Some stories you just note because they make you wonder what the hell is wrong with people. This is one of them. Just before 10 p.m. on Thursday night, some young people got out of a Honda Civic and doused a homeless man with gas. They set him on fire. The heavyset man, called Grimley by area residents, tried to run. The kids gave chase and once again doused him with more fuel before they fled. The LAPD don’t have Grimley’s real name yet and they are looking for at least one 20-something guy seen leaving the area. According to locals, Grimley was dirty and he smelled bad, but he never harmed anyone. Like I said… what the hell is wrong with people? [Los Angeles Times]

KCAL news brief about Miura case.
Kazuyoshi Miura, age 61, arrived in the U. S. early this morning, landing at LAX on a flight from Honolulu. Miura is back in the U.S.A. to face charges that he conspired to have his wife murdered for insurance money as the two visited Los Angeles in 1981.
Miura was arrested in February while visiting Saipan. He fought extradition for months, but after an American judge removed the “murder” part of the murder and conspiracy charges against the Japanese businessman, Miura agreed to return to America. Los Angeles County judge Steven Van Sicklen ruled that putting Miura on trial for murder would amount to double jeopardy.
Miura and his wife were shot while they were in LA 27 years ago. He was injured, she was struck in the head. It took a year and returning to Japan, but Miura’s wife finally died from her wound.
Prosecutors think Miura was motivated by the $750,000 in insurance money he eventually picked up after his wife’s demise.
A Japanese court found Miura guilty 14 years ago, but the conviction was eventually overturned.
If Miura is convicted of the conspiracy charges against him, he could face anywhere from 25 years to life in prison.
Prosecutors in LA aren’t letting go of the murder charge yet. They filed a brief yesterday seeking reinstatement, stating that Miura’s acquittal under Japanese law might be irrelevant in the United States.
Miura will be arraigned next Tuesday.

Helen Sj√∂holm and Tito Beltran singing “The Prayer” during the Rhapsody in Rock Tour in 2000.
I trained to be an opera singer — a tenor — and I have performed roles and in concerts with opera companies throughout the South, so you’d think I might have noticed the ongoing drama overseas with talented Chilean/Swedish tenor Tito Beltran. After all, I’m pretty sure I have a couple of recordings featuring Beltran and his name was immediately familiar to me.
Beltran has performed leading roles at some of the greatest opera houses in Europe: the Vienna Staatsoper; Covent Garden; and Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen, just to name a few. Beltran has also performed at several houses here in America, including the San Francisco Opera. Beltran has played the mercurial poet Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Boheme, the lovelorn and rather slow-witted Nemorino in Donizetti’s Elixir of Love and of course, the lecherous Duke in Verdi’s Rigoletto. According to his own bio on his website, Tito Beltran has performed with opera luminaries such as Placido Domingo, Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu.
Well, as the title of this post indicated, it looks as though this leading tenor may have had more in common with the Duke than with Rodolfo or Nemorino.
In 1999, Tito Beltran’s bio says he was called the “Artist of the Year” by Opera Now Magazine. Things were obviously going well. That same year he appeared in the Rhapsody in Rock concert tour in Sweden. One night after a concert, he raped an 18-year-old nanny in his hotel room.
Then in 2000 and 2002, Beltran “sexually exploited” a six-year-old girl who lived in Kungsbacka in western Sweden. He didn’t stop there. After the crimes against the little girl were reported to the authorities, Beltran allegedly harassed her father in an attempt to forestall any further judicial action.
Curiously, Beltran was first acquitted of all charges in a district court in Varberg, SE. The case was then reexamined as part of the appeals process and eventually, Beltran found himself in the Court of Appeal facing a combined case. He was convicted of all charges in February, 2008. The verdict against the tenor was unanimous. The court levied several thousand dollars of fines against the singer as well.
The case against Beltran relied less on forensic evidence and more on witness testimony, which was consistent. But Beltran’s status as an opera star in Europe seemed to be in his favor — other well-known musicians were more than willing to speak up on his behalf. Robert Wells, the musician who ran the Rhapsody in Rock tour, admitted that he just couldn’t believe the charges against the singer.
At one point, in January, Beltran even brought some of the drama from the operatic stage into the courtroom, as Wells was giving testimony in the case. Beltran, according Sweden’s English news outlet The Local, “burst into tears and collapsed” in court. Beltran’s lawyer described his client “lying on the floor vomiting,” and said it was “really serious.”
Beltran’s sentence in this case, less than 3 years in prison, may seem paltry by U.S. standards. For a tenor who once commanded the storied stages of Europe’s great houses, it is virtually a life sentence. The fall is Shakespearian in scope, from my perspective. I’ve put out feelers to friends in the world of opera for any anecdotes regarding this case, but most of my friends are Americans and never encountered Beltran when he performed here. If I do receive any comments or correspondence about this operatic Icarus, I’ll post them in another entry.

