Browsing: Homicide


A video Joseph Edward Duncan made sometime between 2000 and 2005 about his favorite song, John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
I think I hesitated to post anything about this because I’ve known about it for so long. Anyway, it should come, once again, as little surprise to anyone who has followed the Duncan case since his arrest 3 years ago that he admitted to 3 murders committed prior to the massacre of the Groene family in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in May, 2005.
The AP reported today on FBI Agent Mike Sotka’s testimony Monday during Duncan’s federal sentencing trial. After Duncan was arrested on July 2, 2005 in a Coeur d’Alene Denny’s, he admitted to three other murders: the 1996 double murder of Sammiejo White and Carmen Cubias, half-sisters who vanished while walking near an area where Duncan lived at the time, in Bothell, WA; and the kidnapping and murder of Riverside, CA 10-year-old Anthony Martinez in April, 1997.
Today both sides rested their cases. Steve Groene, father of Dylan and Shasta, was among the last to testify. From KXLY.com:

Dylans’ father Steve Groene was the last to take the stand Tuesday, describing the day Dylan was born, saying he came out with a smirk on his face. He added that Dylan was his sister Shasta’s guardian angel and ended his testimony by saying he will never get to see either of his sons Slade or Dylan get married or attend their first day of high school.

Steve told the jury that they should “cherish every moment” with their children, “because you can wake up the next day, they won’t be there.”
The jury will begin deliberations tomorrow. [Associated Press and KXLY.com.]


Joseph Duncan made this senseless, weird video sometime between 2000 and 2005 and posted it online. If nothing else, it gives you a sense of just how incredibly creepy a presence he probably was even when no one knew he was really a sexually sadistic, psychopathic serial killer.
It took the jury 2 hours to find Joseph Edward Duncan III eligible for the death penalty.
Duncan knew it was coming. He may be one of the more monstrously cruel killers you’ll ever read about, but few have accused him of being stupid. Before the jury retired to deliberate, Duncan spoke to them, making as forthright a statement as he’s probably ever made about what he is: “You people really don’t have any clue yet of the true heinousness of what I’ve done.” He continued, outlining what he wanted to do back in 2005, “I was not searching for a child, but rather I was on a rampage.”
If you’re that minority of readers who have followed any of my blogs since the Duncan case hit the news, you know I pegged that from the beginning. When Duncan went to ground in April, 2005, he was doing what a profiler once called (in reference to Ted Bundy’s final spree in the Chi Omega sorority house in Florida) “decompensating.” Decompensation is what happens when a homicidal psychopath who has constructed a feasible mask of sanity finally loses the ability to continue the charade. The truth, the nature of the animal is then revealed.
Duncan told the jury that he “rape and kill until I was killed, preferring death over capture.” To that end he’d marked several spots in the GPS tracker of the vehicle he used during his travels in the Spring of ’05.
Duncan’s words to the jury made little sense, perhaps because he was speaking off the cuff. He said he “knew the best way to hurt” society was to take “an eye for an eye.”
“[But] the system didn’t take my eye,” Duncan said, “it took my heart and my innocence, and I wanted to do the same to it.”
He was likely referring to his 2 decades of incarceration for rape and assault, beginning in 1980.
In the end, the jury came back with a finding that declared Duncan eligible for the death penalty. They also agreed to all the aggravating factors listed by the State during the argument for putting Duncan down.
The second phase of deliberations in the sentencing of Joseph Edward Duncan begins Monday.
And the man who told his young victims to call him Jet won’t be done, once the jury goes home from that Coeur d’Alene courtroom. He still has to answer for the 1997 abduction and murder of Anthony Martinez in Riverside, California. [KXLY.com — possibly some of the best coverage of the case available online.]

(Disclosure: I’ve been a member of the Websleuths.com true crime forum since late 2004. I just wanted to make that clear and also thank my fellow forum members who spoke with me for this post.)
To Maricopa County Medical Examiner death investigator Suzi Dodt, she was 99-305. To many in the Phoenix area, and more folks studying crime via the Web, the young woman was Maricopa Jane Doe.
Writing for the Phoenix New Times in late July this year, Paul Rubin described what happened to Maricopa Jane:

[She] died on January 27, 1999, the day after she jumped, fell, or was pushed out of the Cadillac in which she was riding on Interstate 10 with a man and another woman.
It happened during the afternoon hours at milepost 173, heading east from Phoenix on a desolate, straight stretch of road near Casa Grande.

