Browsing: Celebrity Crime

See updates below. This entry has been bumped from its original post time to keep it at the top of the page.

News segment about the disappearance of Julian King and the reward offered by Jennifer Hudson.
Jennifer Hudson is offering $100,000 for the safe return of her 7-year-old nephew, Julian King. Julian vanished Friday after the murders of Jennifer’s mother, Darnell Donerson, and older brother, Jason Hudson. The FBI is now involved in the investigation into Julian’s disappearance.
Jennifer Hudson has posted a number of her nephew’s photos on her MySpace page, The actress is in seclusion.
Shortly after this post was first published, MSNBC reported that the white Chevy Suburban wanted in connection with this case had been found on the West Side of Chicago. The Medical Examiner was en route to the scene, and the body of a male, African-American child was inside the vehicle. Authorities do believe it is the body of Julian King.
According to CNN Headline News, the SUV was found 5 to 6 miles from the residence where Darnell Donerson and Jason Hudson were murdered on Friday.
Jennifer Hudson’s brother-in-law, William Balfour (Balfour’s MySpace info was first published here at the True Crime Report), has been in police custody since last Friday, and he is considered a person-of-interest in this case. His own mother reportedly said she didn’t raise a killer or kidnapper, but police may not agree with her. Balfour has given police very little cooperation in the search for his stepson.
CNN has reported on-air that the FBI believes the deceased little boy found in the Chevy Suburban is indeed Julian King.
[National Enquirer via Gawker. See also: MSNBC and NBC Chicago.]

KATV’s broadcast about Anne Pressly’s death.
Anne Pressly died yesterday. The 26-year-old anchor and reporter for Little Rock’s KATV finally succumbed to the injuries she received in a vicious attack that occurred at her home on the night of October 19/20, 2008. At this writing the crime is unsolved, and police have no known suspects. They have records of someone using Pressly’s credit card at a gas station miles from the victim’s home that same morning, but those have yet to lead to a person-of-interest.
The attack on Pressly, a rising star in Arkansas television, took on unexpectedly (and to me, bizarre) political overtones after bloggers began to seize on Pressly’s role in Oliver Stone’s controversial biopic about George W. Bush as a possible motivation for harming her.
In her Performer Profile, published on, Anne Pressly simply said she played a “Female Commentator” in the film. Most of the news articles published about the attack have defaulted either to that designation for Pressly’s role, or they’ve gone so far as to say she played an “Ann Coulter-like” pundit. Few have said outright that Pressly actually played the tall, blond conservative talking head. This lack of clarity has bothered me, even if it may ultimately be inconsequential.
Just so it’s clear — Anne Pressly wasn’t playing a “Coulter-like pundit.” She was playing Ann Coulter. Articles published in Arkansas months before Anne Pressly was murdered make that clear. In an earlier post in this blog, I linked to one of those articles and quoted the portion where the writer mentioned “Anne Pressly (as Anne [sic]Coulter ).”
Today I found Linda Caillouet’s “Paper Trails” column in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and a blurb she wrote about Pressly on June 4, 2008. There is no hyperlink because the full article isn’t available online, but I snagged a copy. Quote:
“After being discovered while covering an Arkansan on the set, Pressly landed a part in director Oliver Stone’s forthcoming W, a biopic on President George W. Bush. Pressly, portraying conservative political pundit Anne Coulter, filmed her part last Tuesday. Stone directed her to ad lib, saying, ‘If you make me laugh on camera, you get a bonus.’
