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Monthly Archives: August 2020

Munchausen by Proxy: A Disturbing Psychiatric Disorder

Munchausen by Proxy: A Disturbing Psychiatric Disorder

 

 

Hollywood portrays Baron Munchausen as a comedic character but the medical syndromes that bear his name aren’t very funny. 

People fake illnesses all the time. To get out of work, to avoid going to some event, to miss a test they haven’t studied for, or just because they want to lay around and take a day doing nothing. Everyone has called in sick. But then there are others who fake illnesses in order to undergo medical testing and procedures and perhaps to garner the attention that being perceived as ill will bring their way. Munchausen syndrome is where someone fakes illnesses in order to visit with physicians and hospitals and undergo testing and sometimes very dangerous treatment, even surgery. After all, doctors listen to the patient and then evaluate them for the possible illness, or illnesses, that could be underlying their complaints. As a physician, distinguishing true complaints from confabulations isn’t always easy. The tendency is, of course, to accept what the patient says as the truth and move on from there. Patients with Munchausen Syndrome often are very talented liars and are also well-versed in the illness they are faking.

Munchausen by proxy takes this to an entirely different level. Here, a parent will manufacture complaints for a child and then subject them to medical testing and treatment. Even worse, they will actually do harm to the child, sometimes even adding poisons to their food so that they will become ill and require medical intervention. What does the parent gain from this? It’s not as simple as it seems but for sure one thing is they gain the attention and sympathy of the child’s caregivers. This is an extremely complex psychological problem that is sad on so many levels.

The recent case of Megan Gee and her four-year-old son is one of the worst I’ve read about. In four years he had 227 interactions with medical professionals and institutions. Unbelievable.

A few years ago on Crime and Science Radio, Jan Burke and I interviewed Beatrice Yorker, an expert in the field. Listen in and check out the accompanying links for further study.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram Article: https://www.star-telegram.com/news/local/crime/article235483297.html

Munchausen Syndrome WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/munchausen-syndrome#1

Munchausen By Proxy Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/munchausen-syndrome-by-proxy

Beatrice Yorker Interview: http://www.dplylemd.com/csr-past-details/beatrice-crofts.html

 

Guest Blogger: Lisa Black: WHEN FRAUD TURNS TO MURDER

WHEN FRAUD TURNS TO MURDER

We all chuckle at the emails to announce that the heir to a foreign fortune wants to give us a hefty chunk of it to help them get it out of the country, the friend requests from European models or silver fox military contractors, and the phone calls from the IRS telling us deputies are on their way to our door with a warrant for our tax-evasion request. But the losses suffered by the ones who don’t hang up or who write back to that email, though a small percentage, are no laughing matter. Reports indicate over 1.5 billion dollars were lost to scammers last year—that’s billion, with a b. 

But some have lost more than that. 

Romance scams can break more than hearts. Lonely housewife Renee Holland of Pennsylvania sent nearly thirty thousand dollars to a scammer posing as a U.S. soldier in Iraq, then attempted suicide when he didn’t show up at her airport as planned. Her husband, former military himself, tried to understand. They moved to Florida and tried to start over, but the stress of guilt and caring for an elderly father drove her right back into ‘Chris’s’ arms. Two days before Christmas 2018, her husband shot her, her father, and then himself.

The foreign fortune that needs your help to move is commonly called the Nigerian prince scam, or a 419, that number being the criminal code for fraud in Nigeria. Sometimes it’s couched as a business opportunity, sometimes a palatable form of money laundering, or sometimes it’s a pure gift, but will always involve money required up front for ‘fees’ and ‘transfers’ before you ever get that big ol’ check. Jiri Pasovsky, a 72-year-old retired doctor in the Czech Republic, gradually lost his entire life’s savings buying in to a fictitious Nigerian oil business and spent over a year lobbying to get it back. Pasovsky was no stranger to deceit—while a real doctor, he had also been an agent for the Czech secret police under Communist rule. In the 60’s he lived in Afghanistan, pretending to work with a team of Czech doctors but in reality, monitoring his fellow countrymen. He joined the CIA, but only in order to unmask fellow Czechs trying to defect to the States—but his cover disintegrated when a fellow secret agent made it to the west. This work must have been part of the pension he lost to the oil scheme and in 2003 he made the last of his many visits to the Nigerian Embassy there in Prague to demand they recover his funds. There he shot fatally shot diplomat Michael Lekara Wayid, 50, and wounded the man’s receptionist who came to intervene. 