The couple in the car said they didn’t know the girl’s name. The driver was Alonzo Fernandez, from Phoenix, and Fernandez claimed he’d only just met the girl who would become 99-305 outside a convenience store.
Ultimately, Fernandez pled guilty to leaving the scene of an accident. He made a statement about the death of Maricopa Jane: “all three of us were on the freeway smoking marijuana. She started freaking, saying her boyfriend would get mad if she left, and she jumped out of the car. I saw her in the rear-view mirror, and people were stopping to help her. I was scared and kept going. I never knew her name. I’m still haunted by this ’til this day.”
tmazzone.jpgFernandez skipped out on probation in 1999. He was in the wind for 8 years. Fernandez was finally arrested on a bench warrant a week ago.
Fernandez’s talk of being haunted by the nameless girl could have been glib, something said to his probation officer in an effort to appear repentant. But there’s no doubt that the real identity of Maricopa Jane Doe was a mystery that plagued many other people. Some of them lived a long way from Phoenix and mile marker 173.
But beginning in 2006, a number of Websleuths started putting their heads together with a single, selfless goal in mind — give Maricopa Jane Doe a name.
It was crowdsourcing the solution to a mystery. Amateur sleuthing. Cyber-sleuthing. It was the kind of pursuit that might cause significant others to shake their heads as they spied on loved ones hunched over a computer keyboard late in the night, parsing all the small details known about a young woman who died in 1999. Journalists might roll their eyes at soccer moms and stay-at-home parents chatting on a message board, ‘investigating’ (quotes intended) such a seemingly intractable mystery. If the cops or the death investigator couldn’t give Maricopa Jane a name, why would these strangers from everywhere and nowhere think they could help? Who did they think they were?
Collectively, they were Websleuths. And they helped give Maricopa Jane Doe a name.
Maricopa Jane Doe was Tawni Lee Mazzone, from Massachusetts. She was 17 when she died.
Websleuthers kept the story of Maricopa Jane Doe alive, and helped to link her to the missing teen.

fifthnail.jpgThe jury in the sentencing trial of confessed serial killer Joseph Edward Duncan III saw into the heart of hell today. Three videos Duncan made when he had Dylan and Shasta Groene captive in the Montana woods in 2005 were show to the jurors. Reports from the courtroom indicate that while there were no breakdowns from the members of the jury, many were clearly revolted by what they saw.
Collectively, the videos are said to show Duncan whipping Dylan with a belt and sexually assaulting the little boy. The first two videos were a couple of minutes a piece, but the third video was about 10 minutes long, and even accounts of the words said by Duncan on the tape give some idea as to how soul-rending, how horrific the experience must have been for the 12 people in that courtroom today.
In the last tape, Duncan was shown hanging Dylan Groene from the ceiling of a remote cabin. As the little boy struggled to breathe, Duncan screamed at God. He masturbated. He sang.
Duncan was heard at the beginning of the tape saying, “If there is a God, then I pray, with all the love I can muster, if you’re not real you know why this is happening, that doesn’t even make sense, God, this child, this boy, does not deserve to die.”
Later, after Dylan was gasping for air on the floor of the cabin, Duncan said, “Listen boy! I just saved you! I saved your soul, okay? […] God isn’t the only one who can forgive me. God made everything that just happened happen.”
Duncan continued, saying, “I killed you. I got it on videotape if you want to watch it […] God, what is going on here? I don’t understand. I’m getting sick of your games.”
To Dylan, Duncan said, “Boy, you’re special. God is protecting you. It was the devil who stood here. The devil himself, not just a demon.”
At some point later in the tape, Duncan moved away from the camera, and according to the AP, he could be heard “singing the Lord’s Prayer.”
The AP reported the most chilling words heard on any of the tapes inflicted upon the jury in that Idaho courtroom. It wasn’t clear when Duncan said the following, but that didn’t really matter. At some point, Duncan shouted, “The devil is here, boy, the devil himself. The demon couldn’t do what the devil sent him to do so the devil came himself […] The devil likes to watch children suffer and cry.”
Duncan’s first victim, the man whom he assaulted in 1980 when the victim was just 14, took the stand at the end of the day. His story, unsurprisingly, was similar to the one revealed by the videotapes viewed by the jury.
Always a demon, with Duncan. Or the Devil himself. Never the killer, admitting that he’s an animal who enjoys the suffering of children. Duncan has probably never said, ‘hey, I just like hurting people. That’s what really gets me off,’ even though that’s exactly what he is — a sexually sadistic psychopath.
Someone remind me why I’ve become less and less pro-death penalty again. This story alone is making me forget. [KXLY.com and the Associated Press.]