“She did. And the bonus?
“Stone added her impromptu lines to the film, extending her part.”
Emphasis was added.
Caillouet wrote that Pressly was going back to Shreverport to audition for an in-production film helmed by Fred Durst (of Limp Bizkit fame). “Paper Trails,” wrote Caillouet, “will continue to track our Little Rock-based rising star.”
Police are working on the theory that Pressly’s murder was a robbery gone bad. To me, that is still the most logical scenario. The politicized scenarios don’t really make sense and seem rather paranoid in nature.
They only make a small amount of sense if Pressly was murdered by a deranged fan. A fan who became enamored of the anchor prior to news of her role W being made public.
Here’s the thing about the “deranged fan” or stalker scenario — such a killer could have come from either side of the political spectrum. If some sort of psychotic reaction to reading something like Linda Caillouet’s article eventually led to an attack on Anne Pressly, then it could have been inspired either by an equally psychotic hatred of Coulter and her kind (a demented stalker who might vote for Obama) or similar deadly anger towards Oliver Stone and anyone associated with a movie widely believed to be a scathing satire of Bush and his administration (a demented stalker who happens to vote Republican).
Just the act of putting words to those scenarios reveals their inherent silliness. I’ve been writing about crime for too long now to dismiss anything out of hand, but I just don’t buy any rational political motivation having a part in what happened to this promising young woman.
Politics just don’t matter here. Even if the killer was aware of Pressly’s role and the Coulter connection enraged him (or her), the murder of Anne Presley still wasn’t political in nature — it was a psychotic — or psychopathic — act of evil (do I even need to tell anyone reading a crime blog that psychotic and psychopathic mean two very different things? I hope not).
There are also other possibilities as to what happened a week ago in Anne Pressly’s charming little home in a quiet Little Rock suburb. The seemingly personal nature of the attack might make some who examine criminal psychology wonder if an ex-lover committed the crime. There’s been little to no mention of this possibility outside of blogs, though. An angry friend, acquaintance or co-worker are all possibilities. I worked in television for more than a decade, beginning at a Fox affiliate in Knoxville and ending at the Discovery Channel, and if there’s one thing I can say for sure about the TV business, it is this — there are some seriously messed-up people working both behind and in front of the cameras.
A random psycho just knocking on doors is possible as well. It’s happened before — but typically, such crimes are so intensely gruesome and bizarre that they quickly lead to the killer’s capture. And the killer in such cases is frequently clinically insane.
To be sure, we really just don’t know what happened, at the moment. The greatest tragedy is that just when she seemed to be improving, Anne Pressly died, so she will never be able to tell the most compelling and disturbing story she ever encountered — her own. One thing I’m sure of — the high profile nature of the crime, the violence of it — these things combined equal an immense amount of pressure on the cops trying to find Pressly’s killer. It is likely that all the stops have been pulled out. At the very least, no one wants a maniac capable of breaking nearly every bone in a pretty, innocent young woman’s face on the street a minute longer than necessary. People of all political persuasions can agree on that.

