News segment about the murder trial of Kimberly Trenor.

UPDATE — I was waiting to go on to record my portion of a segment with Jane when my phone freaked out — for the first time since I’ve owned it. So FYI — no phoner with me tonight on Issues.

******

I will be a guest via phone this evening on CNN Headline News’s Issues With Jane Velez-Mitchell. We’ll be discussing the ongoing murder trial of Kimberly Trenor, mother of Riley Ann Sawyers, AKA “Baby Grace”.

This is easily one of the most abominable cases of child abuse and murder to hit the news in ages. Riley was the 2-year-old daughter of Kimberly Trenor. She moved to Texas with her mom in 2007. Trenor relocated to marry Royce Zeigler, a man she’d met playing games online.

The combo of Zeigler and Trenor apparently spelled death for Riley Sawyers. She was found, a tiny Jane Doe, in a storage container floating in Galveston Bay in October, 2007. She was dubbed Baby Grace and a nationwide search for her real name began.

Eventually Riley’s real father and grandmother recognized sketches of Baby Grace and police were on Kim Trenor’s and Royce Zeigler’s doorstep. Trenor tried to claim that a state child welfare worker had taken the baby from her, but no one really bought what she was selling.

The couple was arrested, and Trenor is currently on trial — Zeigler will be tried later.

The details of the abuse this child suffered at the hands of her stepfather and mother will enrage just about anyone. And the story of Riley’s death, as told by her own mother, is one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever read — the child tried to forestall the abuse by telling her mother that she loved her.

I don’t think a normal person can develop psychic hide thick enough to read something like that and not want to puke.

For further details, check out the Web’s home for outrage over true crime stories in the news, the Dreamin’ Demon.  

An early news report about the deaths of the Lupoe family in Wilmington, CA. 

If you search the term “murder-suicide” in Google News, you receive over 1300 results. And they’re not all the same story, either. Economic woes are beginning to take a human toll that may only increase in the weeks and months to come.

At least it seems that way. The truth is that times like these reveal faultlines — in lives, in marriages, in psyches. The following is a short list of recent murder-suicides in the news that have some connection to financial troubles in the family or relationship in question:

Ervin Antonio Lupoe and his family: Mr. Lupoe and his wife Ana lost their jobs with a Kaiser hospital in LA after they were accused of fraud. While Ervin Lupoe pointed to this and other money-related issues as causes in a rambling letter he faxed to an LA-area media outlet, the Los Angeles Times reports that “[the]couple’s financial situation, though pressing in recent months, did not appear to be especially dire. The Lupoes were behind one month in their mortgage, investigators said. They found notices of two bounced checks — one for about $15,000, the other for almost $2,000 — to pay for property taxes and penalties, according to the police sources. Investigators said it did not appear they were behind on their credit card payments.” Death toll in the Lupoe murder-suicide: 7. The Lupoes marked the 5th time in the last year that an entire SoCal family has been murdered or killed during the commission of a murder-suicide. 

The Meeks family, Columbus, Ohio: The Associated Press didn’t name the family, but did report the following: “A neighbor said the father recently lost his job, something that may have been a factor in the deaths, investigators said.” The Columbus Dispatch reports that the deceased were “Mark Meeks, 51; […] Jennifer Dallas-Meeks, 40; and their children, Abby, 8, and Jimmy, 5.” Police have not officially declared the deaths a murder-suicide, but believe the scene they found at 918 Beechwood Rd. “has the markings of a murder-suicide.” Death toll in possible Meeks murder-suicide: 4.

Brittany Marie Givens-Copeland and Adam Keith Williams: Burnsville, MN resident Brittany Givens-Copeland was either drowned or asphyxiated prior to the fire that led to police uncovering her death and the death of her (possibly former) boyfriend, Adam Keith Williams. Williams intentionally allowed himself to succumb to the fire he set after killing Givens-Copeland. According to the Associated Press, Givens-Copeland had planned to break up with Williams, but he’d also “been fired from his job a couple of weeks ago and had started working at a restaurant nearby.” Death toll: 2. The combo of domestic troubles between the pair and quite possibly the job loss may have caused Williams to go over the edge, here.

