finalexit.jpg
Screen capture of the masthead for FinalExitNetwork.org

In June 2008, a 58-year-old resident of Cumming, Georgia passed away from helium intoxication. Police suspected assisted suicide, and the Georgia Burea of Investigation launched a probe into the Final Exit Network.

Today, the GBI’s investigation led to the arrests of Atlanta resident Claire Behr, age 76, and a Kennesaw man, 63-year-old Thomas E. Goodwin. Authorities in Maryland also charged two others they believe to be part of the alleged assisted suicide network: Baltimore residents Dr. Lawrence Egbert, age 81 and 60-year-old Nicholas Alec Sheridan.

The GBI became involved after Cumming Police and the Forsyth County coroner suspected the unnamed suicide in Cumming had received assistance and relatives found material related to Final Exit in the man’s possession.

According to Atlanta’s ABC affiliate, WSB TV, the arrestees all “have been charged on warrants out of Forsyth County with assisted suicide, tampering with evidence, and violation of the Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act.”

The GBI performed a sting to determine how Final Exit works.

Members apparently pay a fee and fill out an application. Then they are assigned “Exit Guides.” Exit Guides instruct the new member on the materials they should purchase; these include helium tanks and a hood the Network calls an “exit bag.”

The day of the member’s suicide, they are attended by the Exit Guide and a Senior Exit Guide.

Atlanta’s Fox affiliate [link] interviewed a GBI official on-air, and he reported that the suicide process put an emphasis on the “assisted” portion of the term. The GBI believes that Final Exit guides actually hold the suicide down to complete the act even if the person in question has second thoughts.

WSB reports that Final Exit is under investigation in 7 states: “Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Colorado, and Montana.”

More arrests may be made soon.

Assisting someone with learning a method of suicide could be considered a debatable topic to some. Allegedly holding the dying person down after they have second thoughts and begin to struggle seems like it’d be a pretty clear-cut case of homicide.

Here’s how the Final Exit Network explains what they do:

We believe the needs of those who are suffering are paramount. We applaud the work of organizations that seek legislative action to strengthen our right to die a peaceful and painless death at the time and place of our choosing. However, we feel that legislative change will not come soon enough for the many people who need help NOW and in the interim!

This is definitely a developing story, and its scope dictates you’ll hear a lot more about it in the days to come. This entry may be updated and revised.

Additional link: Wayback Machine link for Final Exit’s website.


cstitcher.jpg
Caroline Stitcher. Photos from Deerfield Police handout.

UPDATE 3

The Twitter reports have been confirmed by ChicagoBreakingNews.com.

UPDATE 2

Based on news mostly being spread via Twitter, Caroline Stitcher has been found alive. This quote is from a tweet by Adam Cohen, made around 10:30 p.m. ET tonight: “Caroline has been found alive, with family heading to hospital – direct from godparents Please RT!”

You know, it isn’t hyperbole to remark on the way breaking news can spread via Twitter – it’s remarkable how an event can be known to thousands of Twitter users an hour before the first news article hits Google News or the development is broadcast on TV. However, there’s a caveat – much of the time the details are wrong – it’s like a massive game of telephone. In this case, the basic fact is that the missing girl is alive is enough. I think most of us will take it.

If it turns out that Caroline was the victim of a crime, this post may be removed from this blog.

UPDATE

Thanks to Mary for posting this link in the comments. Caroline Stitcher’s father Kurt was interviewed for the article linked. He says they do not believe Caroline “went somewhere willingly.” According to Stitcher, police are also “doing everything they can.”

You can see the PDF from the Deerfield Police about Caroline Stitcher’s disappearance here.

Original Post

The last time anyone saw 17-year-old Caroline E. Stitcher she was leaving Deerfield High School in Deerfield, Illinois around 3:15 p.m. on Friday. Police say the Highland Park teen was clad in a red sweatshirt and red shorts. Under her shorts Caroline wore black jogging tights and running shoes.

Caroline Stitcher is a committed runner and has participated in track at Deerfield High. She was headed out for a run when she disappeared.

Attempts have been made to use dogs and a helicopter to search for the 5’3″, blond teen, but the weather has been an obstacle, so far.

Caroline’s disappearance has already made it into the Twitterverse, being publicized by no less than actor, blogger and author Wil Wheaton, who has in excess of 120,000 followers. As of 8:45 p.m. ET on Saturday night, the missing girl’s name was the topmost trending topic on the micro-blogging service.

If you have information pertaining to the disappearance of Caroline E. Stitcher, contact the police at one of the following numbers: (847) 945-8636 (Deerfield PD) or (847) 432-7730, for the Highland Park PD.

An additional link – Caroline Stitcher, using the screen name Mediagirl92, posted this well-made video report about exercise online in April, 2008. The video is narrated by the missing teen.