rmcdonald.jpgShortly after 8 o’clock this morning (Eastern Time) a student was shot in the cafeteria of Central High School, in Knoxville, TN. Local media reports say the victim was 16-year-old Ryan McDonald.
Police responded quickly to the scene, and the shooter was apprehended before 8:30 a.m. The suspect is Jamar Siler, age 15. Siler invoked his right to an attorney while being questioned by police. He may already have a record, because Knoxville station WBIR reported that he was “already an existing client of the Knox County Public Defender’s Office.”
Knoxville PD Deputy Chief William Roehl told local media that this was not a random school shooting. The suspect and victim knew each other, and Roehl termed this morning’s shooting “an isolated incident.”
One witness said Siler shot McDonald in the chest and “casually walked away.” He was picked up walking down a road near the school.
The 14-year-old daughter of Rev. Chris Buice attends Central High. Buice is the pastor of Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. Two members of that church were killed and 6 wounded when a man named Jim Adkisson allegedly walked into a morning service earlier this summer and opened fire.
It isn’t as if it was my old high school, but I’ve been inside Central High, several times. Somewhere in a photo album here in my home, I have a 20-year-old pic of me in a tuxedo, (with a full head of hair), singing an Aaron Copland song in the choir room at Central High. The school is located in a pleasant suburb of Knoxville, near quaint whitewashed churches and shopping areas. I don’t know about today, but 20 years ago, Central High appeared to be — for a large high school — one of the more tight-knit school communities you could imagine. Anytime gunfire erupts inside school halls it is a tragedy — I suppose this is an instance where I have a slightly better sense than usual of how great an impact the murder of Ryan McDonald might have on the community at large. A community that is still trying to come to terms with the shooting that took place inside Tennessee Valley Unitarian. Knoxville has always been a mid-sized city with a bit of a small-town vibe. Surely, that will change now, and not for the better. [WBIR.com and KnoxNews.com.]

anthraxenvelope.jpgThose who have strong doubts about the case against the late Bruce Ivins being the Amerithrax killer have new grist for the mill. The FBI has admitted that they had possession of the correct strain of anthrax shortly after the deadly letters were sent in late 2001. They have also admitted to destroying the samples.
According to the Associated Press, FBI Assistant Director Vahid Majidi said Monday that an anthrax sample Bruce Ivins provided to the Bureau in February, 2002 was destroyed because of concerns that it might not be allowed into evidence if the case went to trial. In hindsight, said Majidi, the Bureau would have done things “differently.”
The FBI made this admission as they tried to publicly reinforce their case against Ivins. They did make one positive, interesting point about the investigation as a whole — according to associate lab director James Burans from the National Bioforensics Analysis Center at the Dept. of Homeland Security, the Amerithrax investigation “helped to found the field of bioforensics.”
Speaking to the media, Asst. Dir. Majidi implied that critics of the investigation would never be fully satisfied. He said that it would come to resemble the elaborate culture of conspiracy that still swirls around the Kennedy assassination. [Reuters and the AP/NY Sun.]

Where her social networking profile asked what books she liked, Melissa Nichols wrote, “When I do read I like to read murder mysteries. Anne Rule [sic]is my favorite author cuz she includes pictures from the actual crime scenes she writes about and her stories are all true!!!!”
Not that there’s anything wrong with that — I wouldn’t be writing this post right now if I hadn’t read everything Ann Rule ever wrote.
mnichols.jpgThen again, unlike Ms. Nichols, I’ve never become part of a story that might make it into one of Ann Rule’s books, either.
According to witnesses, Nichols, age 23, and ex-boyfriend Anthony James Payne — also 23 — were having some sort of conversation before everything went wrong. The conversation ended, and the exes went their separate ways — at first. Nichols headed one way in her Pontiac, Payne rode in the other direction on his Honda motorcycle.
At some point, Payne turned around, and witnesses say Melissa Nichols purposefully drove into the oncoming lane and ran head-long into Anthony Payne.
He was thrown more than 100 feet and died at the scene.
Melissa Nichols was arrested on suspicion of murder.
People who like to mine MySpace pages for insight into crimes in the news might find Nichols’s profile pretty interesting: Melissa0095.
There you could find a graphic in black and neon blue, a woman’s silhouette with the legend, “CAUTION […] This Bitch Does Not Play Well With Other Bitches.”
Most of Nichols’s page graphics tended to run in that vein.
The blurb that might have best served as some sort of warning to Anthony Payne was posted under “About me.” There Nichols wrote, “Im a nice person till you fuck me over then you will wish you never had met me. Treat people how u want to be treated and there should be no problems. Active Druggies and loosers dont bother going any further with urself on this page!!”
It’s hard to imagine what Anthony Payne did to his ex-girlfriend that merited an allegedly purposeful head-on collision. Whatever it was, he didn’t even get the chance to wish he’d never met Melissa Nichols. [News10.net]