Jason and Serena Montes: Like Givens-Copeland and Adam Keith Williams, Jason and Serena Montest were having problems in their relationship. The Concord, CA gaming journalist shot and killed his wife and then turned the gun on himself about two weeks ago. On top of their relationship problems, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that “Jason Montes filed for personal bankruptcy protection in June.”

If you know of other stories where the current economic problems may have contributed in some way to the deaths of two or more people, feel free to leave a comment with a link at the end of this post.

Remember, though — the current crisis hasn’t caused these things to happen, per se. To say that is to imply that the people who commit the murders before killing themselves are somehow not responsible for their actions. Make no mistake about it — murder-suicides can result from impulsive acts of passion, but usually, they are a narcissist’s final act of control over those whom they view as, in a way, extensions of themselves. Straitened times simply reveal the brittle constructs some people have put in place to keep life outwardly normal.

This morning a man called a KFWB, a Los Angeles radio station. The man also called LA’s Channel 7. At some point the man sent a fax to the TV station. In the fax he stated that was going to kill his two sets of twin children and another daughter, then commit suicide. The man explained that he was motivated by a problem he was having with his employer, a Los Angeles hospital. The LAPD went to the family home in the 1000 block of McFarland Ave. in Wilmington. They found 2 dead adults and 5 dead children. The man who made the phone calls had apparently been true to his word. Still developing…

[LAT, NBC Los Angeles, see also KFWB.].

 

cayleedoll2.jpg

Thanks to reader BlueSky6, I learned this morning that Showbiz Promotions President Jaime Salcedo has decided the evil known as the Inspirational Caylee Doll might not be such a good idea, after all. Go figure.

From CayleeDoll.com:

It was our intention to begin the sale of the Sunshine Caylee Doll at 12:00pm January 27, 2009. As we mentioned to the media in our press release it was very important that we allow the press to present our idea to the public first, in an effort to measure the reaction to our fund raising efforts. As the story developed we also announced that we would be donating 100% of the profits to charity. However, after reviewing the response to our media introduction of the Sunshine Caylee Doll and listening to the advice of the general public. We feel that is it best to suspend the launch of The Sunshine Caylee Doll.

While we still feel it is important to raise awareness and raise money to help stop this type of crime from being committed. We feel we can be more effective using more traditional methods.

We would like to that everyone who made comments or called us to express their opinion.

Sincerely,

Jaime Salcedo

President

Showbiz Promotions

 

Really, Jaime? You want to “raise awareness and raise money to help stop this type of crime from being committed?” How does that work, bro, when the alleged killer was a mother who, however troubled, was not necessarily viewed beforehand as a potential murderer by anyone, as far as I know?

 

If you want to go with that line, Mr. Salcedo, it’s your choice. People with sense see right through what you tried to do there, and of course the Caylee Doll itself. If there is a hall of shame for promoters/PR people of any stripe, then they are surely reserving a spot for you right now.

 

And let’s just be clear here — “suspended” doesn’t mean, ‘this was the worst freaking idea we ever had and we’re ashamed of ourselves and pray you will forgive us for even conceiving of such a thing’ — it just means ‘we might decide to go ahead and do it anyway, later.’

cayleedoll.jpg

Showbiz Promotions of Orlando has easily concocted the worst doll idea of the decade. 

