for Judge Baugh to resign. Marion Bradley, the director of the Montana National Organization for Women, told reporters that "Rape is rape. She was 14-years-old, and she was not an age where she could give consent, and he groomed her like any pedophile. Unless we show our outrage, none of our children are safe."

     On the day following his controversial and extremely unpopular sentencing of the former high school teacher, Judge Baugh, in speaking to reporters, stood by his ruling. "Obviously," he said, "a 14-year-old can't consent. I think that people have in mind that this was some violent, forcible, horrible rape. It was horrible enough as it is, just given her age, but it wasn't this forcible beat-up rape. I think what people are seeing is a sentence for rape of 30 days. Obviously on the face of it, if you look at it that way, it's crazy. No wonder people are upset. I'd be upset, too, if that happened."

     The next day, Judge Baugh conceded that he deserved to be criticized for his "chronological age" comment. He apologized for that but it was too late for apologies.

     Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito, in responding to Judge Baugh's sentence, said, "I have no legal authority whatsoever to appeal a sentence handed down by a judge."

     As of August 29, 2013, the day hundreds of anti-Baugh demonstrators gathered in Billings to protest the sentence, the online petition calling for the judges' resignation had collected 26,350 signatures.

     Stacey Rambold was released from jail in September 2013. He would be on probation until August 2028.

     In July 2014, the Montana Supreme Court censured Judge Baugh for the remarks he made about the 14-year-old rape victim.

     Having decided not to run for a fifth term, Baugh, at the end of his term in December 2014, retired from the bench. He told a skeptical media that his retirement had nothing to do with the Rambold sentence and the state supreme court censure.

     In April 2015, the former judge's critics, and there were many, were stunned to learn that the Yellowstone Area Bar Association had awarded G. Todd Baugh a lifetime achievement award.
     

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Tracy Ingle SWAT Raid

     A narcotics officer with the North Little Rock (Arkansas) Police Department received information on December 20, 2007 that a woman known only as Kate was selling methamphetamine out of the house at 400 East 21st Street. The confidential informant who said he'd purchased meth there, didn't know who owned the dwelling, if other people lived there, how much drug activity was going on at that location, or anything about Kate other than she usually carried a gun. A judge, relying entirely on this sketchy report from a confidential informant, issued a nighttime no-knock warrant to search the house.

     At 7:40 PM, 17 days after the judge issued the warrant, Tracy Ingle, a 40-year-old former stonemason with a bad back, was asleep in his first floor bedroom in the back of the house at 400 East 21st Street. Mr. Ingle awoke with a start at the sound of a SWAT battering ram breaking down his front door. He instinctively reached for his pistol, the unloaded and broken handgun he kept at his bedside to scare off intruders. This would not be the first time burglars had broken into his home. Suddenly, a flashbang grenade came though the window near his bed, filling the room with blinding light. The SWAT officer who climbed into the bedroom through the broken window yelled, "He's got a gun!" That's when the shooting started. The first bullet, fired from a .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle, tore into Ingle's left leg just above the knee. As he dropped to the floor, SWAT officers outside the window fired 20 more shots, hitting Ingle in the arm, calf, hip, and chest. Moments later, several officers were in the room. One of the officers kept referring to Ingle as Michael or Mike. Before being rushed to the Baptist Health Hospital, Ingle said, "My name is not Mike."

     The police did not find methamphetamine or any other illegal drug at Tracy Ingle's house. They didn't find Kate, whoever she was, or any incriminating evidence in Ingle's car. They did seize a digital scale and a few baggies, common household items they designated as drug paraphernalia. Ingle's sister, a surgical nurse who made jewelry as a hobby, told the police the scale and baggies belonged to her.

     Because the police had broken into Ingle's house and shot him five times, then failed to find the drugs they had raided the house for, they had to charge him with something. And they did: two counts of aggravated assault for picking up the handgun in self defense, and felony possession of drug paraphernalia. The North Little Rock police, in a botched drug raid, had almost killed a citizen who had never been convicted of a felony. Instead of apologizing for their shoddy, reckless work, and overaggressive tactics, they wanted to send Tracy Ingle to prison.

     Ten days after the shooting, the hospital discharged Ingle from the intensive care unit. Police officers immediately picked him up and drove him to the police station. For the next six hours, detectives grilled Ingle without an attorney present. From the interrogation room, they hauled him to the Pulaski County Jail, where they booked him, still in his hospital-issued clothing. When they released Ingle four days later (he had sold his car to make bail), his wounds had become infected because he had been unable to change his bandages every six hours.

