Well, since the previous thread is up to an astonishing 4,354 comments and counting, I figured it was time to let you intrepid folks who are bound to discuss the murder of Meredith Kercher last November in Perugia, Italy have a new open thread. Here you can bicker, get all nationalistic, sleuth, and generally pontificate to your hearts’ content. I guess. Though I haven’t written about it, my feelings, my opinions about this crime have changed over time. For instance, while I think Amanda Knox may be a troubled young woman, possibly mentally ill, I’m more doubtful than I once was that she took part in any kind of murder plot. Truth is, we still don’t know, though. Hence my willingness to let you have another open thread. (There is another entry in this blog — about another crime — that is just as popular, but due to the acid, ugly nature of much of the commentary, I’ve never even considered opening a new thread for general commentary on that case.) FYI — I’ve noticed that several posters in these threads about Meredith’s murder are better-than-average writers and incisive thinkers. Please check out this post and think about what I’m asking, if you have the time. I always reserve the right to delete any comments on this blog for any reason. Please remember that before you go off half-cocked. As usual, please keep the following sane, civil, and on-topic.
Meghan Landowski’s stepfather came home Thursday evening to a parent’s worst nightmare. He found Meghan dead inside the family home on Roberts Court in the Simonsdale neighborhood of Portsmouth, VA. The petite 16-year-old Woodrow Wilson High School sophomore had been murdered. Police were at the home within minutes of the stepdad’s call to emergency services. There was nothing they could do to help Meghan. Her body was sent to the State Medical Examiner for autopsy. Local reporters dutifully interviewed neighbors and friends, and a charming sketch of the teen emerged. Meghan Landowski was “a very nice girl from a very nice family.” And her murder wasn’t the kind of thing that happened in Simonsdale. One resident said it was a “beautiful, nice” place to live, and had “no crime problem whatsoever.” Later on Thursday, police in nearby Norfolk together with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) took a man in for questioning in relation to Meghan’s death. That man was later released. Little was said about him to the press, other than that he was employed by the Military Sealift Fleet Support Command. Naturally, Meghan had a MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/i_live_in_the_stars (mirror). On her profile, Meghan said she was into “guys, fashion, and dance.” She liked the movie Powder. She didn’t watch much TV, but was a fan of American Idol and America’s Next Top Model. Meghan had 33 friends attached to the profile. Many had changed their own profile headlines to reflect her passing: “R.I.P. MEGAN (sic) NEVER FORGOTTEN,”; “R.I.P MEGHAN…” Meghan had another profile until the end of 2007. There wasn’t much left on the page, but she gave her height, 5’0″, and where the profile asked who she’d “like to meet,” Meghan posted, “i would like to meet johnney depp (sic), justin timberlake,and m &m (sic).” That profile also stated that Meghan was “in a relationship.” Tips sent to The True Crime Weblog indicate that there is local talk about how Meghan died, and the possible killer. She may have been bound and cut with a sharp instrument. It has also been suggested that Meghan was assaulted in the past, but no further details are available at this time. All we know at the moment is what others have said and what little she left behind on MySpace. Photos on Meghan’s profile showed a very young-looking girl. She was 16, but looked 13. To the eyes of some, she really was “an all-American girl.” A girl who was mysteriously murdered on Spring afternoon in Virginia, when the worst of the world should have been very far away. This entry may be updated and revised. Source(s): PilotOnline.com: “Portsmouth police identify 16-year-old girl found slain in home,” by Matthew Roy and Steve Stone.