The Jamaican version of this is the lottery scam, in which a phone call informs potential victims that they’ve won a prize of millions to be collected…as soon as they pay the taxes on the winnings. Once they get a vulnerable person on the line, the calls don’t stop. In 2015 they hounded dementia patient Albert Poland, 81, out of over five thousand dollars—a relatively small amount in scam land, but enough to drive the retired factory manager to suicide. 68 year old Heidi Muth flew from California to Jamaica to track down her money in 2017; her body was found with multiple stab wounds on a street in Montego Bay. But while the scam produces death in America, it leaves a massacre in Jamaica: over two hundred deaths per year on the island are linked to scam gangs, even after a 2013 law gave prosecutors the tools for sweeping raids and numerous arrests.

Then there’s German expat Christian Gerhartsreiter, who faked the rich and famous lifestyle so well that he made a career of it, churning through identities for nearly thirty years, two marriages, and a double homicide. He spent his last ten years of freedom posing as Clark Rockefeller—yes, of those Rockefellers. Apparently, once you stroll into the club, no one questions whether you belong there. But when his long-suffering wife decided to divorce, she began questioning everything, leading to the discovery of his former landlady’s son buried behind his house. The daughter-in-law’s body has not been found. It didn’t help that Gerhartsreiter had buried two of his own bookbags along with the body, or that he drove the dead man’s truck for several months afterward.   

But authorities are fighting back. Indian cybercrime detectives, working with the U.S. and other countries, arrested over two hundred people in one area of their country for running call centers which raked in over $50K a day, mostly from Americans and Canadians. In another case, 24 people in the U.S. are currently sitting in jail for running an IRS scam in which they would launder the money an Indian call center wrung out, one prepaid gift card or wire transfer at a time. In 2018, 28 U.S. and Jamaican defendants were sentenced in a lottery scam. And in just the past two years citizens of Canada, Nigeria and the U.S. were convicted in romance scams.

In the meantime, we will continue to hang up on the phone calls that tell us we won a contest we never entered, unfriend the fashion model or hunky soldier, and never, ever, click on the link. 

 Lisa Black is a latent print examiner and CSI for a police department in Florida. In her August release, Every Kind of Wicked, forensic scientist Maggie Gardiner and homicide detective Jack Renner track down a nest of scammers. http://www.lisa-black.com

 

Criminal Mischief: Episode 40: Nasty Deadly Poisons

 

Criminal Mischief: The Art and Science of Crime Fiction: Episode #40:Nasty Deadly Poisons

LISTEN: https://soundcloud.com/authorsontheair/episode-40-nasty-deadly-poisons

PAST SHOWS: http://www.dplylemd.com/criminal-mischief.html

SHOW NOTES:

Crime writers love poisons. Even those who write the more cozy variety. I mean, arsenic and old lace? Arsenic, the queen of poisons, is often used as are the opioids and amphetamines and a few others. But maybe you want to explore more uncommon, and deadly, options for your story. Some are easy to come by, others a bit more difficult but all have been used and just might add to your story.

Cyanide: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyanide_poisoning

Strychnine: https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/strychnine/basics/facts.asp

Botulinum:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Botulinum_toxin

Nicotine:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicotine_poisoning

Ricin:https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/ricin/facts.asp

Georgi Markov: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgi_Markov

Sarin(and VX): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarin

Polonium: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polonium

Alexander Litvinenko: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Litvinenko

Brodifacoum:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brodifacoum

Tetradotoxin (TTX):https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetrodotoxin

Batrachotoxin (BTX): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batrachotoxin

Amatoxin:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amatoxin

Deadly Nightshade (Belladonna): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atropa_belladonna

Oleander:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nerium

 

7 Of The World’s Deadliest Plants: https://www.britannica.com/list/7-of-the-worlds-deadliest-plants

10 Deadliest Poisons Known To Man: https://www.thoughtco.com/deadliest-poisons-known-to-man-4058116

Top 10 Deadliest Poisons in the World: https://www.valuewalk.com/2018/12/top-10-deadliest-poisons-world/

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

SUNSHINE STATE and RIGGED Available on Chirp Audiobooks

My two latest Jake Longly books, SUNSHINE STATE (#3) and RIGGED (#4), are now available on Chirp Audiobooks.

