Amanda Gessner

On a personal profile at, Amanda Gessner wrote:

my name is amanda,i am 19 years old,i live in drexel hill pa.i have med. brown hair,baby blue eyes,i am 5″4″,n i weigh 135.i am very outgoing,always honest.i am very down to earth n yes i will let you know what it is!!!!i am a active girl…..i like to dance,model,act,sing…

Amanda didn’t say anything about an affinity for firefighters or for fire itself, but recently, she proved that last bit about singing. From

A 19-year-old Upper Darby woman who was observed on a store surveillance camera singing, “The fire company is going to be mad at me,” was arrested and charged with setting seven fires in the township early yesterday. 

Emphasis was added.

Amanda was hit with several charges, including arson and criminal mischief.

The Deputy Fire Chief for Upper Darby PA, John Hicks, told local media that Amanda had been at a number of fires taking photos with her cell phone. She’d also bothered firefighters at a local station. Hicks also said that Amanda “enjoyed seeing fire engines, enjoyed seeing fires, and enjoyed taking pictures of fires.”

Upper Darby police official Michael Chitwood said that Amanda’s name came up early in the investigation into the seven fires set at various locations. A look at surveillance tape from a store where Amanda was known to hang out captured her impromptu performance.

According to Michael Chitwood, Amanda is “the profile of what a pyromaniac would be.”

Officials also said Amanda Gessner is unemployed and lives with her parents. She had no history of criminal behavior.

Police say Amanda confessed to setting the fires once she was in custody.

Her MySpace profile, Ricanangel77, is locked, but she titled it “FireFighter” and had the following quote byher profile photo: “reliance (61) hook&ladderco. no. 1.”

Amanda Gessner probably needs serious psychiatric help. Pyromania is a distinct (if rather rare) form of mental illness. If she is the rare female sufferer, she will need a lot of treatment to deal with it.

Chances are there is something else going on with Amanda, though, and it’s probably too pathological to treat with any effectiveness. It’s also not like her acts were harmless — a family was asleep in the home where she allegedly started one fire. They escaped without any harm — but what if they hadn’t?

Police do not believe Amanda had anything to do with multiple arsons recently committed in Coatesville, PA, but she may well have been influenced by them.

She is currently being held on $100,000 bail.  


Police and volunteers are still searching in and around rural Satsuma, Florida for 5-year-old Haleigh Ann Marie Cummings.

Haleigh vanished sometime between 10 p.m. Monday night and 3 a.m. Tuesday morning. According to WDBO radio, authorities have released the 911 call Haleigh’s father made when he came home early Tuesday. Ronald Cummings had discovered that the rear door to his double-wide was open and his daughter was missing. Via we have a transcript of his dialogue with the 911 operator:

CALLER: I just woke up and my back door was all open and I can’t find my daughter.

DISPATCH: Can’t find what?

CALLER: My daughter.

DISPATCH:Ok. When did you last see her?

CALLER: Um, we just like, you know, it was about 10 o’clock. She was sleeping (inaudible).

DISPATCH: Ok. How old is your daughter?

CALLER: She’s 5.

DISPATCH: OK. What was she last seen wearing, Ma’am?

CALLER: She was in her pajamas. We were sleeping.

DISPATCH: OK. Alright, you said your back door was wide open?

CALLER: Yes, with a brick. Like, there was a brick on the floor. Like, when I went to sleep the door was not like that.

DISPATCH: Was your back door locked do you know?

CALLER: Yes. The back door always stays locked.

FATHER: I just got home from work, my 5-year-old daughter is gone. I need someone to be here now. I’m telling you. If I find whoever has my daughter before you all do, I’m killing him. I don’t care. I’ll spend the rest of my life in prison.

DISPATCH: It’s OK sir, we got them on the way. Can you give me a description of the pajamas she was wearing?

FATHER: I don’t (expletive) know I was at work.

A police spokesperson has said that the case is “truly still a whodunit.” Authorities still aren’t sure whether they have an abduction or a simple missing child on their hands. The same spokesperson, Maj. Gary Bowling, also told reporters that police “haven’t lost ground, but we haven’t gained any ground that we can you know plant a stake in and say yeah we’re making progress in this area.”

At this time, neither Misty Croslin, Ronald Cummings’s teen girlfriend, nor Cummings himself are considered suspects. Up to 25 registered sex offenders live in the area, and police are questioning them as well.