Possible gunman on campus of Alfred University From the University’s website:
No further info is available at this point.An update was added to the emergency notice above at 5:09 p.m. Evening classes at the University have been canceled and the libraries closed, “at police request.” UPDATE — IT WAS A FAKE-OUT: Again, straight from the University’s website: “Police and AU campus security have confirmed that the report of a student carrying a gun on campus was false. The student who was reported to have been carrying a gun was found to have a toy gun used in a game of tag that involves students shooting each other with plastic balls. Campus is secure and safe, and faculty, staff and students may resume business as usual. Classes are proceeding as scheduled this evening.” 8 teen girls arrested over taped beating The lede and change:
Lindsay supposedly dissed some or all of the girls on her MySpace. In the end, I have a feeling it was more about getting a record of the attack online. And the attackers being a bunch of borderline psychos who will probably get slaps on the wrist and one day, sadly, breed.More girls vs. girls, this time in CT The lede:
“Mistakenly?” Doesn’t that imply the beating would have been justified if the 14-year-old actually made the phone call? Anyway.Girls have always committed acts of violence. But the statistics are still against males. In a 24/7 news cycle, it’s just inevitable that we’re going to start hearing a lot more about the females. One of the attackers in this instance was 18, so she was identified publicly as Brittany Nazario. The arrest that prompted the beat-down was apparently from a party Nazario gave that got out of hand. Cop in Forest Park, GA accused of rape The lede:
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) says 38-year-old Kenneth Schmidt stopped a woman early Sunday morning and after writing up several tickets, had the woman’s car towed. Schmidt allegedly offered the woman a ride home and then sexually assaulted her. The officer has been fired from his job and he is in the Clayton County Jail.There’s a Showtime series in this story somewhere Missed this when it unfolded at the end of March. The Bad Girls Crime Blog posted an interesting tale of deception and fraud on April 1st. Quote:
Additonal link: “Woman is charged in theft and fraud case.”This is a post in progress. Keep refreshing to see new additions.
(A mild health issue has slowed my writing for a couple of days. The following really couldn’t wait, in part because I’m sure some readers will find this unfolding story just as fascinating as I do. I decided to be careful with this post because it touches on a long-term, ongoing investigation that stretches from Missouri to Utah. Only a few names are real, the rest are pseudonyms and marked with asterisks [*]. At the moment, I only have public records and a source close to one family involved in this story to go on for background info, so some details are sketchy, but that will change. To my knowledge, no arrest has been made in this case.) Eugenia Howell* married Dennis Spriggs in 1967. A photo made 5 years after the couple tied the knot showed a slender woman with a pleasant face, long straight nose, engaging smile. By 1972 the pair had two children, and Eugenia Spriggs was occasionally working as a subsitute teacher. When she wasn’t taking care of her kids or substituting, she was involved with the Rho Delta Chapter of ESA International, a leadership and service organization for women. In November, 1972, Mrs. Spriggs received the organization’s highest honor, the First Pearl Award. A local paper said the award was given for “educational and philanthropic accomplishments.” Dennis Spriggs passed away 20 years after his wife received the First Pearl Award. He was 47. There was no autopsy. Spriggs was buried with little fanfare in the Highland Park Cemetery in Kirksville, Missouri. Eugenia moved on to Ottumwa, Iowa. She married Ray Don Ford*, became a member of the Ottumwa Chamber of Commerce. It only lasted a few years — a petition for the dissolution of the marriage was filed by either Mr. Ford or his counsel on August 27, 1998. Then something happened to Ray Ford. Just 3 weeks after he filed for divorce from the former Mrs. Spriggs, a new petition was filed. The court records regarding the “Guardianship of Ray Don Ford” indicate the guardianship was “involuntary.” A new petition was made on December 2, 1998. This motion was to appoint a “guardian and conservator” for Mr. Ford. At 59, Ray Ford apparently could no longer care for himself. Eugenia Spriggs Ford moved West, to Utah. In June, 