Filed under: notes

Short Hiatus and a Personal Request **UPDATED**

Just recently I have received some generous donations via PayPal, and I can’t ever express how grateful I am to the folks who have donated. This post is, in part, to ask anyone inclined to donate between now and Christmas to consider sending the donation to my wife Dana, instead.

Dana is a gifted educator and edu-blogger, and well regarded in the edu-blogging community. She probably has more work to do on the computer on a daily basis than I do, and at the moment, we are sharing a single aging desktop. We also try to give my stepdaughter and our 6-year-old daughter computer time on occasion. I do tend to get dibs on the desktop because the work I do for Radar is occasionally time-sensitive and research-intensive.

I may not receive my first payment for work done for the magazine until after Christmas, so I felt like I had to note Dana’s page on her edu-blog about purchasing a laptop and ask for help from anyone inclined to do so. I’d love to buy the laptop myself, but I’m sure I won’t be able to.

And if you’re an educator or find issues dealing with education and technology in general compelling, you should browse HuffEnglish.com and follow Dana’s links. I believe she and some of her peers focusing on technology and education are at the forefront of changing the way young people learn, and for the better.

*****

I’ve decided that beginning this Monday I’m taking a brief hiatus from posting on this blog, barring any super-compelling crime stories. The hiatus will only be a week and a day, if complete (as in — if something doesn’t happen that I just can’t help but blog about). I still may post to my personal weblog, Random Lunatic News, and will be doing research and writing for Radar the entire time. So I’m not on vacation. If I have a post at Radar that may be of interest to readers here, I’ll add that link to this entry. I will also still respond to e-mails and story tips while on hiatus, so don’t hesitate to contact me that way, if you need to. The hiatus is mostly just so I can focus a little more closely on some other work that fell behind while I was ill over the last 3 weeks or so.

[Edit: Back to the old system for now. Go here to take a look at the comments you’ve made during the interim: http://truecrimeweblog.disqus.com/.]

Do some folks a favor while I’m on hiatus, and check out the links on the right side of the page — both The True Crime Blogroll and “Steve’s Links” — a mixed bag of sites, not all of them true-crime related.

*****

My hiatus may be delayed until tomorrow, making it simply one week long.

NOTE, 12/19/07

My life is weird.

Today, I wrote the following for Radar‘s “Fresh Intelligence”:

Jamie-Lynn Baby Daddy’s Profile?
Kucinich’s Bank Robber Bro is Dead.”

I ain’t telling you about ’em, you just have to read ’em. Remember to recommend the post if you are so inclined, but only recommend once per post, and do my fellow FI contributors a solid and see if you like other posts there and want to recommend them as well (there’s a little link at the bottom of each “Fresh Intelligence” post you click to recommend that entry).

Then, after sending off one of those little bits o’ delight, I drove to my daughter’s school to hang out with her a bit during a Christmas-y party-ish time (the school doesn’t have “parties” per se, just special dates — it’s complicated).

Following that, I came back to my church to sing a solo at a noon-hour Christmas “meditation” service.

Gotta love life in the 21st Century.

Fallen Idols, My Awesome Wife, Trolls and Other Stuff

Radar has published a “Fresh Intelligence” post I wrote about the ultimate fallen American Idol, Jessica Ann Sierra:

Idol‘s Hands the Devil’s Playthings.”

Yes, it has to do with crime. Check it out — I even included some of Sierra’s singing with another Idol felon from season 5. (If you like the post, you can click “recommend it” at the bottom of the piece. Please only click once, and be sure check out other posts by other authors in “Fresh Intelligence” and recommend them — if you like them — as well.)

I don’t have a lot of blog entries up on “Fresh Intelligence” — there are several other contributors — but so far, some of the most fun I’ve had as a blogger has come from writing for Radar. The subject matter here at The True Crime Weblog is usually quite serious, and while my Radar blog posts (as opposed to articles I’ve written for them, which are more straightforward reporting) still frequently touch on crime, there’s more room for snark there, and it feels good to loosen up a little. Having editors who are savvy, funny, and good communicators helps a helluva lot, too.

(NOTE: For some added wrinkles in Ms. Sierra’s story, you just have to go here. Wow.)