Haleigh’s father has insisted that she was afraid of the dark and would not roam at night. This may have been why he was so certain right away that his daughter had been abducted. A 2-year-old child was asleep in the same room as Haleigh, and he was fine. Police said there was no sign of forced entry into the mobile home.

The Cummings residence is on a rural road in a heavily wooded area. I’m tempted to reject the idea of a sex offender kidnapping the little girl, but then I realize that in some ways, this case bears an uncomfortable resemblance to the disappearance of Jessica Lunsford.  

Except, that is, for the age of the missing child. Every time I’ve written about a missing child who fell prey to a sexual predator, that child has been at least 7 or older. Predators who target children as young as 4 or 5 certainly do exist — but they are relatively rare. Rarer still — silent snatching in the dead of night. Joseph Edward Duncan III snatched two children in the dead of night, but he killed the childrens’ family to eliminate witnesses — and just maybe because he wanted to.

The odds are, most of the time, that a child as young as Haleigh Cummings is more likely to fall prey to someone close to her.

The Amber Alert for Haleigh is still active. If you have information regarding the disappearance of this little girl, call the Putnam County Sheriff at 386-329-0808.  

Additional links:, MyFoxOrlando, a mobile webcam on the scene.

UPDATE: I won’t be on the show tonight. I’ll be enjoying Papa Johns at home and not worry about whether I have spots on my shirt or not — HLN has an affiliate reporter on-scene. So watch anyway, dammit.


I’ll be a guest on Issues With Jane Velez Mitchell tonight on CNN Headline News (HLN). We’ll be discussing the still-unfolding story of 5-year-old Haleigh Cummings. Haleigh vanished sometime early Monday morning from her bed in a mobile home in rural Satsuma, Fla. I’ve been updating this post about the case all day. The segment in which I will appear should air sometime between 7:30 p.m. ET and 8 p.m. [Link: Putnam County Sheriff’s flyer about the disappearance — PDF.]

Haleigh Cummings, age 5

Thousands are gathering in Orlando or watching TV this morning, remembering Caylee Anthony. In another part of Florida, another child has vanished, and this time there was no one-month delay in reporting the disappearance.

Haleigh Cummings, age 5, was last seen around 10 p.m. Monday night in Satsuma, Florida. Haleigh was staying with her father, Ronald Cummings, and his girlfriend, Misty Croslin. The little girl’s father was at work when she vanished. Misty Croslin told police she realized Haleigh was missing around 3 in the morning.

Putnam County officials said there was no sign of forced entry into the house, but they didn’t know if all the doors and windows were locked when Haleigh disappeared.

Haleigh is wearing a pink shorts and a tan shirt. She is 3 feet tall, has blond hair, brown eyes and pierced ears.

Details about this disappearance are still trickling in, but reports that “[police]believe Cummings may be endangered.” Authorities are searching in and around the Hermit’s Cove area in Satsuma [see map below — also, the name of the community has been misreported as “Hermus.” The Ocala paper linked in paragraph 2 above states that Haleigh was staying at a home in the Buffalo Bluff neighborhood].

If you have any information pertaining to the whereabouts of Haleigh Cummings, you can call the Putnam County Sheriff: (386) 329-0808 or 1-888-FL-MISSING.


I will update and/or revise this post as needed.


According to Fox News, both Ronald Cummings and Misty Croslin are being questioned in connection with Haleigh’s disappearance. Are Cummings and Croslin suspects? Police spokesperson Sgt. Jason Nettles tells Fox “I don’t know that for sure.”

Cummings also spoke to Jacksonville’s Channel 4. From the article in the preceding link: “Ronald told Channel 4 there is no doubt in his mind that she was abducted and he’ll do anything to get her back. […] Haleigh is afraid of the dark and there’s no way she would have gone out in the middle of the night by herself.” 

The same report indicated that a 2-year-old child was in the same room as Haleigh. That child was unharmed.

View Larger Map

According to the LA Daily News, police have arrested fugitives Rianne Celine Theriault-Odom and Nathaniel Marquis Petrillo. The couple was captured via “a joint operation between Los Angeles police and the U.S. Marshal’s Service.” The pair allegedly doused exotic dancer Roberta Busby with a flammable substance and set her on fire last week. Busby, who has two children, “remains in critical condition with burns over 40 percent of her body.” In this post published yesterday I gave info on how you can help Busby’s family stay on their feet. Check it out and help Busby’s family, if you are able. 