     The internal affairs investigation of the shooting cleared the two SWAT officers who had shot Ingle of wrongdoing. Seeing the gun in Ingle's hand, they had responded appropriately. Responsibility for this drug enforcement fiasco rested on the shoulders of the case detective and the judge who has signed the no-knock search warrant. Ingle, who couldn't afford to hire a lawyer, finally caught a break in May when John Wesley Hall, a well-known Arkansas defense attorney, agreed to represent him.

     In an April 2008 interview conducted by a reporter with the Arkansas Times, North Little Rock Chief of Police Danny Bradley spoke about the department's SWAT team, officer safety, and police militarism. Because North Little Rock is a small city of 50,000, the SWAT team was made up of 12 to 15 regular-duty patrolmen and detectives assigned to the squad part time. These officers trained for the position twice a month. The chief said he deployed the unit only in high-risk situations. "If we have any doubts about detectives and uniformed officers being able to execute the warrant safely we're going to use the SWAT team. I would rather spend the extra money that it takes to get the SWAT team together than risk someone getting injured."

     Chief Bradley, regarding nighttime no-knock home invasions such as the one that got Tracy Ingle shot and almost killed, said, "How do you weigh a situation where executing a warrant safely means exploiting the element of surprise, versus the natural reaction of a person when someone is intruding into his house? It's a dangerous business." The chief allowed that he didn't like the phrase "war on drugs" because he didn't want his officers thinking they were soldiers, and drug suspects their enemy. In that regard, he had worked to eliminate some of the militaristic trappings of the force. For example, he had switched his regular patrol officers out of their "fatigue-looking" uniforms.

     Tracy Ingle's attorney, on September 8, 2008, filed a motion to suppress the evidence against his client. John Wesley Hall argued that owing to the vagueness of the informant's report, the warrant authorizing the raid lacked sufficient probable cause, which rendered the evidence against Ingle inadmissible. Moreover, had there been sufficient probable cause in the first place, it had been severely attenuated by the 17-day delay in the warrant's execution. In other words, the evidence had grown stale. (Under Arkansas law, search warrants must be served within a reasonable time, but not more than 60 days after issue.)

     The judge denied attorney Hall's motion, and in March 2009, a jury found Tracy Ingle guilty of maintaining a drug house, and of felony assault. The judge sentenced him to 18 years in prison, and fined him $18,000. Tracy Ingle took his case to the Arkansas Court of Appeals, which, on May 12, 2010, affirmed his conviction.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Neal Erickson Case: Teachers Rally Around a Convicted Sex Offender

     In the spring of 2013, Neal Erickson, an eighth grade science and computer education teacher at the Rose City Middle School in northern Michigan, pleaded guilty to one count of criminal conduct with a male student. Back in 2006, Erickson had ten sexual encounters with the eighth grader at the teacher's house. (The authorities learned of these sex offenses several years later when an anonymous tipster sent the police an old photograph of the student that in some fashion incriminated the teacher. The victim, at the time of the guilty plea, was attending college. Mr. Erickson had left teaching.)

     In anticipation of the former teacher's sentencing, six Rose City educators and two of their retired colleagues wrote letters to the judge on Neal Erickson's behalf asking for leniency. Amy Huber Eagan wrote: "I am asking that Neal be given the absolute minimum sentence, considering all of the circumstances surrounding the case." (What circumstances could possibly mitigate this crime?)

     Rose City teacher Sally Campbell, in her letter to the judge, wrote: "Neal made a mistake. [Losing your wallet is a mistake. Stealing someone's wallet is not.] He allowed a mutual friendship to develop into much more. He realized his mistake [again the mistake] and ended it years before someone sent something to the authorities which began the legal process." (This pedophile might have ended the relationship because his victim had gotten too old or threatened to expose him.)

     Middle school teacher Harriett Coe wrote this on Erickson's behalf: Neal has plead [sic] guilty his one criminal offense but he's not a predator. [One could argue that any time a teacher has sex with a student, the teacher, by definition, is a predator.] He understands the severity of his action and is sincere in his desire to make amends."

     On July 15, 2013, Neal Erickson's sentencing day, Judge Michael Baumgartner looked out over his courtroom and noticed that the defendant's teaching supporters were sitting with members of his family. Speaking directly to Erickson, Judge Baumgartner said, "I'm appalled and ashamed that the community would rally around you. What you did was a jab in the eye with a sharp stick to every parent who trusts a teacher."

     Judge Baumgartner sentenced Neal Erickson to fifteen years to thirty years in prison. The former teacher's courtroom cheerleaders reacted with shock and disgust.

     Following the sentencing hearing, one of Erickson's supporters told a reporter with The Detroit News that Judge Baumgartner had socked it to the teacher because he was a man who molested a boy. Had the defendant in this case been a woman, she may have gotten off light. (This may be true, but it doesn't mitigate Erickson's crime.)