1999, Utah’s business journal, The Enterprise, reported that she had been appointed executive director of the Murray, UT Chamber of Commerce. The Fords’ divorce was final on September 9, 1999. That same year, Mrs. Spriggs Ford married Brice Fulton*, a fifty-something father of 6 (by a previous marriage) and an Industrial Engineer who worked for UPS. In 2003, Brice Fulton’s heart nearly gave out. After a cardiac arrest Fulton received a Left Ventricular Assist Device. He lived 3.5 more years, and died on January 4, 2007. Just over one year later, police were in the Highland Park Cemetery in Kirksville, Missouri. They were there to dig up the remains of Dennis Spriggs. The following quote is from an article published February 27, 2008 on ABC4.com, the website for Salt Lake City’s ABC affiliate:
Coroner Noe went on to say he had questions about Spriggs’s death that needed answers. He wanted to determine “an exact cause of death.”On February 28, 2008, Kansas City, MO TV station KMBC published a similar article on their website about the Spriggs exhumation. From that piece:
Eugenia Spriggs left behind her widowhood and traveled to Iowa in the early 1990s, where she became Mrs. Ford. A few years later, something happened to Mr. Ford that left him incapable of caring for his own affairs — just as he was in the process of divorcing Eugenia.Mrs. Spriggs Ford ended up in Utah, married to Brice Fulton. He nearly died in 2003, but lasted another 3-plus years, passing away “quietly” at his home, according to his obit. One woman, moving across the years from Missouri to Utah, leaving either dead or infirm men along the way. She is said to be charming, attractive, intelligent. She’s always found her way into socially prominent situations. Eugenia was a leader in the Rho Delta Chapter of ESA in the late 60s and early 70s, and some online records still listed her as executive director of the Murray CoC, though she could not be found on the Chambers’ website. When Dennis Spriggs’s body was autopsied in late February, it was reported that tests on his remains may take a few weeks to come back. Is the pseudonymous Eugenia Spriggs Ford Fulton a “serial killer,” or simply one of the unluckier people you’ve ever heard of? Those tests may give us an idea. *= Pseudonym
This won’t be the only kind of entry in this blog from now on, but I liked the one I posted yesterday, so expect “True Crime Headlines” on a regular basis. I haven’t arranged the headlines in any particular order. I may also add to the entry throughout the day. Please clearly reference the story you’re discussing if you post a comment below.
The lede: “A Long Island woman who left New York to become a Marine has gone missing in California, and military authorities are investigating her disappearance as a possible kidnapping by her newlywed husband, a fellow Marine…” [NewsDay.com]The last time anyone saw Margaret “Maggie” McMahon, she was on her way to do some paperwork to legally change her last name. She and fellow Marine Pfc George “Kevyn” Reid were married in January of this year. Reid is also missing. There’s been no activity on Maggie McMahon’s MySpace page, but her husband or someone with access to his profile logged in as recently as yesterday. NCIS and civil authorities are investigating. Maggie McMahon’s profile: http://www.myspace.com/paymyway
Kevyn Reid’s profile: http://www.myspace.com/kevyn015 Part of Kevyn Reid’s “About me”: “[…] I like to think of myslef (sic) as a fun, outgoing, charming, smart, talkitive (sic), friendly person. Though many tell me I am different. They say I come off cocky and arrogent (sic).If you really know me then you know I am 99% joking and 1% serious most of the time. Not to say I am childish because I am not. I am going to Iraq this summer. I hope this will help me get a better job. Needless to say Im (sic) not happy because where I work now is fine. I am always a happy person, I never seem to find myself upset or depressed. I *always* wear a smile!”
The lede: “ORLANDO, Fla. — Deputies in Orange County are looking for clues after, they said, a woman was set on fire Friday morning…” [WESH.com]Steve’s rewrite of the lede: Deputies in Orange County said they were looking for clues after a woman was set on fire Friday morning… Come on, people. Basic writing ability matters. Only the basic details of this gruesome story are available at the moment. A number of men dragged a woman into the woods near a mobile home park and set her on fire. She has 3rd degree burns over most of her body and is — obviously — in critical condition. Police are on the scene with choppers and K9 units.