*****

I’m a “crime blogger,” and my wife Dana is an “edu-blogger” (incidentally, the image you’ll see in the header of Dana’s education weblog is a non-photoshopped pic taken by yours truly at an actual intersection near downtown Atlanta).

In fact, Dana is becoming a popular and well-regarded edu-blogger. Dana is a quiet, modest (though occasionally persnickety, occasionally spunky) woman, so seeing her begin to get recognition for her own blogging and develop a strong readership really means a lot to me. Unlike her husband, Dana Huff doesn’t really have a self-promoting bone in her body. She earns every good thing that comes to her from her blogging honestly. I’m very proud of her. Dana was the person who inspired me to try my hand at blogging in the first place.

I’ll say more about what’s going on with her as we hear more. In the meantime, you can also check out Dana’s Harry Potter blog here.

*****

My personal weblog receives about 10% of the traffic that this blog gets, and I’m fine with that. Kind of prefer it, actually. However I happened onto a captivating website this weekend, and I recommend it here, at Random Lunatic News.

*****

If blogging is light here today and tomorrow, it’s because I’m working on another writing project that is rather complicated and time-consuming. Anything big breaks, though, I’ll do my best to write about it.

*****

These notes strike me as being a little like Norm McDonald’s Larry King impression from SNL a few years back. Random. Terse. Tangentially related at best. Whaddya want? It’s Monday.

*****

Some final notes on blog comments vs. message boards, trolls, etc…

Some of my longtime readers — and you’ll know who you are — have fallen into trolltraps on various discussions taking place on this weblog. Screen names (and e-mail addresses matching them) of folks who have been leaving intelligent, thoughtful comments on my crime blogs since 2005 are engaging with new commentators who are — to me — obvious and dedicated trolls. As a result of this troll fighting, a few of you have, God love ya, started to become a bit troll-like yourselves.

Stop it. Don’t engage them. Don’t respond to insults, to nasty plays on your screen names, any of it. Quit leaving comments on those posts if you can’t ignore the assholes. Remove your hands from the keyboard. If you have respect for me — and from your track records of visiting my blogs, I suspect you do — give me a break and do as I ask.

Several posts on this blog have more than a thousand comments; one has more than 2000. Any blogger will tell you (as long as most of the comments are on-topic and reasonably smart) that this is awesome, and a source of pride — people are responding to your work.

But this also means that as the sole active administrator of this weblog, there’s no way in hell I can respond to every single complaint, no way I can police every troll all the time. Especially now that my freelancing has kicked up several notches (a very good thing), the last thing I want to do is police comments. I’m sorry, but that’s how it is. Some bloggers would just change to full moderation 24/7 or even (as I believe Michelle Malkin did for a time) have no comments at all.

So I need the long-time readers whom I tend to trust to help me out by not feeding the trolls. The one thing a troll can’t abide is being ignored. So — ignore them. Additionally, the moment others cease responding to troll-like commentators, some of the white noise is reduced for me, and I find it easier to pinpoint the troll and ban them and delete their offending comments.

And lastly — I don’t know how many times I’ve said this, but I’ll repeat it: BLOG COMMENTS DO NOT A MESSAGE BOARD MAKE.

I see comments on posts here constantly calling this a “forum,” or a “board.”

No. This weblog is neither. I once ran a forum, or board. It was sheer hell. It was like trying to deal with a few thousand tattle-happy toddlers on crack, half the time. With a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old here at home, I have all I can handle, thank you very much.

OK — the discussions taking place on blog entries here are identical to discussions folks might have on message boards. People do the same things — update the stories blogged with new links, with (often fascinating and well-written) speculation.

But you need to understand what you’re doing when you leave comments on a blog post. It isn’t the same as a message board. You can’t create your own profile with private messaging, you can’t upload avatars. Message boards have mods and admins, but generally, they can be pretty egalitarian (not always, I know). Blogs are not. This is my weblog. I have some guidelines I expect to be followed when people post comments here or any other blog I run. If I wanted to run an “open forum” where anyone could say anything about whatever, I would. But I don’t.

What you write is even more temporary on a blog post than it would be posted on a message board. It could be gone in 5 minutes — all I’d need to do is change this blog’s template.

