RSS

Category Archives: Interesting Cases

Crime and Science Radio: The Skeleton Crew: A Conversation with Deborah Halber

CSR 300x250-72dpi

 

The Skeleton Crew: A Conversation with Deborah Halber on the Amateurs Who Are Finding the Missing and Solving Cold Cases

For decades, all across the United States, tens of thousands of missing persons cases have grown cold. At the same time, a mounting number of unidentified remains have been discovered and have been stored in coroner’s offices or buried in potter’s fields. But the Internet has been changing all of that. We talk to Deborah Halber, about some of the challenges and changes in the world of the unidentified dead and those who try to name them.

BIO: Deborah Halber started out as a daily newspaper reporter, then turned to the dark side to do public relations. She worked as a writer and editor for Tufts and as a science writer for MIT, where she chronicled everything from quantum weirdness (that’s the technical term) to snail slime. A freelance journalist since 2004, her writing has appeared in The Boston Globe, Inked, Technology Review, and Symbolia. Her narrative nonfiction book, THE SKELETON CREW: HOW AMATEUR SLEUTHS ARE SOLVING AMERICA’S COLDEST CASES, is just out from Simon & Schuster. A member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the National Association of Science Writers, she lives near Boston in a house with a lot of former pets buried out back.

 

LISTEN: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/suspensemagazine/2014/06/29/crime-and-science-radio-with-deborah-halber

 

LINKS:

Deborah Halber http://deborahhalber.mit.edu/

NamUs: The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System http://namus.gov

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children http://www.missingkids.com/home

NOKR: The Next of Kin Registry http://www.nokr.org

Black and Missing Foundation http://www.blackandmissinginc.com/cdad

Clark County Nevada Coroner’s Office: Las Vegas Unidentified  http://www.clarkcountynv.gov/depts/coroner/unidentified/Pages/default.aspx

Provincetown Site for Lady of the Dunes http://www.provincetown-ma.gov/index.aspx?NID=618

Todd Matthews Tent Girl Site http://www.angelfire.com/tn3/masterdetective2/

Porchlight International http://z10.invisionfree.com/usedtobedoe/index.php?showforum=41

The DOE Network http://www.doenetwork.org

The Charley Project http://www.charleyproject.org

America’s Missing Adults http://americasmissingadults.com/

California State Missing and Unidentified Persons Unit http://oag.ca.gov/missing

Ohio Missing Adults http://www.ohiomissingadults.com/

WDAZ: Remains Found 31 Years Ago in Wyoming Identified as Missing Minnesota Native http://www.wdaz.com/content/remains-found-31-years-ago-wyoming-identified-missing-minnesota-native-0

People Magazine: Murdered Teen’s Remains Given to Her Family 46 Years Later http://www.people.com/article/philadelphia-missing-girls-jane-doe-identified-family

Story About The Skelton Crew by Deborah Halber in Time Magazine: How to Solve a Murder With Just Your Computer http://time.com/2973705/how-to-solve-murder-with-computer/

 

Cat DNA Solves Another Homicide

TINKER

TINKER

 

Tinker doesn’t look like a snitch. But then again, neither did Snowball. Snowball is a very famous cat. It was Snowball’s DNA that led to the solution of a 1994 murder and it represented the first time cat DNA had been used to solve a crime.

From HOWDUNNIT: FORENSICS:

FORENSIC CASE FILES: SNOWBALL THE CAT

In 1994, Shirley Duguay of Prince Edward Island disappeared. A few days later her corpse was discovered in a shallow grave along with a leather jacket, which was soaked with her blood and dotted with white cat hairs. Her estranged husband, Douglas Beamish, owned a white cat named Snowball. DNA in blood taken from Snowball matched that of the cat hairs found at the burial site, proving that those hairs came from Snowball and no other white cat. Beamish was convicted, marking this case the first time that animal DNA was used to gain a conviction.

Tinker has now followed suit in a very interesting case from Britain.

 

Howdunnit200X267

 
 

Nip, Tuck, Jump: An Anesthetic Death?

nip_tuck

 

 

Beverly Hills is famous for plastic surgery. And famous plastic surgeons. Like Dr. Brian Novak, one the surgeons to the stars. But recently, things didn’t go so well with one of his patients. Like something from the TV series Nip/Tuck, where odd happenings were common, the recent suicide of a 53 year old woman was bizarre and unexpected. Seems she and undergone a face lift, after which she recuperated at the North Camden Drive clinic. At some point she became agitated, confused, ripped off her gown, and now naked climbed to the 10th floor roof where she threatened to jump. Ultimately she did, despite the efforts of a crisis negotiation team.

 

BH Clinic

 

How and why did this happen? I would suspect her tragic behavior had to do with drugs. Not those kind. The medical kind. Anesthetics and pain meds, drugs that work on the brain, the former to induce deep sleep and the latter to reduce the perception of pain. But these drugs can also cause confusion, disorientation, and bizarre behavior. Even delusions and hallucinations. These reactions can be part of the drug’s effects or a reaction to withdrawal or “coming down” from the drugs’ effects. These reactions are often unpredictable and come on quickly, as seems to be the case here. Sad.

 

 

A Kiss Is Just A Kiss . . . Until It’s Evidence

red lips isolated in white

 

 

Touch DNA is the new rage in DNA testing. It’s DNA obtained from fingerprints and from objects that have been touched. This contact deposits oils, debris, and skin cells on the surface touched. Cells that contain DNA. These cells can be collected, amplified through PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), and profiled by STR (Short Tandem Repeat) Analysis.

But what of a kiss? Same thing. Lips pressed to a cheek will also deposit skin cells.

Ask “Pierre G,” the as yet unnamed Parisienne jewel thief who gave his victim a peck on the cheek, apparently to “allay her trauma.” Very kind of him. Unfortunately for him, the police swabbed the woman’s cheek and found usable DNA from the thief. Some acts of “kindness” go unrewarded, I guess.

 

Pillow Talk: Post-Sex Confessions Can Sink Your Perfect Murder

Pillow talk can undo your perfect murder. Seems that folks like to confess, or at least tell secrets, after sex. Researchers blame it on Oxytocin—the “love hormone.” Funny, I don’t remember it being called that in med school. Regardless, it just might lower inhibitions and make folks gabby.

 

Pegye Bechler

Pegye Bechler

 

An example can be found in the famous 1997 Pegye Bechler murder here in Orange County, CA. Husband Eric apparently decided to kill his wife and make it look like a boating fatality. His story: he was on a bodyboard, Pegye towing him behind their boat, when a rogue wave knocked him off the board. When he surfaced, the boat was going in circles with no Pegye in sight. The wave had knocked her off the boat and she had drowned. Two problems: Pegye was an excellent swimmer and the water was dead calm that day.

 

Eric Bechler

Eric Bechler

 

Still, even though the police doubted Eric’s story, they had no witnesses, no body, and no real evidence. Eric walked. For a while anyway. He then got a new girlfriend, model and Baywatch actress, Tina New. Seems that one evening after a round of sex and a dose of Ecstasy, Eric confessed to Tina, saying he had killed Pegye with a dumbbell and dumped her body in Newport Bay. At first she dismissed his story but later decided to go to the police. A sting was arranged and she managed to record his confession. Eric was ultimately convicted and given a life sentence.

 

Crime & Science Radio: David Corbett: Private Investigators: Who Are These Guys?

CSR 300x250-72dpi

Join DP Lyle and former PI and gifted writer and teacher David Corbett for a lively trip through the worlds of private investigation and fictional character development. With the irrepressible Corbett this will be a wild ride.

LISTENhttp://www.blogtalkradio.com/suspensemagazine/2013/09/25/crime-and-science-radio–interview-david-corbett

LINKS:

David Corbett: http://www.davidcorbett.com

PIs, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Private_investigator

Detective Fiction, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detective_fiction

List of Fictional PIs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fictional_private_investigators

Top 10 Fictional Detectives: http://listverse.com/2011/01/18/top-10-fictional-detectives/

How PIs Work: http://money.howstuffworks.com/private-investigator.htm

What A PI Cannot Do: http://www.pinow.com/articles/456/what-a-private-investigator-cannot-do

101 Things a PI Can Do: http://www.diligentiagroup.com/legal-investigation/101-things-a-private-investigator-can-do/

PI tactics in the era of corporate espionage: http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/PRIVATE-EYES-Detective-Work-is-Big-Business-in-3304231.php

Anthony Pellicano, “Thug to the Stars” (and Inspiration for Ray Donovan): http://www.latimes.com/news/la-pellicano-sg,0,2662582.storygallery

Palladino & Sutherland: http://www.russianlaw.org/tob-pal-backgr.htm

The PI and Politics: Jack Palladino and Gennifer Flowers: http://www.judicialwatch.org/archive/ois/cases/filegate/Exhibits/EXHIBIT-13.pdf

The PI and Politics: The Paula Jones Case: http://www.wnd.com/2007/11/44416/

PI Jack Palladino Explains Who He Is and What He Does: http://www.sfgate.com/magazine/article/WATCHING-THE-DETECTIVE-3491214.php#page-1

Jack Palladino, PI for Bank of New York: http://www.moscowtelegraph.com/mt070302.htm

Roy Radin and The Cotton Club Murders: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Radin

Jim Jones and The People’s Temple: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peoples_Temple

 

Life Imitating Art? Murder or Accident?

It’s been said that art imitates life and that often life imitates art? Is the death of “spy” Gareth Williams a murder or a tragic case of autoerotic asphyxia? Is it a true mystery anticipated by an author’s question?

 

460x

 

The Story:

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/police-spy-bag-probably-died-accident

The Question:

http://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com/2011/09/18/q-and-a-can-a-murder-be-staged-to-look-like-an-accidental-death-from-autoerotic-asphyxia/

Two other posts on autoerotic asphyxia:

http://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com/2009/06/02/autoerotic-asphyxia-a-very-bizarre-case/

http://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com/2009/06/05/autoerotic-asphyxia-redux-david-carradine/

 

 

Joseph Rivera: The New Andrew Luster?

Joseph Rivera

Joseph Rivera

 

In a case that seems to echo that of Andrew Luster, Joseph Rivera has been arrested and charged with multiple sexual assaults involving the use of sedative drugs. Exactly like Andrew. Andrew’s drug of choice was GHB and that might also be what Rivera used. No details yet, but it wouldn’t be surprising if that’s the answer.

 

Andrew Luster

Andrew Luster

 

GHB is one of the so-called Date Rape Drugs. Their treachery lies in that, unlike true intoxicants such as alcohol and the various narcotic and sedative drugs out there, the victim appears more or less normal. Maybe a little giddy but certainly not sloppy drunk. But the victim becomes very complaint and suggestable and has no memory of what happens while under the drug’s influence. Scary stuff.

 
 

Albert Did It

Desalvo

 

For years, controversy has surrounded the famous Boston Strangler case. Albert DeSalvo, who was killed in prison in 1973, confessed to around a dozen murders, then recanted. One of the cases at the center of the controversy was the murder of 19-year-old Mary Sullivan. Many felt Albert was responsible; others said no. The controversy can now be put to rest.

 

MSullivan1

 

The Boston Police Crime Lab tested DNA obtained from Mary’s remains and then using Familial DNA techniques compared it with a fraternal nephew of DeSalvo’s. The results suggested that a relative of the nephew’s could be the killer. That is, it could be Albert. This was enough probable cause to obtain an exhumation order to retrieve Albert’s DNA. A match was then made between his DNA and that found in the corpse of Mary Sullivan.

Albert did it.

Familial DNA also played a role in the identification of the Grim Sleeper as Lonnie Franklin

 

Taking a Bite Out of Crime

 

David Stoddard

 

David Stoddard and his buddies apparently thought that home invasion robberies were a slick and low risk way of making a living. After all, who would say no to three armed men?

Turns out the family’s pit bull did.

 

Pit Bull

 

As the thieves fled, the dog attacked and bit Stoddard on his leg and arm. Tragically, the dog was shot and killed. But the investigators realized that the dog had bitten one of the intruders and swabbed the deceased dog’s mouth for DNA.

Very clever.

The profile matched stellar citizen Stoddard who had been arrested for another crime–the shooting of two women, one a pregnant teenager who died. Didn’t I say he was a stellar citizen?

Of course Stoddard has pled not guilty and his defense, as voiced by his attorney John Sinn, seems to be: “My client indicates that he doesn’t have a recollection of those events.”

Really? I guess we would all forget shooting a 16-year-old mother to be and getting bitten by a pit bull. I mean, really, it could happen, don’t you think?

 
 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 401 other followers