The lede: “The preacher in him would have continued speaking out against injustice, war and maybe even pop culture. He would likely not have run for president. He probably would have endured more harassment from J. Edgar Hoover…” [ABCNews.go.com]Call it what you want — assassination, homicide, whatever — 40 years ago today, in Memphis, Tennessee, a great man was murdered by a small man with a gun. Perhaps because I’m 40 now, I was struck for the first time by the fact that the great man, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was only 39. In the article linked above, AP writer Allen G. Breed wonders what could have been.
The lede: “BAYTOWN, Texas – Authorities in Texas said a baby born to a 14-year-old girl in a school bathroom was alive before she tried to flush it down the toilet, killing him…” [MSNBC.com]There are no words. Seriously. Nauseating comes to mind, but that’s about it.
The lede: “Calin Chi Wong’s biggest mistake wasn’t owning rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition, or even telling Homestead police about it…” [MiamiHerald.com]Apparently, Calin Chi Wong wanted to be the next Seung-Hui Cho. Writing on a message board as “thehumanabc,” Wong referenced the Virginia Tech massacre from April, 2007, saying he had “no choice” but to do “what Cho did.” Even though he allegedly made such a dramatic threat, Wong’s bond was only $7500, and he’s a free man at the moment. Extras:
The lede: “EL DORADO, Texas (ABC 4 News) – Police and state officials have been involved in a raid or a siege at the FLDS Church compound near El Dorado, Texas where polygamous followers of Warren Jeffs live…” [ABC4.com]Warren Jeffs according to Wikipedia: “Jeffs gained international notoriety in May 2006 when he was placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution on Utah state charges related to his alleged arrangement of extralegal ‘marriages’ between his adult male followers and underage girls…” The El Dorado Success is also covering this developing story.
The following are links to some crime stories currently in the news. Feel free to discuss any of them in the comments on this entry. Please be clear as to the story you’re talking about when you do. I may add to this entry throughout the day today. (If this looks a little Fark-like, well — that is one of my favorite websites. Heck, I even have a TotalFark subscription…)
The lede: “Police are investigating the death of a 21-year-old Marshfield woman as a homicide…”The victim was 21-year-old Brittany Sue Zimmermann, who was majoring in medical microbiology and immunology. According to police, Zimmermann’s murder may have been “a random act.” I’ll be watching this story with an eye to writing a longer post if enough information becomes available. Watch for growing coverage of the murder in the national media if there isn’t a quick resolution to the case. Extra: Brittany Zimmermann’s MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/zimmerbritt Quote from Brittany’s page: “My interests include my boyfriend, my cats, hanging out with friends, reading books and articles about infectious diseases, cooking, and running the UW-Madison branch of Global Wardrobe.” Zimmermann had one friend on her MySpace profile aside from the ubiquitous “Tom.” That friend’s own page is private, but her headline reads, “I love you Brittany. We will be together again, RIP.” Related story: “Unsolved deaths rattle Wisconsin college.”
The lede: “A man’s badly burned body was found behind a house near the Florida Mall on Wednesday and was likely a homicide victim, Orange County investigators said…”Don’t “burned bodies” absent a source of burning like a house fire usually look like homicides? Not necessarily, I guess. I had an acquaintance who committed suicide by setting himself on fire in 1988, so I’ll cut that headline writer some slack.
The lede: “Just before a judge sentenced her to 99 years in prison, former stripper Mechele Linehan fought back tears and spoke for the first time in court…”The story of the exotic dancer who became a presentable soccer mom before a murder plot from her stripper days came back to haunt her sounds like good fiction, but this deadly tale was true. If there isn’t a book or documentary out about this case in the next year or so, I’ll be amazed. At the very least, it has “Lifetime Movie of the Week” written all over it. Check out the Wikipedia stub article on Linehan for a brief overview of the case.