And this is important — your words are your responsibility, not mine. If you libeled someone in my blog’s comments and a lawyer [EDIT: subpoenaed] your IP and e-mail info, I’d be hard-pressed to stop that action. This brings up a catch-22 you should think about: while your words are your responsibility, under American laws, that is, I still have administrative control over your post once it is up. Many message boards allow users to go back and delete or edit their posts whenever they want. Once you’ve made a comment on a blog — you’re done, son.

So temper your posting activities with these things in mind. Leaving comments on a blog and posting on a forum just ain’t the same.

Finally — if I began a MySpace group for this weblog, would you all consider using that for extended discussions of various cases? Caveat lector — you’d have to make a MySpace profile to join and leave posts in such a group. Add to that — if I made such a group, could I get someone to volunteer to moderate or lead the thing?

I have another, final idea related to the above. Some popular forums have paid memberships. I’d consider running a message board again, but this would be the catch — you’d only have access if you paid a nominal fee. There are aspects of this with which I’m not too comfortable though, so I only float it as an idea, one I may end up rejecting.

These notes went on longer than I intended, but I guess I had something to say….

Seeking Your Input

Due to the work I’m now doing for Radar, there are certain things I just don’t have the time to do, so I’d like some reader input.

All the old entries from CrimeBlog.US are still available on the servers that held them. I’ve made efforts to move things over, but so far the move is decidedly incomplete. Now, I just don’t have the time or energy to finish any work I’m doing for the magazine, publish new entries here, and then spend hours moving posts from one blog to the other.

So… from long-time readers I’d like to know which posts you’d like to see moved here. You can make your requests/suggestions in the comments on this post. You don’t need to recall the exact title as long as you can remember the subject — I’ll figure it out.

Before you make your suggestion, though, please check to see if I’ve already moved the entry to this blog.

There’s no easy way to move entries that I know of — any software solutions I’ve found are filled with bugs and therefore unpredictable. So the moving has to be done by cut & paste. There are differences in the way this publishing format accepts html code, too, so some editing always has to be done when an entry from CrimeBlog.US is moved to this blog. It’s time-consuming work, and reader suggestions as to old entries you’d like to see posted here would go a long way towards helping me focus my efforts as well as making this weblog more useful.

Also, remember — I’m asking for tips or donations through the beginning of January, then removing the PayPal button, as I have reason to believe I’ll no longer need it. It’s a little like PBS’s pledge drive. I plan to continue this blog, which is, of course, free. If I move an entry over that you’ve been wanting to read again, to comment on, you can consider any donations payment for that, as well.

COMMENTS MODERATED

Due to a number of trolls and the use of sock puppets, all comments for this blog are moderated for the time being.

This means that no matter who you are, no matter how many times you’ve posted, your comment will be held in moderation until I see it and approve it.

I make no apologies for this. Until people can behave like adults or a reasonable facsimile thereof, I’m riding herd on what gets posted on any of my blog entries.

I’m not changing my routine or the way I work, either. That means there will be lag times between your post and its publication. I have a life.

I am truly grateful to everyone who takes the time to discuss blog subjects with intelligence and civility, and to them, I do apologize for having to lump them in with the immature, obsessed, and just plain idiotic. Unfortunately, the commenting software I use with this blog doesn’t discriminate between friend and foe when it comes to moderation. From those readers and commentators (they usually know who they are) I ask for patience.

I’ll disengage comment-by-comment moderation once people have calmed down.

Notes: Tips, Donations, Etc.

At the beginning of January, 2008, I will remove the PayPal donation button you see at the top of the left-hand column. Hopefully, it will not return.

A lot of work goes into the original content you get here at the True Crime Weblog, and I’m proud of that work. As a result, you frequently get details of the crime stories you’re interested in before they’re available anywhere else. That’s why, for instance, a TV station from a major metropolitan area like Detroit’s WXYZ might take notice and link this blog in one of their online articles.

I do it for the same reasons I’ve always done it — immense curiosity, a need to learn about the human condition, write about it — and I do it for the readers. For folks who e-mail me with a link to some already well-covered crime story still hoping I’ll weigh in, because they know they frequently learn about new developments in a story here first.

