Cabin 28: The Keddie Murders Movie

First things first: HAPPY 4th OF JULY, Y’ALL!

Okay, now that’s out of the way.

This blog receives a ton of hits from people searching for information about the Keddie Murders. Lately that’s been because there was a claim that the movie The Strangers was partly inspired by the massacre in Cabin 28, but I think that was a load of bullshit cooked up by some viral marketing idiot.

You can click this link to read the blog entries I’ve written about Keddie, but my stronger recommendation is for you to visit KeddieMurdersMovie.com and watch Josh Hancock’s documentary about this chilling unsolved crime. He’s posted it in 6 parts on this page.

I’ve embedded part 1 above to encourage reader interest, because part 1 hooked me right away, and I know a good deal of the story. This post will be short for now because I’m going back to watch the rest of it.

I’m already wondering why Hancock’s documentary hasn’t seen wider distribution — part 1 was professionally-rendered and compelling. The documentarian’s art is in letting the subject speak for itself. It’s clear to me just 7 minutes in that Josh Hancock knows how to do that.

I will update this post after I finish watching Cabin 28: The Keddie Murders.

UPDATE

Josh Hancock’s documentary is stripped-down, straightforward, and it hits home. Make no mistake — if your interest in true crime documentaries or anything else true crime-related is more towards the macabre, gory end of the spectrum, you will be disappointed by Cabin 28: The Keddie Murders. Actually, if you’re that sort of true crime fan (you should see some of the disgusting search strings that somehow bring people here), you can just get the hell off my blog right now.

I digress.

Anyone who appreciates a respectful, measured approach to telling such a terrifying story, a human approach, will be impressed by this documentary. I certainly was.

I truly hope more attention comes to Mr. Hancock’s work, as he managed to use minimal resources to create a full, living portrait of the people and the place impacted by this unsolved family murder. Bare-bones as it is, Cabin 28: The Keddie Murders still manages to leave the kind of lasting impression true-crime centric shows with massive budgets (48 Hours, Dateline) strive to make. Those shows go for broke with sonorous voice-overs, graphics and editing. Hancock’s cleverness is in his minimalist approach: simple, understated music and well-framed shots of key people in natural light. Sometimes, that’s all you need. The story then tells itself.

If the Keddie case is one of those unsolved mysteries that plagues you, this account will leave you truly unsettled, haunted, and perhaps a bit sad. Peaceful pine forests and remote, quiet mountain retreats will never look the same again.

One more plug for the site:

KeddieMurdersMovie.com.

See also:

http://www.youtube.com/user/keddiemurdersmovie.

UPDATE: Josh Hancock notes in the comments left on this entry that there’s a new website for this film:

http://www.keddiemurdersfilm.com/

Take a look, and watch the movie. Great work on the site(s) and the film, Josh.

The Megan Touma Murder: Look, it ain’t the REAL Zodiac

People are free to talk about whatever they want on a message board, but let me make it clear that I reject one idea out-of-hand: the person who killed Spc. Megan Touma sometime around June 17, 2008 in Fayetteville, NC was not the actual Zodiac Killer.

I’m not going to try and make anyone feel good about themselves on that score. I’m amazed I even feel the need to write this, but I do. To suggest that the real Zodiac killed Touma and then wrote the letter is patently ludicrous, as far as I’m concerned. If I’m somehow proved wrong, believe me — I’ll admit it in this space and apologize. If Zodiac is still alive — a big if — he is in his late 60s or 70s. As a killer like Gary Michael Hilton proved, age doesn’t bar people from being active serial killers, but in general, it doesn’t help. Even psychopaths become settled, less violent over time. If Zodiac went on killing after 1969, he only got better at it, and learned one lesson — not to call any attention to himself, any more. At least not in a way that might lead to his capture.

But yes, there are a few people making that very argument in comments and on some message boards, and as open-minded as I can be about various theories regarding a wide range of mysteries, I’m not that open-minded. So don’t bother at this blog, because I’ll either shoot you down or delete your comment if I’m really annoyed.