Promotional video for Joe Son as a mixed martial arts fighter.
So back in May, a friend of Joe Son’s filed a vandalism charge against the actor turned mixed martial artist turned loser. Joe Son, who is 37, was required to give his DNA.
Whoops. Son’s DNA generated a cold hit in the California database, and on October 1, he was charged with 5 felony counts of forcible rape, two counts of forcible sodomy, seven felony hits for forcible oral sex, two counts of “sodomy in concert by force” and the nasty cherry on the top of this sexual predator’s sundae, a felony count of sexual penetration by a foreign object, by force.
A gang rape occurred on Christmas Eve, 1990, when Son was 19 or 20, and California authorities think Son was a participant.
Son, a native of Huntington Beach, CA first came to fame playing a character named Random Task in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
Son decided to become an MMA fighter at some point, but according to the always-reliable Wikipedia (that’s a joke, for the humor-challenged among you), he retired with a 0-4 record. Son was apparently better known for dragging a crucifix into the ring before his fights and for wearing very little in the ring.
Joe Son’s MySpace: His general interests were listed as “The Bible. Throwing Shoes.” Under “About Me,” Son wrote, “I’m the founder of Josondo. You may remember me from an early UFC event as that asian fellow who took 10 straight punches to the pills. I also played Random Task in the first ‘Austin Powers’ movie.”
“Josondo” is apparently Son’s own made-up thing.
TMZ noted that if Son is convicted of the counts against him, he may face up to 275 years in prison. Plenty of time to perfect his “josondo” on amorous cellmates eager to show the guy what “gang rape” really means.
[ and TMZ.]

findingcaylee.jpgIt looks as though the State of Florida and the Orange County Sheriff are working towards finally leveling murder charges against Casey Anthony, the mother of missing Orlando toddler Caylee Anthony. A grand jury may convene to hear the evidence in this case next week in Orange County. A new truckload of documents have been released in this case as well. Check them out here. This document dump also pertains to charges that Casey wrote checks on former friend Amy Huizenga’s checking account.
If it seems like I’m writing this brief update as fast as I can so I can get the psychic stink of this case off my computer screen, well, I am. []

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Google Street View of Knoxville Center Mall.
A shooting occurred in a Knoxville, TN mall around 4:30 p.m. today. Two people were hit, at least one was killed. The Knoxville Police say one person has been taken into custody. The shooting occurred inside the Knoxville Center Mall, which was formerly known as the East Towne Mall. (At least it was when I worked in the Florsheim Shoe Shop there in the early 90s. ~ Ed.)
The shooting may have stemmed from a confrontation between the shooter and at least one employee inside Reno Menswear. Knox County commissioner Greg Lambert was among the witnesses.
Witnesses told local TV station WBIR that they heard at least 3 shots. A witness who spoke to the Knoxville News Sentinel said that there might have been as many as “10 to 15 gunshots.” One person who left a comment on the article published by the station stated that they worked in the mall. Using the screen name k-rock23, the commenter wrote, “[My] manager said that it was a centralized shooting […] people might have died east towne or not and second there were previous shots around 3:35 or so because i heard them but no one ran until the shots rang out around 4:30. It was a semi automatic so there were more than 3 shots.”
Another comment on the same article (linked below — be sure to read the comments there) was from screen name “Tygrasong,” who wrote, “My husband and a friend were inside the mall when the guy came in. Thank God the guy at Game Stop warned them to get out. The shots rang out not long after they were outside. Neither of them are injured. He called me after he left to tell me what happened…”
WBIR reports that firefighters and police are on the scene, collecting evidence.
[Knoxville News Sentinel and]