apressly.jpgAnne Pressly, the Little Rock, AR journalist who was savagely attacked in her home last week, has passed away. She was 26 years old. Pressly died as a result of her injuries. According to numerous press reports, the journalist was badly bludgeoned about the head and upper body.
A statement on the website of Anne’s employer, KATV, says, “Channel 7 cannot express our grief at the loss of Anne, our dear friend and co-worker.”
Reports published earlier on Saturday seemed to indicate that Pressly’s condition might be improving.
Pressly’s attacker beat the 5’10” news anchor with a blunt object. According to her father, there was evidence that Pressly fought for her life.
The attacker focused on her head, breaking nearly every bone in her face. Because of this, the crime sounds like it could have been personal — at least it sounds that way to me. The police seem to be working a theory of a robbery gone terribly wrong, but there has been speculation in the political blogosphere that the attack was somehow related to Pressly’s brief role in Oliver Stone’s W as an Ann Coulter-like pundit. Anything is possible, but I find that idea ridiculous, at the moment.
Currently, there is a 5-figure reward for information leading to the arrest of Pressly’s killer. []

Jennifer Hudson performing “And I am Telling You” at a Grammy Party.
According to the Chicago Tribune, suspect William Balfour (aka “Flex” — see below) is in custody. Balfour is being questioned. There is no word on the whereabouts of 7-year-old Julian King, who was abducted from the Darnell Hudson Donerson’s home on Friday morning.
Original Post
Academy Award winning actress and singer Jennifer Hudson’s mother and brother have been found murdered in their South Side Chicago residence.
Hudson’s mother Darnell Donerson, age 57, and Hudson’s brother Jason Hudson were found just before 3 p.m. CT today.
An Amber Alert has been issued for Hudson’s nephew, Julian King, age 7. The boy may have been taken from the home by someone driving a 1994 white Chevy Suburban, Illinois plate #X58 4859. Chicago ABC affiliate WLS reports that King “has been missing since Friday morning.” King may have been kidnapped by William Balfour, who is also a suspect in the murders of Donerson and Jason Hudson.
This is Balfour’s MySpace:
Police told WLS that neighbors reported hearing gunfire sometime between 8 and 9 this morning.
TMZ has tracked down some key details in this story — apparently Jennifer Hudson’s cousin found the bodies and alerted authorities. Also, they found that William Balfour is on parole after serving time in jail for attempted murder. (Note on his MySpace, it says, “FLEX in jail.”)
Jennifer Hudson was reportedly in Tampa when she got the terrible news. She is en route to Chicago.
WJBC has the Amber Alert for Julian King. From the Alert: “Police believed seven-year-old Julian King was abducted from the home of Hudson’s mother by 27-year-old William Balfour, who they say may be armed and dangerous. Police say Balfour could be in one of two vehicles. They say he could be driving a 1994 white Chevrolet Suburban SUV with license plate X584859. He also may be driving a teal green 1994 Chrysler Concorde with temporary license plate 332K823…”
[ and WLS. See also: WBBM 780.]
Below: A pdf-like copy of William Balfour’s MySpace page.

YouTube vid of a radio interview with “TrainReq,” aka Josh Holly(?), the guy who allegedly hacked Miley Cyrus’s e-mail.
As a son of Nashville, born and raised, I have to ask: why the hell are so many hackers getting busted in the great state of Tennessee, of late?
Okay, I admit — two alleged hackers do not a trend make. And maybe I just notice because I’m from Tennessee. Still…
First there was David Kernell, son of a Democratic Tennessee state lawmaker. The 20-year-old student at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville (one of my alma maters) was, per the Dept. of Justice, arrested “for intentionally accessing without authorization the e-mail account of Alaska governor Sarah Palin…” The DOJ alleges that Kernell “obtained unauthorized access to Gov. Palin’s personal e-mail account by allegedly resetting the account password.”
You can see some of the fruits of that alleged labor here, at
Now Wired tells us about 19-year-old Josh Holly of Murfreesboro, TN, a city about 30-40 miles due south of Nashville. Joshie just had a little visit from The Man, aka the FBI. The Feds think Holly is the dude who, using nicks like “TrainReq,” “Rockz” and “h4x,” posted photos of teen pop star Miley Cyrus (damn, another Tennessee connection) online. Come on, you know about those pics — they garnered major attention from really reputable websites like And by “reputable” I mean “execrable,” but I digress.
The feds have reason to believe Holly hacked Miley’s e-mail and spread her PG-13 photos all over creation — according to Wired, Holly “repeatedly bragged online about breaking into the Disney star’s e-mail account and stealing her photos.”
hackedflag.jpgHolly told Wired that he “got access to Cyrus’s Gmail account after obtaining unauthorized access to a MySpace administrative panel where he found passwords for MySpace accounts stored in cleartext. He found the password Cyrus used for her MySpace account — Loco92 — and tried it on a Gmail account Cyrus was known to use. The password worked on that account as well, but only for a couple of weeks before it was changed.”
Holly’s own hubris might have been his undoing. Kim Zetter’s post in Wired’s “Threat Level” blog (linked at the foot of this entry) states that “[hours]before the FBI arrived at his doorstep, Holly posted a message online bragging that even though he was a known hacker, federal agents would never find him.”
After the agents left his apartment, Holly told “Threat Level” he was “just kind of shaking.”
Holly’s still a free man and he may stay that way. Miley Cyrus is damned famous, and she’s still underaged (don’t know why that seems relevant here, but it does), but she’s not Sarah Palin, with her Secret Service protection and all.
If both David Kernell and Josh Holly do end up doing time, they shouldn’t worry too hard about life afterwards — just read up a little on Kevin Poulsen, a senior editor at Wired and one of the bloggers on “Threat Level.” Hacking may be serious business to Johnny Law, but in the end, after a gifted or showy hacker has paid his dues, he can make a good living doing big business. Hacking’s weird that way.
I’m starting to think my home state is weirder than I already knew. I don’t know if it’s the Royal Crown Cola, the Jack Daniels, all that trailer-brewed crank, or what.
Cyber-security experts: hit up the computer engineering programs at MTSU and UT for new recruits now, before those kids end up in federal prison! [Threat Level from Additional, pointless link: Josh Holly’s MySpace. Says he’s 17, and gives his “TrainReq” nick on the page. See also: Digg this story.]