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A poster using the nick “TheForeigner” on the message board associated with the best Zodiac resource on the Web, ZodiacKiller.com, noticed a fascinating and chilling coincidence. Tom Voigt, the site’s webmaster, posted the image created by “TheForeigner” to make note this coincidence. I took my cue from him and created the image you see on the left in Photoshop. I used the image the Zodiac imitator drew on the letter he sent to the Fayetteville Observer, claiming credit for Touma’s murder and calling it a “master piece,” and laid it over the cross-in-circle design of the Cross Creek Mall. The motel in which Spc. Touma was murdered is marked by a smaller version of the same symbol.

The investigation into Touma’s death — officially a homicide — is ongoing. Police have yet to publicly name a suspect, but they have been interested in another Fort Bragg soldier who may have been the father of Touma’s child — the Dental specialist was 7 months pregnant when she was murdered. The soldier in question was said to be at a Special Forces school studying psychological operations. As I noted here, that’s one good reason alone to suspect him in Touma’s murder. That the deaths of pregnant women usually come at the hands of the men they live with only adds to logical reasons to question this unnamed man and either arrest him or eliminate him as a suspect.

Here are a few of my ideas as to what may have happened, in order of most logical to most unlikley:

  • Megan Lynn Touma’s baby-daddy, whoever he was, was terrified of the financial burden that might be placed on him by the impending birth. He planned the scenario well in advance, right down to the location. The Zodiac-like letter is nothing but a ruse designed to confuse the investigation.
  • A real serial killer did it. He spotted the young, pregnant woman staying by herself and knew he had — in his book — an excellent target. He did some planning in advance, used a ruse to enter Megan Touma’s room, and then created his awful “master piece.” In this scenario the killer may be basically telling the truth in the letter to the Fayetteville paper — he has killed many times before, and he envies and wants to imitate the fact that the Zodiac was never caught. If this is what actually happened, the killer will write to another media outlet soon. He may even go further towards imitating Zodiac and include code of some sort. This killer’s code, unlike Zodiac’s, may be relatively simple and easy to solve — that, or it will be utterly senseless and never solved, because there will be no solution.
  • A woman who knew Touma was the killer. The Fayetteville Observer has reported that the Zodiac symbol found in the death room was drawn on the mirror with lipstick. The female killer may not have realized that Touma was only 7 months along and was intent on taking the baby. A variation on that scenario: Touma was killed out of jealousy.
  • The real Zodiac having committed the murder is easily the most outlandish choice. He would be older, possibly elderly now, and have no logical reason for re-announcing his presence. It is more logical to think he came out of ‘retirement’ to kill Christian camp counselors Lindsay Cutshall and Jason Allen in Sonoma County, CA in 2004. Cutshall and Allen were in Zodiac’s old stomping grounds and in a situation that seemed to trigger him in the past — a young couple alone in an isolated spot. I don’t actually think the Zodiac Killer committed that double murder, either, but it would be more logical than thinking he’s alive and well in North Carolina and killing pregnant young Army Specialists.

Of course there are other possibilities, but the ones above seem most prevalent in discussions on the Web.

I have no reason to think this, no tip to go on, but I feel some new developments in the Touma investigation will be announced tomorrow. I don’t know if they will be major, but I do feel strongly that the investigation into this case is intense and relentless. No matter what or who he is, Megan Touma’s killer is dangerous.

Fugitive Fund Manager A-hole Surrenders

(Note: During my sort-of hiatus I realized one BIG reason why I was just about sick of doing this crime-blogging thing: I have been editing myself way too closely. I don’t mean correcting typos, bad grammar, whatever — I mean not saying what I think. Being blunt, if called for. Letting my quirks show, as I often do here. Well, I’m trying to change that. Some long-time readers may not like the result, and I apologize to you/them in advance. But in order to keep crime-blogging, and in order to enjoy it, I have to quit worrying so much about how I express myself. This isn’t me trying to do anything but say what I’m thinking; what’s really going on in my head in response to some of the stories covered in this blog. So there you go. You’ve been warned.)