And they are narrated by the author—-which would be me. Take a listen if you feel so moved.

 

 

SUNSHINE STATE: https://www.chirpbooks.com/audiobooks/sunshine-state-by-d-p-lyle

 

 

RIGGED: https://www.chirpbooks.com/audiobooks/rigged-by-d-p-lyle

 

More Info on each:

SUNSHINE STATE: http://www.dplylemd.com/book-details/sunshine-state.html

RIGGED: http://www.dplylemd.com/book-details/rigged.html

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2020 in Writing

 

Guest Blogger: Jennifer Graeser Dornbush: Behind the Story: Cold Cases

Behind the Story: Cold Cases
By Jennifer Graeser Dornbush, author of Hole in the Woods 

It’s no secret that cold cases draw a lot of entertainment and media interest. From podcasters, thriller novels, to true crime TV, viewers and readers can’t get enough! 

And I’m no different! My new thriller, Hole in the Woods, is based on a cold case I followed for twenty-five years. The specific cold case was that of Shannon Siders of Newaygo, Michigan. Shannon was brutally raped and murdered the summer of 1989 and her body was left for three months at the Hole in the Woods, a local party spot deep in the Manistee National Forest. 

Her story inspired my fictional version but also spurred my deeper interest in partnering with the Cold Case Foundation, a non-profit focused on solving the hardest, most forgotten violent crime and missing persons cases. 

Once I started researching Shannon’s case and eventually was led to the CCF, I was eager to get a behind the scenes look at cold case solving. So… what do we actually know about cold cases? Why do they grow cold? How many cold cases are there in America? Why did Shannon’s case go cold for so long? And how is CCF tackling cold cases differently? 

What is a cold case? 

A case is considered cold if the crime has not been solved after one year of when the offense occurred.

Why did Shannon Sider’s case grow cold? 

From what I know and have learned about Shannon’s case, I can point to a couple reasons why it went cold. 

First, Shannon’s body was not found until three months after her murder. Most of the biological evidence, even her own, was very deteriorated. Of the very small traces of DNA found her remains, none was able to be linked to anyone but Shannon. And of course, when she was killed in 1989, DNA science was very new and you needed a lot more of it to test for DNA than you do nowadays. But even when the samples were retested in 2012 with better technology, they were given inconclusive results. With no physical evidence present, it was impossible to make a connection to Shannon and her killers. 

Second, investigators spent hundreds of hours interviewing Shannon’s friends, family, and those last seen with her. Over 460 interviews! At the time there was never any probable cause to make an arrest. Investigators could not find any direct or circumstantial evidence that would give them the ability to make an arrest in Shannon’s killing. Even police examinations of the killers’ vehicle yielded no such cause because by the time the car was examined, the killer had weeks, if not months, to dispose of any evidence and clean up their car. 

Third, the lead investigator on Shannon’s case believed for a short time after her father reported her missing that she might still be alive. There were reports of another Shannon, who looked similar to Shannon Siders, and was seen in a store at a neighboring town. Police also had reason to believe she had run away and was in hiding. Weeks of time that passed after Shannon went missing that investigators just didn’t give her disappearance the credence it deserved. 

Fourth, the county where Shannon was killed is not densely populated and does not have access to a large police budget. Basically, it’s rural and middle class. The police department is small. There is a minor sheriff’s post. And there is absolutely no cold case unit. And wasn’t in the whole state of Michigan until 2011. It all goes back to lack of resources. 

Why do other cases grow cold? 

There are many factors that might render a case to remain unsolved. Maybe there wasn’t enough evidence surrounding the crime or victim? Maybe the victim was found weeks, months, or years after the crime was committed? Maybe the case was not investigated properly at the onset? Maybe all the leads pointed to a false direction where time and energy was used up, allowing other leads to disappear or cover their tracks. 