hegomoitoiret.jpg
The story was easy to miss, what with the Olympics, the presidential race in the United States, you name it — but on July 28, a little boy named Valentin Cremault was viciously murdered in the little French town of Lagnieu. The wounds were so horrific that first responders initially thought they were dealing with a fatal dog attack.
The dog bites were actually stab wounds. Someone had slashed and punctured the little boy’s body at least 50 times.
By August 7, the Gendarmerie had arrested Stephane Moitoiret, age 39, and his female companion, Noella Hego, 49.
Both had been homeless off and on for years, living in their own little world. In that world, Moitoiret was the “King of Australia,” and Hego was his “divine princess.”
In the real world where Valentin Cremault died under the slashing blade, Stephane Moitoiret’s DNA was found at the crime scene.
Now it looks as thought Moitoiret may have killed in the past. Paris newspapers reported Saturday that Moitoiret was a suspect in the 2005 murder of Marine Boisseranc, age 20. Speaking to Le Parisien, Marine’s father Eric detailed some of the commonalities between his daughter’s murder and that of Valentin Cremault. Boisseranc noted that his daughter had been stabbed at least a dozen times. The killer in both cases was right-handed and determined to be about the same height as Moitoiret. There was a homeless shelter not far from the Boisseranc murder scene, and authorities believe they can place Moitoiret in the area at the time of Marine’s murder.
There are a large number of unsolved murders that appear to match Moitoiret’s M.O., as well. Victims include a priest, a transvestite, and men and women of varying ages. So far, the links seem to be in how victims are displayed after death, and in the way the knife was used to kill them.
French authorities still have to figure out whether or not Moitoiret is sane enough to go to trial. If he is, he may face 30 years in prison and permanent detention in a secure facility afterwards. [smh.com.au, MonstersandCritics.com, Le Parisien.]