From the “saw it coming miles away department” — what network could be better suited to dramatizing the story of the mysterious disappearance of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway from the island of Aruba at the end of May, 2005? Lifetime, the women’s cable channel, of course. [WSB Atlanta]

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Google Street View of the Padilla residence.
Police in Independence, Kentucky are still trying to sort out the tragedy of the Padilla family. So far, it’s looking like a murder suicide.
A call came in about a fire at 1866 Freedom Trail in Independence on Tuesday night. Emergency responders were able to rescue a 2-year-old little girl found close to the front door of the burning home, but just after they recovered the child, they realized someone was shooting at them from inside the house.
The gunfire stopped and police and fire officials entered the home to find three dead bodies: Lori Padilla, age 45; her 43-year-old husband Seaward Padilla; and their daughter Jessica Padilla, age 22. The Padillas died from gunshot wounds.
Authorities haven’t told local media whether or not they recovered a weapon. They also gave no indication as to who may have fired the shots. Independence Police Sergeant Scott Paul told a local publication that a “tragedy of this nature takes some time to unravel.”
It seems clear that someone in the house was alive when EMS first got there, and that they died at some point after the child — Jessica Padilla’s daughter — was rescued.
Usually in cases like this — but not always — the father is the killer.
Yet Seaward Padilla, at first glance, didn’t fit the mold of the hyper-controlling and often rigid personality that tends to surface in investigations into family annihilations. The most classic example of such a “family annihilator” was John Emil List, a pathologically uptight Episcopalian accountant who was on the lam for almost 18 years after murdering his family in November, 1971. Then again, there may be substantial differences between men who kill their families and then commit suicide and men who murder their families and go on the run.
Padilla had been a bus driver in the past, and he was so good at his job that a parent once nominated him for an outstanding work award from the county school board, saying in part that Seaward was “absolutely wonderful” and “good with the children.” Seaward, who drove bus 17, was “the best bus driver we ever had.”
Seaward Padilla was also a photographer. He had a MySpace profile to host his photos: In his “About me” on that page, Seaward told a great deal about himself — including the fact that he struggled with something he referred to as “severe pain”:

I find it very relaxing while takening photos. I have a lot of PRO cameras and lenes and I feel (and many other people have told me) that I know how to use them. Because of my medical issues I sometimes will shoot a wedding for them. I just have such a peace when I have a camera in my hand. The phototgraphy has a way of helping me with my severe pain. I am sorry for having to place the initials SP in the majority of my pictures but since some of my pictures are for sale I must try to protect myself. I am sure that you can understand. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA and moved to Kentucky about 9 years ago. There were many plusses and minuses about the move but overall I would never think about moving back to CA. I am happily married to my lovely wife Lori, for almost 15 years and I look forward to living the rest of my life and getting old with her. I am a VERY PROUD GRANDPA! If you can stand to look at ALL of my shots of her you can see that she is worthy of every single shot and then some. Please check back often as I update the site. Thank you for sharing a moment of your time with me. I hope you will enjoy the eye candy and look forward to hearing from you soon…

The photos were clearly the product of a trained eye and for the most part, professional in appearance. One of Seaward’s more arresting photos was the one he chose for his profile pic. It showed a man in a fishing cap sitting at the end of a pier, the ocean stretching away to the horizon. The well-composed scene was both tranquil and lonely. Looking at it after reading about the death of the Padilla family lent the image a ghostly, mysterious quality. I wondered who the man was, and if it was Seaward, why he chose the photo for his MySpace. His last login was on October 7 — Tuesday.
That was the last day his daughter Jessica logged in as well. Her profile was private, but she was clearly a proud mother to her daughter, for her profile title was “Jaycee’s Mommy.” Jessica’s last mood icon read “excited.”
Picking apart someone’s online presence only yields guesses in the end, though. To figure out why a man might destroy his family along with himself is something that can only be done by studying that family’s history and how they interacted with one another.
Most of the time, that doesn’t happen. Such tragedies are usually too great to bear for those left behind. Talking in-depth about what might have led up to the fatal moments in question ends up being salt in the wounds. So we may, in the end, be left with that last image on Seaward Padilla’s profile, of the lone figure sitting in the sunlight at the end of the dock, the rolling blue sea in front of him or her. Peaceful, yes, but also mysterious and utterly alone.