apressly.jpgLittle Rock, AR — The New York Post reports this morning that police in Little Rock are investigating whether or not the assault on KATV reporter and anchor Anne Pressly was “motivated by Pressly’s portrayal of a right-wing pundit in the new Oliver Stone biopic about President Bush.”
I imagine they are — they have to, if concrete leads are few. And according to the Arkansas Times’Arkansas Blog,” that’s exactly the problem at the moment. Police still don’t have much to go on.
To me, that in and of itself may be reason to wonder if this was more than a robbery gone wrong. A burglar/robber who perhaps wasn’t experienced with violence would have left some evidence behind.
Anne Pressly remains hospitalized in critical but stable condition. [New York Post]

CBS News segment about the attack on Anne Pressly.
From the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, September 28, 2008, an article about upcoming movies by Karen and Philip Martin:
“W. Oliver Stone’s take on the life of George W. Bush. With Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, Thandie Newton, Scott Glenn and KATV, Channel 7, reporter Anne Pressly (as Anne [sic]Coulter ).”
Anne Pressly’s Performer Profile on simply says she played a “Female Commentator.” The profile also gives the attractive journalist’s particulars: 5’10”, 120, hair blond, eyes green. At the top of the profile is Pressly’s phone number and GMail address.
Things were going very well for Anne Pressly. There was the brief role in W. Her status as an anchor at KATV was “up and coming.” She was popular with the community. And other ambitions may have been hinted at in her IMDB profile — in small bold letters at the top of the page are the words, “SAG Eligible,” meaning that Pressly is eligible for membership in the Screen Actors Guild.
Anne Pressly was found near death early Monday morning. Her mother had come to her home, concerned after some of her usual wake-up calls to her daughter went unanswered. She found the reporter in bed, bleeding from severe wounds to her head and upper body.
Early reports on Pressly’s condition said she’d been stabbed. Those reports are now in doubt. Police do believe she was badly beaten. Her condition has been described as “critical but stable.”
apressly2.jpgThe reaction to the crime in Little Rock has been pure shock. As far as anyone knew, Anne Pressly had no enemies. She had an active Facebook page with many friends. She lived in a safe neighborhood. Her Sunday night prior to a bloody Monday morning was innocent enough. She had dinner with KARK-TV reporter Mallory Hardin and was home by 9:30 or so. According to a report published online by the staff of the Today Show, Pressly even exchanged “cheery” text messages with Hardin after she made it home.
Police suspect Pressly was robbed. They say her purse and other personal items are missing. Police say the attacker didn’t force entry into Pressly’s home. They don’t know the motive for the nearly-fatal beating, though. That’s not typical burglar behavior.
Mallory Hardin told Matt Lauer on Today that she didn’t know about her friend having “any type of stalker.” Hardin indicated that Pressly had never mentioned any weirdness from fans at all, but Little Rock police are still trying to find out if Pressly did, in fact, have a stalker.
The answer to what happened to Anne Pressly may be simple. A burglar was afraid he’d be caught and decided to eliminate a witness. But it may be more complex. It only makes sense to examine the possibility that the reporter was stalked in some manner. No one has mentioned the possibility of an angry ex-boyfriend, either.
One weird aspect of this story has been the fact that even if Pressly wasn’t stalked before, she is being stalked now, in a way. Publications in London have picked up on the story of “The glamourous American TV anchorwoman discovered brutally beaten in her own home.” Gossip blogs are following the story. This tall, beautiful journalist’s star has risen worldwide overnight for the worst imaginable reason.
The attention has led to some odd theorizing, as well. This Daily Kos diarist, pointing out Pressly’s movie role with the title of their post, alludes to what I’m talking about: “It would be inappropriate to connect conspiratorial dots but then again there’s something that seems strange about this.” A commenter on that Kos post expanded on the idea: “She wasn’t just a ‘bit part in a random movie.’ She played Ann Coulter (and not flatteringly) in the movie ‘W.’, a movie which is highly offensive to the extreme right wing […] It’s just a big DUH that it might be a hate crime. It’s also a big DUH that it might be a random robbery.”
There is certainly something strange at the heart of this story. Anne Pressly is an improbable victim — she lived in a safe area, she was a well-known face about town. Could it be that the attack on her somehow relates back to that September 28 notice in the Arkansas paper naming the character she so briefly played in W? I personally find it difficult to believe such a thing. I’m too skeptical after covering crime for a few years — the motives of those who try to murder another person are usually a little more straightforward than that. They’re trying to eliminate a witness. They’re angry, jealous, even suicidal but not afraid to get some homicide in before they’re done. But even a site as popular and well-known as isn’t afraid to wonder about such a thing, referring to Pressly’s role in the Stone film in a post titled “Ann Coulter Doppelganger Mysteriously Attacked.” (Thanks to Gawker blogger Hamilton Nolan for linking TCR’s first post about this crime.)
Speculation on who might have wanted to kill Anne Pressly — and why — is all well and good, but at the moment, it’s still fruitless. The sad thing is that if the attack remains unsolved, the speculation will continue, and in other parts of the blogosphere, the Pressly-Coulter connection will be magnified beyond reason — if that hasn’t already happened.
Anne Pressly’s family issued a statement today. It’s worth ending with some portions of that statement:
“We are appreciative of the outpouring of love we’ve received – obviously out of your love for Anne. We are overwhelmed by your affection; the care Anne’s physicians and nurses have given her, the diligence of the Little Rock Police Department in this investigation and local and national reporters who have respected our privacy. […] Now our family needs private time. Please respect our wishes and give us time to heal as a family – privately – without visitors. We will issue statements as Anne’s condition improves…”
[Today Show,]

