Monthly Archives: July 2009

More Billy the Kid

Pat Browning asked about Billy the Kid’s body, DNA, and a possible exhumation. A lawsuit was filed a year or so ago because apparently evidence that Dr. Henry Lee collected—blood from the bench where Billy bled to death–wasn’t made public. Also there are ongoing arguments over whether Billy’s body could be exhumed–to see if it really is Billy’s body. The legend remains cloudy. Here are a few articles on this case:

Santa Fe New Mexican


Tucson Weekly


Posted by on July 14, 2009 in On This Day


On This Day in Criminal History: Billy the Kid

Today is Bastille Day, marking the day in 1789 when French citizens stormed the Paris prison, a structure synonymous with the abusive monarchy and a place where horrible torture occurred. Though it housed only seven prisoners at the time, it’s destruction opened the way to the French Revolution.

This is also the day that Sheriff Pat Garrett shot dead Billy the Kid. The Kid went by various names, William H. Bonney, Henry Antrim, Henry McCarty, and many others, and is much more famous in death than he ever was in life. By most accounts he was a pleasant and friendly young man, a bit buck-toothed, with cat-like reflexes, and very skilled with a gun. He rose to contemporary fame for his part in the famous Lincoln County War, a bloody spat between ranchers and the owners of Murphy & Dolan Mercantile and Banking in Lincoln County, NM. The beef–pun intended since the war was mostly over who could raise and sell cattle in the county–resulted in 22 deaths and another 9 wounded.

Folklore says Billy killed 21 men, one for each year of his life, and that he was left-handed. He probably killed fewer than that and might have been right-handed. One of the very few, and some say only, authenticated pictures of him shows a gun on his left hip, but the photo is actually a mirror-image ferrotype. Some believe that he was ambidextrous but naturally right-handed.


In April of 1881 he was convicted of murder and sentenced to hang by Judge Warren Bristol. He escaped, overpowering and killing two of Sheriff Pat Garret’s guards, one with the guard’s own gun, the other with a 10-gauge double-barrel shotgun. Billy was off and running. Garrett organized a posse and gave chase, finally confronting and killing Billy on July 14, 1881. Even the story of this final act has remained controversial and clouded in myth.

Regardless, Billy the Kid is part of American folklore and in many respects truly bigger than life. He has been the subject of numerous books and movies. The great Paul Newman played him in the 1958 production The Left Handed Gun, but my favorite is Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid, with Kris Kristofferson as Billy, James Coburn as Garrett, and a sound track to die for from Bob Dylan, who also played a memorable character named only Alias.

About Billy The Kid



Posted by on July 14, 2009 in On This Day


Harley Jane Kozak Talks About Creating Quirky Characters and Storytelling

Harley Jane Kozak is as talented as she is beautiful. She is an accomplished actor (Parenthood, Arachnophobia, The Favor, Necessary Roughness, When Harry Met Sally) and author of the successful Mary Wollstonecraft “Wollie” Shelly mystery series that began in 2004 with the award winning Dating Dead Men. Just released is the fourth in the series titled A Date You Can’t Refuse.


DPL: Where did you come with the idea for a greeting-card-writing sleuth?

HJK: My best friend from 4th grade, Sharon Samek, wrote me some years back, telling me that while I was in Hollywood pursuing my acting dreams, she was back in Lincoln, Nebraska, opening Sharon’s Hallmark Shop. I was so intrigued by the idea of a greeting card shop owner. I had to develop her into a character. Somewhere along the way I realized that Wollie wasn’t simply a proprietor of a card shop, she had an artistic soul, and designed cards too.

DPL: What skills does Wollie possess that make her a crime-solving wizard?

HJK: None. She has no physical courage, no athletic ability, knows/cares nothing about guns, doesn’t drive well enough for the car chases, can’t throw a punch, doesn’t watch enough TV, can’t lie, can hardly bring herself to jaywalk, and at 6’, attracts too much attention for undercover work. Fortunately, she has talented friends that compensate for her inadequacies.