[ABC7Chicago.com, Chicago Sun-Times]

 

fatherandson.jpg

Left: Michael Collins, age 34. Right: Teven David Collins, age 16. Keeping sociopathy in the family.

The U.S. Marshals, Skamania County, Washington authorities, and America’s Most Wanted are after a father and son team accused of attempted murder. From AMW.com:

On Feb. 9, 2009, cops say a nature-loving resident of Washougal, Wash. was the victim of a vicious carjacking which left him hospitalized. Robert Tracey, 52, had come to the Dougan Falls area for a day of cross-country skiing.

Police say Michael and Teven Collins walked up Tracey, took his car keys and told them they had to kill him.

He was beaten repeatedly, in and around the head and torso with a stick, dragged in the woods and left for dead.

Tracey survived the attack and he crawled to a nearby creek. Eventually a group of hikers came to his rescue.

Investigation subsequently identified Tracey’s alleged attackers as the Collinses, pere et fils.

The father, Michael, is a registered sex offender, and the son, Teven David, is wanted on probation violations. They could be in Vancouver, Washington, California, Arizona or New Mexico. Cops are worried. According to AMW, authorities fear the Collins boys could try to kill someone again. And succeed. 

tevensmyspace.jpg
From Teven Collins’s MySpace

They are, after all, pretty tight with each other. On his MySpace page, Teven Collins had a photo album reserved just for pics of him and his dad. 

There the pair had posed for photos doing all the things a registered sex offender dad and probation violating son should do together – smoking something out of a pipe, drinking whiskey, making lewd faces and tonguing photos of half-naked women – you know, the usual.

Teven Collins gave a brief bio in his MySpace “About me”:

My name is Teven Collins, i used to live in Vancouver Washington but i just moved to Cali baby!! if you like me, ill like you. if you hate me ill hate you that’s how i am. i never let the man get me down!!! Ive been on my own for a couple years now. its been a blast to move out of your house at 13…. im single now…:( but i want a GIRL. i like emo punker chicks. but i don’t judge on what a person looks like…but this is me!!:) love or hate.

As noted by Washington State reporters covering the case, Teven last updated the site on Feb. 1.


fatherandson2.jpg

Michael Collins gave his age as 29 on MySpace and went by the screen name Uriah. He hadn’t written much on his profile, but like Teven Collins he gave his location as “anywhere i want, new mexico,” and his last login was also Feb. 1st. He also had a photo album devoted to photos of him bonding with his boy.

Two material witnesses have been arrested in this case and are being held in Skamania County on a half-million dollars bond apiece.

Michael and Teven David Collins may still be in Robert Tracey’s black 1998 Ford Explorer, Washington State license plate #455YHY.

If you have any information as to the whereabouts of Michael and Teven Collins, call Skamania County detectives at (509) 427-9490. 

genericcrimescenephoto2.jpg

Atlanta police have made an arrest in the murder of retired American Cancer Society researcher Eugenia Calle. From the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Jamal Thompson, 22, had posed as a potential buyer of Eugenia Calle’s condo to gain entry to her 20th-floor home at the upscale Aqua complex on 10th Street, Atlanta police Lt. Keith Meadows said.

Police were able to track Thompson because, criminal genius that he was, he allegedly used Dr. Calle’s credit cards in Southwest Atlanta. Thompson not only faces a murder rap, he has also been hit with robbery and theft-related charges. 

Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA gives the alleged killer’s name as “Shamel Thompson.”

This post may be updated and/or revised later today, as more details become available. 

WSB TV news segment about the murder of Dr. Eugenia Calle.

Atlanta is no stranger to murder. Statistics say Atlanta is a little too familiar with violent crime. There are parts of the city where violence is a little less likely to strike. One of those places may well be the luxurious residential high-rise called Aqua, at the corner of 10th and West Peachtree, where home prices average in the $800,000 range.

So it was probably strange for any Aqua resident up around midnight on Tuesday to see Atlanta Police cruisers gathered in front of the building in a driving rain. Perhaps it was stranger still, and more frightening, to find out why they were there. Dr. Eugenia “Jeanne” Calle, a prominent 57-year-old cancer researcher who retired just last month from her position with the American Cancer Society, had been found dead in her condo on the 20th floor. Dr. Calle was murdered.

How did the woman her supervisor called “a major force in epidemiology” end up the victim of a brutal homicide?

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, here is what police know about the death of Dr. Calle:

[She] had suffered blunt force trauma to the head and that there was evidence of a struggle inside her upscale unit at the Aqua complex…

[…]

Calle’s condo at Aqua is for sale, and Meadows said investigators were working to determine whether a person seen on security video visiting the condo on Tuesday was a potential buyer there to view the property.