About 10 minutes of local LA news coverage of the end of the slow-speed police pursuit of a white Bentley.

Miami-based hip-hop artist DJ Khaled wants you to know he wasn’t in that damned white Bentley. From Khaled’s MySpace blog:


This is DJ Khaled and due to recent press and news reports I feel compelled to
release a statement. Just to be clear I am in Miami, FL working on Rick Ross’
album, Deeper Than Rap. I am not in LA where there are reports that I have been
in a police chase. These reports are completely false and unfounded.

DJ Khaled
We The Best Music 

The slow speed chase that ended with the death of the still-unknown driver had Twitter all, um, a-twitter last night (example: super-popular Twitter user, actor, author and blogger Wil Wheaton, who posted a number of tweets as he watched the coverage), and for some reason, a lot of people decided the driver might just be DJ Khaled. Does he even own a Bentley?

Anyway, Khaled just wanted it clear. He’s like Shaggy it wasn’t him.

The Associated Press reports that the driver “shot himself in the head as he sat in the car,” and that he “was suspected of assault with a deadly weapon on his girlfriend.”

The fact that police were chasing a Bentley alone produced rumors that the driver was a celebrity. Khaled seems to have been the most popular guess, but due to his recent domestic/criminal problems, singer Chris Brown was also proposed as the culprit. But the site linked in the preceding sentence is apparently based in Australia, so maybe it’s understandable that they pulled a random music star’s name out of their kangaroo pouch. American blogs clearly knew better.

The LA Times states this morning that the Bentley had Illinois plates and that the driver was “[a]businessman of Pakistani origin.”

So… we know that non-celebrities who assault their significant others drive Bentleys, too.

We know that DJ Khaled has had enough of your shenanigans. 

And I found an excuse to link Wil Wheaton from a crime blog post. So I’ve got that going for me.  

Top: Rianne Celine Theriault-Odom Bottom: Nathaniel Marquis Petrillo

Perhaps you’ve heard of the pair on the right, Nathaniel Marquis Petrillo and Rianne Celine Theriault-Odom. California authorities believe Odom and Petrillo doused an exotic dancer in Tarzana, CA with a flammable liquid and then set the woman on fire.

The 27-year-old victim suffered 2nd and 3rd-degree burns over 40% of her body. She is currently in a burn center in Sherman Oaks in critical condition.

Police say Theriault-Odom and Petrillo left the Babes & Beer Sports Bar after the assault in a gold, 4-door sedan.

According to the Ventura County Star, the victim’s name is Roberta Busby.

Busby was more than an anonymous victim. She was a mother. She was trying to earn a living. She had children to support. 

That’s why a fund has been set up to help Busby’s children. KCAL TV reports that if you want to help Busby’s children, you “bring a check in to any Washington Mutual branch, made out to “Rodrigo Busby For The Benefit Of The Children Of Roberta Busby” or send a check to

3835 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., #256
Westlake Village, CA 91362

Emphasis was added.

If you have any information that might lead to the whereabouts of Rianne Celine Theriault-Odom and Nathaniel Marquis Petrillo, you may call detectives with the LAPD robbery-homicide division at (213) 485-2531 or (877) LAPD-24-7.

Sources: LAT via Feminste and the Rogue Reverend.


UPDATE: CBS 12 has published a new article that gives some new and horrifying details about the death of Amy Kern’s grandmother, Debra. If Kern is guilty, she may very well be just as crazy as her lawyers will surely claim. That, or pure evil. Thanks to reader BVikk for the tip.

UPDATE: has the arrest report in this case. It’s pretty revealing, to say the least.


On her MySpace profile, Amy Kern wrote:

I am open minded to many things with a funny sense of humor. I can be pretty rebellious at times, but always have a good heart deep down.

The following is from an article published online by WPTV TV, the NBC affiliate in Palm Beach, Florida. The article was posted to the Web on February 8:

A woman is in custody tonight, accused of going on a shooting spree that left two people dead.

Police say she was found in the Bluffs community of Jupiter along with one of her victims.

The suspect was brought out of this home, where they say she killed one of her victims – her grandmother, 80-year-old Donna Kerns [sic].