The hedge fund manager dickhead who tried to fake his suicide in order to run off and spend his ill-gotten gains in peace has been arrested in Massachusetts. Samuel Israel III was on the phone with his mommy when he sauntered into a police station in Southwick, Mass and surrendered to the authorities.

Israel disappeared on June 9. He was on his way to begin serving a 20 year sentence, and it wasn’t like the guy was headed to some anal-rape fest inside some brutal Fed lockup; he was headed to a Federal Medical Center. Israel has some vicious issues with back pain and has been addicted to painkillers; he was slated to receive another in a series of operations intended to alleviate that pain when he vanished.

On the 9th, authorities found Israel’s abandoned car on a bridge over the Hudson River. Someone had written “suicide is painless” in the dust on the hood and some of Israel’s personal effects were inside the vehicle.

Israel’s bloated remains didn’t show up down the Hudson anywhere, so investigators realized he must be off somewhere thumbing his nose at them and, for all they knew, watching M*A*S*H marathons at his leisure.

Prior to Israel’s arrest on Wednesday, the investigation into his disappearance turned up evidence that his girlfriend, Debra Ryan, had helped him go on the run. Ryan was arrested two weeks ago. She has been charged with aiding and abetting.

It probably was no surprise to anyone investigating the case that Israel disappeared. In late August, 2005, feds showed up at the offices of Israel’s company, Bayou Securities LLC, only to find out that he and others they sought were in the wind. In one sense, you couldn’t blame the guy for trying to rabbit back then — there’s no succinct way to explain how $500,000,000 of your investors’ funds just went poof.

There was some precedent for Israel’s faked suicide, too. In 2005 the real suicide of Bayou’s CFO, Daniel Marino, was accompanied by a note stating that Israel and his partner had “defrauded all these investors” since at least 1998. Samuel Israel III — likely the classic corporate psychopath — simply cobbled together a story from his own history to try and get away.

There is no blood in a story like this, but it has its own kind of horror. And it would be one thing if Israel were the only one of his kind, but as so many stories of massive fraud from the last 15 years or so demonstrate, he is not.

At least he’s back where he belongs. Sam Israel has 20 years to stew on that and try and figure out where it all went wrong. But he won’t.

Not your friendly neighborhood crackhead: Nicholas T. Sheley

Investigators in Missouri and Illinois believe Nicholas T. Sheley, age 28, was on a major killing spree prior to his capture Tuesday night. Both the FBI and the Illinois State Police were offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to his arrest. It would have been money well-spent; Sheley may have killed at least 8 people.

Sheley’s possible victims, as reported by various media outlets, including the Associated Press:

  • Russell Reed, age 93, from Sterling, Illinois. Sterling is a relatively small town of 15,000 or so about 100 miles from Chicago. Reed was found last Thursday in the trunk of a car. He was beaten to death.
  • Four victims: two men, a woman and child, all found dead in an apartment in Rock Falls, Il. Sheley allegedly knew someone in the apartment.
  • Thomas and Jill Estes, from Sherwood, Arkansas. The couple was murdered in Festus, MO. The Chicago Tribune reported that the Esteses were in Festus for a family reunion and a graduation ceremony. Police believe the murders in this case were random. A family member speculated that Mr. and Mrs. Estes were probably out walking their dogs when they encountered their killer.
  • Ronald Randall, age 65, from Galesburg, Illinois. Randall was killed in Galesburg, but his truck was found in St. Louis. Investigators think Randall’s truck was used to transport the bodies of Thomas and Jill Estes at one point. The couple was found behind a Festus-area gas station.

The victims in Festus and Mr. Randall were all bludgeoned with an unknown object.

Sheley’s family told reporters that the alleged killer had struggled with addiction issues in the past. His main drug of choice was crack cocaine. In January of 2007 he was charged with crack-related crimes that may have presaged his just-ended spree: armed home invasion, armed robbery, and aggravated battery with a weapon. The charges were dropped in April of last year, but Sheley faced new armed robbery charges in August, 2007.