 
The Inspirational Caylee Sunshine Doll is officially on sale from these fun folks beginning tomorrow. If you want to buy your doll representing a murdered child, you can pay 29.99 for an 18-inch long moppet with blonde hair wearing a little T-shirt with a sunshine logo and the legend, “Caylee Sunshine.” 
Just when you think it can’t get any worse, though, the doll will sing “You Are My Sunshine” if you punch her belly button. I wish I was making this up. I wish it didn’t appear to be totally serious. But you know, if wishes were horses, yadayada…
I’m guessing duct tape and a little heart sticker will be extra.
Seriously, though — what the hell is wrong with people? I wish I had something more sophisticated to say, but I don’t. Reps for Showbiz Promotions say the doll is a tribute, but come on — it’s obvious what it is — an attempt to cash in. Even if the proceeds from Caylee Sunshine go to charity — it isn’t the only product these folks promote. They’re counting on bringing extra dollars in, regardless. They want you to check out their Jacksonville Jaguars stuff, or their Christ Life Store. What sane folks should do is boycott these people to teach them a lesson — but I won’t hold my breath. 
So… to really check out the meaning of puke-worthy or to get an idea as to what your friendly neighborhood pedophile will be purchasing just after midnight tonight, take a look at CayleeDoll.com, why dontcha? If you don’t mind your soul being slowly eaten each time the Caylee Sunshine Doll appears on the screen, that is.
Maybe we now know the real reason George Anthony finally snapped and headed out to off himself late last week. This was the Talky Tina straw that broke the old silver-haired camel’s back. [Orlando Sentinel]

mccartney.jpg

Near the end of 2008, Kristen McCartney and her toddler daughter moved from Fort Carson in Colorado to Atlanta to be with family while her husband was deployed to Iraq for a year. On January 12, Kristen headed back to Colorado Springs. She planned to pack up the apartment she’d shared with her husband at the post.

On Tuesday, January 20 — Kristen’s birthday — the young mother was supposed to take care of the final close out. She didn’t show. No one has seen the 24-year-old Army wife since.

Kristen’s family had already become worried, and they’d been contacting the military police at Fort Carson about their concerns. On Wednesday this week, the Fort Carson MPs finally launched an investigation into Kristen’s disappearance.

According to her mother, Kristen was calling to check up on her daughter in Atlanta on a daily basis. Those calls ceased last Friday, the 16th. Kristen’s friends say that it just isn’t like Kristen to not call.

Now the Army is working on bringing Kristen’s husband Evan McCartney back home to assist in the search for his wife.

Army investigators believe Kristen’s debit card has been used since her disappearance and they are trying to recover surveillance video of the ATM where the transaction occurred.

Kristen may have been driving a tan Corolla with Florida plates when she vanished, license #F685QY.

Kristen had a profile on MySpace: MySpace.com/JeffGravy. Her “About me” section read:

I am a mother of a beautiful daughter named Aiyanna. My hubby is in the army, he is a tanker. We are currently located in colorado. I grew up in ga and fl. I am not a pleasant person to ppl i dont know….so yeah…i love my family and friends and cant wait to visit them. MY hubby will be going to Iraq in aug or sept. well not much more to say. 

Kristen also posted in the weblog attached to her profile. In the blog she posted silly quizzes and entries about events in her family, but in entries made over a year ago, she also spoke of loneliness while her husband was working two jobs to support her. 

The fact is, not all disappearances involve a crime, and that is the reason I sometimes make note of any evidence left by the vanished person that they may have been unhappy, perhaps even depressed, at times. It seemed like loneliness and isolation were mentioned a good deal in Kristen’s blog. She was about to face a year without her husband, whom she clearly adored. This would be a potentially depressing circumstance for anyone. 

There may be something suspicious afoot here, however, since Army Criminal Investigators are actively pursuing the case. They may have evidence not yet revealed to the public giving them reason to dig further and see who is using Kristen’s ATM card.  

Kristen McCartney is 5’3″, has dark hair and wears glasses. She was last seen wearing a black and white coat. If you think you know anything about her disappearance, contact law enforcement immediately.

[KKTV]

zhu.jpgUPDATE: See latest story Haiyang Zhu, Virginia Tech Grad Student, Confesses to Decapitating Woman Who Spurned His Love

The gruesome murder that occurred on the campus of Virginia Tech last night had nothing in common with the horrific mass shooting at the institution in April, 2007. In this case, police have arrested 25-year-old graduate teaching assistant Haiyang Zhu, a Chinese national who was studying in the Dept. of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

The massacre committed nearly 2 years ago by disturbed Korean student Seung-Hui Cho did contribute to an efficient system of campus alerts that kept students at the university on the their toes for several hours Wednesday night.

The first 911 call came into police last night around 7 p.m. A woman was being assaulted inside the Graduate Life Center, just outside the Au Bon Pain cafe.