A news segment about the attack on Anne Pressly.
A television anchor lays in a Little Rock-area hospital this evening, victim of a nearly fatal attack that occurred some time last night or early this morning.
Anne Pressly, age 26, was found in her own bed by her mom early Monday morning. Pressly’s mother typically gives her a wake-up call and she became concerned when her daughter didn’t answer. The Little Rock police say the anchor woman was bleeding from “severe wounds.” The LRPD believes Pressly was beaten and stabbed.
The attack occurred between 10:30 on Sunday night and 4:30 a.m. the following morning. The Little Rock police say Pressly’s purse was missing, and believe robbery may have been the motive for the attack. They are questioning Pressly’s friends and colleagues to determine if the journalist might have been threatened recently.
apressly.jpgAccording to her bio on KATV’s website, Anne Pressly originally came from Greenville, South Carolina. She moved to Little Rock with her family when she was a teen. She started working for the television station while she was in college. Pressly worked her way through several jobs before landing her current position as a reporter.
She was no slouch intellectually, based on her resume. Pressly received her Bachelor’s in Political Science from Rhodes College in Memphis.
One of Anne Pressly’s most interesting, recent endeavors was a small role in W, Oliver Stone’s controversial dramedy about the Bush Administration. The role came about after Pressly met a casting director while visiting Shreveport, LA, where the film was made. According to entertainment columnist Nikki Finke (who runs Deadline Hollywood Daily, one of the True Crime Report’s “sister blogs”), Pressly’s moment on screen was a “blink-and-you-missed-it” turn as arch conservative talking head Ann Coulter*.
A Facebook page titled “Prayer for Anne Pressly” was created after the news about the attack was made public. The description of the group reads, “Please invite everyone on your lists to pray fervently for Anne Pressly. Prayer is one of the most powerful forms of healing there is. Pray for her physical healing now…we will need to keep her in our prayers for the days and months to come as she works through the emotional healing. God Bless You, Anne….you are loved.”
For some reason, this terrible story makes me think of the disappearance of Jodi Huisentruitt. Huisentruitt was a news anchor for an early morning broadcast in Mason City, IA when she vanished in 1995. Huisentruitt was apparently abducted in the early morning hours as she was heading out to work. Both she and Pressly were blond, popular, in the same age range, and of course, working identical jobs. Physically, however, they didn’t resemble much — Huisentruitt was 5’3″, Pressly is 5’10”. There are plenty of other differences, so this probably really isn’t a valid comparison, but I figured I’d throw it out there.
Police in Little Rock say Pressly’s neighborhood is not “known for any violent crime.” Investigators currently have no suspects. [ An additional link: Pressly’s resume on *Pressly’s IMDB resume just says female commentator, but Nikki Finke is the queen of Hollywood columnists, so I’m going with her interpretation — that, and Pressly’s general resemblance to the tall, blond pundit. Added later: Press release from KATV, Anne Pressly’s employer.]