This post may be revised and updated, but I end it now with a correction for the journalists who have referred to Sheley as a possible serial killer: according to criteria established by the FBI, he is not. Sheley is an alleged spree killer. Serial killers commit at least three murders over a period of time with a “cooling-off” period between each crime. That period of time can be years, even decades. They often kill with cold premeditation. The Bureau referred to Sheley as a spree killer in its own press release.

If Nicholas Sheley is guilty of the crimes alleged, he has followed the classic spree killer’s pattern — a spate of murders over a short period of time. The murders were random and may have been, for the most part, impulsive. A spree killer’s motivations are often different from a serial killer’s as well — many serial killers are sexually sadistic psychopaths. Spree killers may be psychopaths, but their murders are often mindless and mechanical and may be simply to eliminate witnesses.

I know this is the kind of correction to which no one will pay attention. No one gets the difference between blogging and commenting on a blog correct any more, either, but I keep telling them. Don’t expect me to quit any time soon, either.

Bad Headline of the Day: Fox News Implies the Real Zodiac is Back

Previously, on The True Crime Weblog:

Zodiac’s Ghost: Letter citing infamous serial killer as inspiration claims kill in N.C.

I guess I’m off hiatus, now. It’s a little like being Michael Corleone — every time I think I’m out and ready to do something else, some psycho does something that pulls me back in.

So here ya go. Dumbest damned headline of the day, courtesy of the fabulous folks at Fox News:

Zodiac Ties Probed in Slain Pregnant Soldier Case

What do you think when you read that? I think — if I look at it as if I were someone with very little knowledge of this story — “oh, has the real Zodiac come back?”

A quote from the article:

A symbol similar to one often left by the nefarious Zodiac killer of the 1960s was scrawled in lipstick on a mirror in the North Carolina hotel room where Army Spc. Megan Touma was found June 21, police said.

A letter sent to a local newspaper and published last week also contained the symbol, a circle with a cross through it…

The rest of the article is pretty straightforward and gives us ‘the case so far.’ The worst thing is the headline, because it is misleading. At the moment, it is much easier to be skeptical of the letter sent to the Fayetteville Observer than anything else. Cleverly written as the letter was — the writer managed to ape the Zodiac Killer’s tone and attitude pretty well in just a couple of paragraphs — it beggars common sense to think a true, anonymous, serial-killing inheritor to the California killer from the late 60s has made himself known. The only “tie” I can see at the moment between the real deal and the writer of the letter in NC is the current unknown criminal’s co-opting of Zodiac’s symbol and his writing style.

About the case so far — one of Megan Touma’s fellow soldiers is under investigation. The soldier may have once been stationed with Touma in Bamberg, Germany and is now at the Fort Bragg-based U.S. Army Special Operations Command. NBC 17 in Raleigh, NC reports that the suspect was studying — wait for it — psychological operations (this won’t be news to anyone who followed comments on the previous post about this case — neither will the fact that NBC 17’s website loads slower than your teenager’s pimped-out social networking profile).

I don’t have a source to support this contention, but I am fairly sure that anyone learning U.S. Military psy ops studies killers like the Zodiac, BTK Strangler, and Son of Sam (David Berkowitz) at some point. Why? Because these letter-writing, taunting serials were individuals who used their acts and their communications with the police, press and public at large to commit a kind of domestic terrorism.

Dennis Rader (BTK) killed 10 people — that we know of. That’s bad enough, but he also became, for 3 decades, the boogeyman of Wichita, Kansas. Parents used BTK to caution their kids. Rader was a nebbishy, anal-retentive minor public official, but as BTK he cast a long, terrifying shadow.

David Berkowitz managed to terrify everyone in New York City and capture the attention of the nation one hot summer in the 1970s. Berkowitz was a lowly, withdrawn postal worker living in a shabby little apartment. But he was a monster in the mind of anyone reading newspapers or watching the nightly news broadcast.

And the real Zodiac Killer? We don’t know who he was, even today. Some people claim they’ve solved the case, others have their pet theories, sure — including me. But Zodiac remains a cipher. He was probably like Rader and Berkowitz — a small man in a small, nothing job. A nowhere man. But he had big plans. And when he put them into action, he cast a far more terrifying and monstrous shadow over the public than he ever truly cast standing on the street corner late at night, smiling as the sirens wailed in the distance.

Killers such as these performed psychological operations on the public. The men themselves were small, nobodies. Their homicidal creations, promoted to everyone through strange, mad letters, codes, threats, warnings — they intimidated thousands, even millions.

Isn’t that a key goal of offensive psy ops? I’m pretty sure it is. There are positive uses for psychological operations, of course — positive in the sense that they do not involve attempting to scare others. But if you have an enemy you’re trying to rattle before the bombs start to drop, you need to know how to push peoples’ buttons.

At the moment, it makes much more sense to me to suspect someone being trained in psychological operations of even thinking to write a fake “Zodiac is my hero” letter to the press than it does to think some blank-faced, prolific serial killer has finally announced himself to the public.

If the latter ends up being the case, it’ll be a hell of a story, and probably have me parked at this blog posting updates daily. But I’m doubtful. The explanation for the tragedy of this pregnant young soldier’s murder is likely to be much more prosaic, in the end.

Random Plug for my Random Blog

Some Questions For Michael Ian Black, Pt. 1.”

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting brief Q & A sessions between me and Michael Ian Black in my personal weblog, Random Lunatic News. The link at the top of this message goes to part 1, where I was happy to find that my questions and my prep surprised him. It’s really just a kind of slow-motion interview, in part because I want to be sure I don’t ask the guy the same stupid questions everyone else does. So far, so good.

Zodiac’s Ghost: Letter citing infamous serial killer as inspiration claims kill in N.C.

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UPDATES AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST.

If there was ever a good reason to break my hiatus from updating this blog, this is it.

From FayObserver.com:

“‘I’m killer’ of Spc. Touma.

A quote from the article — bold emphasis has been added:

A person claiming to be the killer of the pregnant soldier found dead in a motel has written an anonymous letter calling the murder a “master piece” and threatening to kill again.

On Friday, sources requesting anonymity told The Fayetteville Observer that a symbol used in the letter is identical to one found written in lipstick on a mirror in the Fairfield Inn room where Spc. Megan Lynn Touma’s body was discovered June 21…

The Observer apparently received the letter Wednesday. It was dated June 17 (the symbols beside the date on the letter — @))* — seen if you click the image above to enlarge it, are the symbols over the numbers 2008 on a typewriter or computer keyboard) and postmarked June 24. You can read the full text of the letter by clicking on the screen capture, but I’ll make it easier by quoting — formatting, spelling and punctuation mistakes have been left intact:

To whom it may concern. The following is to inform that I am responsible for the dead body that was found on Saturday, June 21 @ 1130 in room 143 at Fairfield INN by Marriott off Skibo RD. It was a master piece. I confess, that I have killed many times before in several states, but now I will start using my role-model’s signature. There will be many more to come.

Fayetteville law enforcement are very incompetent. I basically, sat there and watch while investigaters were on site.

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The writer signed off with the mysterious, 60s-era serial killer’s chosen symbol — a circle quartered by a cross. The Zodiac sign has been interpreted in many ways. Zodiacologists all know that one likely source was the Zodiac brand watch, which was sold in the 60s and 70s. Other possible inspirations were a scaled back representation of a typical chart showing the 12 houses of the Zodiac — Scorpio, Sagittarius, etc — or the cross-hairs seen through a rifle scope.

Lt. David Sportsman of the Fayetteville PD said that investigators think the letter is “valuable evidence.” He also said that it might be an attempt to misdirect not only the investigation into the death of Megan Touma, but the publics’ perception of the investigation.

Clearly trying to forestall any public outcry about a serial killer in their midst, Sportsman said “There is absolutely no reason to believe” that other killings related to the confessional letter have actually occurred.

Specialist Touma’s death has not been officially declared a homicide. Her cause of death won’t be clear until an autopsy is completed. According to the search warrant application filed by investigators, Touma was in “an advanced state of decomposition” when she was found. A clear cause of death may not be easily established.

According to the Observer, 23-year-old Megan Lynn Touma arrived in Fayetteville on June 12. She had been re-assigned to Fort Bragg, having previously been stationed at the U.S. Army Dental Clinic in Bamberg, Germany as a dental specialist. Touma didn’t show up for formation with the 19th Replacement Company on June 16. She was found on the 21st, and a “Do not disturb” sign had been on the door to the room she rented since at least June 17 — the date on the letter from the Zodiac admirer.

At first the Fayetteville paper honored a police request to not publish the letter. The authorities felt that it might cause a panic. Then the Observer received a tip that connected the letter to a “symbol at the death scene.” Observer Executive Editor Brian Tolley said, “We wanted to be responsible stewards of the information, to weigh our obligation to inform the public with the possibility of the damage we could do […] In the end, we just wanted to do what we believe was the right thing.”

What about the letter-writer’s claims?

I believe he is telling the truth about being an admirer of the Zodiac Killer. If you visit Tom Voigt’s comprehensive ZodiacKiller.com, you can find good copies of every letter the Zodiac wrote to the press in his years-long campaign of terror. Though the still-unknown San Francisco-area serial killer killed 5 and injured 2 between 1968 and ’69, he was sending letters to the press as late as 1974. The Zodiac was a publicity-seeking and savvy killer. His campaign of letter-writing and sending cryptic codes to newspapers showed a bent towards domestic terrorism, a tendency fully expressed in later years by The Unabomber and Wichita’s BTK Strangler, Dennis Rader.

The Fayetteville Zodiac admirer’s letter reveals his inspiration in some subtle ways. While Zodiac did use the word “masterpiece” in one letter without splitting it in two, that kind of mistake would have been classic Zodiac. An example of that sort of mistake from the Zodiac: he wrote the word “Christmas” as “Christmass” — possibly just an error, possibly his way of revealing that he understood the origins of the word.

Zodiac may have been a bit of an Anglophile — a lover of all things British. He quoted from the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta The Mikado in his letters, and his letter-writing mirrored the first publicity-seeking thrill killer, London’s Jack the Ripper. Zodiac misspelled numerous words in every message, but his use of grammar was as precise as an over-achieving British schoolboy’s. The Fayetteville Z-fan’s letter is too short to analyze his use of grammar with any degree of accuracy (and I’m not the world’s greatest grammarian), but the overall tone is clearly reminiscent of the killer the letter-writer claims to admire. Even the date on the letter, “17 June” is a British construction. Americans typically write “June 17” or “6/17”.

The person who wrote the letter to the Observer knew his role-model’s style, too.

From the Zodiac’s letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, dated October 13, 1969: “The S. F. Police could have caught me last night if they had searched the park properly instead of holding road races with their motor cicles (sic) seeing who could make the most noise.”

Fayetteville, 2008: “Fayetteville law enforcement are very incompetent. I basically, sat there and watch while investigaters were on site.”

Zodiac to the San Francisco Examiner on July 31, 1969: “I am the killer of the 2 teenagers last Christmass (sic) at Lake Herman & the girl last 4th of July. To prove this I shall state some facts which only I & the police know…”

Fayetteville, NC, 2008: “The following is to inform that I am responsible for the dead body that was found on Saturday, June 21 @ 1130 in room 143 at Fairfield INN by Marriott off Skibo RD.”

The letter smacks of someone who has read the Zodiac’s letters over and over and made it a point to digest both the attitude and the style of the California killer.

It is peculiar that the letter appears to have been composed on a typewriter (I’m not so convinced that you can’t get a typewriter-like product from a word processor and a printer, but I’ll save that argument for later). The killer may be trying to evade forensic detection by doing so, but typewriters are pretty rare nowadays, and perhaps even easier to trace than they were 30 or 40 years ago.

Also strange, and potentially chilling — the letter-writer’s claim that he has”killed many times before in several states.” On true crime message boards, people are already posting links to stories of other unsolved murders that might fit this killer’s m. o.

I’m not ready to buy into that claim. Here, the Fayetteville police may be correct — claims of many other murders in other states may be a lie intended to obfuscate the investigation into Spc. Touma’s death. Nationwide attention to this mysterious death in Fayetteville, NC could distract the public from potential clues to solving this crime right there in Fayetteville. The letter-writer could by trying to imply that he’s already moved on, isn’t even in that city anymore.

Chris, a fellow crime blogger and a poster on the message board associated with ZodiacKiller.com, made a succinct point about this in a thread discussing the Fayetteville letter. Chris wrote: “There is always the possibility that this is just an attempt at a cover-up. The fact that this woman was pregnant when she was killed raises that likelihood. Also, she was killed in a hotel room, indicating that she very likely knew her killer. This could just be a distraction from the obvious suspect –the would-be father of the child Touma was carrying.”

Chris may be right. After all, when you hear hoofbeats, you don’t typically think a herd of zebras is on its way to trample you. You hear hoofbeats, you think horses. Killers like the Zodiac are zebras. Panicky, psychopathic baby-daddies are, sadly, a dime a dozen — horses — when it comes to dead, pregnant women.

This post may be updated and revised.

Extra link: WRAL’s copy of the inventory of items seized in the search of Megan Touma’s motel room.

UPDATE 1.

Fayetteville police say they have a suspect. The NBC affiliate in Raleigh, NC reports that the Touma murder is being treated as a homicide, and police have begun analyzing evidence taken from an unnamed suspect’s residence.

Having someone under investigation may indicate that the letter was indeed a “red herring,” as suggested by fellow crime blogger Chris in a quote above.

You can read the article about the search of a suspect’s home on NBC 17’s website here, but be warned: the site is so heavily loaded with ads, flash videos and pop-ups it might as well be some teenager’s overly-pimped MySpace profile. Click at your peril, if you have a slow connection.

UPDATE 2.

As “PoorPaula” noted in the comments on this entry, someone using the name “Anibal” left an interesting comment on a post at Bonnie’s Blog of Crime about the Touma murder. This is most of “Anibal’s” comment, dated June 28 and time-stamped 4:46 a.m.:

This is regarding the murder of SPC Megan Lynn Touma….her boyfreind name was Sgt Edgar Patino..He is station in Fort Brag. He is aslo marry to Heileen Patino. He was also station he in Bamberg, Germany. I spoke to her the day before she left and she told me that was his baby and she was seven months pregnant. He was a buddy of mind. We were both assigned to 54th Egineer Batallion…

Keep in mind that Patino has not been mentioned in any other reports about this crime. As far as anyone knows right now, neither he nor anyone associated with him is a suspect or person of interest in the murder of Megan Lynn Touma. [Edited to add: “nursebeeme,” a trusted long-time reader of this blog, has indicated that Patino’s full name is actually Edgar Patino Lopez. The same tipster confirmed that Patino was at one time stationed in Bamberg, Germany.]

UPDATE 3.

I’ve gotten to where I think bloggers shouldn’t talk about what they see in their web statistics unless the blogger feels threatened and wants to make that public. But I did feel that it was worth it in this instance to note that this blog post has received several hits from servers owned by various Fayetteville-area publications since Edgar Patino Lopez’s name was added in update 2. That makes me believe that he may indeed be the person of interest in this case.

But at the moment that’s only a guess.

ETA: Nurse pointed out a new comment on Bonnie’s Blog of Crime — reporter Greg Barnes from the Fayetteville Observer asking Anibal to speak with him about Sgt. Patino. I can think of a lot of reasons why Barnes would want to talk about Patino, but right now, it’s pretty obvious what the main reason might be.

