Browsing: Homicide

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. [ 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. [ and]

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. []

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. [,, 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. [, 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.
[ and the Dayton Daily News.]

jetd.jpgThe first day of the sentencing trial for convicted serial child killer Joseph Edward Duncan III ended with only a handful of words from the killer himself. Duncan, who was found competent to represent himself during the trial, simply said he would not contest the government’s view of his crimes. Duncan said, in part, “I debated whether or not to do an opening statement, simply because I didn’t want to get in an argument with the government about what happened.”
While both sides had an hour and a half to speak to the jury, only United States Attorney Tom Moss used the allotted time.
In the process he detailed some of Duncan’s most vile actions, including the videotaped torture of Dylan Groene. Moss said that Dylan’s “last days on this Earth were filled with experiences no child should ever experience.”
Moss also detailed the cold calculations behind Duncan’s spree, which resulted in the violent deaths of Brenda, Slade, and Dylan Groene as well as Mark McKenzie. Duncan, said Moss, used a spreadsheet to plot the pros and cons of what Duncan once called in a blog post his “Bohemian Underground.”
Still to come: the jury will likely be subjected to the evidence of Duncan’s vicious crimes, including the tapes Duncan made of his acts; they may also hear the testimony of surviving victim Shasta Groene. [ and The Seattle Times. On the Web: Duncan’s blog, Blogging the Fifth Nail.]

pdmurphy.jpgIf police in North Port Florida are correct about 27-year-old Patrick Dewayne Murphy, he took part in an act that was truly the stuff of parental nightmares.
Murphy has been arrested in connection with the rape and murder of Coralrose Fullwood, age 6. Coralrose vanished from her bedroom on the night of September 16/17, 2006. She was found several hours later at a nearby construction site.
Murphy has been charged with kidnapping, sexual battery on a child, and 1st-degree murder. Investigators have told Florida media that their work isn’t done. During a news conference held Tuesday, North Port Chief of Police Terry Lewis said that they believe “other people are involved.” He meant that others either assisted in the abduction, rape and murder of the little girl, or they knew about it and did nothing to assist the investigation.
There were many layers to the story of Coralrose. Her father Dale was arrested during the investigation and charged with possessing child pornography. Dale Fullwood eventually pled no contest to the charges. He’s still serving time.
Coralrose’s many siblings were removed from their parents’ care for a time, due to the extremely unsanitary conditions found in the home when police began investigating the little girl’s disappearance. Her mother, Ellen-Beth, even seemed to be subject to some suspicion, if only from true crime devotees discussing the crime on various message boards.
Murphy was linked to the crime by DNA. After he was jailed in January for burglary, his DNA was entered in Florida’s DNA database. That generated a match to the Fullwood murder.
Of the charges against Patrick Murphy, Ellen-Beth Fullwood said, “I’m grateful that we’ve gotten to this point, finally.”

manson.jpgCharlie said, “Now is the time for Helter Skelter.”
It was August 8, 1969. Charlie Manson’s words set a world of madness in motion.
So later that night, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Linda Kasabian and Charles “Tex” Watson prepared to leave the Family’s redoubt, an old movie set called Spahn Ranch. Charlie said, “Leave a sign […] You girls know what I mean, something witchy.”
A little after midnight on August 9, Atkins, Krenwinkel, Kasabian and Watson arrived at 10050 Cielo Drive in Bel Air, the home of director Roman Polanski and his wife, Sharon Tate. Polanski was overseas. Tate had guests that night, Abigail Folger, coffee heiress, Folger’s main squeeze, Voytek Frykowski, and stylist Jay Sebring.
Tex cut the phone lines. The group scrambled over a fence and entered the property. Unexpectedly, a car came down the driveway. Inside was Steven Earl Parent, age 18. He’d just been visiting a friend who lived in a caretaker’s cottage at the rear of the property. Tex ambushed Parent, shot him 4 times.
They left Linda Kasabian with their car, and the other 3 entered the Tate residence.
When the screaming was done, Folger, Frykowski, Sebring and Tate were dead. More than 100 stab wounds were divided across the 4 victims. Linda Atkins, after tasting Tate’s blood, scrawled “PIG” on the wall.
The Manson Family had only just begun their reign of terror. In the next 24 hours they’d kill supermarket magnate Leno LaBianca and LaBianca’s wife, Rosemary. They carved “WAR” into LaBianca’s stomach. The killers wrote “DEATH TO PIGS” and “RISE” on the LaBianca’s walls, in blood. They left the words “HEALTER SKELTER” on the refrigerator.
By July, 1970, the killers had been captured and they were going to trial. All the defendants were found guilty. Most are still alive and still in prison today, including Charlie, who said the following during the trial: “These children that come at you with knives. They are your children. You taught them. I didn’t teach them. I just tried to help them stand up.” [TruTV]