Haiyang Zhu was arrested shortly after the officer arrived. The victim was dead. A probable murder weapon was also taken into evidence.

Little has been reported about the victim in this case, but one online news service reported this morning that “Police say a woman who was slain on the Virginia Tech campus yesterday was decapitated.” Shortly after this post was first published, the Associated Press confirmed this report

For further reading:

Steger: VT slaying ‘isolated, very personal tragedy’

Va. Tech stabbing suspect charged with murder

AP video of Casey Anthony having a contentious jailhouse conversation with her parents.

The more I learn about the the Caylee Anthony homicide, the more queasy it makes me when I have to write about it. So you’ll forgive me if I just point you to a pertinent link and give a quote on this one, because it’s the case that only gets worse every time you hear about it.

You can read about the new release of documents here: “Heart sticker had been on tape over Caylee Anthony’s mouth.” Here’s a quote from the Orlando Sentinel article that might give you some idea of why this high-profile case makes me so sick:

Someone placed a heart-shaped sticker on the silver duct tape stretched across the mouth of dead toddler Caylee Marie Anthony.

A medical examiner had to cut the child’s brown hair to remove the tape, and when the FBI took a close look, it found adhesive residue in the shape of a heart, according to court documents released Wednesday.

The investigators who scoured the Orange County woods where Caylee’s remains were found last month found a loose sticker similar in size.

“It appears that the sticker was put on the duct tape intentionally,” an Orange County detective wrote in a search-warrant affidavit.

Some true crime stories can poke through the toughest emotional hide. This is definitely one of them.

For a different source of in-depth coverage of this case, as well as some of the new documents (search warrants, etc), check out WESH TV.


Amanda Knox, drunk with friends sometime in 2006.

Your friendly neighborhood crime blogger/reporter will be on Issues with Jayne Velez-Mitchell tonight on CNN Headline News, discussing the ongoing trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. Jayne’s show airs between 7 and 8 p.m. ET.

Knox and Sollecito went on trial in an Italian courtroom on January 16. They’re accused of killing Knox’s then-roommate, British student Meredith Kercher, in early November, 2007. While the publicity surrounding this case has dwindled here in the U.S., it’s still big news in Europe, where Amanda Knox’s looks have led to a lot of heavy breathing in the press, to whit: “Angel-faced killer with ice-cold eyes.” Hell, Knox has even starred in a movie made by an independent Italian filmmaker.

American media has been somewhat skeptical of the case against Knox. Dateline NBC has raised doubts about the integrity of the prosecutor in the case, Giulio Mignini — doubts shared by best-selling American author Douglas Preston, who had his own unfortunate encounters with Mignini when Preston began researching Italy’s most terrifying and famous unsolved series of murders for the book he wrote with Italian journalist Mario Spezi, The Monster of Florence.

Notable developments in the trial so far have been a denial of a Kercher family request to hold the trial behind closed doors, and in general, Amanda Knox’s own reported behavior in the courtroom. A quote from the London Times:

During the seven-hour opening hearing on Friday, Ms Knox, 21 smiled and
laughed repeatedly, joking with her lawyers and interpreter. Although
sitting only a few feet from the bespectacled Mr Sollecito, 24, she barely
acknowledged his glances along the row.

As far as is known the two, who have been held in separate prisons, have not
spoken since they were arrested after the murder of Ms Kercher in November
2007. But during a recess on Friday, Ms Knox approached Mr Sollecito and
broke the ice by asking: “Ciao, come stai?” (“Hi, how are
you?”). She smiled at him and said: “You look good with your hair cut short.”

I’ve gone back with my opinions on this case. The more I hear the possible scenario sketched out by prosecutor Mignini for what happened the night Meredith Kercher was murdered, the more I feel skeptical about Knox’s possible culpability in her roommate’s death (British journalist Peter Popham addresses the implausibility of Mignini’s story here). Yet there’s no denying Amanda Knox’s behavior before her arrest and since her incarceration has been, at times, odd and inappropriate. Just take a look at the photos from the Times article to see what I mean.

To see what I’ve written in the past about this strange, almost operatic murder mystery, check out the following links: