Filed under: notes

Here’s What I’m Gonna Do…

A while back I asked for opinions as to what to do with Huff’s Crime Blog and CrimeBlog.US. I’ve absorbed all the suggestions and made my decisions.

Huff’s Crime Blog will now be a crime blog devoted to historic true crime tales. That means there will be new entries. They won’t be daily, but hopefully weekly. The archived entries, which are extensive, will remain as is. New entries will be about famous crimes from the past. I have the inimitable Laura James of CLEWS to thank in part for inspiring my fascination with crime stories that might be lost in the folds of history. Larry Harnisch, Kim Cooper and Nathan Marsak, who run the always-fascinating 1947 Project, also deserve a nod for their own fascinating take on historic crime stories.

CrimeBlog.US — I had a cadre of contributors. I’d like to continue in that vein. I am going to alter the template for CrimeBlog.US to make posting simpler. I love the template currently in use there, but in order for it to be aesthetically pleasing, I have to monkey with each entry, inserting a break where appropriate. I will change the blog to a template that doesn’t require me doing that. I am now soliciting two groups of people: the folks I already had on board; and new people who are interested in crime blogging but don’t necessarily want to make the commitment to building their own weblog. E-mail me (link on the right) to let me know if you’re interested. You may use a screen name, a pseudonym to post, but I need a brief bio and your real name if you wish to gain posting privileges. I will give you more details if you e-mail me.

With CrimeBlog.US I would like to have at least a core group of crime bloggers willing to post daily. Once I have this, I will submit that site again to Google News to be indexed, as they will index multi-author blogs. I will remain the editor of the site, and may post as the spirit moves me, but I am looking to shift the posting duties to others, for the most part. As an editor, I will also expect others to police themselves more closely than in the past, especially nuts and bolts issues like spelling, grammar, and the appropriate format for a hyperlink. (Many people know I have an obsessive compulsive’s irritation with long URLs that blow the margins of a blog template.) Please remember that I do get enough traffic still that if you are a new blogger and want to drive new readers to your own work, posting at CrimeBlog.US may be a way to encourage that. I fully expect you to cross-post and promote your own blog, if you have one. A few group-authored weblogs have prohibitions on cross-posting or self-promotion, but I’ve never felt that way.

This weblog will be my current true crime blog, updated daily, much of the time. Here is where I will blog about breaking news on a crime story, anything that’s happening now. All the folks who have written me to express how much they like the format of this blog, it’s cleanliness and simplicity, have only confirmed feelings I already had. I know that Blogger has problems from time to time, but the fact is, I can handle any large influx of traffic on this weblog, and my other blogs often cannot handle huge traffic spikes. Frankly, I can get things done faster here, if the timing of a post is important — I do like to try and be the first online with some things. A lot of people think it is counter-intuitive to have standalone blogs with their own URLs and make your most active weblog be a blog*spot address — I simply disagree. That’s blogger snobbery. The traffic to this blog has been consistently higher on a day-to-day basis than any other weblog I’ve run, and that tells me a lot.

My decisions have taken some burdens off me, in spite of what it may look like. If I can have enough bloggers posting to CrimeBlog.US, that will not be a huge time-crunch. Historic true crime is not the sort of thing a lot of people are trying to find on the web, still, so I have the luxury of being able to take days off from posting at Huff’s Crime Blog. The only blogs I will view as daily duties (for lack of a better word) will be this one and my personal weblog, Huff’s Blog.

I made a conscious decision about my personal weblog, too — while it will still basically be about whatever I want it to be about, I’ve decided to steer it in a more “newsy” direction. By that I mean any stories in the news that catch my interest outside of crime. That can be politics, entertainment, you name it.

Thank you for all your thoughts and suggestions, and as always, I thank you for reading, no matter what site you like best.

Note, 2/28/07

Blogging has been slow lately for a number of reasons. The main one is a project I’m doing offline that requires research and a lot of thought and planning. The research can’t all be done online, either, nor should it be. For example, I spent a few hours the other day at a wonderful historical research center here in Atlanta trolling through microfilm files of 95 to 100-year-old newspapers. My inner history geek sighed blissfully all the while.

And I must admit, there are times even I come close to blogger burn-out.

The news cycle hasn’t helped much, either. Crimes that provide an opportunity for thorough online research and some original content have not been prominent in the news, lately.

I do want to point you to Stephen McCaskill’s Crime Scene Blog today — The Bishop, a potentially deadly letter-bomber I blogged about here, now may have a face.

I also want to thank everyone who has sent a donation via the Paypal link on the right. You all don’t know how much that means to me, nor how much it actually helps. I can’t really thank you enough.

Here are a few things that are coming soon:

— My second Zodiac entry, which I’d promised to post earlier, but didn’t;
— A review of the Zodiac movie, which premieres March 2;
— A longer blog entry I’m very excited about doing, one which deserves some teasing so you’ll come back and check it out…

For some reason last night I was remembering a conversation, or series of conversations, I had with my brother-in-law. He and my eldest sister, Sherry, have been separated for some time now, but I never had any problem with Richard — he led an interesting life and in conversation could be witty in a quiet, intellectual way.

These conversations took place about 13 years ago, just after my first wife and I moved back to Nashville from attending school in Knoxville. They were about a former friend of Richard’s who’d died in jail, of a cocaine-induced heart attack.

I realized, upon recalling these talks with Richard, that through him I had about one degree of separation from a man who may have been a serial killer. One degree of separation from one of the most interesting crime stories you’ve probably never heard or read about. When my brother-in-law’s former friend died, the man was suspected of at least three brutal, gruesome murders. To top it off, the man’s wife had provided him the cocaine he used to o.d. and induce a heart-attack. And she was quite a piece of work, herself.

One funny detail I recalled from talking with my brother-in-law: I may be wrong, but I could swear he said the suspected killer was afraid of my sister. I was even going to title the blog entry “The Killer Who Was Afraid of My Sister,” but today I’m thinking I might be confused about that part of what I’ve recalled, so the entry, when it is done, may have another title.

Either way, stick around for the story. It’s tragic, scary, and to me, rather amazing that I had to do so much digging to get additional information about it (outside of remembered conversations I had more than a decade ago).

Donations

Long-time readers of my blogs know this is my least favorite thing to do, but I figured now was as good a time as any to remind folks that you can send a donation via Paypal by clicking the donation button on the right, just under the e-mail link. If you are new to my crime blogging and like what you see, please consider a token amount to show your support. Some good things have happened recently that may eventually eliminate the need for donations, but for now anything is helpful.

As always, thank you for reading.

I Need Suggestions

My wife Dana has suggested I open a question I have up to the readers of this blog.

Since she’s awesome and usually right, I will.

Recently, I got Huff’s Crime Blog and CrimeBlog.US back online, and with Dana’s help fixed both blogs a bit to try and ensure — hopefully — less downtime in the future.

The blog you are reading at the moment has started off with a bang, and is currently the most popular weblog in visitors per day of any I’ve ever created. If you’ve followed my blogging for some time, you know that’s not a small thing.

To me, this blog’s popularity has also been kind of counter-intuitive. I mean, I got standalone URLs because I figured that was a way establish my blog’s unique identity. To go back to a service like blogger and have my most well-read crime blog yet (at least in the first month of existence) has blown my mind.

Now that the two “original” blogs (my true original crime blog, The Dark Side, is no longer online — all the content is at Huff’s Crime Blog) are back up and running, I have a dilemma.

Dana and several readers have, in their different ways, made the point to me that to switch Web addresses too much is, to use my wife’s word, “flighty.”

My dilemma is this: Due to goals I have as a writer, and due to there only being so many hours in a day, I can’t possibly keep all three blogs running at top speed, much less update a couple of other neglected blogs I have and like.

I like the blog you are reading right now a great deal. I’m happy with a good number of the newer posts, made since I moved here, and to be frank, I’m happy with having unwittingly “branded” this blog. When I decided to call it The True Crime Blog, I thought I was being lazy. Turns out no one else had done precisely that — as far as I know — and the title of this weblog is apparently very easy to remember and latch onto. I’m finding some people easily know you’re talking about this weblog if someone else writes or says “The True Crime Blog.”

At Huff’s Crime Blog I have archives going back to the end of 2004. CrimeBlog.US is not just authored by me, but by several other bloggers now, and I am the editor.

I feel very strongly now the need to make my daily blogging be at one memorable place. I’m asking the reader’s assistance, and the assistance of my fellow bloggers to figure out which blog that should be.

I’ve had a number of ideas: one is to leave Huff’s Crime Blog alone. Let it stand as an archive, and become a less frequent contributor to CrimeBlog.US, while still maintaining editorial control. The weblog you are reading at the moment would then be the place you check for any new entries about breaking news or updates on older cases.

Another idea I had was to move all Huff’s Crime Blog and CrimeBlog.US posts to another address and keep the contributors, allowing that new blog to stand as one big archive, with updates mostly by contributors. That, however, would be more moving around. Every time I’ve moved around, I’ve lost a few readers, and I don’t like that.

So I ask you, the reader — what would make the most sense? In the end, the decision is mine, of course, but your input is pretty important. You can either click the link on the top right and e-mail me or leave a comment. If you have yet another suggestion not referenced above, please offer it up.

For now, new blog updates will be here, though — I’m making no changes until I feel I’ve heard from a good number of people.

Thank you in advance, and thank you, as always, for reading.

Huff’s Crime Blog and CrimeBlog.US

Huff’s Crime Blog and CrimeBlog.US are back up.

I can’t begin to explain what had the blogs off-line for so long, as I’m not tech-savvy enough to know. My wife, who is the real Web guru between the two of us, believes my problem at both blogs was not heavy traffic, though I certainly had some, but spambots.

Either way, for the moment both are live and any entries made by myself or others are up and available.

I am considering consolidating all crime blog entries prior to the crash of those sites into one site and directing everyone there — a big archive, essentially — and having this be the active blog. I like the name of this blog and the fact that even with all the problems blogger can have, it still seems to be more reliable than having a unique URL hosted on a server. I’ve not worried about a big traffic onslaught at this URL once, and the idea of something like that at my other two weblogs made me nervous — people would not be able to reach sites at the very moment a great number of readers would most like to.

There is an error on the sidebar at Huff’s Crime Blog at the moment — I’m working to correct it, but there’s no need to e-mail me about it: I know.

One More Post, Not About Crime

I didn’t intend to make another general purpose post, but something interesting is afoot.

I simply can’t think about and research crime non-stop. It leaves scabs on one’s soul. So I write about other stuff, too.

The other day I wrote an entry at my personal weblog, HuffsBlog.com, about a new YouTube phenomenon, a singer named MaryAnne, who uses the screen name “YsabellaBrave.”

There was still a bit of a mystery to unravel in this story, just not a crime-related mystery. I found out a little bit, and as you’ll see, MaryAnne responded to the blog entry to help me correct some misunderstandings and errors.

I also wrote a slightly different post for the Blogger News Network — more “news-y,” I guess.

Well, that BNN post has been Dugg. That makes the second time in a week something related to MaryAnne has been Dugg, and if you don’t know what Digg is, suffice it to say only Fark.com is a bigger source of traffic for any website lucky enough (or unlucky — the gigantic surge in traffic has crashed sites of mine before) to get to the front page.

My article about MaryAnne was already on Digg’s front page, last I looked. The creator and editor of BNN, Robert Hayes, told me an hour ago that he’s already had 9,000 hits from the Digg.

Get your head out of true crime for a minute, if you are inclined, and go check out the unfolding story of MaryAnne, YsabellaBrave.

She is as intriguing and potentially as popular as Lonelygirl15. But Lonelygirl15 was an act, and I’ve decided, after some initial skepticism, that I believe MaryAnne is the real deal. As a singer, (something I rarely touch on when crime-blogging), I have to say I think that’s pretty cool.

Now I return you to regularly scheduled crime-blogging.

Notes, 1/31/07

Anyone who has followed my blogging for some time may know that I have relapsing and remitting multiple sclerosis. I’ve been lucky with RRMS — the relapses I’ve had have never been completely incapacitating. Painful, depressing, frustrating, but if the worst possible relapse simply makes it so I walk with a cane, I’ll be fine with that. Some people with more progressive forms of MS end up in wheelchairs.