On the law enforcement side, the main contributors to a case growing cold are time, resources, and commitment to these cases. 

By commitment I mean the amount of time and the priority a law enforcement agency and investigators are able to allot to cold cases. Police priority gives focus on present and future crimes so as to deal with today’s events and prevent tomorrow’s. Continuing investigation on crimes in the distance past naturally takes a back seat, simply out of daily task priority. 

Lack of funding is another big obstacle facing police departments when it comes to the investigation of cold cases. There isn’t enough money to invest in old cases, and only about 18 percent of the nation’s 18,000+ police agencies actually have a cold case unit. 

Lack of resources, meaning both lack of investigators and cold case protocol is the third challenge. Only 20 percent of those 18 percent of cold case units actually have proper protocols in place to guide them through the process in the most effective way. 

Since 1995, the national average of solved homicides is 64%; leaving about 36% of homicides nationally unsolved every year. (FBI Uniform Crime Report.) Every year, 5,737 killers get away with murder. This paints a bleak picture for crime solving across the country. 

And this is exactly where the Cold Case Foundation can fill the gap! 

What exactly is The Cold Case Foundation? 

The CCF is what I call the Avengers of cold case solving! CCF was founded in 2014 and is currently run by Greg Cooper (former FBI) and Dean Jackson (former law enforcement). The CCF is an NPO and employs an all-volunteer board and staff of law enforcement experts from the FBI, police branches, and investigators and forensic experts from around the country. Most are retired and all are eager to lend their decades of experience to keep fighting crime. 

Each new cold case brought to the CCF is assigned to a super power team of these seasoned professionals who volunteer their time and expertise to those hardest to solve cases. They use a technique called Victimology, which seeks to study the victim’s life and relationships. With these clues, investigators can more effectively and efficiently find clearer and cleaner trails to the killer. 

What Kinds of Cases Does the CCF Help Solve? 

Homicides Missing Persons Unidentified Bodies Rape/Sexual Assaults 

Is There A Cost for Using the CCF? 

No. Applicants can apply through the CCF website. There is no cost to police departments or victims and their families for the CCF support services. 

Why are you partnering with The Cold Case Foundation? 

As a crime fiction writer, I view crime solving for its story and entertainment value; but I’ve always felt that it is essential to give back something positive to the real-life crime fighting world and the real life crime fighters (aka the TRUE heroes and heroines). I chose the CCF because they share my personal mission “to shed hope and light into the darkest recesses of the human experience.” 

My work with the CCF primarily involves being a public ambassador for them and working as an educator for their Victim Prevention Training, which teaches people in all walks of life how to significantly lower their risk of becoming a victim of a violent crime. 

I am also donating a portion of the sales from Hole in the Woods to the CCF. 

Where Can I Learn More? 

Visit: http://www.coldcasefoundation.org

Connect: CCF Facebook page

Reduce Your Victim Risk! Take and host a CCF Victim Prevention Training Event for your school, business, community group, church group to learn how to lower your risk of becoming a victim of a violent crime. Their new victim avoidance program is scheduled to be rolled out on December 1, 2020. 

What is Hole in the Woods About?

In 1989, in a sleepy Michigan town, missing high school grad Nina Laramie’s skeleton is found near a remote party spot in the forest. Fear and anger ripple through this tight- knit community when the case goes cold. Thirty years later, Riley St. James is assigned to the case, despite her similar past to the victim, and must face the killers who want their secret to stay in the Hole in the Woods. This true crime thriller is based on the 1989 true-life murder case of Shannon Siders, in which the author’s father was the medical examiner. 

Jennifer is a screenwriter, author, international speaker, and forensic specialist. As she says, “I grew up around death.” The television or movie screen is the closest most people will ever come to witness in the forensic world. But Jennifer was raised in it, as the daughter of a small town medical examiner whose office was in their home. Her latest novel, Hole in the Woods, released August 4th and can be found online where ever books are sold. Connect with Jennifer and join her newsletter at www.jenniferdornbush.com

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2020 in Police Procedure, Writing

 
 
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