The True Crime Weblog is not a paying gig, it’s my own thing. It’s permanent, it will stick around for the forseeable future. I loathe asking for donations, tips, what have you, but sometimes I have to. I have reason to believe (partly due to some of the good news I’ve had lately) that by the beginning of 2008 I will no longer feel the need to do that, so that’s why I’ve set that deadline for removing the donation button.

One reader who sent a pretty generous donation a while back said something that made my day in explaining why she sent it: “It’s like paying PBS. It’s hours of interesting news and information that needs to be supported.”

Well, it ain’t PBS, of course, but I’ll take the compliment.

Please consider this an informal pledge drive.

That said, this is the only blog entry I’ll post about it. I may put a note below the blog’s title, but that will only stay up for two weeks at most.

Whether you send a tip or donation of any amount or not, accept my thanks, as always, for reading. I’m humbled every day by reader responses and participation here, and can never adequately express my gratitude.

Monday Morning Quickies

There’s some more “Fresh Intelligence” up at RADAR Online. It’s about an Anchor, a Madam, and a Captain.

**UPDATE TO THE ABOVE** John Cook at RADAR completely disposes of the rumor about the Madam and the Anchor here: “Donaldson’s Digits: Wrong Number.

It’s not mentioned by RADAR, but blogger Joseph Cannon has something to say about the source for the Sam Donaldson/DC Madam story here. Worth noting.

Long story short, as far as I know, Sam Donaldson’s clean.

I’m no longer a contributor to Corey Mitchell’s In Cold Blog. But it’s a cool situation, not a frosty one. I’ve simply got too much to do now, and Corey understood that. I wanted to be able to give ICB original content, exclusives, but I couldn’t.

African Americans vanish. Latinos disappear. The blogosphere screams in specious indignation when a “missing white woman” story like Stacy Peterson’s makes and then dominates the news. But I think that along with people of color, missing men in general, even missing white men, also get short shrift in news coverage. A little boy vanishing is usually a major news story, and should be. Teen males who disappear cause concern. But it sometimes seems to me (admittedly, being a man, I may have a bias here) that men 18 and older disappear and very few news outlets outside of local TV want to cover the story.

I’ve actually discussed this issue with a producer from a major TV news magazine. My guess was — and still is — that there is a subconscious perception on the publics’ part that males are often the authors of their fates. That through misadventure or bullheaded choice, men are more likely to have vanished of their own accord. The producer agreed with me.

I think there are logical reasons for this perception. Men sometimes do just say “to hell with it” and walk away from everything. Men (of all colors and creeds) still don’t know how to deal with mental illness, with depression or bipolar disorder.

But that doesn’t make it right. Every missing person matters, regardless of their color, regardless of their gender.

That’s why I have to point out that local (to me) boy Justin Gaines, age 18, is still missing.

Justin vanished after leaving one of his favorite Gwinnett County GA haunts late on November 1, 2007. Friends and family have searched, cell phone pings have been attempted — still, no sign of Justin.

There are message board discussions about Justin’s disappearance, other blogs with a more local focus are covering the mystery, and Justin’s family has put together a website as well:

http://www.justingaines.com/

It seems like the guy just dropped off the face of the earth.

That just doesn’t happen. Someone knows where Justin Gaines is, what happened to him. They need to speak up. It’s obvious both from the response to my previous entry about the young man and from other discussions on the Web that Justin was well-loved, had many friends, and was incredibly important to a number of people.

If you are here in the North Georgia area and following Justin’s case, keep an eye on his site, as it seems to be updated pretty regularly. Again: JustinGaines.com.

A Note of Thanks and Some "Fresh Intelligence"

Check out my new post at RADAR Online’s “Fresh Intelligence”:

Conan Priest’s Stalky Online Homily.”

The headline gives you some idea of where that piece goes, but you have to check it out for yourself — and leave a comment there, if you like. Now.

I’ll wait.

Back? OK — sorry to tease, but more crime-blogging here soon — the first of the late Fall/early Winter illnesses is making its rounds through my household and I’m feeling a little poorly, but I’m still working on stuff.

I’ll sign off this note with the following:

To everyone who watched MyCase.com [MyCaseDotCom.com] and sent a note, made a comment, or added me on MySpace, thank you, very, very much. I was very happy with how the show looked and sounded and proud to be a part of it. What will happen in the future? I’ll just have to keep you posted.

Tips!

The True Crime Weblog wants your tips.