Lt. Keith Meadows, commander of the Atlanta police homicide unit, said Calle’s body was discovered about 11 p.m. Tuesday by her boyfriend, an Atlanta attorney whose name was not released.

At the moment, police don’t know why Eugenia Calle was murdered.

They do have an idea as to when she died. Dr. Calle had been dead for up to 16 hours when she was found. She’d encountered her killer sometime Tuesday morning, roughly between 7 and 11 a.m.

Lt. Meadows also told reporters that Dr. Calle was “fully-clothed” when her boyfriend found her. Investigators are waiting on autopsy results to find out if the attack on Dr. Calle was sexually motivated.

Dr. Calle and her boyfriend were planning to marry.

According to police, the boyfriend has been cooperative and helpful.

The American Cancer Society and Eugenia Calle’s former supervisor, Dr. Otis Brawley, issued a statement about her death:

Jeanne was one of the world’s most respected epidemiologists, researching the causes of cancer, especially obesity and diet. She directed one of the largest and most comprehensive cohort studies in scientific history, the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study. She was a contributor to news stories, appearing on national programs including 60 Minutes. Jeanne brought a formidable intellect and passion for finding answers to cancer though her research. We are shocked and deeply saddened by the senseless loss of this tremendously talented friend and colleague.

Dr. Calle had been in the news as recently as February 4. She was interviewed for an article in USA Today titled, “Breast cancer risk drops after women stop hormone use.” Otis Brawley told the AJC that indeed, some of Calle’s best research work was to be published in the coming months.

Was Eugenia Calle the victim of a random crime? It seems unlikely, on the surface. Aqua appears to be a very secure high-rise. That said – it isn’t that hard to put together a convincing deliveryman’s costume. And there are numerous stories of people who fell victim to a would-be robber who was masquerading as a prospective home buyer.

There are more desperate people on the street than usual now. Eugenia Calle might have been an unexpected victim, but these days there are a few more unexpected criminals out there as well.

Some links relevant to Dr. Calle’s work and past mentions in the press:

* Transcript of an April, 2003 interview with Calle on CNN (3/4 of the way down the page).

* Overview of the April, 2008 episode of 60 Minutes in which Lesley Stahl interviewed Eugenia Calle.

* New York Daily News article about breast-feeding and breast cancer risk, July, 2002.

This is a link to a real estate listing for a condo on the 20th floor at Aqua.

Also, from Dr. Len Lichtenfeld’s “Cancer Blog”:

Jeanne was more than a scientist. She was a friend to many, a valued colleague, and a committed mentor. She constantly challenged those she worked with to get to the truth, to refine and define their arguments, and always put science first and opinion second. There was never any question about her motivation: she was devoted to the pursuit of excellence in her work and those around her. Her goals were always much loftier than her personal concerns.

We have lost someone very special. Her death was tragic and needless, and defies explanation.

findingcaylee.jpgAccording to WESH TV in Orlando, it may have been: “When asked by WESH 2’s Bob Kealing if Casey Anthony’s fingerprints were on the duct tape, a source with direct knowledge of the investigation said, ‘This is not going to be good news for the defense.'”

In what I am sure is a completely unrelated development, Casey Anthony’s attorney, Jose Baez, was hospitalized for a stomach ache last Friday. Baez’s ailment was not stress-related.

Looks like it may not improve anytime soon, though.

A CBS report about police scaling down the search for 5-year-old Haleigh Cummings.

During a news conference held this afternoon, investigators indicated that details about the clothes Haleigh Ann Marie Cummings was wearing when she vanished were different from what was originally reported.

Police just aren’t sure what Haleigh Cummings was wearing when she disappeared, after all. At first she was reportedly wearing a pink shirt and underwear, but now police say not to focus on the little girl’s clothing – focus on her face.

Haleigh’s status as a missing person has also been changed – she’s considered endangered, as well. She probably always was, but police in Putnam County have pointedly changed the flyer giving details about Haleigh to read “ENDANGERED.”

Investigators have re-examined a number of places they’d already covered and they still don’t feel any closer to solving the mystery behind this child’s disappearance. Everyone is basically still a suspect. Except, perhaps, for the infamous 44 local sex offenders mentioned so often in initial coverage of the case. Putnam County authorities say the sex offenders’ homes have been searched, the offenders questioned, and none of them are suspects or persons-of-interest in this case.

Does this change in the description of Haleigh’s clothes represent new holes in the story of that night as it’s been told so far? It was hard to tell from the press conference, as police refused to elaborate much past telling the public to focus on Haleigh’s features, her physical appearance. Still – it is grist for the mill for those who are already deeply suspicious of Haleigh’s father, Ronald Cummings, and his teen girlfriend, Misty Croslin.