Video posted online by the same TV station showed police leading a blonde woman from the second floor of Donna Kern’s mansard-roofed residence.

People close to pretty, 30-year-old Saint Mary’s, GA resident Amy Kern believe she went crazy. Kern may have been losing it since late last year. A month after her daughter was born at the end of November, 2008, Kern was accused of threatening the infant and attacking her fiance with an axe.  

Speaking to CBS 12 in Palm Beach, Kern’s fiance, Andrew Charneski said, “Sometimes when she goes into that state she hears voices. She thinks people are trying to do her harm and it’s always directed at the people she loves the most.”

If Charneski is telling the truth, his statement may explain what police say Amy Kern did this weekend.

Prior to Amy Kern’s arrest on Saturday at her grandmother’s home, someone came to the apartment Kern’s aunt, Beverly Kern, shared with a 59-year-old man named William Chapman. Like Doris Kern, Chapman was shot to death.

In addition to the murders, police believe Amy Kern went on a shooting spree, targeting a vehicle on I-95 and then a man at a highway rest stop.

Amy Kern may be receiving psychiatric treatment while incarcerated at the Palm Beach County Jail. Kern herself requested she be placed on suicide watch.

Unlike the personal profiles or webpages of many folks accused — even convicted — of violent crimes, there is nothing on Amy Kern’s MySpace page that might clue a reader in to what allegedly lurked beneath her attractive fa├žade. Her “About me”:

I am from Jupiter, FL. Born, raised, and worked there my whole life up until a couple years ago. I enjoy warm, beautiful weather, nice beaches, the ocean, going to the park, hanging out with good friends, or not hanging out with anybody sometimes (as long as I’m having fun), four-wheeling, mudding, and going fast in fast cars or on roller coasters. Boating, fishing, and camping out in the woods next to a bon-fire are also among my favorites. I do like to shop and hang out on the inside sometimes though. I just like to be having a good time no matter what it is, really. I just had a daughter the end of Nov. 2008. I can not stand to be away from her. She has got to be the best thing ever!!

See? Just like the self-description published by a million other young mothers on the social networking site.

So the question is — what set this woman off? Was it a combination of pre-existing mental illness perhaps fired by post-partum depression? The latter can turn into post-partum psychosis. In a person who has already had major mental health problems, it may not be a big leap from depression to psychosis.

I suspect there is more in Amy Kern’s past than the alleged axe attack on Andrew Charneski (who was not harmed in the attack). Still — women certainly commit violent crime, but they don’t do it as often as men, and incidents like the murders of Chapman and Donna Kern are relatively rare. It seems as though the killer was driven to commit these crimes.

Is Amy Kern legally insane, or that rare female psychopath who behaves more like her male counterparts? There’s no way to know yet. A hair-trigger analysis of the sheer number of photos Kern posted in her MySpace showing just her might point towards the sane but psycho answer to that question. If so, then why kill your family members? Usually, the psychopath’s mode of operation is to use and sponge off family.

There aren’t many answers yet, and there may never be. Perhaps Amy Kern doesn’t even know why she’s sitting in jail today, under a suicide watch. If so, that would only compound the tragedy. 

California authorities have issued an Amber Alert for 38-year-old Altadena resident Lisa Ruelas and her sons, Gabriel and Evan. Police have reason to believe that Ruelas plans to kill her sons before she commits suicide. Ruelas’s husband died over a year ago and she may still be despondent over that death. Ruelas is driving a Saturn minivan with a luggage rack, license plate #5SNJ931. [San Jose Mercury-News]


The story broke right around inauguration time: a middle-aged white woman was on her way to Washington DC to witness the swearing-in of the 44th president when racist miscreants torched her home — most likely because she supported the President. At least that was what she wanted folks to believe. Well… Pamela Graf’s story has come apart at the seams. From WSB Radio:

Captain Jason Shivers tells WSB’s Jennifer Griffies 47-year-old Pamela Graf was arrested on unrelated charges, but is listed as a suspect in the fire. 

“Ms. Graf was arrested on unrelated drug charges due to the execution of a search warrant during the investigation of the Lanier Drive fire,” said Shivers.

Marijuana and cocaine were found during a search of motel room and car.

Graf’s 46-year-old boyfriend Steve Strobel was also arrested. Strobel is suspected of taking part in the alleged arson as well.

All that’s missing from this story is a backwards “B”.