     Not long after Judge Baumgartner handed down the sentence, someone burned down the garage owned by the victim's parents, John and Lori Janczewski. An unknown person also spray-painted a threatening message on their house.

     Overall, citizens of this rural community agreed with Judge Baumgartner's hardline approach to pedophilia in the local school. Many have asked the school superintendent to fire Erickson's teacher friends. Several parents have said that if these sex offense cheerleaders aren't sacked, they are taking their children out of the school system.

     As could be expected, the embattled Erickson supporters responded to the public's outrage by making threats of their own. If the school superintendent tried to fire them, they would fight back by suing the cash-strapped school district. These pedophile supporting educators would not go down without a fight. Taxpayers and parents had a lot of nerve trying to interfere with public education.

     None of the teachers who supported and defended Neal Erickson lost their jobs over this case.  

Friday, September 11, 2015

Lonnie Kocontes And The Cruise Ship Murder of His Ex-Wife Micki Kanesaki

     In 1991, Orange County, California attorney Lonnie Kocentes and Micki Kanesaki, a paralegal working in the same law firm, met and began dating. They married in 1995, and in 2002, were divorced. After the break-up, they continued to live together in their jointly owned Mission Viejo house.

     On May 21, 2006, the couple, in an effort to rekindle their relationship, boarded the cruise ship Island Escape in Spain bound for Italy. Five days later, Kocontes reported his ex-wife missing. He said he had awakened on the morning of May 26 to find his ex-spouse gone from the cabin.

     The next day, Kanesaki's body washed up on the Mediterranean shore near the town of Calabria in southwest Italy. The Italian police boarded the Island Escape to question Kocontes and members of the crew. According to the dead woman's ex-husband, the 52-year-old had left their cabin at one in the morning on May 26 for a cup of tea. She never returned. Kocontes told the officers that Kanesaki had been threatening to commit suicide.

     Not long after Kanesaki's death at sea, Kocontes, in speaking to a reporter with the Los Angeles Times, said, "I was committed to this woman. I loved her with all my heart. I wish I never had gone on the cruise."

     Micki Kanesaki's death was not investigated until Kocontes, in 2008, began transferring more than $1 million from the dead woman's bank accounts into joint accounts he held with his new wife. FBI agents and Orange County detectives came to believe that the lawyer had strangled Kanesaki to death on the ship, then threw her body into the Mediterranean. Investigators believed the victim had been murdered somewhere between Sicily and Naples. The authorities also suspected that Kocontes had planned the murder in Orange County, California before the cruise, and was motivated by money.

     On February 15, 2013, Federal Marshals arrested Lonnie Kocontes at his home in Safety Harbor, Florida. He stood charged in Orange County, California with one count of special circumstances murder for financial gain. The suspect awaited his extradition in the Pasco County Jail where he was held without bond. The minimum sentence the 55-year-old could face was life without the possibility of parole. Because he was accused of murdering someone for money, Kocontes was eligible for the death sentence.

     Shortly after Kocontes was extradited back to California, his third wife provided information to Orange County investigators that incriminated him in Kanesaki's death. In May 2015, two of Kocontes' fellow inmates at the Orange County Jail told his lawyer that Kocontes had asked them to murder his third wife. Before killing the murder-for-hire target, the hit men were supposed to make her sign a letter that accused the police of forcing her to lie about his involvement in Kanesaki's death. The defense attorney turned this information over to the local authorities who charged Kocontes with solicitation of murder and several lesser offenses. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Robert Van Handel: The Profile Of A Pedophile

     In 1994, Robert Van Handel, a 48-year-old Franciscan priest and former rector at St. Anthony's Seminary School in Santa Barbara, California, pleaded guilty to sexually molesting an 8-year-old student. He had been accused of molesting fifteen other boys between the ages 8 to 11, but those cases were too old to prosecute. In preparation for his sentencing hearing, the psychiatrist who evaluated Van Handel at the Pacific Treatment Associates in Santa Cruz, asked him to write a history of his sexual life. Van Handel complied, producing a detailed, 27-page memoir of a life devoted to sexually abusing boys.

     Van Handel's revealing description of his perverted thoughts and behavior provided a rare look into the twisted mind and life of a sexual predator. The document didn't come to light until 2006, the year the Franciscans, in a civil court settlement, paid twenty-five clergy abuse victims $28 million in damages. The church, in an attempt to keep Van Handel's revelations from the public, fought several newspaper organizations all the way to the California Supreme Court. The church lost. What follows is Van Handel's account of his life as a priest, teacher, and pedophile.

