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. [WBIR.com and KnoxNews.com.]

findingcaylee.jpgA half-million dollar bond was posted Wednesday for Casey Anthony, the 22-year-old mother of missing Orlando-area toddler Caylee Anthony. The bail was provided by bounty hunter Leonard Padilla and his nephew Tony. Casey may be home by Thursday night.
Leonard Padilla is a well-known character from Sacramento, California, where he has been tried and convicted of tax evasion and run for political office. He is currently featured on the reality show Bounty Hunter, on the National Geographic Channel.
Speaking to local Orlando media, Padilla said that Casey is “going to her home with her parents, and hopefully somewhere down the road she’ll decide, ‘Hey this is the truth of the matter, this is what happened.'”
Padilla also said, apparently without a trace of irony, that he and his nephew had had to contend with “bondsmen from other companies that didn’t want this to happen and they kept injecting themselves into the situation.”
Yeah. About that “injecting” thing… why would a bounty hunter who happens to have his own reality show want to involve himself in any way with the most high-profile missing child case in the country at the moment? A case where the Florida media has done a bang-up job of making all sorts of court documents available to the public?
Why would a man who (obvious penchant for self-aggrandizement aside) has a rep for being a pretty good bounty hunter buy what the Anthony family and Casey’s lawyer, Jose Baez, are selling?
I think it’s all about injecting one’s self into a certain situation, in the end. I imagine reality series producers are in the background, and cameras are rolling, constantly.
And it all makes me sick. (Hey, this is blogging, after all — I’m going to just put it out there sometimes.)
Blogging about the disappearance of Caylee Anthony makes me sick. So much seems so obvious — her mother Casey has lied to the police, repeatedly, apparently with no trace of shame or remorse. Every “tip” reported in the case, every alleged sighting of the little girl, has been blatantly bogus. The police long ago cleared anyone in the Orlando area named Zenaida Gonzalez of any involvement in Caylee’s disappearance. Time and again, Casey Anthony’s behavior seems to point back to her as having much more knowledge about what happened to her daughter than she will ever reveal.
Now this bounty hunter circus comes to town, and further enables a young woman who seems to have benefited from quite a bit of enabling in her life. People seeking a few episodes and higher ratings for their shows — and in the end, more money and fame — bail her out of jail. Casey will be able to sleep in her own bed, watch TV, eat fast food, you name it. Her family and her attorney will keep the cops at bay, and the bounty hunters completely obfuscate the press coverage. It all begins to look like misdirection, sleight-of-hand performed not with a coin or playing card, but with the truth. The story has been about George, Cindy, and Casey Anthony. Now the Padillas have injected themselves into the story. And people can make all the winsome looking images they like with the little girl’s face — but at the moment, Caylee Anthony is an afterthought. The circus is in full swing. Soon enough it will be like the murder of JonBenet Ramsey — all the leads will be exhausted, and there will only be clowns in the ring, constantly thrusting themselves in front of the camera, as a little girl watches from the shadows, alone. [Local6.com]

jeremynoyes.jpgThe FBI says that Jeremy Noyes, a 30-year-old med student living in Erie, PA planned to create a sex farm or private island retreat stocked with female slaves. The feds also say Noyes had child porn in one of his e-mail accounts. So they arrested him on August 18 and charged him with two counts of possessing child pornography.
Authorities were tipped off when Noyes’s ex became concerned about Noyes’s interest in kids. Elizabeth Fleming, who was enrolled with Noyes at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, gave the FBI e-mails from Noyes in which he outlined a sick desire to begin a “new society.”
The messages also described Alex and her child Abby, who allegedly lived in New Zealand. Noyes said he met Alex via collarme.com, a fetish site for folks with an interest in BDSM (Fleming got to know Noyes through the site as well).
The FBI’s affidavit filed to support the charges against Jeremy Noyes states that Noyes would IM with Alex and instruct her in the proper preparation of her 4-year-old child “for sexual activity.” The same affidavit told of a conversation during which Noyes told Fleming that he had a long-term plan to put together what he called a “family” of sex slaves. Alex and Abby from New Zealand were to be the seeds of that family. According to Fleming, Noyes stated that he’d wait until Abby was between 8 and 14 years old, then impregnate her. Her offspring would be the fulfillment of this sick plan. The affidavit states that Noyes planned to purchase “a farm or an island where he could” form his new society.
Jeremy Noyes is in the Erie County jail. His next hearing is Thursday. If he’s convicted on the child porn charges, Noyes could face anywhere from 10 to 40 years in prison.
The affidavit published by The Smoking Gun leaves out many other allegations made by Elizabeth Fleming, including her statement — made in a blog entry — that Noyes claimed he’d committed murder — and gotten away with it.

bmendenhall2.jpgPolice in Nashville, TN believe Bruce Mendenhall has killed people in Tennessee, Indiana, Georgia and Alabama. He’s been charged with 3 murders so far, including the June, 2007 murder of Sara Nicole Hulbert, in Nashville. Mendenhall is also suspected of committing murders in Lake Station, Indiana and Sewanee, GA.
After Mendenhall’s arrest in the summer of 2007, blood evidence began to tell a gruesome story — the long-haul trucker may have killed at least 5 women, maybe many more. He allegedly targeted victims in straitened circumstances; prostitution, drug abuse and poverty seemed to connect many of the names connected with Mendenhall since his arrest.
Mendenhall was arrested after one of Nashville’s more storied detectives, New York native Pat Postiglione, went to a Nashville truck stop seeking more evidence in the Hulbert case. Postiglione knew that he might be seeking a trucker with a distinctive yellow semi. That trucker was Bruce Mendenhall. Postiglione happened to spot Mendenhall’s truck that day, and he spoke to the driver. Seeing blood on one of the cab doors to the truck, Postiglione got the driver’s permission to search the cab. Among the items found in the search: plastic wrap, a knife, sex toys, bullets, a razor blade, latex gloves and a nightstick. Nashville police were thorough; Mendenhall was done. He’s been in jail ever since.
But when a man gets into the habit of murder, it may be hard for him to stop. So that may just be why Bruce Mendenhall recently had some new charges slapped on him, for five counts of solicitation to commit first-degree murder. Nashville’s Metro PD say Mendenhall tried to “arrange the murders of Metro Police Homicide Sergeant Pat Postiglione, Homicide Detective Lee Freeman, and three witnesses” against him. A press release from the department quoted Chief Ronal Serpas: “Allegations of retaliation or planned retribution against police officers or witnesses are extremely serious and will be immediately and vigorously investigated […] Such conduct cannot and will not be tolerated by this police department.”
Since Mendenhall is 57 and has been driving for years, he may have a long trail of victims stretching back across the years. If police manage to hang at least one on the trucker, it will probably be enough to put him away for the rest of his life. [WSMV and Nashville Police]

Bounty hunters Tony Padilla and his uncle, Leonard Padilla, have come to Florida from their home base in California to bail out Casey Anthony and help find her missing daughter, Caylee.
caseymanthony.JPGThat’s what they say, anyway. Leonard Padilla, speaking to Fox News: “There’s a reward out there; I’m not interested in the reward […] If the person that has the child contacts me, they can have the reward — I’m not law enforcement, I’m not interested in the prosecution or sending somebody to prison — my only interest, myself and my nephew, is to get that child back.”
Leonard Padilla obviously isn’t law enforcement. He appears to buy the Anthony family’s line — that Caylee is alive out there, somewhere, and can be brought home to her mother and grandparents, safe and sound. It’s hard to believe that anyone with a lawman’s instinct could examine the many publicly-available court documents in this case, the transcripts of phone calls between Casey and her family, phone calls from Casey’s mother, Cindy, to 911, and not conclude that Caylee is long gone, and that her mother may have had something to do with her disappearance.
Actually, Padilla couldn’t be law enforcement if he wanted — according to archived articles from the Sacramento Bee, he served a year in federal prison in the early 90s. Bee reporter Denny Walsh wrote in 1991 that though Padilla had “a widespread reputation as a wily and successful tracker of bail jumpers,” he was also, according to a Sacramento prosecutor, “the largest non-filer [of federal income tax]in the history of the sprawling, 34-county federal judicial district based in Sacramento.”
Being in federal prison for a year for tax evasion didn’t stop Padilla from running for Mayor of Sacramento in 1992. He lost, but he surely got points from the public at large for sheer ballsiness.
News articles from Sacramento reveal one thing — Padilla and his family, many of them also in the bail bondsman biz, are no strangers to publicity, and not shy about seeking the same.
Tony Padilla and his Uncle Leonard may truly believe they can help crack the case of the disappearing little girl from Orange County, Fla. Perhaps they’ll bond Casey Anthony out of jail tomorrow, and the $500,000 of trust they show the young woman will be enough for her to finally help someone unravel the mystery of what happened to her daughter.
The cynical truth here is more likely that Padilla and Co. see a major opportunity for publicity. Perhaps a chance to eclipse the likes of Duane “Dog” Chapman, the bemulleted, ex-con bail bondsman based in Hawaii who has his own television show.
The cynical truth is that the story is still about anything but what really happened to Caylee. The story here isn’t about finding a missing little girl. If the Anthony case wasn’t a circus before, it certainly is, now. As more and more clowns enter the picture, the little girl fades further into the background. [Fox News]

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. [News10.net]

hegomoitoiret.jpg
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. [smh.com.au, MonstersandCritics.com, 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. [KOMO.com, the Seattle Times.]

chichesterockefeller.JPGIt should be no surprise to anyone that the FBI has confirmed that the man who first came to public notice as Clark Rockefeller is actually a German immigrant named Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter.
Basically, the feds matched prints from immigration papers Gerhartsreiter filed in the 80s to prints left by ‘Rockefeller’ on a wineglass around the time he allegedly abducted his daughter, Reigh Boss, in July of this year.
Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, Gerhartsreiter’s lawyer continues to float his client’s defense that he can’t remember much before 1993. Gerhartsreiter does seem to remember the couple to whose disappearance he’s been linked, John and Linda Sohus, and he remembers living in their guesthouse under the pseudonym Christopher Chichester. But attorney Stephen Hrones insists Gerhartsreiter can’t recall much more than that.
And the reason for the Chichester name? Hrones says Gerhartsreiter “was aspiring to be an actor” in California.
By the way — as far as I can tell, I was the first to report the man’s full name, Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, and the fact that he was once married to an Amy Jersild, in Wisconsin. At the time I figured it was the man in custody, but couldn’t say for sure. A few days later, Boston newspapers confirmed what I found in public records accessed through an online database.
Just saying.
I’m beginning to wonder who will write the script when this becomes a movie, or at the very least, a made-for-cable miniseries. [BBC NEWS | Americas]