jetd.jpgAs I was thinking about the sentencing trial for serial killer Joseph Edward Duncan III, which began earlier this week, I couldn’t help but wonder why I was avoiding the subject in this space. After all, I’ve been blogging about Duncan since he was arrested, little Shasta Groene in tow, on July 2, 2005. I was one of the first people in the blogosphere or the msm to catch on to the scope of Duncan’s Web presence. Others ended up doing a better job of finding it all and laying it out there, but I was on top of the story from the beginning.
So, you’d think I’d be accustomed to writing about the hideous details of Duncan’s crimes. I’m not. In a way, that’s good — it means I’m not as jaded as I thought I was, and am still capable of feeling shock and disgust; writing true crime stories hasn’t left me numb. But from a crime blogger’s perspective, it isn’t that good, because it means I still have to make myself cover some stories, even if I fear they may one day filter down into my nightmares.
I finally figured out a way to approach the subject of Duncan today — list some reasons I think he should be executed.
Mind you, when I began blogging about crime in late 2004, I was ardently pro-death penalty. My attitude was basically this: set up electric bleachers and get rid of one whole cell block, if needed.
In the 3 and 3/4 years since I started this endeavor in earnest, I’ve actually become more liberal on the subject. I cannot say that I’m anti-death penalty yet, but I can say I’m getting there. There are many reasons, a few of them personal and spiritual, but one big reason has to do with my understanding of the types of personalities who commit crimes heinous enough to put them on death row. For many of them, spending their lives behind bars really is a worse punishment than death. The very nature of the psychopathic criminal is such that he or she cannot abide one thing, almost above all else — they can’t stand the loss of liberty. Psychopaths are laws unto themselves, and the most important thing in the world to them is whatever they want at any given moment. The confinement of prison, the hard rules, the enforced discipline; all these things are anathema to the typical psychopath. Life in prison is one of the only effective punishments you can really give someone who has no conscience, no remorse, no feelings for anyone but themselves.
But here in the South, we have a joke-y saying. Call it gallows humor, if you want. Some folks, well — they just need killin’.
It’s hard to review even a short list of Duncan’s crimes and not conclude that he’s one monster who really, in the end, just needs killin’. Here’s what I’m getting at:
1. Duncan plotted his crimes against the Groene family on a spreadsheet. He made a list of pros and cons. When he finally decided to put his “bohemian underground” into effect, he went on a big shopping trip at Wal-Mart. Items purchased included night-vision goggles. He was a hunter, preparing for the kill.
2. Shortly after Duncan abducted Dylan and Shasta Groene, he pointedly told the children that he’d just killed their mother, brother, and mother’s boyfriend.
3. Duncan had Dylan and Shasta in the Montana woods for weeks, torturing and raping them both. More than a month into the ordeal, he took Dylan to a cabin, where he videotaped himself performing sexually sadistic acts on the little boy.
4. In videos shown in court this week, Duncan taunted Dylan and Shasta. At one point he narrated images of a log burning on a campfire, saying “All of our wishes being burned […] My wishes for forgiveness, your wishes for…” The children responded, talking about going home and other, more prosaic things. Duncan then cut them short. He said, “Lots of luck, people. At least my wish is something I might get.”
5. Duncan made it a point to show Shasta Groene the video he made of Dylan’s torture.
6. A few days later after the torture session in the cabin, Shasta heard gunfire. She turned to see her brother clutching his belly. As she watched, Duncan went over to the boy and shot him in the head — or he tried. The gun misfired the first time. So Duncan reloaded, fired once more. According to Shasta, her brother’s head “exploded.”
7. Duncan is incapable of remorse. He feels none. This is a man who wrote (supposedly as a joke) that “Sociopaths rock!” He also wrote a little about remorse in a blog published by proxy after Duncan was already in jail:

I feel remorse for every time I rode my bike and didn’t think about people who couldn’t walk. I feel remorse for all the times I went to work but did nothing to help a “third world country.” As a matter of fact, I feel remorse for all the times I forgot about God and thought only about myself! So, yes, I do feel remorse. Don’t you?

Basically, remorse about crimes he committed didn’t enter into the picture.
8. In the same vein — if his own words are any indication, Duncan takes no real responsibility for his crimes. In a letter found in Duncan’s coat pocket after his arrest, Duncan wrote the following to his mother: “I have once again become a medium of violence in the world…” Note the phrasing — Duncan didn’t commit the violence; he was just a “a medium of” the violence.
Jet Duncan feels no remorse, and he feels no sense of responsibility for his actions. To him, society will always be to blame for what he has done to others. The death penalty is what he probably expects to receive, for it would fulfill his delusion that society created the monster he is today. That point-of-view is deeply embedded in Duncan’s very being — just read his original blog. It’s all there, in just about every other post he wrote. So if the chair or needle is what Duncan expects, I say this: I hope the jury in Idaho fulfills his every expectation. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy. [KOMO.com, the Seattle Times.]

rkwidmer.jpgEverything was going well for Ryan K. Widmer, age 27. He was newly married, and he had received a promotion. Previously the sports marketing manager for the Warren County, OH Convention & Visitors Bureau, Widmer was bumped up to sales manager in January, 2008.
It all fell apart on Monday, Aug. 11. That was when Widmer called 911 in Lebanon, OH to report that he’d found his 24-year-old wife, Sarah Widmer, dead in the tub.
During his call to emergency services, Ryan Widmer said that his wife “fell asleep in the bathtub,” and that he thought she was dead. “I was downstairs,” said Widmer, “and I just came up here and she was laying face-down in the bathtub.”
An autopsy by the Warren County Coroner revealed that Sarah drowned. Apparently, authorities immediately suspected the drowning was anything but an accident. There was additional trauma to Sarah Widmer’s body and according to county prosecutors, signs of “violent force.”
The Associated Press reports that Widmer is being held in the Warren County jail.
[msnbc.com/AP and the Dayton Daily News.]