     In 1956, at age 10, Van Hendel and his family of seven settled in Orange County, California. Three years later, the 13-year-old, to escape his strict, demanding father who forced him to read a sex education manual that scared the hell out of  him, enrolled in the Franciscan run St. Anthony's Seminary School in Santa Barbara. Two years later, while in the infirmary with a fever, a priest sexually molested him. According to the seminarian pedophile who attacked him, this activity would, by making the sick boy sweat, draw the fever out of him.

     Over the next nine years, while at St Anthony's, Van Handel collected magazines featuring child pornography, and used a telephoto lens to take clandestine photographs of children. While he fantasized about having sex with young boys, Van Handel did not actually molest anyone during this period.

     In 1970, at age 24, Van Handel moved to Berkeley, California to pursue his master's degree at the University of California. While there, he formed a neighborhood boy's choir and molested a 7-year-old choir member. He also, during this period, raped his 5-year-old nephew.

     Robert Van Handel, as an ordained Franciscan priest, returned to St. Anthony's in 1975 where he taught English. He also became the director of the school choir. In his sexual memoir, the priest acknowledged that the school choir provided him with a steady supply of victims. An 11-year-old boy, a student he had been abusing since the child was 7, resisted for the first time after four years of molestation. In his memoir, Van Handel said that he was shocked by the rejection. He wrote, "He started to cry and that snapped something in my head. For the first time, I was seeing signs that he really did not like this." In another passage, the priest wrote: "There is something about me that is happier when accompanied by a small boy. Perhaps besides the sexual element, the child in me wants a playmate."

     Van Handel's relationships with his students and choir boys exemplified typical pedophile behavior. The priest rubbed their backs, photographed them tied-up in ropes, wrestled with them, and invented tickling games. (The Penn State pedophile, coach Jerry Sandusky, called himself the "tickle monster.") In his memoir of perversion, Van Handel, noted that the fact the boys couldn't stop him from doing what he wanted, turned him on. He wrote, "It was though I could do anything with them that I wanted."

     In 1983, Robert Van Handel became rector of St. Anthony's. As head of this enclave of pedophilia, he was asked to investigate another priest who had been accused of molesting two boys who were brothers. As it turned out, Van Handel had also sexually assaulted these students.

     Van Handel's tenure at St. Anthony's came to an end in 1992 when the parents of one of his victims wrote a letter to the head of the Franciscan order. Within months of this letter, Van Handel was removed from the ministry.

     After the defrocked pedophile's guilty plea in 1994, the judge sentenced him to eight years in prison.  (Eight years? This serial sex offender should have been sentenced to life without parole.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Sarai Sierra: American Tourist Murdered in Istanbul, Turkey

     Sarai Sierra, a 33-year-old Staten Island, New York wife and mother of two, on January 7, 2013, flew to Istanbul, Turkey. Sierra, an amateur photographer and student at the College of Staten Island, had planned to travel to Turkey with Magdalena Rodriguez who canceled at the last minute. As a result, the part time chiropractor's office employee landed alone in Istanbul, a sprawling city of 14 million.

     During her two-week adventure in Turkey in which she resided in a basement apartment in one of Istanbul's seediest neighborhoods, Sierra remained in touch with her husband Steven, her children, and friends through her iPhone and iPad. On January 15, Sierra flew to Amsterdam where she remained three days. On January 18, on her way back to Turkey, she spend a few hours in Munich, Germany.

      When Sierra's homeward bouind plane landed in New York City on January 21, she was not onboard. That is when Steven Sierra reported her missing to the Istanbul police, and made plans to travel to Turkey to search for his wife.

     Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, compared to other major metropolitan concentrations in the region, is relatively safe from violent crime. Because tourism is a big business in the city, local authorities were eager to find the missing American tourist. Members of the special investigative unit formed to find Sarai Sierra reviewed thousands of hours of downtown surveillance camera footage for a glimpse of the missing woman and clues to her whereabouts. They came up empty-handed.

     On February 2, 2013, residents who lived near the remnants of Istanbul's ancient city walls not far from the Galata Bridge that spanned the Golden Horn waterway, discovered the body of a woman. Police made a tentative identification of the corpse through a driver's license found on the body of the fully-dressed woman. The fact that Sarai Sierra was still wearing her earrings, a bracelet, a gold ring, and a necklace, ruled out robbery as a motive for her murder. Her iPhone and iPad were missing.

     Sarai Sierra had been killed by several blows to the head. The presence of a blanket near the body suggested she had been murdered elsewhere and dumped at the site not far from the busy highway.