Brief Break from Hiatus: Neil Entwistle Guilty, Faces Life in Prison

Neil Entwistle was found guilty today in the shooting deaths of his wife Rachel and baby daughter Lillian. The jury rejected the killer’s claim that Rachel committed murder-suicide.

Six women and six men took 11 hours to find Entwistle guilty on 2 counts of first-degree murder and firearms charges. First-degree murder warrants a mandatory life sentence in Massachusetts.

I found it stunning that Entwistle’s defense didn’t call a single witness. They had no rebuttal witnesses, no experts of their own to counter the State’s forensic investigation. They had nothing. In the end, it was a typical psychopath’s move — just keep lying, saying you’re innocent, blaming someone else — in this case, Rachel Entwistle — and maybe someone will believe you.

Today, the jury said no, we don’t believe you. Off to prison you go.

I think this is the point where a Briton might say something like, “good riddance to bad rubbish.”

[Link: Boston Herald]

A short break…

I’m going to take a brief summer break from updating this blog. I will still provide commentary for the duration of the Entwistle Case, and you’ll be able to find that here.

Random Lunatic News will still be updated every day, likely more than once a day. The Anomaly Report is going well, so far — it’s only been live for 6 days or so, and already receives 2-3 submissions a day and more than 200 hits a day. The quantity and quality of submissions received has surprised me — I hope folks keep it up. I only edit what I get, but it’s some of the most bloggy fun I’ve had — in relation to a blog I’ve created — in ages. Professional work will continue, of course, and I’ll post about that at Random Lunatic News. If I have any “announcements” to make about a new article or a new gig, you will read about it there.

I’ll still track comments here and respond in the comments on various entries whenever necessary. I may come off hiatus for this blog if something really interesting or intense comes up, but for the moment I want to pare down my unpaid blogging duties; the very nature of Tumblr’s set-up makes both my Tumblr-hosted sites, Random Lunatic News and Anomaly Report, exceptionally easy to maintain and update.

If I am not updating those sites or doing professional work, I will be reading. Already this summer I’ve finished Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box and Simon Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman, just to name a couple of recently acquired books on my buckling shelves.

If you have questions or comments, you can always contact me through this page, if needed.

The Anomaly Report (non-crime post)

Okay, so the other day I wrote this and published it on my tumblelog, Random Lunatic News: “An idea.” In that post I said the following:

My idea is for a Tumblelog with a design similar to I am Neurotic, with an e-mail address and form for submissions from readers, but ask instead for stories of the strange. Not regurgitated urban legends, but family stories of the strange and unexplained: your granny’s tale of the lady in the hoopskirt; your grandpa’s encounter with the orange flying thing. Most families have these. Sometimes they are b.s. — but some families treasure these tales.

Well, dammit, I went ahead and did it: The Anomaly Report.

I won’t be writing the entries for that site — you will. I will be the site editor. The Anomaly Report will be a repository, a compendium of peoples’ spooky campfire stories, sleepover tales, family ghost stories, family mysteries. Like posts found on PostSecret or I am Neurotic, the contributions will be anonymous. A legal disclaimer will be placed on the site just to make that is clear.

Check out and spread it around, if you find it interesting. Use either the submission form or the e-mail I’ve set aside to use there; be assured if you use the latter your name and e-mail address will remain confidential.

Make your story as brief as possible, but make it fun. If it is truly spooky, make readers feel that.

I won’t pretend that every single submission will make it — especially if it gets popular (who knows if that will happen or not), but most will, especially at first. I’ll also vet submissions to see if they’re just variations on urban legends or cut & paste jobs from another site.

Readers of this blog need to know that this isn’t an alternative to anything else I write, and certainly not a replacement. It’s really not like blogging at all, especially since I will be more editor than writer. You can disregard it completely and stick to what you’re used to, if you like.

I’m looking forward to seeing what kinds of spooky things may haunt you all. It should be fun.