Filed under: murder

Longtime Publicist Ronni Chasen Murdered, Casting Directors Threatened: What the Hell is Going On in Hollywood?

Earlier today the entertainment world was shaken by the murder of 64-year-old Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen. Chasen died of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest received as she drove through Beverly Hills a little after midnight. Responding to calls about gunfire in the area, police arrived at the scene to find Chasen slumped in her Mercedes, which had struck a lamppost.

Chasen, who had represented the likes of composer Hans Zimmer and producer Richard Zanuck, had just attended the premiere and after-party for BURLESQUE, a new film featuring Cher.

Little is known about Chasen’s death at the moment, save that she was shot at least 5 times and police have yet to determine a motive for the crime.

The events are probably unrelated, but this item was published today by Backstage.com: “Casting Directors Receive Death Threat.” An excerpt from the article, written by Daniel Holloway:

On Nov. 7, five casting directors in the Los Angeles area received death threats via their office telephones. The recipients reached out to Teamsters Local 399 and were encouraged by the union to alert security personnel at the studios where they work and the local police.

Teamsters business representative Ed Duffy, who confirmed to Back Stage that the threats had occurred, sent a mass email to members of the L.A. casting community warning them of the phone calls and encouraging anyone else who has been threatened to come forward. On Monday, Duffy was contacted by a sixth casting director who had been threatened.

So just over a week ago, a number of LA-area casting people receive death threats. (Is this common? It’s hard to tell from the article.) Then very early on Nov. 16, Ronni Chasen, a high-powered publicist, was brutally murdered.

Again–the chances are these things are unrelated. Casting directors and publicists often deal with opposite ends of the movie-making timeline–the beginning of shooting and the premiere, respectively–but at the moment the death threats seem at the very least like an interesting coincidence.

[NYT]

Jerome Sydney Barrett Indicted in Trimble Case

Click here see my previous entries about the unsolved murder of Marcia Trimble.

Today, Nashville District Attorney Torry Johnson finally announced charges against convicted sexual predator Jerome Sidney Barrett for the murder of the Green Hills school girl on Feb. 25, 1975. A grand jury handed down the indictment on Tuesday.

Barrett is currently locked up on another charge connected to the 1975 murder of college student Sarah Des Prez. He previously served several years in prison for rape. During that time he fought against being labeled the kind of predator who targeted children, even though he wasn’t connected to the Trimble case until 2007.

The story of Marcia’s murder , which haunted my hometown and my generation of Nashville natives in particular (since Marcia was a member of that generation), may now be on its final chapters after all. It really may have been a stranger all along — the very thing no one believed about the Trimble case when it first hit the news 33 years ago.

Also see this detailed article in the Nashville Post: “Arrest made in Trimble case.”

Talking About Marcia Trimble *UPDATED*

The following are links to previous entries I’ve written about the murder of Marcia Trimble, one of Nashville, Tennessee’s most infamous unsolved crimes. Marcia was murdered 33 years ago yesterday, on February 25, 1975:

Recently, my friend Meredith Harris — referenced in the first post linked above — went to Nashville to speak with journalist Demetria Kalodimos, one of the long-time anchors at Nashville’s legendary NBC affiliate, WSMV, Channel 4.

The online article about Meredith’s interview can be read here:

Marcia Trimble’s Friend Discusses Case.”

The video of Meredith’s interview can be seen here. I strongly recommend watching the video, if possible. Demetria let images, archival tapes, and of course Meredith herself tell Meredith’s part of the story with care, without any added drama. It’s truly compelling, even if you’ve not been following the Trimble case for 3 decades, as I have.

If the video is ever available in a YouTube-like format, I will definitely post it here.

Another installment of Meredith’s interview will be shown tonight. This post will be updated once that segment and an article are both available via WSMV’s website.

UPDATE, 2/26/08

The second article covering Meredith Harris’s interview is here:

Friend Says Trimble’s Death Changed Lives.”

The video of the segment is here.

Bobby Cutts Jr. Found Guilty

Previous entries about the murder of Jessie Davis:
Bobby Cutts Jr. has been found guilty on several counts of murder. On one count of aggravated murder, he was found not guilty. The weight of the guilty verdicts will surely mitigate the lone “not guilty.”

DALAW150 fought the law, and the law damn sure won, this time. Cutts may face the death penalty for his crimes.

Source: MSNBC

Madman With a Meat Cleaver: The Murder of Kathryn Faughey *UPDATED AGAIN, 2/16/08*

It sounded like the sort of murder a screenwriter might concoct: respected psychologist hacked to death by cleaver-wielding patient. To anyone who entered the office of Dr. Kathryn Faughey after 9 p.m. on Tuesday, it was a terrible reality.

The New York Daily News reported that Faughey was attacked “during a therapy session.” The attack on the therapist was ferocious. A law enforcement source told the Daily News that Dr. Faughey’s killer “bent two knives – the cleaver and a 9-inch blade with a camouflage handle” during the attack.

Dr. Faughey’s colleague tried to help, but therapist Kent Shinbach ended up with severe injuries of his own. He was hospitalized in critical condition.