One thing I’ve noticed since I first developed the symptoms that would eventually be diagnosed as RRMS is what seems to be an overall weakening of my immune system. The most recent book on MS is that it is a disease that is acquired through contracting a virus, but MS sufferers may have certain genetic predispositions that make them more vulnerable to that virus. Genetic factors notwithstanding, MS is considered an autoimmune disorder.

As a result I’ve been sick with one virus or another and attending infections since late November. It sucks.

I hate telling people these things, both in person and online. In person — specifically at the church where I am the tenor soloist and section leader in the choir — I feel like people might just roll their eyes, even though I’ve known most folks there too long to truly believe that. Actually, my church has been wonderful to me, so I shouldn’t even worry. It’s just me.

Online, it’s even easier for people to say, “whatever dude, you’re too sick to work a computer?”

Not exactly. I still surf when I’m sick. But I find if I’m ill enough, I can’t seem to put sentences together properly. My research, crucial to making my blogging different, unique — that suffers too. Research like I do requires a focus and level of concentration that only comes when I’m in decent health.

I’m amazed I’ve blogged as much as I have in the last two months, really. Of course, I haven’t been ill straight through, either. Here’s what I’ve been able to identify, though:

  • My whole family passed around a lovely norovirus about a month ago — for a guy who has only upchucked one other time in 27 years, that was great fun — not;
  • Immediately on the heels of the norovirus, I came down with what must have been the flu;
  • That segued into an upper respiratory infection;
  • In the midst of the upper respiratory infection, I stepped out of the shower one night and was cleaning my left ear with a q-tip, and something happened. Still don’t know what. I do know that I’ve got perhaps a 40-50% hearing loss in that ear at the moment. You can imagine how upsetting even a temporary, minor hearing loss is to any musician. I can only describe what’s going on in that ear as it being like someone tucked a radio tuned to an empty channel in there. There’s a layer of white noise over everything.

That’s the short list. I go on, and I risk sounding like I’m 79, not 39. The only other thing worth including is the bronchitis — yay!

My point in telling you this is to explain why there are occasionally fits and starts in my blogging. I will rapidly update stories, participate in comments, you name it, and then it may seem like I disappear. I never do — I monitor comments no matter what, and read all the e-mail I receive. But my mental and physical energy (in spite of the sedentary nature of writing) must be close to normal before I do all this. If it isn’t, I’m just a passive observer.

Some notes on cases recently covered now…

Loic Rogers

The 3-year-old Montana boy may have died through misadventure, after all.

For his family I fear that even a declaration of accidental death may not dispel a cloud of suspicion, particularly over Loic’s father, Mark. I had my questions, that’s for sure, and I still am troubled by leaving the youngest child outside at night to go inside and get older children — but Loic’s father Mark doesn’t need any more fingers pointed at him, I think. Something like this, any parent will spend years tearing themselves apart. One passage in the Daily Interlake article linked above is worth quoting, though:

Authorities have not determined whether the [septic] tank’s damaged lid was the reason [Loic] ended up inside it.

One thing is clear, however: If the lid had been securely fastened in place, even the determined little boy could not have slipped in during just a couple minutes of the gathering dark Jan. 24…

The article does not state, nor have authorities said at this writing that Loic’s drowning in that septic tank was an accident, but the tone of the piece certainly seems to be pointing in that direction.

If it is officially declared an accident, I say leave the Rogers family alone. Loic’s parents, Mark and mother Ariel, were already estranged when the boy disappeared. The fracturing of a family is usually a private tragedy. Loic’s disappearance turned the Rogers family’s problems into fodder for the media and bloggers, because let’s face it — the vanishing of a cute 3-year-old boy on a cold, wintry night is upsetting to just about anyone with a heart. I’ve got a cute, blond-haired three year old son just like Loic, so naturally I was bothered by the story.

But this missing persons case turned into a death investigation is like a lot of missing persons cases — not necessarily a crime. That’s the gamble crime reporters or bloggers take when we cover them.