Call 1-888-277-TIPS if you think you have information that might lead to the whereabouts of Haleigh Cummings.

[News4Jax.com]

Writing in The Daily Beast, journalist Barbie Latza Nadeau provides a balanced overview of the ongoing media circus surrounding the Amanda Knox trial in Italy. I recommend the post for the way Barbie laid out the bizarre divisions in this case, the way people have broken down into “teams,” doing what amounts to PR stateside for the most high-profile suspect. Note: the pullout quote from the article about me is partially incorrect: this blog, True Crime Report, is published by Village Voice Media, the publisher of the Voice and 14 other alt-weeklies nationwide. [The pullout quote was corrected.]

NewsOK.com video package about the triple homicide in Cushing this morning.

UPDATE

KJRH.com reports that Robert Chad Barela has been arrested. He was spotted at a Wal-Mart in Stillwater, OK. Police haven’t named the victims of the triple homicide in Cushing, but they have again stated that Barela is a ‘significant person of interest’ in the case. 

ORIGINAL POST

Cops in Cushing, Oklahoma are investigating a triple homicide. This marks the first time Cushing has had to deal with homicide since 2007.

cbarela.jpg
Robert Chad Barela, thuggin’

The suspect in this case is 5’2″, brown-haired, blue-eyed Robert Chad Barela, age 20. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has an APB out for Barela. They believe he is driving a a maroon 1998 Chevrolet Blazer. The Blazer has Oklahoma plates: #PLV-922. A school near the scene of the crime was even put on lockdown. The Highway Patrol believes Barela is armed with handguns and a sawed-off shotgun.

Based on his MySpace, Chad Barela certainly liked his firearms. That’s the photo on the right that Barela chose to use for his main profile pic.

He was also aware of his small stature and seemed bent on making sure people took him seriously. From his “About me”:

 im 20 going on 21 in april im from the 209 stockton california and im not tall but not short thats because im half mexican and proud of it anyways if you dont know me then dont speak about me if you do then you already know im fun to be around but they say im a good guy and some say im a bad guy tell you like this just dont get on my mad side..

rbarela.jpg
Robert Chad Barela

Barela added a couple of inches to his height in his profile’s self-descriptions. He also made one thing clear: he doesn’t like cops. Where the profile asked who his “Heroes” were, Barela wrote, “not the cops.” In the General interests section, he wrote, “money and guns god and police activity there up to something.” His profile quote beside his photo read “tired of the cops.” So – I wonder if “the cops” are pretty worried about Barela trying to go out in a hail of bullets. If they are aware of his attitudes, they probably are.

It’s as if he was trying to live out a latino gangsta fantasy there in quiet Cushing, OK.

Police have yet to release details on the victims in this case. The investigation is ongoing.

This post may be updated as circumstances warrant. 

[KOCO.com, NewsOK.com]

Today Show segment about recent developments in the trial.

Jane Velez-Mitchell will be covering this crazy case on her HLN program tonight. Issues With Jane Velez-Mitchell airs between 7 and 8 p.m. ET. Testimony in the trial last week proved interesting, to say the least:

* On Valentine’s Day, Amanda Knox showed up in court looking for all the world like the perky, pretty American college girl she would be, had her English roommate not ended up so brutally murdered in November, 2007. In what one British publication termed a “Valentine message,” Amanda wore a t-shirt with bearing the immortal words of the Beatles, “All you need is love.”

* An Italian woman who roomed with Amanda and Meredith testified that Amanda had a scratch on her neck in the hours after Meredith’s body was discovered, bloodied and topless, in her bedroom. Laura Mezzetti testified that Amanda “had a scratch to her neck. I was afraid Amanda, too, might have been injured. I was worried and I looked at it really closely.” If this scratch could be corroborated, it could be a bit of a blow to Amanda Knox’s defense.

* Amanda Knox finally spoke in court last week. According to the Times of London, Amanda took the stand “to challenge evidence from British friends of the victim, who claimed that Ms Kercher had been upset that Ms Knox brought men into their shared lodgings.” Amanda also explained the ‘Pink Rabbit.’ A friend of Meredith Kercher’s, Robyn Butterworth, had testified that Meredith was uncomfortable with a bag Amanda allegedly kept in the communal bathroom containing condoms and the sex toy. Quoting again from Richard Owens’s article in the Times: “Speaking in fluent Italian, Ms Knox said that the vibrator – a ‘Pink Rabbit’ – had been given to her by a friend ‘as a joke’. Giancarlo Massei, the presiding judge, gave her a kindly smile.”

Once again – tune in to Jane’s show on HLN tonight between 7 and 8, Eastern Time.