I don’t meant donations this time (though those are always welcome), I mean information. On any story blogged about here, or related to crime stories you’d like me to cover.

I can’t guarantee that I will cover every story sent my way, but I can guarantee that I’ll take each message I receive seriously and may respond in depth if needed.

If you have a tip for something covered by RADAR Magazine, they do have their own address to use, but I’ll welcome a tip you might think RADAR-worthy as well, and pass it on, if needed. Sometimes writing for the Crime Library was hard because I couldn’t decide whether to pitch a story to my editor there or blog about it. RADAR’s crime/scandal coverage is pretty specific, so I don’t worry about any conflicts in content between this blog and paid work for them.

This post is to reiterate something I’ve told tipsters via e-mail in the past, but rarely touched on in the blog: In addition to referencing traditional media stories, this blog also contains original research and reporting.

That may explain to you to some degree why I’ve also been fortunate enough to do professional true crime writing since I began this endeavor in late 2004. The True Crime Weblog isn’t about regurgitating news you can get from Reuters or the AP, unlike many other news-related weblogs. Here, I seek always to add to what those sources have already told you. I don’t hesitate to use traditional media sources to check my work, to validate it, and I don’t mind using mainstream media reports as starting points. But I don’t see any point in crime blogging most of the time unless I have something new to add to the story.

All tips and story ideas are welcome, but I really prize original information. If it is already being reported on your local TV stations or in the newspapers, it is more akin to background on a story, or perhaps an idea for a story. If you send me something you think may not be public knowledge save to you, that is a tip. And those are pretty damned important.

When we’re dealing with original reporting, information sent from a reader that may first see light of day on this weblog, I need to know these things as well: Whether or not you want me to use your name or screen name; Your source for the information, preferably with a URL if you have one; Why you think it’s a worthwhile tidbit.

If these things aren’t included, I need a real e-mail address to which I can respond. I may have to write you and ask where you found your information, and I will ask if it’s already been published.

It occurred to me to make this post after I received several requests and suggestions in relation to the disappearance of Stacy Peterson, in the Chicago area. The 23-year-old woman vanished last Sunday and national media quickly picked up on the story, mainly because her much-older cop husband Drew had several previous marriages and his wife before Stacy died under mysterious circumstances.

The cable news nets or major papers picking up on a story like that will not always stay my hand from doing an entry — I’ve proven to myself that I can take on big stories and still break news in the past. You just have to watch MyCase.com Wednesday night at 10:30 ET on Court TV to see one big example of what I’m talking about.

So far, though, I can’t add anything to the unfolding story of Stacy Peterson’s disappearance. At the moment, anything I post here about Stacy or her husband would be information already published or broadcast elsewhere. Most of the time, I just don’t work that way. I’ve made some exceptions — the open threads for readers interested in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann are the most recent ones that come to mind. But those exceptions are few and far between.

Hopefully I’ve illustrated why I don’t always write about what seem like crime stories ripe for true crime blogging, and I’ve clarified what it is I’m doing here.

Any questions, just like tips, can be sent via my contact form.

(Unrelated note: I made it into my hometown newspaper today! Along with Keith Urban, Brooks & Dunn, and the Smashing Pumpkins, to name a few. Yes, I’m originally from Nashville, and the last time I recall being in the Tennessean was more than twenty years ago, in a review of some theater thing I did.)

Suburban Gothic: A Standoff in Dallas

An abusive husband and father’s last stand went on for at least 7 hours in Arlington, Texas on Friday. The stand-off ended with water rather than gunfire.

NBC 5 in Dallas reported that prior to the standoff, Arthur Jackson IV took his daughter to the Mayfield Road Baptist Church in Arlington. The 4-year-old little girl was said to be covered in blood but otherwise unharmed. Jackson stated while at the church that he’d ‘committed a crime.’ He was also drenched with blood.

The crime the man allegedly commited was the murder of his wife, Lisa Ford-Jackson and his stepchildren: a 13-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy. The children have not been named. The three were found in a home near Lake Arlington, 10 miles or so from the site of the standoff.

Tarrant County (TX) property tax records showed that the couple owned a home at 2101 Mims Street. Other Tarrant County records showed that Lisa Lynette Ford married Arthur Jackson IV in March, 2003. The murdered stepchildren were Lisa’s kids from a previous relationship, the 4-year-old was the product of Arthur’s and Lisa’s marriage.