The blood-soaked killer exited the building through a basement door, passing several security cameras along the way. According to the Daily News, police think they know who killed the psychologist.

One witness told the newspaper that the killer “looked like a psycho.” (Police sketch of the “psycho” is on the left — click to enlarge.)

Kathryn Faughey had a website that explained a type of therapy she used, “adaptation psychology.” About herself, Dr. Faughey wrote that she was “interactive” and that she gave “feedback.” Her approach to cognitive therapy was effective, and practiced in a “warm, clear, and lively manner.”

Dr. Faughey had been interviewed by more than one New York media outlet, and seemed trusted and well-liked. She was mentioned on a webpage created for people with an interest in treating weight problems through therapy. Someone signing off only as “B. N. in NYC” wrote that the doctor was “very friendly open and compassionate. I would highly recommend her.”

On an early version of her site, Adaptation.net, Dr. Faughey explained her work in some detail:

Sometimes people fear that such services make take too long to be effective. Or, that “talking about it won’t help.” Or, that they will be asked to talk extensively about their childhood; to the expense of time and money.

Most people need to talk about the “real” life problems they are currently experiencing.

It may be a health issue; a relationship issue; an employment issue; perhaps it concerns a death; or a diagnosis.

Others cannot put it so easily into words . They may say ,”I just don���t know why I am unhappy.”.

And so, my approach is directed to meet these needs.

[…]

I take a two pronged approach. Yes, factors in our past shape our current feelings. These factors are a combination of genes and early family learning. Yet, as we look back we must also look at the present and implement the adaptations necessary to our current positions, problems, and longings.

With careful consideration to each individual’s needs and circumstances; full confidentiality is assured; and, referrals are made to other professionals or techniques when necessary.

Police were still searching for Kathryn Faughey’s killer early Wednesday. He has been described as a “middle aged, blonde-haired male,” and was probably a Dr. Faughey’s patient.

UPDATE, 3:28 p.m. ET

This is incredibly bizarre. The following details have been revealed about the suspected killer of Dr. Kathryn Faughey:

Police said they recovered three knives from the scene including the cleaver; a suitcase on wheels filled with women’s clothing — including slippers and a blouse — and adult diapers; and another bag filled with eight smaller knives that were not believed to have been used in the attack…

So far, this is making the case of Peter Braunstein, the fake firefighter/rapist, look like child’s play.

It’s a cliche in cases like this, but damn, it’s just true — you can’t make stuff like that up. Well, you could, but no one would believe you.

Additional link: New York Times, “Man Sought in Psychologist’s Stabbing.

UPDATE, 2/14/08

EDIT: AS OF 3:30 P.M, THE NEW YORK POST WAS REPORTING THAT BILL KUNSMAN HAD BEEN QUESTIONED AND RELEASED.

In the comments left on this post, “thefirstdiane” linked this NY Daily News article naming Pennsylvania musician William “Bill” Kunsman as the man currently being questioned in connection with Kathryn Faughey’s murder.

Faughey posted to an online forum for Martin devotees as “LittleAnna,” as did Kunsman. The forum has been made private since the therapist’s murder on Tuesday, but a search of “LittleAnna” and “Kathryn Faughey” together gave a few cached results.

At the moment Kunsman is only under questioning in part because of e-mails he apparently sent to Faughey prior to her death. As of Thursday afternoon, he has not been named a suspect in the murder of Dr. Faughey.

Additional link: New York Times article mentioning Kunsman.

UPDATE, 5:42 p.m. ET

Thanks again to “thefirstdiane” for this somewhat unexpected update: “Source: Victim identifies cleaver killer.” Quoting from WABC:

[The] surviving victim of the attack that left a psychologist dead has identified the man questioned today by police in Pennsylvania as the killer. The Distritct Attorney is awaiting forensic evidence before an arrest is made…

Again, that man was one William “Bill” Kunsman. Links to Kunsman’s online presence were removed from the previous update following news that he’d been released from custody by Pennsylvania authorities. One page linked held a bio of Kunsman, which read in part:

William Kunsman began his musical career in 1983 when, fresh out of high school, he joined the United States Marine Corps as a trumpet player for the band. In 1984, while attending the Naval School of Music in Norfolk, VA he began to play guitar and to experiment with songwriting. While in the Marines, William served in field bands in New Orleans, LA and Okinawa, Japan and applied his guitar skills in a jazz/rock ensemble.

Following his military service William tried for several years to put together a hard rock band, without success, but continued to build upon his skill as a guitarist.

In 1993 William made the unlikely transition from hard rock to all acoustic music. He expanded his repertoire when he took-up fiddle and learned to play in the West Virginia, old-timey, mountain style. In the 1990’s, he played with the Pennsylvania-based bluegrass group Willow Creek and was a founding member of the traditional bluegrass band Mountain Heritage. For both groups, Kunsman original compositions were repertoire staples. Bluegrass festival-goers in the NorthEast and listeners of WDIY radio program, Heartland’s Hayride, were soon toe-tapping to William Kunsman’s music.

Both Kunsman’s and Dr. Faughey’s names were on a webpage listing attendees to an event for Martin Guitar devotees in 2006.

A personal opinion: I don’t think the man seen in a photo accompanying this article — it’s Kunsman — resembles the suspect sketch at all. True, the angle is totally different, but he has thick, curly hair and doesn’t appear to be balding. Kunsman also doesn’t appear to be overweight in any of the photos found of him online. Dr. Faughey’s killer could have worn padded clothing, of course — in a murder this strange, you can’t really rule anything out.

I must add this, however — the killer allegedly said to surviving victim Kent Shinbach, “I know where you live.”

The only addresses I could find for a 70-year-old Kent Shinbach outside of his office address in Manhattan were in Pennsylvania.

Additional link: You can buy Bill Kunsman’s Acousticology 101 cd here.

UPDATE, 2/16/08, 4:15 p.m. ET

As has been noted in the comments left on this post, police have a new person of interest in the Kathryn Faughey murder investigation.

The man being questioned in New York is 39 (or 40)-year-old telemarketer David Tarloff. Tarloff reportedly fits the physical description of the suspect and was once a patient of Dr. Kent D. Shinbach, the surviving victim of the attack. Tarloff also has a history of mental illness and violent behavior.

Additional article referencing Tarloff: NY Times, “Queens Man Questioned in Killing of Therapist.”

**UPDATE, 6:43 p.m. ET**

David Tarloff has been arrested. Tarloff apparently told police that he went to the office with a plan to rob the Kent Shinbach, who had Tarloff institutionalized 17 years ago. Tarloff said he would then take his mother and flee the U.S. As Tarloff’s mother was in a nursing home, this may explain the bizarre clues found in the rolling suitcases, including the adult diapers.

(This entry may be updated and revised.)

"The Screams Painted on the Walls…"

The weather was cold, as it usually is in Colorado in February, but in the home at 705 West Brome Place in Lafayette, there was partying afoot, and strangely, the windows were always open.

The neighbors had not seen Linda Damm, the owner of the home, in at least 3 weeks. But her kid was going wild. Tess Damm had boys over at all hours. It appeared her boyfriend was living there. The black Acura Linda bought for Tess was being driven by the boyfriend. The kids were even doing stupid “jackass” stunts, like car-surfing with the Acura.

Linda kept a neat house. But now it was a mess, those open windows and cigarette butts in the yard.

Just what the hell was up at 705 West Brome Place, no one seemed to know.

From blog.myspace.com/blindian781, a poem posted February 19, 2007:

who am I?

i dont even know anymore…
i did something that i shouldnt have…
i did things that i shouldnt have…
but i did them…
with my two hands…
and one foot…
i hate myself for it….
i think i have been forgiven…
but…
it still kills me to know…
i just want to take a hammer to my head…
a needle to my veins…
i just want to drink a barrel of cyanide…
to make this pain go away…
its what i deserve for what i did…

[for those of you who dont know what i did]

[message me if you wish to know]

Blindian781 was Tess Damm’s boyfriend, Bryan, age 17. The Denver Post, in this article published March 2, 2007, named 15-year-old Tess, and quoted from her MySpace weblog, as well as Bryan’s.

On Wednesday, February 28, police came to the party house, acting on an anonymous tip. There they took 3 teens into custody.

The cops also found the body of Linda L. Damm. The Boulder County Coroner would later state that Damm died from stab wounds to her neck. Police would not say how long Linda Damm had been dead.

Perhaps the open windows had been an effort to alleviate the clinging odor of decomposition.

From Tess Damm’s weblog (identified by The Post through quotations, as they did with Bryan’s weblog), blog.myspace.com/harmonylala, a post made January 19, 2007, titled “My life”:

Everyone knows the story of me and my mom… and everyone knows how much I’ve tried to fix it my whole life. And everyone knows how it never works. I tried to get her help. I tried moving to California. I tried moving back to Colorado. I tried moving in with CJ, Hassan, Jermy and Bryan, then Burt and Bryan. Then moving back home with Bryan. And its just never enough. I could write a book about how confusing it is trying to please that woman… and trying to do whatever I can to get her to stop drinking. Like honestly, I’d do anything. But nothing really ever works. And the shit that goes on at home, frays out and effects every part of my life.

(…)

Bryan… me and him, we’re great. We get into stupid little fights a lot, but then again, who doesn’t? We love eachother, I can honestly say that we do, but sometimes I wonder about us. I treat him like shit, I know that and everyone else does too, but I’m trying to change for him. We live together now, and I’ve realized that like, literally, I can’t live without him. Believe me. I’ve tried. We have to be together, no matter what, and I like that. I miss him so much when he’s not around… and I take that as a good sign. With Bryan, I really don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks. I love him, he loves me, and thats all that matters.

So, this stuff that I’m about to write, it might be kinda of confusing, cuz I have no idea how to word it. But I’ll give it a try.

Today… I didn’t go to school. I know, I’m stupid. But like, I can’t help but think that my mom and my boyfriend don’t want me around during the days. They tried to wake me up this morning but I wouldn’t, and I can see me getting shit from my mom about not waking up… but Bryan? No way. I thought he liked spending time with me, and he was trying to convince me to actually go to school. Which is kinda wierd because he never really has before. But I’m probably making a big deal out of nothing. And my mom, I don’t even know whats up with that. She cries, and begs me to move back home, then I do, and she goes back to treating me like shit, like she doesn’t really want me here. [[Background INFO= =I’m Bi-Polar.]] And I feel bad staying here during the days. How does that work? I don’t even feel at home in my own home. Today, I got so pissed at my mom, she puts me under so much stress, honestly its insane, and I couldn’t handle it and I freaked out, my Bi-Polarness came out. And I can’t help but wonder if Bryan is looking at me get so angry and is like, “Oh, damn, this is not something I want to be with.” So I try to contain it. But anyone with Bi-Polar knows that the more you contain your anger, the worse it becomes. But I try anyways, and it kills me.

(…)

So this is about half of my life, theres still so much going on, but I’m just gonna leave it at this: I’m going to get through this life, regardless of whos behind me or not.

On an earlier incarnation of her MySpace profile, Tess wrote about Bryan with apparent frankness. The following quote was on her profile when it was cached by Google on February 10, 2007:

My one and only… Bryan. God, I love this boy with all of my heart. When I met Bryan, I was like, “No way, this guy isn’t like you. He’s not your kind. Your preppy, he’s like, gothic. It’ll never work out, stay away from him, your worlds won’t fit in together… he wouldn’t even consider you anyways.” And I know he was thinking the same kinda shit. And I have no idea what happened, but whatever it was, I’m so thankful for it. Bryan and I are in the best relationship either of us has ever been in… with eachother. We have the kind of relationship that people envy. The love we have for eachother is the kinda that most people only dream about their whole lives. Bryan is honestly the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I wouldn’t give that up for anything…

A still-earlier cached version of Tess’s profile from November of 2006 gave further insight into Tess’s view of the relationship she had with her mom and other family members. Perhaps she removed or edited what she wrote later because it felt too revealing — that, or family read her words:

My name is Tess… And I’m an alcoholic. Let me start from the beginning. This is my story. Since before I was born, my mom has been an alcoholic. An angry, raging, functional alcoholic. Until I was eleven, I had no idea what an alcoholic was. I thought that everybody’s parents acted like that, 24/7. But they don’t. And they shouldn’t. But my mom did. Sometimes it got violent. Other times it just got annoying. Having to take care of her all the time. Making sure she didn’t drink and drive, or do other things that could be possibly harmful. Then I stopped caring as much. I went out at night, didn’t come home til noon the next day… and I guess that made my mom drink even more. The more she drank, the worse I got. I started to drink too. I thought, “Hey, my mom does it every night… there must be something to it.” And there was. Drinking was like, a different world for me. I drank with friends, strangers… everybody. And it was GREAT. Drinking actually did really get my mind off of everything. All I was concentrated on was the boys, my friends and my shots of tequila and vodka. I partied all the time. Life was great. Except my home life. It got worse. Much worse. My mom had lost her job, and we were slowly running out of money. She drank. Only more. And since she had no job, the drinking wasn’t limited to nights and weekends anymore. It was all the time. And my grades were basically non-existent. I was failing all my classes, and I just didn’t care anymore. I ended up losing all my credits for the second semester of my freshman year. The only thing I cared about was drinking and partying. Getting two curfew tickets and almost getting in a crash with a drunk driver didn’t stop me either. I just kept going. Then I got into stealing my mom’s car… with Cree of course. And Tomeka too. Thats where this whole moving to California thing kicked in. My aunt found out about my mom’s alcoholism. We talked about it and we figured that moving out there to California to go to school for a year was my best bet. We were wrong. It was terrible. My aunt is a bitch! All the time. She yells every second and it just wasn’t what I expected it to be. I went to California to get away from the yelling and bullshit, and when I got there I was confronted with more. So I moved back to Colorado. Who knows whats going to happen to me? No one. But I’m just gonna have to wing it. See… after reading this, most people are gonna be thinking, “This girl is probably one messed up person.” And I’m gonna admit, I have my share of problems. But so does everybody else, and I’m getting through them. But this time I’m not on my own. I have Tomeka, and Cree, and Grace and a handfull of other people who are there for me. And they are helping me through this… and… I’m gonna be just fine.

From The Denver Post piece, written by reporters John Ingold, Manny Gonzales and Kieran Nicholson:

Neighbor Tim James said he saw Tess’ boyfriend running down the street Tuesday, screaming about a missing shoe.

“Just incoherent screaming,” James said. “It didn’t make any sense at all.”

Neighbors said Linda Damm and Tess fought often. Steve Weddig, who lives across the street from the house, said one day this summer Damm came to his house in tears.

“She told me on several occasions that ‘I’m having a lot of trouble with my daughter,”‘ Weddig recalled…

How long did Linda Damm (her maiden name was Juergens) lay inside her home? From February 19th through the night of the 28th?

One word stood out on Bryan’s MySpace profile; “DEATH.” The background image was two winged creatures, one dark, the other lighter, more classically angelic, and they were in a sad embrace. The other photos were of Tess. She was a slight blonde, who seemed to be working at cuteness, eyebrows raised, lips pursed.

Further down the page, Bryan/Blindian wrote:

I am Thy Blindian I am dark…. I love Tess =) and she loves me! she is the lovely lady on this page, I live with her, shes the greatest thing in this fucking world! ne of you checking her out? I think you are… DOUCHES!! i will slit your throat…

The couple seemed to think of themselves as a Romeo and Juliet for the Juggalo set.

Bryan’s bent in particular was towards the poetic. He had a separate MySpace profile here:

http://www.myspace.com/watthefuckwasthat.

In his weblog on that profile, Bryan wrote a poem in what appeared to be his first entry. It read, in part:

wobble,
waddling down hallways,
falling over,
stumbling over nothing,
climbing a ladder that doesnt exist,
swimming through the air,
we feel death cold,
upon our heads,
minding our own business,
boom were dead,
drunk with the fatality wound…

Bryan’s last blog entry there seemed to indicate two things, though — one, that he had a different girlfriend at the time, and two, that he was already having trouble with the law in mid-2006. He wrote the following on August 29, 2006:

Today Tuesday, August 29th @ 9a.m I am going to Boulder for an Assesment on whether im going to jail on Sept. 15th or not, please bare with me through this I cannot sleep call if u want, but if u are reading this, just know I love you, period, and Babe Allyson… I love you, and I always will, I will miss you all if I end up in jail, but remember this, watever happens to me, happens to me, I love you all

i bid you farwell,

|BlinDiaN|

Between the two of them, Tess Damm and her boyfriend Bryan, there seemed to be drama, poetry, and an undercurrent of violence and morbidity.

Was Linda Damm an obstacle to all of this, in the minds of the teens? On February 11, 2007, in his “blindian781” weblog, Bryan wrote this short poem:

my baby…

I miss you,
i cant see you
touch you or feel you,
i wish it wasnt so,
but im so far away,
my heart has already broken,
cause i had to depart from you,
im here without you and i hate it,
where are you baby?
where is my love?
I wish you knew how much I love you,
I wish you knew how much I miss you,
I need you…

Tess responded just a couple of hours later:

Baby I miss you too.
More than anything.
I hate you not being here,
And its hard to do everyday things without crying…
I miss you like crazy.
I love you baby.
We’ll be together soon!
I’m right here waiting for you baby.
Come home soon.
I love you.

P.S. Your gonna be really happy when you come home! Your wifey cleaned up the house and did ALL the laundry for you. =]

I LOVE YOU!

… And 8 days later Bryan was waxing lyrical about doing things he “shouldnt have” done. A week and a half after that, Linda Damm’s body was found in the home, stabbed to death, after the couple and their friends’ blatant partying began to alarm and trouble neighbors on West Brome Place.

What happened seems obvious. Someone, perhaps one of the teens, murdered Linda Brome. Then they proceeded to live in the house as if nothing had happened, to indulge themselves at will — partying when they wanted, turning the block into their playground. Mama was dead, and so was reality.

Bryan, though — he seemed to come to, here and there. The following is from his last post in his “blindian781” blog. He made the entry on the 26th, two days before he and Tess were taken into custody:

have you noticed…
the screams painted on the walls,
have you seen,
the mirrors on my eyes,
have you heard,
the growth in these veins,
do you know,
what lies beneath the surface,
have you seen,
the meaning of words,
have you heard,
the sounds of meaning,
have you contemplated,
the cause of your pain,
have you thought,
anything less of yourself,
have you overcome,
the passage through this life,
have you done the impossible?
have you been there,
have you been here?
no one,
no one,
is there,
no one is here…

If there were “screams painted on the walls,” it seems that Bryan and Tess had something to do with them. And for a time, they just didn’t give a damn.

This entry will be updated as needed.

UPDATE

For those of you curious about this case and doing any websleuthing in relation to it — in my research I noted one mention of Tess Damm on a VampireFreaks.com profile. That doesn’t mean she had one, but it’s an interesting lead I have yet to follow. The person who owned the profile made it clear Tess was NOT her friend. As the girl with the VF profile stated she was from Denver, the chances are excellent that she was talking about Tess Damm now suspected of having something to do with her mom’s murder.

Additionally, it looks as though Tess had ambitions to be a model or performer of some type at one point, but she didn’t follow through:

www.tessdamm1.exploretalent.com.

There isn’t much to see there save her real age, the fact that she was 5’3″ and just over 100 lbs.

I have yet to give out Bryan’s last name because I’m not certain I know it. I do believe Tess, Bryan, and perhaps a third person will be charged as adults, though. Think about it. They apparently played house while the murdered body of Linda Damm sat in one room of the residence decomposing.

Truly one of the more macabre crime stories I’ve encountered in a while.

UPDATE 2

An odd comment is worth noting from Tess Damm’s MySpace page. A friend with the screen name “Gwace” left this comment on February 22:

Hey hun. What was with the text message early this morning??

Message me.

Love you…

I found the comment interesting because the text message would have been sent just a day or two after February 19, which was when Bryan posted his poem about doing something he shouldn’t have done.

The twist here that has occurred to me, that bothers me, is this: How many in Tess’s and Bryan’s circle of friends knew that the couple and at least one other person were living in a house where a woman lay dead, and decomposing?

More than one person knew, I’m certain. I imagine the “anonymous tip” that brought police to the home on Wednesday, if it came by phone, was given by a youthful voice.

Incidentally, this blog attached to the Boulder Daily Camera gives Bryan’s last name — Bryan Grove.

This quote is from the Daily Camera, an article published today, written by reporter Christine Reid:

The decomposing body of a Lafayette mother — who had been stabbed in the neck multiple times as long as a month ago — was stuffed in the back of a Subaru wagon parked in her garage when police found her this week, sources said.

The grisly discovery led to the arrest of the victim’s daughter, Tess Damm, 15; the girl’s boyfriend, Bryan Grove, 17; and his friend, Jared Smith, 16; all who could be charged today in the homicide of Linda Juergens. The three teens attended Centaurus High School…

The mother was moved around, yet police are currently working on the theory that Grove committed the murder without Tess’s knowledge. If that is so, why would he be offering to tell friends via IM what he’d done? For he was evidently saying back on the 19th that he’d done something very serious.

A quote from Tess’s lawyer is in the article: “She’s still very much a kid…”

Not in Tess’s mind, she wasn’t. A look at her pages and how she referred to herself as “wifey” where Bryan was concerned makes that obvious.

Jared Smith’s lawyer claims Smith is more a witness than anything else in this case. If Bryan Grove was telling friends to instant message him back on the 19th to find out what he’d done, there are probably plenty of “witnesses.”

I think Tess knew exactly where her mother was, and what had happened.

And she didn’t care. If you read the quotes above from her blog and past incarnations of her MySpace profile, you get the idea Tess Damm was possibly even relieved.

UPDATE 3, 3/03/07

Reading the comments left on Bryan Grove’s MySpace page is pretty enlightening where the juvenile psychopath named Tess Damm is concerned. Her comments alone make you wonder, like this one, left December 1, 2006: “Ahh… My mom is SO going down lol.”

Tess mentions her mom more than once, in fact.

A comment left on this blog entry by “Jay” is also of interest:

I know the couple very well, I’ve known Bryan since he was in diapers. Tess for the last 5 years or so. Main points:
-Tess is a bitch, always will be always has been.
-Bryan is a sweetheart, he had a hard childhood and has a tendency to cling to anyone who is nice. He has the capability to turn obsessive over things, people. He’s mentally ill.
-The bitch brainwashed him. I’ve known from day one that she was bad news
-Shit happens and even though I’ve always had less than love for her I would have been the first to tell her that when you’re that age, your parents suck. That doesn’t mean you convince your boyfirend that you “couldn’t possibly live with your mother any longer”
-As long as I’ve know Bryan he’s been seeking to fill the void his mother left, Tess took that and screwed his life over

I live in Tess’s neighborhood, her house floorplan is the exact same as mine. Creepy right?

Buying into everything the media has to say can be exciting. But take it with a grain of salt, I’m not at all downplaying the gravity of what they have done.

They’re young.
He was my friend.
All of us are lost and confused…

Thanks, Jay. I can’t really imagine knowing people involved in such a strange and terrible crime.

UPDATE 4, 3/06/07

This link takes you to a police report about the arrest of Jared Guy, another teen who was recently arrested in connection with this case. Guy was arrested as an accessory. The story told in the document at the other end of the link is both gruesome and surreal. It portrays rootless teens making late-night treks to cemeteries to bury a dead body, only to think better of the idea later and return to bring Linda Damm’s remains back to the house on West Brome Place.

Another thing is clear from the police report, which was found via this news piece — Tess Damm may not have murdered her mother, but the report based on interviews with Jared Guy makes it appear that Tess was fully aware of what had happened and complicit in attempts to cover everything up.

Bryan Grove was remorseful, according to Guy, yet Guy reported that his friend also made this statement at one point, “the house is mine now.”

Another note of interest — Linda Damm may have been dead as long as a month when her body was finally found.

This is one of the darkest tales of suburban noir I’ve ever encountered.

UPDATE 5, 3/08/07

The Boulder Daily Camera has made the arrest affidavits for Tess Damm and Bryan Grove available online.

Fair warning: Some might consider the details found in both reports to be rather graphic.

Added note: For some of the best ongoing coverage, stick with the Daily Camera’s special section:

http://dailycamera.com/news/Ongoing-Coverage/LafayetteMotherSlain/

Deathmaker

It wasn’t a typical start to the day for residents living near the 3200 block of Sherman Court in suburban Nampa, Idaho.

A naked man was walking through the neighborhood on a Wednesday morning. This would have been unusual on any day just about any place, but it was especially strange here considering the likely temperature on a typical January morning anywhere in Idaho.

The 26-year-old man’s name was Brent Eugene High.

Naturally somebody called the cops. The police stopped Mr. High, and after some questioning it became clear there was a crime scene somewhere close by.

According to Nampa assistant police chief Leroy Forsman, that crime scene was “gruesome.”

Nampa, Idaho, population just over 100,000, had its first homicide investigation of 2007, and it was a twofer. Found bludgeoned to death in the 3200 block of Sherman Court were two males — men whose names have not been released as of midnight, January 25, 2006.

Brent Eugene High was arrested. He sits tonight in the Canyon County Jail, charged with two counts of first-degree murder. 1, 2.

It is not yet an axiom that a name in the news, a name like Brent High’s, will lead a websleuth to a profile on MySpace. Some names are too common, and plenty of people still do not live their lives online.

In this instance, a search of that domain for the name “Brent High” yielded just a handful of results, and only one was 26 and from anywhere in Idaho:

http://www.myspace.com/130034989
.

The MySpacer listed his astrological sign as Gemini. That information dovetailed with the birthdate for the only Idaho-based Brent E. High, age 26, that I could find in public record database searches on the name.

The person who made the profile, (last log-in on November 17, 2006), well — he was pretty kooky, and he loved Everquest. Everquest is a popular “massively multiplayer online role-playing game” (MMORPG) that’s been steadily drawing new users since 1999.

This Brent High said he was from Idaho Falls, Idaho, which is nearly 300 miles away from Nampa. The database searches I ran gave an address for Brent High in Idaho Falls at one point, then in Boise, which is only 22 miles from Nampa.

Under “About Me,” he wrote:

FU guys, lol J/k but really if you got a problem with my site then STFU Muwahahahahahahah hehe TEEHEE TeeHEHEHE…

Then, under “Who I’d like to meet,” Brent High posted:

That on EverQuest that Trained me that one day back in 2001. Ya i got a Screen shot of that , no not really im not a dick like some of you all. But im a asshole heheh…

For his headline, the quote by the profile pic on all MySpace profiles, Brent High wrote:

EQ Saryrn Brentos DeathMaker’s Myspace Bitches !!!

Working with the assumption that a man found naked near the scene of a gruesome double murder might be a bit odd in general, like the creator of this MySpace page, I felt this profile held information worth searching. Specifically, the name “Brentos Deathmaker.”

It’s a clever, if morbid play on the slogan for Mentos — “the freshmaker.” Clever enough to be pretty unique.

Brentos Deathmaker had an Everquest profile, of course. It showed his total time played was 403 days and some change. He’d last updated the profile on January 18, and was last online using that profile on the 19th.

Removing the space between the first and last name — BrentosDeathmaker — yielded a number of results. On xfire, for instance, the Deathmaker had logged 130 hours playing Battlefield 2.

I didn’t find any of this remarkable in the way you might think. That the man played online games was immaterial to me. If I was looking at profiles for the same Brent High sitting in the Canyon County Jail charged with a gruesome double murder, I did wonder why he had so much time to play the games.

Then I took a close look at the BrentosDeathmaker user profile for a game titled, “End of Evolution”:

Age:
26
Location:
Idaho,USA
Interests:
Everquest,BF2
Occupation:
Disabled SSI , Playing Games is my job !

I couldn’t help but think that the disability would turn out to be a mental illness. My guess would be paranoid schizophrenia.

Sometime in the last few months, Brent High the gamer on social security disability had a huge life change.

Posting to a forum at TheSteelWarrior.org, he gave a breakdown of what was going on, and why he was leaving Everquest. The point to the post (Yahoo’s cache — to read the original required a login for the site) was to sell his Brentos Deathmaker character:

Broke up with lillyanna after 12 year relationship now im 26 yrs old. Living with Heffe…hauled all that my exe didn’t take to the dump , with the clothing on my back and what little I owned Ie a cmputer left…..and now have a property manager handling my home in that city….to make a long story short. Now that im in the Same Metro area as my RL brother , and friends i’m looking to sell Brentos account and be done with EQ. played it for years and no reason to talk to lillyanna at all we have no kids and the break was rather clean she wants to use illegal drugs and thats fine she can OD for all I care..but after 7 years im honeslty rdy to just be done with EQ……turning now to god and Jesus away from sin and wicked people ie drug abusers , I feel bad for her but what can I do she isn’t my wife so I have no legal hold on her she wouldn’t take me for husband doesn’t want to bring life into the world I would at least like the possiblity to have a son or
daughter I would love either that god sent me. Well we all got to do what we got to do. so maybe in time god will bless me untill then may god bless my exe and help her see and get off the drugs as I can’t help and at that time myself good bye i’ve moved on …..there alot of great peeps in EQ and what not brentos is a decently geared tank with max AA atm i’ll continue to play him untill I fine someone who is willing to buy him off my hands. Looking for happiness in all the right places I suppose so im optomoistic. Asking 1800.00 for Brentos guildy or not this is RL business looking to use that along with what i’ll get from renting my home ect….. to buy a Steet bike to get around town with… if your self or anyone you know wants to investe into this Warrior let me know

well Email me Brentostankfly@hotmail.com
IM me also via this email
or call me on the phone XXX-XXX-XXXX
if your seriously interested in Brentos we’lll work out the details I look forward to hearing from you…

The Deathmaker posted a shorter message here, at RealPoor.com, a site that has forums where gamers can trade, buy, and sell characters.

Brent High, or “Brentos Deathmaker” was a still-young man on disability, who even joked that gaming was his “career.” Yet here he was, trying to sell the character he’d used to represent himself online for so long.

Incidentally, he mentioned moving to a “metro” area. In Idaho, that typically means Boise/Nampa. So Brent High/BrentosDeathmaker may have been in Boise by the beginning of this month.

“Brentos Deathmaker” posted the RealPoor.com message on January 15, 2007. The upheaval described in the longer message on the SteelWarrior site was recent.

I believe Brent High spent several years forging a life in the fantasy worlds of Everquest and World of Warcraft. It was his way to pass the day when he had nowhere else to go, since he was on disability. In this instance, it may be that the games actually provided him with a sort of stability.

With the severing of a relationship, Brent’s brittle fantasy world began to shatter.

And it just may be that in one night, Brentos’s self-created name — Deathmaker — went from a morbid joke to a horrific reality.

Any updates will be posted below.

UPDATE, 12:45 p.m. ET

The Idaho Statesman has a good article about this double-homicide here. They have yet to pick up on this angle of the story — how Brent High’s online presence may have given some insight into what was going on with him, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t happen onto this info eventually.

The names of the murder victims have not been released as of noon today.

UPDATE, 4:41 p.m. ET

The details of the murders Brent High is accused of committing are not fully known, but what the Idaho Press-Tribune publishes in an update is pretty awful:

Magistrate Judge George Soughworth said Thursday that suspect Brent High is accused of torturing two men in Nampa Wednesday and then killing them by striking them with a “sharp, heavy object in the face and or body.”

Soughworth said in a video arraignment that the murderer of two men committed the crime “to fulfill some sadistic desire.”

The bodies of Brandon Johnson and an unidentified man were found in the 3200 block of Sherman Court on Wednesday…

This story is even more chilling than it seemed.

A Ladawn Johnson lives at 3220 Sherman Court in Nampa, so it is likely this was the address where the double homicide occurred.

UPDATE, 5:16 p.m. ET

Brandon Johnson may have been Brent High’s stepbrother. Again, from the Press-Tribune, another update:

Coroner Vicki DeGeus-Morris said officials are “99 percent sure” the victim is Brandon Johnson, stepbrother of suspect Brent High, but there are “still things we need to do” to confirm that he was indeed the victim.

De-Geus Morris said she is also “99 percent sure” about the identity of the second victim but is not releasing the victim’s last name until his identity is confirmed and his parents are notified. DeGeus Morris did say the second victim’s first name may be Randy…

This news renders the posts made by Brentos Deathmaker about his move to the same metro area as his brother more ominous than they seemed before.

It is also apparent that law enforcement doesn’t believe the man they have in custody is insane, but more likely a stone-cold psychopathic killer. I base this on the “sadistic desire” statement from the previous update.

Further updates to follow.

UPDATE, 1/26/07

The Idaho Statesman has an article detailing just how insane and awful the murders of Brandon Johnson and “RB” may have been:

No suspected motive for the killings was revealed in the affidavit, and Nampa police have not disclosed a motive or other details. High seemed lucid during the hearing and answered the judge respectfully. Family members at the hearing appeared distraught; one woman cried softly. They declined to comment as they left the courtroom.

According to the affidavit:

• Both victims were found in pools of blood — BJ on a bed in the master bedroom, RB face-down in the kitchen. Blood spatter and other evidence indicate RB “had been followed and struck throughout the home.”

• A single-blade ax was found in the toilet, blade down. Blood and hair were found on the ax head and blood on the handle.

• Bloody footprints led from RB’s body to a bathroom, where police found blood-soaked jeans, other clothing, shoes that matched the footprints, and High’s wallet.

• Blood was smeared on closet doors and spread on the floors, ceilings and walls in the hallway, entryway and living room.

• High’s hair was wet when officers stopped him, as if he’d taken a shower. Cowdery said he examined High and saw flecks of red on his ear that seemed consistent with blood spatter. High’s left hand, particularly around his knuckles, was yellowish and dark.

BJ’s wife told investigators that High had been living with the couple at the home on Sherman Court for about a month. She said her husband and RB were asleep when she left the house about 6:16 a.m. Wednesday, but High was awake.

Officers responding to a report of a naked man found High several blocks from the home around 9 a.m. When officers interviewed High, he continually made comments about the Bible, religion, God and Jesus Christ, they said in the affidavit…

Religious delusions, walking naked through the cold… this man was sick. It just remains to be seen as to whether or not he was too sick to know that what he did was wrong. It will be the difference between life in prison or the death penalty or life in a psychiatric hospital.

Sources (other than original research):

1. “Naked man arrested for double Murder,” Fox Channel 12, KTRV, Boise/Nampa/Caldwell.

2. Wikipedia entry on Nampa, Idaho.