Brentos the Deathmaker (Brent E. High)

I’ve received one very angry e-mail from a relative of one of Brent High’s alleged victims, Randy Brock. They had the usual problem with people posting stuff about murders like this online, much less discussing it. More than that, they really didn’t like my wondering if Brent High was mentally ill. High is the 26-year-old MMORPG devotee who may have ax-murdered Randy Brock and Brent’s own stepbrother, Brandon Johnson, on January 24, 2007 in Nampa, Idaho.

Shortly after I got that e-mail, a different person (maybe a friend or relative of Brent’s) posted in the comments on the first entry I wrote about High, indignant that commenters were not showing much pity for Brent, who may be a paranoid schizophrenic.

Let me explain something here — a killer is a killer. Yet I must admit, the mental illness factor gives me pause. My brother David, who committed suicide in 2000, had a terrible battle with bipolar disorder, and he’d been counter-diagnosed as being a schizophrenic at least once (please, no debates about how different those illnesses are. I’m well aware, and have always wondered why one set of doctors thought David’s symptoms added up to schizophrenia). My biggest fear before David died was that he would do something to someone else one day. It was a fear because even though my brother was an aggressive, feisty guy, he wasn’t a killer — and he himself would never have emotionally survived hurting another person while in a psychotic state.

To my knowledge, my brother David was only ever a grave danger to himself.

Point being, yes, I did have to think about the idea of Brent High possibly being a schizophrenic for a bit, and figure out what I felt about that in the context of researching and writing about this double-murder.

Brent was on social security disability, or so he said. His illness, whatever it was, was a known factor. That being the case, he surely knew that he couldn’t function normally without medication. Personal choices do play a role in such things. Had High’s behavior prior to January 24 never been questioned, it’d be a different story. But he was posting online years ago that he was on SSDI. That means the guy had been to a lot of doctors. At some point, he had to make a decision about whether he wanted to be sane or insane. Or at the least, he became negligent where his mental health was concerned. That was a lapse in responsibility.

So I don’t have any pity for him. I’m pro-death penalty, but not 100% sure High should be fried if he’s found guilty of murdering Mr. Johnson and Mr. Brock. But I am 150% he needs to be locked away forever.

That’s still more liberal a view than I once had. I once compared people insane enough to murder, much less butcher others to rabid dogs, who should be put down.

And if Brent High was more lucid than the first reports of the crime indicated, and that’s proven, then I’ll change my mind a little and say yes, put that rabid animal down.

Other stuff…

I’ll be posting some guest blog entries here soon, and I am still trying to figure out how to repair what happened with CrimeBlog.US and HuffCrimeBlog.com. I’m still not convinced it’s something I need to fix, either, but any further explanation of that would be the in ultimate techno-boredom for most readers. I do have access to the text of all my entries in both blogs, and am still moving things over as often as I can. If an old entry is still missing and you’d like me to ease things and move it over sooner rather than later, simply e-mail me (link above, on the right) and let me know the subject of the entry, and I’ll get it posted here. I am, incidentally, pre-dating the entries as I move them, so new material is always at the top of this blog.

And that’s all for now, folks.

Note, 1/18/07 (Comments)

Please note: I’ve installed a new commenting system that is much more to my liking. I hope readers agree. If you were a regular poster at my weblogs in the past, you should be much happier with this new system than the blogger commenting system that comes with all blogspot weblogs. Just click comments, enter the info requested, and comment away!

Incidentally — for the moment, comments made on this weblog’s entries in the past 5 days have disappeared — I may be able to retrieve them in the next day or so. Long-time readers and friends in the media with questions should know that I still have access to comments left on my weblogs in the past, as well.

Note, 1/13/07

Keep an eye on “The Lineup” tonight on Fox News. It’s a 2-hour special, starting at 9, Eastern Time. Late in the second hour, between 10:30 and 11:00, there may be a discussion of the murder of Michelle Young, a still-unsolved case in Raleigh, N.C.

My original blog entry mentioning the Young murder is here:

Of Janet Abaroa and Michelle Young, and Murder…

Hopefully I’ll be on the show for a bit, but remember always — it’s live TV.

The comprehensive entry about the recovery of Ben Ownby and Shawn Hornbeck is here.