DPL: What’s the coolest investigative or forensic technique that Wollie has employed to track down the bad guy?

HJK: I’m sorry to say that Wollie is more “Harriet the Spy” than “CSI.” She’s not cool. She did plant a bug in “A Date You Can’t Refuse” but it fell into a pot of borsht.

DPL: Beside Wollie, of course, what other characters in your stories are you particularly fond of?

HJK: Her best friend Joey has all the chutzpah, skill at Krav Maga, an Israeli martial art, and questionable morals that Wollie lacks. And her other best friend, Fredreeq,has an outspokenness and social flamboyance that makes her particularly fun to write.

DPL: What skills learned from your acting experiences do you bring to the page? Anything about acting that helps you tell your stories?

HJK:  My instinct is to put myself inside the character, inside the scene and approach it from a visceral, emotional starting place. And to write dialogue that I’d love to say. The problem with this approach is that it’s slow and painstaking, and doesn’t lend itself to outlining. My left brain can decide that in Chapter 13, Wollie must get from Santa Monica to San Diego, but my right brain, inside Wollie, will realize that what Wollie wants in response to what happened in Chapter 12 is sex, a box of chocolates, or a trip to Oxnard. And my right brain generally wins.

date you can't refuse

DPL: The latest book in the Wollie series is A Date You Can’t Refuse. Without giving too much away, what’s it about?

HJK: Wollie finds herself working for an L.A. media training organization called MediasRex, as the “social coach” for a trio of eastern European celebrities (i.e., nutjobs). But she’s also reporting to the FBI on the organization’s peculiar activities. Her first unpleasant surprise is discovering that her predecessor, a former America’s Next Top Model runner-up, drove off a cliff to her death.

DPL: Any signings or appearances coming up?

HJK: I’m at Borders in Thousand Oaks on July 14, and the Ventura County Book Festival on July 25, and with any luck (meaning, no hurricanes) at Heather Graham’s Writers for New Orleans conference on Sept. 4-6.

DPL: What’s next for Harley Jane and Wollie?

HJK: Wollie’s taking a short (and well-deserved) break after Book #4, and I’m writing a thriller, a stand-alone.

DPL: Finally, any words of wisdom for those writers out there still struggling to learn their craft and to see their books in print?

HJK: My first book took 10 years (and 17 drafts) from its beginning to the moment I saw it on the bookshelf. Patience, perseverance, and the willingness to revise, revise, and rethink are what got me through it.

P.S. Thanks for saying I’m beautiful, Doug. As you know, this is Hollywood, so it’s all done with mirrors — but thanks.

P.S. Back At You: Ah yes, but Harley Jane you dress up the mirror so well. Thanks for being with us today.

Visit Harley Jane’s Website

Visit the Lipstick Chronicles

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Posted by on July 10, 2009 in Interviews, Writing


Snooping, and Tapping, and Bugging

Ever wonder how real life cops and PIs gather information electronically? Need some cool ways for your sleuth to get the goods on the bad guy? My guest today is Technical Surveillance Counter-Measure (TSCM) technician and Austin, Texas Private Investigator Louis L. Akin. He began his formal technical countermeasures training at Texas A&M School of Engineering Extension Center in 1987 and continued training at the Jarvis International Intelligence Academy in Tulsa and at REI International. He has testified in court as an expert on technical surveillance countermeasures and for 22 years has performed level 3 and 4 sweeps.


His first involvement with such sweeps came when a woman entered his office, complaining that she was convinced something unusual had happened where she worked and that her employer was eavesdropping on her. She worked at 3-Mile Island and it turned out she was right on both counts.

In March 2007, Akin was awarded the Meritorious Service Award for Investigative Excellence by the Texas Association of Licensed Investigators for discovering a wiretap installed on the telephone line of an Austin woman. The discovery led to the arrest and conviction of a 55-year old Austin contractor who had stalked, harassed, and psychologically tortured ex-girlfriends for over 20-years. Based on evidence that Akin developed, the contractor was convicted of wiretapping and burglary and sentenced to five years in prison.

Investigator Akin has written articles on TSCM for the American College of Forensic Examiners, the National Association of Criminal Defense Investigators, The Texas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and other magazines including the Texas Investigator.

DPL: How many ways can an eavesdropper bug you?

LA: The ways are nearly endless and widely varied, from light switches or lamps that transmit audio, to cameras that see through pinholes, to hook switch bypasses that remotely turn on your telephone or spyware that remotely turns on your cell phone, to key loggers that allow someone miles away to watch everything you do on your computer screen, to drop bugs that transmit voice or recorders that record only when you speak. And then there’s the sophisticated stuff like Styrofoam cups in coffee machines that transmit voice or FET mikes (field effect transmitters) that can be sewn into clothes or painted on walls. And then there is GPS tracking that is becoming too popular for a nation that values privacy. The proliferation of bugging equipment over the last thirty years is a direct result of the huge budgets that law enforcement agencies have been granted to spend on toys. The cops used to have to hire private investigators to plant taps and bugs. Now every police department in any mid to large sized city has officers trained to plant bugs and taps and many of those plants are legally installed, or at least they were before the Patriot Act removed accountability. The 1970’s movie “The Conversation” by Francis Ford Copula with Gene Hackman and Harrison Ford is the best film ever done on the world of eavesdroppers and many techniques used in that movie are still employed.

DPL: What’s the difference between a tap and a bug?

LA: A tap is placed on a land line telephone, that is, the kind that have a wire running to a telephone pole. A bug is a transmitter that is hidden on a premises or person or vehicle to pickup audio. The software put on cell phones is considered spyware by most. Cameras and videos are a big part of eavesdropping surveillance and are more widely used than straight audio in government applications. One of the coolest video setups I ever saw was literally a pin-sized speck in the middle of a mirror over a dresser in a hotel room. You could look in the mirror all day without seeing it until we detected it with equipment.

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Florida Cat Killer Enjoyed It

The disclaimer: Tyler Hayes Weinman has not been convicted of anything.


That said, he is, at best, an odd young man and, at worst, a sociopath serial killer in the making. When asked how cats can be captured, he responded, “They have to be either tranquilized or poisoned.” Hmm. Around our house the sound of opener contacting can gets a response every time. From anywhere, asleep or not.

Much more disturbing, he told police that the “tearing sound” made when skin is ripped from a cat’s body is exciting. Really? Wonder how he knows that? At least some cats he had contact with fought back, since he had cat scratches on his arm and back. Part of me, hell most of me, really likes that.

Miami Herald



South Carolina Killer Unmasked…and Killed.

His name is Patrick Tracy Burris. He killed 5 people in South Carolina. He shot a cop in North Carolina. He was a known felon with crimes in at least 5 states. He had just been paroled in April after serving 8 years for felony B&E and larceny and had an outstanding warrant for parole violation hanging over his head. He is dead. Shot by a cop in Gaston County, NC. Folks 50 miles south, down in Gaffney, SC, can now breath a little easier.


Patrick Tracy Burris. Multiple murderers always get three names. This is avoid confusion with all the law abiding Patrick Burris’ out there.

Apparently the gun Burris was carrying at the time of his death was matched to bullets taken from the other shootings. But the nagging question left unanswered is why? Why did he kill so many people? What was his drive, his motive? As I discussed here earlier, was he a serial killer or a spree killer. I’d bet on the later. From what I read about his history he was an angry man who didn’t play well with others. I’d suspect his rumbling anger at life, the world, himself, whatever drove him to action. We might never know. Hopefully someone will do a psychological autopsy on him and maybe we can gain some understanding.

Psychological Autopsy For Death Investigation by Dr. Katherine Ramsland

The State

Charlotte Observer


Multiple Murderer in Small Town America

When we think about serial killers and other multiple murderers, we think of Berkowitz (Son of Sam) in New York, Bundy in Seattle and Tallahassee, Speck and Gacy in Chicago, Dahmer in Milwaukee, Buono & Bianchi (The Hillside Stranglers) and Manson in LA, the Zodiac in San Francisco, and Corll, Brooks, and Henley in Houston. Now such a killer is loose in the rural community of Gaffney, SC, a city of 15,000 or so.

This killer has murdered four and seriously injured another in the past week. The police aren’t saying how they connected the murders but since a gun was apparently used in each, it is reasonable to assume the connections are due to matching bullets or shell casings found at the scenes. This killer has been tagged as a serial killer, but is he?

Multiple murderers tend to fit into three broad categories: Mass, Spree, and Serial. The definitions of these vary from expert to expert and change from time to time but these definitions are as good as any:

Mass Murderers kill more than 4 people in one place at one time and tend to have a clear agenda, They want to send a message. This is the killer that walks into his workplace or school and shoots several people in a rapid-fire assault. The attack often ends with the killer taking his own life or in a shoot-out with the police. The motive is often some perceived wrong. Examples would be Charles Whitman and the Columbine killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

Spree Killers kill several people at two or more locations with the killings linked by motive and with no “cooling off” period between. The spree killer goes on a rampage, moving from place to place, city to city, even state to state, leaving bodies in his wake. It’s as if an underlying rage pushes the perpetrator to act and once he begins, he doesn’t stop or deviate from his goal. As with Mass murders, the spree often ends in suicide or a confrontation with law enforcement. Andrew Cunanan offers an example of a spree killer.

Serial Killers kill several people at different times and locations with a “cooling off” period between the killings. The cooling off period, which may be days, weeks, months, even years in duration, distinguishes serial from spree killers. The catalog of serial killers includes some very famous names: Bundy, Gacy, Berkowitz, Ridgeway, Dahmer, Kraft, Rader, Corll, and the list goes on.

Defining Serial Murder

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On This Day in Criminal History: Garfield, Bell, and the Lost Bullet

On this day in 1881, US President James A. Garfield was shot while waiting to a board a train at the Baltimore & Potomac Railroad Passenger Terminal in Washington DC. The shooter was identified as Charles Guiteau and he was later convicted of this murder. Garfield did not die immediately but rather lingered for over two months before finally succumbing on September 19, 1881.

Garfield, James

Apparently two shots were fired during the assassination attempt, the first grazing Garfield’s arm, and the second, the killing bullet, striking him near the spine in his mid-back. It was reported that the bullet lay near the first lumbar vertebrae. It did not apparently damaged his spinal cord, did not enter the lung, and caused no major organ injury. Gunshots kill instantly only if a vital structure is damaged, structures such as the brain, the heart, or the upper portions of the spinal cord. If these are not damaged, then death can come fairly quickly from severe bleeding, or much more slowly, over days, or weeks, or months, from infection.

With modern treatment President Garfield would have survived with little if any disability. Surgery to remove a bullet, repair of the damage done, and a course of antibiotics would have restored him to health and to the presidency. But in 1881 things were a bit different.

The first order of business was to locate the bullet and this was not apparent from the injury. Fearful of digging around in the president’s back with surgical instruments, the physicians that took care of him were unsure what to do. Enter Alexander Graham Bell. Bell stated that certain characteristics of his telephone could be used to manufacture a metal detector and this is exactly what he did. The hope was that the detector would locate the bullet, which could then be removed without harming Mr. Garfield. The problem was that Garfield lay on the bed with a metal frame and this apparently interfered with the functioning of the metal detector, though it seems that they did not exactly understand that and were unsure why the detector behaved so erratically. In the end, Bell’s invention failed to save the day.

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MJ, Polypharmacy, and a Very Dangerous Drug

Drug abusers often use many different drugs. This is called polypharmacy. Mixing drugs is extremely dangerous because they are additive and cumulative, which means that their effects pile on top of one another, and the levels of many drugs tend to accumulate within the body with repeated dosing. This can lead to death in fairly short order. An example would be a heroin user who also took other narcotics such as morphine or codeine, or tranquilizers such as Valium or Xanax, or one of the many sedatives that are out there. Oh yeah, why not throw in a little alcohol? The one thing that all these different classes of drugs have in common is that they are sedatives and in large enough doses any of them can cause the victim to fall into a coma, stop breathing, and die from asphyxia. If you mix several of these together it’s like playing pharmacological Russian roulette. Any of the medicines taken alone, in normal amounts, usually aren’t lethal, but when taken in combination all bets are off.

This is not uncommon in overdoses, both accidental and suicidal. For example, it has been reported that Elvis Presley had as many as 11 drugs in his system at the time of his death. Some of these drugs were related to medical treatment while others could be deemed more recreational. Apparently, four were found in significant quantities: the sedatives Ethinamate (Valamin or Valmid) and Methaqualone (Quaalude), the narcotic Codeine, and a Barbiturate. Also found were small amounts of the antihistamine Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), Meperidine (Demerol), Morphine, and the benzodiazepine Valium. Any one of these by themselves would not have done him in but the combination proved lethal. It is still controversial whether Elvis died of the overdose or from a cardiac problem, but even if it is the latter, this combination of medications in his bloodstream could have caused a dangerous change in cardiac rhythm that resulted in his death. The point is that Elvis abused a combination of medications and drugs and they very well might have been what killed him.

Now we have the untimely death of Michael Jackson. The reports from TMZ, who broke the story, and the other news agencies, suggest that MJ also had a pharmacological soup within his system. The autopsy has not been completed and we do not know if this is true or not, but the evidence is beginning to point in that direction. I think there is strong evidence that he was a chronic drug abuser and the supposition is that this led to his demise.

The disturbing part of this story is that apparently vials of Propofol (Diprivan) were found in his possession. Propofol Is an extremely powerful general anesthetic agent that has absolutely no use outside a hospital setting. It must be injected intravenously and it takes effect immediately, rendering the patient unconscious and in many cases unable to breathe. In hospitals it is only administered in monitored situations such as in ORs or ICUs. It is used for general anesthesia, for extreme sedation, and is often used to sedate patients who are on ventilators and are not tolerating them well. Some people when placed on a ventilator will fight the ventilator, which interferes with its function, and they must be sedated so that their breathing can be controlled, since this is often life-saving. In this circumstance, Propofol is used. The danger is that injecting even a small amount of this drug can cause apnea (cessation of breathing) and profound hypotension (drop in blood pressure). The combination of these two effects can lead to cardiac arrest and death in very short order. This is why it is only used in carefully monitored situations.

Also apparently a vial of lidocaine was found nearby Michael Jackson’s corpse. This is important because Propofol it is very painful when injected into a vein. Lidocaine is a local anesthetic — it’s the one you get when you need stitches or for any surgery done with local anesthesia — and is often added to medications such as Propofol that are painful when injected to reduce the burning sensation caused by the drug. This suggests that whoever was using, or was giving, this drug knew about it and probably had experience with it.

The legal questions in this situation are where did these drugs come from and who administered them to Michael? Propofol Is not something that is readily available on the street as his heroin or morphine. In fact, I know of no pharmacy that would fill a prescription for this medication for use on an outpatient basis, since it is simply not authorized for use in that setting.  One report from ABC News states that Cherilyn Lee, a nurse/nutritionist who worked with Michael, was asked by MJ to get Propofol for his personal use. Wisely, she refused. So where did the Propofol come from? Who brought it to Michael’s house? Who injected it? Hopefully, these questions will soon be answered. Someone, perhaps one of his physicians, could be in serious trouble. The unauthorized use of this dangerous drug in an outpatient setting would at least be manslaughter and could go all the way to homicide (negligent of intentional?). Of course we need to wait for the final autopsy report and its toxicological determinations but this will be an interesting scenario to follow.


ABC News


Elvis Tox Report

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