LA Weekly‘s Steven Mikulan published “The Strange and Disturbing Trial of Anand Jon” last week. It’s an excellent story about the rape trial of Indian-born clothing designer Anand Jon. Jon faces multiple sex crime charges in California, New York and Dallas. Quoting Mikulan: “Even in its quietest moments, the Jon case is a volatile fable of rape, ambitious but naïve girls, the rag trade and feral male vanity.” Mikulan’s article is well worth the read for anyone fascinated by the intersection of crime and celebrity (of a sort).

Helen Sjöholm and Tito Beltran singing “The Prayer” during the Rhapsody in Rock Tour in 2000.
I trained to be an opera singer — a tenor — and I have performed roles and in concerts with opera companies throughout the South, so you’d think I might have noticed the ongoing drama overseas with talented Chilean/Swedish tenor Tito Beltran. After all, I’m pretty sure I have a couple of recordings featuring Beltran and his name was immediately familiar to me.
Beltran has performed leading roles at some of the greatest opera houses in Europe: the Vienna Staatsoper; Covent Garden; and Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen, just to name a few. Beltran has also performed at several houses here in America, including the San Francisco Opera. Beltran has played the mercurial poet Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Boheme, the lovelorn and rather slow-witted Nemorino in Donizetti’s Elixir of Love and of course, the lecherous Duke in Verdi’s Rigoletto. According to his own bio on his website, Tito Beltran has performed with opera luminaries such as Placido Domingo, Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu.
Well, as the title of this post indicated, it looks as though this leading tenor may have had more in common with the Duke than with Rodolfo or Nemorino.
In 1999, Tito Beltran’s bio says he was called the “Artist of the Year” by Opera Now Magazine. Things were obviously going well. That same year he appeared in the Rhapsody in Rock concert tour in Sweden. One night after a concert, he raped an 18-year-old nanny in his hotel room.
Then in 2000 and 2002, Beltran “sexually exploited” a six-year-old girl who lived in Kungsbacka in western Sweden. He didn’t stop there. After the crimes against the little girl were reported to the authorities, Beltran allegedly harassed her father in an attempt to forestall any further judicial action.
Curiously, Beltran was first acquitted of all charges in a district court in Varberg, SE. The case was then reexamined as part of the appeals process and eventually, Beltran found himself in the Court of Appeal facing a combined case. He was convicted of all charges in February, 2008. The verdict against the tenor was unanimous. The court levied several thousand dollars of fines against the singer as well.
The case against Beltran relied less on forensic evidence and more on witness testimony, which was consistent. But Beltran’s status as an opera star in Europe seemed to be in his favor — other well-known musicians were more than willing to speak up on his behalf. Robert Wells, the musician who ran the Rhapsody in Rock tour, admitted that he just couldn’t believe the charges against the singer.
At one point, in January, Beltran even brought some of the drama from the operatic stage into the courtroom, as Wells was giving testimony in the case. Beltran, according Sweden’s English news outlet The Local, “burst into tears and collapsed” in court. Beltran’s lawyer described his client “lying on the floor vomiting,” and said it was “really serious.”
Beltran’s sentence in this case, less than 3 years in prison, may seem paltry by U.S. standards. For a tenor who once commanded the storied stages of Europe’s great houses, it is virtually a life sentence. The fall is Shakespearian in scope, from my perspective. I’ve put out feelers to friends in the world of opera for any anecdotes regarding this case, but most of my friends are Americans and never encountered Beltran when he performed here. If I do receive any comments or correspondence about this operatic Icarus, I’ll post them in another entry.

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