The Dallas Morning News reported that police in Fort Worth had been called to the Jackson residence at least twice in recent months. One call was from Arthur, who said he was worried about his kids being left by themselves, the other call was from Lisa, who said that her husband was harassing her, knocking on the door and repeatedly ringing the doorbell.

Arthur Jackson IV finally forced an ending to his confrontation with police. As noted by Jules in the comments left on this post, he pulled out of the driveway where he’d been since early in the afternoon and led the police on a short chase that ended with his vehicle sinking into Lake Arlington.

Reader KatK left this link in the comments below this entry. MyFox Dallas reported that Arthur Jackson shot himself as the vehicle sank into the lake.

An AP story about the standoff contained a statement that seemed weirdly familiar. The kind of thing neighbors so often seem to say when men commit astonishing acts of violence. A man who lived near the Jacksons said the following about the allegedly murderous Arthur: “He was the friendliest guy around [. . .] He was a happy go lucky guy. Every time I saw him, he had a smile.”

Seems like they always do. A smile makes for excellent camouflage.

*****
This post marks the introduction of two new ideas for The True Crime Weblog: An active use of the term “Suburban Gothic”; and a possible change in the way certain blog entries are written.

I certainly didn’t invent the idea of “Suburban Gothic.” But I have often felt that I had a unique take on the meaning of that term. I was raised in a strange situation. My family lived in a home set well back from a rural State road. Our nearest neighbors until I was 16 or so were all family. I knew other boys and girls in the area and even played with them, but the point is this — I didn’t live in the suburbs. They were just across the road, for a long time through a half-mile wide stretch of woods. Riding my bicycle through a field to the road where the suburbs began was for me like entering a completely different world just a mile from my home. From perhaps 7th grade onwards I entered the suburbs as a stranger in a strange land much of the time, and that perception has never left me. It informs how I view certain crime stories — therefore, it will become for the purposes of this weblog a label (or category, if you think in terms of the WordPress blog publishing program) that I use whenever I cover certain crimes in the news.

The change in how entries are written isn’t big, but it will be noticeable. Rather than doing as so many bloggers do and posting sometimes numerous updates, I will simply begin editing and adding to entries as I go. Therefore the blog entry you are reading now may look very different tomorrow. It may contain a great deal more information on the crime being covered, as well as re-written passages. Other portions may be removed, redacted, etc. This is similar to the system certain newswires and newspapers appear to use for online articles.

At a certain point, of course, new entries for a given subject will be necessary. And updates can’t be completely abandoned, style-wise. Sometimes they make sense.

I decided to make this slight change because looking back over old posts I sometimes found updates distracting, even confusing. Hopefully using re-writes and add-ins instead will make for a reading experience that ages better — that is, if someone is reading this post a year from now, it will make more sense and be more coherent than it might be if it were a bunch of updates. I also got tired of ending each entry on a developing story with some variation on “this entry will be updated.” This is one where you can assume that will happen if you are reading the post within an hour of its publication. Otherwise, I may no longer add that note to each post I plan to add to later.

Tech Note

NOTE: SOME ENTRIES ARE NOT AT THIS LOCATION YET. OTHERS HAVE BEEN MOVED, BUT I ELECTED TO TURN OFF COMMENTS, AS I HAVE LITTLE TIME TO MODERATE AT THE MOMENT. AGAIN, YOUR PATIENCE IS GREATLY APPRECIATED.

To anyone who freaks out when their favorite site changes, I apologize. You can’t freak out half as bad as I did a while ago when I was afraid I’d deleted CrimeBlog.US.

I haven’t.

However, you will be re-directed here for now. On the right side of the page is a Google site search box, and it works very well. Put in a term relevant to your reason for visiting and if the entry is here, it will find it.

This blog is hosted by Blogger.com and was originally a blogspot address, but Google has recently made it extremely easy to acquire your own domain name, so you are indeed reading Steve Huff’s True Crime Weblog, at TrueCrimeWeblog.com.

I’m going to improve the commenting system shortly, so you may want to hold off for the moment with making any comments, as when I upgrade, your previous comment may be lost.