From CantonRep on YouTube: an interview with one of Brett Smith’s neighbors.
A neighbor with whom murder victim Brett Smith has had confrontations in the past has been arrested and charged with felony vandalism. Police arrested William Douglas Perry, age 41, on Monday. They have not said if Perry is suspected of killing Smith.
Brett’s decapitated remains were found by his mother Judy, who called 911 and said, “His head isn’t there.” It looked as though someone also attempted to burn some rugs in the oven in Brett’s kitchen.
In August, Brett Smith told police that William Perry hit him in the face. Perry’s arrest appears to be connected to an incident that took place on September 30, when someone busted the glass cover on Brett’s electric meter.
While Perry does have a criminal history and has served prison time, his girlfriend, Susan Lockard, defended him to local media, saying “there are other suspects out there.”
William Perry is in the Stark County, OH jail on $100,000 bail.

zreid.jpgAuthorities in Neenah, Wisconsin have charged 16-year-old Zachary B. Reid with his father’s murder. Cops found Brett Reid, age 53, in the trunk of his own vehicle, which was parked in an elementary school parking lot.
One of Zach Reid’s mistakes was confiding in his friends. In fact, he evens sought their help.
On October 5 police came to the home that Suzanne Cayse shares with her 14-year-old daughter. The daughter, who hasn’t been named, had a story to tell. She and her boyfriend (they were referred to as KAC and JMTR in court documents published online by the Appleton Post-Crescent) had received a weird call that morning from their mutual pal Zachary B. Reid.
At first Zach said he couldn’t go out. Then he called back and said no, he could go out. Could they give him a ride?
The teen couple went to Zach’s home. He came out and told them to wait, he wanted them to follow him in his father’s car.
Zachary Reid came down the steps dragging a body inside a white bag. He lay the grisly package in the grass for a moment and went back to his friends. He told them that he’d murdered his father. Naturally, the couple became a little nervous.
Zach said they didn’t need to worry. According to court papers, he said he had it covered. Then Zach told them what happened.
The 16-year-old (the criminal complaint indicated that he was born in December, 1991) said he’d approached his father from behind and strangled him to death.
Zach allegedly then put his father’s body in the trunk of the victim’s car and his friends followed him over to an elementary school parking lot.
That was where police found Brett Reid. He was wrapped in a white blanket. A white plastic bag was over Reid’s head. The bag was secured to the dead man’s head with a black belt.
Police brought Zach Reid in for questioning. The criminal complaint against the teen states that he “choked the victim with the intent of causing him to pass out” but he “went too far” and killed his dad. Zach tried to enhance the story. He said that his father had pulled a knife on him. Here Zach tried to be the hero — he told police that he put his father in a chokehold. He said his father dropped the knife but Zach wanted him to pass out, so he maintained the hold, even as he said his father tried to kick him in the balls.
But Brett Reid died, and Zach set about wrapping his dad’s body to take it out to dump. Zach told the detectives that carrying his father’s body down the steps was awkward, and even noted his father’s head bouncing on the steps as Zach dragged him along.
Zach Reid was searched prior to being taken to jail. Police found a prescription bottle full of oxycodone with Brett Reid’s name on the label. They also found some weed.
Lisa Reid, Zach’s mom, may have revealed the reality of the situation — she told police that Zach had been grounded. She also said that she’d never seen any sort of physical confrontation between Zach and his dad. She did say, though, that Zach was physically larger than his father, and that her son had appeared to sometimes use this to his advantage. Lisa Reid told the cops that her husband was, in the words of the criminal complaint, “probably afraid” of his son.
The DA for Winnebago County, WI told the Post Crescent that Zach Reid had a journal in which he spoke of killing Brett Reid, removing his teeth and burning the body. He also alleged that Reid has threatened to cut out the tongues or even kill people who pissed him off.
Zachary Reid is being held on a $300,000 cash bond.
[ and]