     Not long after the discovery of the American tourist's murdered remains, a local woman came forward with information that on January 29, 2013 she had seen a man removing "something" at the presumed dump site from a white car. The witness said she saw a woman's hand protruding from the blanketed bundle taken out of vehicle by the man.

     In the course of their murder investigation, the Istanbul police detained fifteen people for questioning. Because the case had attracted so much media attention in Turkey, the local authorities were eager to bring Sierra's killer or killers to justice.

     On February 4, 2013, prosecutors in Istanbul were granted a court order allowing the acquisition of DNA samples from suspects who have been questioned in the case. DNA samples from Sierra's body and the dump site blanket--hair follicles and scrapings from beneath the victim's fingernails--were sent to a crime lab for analysis. Also, the FBI entered the case.

     Istanbul police, in the spring of 2013, arrested a 47-year-old collector of scrap paper named Ziya Tasali. Tasali confessed to killing Sarai Sierra after she resisted his kiss in the Fatih district of the city. Tasali denied raping the victim. He said she "hit me with her phone between my two eyebrows, and I pushed her to the floor." She then picked up a rock and threw it at him. "I got very angry," he said. "I hit her with a stone I grabbed off the floor."

     The murder suspect said he was sniffing paint thinner at the time of the killing.

     On June 24, 2014, Tasali was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Ibolya Ryan: Murdered in Abu Dhabi

     In October 2014, the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the Gulf Arab nation of United Arab Emerates (UAE), alerted Americans in the country to a posting on a jihadist web forum that called for "lone wolf" attacks on American teachers working in international schools. Abu Dhabi, an international business and banking hub that featured huge skyscrapers and glitzy shopping malls, had a low violent crime rate and was considered one of the safest big cities in the world.

     Ibolya Ryan, Hungarian-born and raised and educated in Romania as a kindergarten teacher, came to the United States in the 1990s. In 1997, while living with her husband in Denver, Colorado, she took a job as a special needs teacher and enrolled in a course on how to teach English as a foreign language. In 2001, she returned to Hungary then later accepted a teaching position in Austria.

     In 2014, Ryan was living in Abu Dhabi and teaching at a large international school 35 miles from the downtown section of the city. The 47-year-old mother of three had divorced her husband and was residing in the UAE with her twin 11-year-old sons.

     On Monday December 1, 2014, while shopping at a high-end mall on Reem Island, a newly developed area of the city that was home to thousands of Western expatriates, Ryan entered the ladies restroom. Mall surveillance camera footage showed a person fully covered in a black, full-length gown called an abaya and a headscarf or hijab, following Ryan into the public restroom. This person was later seen leaving the mall in a hurry.

     Officers with the Criminal Investigation Department of the Abu Dhabi Police, when they responded to the shopping mall restroom, found a large, bloody kitchen knife with a blue handle and a trail of blood leading to one of the stalls. That's where they found Ibolya Ryan, the victim of a vicious knifing.

     Shortly after being rushed to a nearby hospital, Ryan died from her many knife wounds. Her sons were placed in the care of Abu Dhabi officials until their father came from abroad to pick them up.

     On Thursday December 4, 2014, UAE police officers raided an apartment in Abu Dhabi and took an Emirati woman named Ala'a Badr Abdullah Al-Hashemi  into custody. The authorities believed this murder suspect had earlier planted a homemade bomb at the doorstep of an Egyptian-American physician. The doctor's son found the bomb and called the police. Bomb experts came to the scene and defused the device.

     The day following the suspect's arrest, a spokesperson for the Abu Dhabi police said investigators believed Ryan's cold-blooded killing was an act of terrorism committed by a self-radicalized terrorist who acted alone.

     Ibolya Ryan's murder destroyed the sense of security expatriates in Abu Dhabi once enjoyed.

     The U.A.E. authorities moved quickly to try Ms. Hashemi. The prosecutor described the killing as an "Islamic extremism terror attack." In June 2015, the defendant was convicted as charged and sentenced to death. On July 13, 2015, Hashemi was executed by firing squad in Dubai, U.A. E.

     Attorneys for the executed woman said she had suffered from chronic mental illness. Court-appointed doctors, however, had determined that she was fit to stand trial. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Mary O'Callaghan Police Brutality Case

     The vast majority of police brutality complaints are filed against male officers. While this is not surprising since most officers are men, when it comes to the use of physical force, male officers tend to be more physically aggressive than their female counterparts. Out of the thousands of excessive force complaints filed against male officers, only a handful result in civil court settlements. Even fewer of these cases lead to criminal prosecutions.

     Female police officers are rarely sued for excessive force, and almost never prosecuted for police brutality. But in Los Angeles, a female cop was charged with felony assault in connection with the beating of an arrestee named Alesia Thomas.

     On July 22, 2012, 35-year-old Alesia Thomas left her two children outside the Southeast Police Station in South Los Angeles. Suffering from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and drug addiction, Thomas knew she couldn't take care of her kids who were age three and twelve. She felt she had no choice but to leave her children at the police station.

     Police officers arrested Thomas that day at her home on charges of child abandonment. As officer Mary O'Callaghan struggled to put the arrestee--wearing handcuffs and leg restraints--into the patrol car, she was caught on another cruiser's dashboard camera kicking Thomas in the stomach and groin area. The police officer, a former Marine and 19 year veteran of the force, was also recorded punching Thomas in the neck.

     The arresting officers at Thomas' house called for medical assistance after she lost consciousness in the back of the patrol car. Notwithstanding the efforts of the responding paramedics, Thomas died a short time later at the hospital.

     A police administrator, pending an internal departmental investigation, placed O'Callaghan on unpaid leave.

     The forensic pathologist with the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office who performed Thomas' autopsy listed cocaine intoxication as a "major factor" in her death. Because the pathologist was unable to assess what role, if any, being kicked and punched by officer O'Callaghan played in the arrestee's death, Thomas' official cause of death went into the books as "undetermined."

     In the course of the internal affairs investigation, detectives learned that two of the arresting officers that day had disregarded Thomas' request for medical help. Moreover, a third officer at the scene may have lied to investigators looking into the incident. According to the internal affairs inquiry, a police sergeant involved with the case had failed to provide supervisory leadership. In other words, there may have been a cover-up.

     On October 9, 2013, a Los Angeles County assistant district attorney charged officer Mary O'Callaghan with felony assault. The ambivalence regarding Thomas' cause of death ruled out the charge of involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, O'Callaghan faced a maximum prison sentence of three years. Following her arrest she was released on $35,000 bail.

     In speaking to a reporter with the Los Angeles Times, the dead woman's mother, Sandra Thomas, lamented the time it took to charge O'Callaghan with a crime. "I am sure," Thomas said, "that Charlie Beck [the chief of police] saw this [dashboard] video long ago. I would like to see that video. They're charging that officer, but what about all of the other officers involved? They did nothing to stop this."

    On June 5, 2015, a jury of eleven women and one man found the former police officer guilty of felony assault by a police officer. Following her conviction, O'Callaghan asked the judge to send her directly to jail where she would start serving her sentence.

     The trial judge, on July 25, 2015, sentenced O'Callaghan to three years behind bars. The judge then suspended twenty months of the sentence. That meant the former police officer would spend about 16 months in the Los Angeles County lockup.

     Had the forensic pathologist in the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office determined the manner of death in this case to be homicide, O'Callahan might have been convicted of criminal homicide and sentenced to a lot more time.

     

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Dr. Jackson Dempsey: How Many Psychiatrists Are Mentally Ill?

     Over the years, numerous studies and surveys have confirmed the conventional wisdom that people who enter the fields of psychiatry and psychotherapy were mentally and emotionally disturbed as children. A relatively high percentage of these mental health professionals develop drinking problems, suffer depression, become paranoid, struggle with anxiety, and eventually become suicidal. (Sigmund Freud, the father of psycho-babble and mind-talk, killed himself.)

     Authors Robert Epstein and Tim Brewer, in a July 1, 1987 Psychology Today article, wrote: "Mental health professionals are, in general, a fairly crazy lot--at least as troubled as the general population. This may sound depressing...but having crazy shrinks around is not in itself a serious problem. In fact, some experts believe that therapists who have suffered in certain ways may be the very best therapists we have."

     According to one group of researchers, while psychiatrists account for just 6 percent of all doctors, they make up 33 percent of the sexual crimes committed by doctors. This study also revealed that the percentage of sexual molestation offenses by psychiatrists is 37 times higher than that of the general public. It is not surprising that almost all psychiatrists are patients of other shrinks.

     In 2012, fifty-six-year-old Jackson Dempsey, a psychiatrist with offices in Medford, Oregon, served as the psychiatrist for Jackson County. Dempsey, who walked his dog on the national forest trails outside Ashland, did not like the mountain bikers who regularly sped past him on the downhill runs. He decided to wage a guerrilla war against the bikers.

     In June and July 2012, Dr. Dempsey strung nylon ropes across the trails in an effort to booby trap the bikers. He also littered the trials with nails, and placed tree branches in the bikers' paths. As a result of his clandestine work, three mountain bikers were injured.

     Police officers arrested Dr. Dempsey in July 2012 after a witness saw him setting a biker trap. A local prosecutor charged the shrink with assault and reckless endangerment, a pair of misdemeanor offenses.

     On May 1, 2013, Dr. Dempsey pleaded guilty in return for a 30-day sentence in the Jackson County Jail. Pursuant to his plea agreement, he apologized to the mountain bikers, his family, and the local mental health community. Dr. Dempsey resigned his position as the county psychiatrist. He was also prohibited, as a condition of his probation, from going near the national forest trails for a period of two years. He was also ordered to pay $2,400 in restitution to his victims.

     William Roussel, one of the bikers injured by a Dr. Dempsey trap, told reporters that he didn't believe that Dr. Dempsey's apology to the bikers was sincere. Another of Dr. Dempsey's mountain trail victims told a local TV reporter that, "I don't understand how someone with six to eight years of [advanced] education could...do this." There are at least two answers to that victim's question: Just because someone is well-educated doesn't mean this person is mentally sound (or for that matter, smart). Moreover, Dr. Dempsey is a member of a profession populated by nuts.

     In the fall of 2013, the Oregon Medical Board reviewed Dr. Dempsey's criminal case. While calling his behavior "dishonorable," and "detrimental to the community," the board chose not to suspend or revoke his medical license. (The board could have pulled his license and fined him up to $10,000.) In other words, Dr. Dempsey's behavior was anti-social enough to send him to jail but not bad enough to remove him from the medical profession. So much for professional standards.

     Shortly after being professionally exonerated by the medical board, Dr. Dempsey opened a private practice in Grants Pass, Oregon. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

The David H. Petraeus Affair

     In June 2012, Jill Kelley, a married mother of three living in Tampa, Florida, received six or so anonymous emails that disturbed her enough to ask a FBI agent she knew to look into the matter. The sender of the messages wanted the 37-year-old to stay away from her man, David H. Petraeus, the Director of the CIA. Kelley and her husband Scott, a Lakeland, Florida cancer surgeon, were on friendly terms with Petraeus and his wife Holly. While Jill Kelley, a Lebanese-American who grew up in Philadelphia was known for her lavish parties and social events, she and her husband were in serious financial trouble with credit card debt and home foreclosure threats. She functioned as an unpaid liason to the MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

     Kelley's FBI contact, a Tampa field agent and terrorism expert named Frederick Humphries, opened a cyberstalking case which led to the identification of 40-year-old Paula Broadwell as the email sender. Broadwell, a mother of three, was married to a Charlotte, North Carolina radiologist. In the context of the FBI agent's inquiry, this subject was no ordinary woman warning a perceived rival to lay off her man. Broadwell was a West Point graduate, Ph.D. candidate, and U.S. Army Reserve Officer who had met General Petraeus in the spring of 2006 when he spoke at Harvard University. In the course of writing a dissertation on the general, Broadwell remained in touch with him through a series of email interviews. In 2010, when General Petraeus replaced General Stanley McChrystal as the top commander in Afghanistan, Broadwell spent months in that country interviewing him for a book a professional writer named Vernon Loeb was writing for her.

     In August 2011, General Petraeus retired from the U.S. Army, and the following month, was sworn in as Director of the CIA. Two months after Petraeus took over as the head of the CIA, he began having an affair with Paula Broadwell.

     Broadwell's ghost-written biography, All In: The Education of General David H. Petraeus, came out in January 2012. The sexual relationship came to an end, by mutual agreement, in the summer of 2012, about the time Broadwell sent the angry emails to Jill Kelley.

     As the story goes, FBI Agent Frederick Humphries became so infatuated with Jill Kelley, his cyberstalking complainant, the 47-year-old investigator allegedly started sending her, via the Internet, bare-chested photographs of himself. There were reports that Humphries was taken off the case and replaced by a team of field agents who were in consultation with the local United States Attorney's Office. As the FBI agents combed through Broadwell's emails, they found information regarding the movements and activities of high-level military personnel, including Petraeus. The investigation suddenly evolved into something potentially more serious than a cyberstalking case.

     Eric Holder, the United States Attorney General already up to his neck in the fast-and-furious gun running scandal, learned of the Petraeus/Broadwell affair from FBI Director Robert Mueller in September 2012. When pressed to comment on the matter, President Obama said that he had not been told of the scandal and potential security breach until November 7, the day after he had been elected to his second term in office.

     On September 13, 2012, two days after the terrorist attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya that led to the death of the ambassador and three others, CIA Director Petraeus told the American people that the attack had involved a flash-mob reaction to an anti-Muslim video. Following his resignation from the CIA on the day after Obama's reelection, Petraeus indicated that he no longer intended to testify on the Benghazi matter before members of Congress. A few days later, under pressure from Congress and a few media outlets, the former CIA Director said he would testify at the November 16, 2012 hearing.

     On November 13, 2012, the sex scandal, already disturbing and bizarre, became even more complex and shocking. The FBI announced that its cyberinvestigation of Broadwell had uncovered twenty to thirty thousand "inappropriate" Internet messages to Jill Kelley from Marine General John R. Allen, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan. A government spokesperson had described the emails as "flirtatious" while others have characterized the material as the equivalent of phone sex. (Further investigation revealed that both Petraeus and Allen had taken time from their busy schedules to write letters on behalf of Jill Kelley's twin sister. The letters were sent to the judge presiding over a child custody battle.)

     There were two general schools of thought on the Petraeus/Broadwell/Kelley scandal. Democrats in Washington and the mainstream media, were treating the debacle as merely an embarrassing sex scandal. John F. Kennedy played around with mob women, Ike had a squeeze, and President Bill Clinton deposited his DNA on an intern's dress. No big deal.

     Republicans, on the other hand, based on the timeline of events, and David Petraeus' statements regarding the video as the source of the Benghazi attacks, smelled a White House Benghazi conspiracy involving political blackmail and election politics.

     Regardless of one's politics, there were many aspects of the scandal that raised serious concerns. It seemed that once the FBI learned of the Petraeus/Broadwell affair, a clear breach of national security, the President should have been notified and the CIA Director immediately removed from office. That the Attorney General of the United States did not alert President Obama of this threat to national security didn't ring true. It was simply hard to believe that the nation's top law enforcement officer sat on this information for two months. If the President knew of the affair, why did he wait until after his reelection to inform the American people? The answer to that question was obvious.  

     Two days after the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, why did CIA Director Petraeus blame the murders on the video? He obviously knew better. Did his backing of the initial White House version of the attack have something to do with the President's knowledge of the Broadwell affair? It's not unreasonable to suspect that Petraeus was toeing the political line to save his job. Had Paula Broadwell not emailed a woman who had a friend in the FBI, David Petraeus might not have lost his job.

     To believe that the CIA Director's affair did not compromise national security seemed naive. Who was Paula Broadwell? What did Petraeus tell her? Did she coax sensitive information out of him? Toward the end of October 2012, at a speech Broadwell gave at the University of Denver, she suggested that the real reason behind the terrorist attack in Benghazi involved Libyan prisoners being held at the U.S. compound for interrogation. If Broadwell did not acquire this information from the news media, where did she get it?

     During a press conference on November 14, 2012, President Obama said there was no evidence that as a result of the Petraeus/Broadwell affair, classified information has been compromised. However, the FBI search of Broadwell's home computer revealed that it contained a substantial amount of classified data. The FBI discovery was significant enough to warrant further investigation into the affair. Broadwell was stripped of her military clearance.

    Washington Post columnist and Fox News Contributor Charles Krauthammer believed that CIA Director Petraeus' Benghazi analysis, at variance with what the director had heard from the station chief in Tripoli, was given in order to save his job. In other words, the White House blackmailed him into lying to the American people. Krauthammer, on November 14, 2012 wrote "[Petraeus] understood that his job, his reputation, his legacy, his whole celebrated life was in the hands of the administration, and he expected they would protect him by keeping [the affair] quiet." Under this theory, David Petraeus was just another casualty of Chicago-style politics employed by the Obama administration.

     On January 9, 2015, The New York Times reported that FBI officials and Department of Justice prosecutors recommended bringing charges against Petraeus for providing classified information to his former mistress.

     On April 23, 2015, David Petraeus pleaded guilty to the federal crime of mishandling classified material. The judge, pursuant to the plea deal, sentenced the former general and CIA director to two years probation and a $100,000 fine. In speaking to reporters following his sentencing, Petraeus said, "Today marks the end of a two-and-a half-year ordeal. I now look forward to moving on with the next phase of my life."

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Objectivity in Forensic Science

     In order to maintain scientific objectivity, forensic science practitioners have to rise above the adversarial nature of the trial process. They have to be true to their science. This is especially difficult when their conclusions conflict with the law enforcement view of the case. Staying at arm's length from law enforcement is much easier for experts in the private sector. Crime lab employees who get too involved in the overall criminal investigation and outcome of a case are more vulnerable to prosecutorial pressure and influence.

     Keeping a firewall between forensic science and criminal prosecution is extremely difficult. It's easy to understand, for example, how a forensic pathologist in a medical examiner's office might lose scientific objectivity when he is involved in a case of child abuse or suspected infanticide. Forensic scientists should not think of themselves as part of a law enforcement team. They should think of themselves as independent scientists.