The lede: “Criminal and child psychiatry experts say it’s doubtful third-graders in south Georgia accused of plotting to attack their teacher would have executed their plans…”When stories like this hit the news I feel like I want to remind anyone who knows that I live in Georgia that I was actually born and raised in Tennessee. That said, the now-infamous 3rd-grade death plot happened in Waycross, and I do live just north of Atlanta, a long ways away. Yeah. That makes me feel better.
The lede: “A former Thailand refugee was held Thursday as the killer of a 7-year-old girl found slain only a few feet from her South Salt Lake, Utah, home…”Hser Nay Moo, the 7-year-old daughter of immigrants from Myanmar, disappeared last Monday. She was found Tuesday inside a residence not far from her family’s apartment. There isn’t much else to say. As is always the case when a child is murdered, the story is too sad for words.
The lede: “The cousin of a man who may have been sickened by the deadly toxin ricin has been accused of failing to report that the substance was being illegally produced…”I wrote about the very strange case of graphic artist Roger Bergendorff and his unfortunate experience with toxic ricin here. I’m still amazed at how people wanted to spin this odd story into some sort of politically-charged tale about a potential terrorist attack. With the arrest of Bergendorff’s cousin Thomas Tholen (detailed in the article linked above), it seems more obvious than ever that this was a weird but completely domestic story.
Gregg Olsen, friend of The True Crime Weblog and co-author of the popular true crime blog CrimeRant.com, has published his second novel, A COLD DARK PLACE. After several best-selling true crime books, this is Gregg’s second entry into the suspense/thriller genre (his first, A WICKED SNOW, was published in March, 2007). A COLD DARK PLACE is a haunting tale of serial murder that ranges across decades. I’ve read the book and it’s hard to put down. Gregg tells a riveting story and his protagonist, Emily Kenyon, is a vividly-rendered, vulnerable and believable heroine. Here’s a quote from the Amazon listing for the book:
To get the word out about A COLD DARK PLACE, Gregg is doing a progressive interview, where he answers questions across several blogs about his work.TRUE CRIME WEBLOG: I don’t assume that inspiration comes straight out of the headlines. I know inspiration can come from anywhere. But how often is your fiction influenced by true crime stories? Any examples of true stories that played a role in building your novels? GREGG OLSEN: There’s a spark of reality, that is, real crimes, in all of the novels I’ve done thus far (I just turned in thriller number three — HEART OF ICE). If you think about it, almost every great fictional crime story has sprung from real life. The classic of the last generation, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, most surely came from the story of Ed Gein (Yup, he skinned his victims). I’m sure you can think of a dozen others. I guess, I’m guilty of ‘ripping from the headlines’ just as much as the next guy. My first book had a Belle Gunness tale spun into modern times (I talk about that on Clews today) and there are threads of other crimes worked into the narrative of both A COLD DARK PLACE and the next one coming in 2009. What I find most interesting is that I’m finding out ways to deal with the things that were done to me as a boy and that stuff is finding its way into my fiction. So in a way, I’m ripping off my own life, not the headlines, per se. I bet novelists across America are guilty of that one. You write what you know, correct? Right now, I’m working on book four and I can assure you that I was inspired by Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, who raped and murdered young women in Canada. I am fascinated by the idea of people drawing another person into their evil madness, as Paul did with Karla. Or was it Karla who spun a web around Paul? Hard to say. And since you brought it up, I loathe the idea of TV eating up good stories and good concepts for stories (fiction or true crime) as they fill all the Law & Order slots with the crime of the week. I’ve seen so many ripped from the headlines, that I feel my eyes are in shreds. Seems like a lot of good books aren’t being written because we’ve been teased with the essence of a story over and over — without really digging in.
**SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM OF POST** An early morning tip sent via my contact form led me to an odd YouTube video. It appears to show a young man who is obsessed with a woman of roughly the same age. While there are no names attached to the video, it looks as though he (or someone with access to his tapes) is posting footage made while stalking. I was able to find at least 5 other videos of similar material, there may be more. Rudimentary edits have been made to the videos, adding in music and occasionally a voice. The overall effect is pretty damned creepy. The music sounds home-made, and the male voice insists over and over that he will never quit stalking this woman. As is often the case with stalkers, the narrator says the whole thing is about love and fidelity. It’s hard to know what to do with this strange find, as locations are difficult to determine from the videos. And of course, it may just be an attempt to hoax yours truly — that’s happened before. Any cybersleuths who have a clue as to what I should do next, please let me know. I’ve even attempted to e-mail the owner of one of the accounts posting these videos to no avail, but I’m open to other suggestions. I wasn’t able to embed this, possibly due to a problem with blogger, so here’s a direct link to the first video sent to me via the contact form. See what you think. UPDATE The following has actually been at the bottom of this post all along, but in a fit of orneriness I decided to make it white — therefore you wouldn’t have seen it unless you used your mouse to highlight text. I’ve converted it to normal black text. You’ve been RickRoll’d! HAPPY APRIL FOOL’S FROM THE TRUE CRIME WEBLOG! Now, if you don’t know what a “Rick Roll” is, follow the link above. Back to your regularly scheduled crime blogging tomorrow.
Police in Virginia have arrested 19-year-old Slade Woodson of Afton, VA in connection with a series of random shootings that recently took place along I-64 in Waynesboro. Random bullets fired by one, possibly two shooter(s) struck six vehicles on the Interstate Wednesday night and Thursday morning, injuring two. After seeing an AMC Gremlin in security camera images from a shooting incident at a credit union in Waynesboro, an acquaintance of the teen’s told police that she’d seen Woodson in a similar car. The acquaintance, Janet Tice, also had bullets fired into her residence early Thursday morning. Police later found the same Gremlin beside a state road and took it into evidence. Woodson was taken into custody around 5 this morning. When police arrived at Yonder Hill Farm, a horse farm where Woodson lives, another man inside Woodson’s residence exchanged gunfire with the authorities. He was wounded in the shootout and taken to the University of Virginia Medical Center. Woodson has been charged with the shootings into the Tice home and at the credit union, and is considered a suspect in the I-64 incidents. Slade Woodson could be found on the social networking site MySpace.com under the following address: www.myspace.com/lostbogger. The profile asked readers, “Who wants a good ‘ol country boy???” Woodson had numerous photos of himself and various vehicles in his MySpace photo album, but none of them showed an AMC Gremlin. Woodson posted the following on the profile’s main page: “The names Slade… anyone who wants to go mud boggin, lemme know..i work too much but…im just a poor country boy tryin to survive… Lets go racin state.” As to who he might want to meet: “A girl who doesnt bullshit around like all the other girls ive talked to… One who cares for me as much as i care for her… And aint scared to get a lil dirty… GIT-R-DON.” Woodson’s profile stated that he attended Western Albemarle High in Crozet, VA. Other records found online seemed to indicate that Woodson was a successful track athlete at Western, once placing first in a pole vault competition. If he did indeed fire the shots that rattled Waynesboro-area residents, no one knows what Woodson’s motive may have been. Perhaps the person who fired at the cars on the Interstate simply felt it was time to finally do as Woodson’s headline suggested, and “just go buck wild.” Sources:
NOTE: Please let me know if the link to Mr. Woodson’s MySpace goes dead or the page is made private. I have a copy and will post it if need be.
“With Second Girl Allegations, Spitzer Gets Closer to ‘GOD’.” The link above takes you to a post I wrote for Radar Magazine’s “Fresh Intelligence” about the newest Madam/escort linked to former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. A quote from the post:
I managed to make pdfs of Davis’s MySpace. They’re private now but Google recently captured both her blog and profile (links go to versions that should load more easily than typical pdfs — use the horizontal slider at PDFmenot.com to enlarge the pages and click the left/right radio buttons to look at the whole thing). The pdfs were made from the cached pages.“Recommend” that post if you like it.